Monday, November 30, 2009

The Case of the Disappearing Sweet Potato Salad

A quick pic of this salad at dinner was all I could manage- twice now. I planned on saving some to take a nice pic the next day and... gone. All gone both times. It's really a winner of a salad. I saw it on Pinkstripes here and she saw it on Mark Bittman's site here. Of course it can be changed in a variety of ways to suit your tastes. It is so creamy and tastey. A very nice winter salad, chock full of nutrition.

Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad

1 avocado, chopped
1 red pepper or roasted peppers if you have them
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
2 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa
2 sweet potatoes, cubed and roasted
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons plus balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup chopped green onion

In a sauce pan saute red pepper and onions until soft. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add balsamic and remove from heat. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. I like this salad luke warm.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cannoli


Cannoli? Oh, yeah. This was something I have been wanting to do for so many years but probably would have never done it on my own. I hate the whole frying thing. But then yah know, it was Daring Baker challenge and it was Lisa Michelle (an amazing cook and pastry girl!) and I just had to participate. Ah, twist my arm- I am so on this.

Truth be told I am not a cannoli loving girl in the slightest. Mostly because I am not big on ricotta or even pastry cream. But lo and behold I have discovered that some mousse with mascarpone is an amazing filling for a homemade cannoli. And when you make it yourself the shells are so crisp. Not to mention that a little Marsala in the dough makes one fine tasting shell. Yum!

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
The set up for cannoli production.

Lidisano’s Cannoli

Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time: Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes

CANNOLI SHELLS
2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

CANNOLI FILLING
2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep saut√© pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.



Pomegranate Mascarpone Mousse
I had some frosting and filling left over from my cake for my Mother's birthday. I folded one into the other and came out with the best tasting filling.

the filling:

16 ounces mascarpone
4 tablespoons POM syrup*
2 tablespoons PAMA (pomegranate liquor)
1 cup confectioners sugar
the seeds of one vanilla bean

Whip all ingredients together until throughly combined.

the frosting:

2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl combine gelatin with cold water and let sit for a mement. Then heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to disolve it. Remove and let cool to room temp.

In a cold metal bowl whip the cream until it forms bubbles, sprinkle in sugar and add pomegranate syrup. When the mixture is just about to form stiff peaks add in the gelatin all at once. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

*Pomegranate syrup: combine 2 cups POM juice with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Boil and reduce to half

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Pilgrims and Indians made from yogurt cups.

Thanksgiving Delights

On Thanksgiving Day we’re thankful for
Our blessings all year through,
For family we dearly love,
For good friends, old and new.
For sun to light and warm our days,
For stars that glow at night,
For trees of green and skies of blue,
And puffy clouds of white.
We’re grateful for our eyes that see
The beauty all around,
For arms to hug, and legs to walk,
And ears to hear each sound.
The list of all we’re grateful for
Would fill a great big book;
Our thankful hearts find new delights
Everywhere we look!
By Joanna Fuchs

Happy Thanksgiving to all whether you live here or in another part of the world. Let every day be a day to give thanks for all that we hold dear in our lives.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Here is one of my favorite Thanksgiving treats. I tried something different last year and did not like it as much as I like this one. So I went back to my tried and true recipe. Orange Cranberry Sauce. It's simple and simple is nice this time of year when things get a bit busier.

I made my cranberry salsa with the cranberry leftovers. I love that stuff.

Orange Cranberry Sauce
Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness

1 1/2 pounds cranberries
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 orange, juice and pulp
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

In a food processor or blender, pulse cranberries together with sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Pour into a glass bowl and let marinate at least overnight or up to two days. Fold chopped nuts in just before serving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Best Pancakes I Ever Had


We have a pancake recipe that I have been using for over ten years. It's what I have always used. Until two weeks ago. My husband decided he was going to make pancakes. He didn't want the usual recipe. He reached for the King Arthur Cookbook and pulled out the recipe below. He made them all I didn't do anything. That in its own right is a reason why they are the best pancakes I ever had. But really they were super delicious and they have a little extra nutrition than our old recipe didn't.

Oatmeal Pancake Mix
King Arthur- The All Purpose Baking Cookbook, Countryman

3 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats or quick oats
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tabeslpoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil

Grind oats in a food processor until they are chopped fine. Place the flour, oats and all the dry ingredients. Mix, drizzle vegetable oil into the bowl while the mixer is running. When all the oil has been added, grab a clump in your hand and see if it holds its shape. If it does, its just right. If it crumbles then, you need a bit more oil. The mix will keep at room temp in an airtight container for up to two weeks or indefinitely in the frig or freezer.

To make a batch of pancakes, use 1 cup mix, 1 cup buttermilk and 1 egg*. Mix and let it stand for five to ten minutes before cooking.

*Or if you are like my husband and want to double the protein, use two eggs. 'Cause that's how he rolls!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Creation



Lately I have been thinking a lot about life and what it means to me. Besides my children and family what is the one thing I would miss most in this life. I would have to say it would be the ability to create. Whether it is creating in my kitchen or on canvas or painting furniture or a room. That outpouring of my soul is what makes me feel alive. I am so grateful for the ability to create in so many ways.

Indian food, is my latest craze as I find the flavors so enticing. You feel a little like a mad chemist, throwing this spice in and that spice in and having some amazingly tastey foods come out. Fun!

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

1 can chick peas
1 teaspon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups roasted cauliflower
1 large tomato, chopped or a can of stewed tomatoes

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until transluscent. Stir in the ginger, garam masala, turmeric and cumin. Cook one minute. Add minced garlic. Add the beans, tomatoes, and cauliflower. Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the heat. Serve over the rice.

Friday, November 20, 2009

These Bars Are So Cool


If you knew my husband and I, you would know that we are not main stream. We do not have cable, we do not have cell phones. We watch primarily PBS. We rarely go out to restaurants which is why I make so many different things at home.

After having my kids, I have to say that I have turned into a total nerd. I don't know what is cool anymore, what to say that is cool, what to listen to that is cool, what to wear that is cool. I mean I may have a little sense of this stuff but just a little. I would need a whole course on how to navigate any of the modern electronics that are out there, Blackberries, I-pods, MP3 players. When I say out of the loop, I mean out of the loop.

Some years ago I went to Starbucks with a friend of mine. Yes you heard that right, some years ago. She said let's meet for coffee. I stood there in line as she ordered her coffee, ---- ,----, whatever the heck that was. I just stared at that menu. Your kidding me, right 3 dollars for a coffee. What can I order that is not 3 dollars. Maybe it was written all over my face because the girl at the counter that just finished whipping up my friends coffee said to me, you want a free ----, ----, whatever she was having. OH YES. Thank you. Thank you ever so much. What good fortune I had at that moment. I still remember that. I think I will for a while. So timely, so perfect, so wonderful.

So when I saw on Serious Eats, this recipe by Cakespy for Cranberry Bliss Bars- a mock recipe of Starbucks seasonal treat, I was totally unknowing. I had never seen or heard of said bar. But I knew with those flavors that I just couldn't go wrong.

Vini, Vidi, Vici!
I saw, I made, I ate!

It was superb. Dare I say it is my favorite bar of all time! From every angle, texture, taste, preparation,... I love every aspect of this bar.

A free coffee from Starbucks and now a recipe for free. How can a girl go wrong?

CRANBERRY BLISS BARS
adapted from this recipe from Cakespy, who got it from Mr. Breakfast

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghiardelli)
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

Ingredients for frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
dash of salt

Ingredients for garnish
1/3 cup white chocolate (either chips, or coarsely chopped bar chocolate)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy; add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt and then add to the butter and sugar mixture, beating until fully incorporated. This will be a very thick batter. Fold in the cranberries, chocolate and ginger. Spread the batter in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until light golden.


Let the cake cool before spreading on the frosting.

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until fluffy; add the lemon zest, vanilla, and salt; add the confectioners' sugar bit by bit until the frosting has reached your desired consistency. Spread the frosting evenly over the cake, and scatter the cranberries on top of the frosting immediately.

In a double boiler, melt white chocolate; once it is smooth, use a spoon and drizzle across the top of the frosted and cranberry-festooned cake.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day

Globilization is the word of the day, isn't it? You hear it everywhere. Our society has been moving towards a global community for a long time. Sometimes you think Africa is so far away or India is so far away or Australia is so far away. But really they are not. Being a member of the global community has helped me "get to know" people all over the world. That is one of the joys of blogging for me is saying someone from Greece visited me today on my blog. Or someone from the Phillipines visited me today. It gives me a little thrill to know that people are so connected even though miles seem to distance them.

So when people say I want to only help people in my own backyard, I say the world is our backyard. We are all intertwined. When we reach out to help someone it really doesn't matter where they live or where they came from. It only matters that we are kind. This is one of the reasons I joined Bloggeraid.

Through Bloggeraid I have the opportunity to review a recently released book. A select group of publishers have come forward and donated books for review by the members of Bloggeraid. St. Martin's Press/ Thomas Dunne Books donated the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I am the very fortunate recipient of this book.

When I first received the book I sat down that evening and looked it over. I said to my husband, as corny as this sounds, this is the bread book I have been searching for. This is exactly what I want in a bread book. Different grains, flours, vegetables and fruits incorporated into bread. Now top all those nutritious ingredients off with a method of making bread that shaves mega time off the whole process and then delivers amazingly tastey, economical bread. How can you go wrong?

Believe me when I tell you that this is a good book. I would not endorse a book that I did not particularly favor. I can say with complete confidence that this book delivers some amazing recipes. I have made three so far and as soon as we get done eating those I will be on to another one in the book.

Check out this video with Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois demonstrating the basic boule from the new book. They certainly demonstrate the ease at which these rcipes are made.

The book has quite a bit of quick useful information that is easily referenced. The beginner baker should have no problem navigating their way around these recipes to make sensational bread. For the practiced bread baker there are some useful tips and certainly a bevy of great recipes.

The first bread I made was all about seeds. Healthy, amazing, tastey seeds all baked into a nutty bread. It's called, "Ten Grain Bread". It utilizes a ten grain hot cereal to make a sensationally nutty bread. We had it with some Cauliflower Vichyssoisse that I made. I will post the recipe soon. A very filling and healthy combination for a cold day. We really enjoyed the flavors in this one.

Ten Grain Bread
Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois; Published by St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books

2 cups ten grain hot cereal (Bob's Red Mill brand), uncooked
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
3 1/2 cups warm water
1 to 2 tablespoons of seed micture for sprinkling on top of crust: sesame, flax seed, carawy, raw sunflower, poppy and or anise

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the cereal, flours, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten in a five quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Add the water and mix without kneading, using a spoon, a 14 cup processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you're not using a machine.

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately two hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) conatiner and use over the next 10 days.

5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut of a 1 pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape in into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on a ll four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Elongate the ball into an oval. Allow loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, on a pizza peel prepared with cornmeal or lined with parchment paper for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you are using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Alternatively, you can rest the loaf on a silicone mat or a greased cookie sheet without using a pizza peel.

7. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty metal broiler tray on any other rack that won't interfere with rising bread.

8. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with water. Sprinkle with seed mixture and slash the loaf a 1/4 inch deep parallel cuts. using a serrated bread knife.

9. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone (or place a silicone mat or cookie sheet on the stone if you used one). Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 minutes, until richly browned and firm. If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or oven rack two thirdes of the way through baking. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.

10. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing or eating.

Olive Spelt Bread
Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois; Published by St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books
(pictured above)

4 cups spelt flour
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 cups warm water
2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
1 cup pitted green olives, chopped

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten in a five quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Add the water, yogurt and olives and mix them with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14 cup processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you're not using a machine.

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately two hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) conatiner and use over the next 7 days. The flavor will be best if you wait for at least 24 hours of refrigeration.

5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut of a 1 pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape in into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on a ll four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Allow loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, on a pizza peel prepared with cornmeal or lined with parchment paper for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you are using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Alternatively, you can rest the loaf on a silicone mat or a greased cookie sheet without using a pizza peel.

7. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty metal broiler tray on any other rack that won't interfere with rising bread.

8. Just before baking, dust the top with flour. Slash the loaf a 1/4 inch deep parallel cuts. using a serrated bread knife.

9. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone (or place a silicone mat or cookie sheet on the stone if you used one). Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 35 minutes, until richly browned and firm. If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or oven rack two thirdes of the way through baking. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.

10. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing or eating.
Whole Wheat Banana Bread
Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois; Published by St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books

4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 packets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup neutral- flavored oil
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups very ripe banana puree
2 cups walnut pieces (optional)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) for brushing on top crust
Raw sugar for sprinkling on top of loaf

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Whisk together the flours, yeast, cinnamon, salt and vital wheat gluten in a five quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Combine the liquid ingredients with the banana and optional walnuts and mix with the dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You might need to use wet hands to get the last bit of flour to incorporate if you're not using a machine.

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately two hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) conatiner and use over the next 7 days.

5. On baking day, lightly grease a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut of a 2 pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape in into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on a ll four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

6. Elongate the loaf into an oval and place the loaf into the loaf pan; your goal is to fill the pan three quarters full. Allow the loaf to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 1 hour 45 minutes (60 minutes if you are using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).


7. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. The baking stone is not essential for loaf pan breads; if you omit it, the preheat time can be as short as five minutes.

8. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with egg wash and sprinkle it with walnuts or sugar. Place the pan on the stone or on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until richly browned and firm.

9.  Remove the bread from the pan and allow it to cool on a rack before slicing or eating.

Full Disclosure: I received this book free from St. Martin's Press.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Spiced Peach Compote with Apple Cider Mousse

I was emptying out my fridge the other day and whew, found some coconut milk that I had forgotten about. That was the stinkiest smell that I think I have ever smelled, except for when I worked in the hospital and caught a whiff of rotting flesh (gangrene). Sorry so graphic, but man, I am here to tell you- never let your coconut milk go bad!

So anyway I did find some spiced peach compote in there. Hmmm. And I found some cider caramel. Now you might be asking yourself why I have some cider caramel in my fridge and exactly what is cider caramel. Well, it was an experiment gone bad. I had some cider that was getting close to the fermenting stage- it hadnt started yet but it was close. I boiled it down on the stove, it reduced and reduced until it was very thick. I started with sweet cider and ended up with very tart cider caramel. Who knew I should have added sugar. Well I didnt and now next time I make it I know. And make it I will if not just for the fact that I can make some of this tastey mousse again.

So there it is a story of an experiment that brought about something tastey.

Spiced Peach Compote
scaled down a bit

4 peaches, chopped or 2 cups frozen
1/2 cup sugar (give or take depending on how sweet your peaches are)
1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook down until peaches have nearly dissolved away and the mixture has thickened a bit. If you find that your mixture is thin, in a small cup combine a 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons of water. Combine and stir into peach mixture.

Apple Cider Mousse

3 tablespoons carmelized cider (or caramel would be a great subsitute)
3 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl combine caramel, cream cheese and sugar. Whip until light.
In a seperate bowl combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Mix until mixture is thick and forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the caramel mixture.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Sushi

In 1995 I went to San Francisco and experienced my first taste of sushi. I was hooked. I have been eating it ever since. It was harder to find then it is now. Now we see California Roll in the supermarkets regularly. I love the globilization of food.

I had a friend when I was growing up who use to go to Nova Scotia and bring back dolce. She always talked about eating them with Coca Cola. I liked them and have had them a few times since. It is not the same as the roasted seaweed used to make the rolls but it is just as good.

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

Thank you so much for a great challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed. I learned more about sushi and expanded my sushi repertoire.

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

INGREDIENTS:

* 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
* 2½ cups water
* For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Sushi vinegar dressing

* 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
* 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
* 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
2. Heat on low setting.
3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

* Turning out the rice

1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

* Dressing the rice with vinegar

1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

* Fanning & Tossing the rice

1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

* Keeping the rice moist

1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.


PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

INGREDIENTS:

* 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
* 1/2 Japanese cucumber
* 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
* Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
* 1 Avocado
* Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
* Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)

Optional

* 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.


5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife. I used a serrated knife which works very well.


PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

* 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
* 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
* Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.


PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi

INGREDIENTS:

* 2 cups prepared sushi rice
* 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
* 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice

Optional

* Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
* Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)



DIRECTIONS:
1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.
*MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU MUST READ THIS* – If you are using raw fish or raw meat it must be 'sushi' grade (sashimi grade) ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and if in doubt don't use. Find your local Japanese market and ask them where the best sushi (sashimi) fish is. Maybe you can buy sushi grade fish at your local sushi bar. Purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Only salt-water fish and shellfish should be consumed raw. Crab and prawn (shrimp) should always be cooked. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system only use cooked ingredients. There is no need to use raw fish or raw meat in sushi.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ethiopian Beans and Berbere


I was introduced to this soup or stew or even curry when I visited a local restaurant called Natural Oasis. The restaurant is small but what they lack in quantity they more than make up in quality. It is a farm to table concept that was started by an Ethiopian couple. The chef is a young guy who frequently wonders out of the kitchen to stop at your table and ask how you are enjoying the food. After one bite of this amazing soup I knew I had to find the recipe and recreate it.

This is a warm and inviting "stew" that invites you in and says "sit down, relax, stay a while." You will really enjoy this stew if you like the spices in berbere.

Ethiopian Beans aka Misr Wot
adapted from this recipe at Saveur

1 cup red lentils
4 tbsp. nit'r qibe (Ethiopian Spiced Butter) or unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. berbere (Ethiopian Spice Mix)
1 small tomato, cored and chopped
Kosher salt, to taste

Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear- set aside. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the lentils, 1 tbsp. of the berbere, tomato, and 4 cups water to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and the lentils are tender, 45–50 minutes. Stir in the remaining berbere and season generously with salt. Serve immediately.



Berbere Spice Mix
adapted from this recipe at Saveur

2 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns
1⁄4 tsp. whole allspice
6 white cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1⁄2 cup dried onion flakes
5 dried chiles de √°rbol, stemmed, seeded, and broken into small pieces
3 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a small skillet, combine coriander seeds, black peppercorns, allspice, cardamom pods, and cloves. Toast spices over medium heat, swirling skillet constantly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Let cool and transfer to a spice grinder along with onion flakes and grind until fine. Add chiles, and grind with the other spices until fine.
In a large bowl stir in the remainder of ingredients- paprika, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Store in a lidded glass jar.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lost in the Translation

My husband works with a wonderful man named "V" who is from India. "V" recently met and married a very lovely young woman. Unfortunately, although we wanted to, we could not attend their wedding in India. We had them over for dinner last Saturday and I made some Indian fare. I am pretty confident about following recipes. The thing that really puzzles me about Indian food is trying to figure out what region it is from and what goes with what. I try to put in searches like Southern Indian food but it is not always fruitful. There is also a lot of blogs that have a not so traditional take on recipes. But I wouldn't know the difference. Certainly I can not be the only one lost in the translation with Indian food. Oh well, it all tasted pretty good anyway, especially the raita.

If you have not seen or tasted a curry leaf I urge you to go to your local Indian Grocer and buy one. Spend some time with it. Smell it, toast it, get to know it. It is one tastey amazingly addictive leaf. I fell in love with it the first time I tried it. I can't imagine having missed out on that flavor.

Dosai

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt
10 curry leaves, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add water little by little to form a loose dough. Cover and set aside for a couple hour. Add some more water to the dough so that it becomes a consistency that is pourable.

Laddle a 1/4 cup of batter onto a very hot griddle. Using the back of a spoon, working quickly, spread the batter out into a round circle. The circle should be about 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Note: If you are use to making crepes, that is exactly how to work this batter. The consistency of the dosa is more like a corn tortilla than a crepe.

Carrot Raita

11/2 cups grated carrots
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 small onion, chopped
1 chopped green chili
1 tablespoon ghee
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
aromatics:
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
10 curry leaves
salt

1 tablespoon desicated coconut
1 1/2 cups yogurt



Grate carrot and set aside. In a skillet heat ghee add the mustard seeds and let them sputter (stand back), Add cumin seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Fry for 20 seconds. Add ginger, green chili and onions. Fry for five minutes. Add turmeric to carrots and add to the frying pan. Frying until carrot wilts. Cool this mixture on a plate.

In a larger bowl stif the yogurt until the lumps disappear. Add the cooled carrot mixture to the yogurt. Chill.



Butternut Squash Curry

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 large tomato (about 1 cup chopped)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
2 dried red chilis chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon corriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 cloves of garlic
10 curry leaves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Heat oil in a large pot. Add mustard seeds and let them sputter. Add cumin seeds, dried red chilies, garlic and curry leaves. Fry until light brown. Add chopped onions and fry until transparent. Add squash, tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Let cook on low for about 20 minutes.

Add chili powder, coriander, sugar and mix well. Add 3/4 cup water, cover and cook on low until squash is fork tender.

Note: I served this with rice and the above recipes.


Monday, November 9, 2009

POM for Mom


I wanted to make a sweet with the POM I received. The thing that is nice about using POM in sweets is that it balances out the sugar with its tartness. I used it before when I made these petits fours.

I made the cake for my Mom's birthday. My Mom is a salt of the earth kind of gal. She was raised on a farm during the Great Depression. She has a lot of knowledge about farming, canning, cooking and well my Mom is a walking encyclopedia- for sure. I call her with every question and every problem. Yup, I call her a lot.

This is one of the stories I like to tell about my Mom when she was growing up. Her and her brothers and sisters were playing out in the field. They were digging by a stone wall. Buried there in the dirt were some bottles. They took them out and were sharing a drink of the liquid in the bottles. These bottles must have been buried there during Prohibition. Well, being a tiny little slink of a girl, she became very intoxicated by the alcohol. They all were. Being so drunk and dizzy they were unable to get back to the house so easily. Luckily for them it was around five o'clock and the cows would be heading back to the barn for the night. So these smart children grabbed some cow tails and hitched a ride home.

One of my Mother's favorite cakes is Italian Cream Cake. I found several recipes and tweaked it to become this cake recipe below.
Italian Cream Cake with Pomegranate
Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness

the cake:
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs, separated
2 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 easpoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine buttermilk and soda in a small bowl and set aside. Cream sugar, butter, shortening and salt in a large bowl. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Add buttermilk alternating with flour. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg whites in a seperate bowl and fold into batter. Line and grease two 9 inch round cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes.

the filling:

16 ounces mascarpone
4 tablespoons POM syrup**
2 tablespoons PAMA (pomegranate liquor)
1 cup confectioners sugar
the seeds of one vanilla bean

Whip all ingredients together until throughly combined.

the frosting:

2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin*
2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl combine gelatin with cold water and let sit for a mement. Then heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to disolve it. Remove and let cool to room temp.

In a cold metal bowl whip the cream until it forms bubbles, sprinkle in sugar and add pomegranate syrup. When the mixture is just about to form stiff peaks add in the gelatin all at once. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

*The gelatin helps to stabilize the whipped cream. If you are serving the cake the same day your really don't need to do the gelatin at all.

**Pomegranate syrup: combine 2 cups POM juice with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Boil and reduce to half

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Turkey Preparations

Every year I brine my turkey. I saw Alton Brown do it and I was fascinated. Since Thanksgiving is always at my house, I decided that I could make some executive decisions and do something different. For the past three years I have been brining my turkey and I have to say that it comes out tastey and moist. I wouldn't change it unless my husband decided to get one of those turkey fryers and said, "Gee babe, I think I will take over turkey duties and fry the turkey." Ain't going to happen. But if it did, I would give up my brining ritual. I have always heard it made a super moist turkey breast.

So, in preparation for my turkey's briny bath, I make vegetable broth. Because you see, I love my vegetable broth and it is FAR cheaper to make my own. The only thing I buy specifically for my broth is fennel. I know probably some of you like fennel, I don't particularly care for the taste. But fennel does make a seriously tastey broth. I think it marries well with other vegetables. For example if I had a tomato fennel soup that is pureed, I would probably love it.

Anyway, there really are no hard and fast rules as to what to put in the broth but I think some tips make it a better pot of broth.

Tip #1- I like to fry the fennel and onion in oil before adding the remainder of the veggies. Of course if you wanted to go all out with tons of flavor, roast the whole bunch of veggies that you plan to throw in there. Roasting always ups the anty as far as flavor.

Tip #2- Use fennel, it really does something wonderful to the broth. A star, really.

Vegetable Broth
Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness
4-6 cups chopped fennel and chopped onion
8 cups chopped vegetable scraps ( I used leek, asparagus ends, celery, carrot, onion and garlic- a whole head, sliced in half)
8 cups water
2-3 bay leafs
freshly cracked pepper
salt
if I don't have celery leaves I suually add celery seeds as well

In a large stock pot, saute leeks and onion in oil until browned. Stir frequently as it tends to stick.

Add the remainder of vegetables along with the spices and water. Cover, bring to a boil and the turn down to a gentle simmer. Simmer away for thirty minutes. Drain the liquid through a collander, discarding vegetables.

Update:

I thought it would be good to share how I brine the turkey.
Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe.

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger or a chunk of ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

About 2 to 3 days before roasting: Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

The night before you'd like to eat: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. (I know this temp seems counter intuitive but really it puts a beautiful brown crust on the bird and traps in the moisture for the remainder of the baking process).

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours ( I found these cooking times to be WAY off- a bigger bird (20 or 22 pounds) will require that long) of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving. A perfect amount of time to get your gravy done.
Thanksgiving 2008

Friday, November 6, 2009

What the Northeners are Missing

If you are like me, and put up a ton of corn then you need to start using it up. I found this quickee recipe for corn pudding.

This past summer when we were vacationing in Tennessee we went to a restaurant there and had some corn pudding. It was delicious. As a Northener, that just something you don't see around these parts. Really I don't know why because corn pudding is delicious.

A nice homey comforting meal.

Corn Pudding

2 cups fresh or frozen corn
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375F. Stir butter, salt, flour and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, then milk and finally the corn. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cut Out Cookie Bars

I use to love making cookies. Now- not so much. A lot of times I want a finished product fast because I am going somewhere and need to take it along. Most of the time, I am just doing too many other things to fiddle around with a dessert that requires tons of waiting time. Long waiting periods are okay because you can fit a load of laundry or something else in there. But ten minutes is not enough time to do something else.

Well, this "cookie" is one of my favorites of the season but it has been magically transformed into a bar. Way easier. Way rapid. Way yummy. How can you go wrong. Decorate anyway you like and voila, instant hit with the kids... and grownups.

Cut Out Cookie Bars
adapted from this recipe at Anissa's Kitchen

1 cup butter; room temp.
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla & mix well. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt & soda & stir with a whisk to combine. Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Spread on a greased baking sheet (use a 13 x 18 pan). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 min, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and frost.

Frosting
1/2 cup butter; room temp
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk
food coloring (if desired)

For frosting combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments until combined, then add milk & mix until smooth and spreading consistency. Spread over cooled cookie

Monday, November 2, 2009

In loving memory of my family and friends.


I really wanted to post this last week but I just did not get it done. And officially Dias de Muertes is still going on in Mexico today.

God Bless all the friends and family that have gone before me. I think of each of you often. Though you may not be here, you live in our hearts and memories. All the kind things that you did in your life live on and reverberate out to those around us.

While we, who are still living, have no idea what lies on the threshold of the next life, look forward to seeing all our loved ones once again.

Pan de Muerto
original recipe can be found here.
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/4 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup warm water
• 2 eggs
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
• 2 tablespoons orange water extract
• 1 teaspoon lemon rind
• 2 teaspoons sugar

Instructions: Bring milk to boil and remove from heat. Stir in margarine or butter, 1/4 cup sugar and salt.

In large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture.

Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, but save the white for later. Now add flour to the yeast and egg. Blend well until dough ball is formed.

Knead until smooth. Return to large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise in warm place for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Knead dough again on floured surface. Now divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into "ropes."

On greased baking sheet, pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 "bones." Cross and lay them atop braided loaf.

Cover bread with dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. In a bowl, beat egg white lightly.

When 30 minutes are up, brush top of bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar, except on cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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