When the Daring Bakers challenge for July was revealed (graciously hosted by Chris of Melecotte), I have to admit I didn’t squeal with excitement. As much at the cake itself sounded absolutely delicious, cake decorating is a skill I just don’t possess and no matter how many cakes I make, they all end up looking a little lopsided with bumpy frosting and uneven piping. But not one to walk away from a challenge, I tried to think of a way I could forgo star tips but still use the required buttercream.
With a cakestand like that, how could I possibly pass on an Indian-inspired cake?
I eventually hit upon the idea for a henna design for the cake for several reasons: the busy design would hide a multitude of sins in my ganache (which I knew would never be smooth and flawless), I have a good hand for free-form drawing, and it’s pretty. The best laid plans, however, have a way of going very awry, and my cake and buttercream just didn’t behave.
Things I learned on this Daring Bakers Challenge:
- Do not buy no-name cheap butter. And for goodness sake, do not try to clarify said cheap butter.
- Do not try to do delicate piping with buttercream that actually had solids in it that can and will clog the tip.
- Do not try to take the skins off 4 cups of hazelnuts at one time (unless you like standing by the sink rinsing hazelnuts and your hands for an hour and are on very good terms with a chiropractor).
- I need to buy a better food processor.
And now for the amazing 4 page recipe that took 2 days to complete:
Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter
1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)
Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.
Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.
Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.
Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.
Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.
With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.
Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.
*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur
In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)
Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla
Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.
Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*
On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.
Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.
Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.
Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.
Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.
Good for one 10-inch cake
2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water
In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.
Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake
**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.
6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed
Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.
Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!
Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.
Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.
Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-inch blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.
Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.
Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.
Licking the chocolate ganache off the pan: does life get any better?
So even though I was forced to use a larger #4 piping tip, rather than the delicate #2 I had planned on, I wasn’t terribly disappointed in the henna design. (I especially like the photos when I shrink them down to 10%.) After letting the cake firm up in the fridge for a few hours, I cut clean slices while it was very cold. I then brought the cut slices to room temperature, which (unlike the recipe which says to keep the cake out for 3 hours) in this July heat wave, took all of 10 minutes.
The verdict? The genoise had a wonderful crunch which satisfied the nut-lover in me, while the buttercream had the most unexpected bite of the unbroken bits of caramelized sugar and hazelnuts. This genoise was moister the jaconde from the Opera Cake from May and more “cake-like.” My often picky husband gave it the thumbs up. On to August’s Challenge!
July 25, 2008
It happens every July. Suddenly, almost overnight, the far corner of my backyard looks like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors has taken up residence. Those two small squash plants overtake a raised bed garden and produce large fruit that needs to be picked on almost a daily basis for the next month. I plant Korean squash, which is different than zucchini, both in shape and taste. Korean squash is rounder (although my current batch is extremely round, rounder than normal), the texture is slightly softer, and the taste is milder.
So the dilemma facing all home gardeners is what the heck to do with all that zucchini? I don’t have a magic answer – I do what almost everyone does. I make zucchini bread, pasta with zucchini, grilled squash, steamed squash with Korean dipping sauce (so simple and delicious), and of course, I give it away. But my husband’s favorite recipe is a staple of Korean kitchens during the summer months, denjang jigae (Korean bean paste soup).
Denjang is fermented soybean paste, different than the Japanese version miso. Denjang has a much stronger taste (and smell!) than miso and has bits of soybeans in it. While it is available in Korean and Asian grocery stores, I am lucky enough to have an aunt who makes homemade denjang. Homemade denjang is about as common as homemade ketchup these days, extremely rare but exceptionally delicious.
Denjang jigae can be made so many different ways with different ingredients. Use clam broth, chicken broth, or even vegetable stock. Add mushrooms, potatoes or carrots. This is the way I make it.
8 oz. sliced pork belly
6 C. water
3 Tbs. denjang
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried chili powder (gochu garu) optional
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, quartered
1 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 cube of tofu (about 7 oz.), cubed
3-4 scallions, sliced
1-2 Korean hot peppers, sliced (optional)
Bring water to a boil in a large pot (I use a traditional Korean clay pot). Add sliced pork belly lower to medium high. Skim off fat and foam.
Add denjang, chili powder and garlic and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, onion and hot pepper and simmer for 10 minutes more. Add tofu and scallions, cover and let sit for a few minutes.
Serve with white rice, kimchi and any other banchan you have on hand.
July 22, 2008
photo by lilxerica on Flickr
Summers seemed to last so much longer when I was a child. There were books to read, bikes to ride, creeks to explore, and pools to swim in. I didn’t watch television (yes silly, television was invented when I was a child); in fact, I rarely was ever home during the day in the summertime (I am sure the lack of central air conditioning was a contributing factor). I was on my bike playing bike tag on carless streets, at the playground sliding down scorching hot metal slides or at the pool.
The pool was a unusually large community pool, or it just seems large in my memory. Nothing can take me back to age ten faster than a whiff of coconut suntan oil and the vision of leathery septuagenarians (or at least appeared to be septuagenarians) smoking cigarettes on woven plastic chaises sunning themselves well before the term sunscreen was even part of the lexicon. It was always a happy day when my mother would give my sister and I each a quarter to buy an ice cream or, oh the joy!, a dollar bill to buy french fries and a fountain drink.
Since I spent so much time there as a child, there are certain foods and candies I will always associate with the pool. Airheads, Fun Dip (formerly known as Lik-M-Aid), Swedish Fish – they might as well be time machines. And eating fries in that red checked paper bucket drizzled with ketchup from the red plastic squeeze bottle? Pull up a pair of striped athletic socks and play Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” on a crackly transistor radio – it’s 1979 all over again.
What is it about sitting in a wet swim suit that makes the fries tastier and the hot dogs juicier? Is it the chlorine that sharpens your palette? Or is it simply the increased physical activity that whets the appetite to appreciate any sustenance? Or perhaps it’s the freedom of going to the snack bar with money clutched in your hand and ordering food like a grown up? Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things, but I do know that the smell of cooking oil and chlorine makes my stomach growl no matter what age I am.
We decided to celebrate my son’s fifth birthday at our swim club and naturally, the menu selection was of great importance to me. If you have not been a member of the 5 year old birthday party circuit, it consists of three things- pizza, pizza and more pizza (and a little cake thrown in). Now we love pizza every now and again, but frankly, the pool and pizza … it just doesn’t go together like a burger and fries do. At any rate, we settled on burgers, dogs and fries as the main fare catered by the pool snack bar. And yes, the little red and white gingham paper baskets are included.
July 19, 2008
I am a big proponent of using seasonal fruits whenever possible and it’s berry season right now. This is a favorite summer party recipe since it has the biggest wow factor for a minimal amount of work. I recently made this tart to bring to a friend’s BBQ pool party and sadly I didn’t even get to sample the fruits of my labor (can I get a rimshot for that terrible cliché/pun?) as it looked like a pack of wild wolves descended on this tart not long after I had placed it on the dessert table.
Oh well. I suppose I’ll have to make another one.
SUMMER FRUIT TART (adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. sugar
1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 large egg yolks
2-4 Tbs. ice water or cold heavy cream
Combine flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 to 20 seconds. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks; add ice water. With machine running, add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. Pat into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick. Gently press dough into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing into edges. Trim the dough flush with pan. Chill tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.(There will be left over dough and if you’re ambitious, make some mini-tartlets with the leftover dough.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper. Fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake until edges are just beginning to turn golden, about 15-17 minutes. Remove parchment paper and weights; continue baking until deep golden all over, 20 minutes. Cool tart shell completely on wire rack. Remove tart shell from pan.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped to loosen
4 large egg yolks
1/4 C. corn starch
Bring milk and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 10-20 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl (or in an electric mixer) until pale and fluffy. Add corn starch and mix until incorporated.
With mixer on low, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Remove vanilla bean and slowly add remaining milk mixture until incorporated. Pour mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold.
Spoon cold pastry cream into the tart shell. Arrange fruit on top in whatever fashion you’d like. I usually only need about a couple cups of any kind of fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, figs, kiwi, etc.) Refrigerate.
Top with apricot glaze if desired. This is really necessary if you not serving your tart immediately as the fruit may wilt or even turn moldy.
3 Tbs. apricot jam
2 Tbs. water
Heat jam in small saucepan over low heat, stirring until thinned. Pass through a fine seive into a small bowl. Brush glaze over fruit.
I tried a different design this time instead of the ubiquitous concentric circles of fruit. Have fun picking different colored fruits and designs.
July 16, 2008
We are well into the dog days of summer here and this dish is the perfect solution for a quick, easy, light and cool dinner. I love making cold soba noodle salad after a day at the pool or when the mercury rises above 90 (the two usually coincide as it did today). Soba noodles are Japanese buckwheat noodles, higher in protein and fiber than wheat or rice noodles.
This is Korean comfort food, amazingly simple to make yet so satisfying. I like to eat it without meat, but one can easily add some shrimp, pork or even sashimi. One key ingredient that may not be easily accessible to all is fresh perilla leaves, available at most Asian grocery stores. Perilla is a member of the mint family and is not unlike arugula or fennel with a strong, unique flavor all its own.
Perilla – a staple of Korean summer recipes
In addition to selling it in small packets in the produce section, Korean grocery stores often sell perilla in pots in the late spring/early summer. Once planted in the ground (full to partial sun), you won’t ever have to buy another perilla plant again. The plants go to seed in the early fall and will self-propagate. By next summer, you will have a profusion of perilla plants growing in a 5 feet radius around the original plant.
Soba noodles usually come in pre-measured single serving bunches.
SOBA NOODLE SALAD
4 bunches of soba noodles
10 perilla leaves, sliced thinly
2 C. mixed baby greens
1/4 – 1/2 thinly sliced red onion
1/2 C. soy sauce
1/4 C. vinegar
1/4 C. + 3 Tbs. sugar (more or less to taste)
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. water
crushed toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and set aside. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, olive oil and water in small bowl. Whisk until well combined.
Toss greens, perilla, onions and noodles in dressing. Garnish with crushed toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.
July 13, 2008
As much as we are trying to stay away from too much red meat, kalbi is the one exception that our family can all agree on. Korean-style beef short ribs, kalbi (or galbi) is very simple to prepare and cook. Perhaps the most difficult part is finding a butcher to cut them correctly (if you live near a Korean grocery store, it is sold in large 3 lb packs usually). Korean-style beef short ribs contains 3 ribs and are cut across the bone about 1/2″ thick. You may be familiar with the large rectangular kalbi favored at Korean restaurants, but I find three-rib style cut much simpler for home cooking.
Kalbi is most delicious grilled, but it can also be pan fried or broiled in the oven. The traditional way to eat kalbi is wrapped in red leaf lettuce leaves or perilla leaves (geneap) with a little rice and a bit of ssamjang. Ssamjang is a combination of fermented bean paste (tenjang or Korean miso) and and kochujang (Korean red pepper paste) with minced garlic, sesame seed oil and chopped scallions. However, Kalbi is just as delicious served non-Korean style à la big slab a meat on a plate.
A barbecue at onespicymama’s house – kabli served with (clockwise from top left) kimchi, pickle kimchi, radish cubed kimchi, perilla leaves, fresh Korean cucumbers, fresh Korean hot peppers, red leaf lettuce leaves, potato salad and ssamjang. Oh, and some Rolling Rock.
KALBI – KOREAN SHORT RIBS
3 lbs. sliced short ribs, 1/2″ thick
2/3 C. soy sauce
1/4 C. sesame seed oil
1/3 C. water
1/2 C. sugar
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbs. crushed toasted sesame seeds
1 onion, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced 3 ” long sections
Combine soy sauce, sesame seed oil, water and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add garlic, onion and scallions and combine. Add short ribs and make sure to coat both sides with marinade. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour, but preferably a couple of hours. After pre-heating grill well, cook short ribs about 3-4 minutes per side on medium high.
The biggest dilemma is how to cut up the meat into manageable sizes for placing inside a lettuce wrap. I find kitchen shears work magic on kalbi. And what of the bit of meat around the bones? Most Koreans would say that’s the tastiest part.
July 11, 2008
photo by v. daddi
A photo of me, talking about … me?
I admit it - for a food blogger, I do not spend nearly enough time immersing myself into the food blogosphere as I should. Which is why I was so woefully ignorant when Mrs. Ergul ”tagged” me in a comment last week. (I thought “tag” was another way of say ”link.”) I had occasionally seen the word on various blogs, but never read enough to actually discover what it entailed. *blush* A meme is an idea or practice that is spread from one person to another and this game of tag is a most diverting way to get to know bloggers.
- Link to the person who tagged you.
- Post the rules on the blog.
- Write six random things about yourself.
- Tag six people at the end of your post.
- Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
- Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Ok, so six random things about me:
1. I am a horrible singer and if I had three wishes granted to me, having a beautiful singing voice would top the list.
2. I love pie. More than cookies. More than cake. And just slightly more than chocolate.
3. My very first job was as a produce stand cashier in the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia at the ripe old age of 14. I became a real pro at bagging melons and to this day, I can distinguish almost all varieties of apples, pears, lettuces, herbs, mushrooms, and peppers.
Photo by 09traveler on Flickr
4. Sometimes, when I look at my children, my toes tingle with happiness.
5. I have a sweatshirt I bought 21 years ago in my closet (and I still wear it).
6. My guiltiest pleasure? Reading a trashy historical romance novel while eating salt and vinegar potato chips.
July 8, 2008
Peach green tea – good in so many ways
My husband has been asking me to have more green tea in the house as it seems we can’t turn around without hearing more news about the benefits of green tea. Not all green tea are created equal, according to to him, and the box Celestial Seasonings green tea I picked up simply did not pass muster. Not one to waste perfectly good tea, I decided to make a big pitcher of iced peach green tea with the scorned tea bags.
ICED PEACH GREEN TEA
3 ripe peaches
4 C. plus 4 C. water
10 green tea bags
sugar or sweetener to taste
Peel and quarter the peaches, removing the pit. Boil peaches in 4 cups of water for about 5 minutes and remove peaches from water, reserving peach water. Place peaches in blender and puree.
Strain peach pulp and peach water through a fine sieve. You may have to do this a couple of times, depending on how clear you like your iced tea.
Bring 4 cups (or more) of water to a boil in large pot. Pour water over tea bags and let steep for about 5 minutes. Combine strained peach water with the te, sweeten to taste and chill. Serve with peach slices and lots of ice. And feel your arteries open up.
(He drank the entire pitcher by himself.)
July 4, 2008
Blueberries come into season at the end of June, early July in this area, so naturally, blueberries always figure prominently at our Fourth of July celebrations. This recipe is for my favorite way to prepare blueberries – a good old-fashioned blueberry crumble pie. The crust is flaky, and the crumble perfectly crunchy which is a nice counterpart to the softly sweet blueberry filling. Add some homemade vanilla ice cream (my ice cream maker has been working non-stop this summer, poor thing) and you’ve got yourself an all-American dessert.
Unfortunately for us, our blueberry bush is a favorite among the birds in the neighborhood. I am sure the ripe berries in the photo taken just yesterday are digesting in some hungry bird’s belly now. (Needless to say, the blueberries in the pie were store-bought).
BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE PIE
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living who in turn adapted it from Lobster Rolls and Blueberry Pieby Rebecca Charles. Sort of like a blog version of “Whisper Down the Alley.”
Serves 8 to 10
2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt 1 C.cold (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 C. ice water
1 1/2 C. flour
1 C. firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 C. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 pints blueberries
1 C. sugar
3 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. finely chopped lemon zest
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
To make the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and cold butter. Pulse until the mixture is the consistency of sand. Add the water while pulsing until the mixture comes together; being sure not to overwork it. Remove the dough from the food processor or bowl on a lightly floured work surface. Shape it into disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
To make the crumble: Combine the flour and sugar in a food processor until thoroughly combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms a crumble, being sure not to over mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Using the back of a spoon, crush about 20 percent of the blueberries so the juice mixes with the cornstarch and thickens the filling.
To make the pie: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch pie tin; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Place in pie tin, trim, and crimp the edges. Use a fork to poke holes around the sides and bottom of the crust. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake until the crimped edges are firm, about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and beans, and bake until the bottom is firm, about 10 minutes. Fill the crust with the berry mixture, spreading evenly, and top with the crumble. (Do not be alarmed at how high this will be – it will settle down when cooled). Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and bake until the filling starts to bubble, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove, and cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy the fireworks. Happy Fourth of July!
July 2, 2008
What do you do when you see red peppers on sale for $.99/lb. at the grocery store? You buy as many as you can stuff into your eco-friendly reusable grocery tote and hurry home to make a vat of roasted red peppers, naturally. It seems there are two approaches to roasting peppers: oven or open flame. Roasting in the oven is easier, cleaner and the only option for those with an electric range. I’ve done it in the past when I was pressed for time, and yes, it works, although it’s not my preferred method.
Roasting over an open flame (stove-top or grill) is time-consuming and dirty, but the results, in my opinion, are tastier. The flame magnifies the sweetness of the pepper that you just don’t taste in oven-roasted peppers. I’ve been been using this method ever since I read The World According to Garp (one of my all-time favorite books) back in grad school where the protagonist roasts his peppers atop his gas range. When I married my husband, I was happy to discover his Italian family made theirs the same way.
Marinated Roasted Red Peppers
6 red peppers (or more)
1 head of garlic, peeled and crushed
1-2 C. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place rinsed peppers over open flame (on grill or gas cooktop). Completely char all sides including tops and bottoms, using tongs to turn the peppers. (You might want to temporarily disable your smoke detector or open the windows. Oh, and be prepared to find little black flecks all over your kitchen for the next three days).
You know they’re done when they are completely blackened.
Place charred red peppers in brown paper bag.
When completely cooled, rub off as much as the blackened skin as possible. I try not to rinse the pepper under water since it loses some of its flavor, although many simply rinse off the burnt parts. It does get very messy, so you will have to rinse your hands off frequently.
Cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Slice into 1 inch wide strips. Place in medium bowl with crushed garlic cloves and cover with good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight (or longer). This keeps for at least a week (although I’ve never had peppers hang around that long).
Serve in sandwiches, salads, pasta, chicken recipes or my favorite, with crusty bread dipped in the sweet infused olive oil.