Sunday, March 29, 2009

Basil Browned Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Mascarpone Cheese Frosting

While I was going to school in Savannah, there was a little chocolate shop that I really, really liked. I don't remember the name of it, I don't even remember the name of the streets it was on anymore (usually I'm very good about remembering things like this, but I've had to make room in my "where places are" portion of my brain for all the junk in LA. Sigh.) but I do remember that for my first V-Day with Jeff I got a basil chocolate. And I fell in love.
Basil is one of my favourite herbs. In fact, it might be my favourite herb. Cinnamon, of course, is my favourite spice. But I love basil, I love it's fresh flavor, and I really don't use it enough. I no longer carry it on my spice rack because I favor fresh basil: but I rarely buy it because I never use all of it and I feel wasteful. Oh jeez!

But I'd seen a recipe on Not Quite Nigella, probably through Tastespotting, that featured basil browned butter cupcakes. Browned butter is something that I really enjoy but also, like basil, rarely ever do. I made something with it before, but I don't remember what. I can't, at least at this moment, find it on my blog, and I'm starting to believe I made that memory up.
But I'm certain this is not not not not the first time I've ever browned butter.

In any case, I saw this recipe, and I was like woah, browned butter. WOAAH, basil. Her's has browned butter frosting, but after my love affair with the chocolates in Savannah, I could not pass up on chocolate frosting. I was looking for that extra something when I spotted my mascarpone cheese, and then... it all came together.

I made these for South Park wednesdays and I was really stoked about making them. I didn't want to tell anyone that they had basil inside. Basil's a relative to mint, and though the flavor is distinctive, there's that similarity there... I thought maybe they'd be less hard on it if I didn't tell them.

I really flavored these cupcakes with basil. In her recipe she used only a little bit of basil - to - sugar, but... I decided to use a lot more. I was also going to try to infuse the milk, but I forgot. I bought a mortar and pestle for this recipe-- but I've wanted one since I was a kid who loved fantasy novels and loved the idea of being an alchemist with a stone mortar and pestle grinding some sort of root and leaf potion....

The cupcakes turned out a little dry, though. They were quite crumbly, with a slight crust that had a bit of crunch. But the inside of the cupcake wasn't as moist as I'd have liked-- I'm going to have to up the anty and make these again sometime in the future with a super amount of moistness. The salt that I used was Jeff's, which is iodized-- and I could taste it. They didn't taste salty, per se, but the cupcake itself did have a sort of pesto-ish flavor. I'm assuming from the basil + salt + richness.

So really what stole the show with these cupcakes was the chocolate frosting. I took them to work the next day and everyone there loved them (I didn't say they were from me until everyone had some. I was as little shy). I liked them, but I definitely can't say they were my favorite. Again, they need more moisture. They need to be a complete package.

But the frosting was amazing, and complimented it very, very well.

Basil Browned Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
Inspired from Not Quite Nigella

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
15 basil leaves
2 eggs

Oven at 350 Degrees Farenheit.

Make the basil sugar by grinding 1/8 cup of the sugar in a mortar and pestle and adding the basil leaves. While grinding it, depending on how moist your basil is, the sugar should become green and pastelike with chunks of basil still in it. Add another 1/8 sugar and grind it in, integrating it all.

Brown the butter in a small saucepan. When finished, set aside to cool for about ten minutes. Mix in the sugars, including the basil sugar, until creamy and thick.
In a seperate bowl, mix together the flour, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Return to your cooled sugar mixture and mix in the eggs, beating well. Add the vanilla paste and continue mixing thoroughly. Slowly add half the flour mixture and allow to mix in completely. Add half the milk, and again mix in completely-- repeat with the rest of the flour then the rest of the milk.
Fill lined cupcake cups until 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 22-27 minutes, until set and lightly browned and clean when tested with a toothpick.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before frosting.


4 oz mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
Powder sugar, about 3 1/2 - 4 cups worth.

Combine the cheeses and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric beater until starting to become light and fluffy. Mix in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. When combined, add in the milk. Once all ingredients have been integrated, mix in the powder sugar in batches, until you reach the consistency you desire.

Mine came out a lot like mousse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Alton's Ramen Radiator

On my cookbook binge: where I go through all my cookbooks and decide on a recipe from three or four of them (look back a few posts, I did one from my French Cookbook, my Persian one, and now, this, from one of my Alton Brown cookbooks) to make for the upcoming... few weeks. Originally I was going to do it all in one week, but that didn't happen.

While going through Alton's cookbook, I liked a lot of recipes: duh, of course! It's Alton Brown. He's only my personal hero. But when I paused on the ramen recipe. Man, that hit the spot. It went with the japanese-food craving I had (satisfied already with omuraisu, but I was still craving japanese when I found this), it went with my simple food craving. And, it implemented new things that I had never cooked before....

Dun dun dun... fish. I have cooked tilapia once in my kitchen. It didn't turn out so well, so I never made fish again. Fish scares me. Fish, in fact, terrifies me. So doing a recipe with fish in it... well, that felt gutsy to me.

I'm not talking about shrimp here. I'm okay with making shrimp-- I've made it a few times (though, that took me some nerving up to at first too. I had to perfectly find out how to make shrimp before I w

This recipe also contained lots of other things. Onions, mostly (which I love), shiitaki mushrooms. Ramen noodles, of course. A miso base, shrimp, white fish. It seemed super healthy, super easy, and it looked filling and delicious.

Oh yeah, and it was Alton Brown's.

So I had to make it.

It took me a few weeks to get around to it. We've been working really hard, long hours. They give us dinner at work, and it took me a while two weeks to finish off that potage crecy for lunch (haha). So the few dinners I have made at home (all have ended up on here) have been in the order of when I wanted to make things. I also didn't want to buy my fish in advance (fear of fish fear of fish) to keep it from getting icky before I made it, I wanted it to be fresh. So this recipe called for going to the grocer on the same day I made the recipe, something I don't have time for during the week anymore.

But at work we've been having all sorts of yummy things. BBQ, etc, etc. I even recently had soy ham-- which was... interesting, to say the least. If this goes on I might have to blog about those meals for awhile. But I still have Sunday's free, and I'll make as much as I can then. And on South Park Wednesdays too, of course.

By the way, I love that my life revovles around cartoons and food.

Anywho, so I made the soup which turned out to be SUPER filling. There was a lot of it, and it took me a few minutes to get the nerve to actually eat it. I opened up the packet and it smelled-- well, at first it smelled a little fishy, but I'm extremely sensitive to fish....

But, my fish was super fresh. The original recipe called for halibut but I got sole (my Whole Foods didn't have any halibut, and I didn't wanna go for black cod, and I was still a bit afraid of tilapia). Everything smelled super fishy there, so when I got home I was nervous, but I sniffed my sole before cooking it-- and it smelled nice! All fresh, and it wasn't slimey, it had a good texture. I was really pleased with the cut I got, and only for like, two dollars! Hurray!

So the scent of the soup, after the initial blast of seafood, was quite delectable. As I kept smelling it, I was getting the notes of sweet, spice, tang, everything. And when I finally had the nerve to try it....

It was good! The broth was both sweet and savory. The vegetables, especially the shitaki's, led a great texture and flavor to the soup.

And the sole.

Oh the sole.

I've never had sole before, so maybe it's always so damn tender and flaky, but gosh, it was good. It was rich, and sweet, and slightly spicy... but it was also so savory and filling. I loved eating the sole. I didn't even want the shrimp, I wanted the sole so much (but yes, I did eat the shrimp). It was too much food for me in the end, I have leftovers in the fridge (though not by much, which I'm also worried about. Like old eggs... how long will this last? With fish? I never thought you could eat leftover fish).

I think the only downside whatsoever was that the sole had some sort of thin cartiledge, or perhaps bones, still in it. I kept finding little crunhes of it-- too spindly to really bite, so I had to remove it from my mouth which as unpleasant. But still, I'd eat/make sole again. It's super tasty!

This recipe called for honey, which I used avacado honey. And it also called for miso paste, which I couldn't find anywhere, so I used a leftover dried miso soup packet and it worked just fine for me.

Ramen Radiator
Recipe from Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For the Food V 2.0
Versionated by moi.

1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 ounces shiitaki mushrooms
1/2 package ramen noodles
1 filet of sole
kosher salt and fresh groundwhite pepper
1/2 tablespoon avacado honey (or rich honey)
red pepper flakes
3 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 sweet onion, sliced lyonnaise-style
about 1/8 cup, roughly, chopped leek
2 scallions, sliced on a bias
1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
1/8 cup mirin
1 cup miso soup broth/stock

Oven at 400 Degrees Farenheit.

Heat a saute pan over high heat, add the oils, then saute teh mushrooms. Toss and cook until caramelized, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Season the sole generously with salt and pepper, spread the honey on the filet and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Line your serving bowl with a generous amount of aluminum foil. Place the halved noodles inside and top with the fish. Surround with the shrimp, onions, leek, and mushrooms. Top with scallions.
Pull the foil up around the food and crimp it. Mix the liquids together and pour half into each pouch and seal the packet.
Set on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 22-25 minutes. Set the pouches back in the bowls and open when ready to eat.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I didn't make anything for South Park last Wednesday. I felt bad, but gosh, after working so hard I've been so exhausted. If I don't already have something planned, which I didn't, I just don't have the energy to put into planning something short notice for it. Jeff and I were trying to come up with ideas, and thought of peanut butter cups, then peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. He was all for trying the cups, but I didn't have the time to let them sit. I was sort of into cookies, but I didn't really feel like cooking that night.

So I didn't. We watched South Park, everyone had fun, and went home. All without eating anything of mine. It's a little sad for me, because I really do enjoy making things for people, I really like them having food and having a good time. It's the hostess in me. But we all have days where we're too tired to do things.

This week I have a plan though. So I'm very excited.

But anyway, since we talked about making peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, I had been craving them. Yes, I was craving them so hard I had to bold the word. It was intense. So Sunday, while I was sitting all by my lonesome in my apartment, playing Harvest Moon, winding down from a long week, having finished cleaning the kitchen, getting litter for my cat Tseng, organizing things, making sure my chores were done (Sunday has been my only day off for the past two weeks, you see), I just... really wanted them.

So I made them.

I found a recipe online, landing on one at Pink of Perfection that I liked-- and the blog as well, I got sucked into reading her posts about how to make life nice and cute things and yummy food-- well, it was all very nice. But the cookies looked good. I changed them a bit to my taste, but just slightly... and man, were they good.

They were perfect. Just the right amount of crunch, sweetness, and all gooey on the inside. They have the perfect shape, texture. I will have to apply whatever I did in these to my chocolate chip cookies (I think I've been using too much baking powder vs soda ratio). Of course, the amount of fat in these (oh peanut butter) help, but peanut butter is good fat!! And... and.... and yeah!

In other words, these are perfect. I suggest to EVERYONE to make them, unless you hate peanut butter. If you hate peanut butter, you can leave now. >:)

(Just kidding, please keep reading!! <3)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Altered from Pink of Perfection

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chunky honey peanut butter (I used Ralph's. I know, generic, right?)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Crack in the egg and mix well. Stir in the milk and vanilla extract. Mix in the dry ingredients until completely blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop up rounded teaspoons and roll between your palms into balls before placing on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least five minutes! These are great warm or at room temperature!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kuku Sabzi or Baked Eggs with Herbs and Vegetables

I was lucky enough, growing up, to have a multitude of flavors introduced to my palette. My parents were very good at taking my brother and I to try many types of food: Moroccan, Greek, French, Italian, Mexican, American.... granted we never tried anything too crazy, and I did go through my phases where I'd only eat noodles with butter or Fried Cheese Sticks (but only from Chili's) or Macaroni and Cheese but only from Kraft (sort of still in that phase...), but we tried a lot of different things. For example I've eaten lamb since I was a kid, I knew what pine nuts were before any of my friends, and I've been in love with vegetables since forever.

Also, my mom was once married to a Middle Eastern man. From him she learned a lot of Middle Eastern recipes, but really only made one. No, it's not this one. It was a beef with lemon and pine nuts. She always made hummus and couscous or tabbouleh with it... and while I never was and still am not a fan of tabbouleh, the rest I love.

Another inspiration for my love of Middle Eastern/Persian flavors -- yes, that's what this is about-- is my best friend. Sarah's mom is from Iran. Mariyam (I belive that's how it's spelled) didn't like me at first because I wore dark clothes and I wasn't very good at being polite when I first met people in High School. I was kind of goth, kind of angsty, and not particularly fond of parents. After some time, however, we grew on one another. I love Sarah's mom, she's a hoot-- she says some of the most amazing things, and Sarah's impression of her is hillarious. During High School (or, when we came home from college even, a few times), we'd go to Sarah's house where her mom would have made gormeh sabzi or kibbeh or other persian things that I don't know the names of right off hand. I loveloveloveloved these meals. I would have so many helpings of them it was amazing. When I went to visit Sarah in Missouri, where her parents now live, I got to have another helping of Persian yumminess made by her mom and her nana.

I miss these meals.

While I've graduated to making my own Persian food, I can't really compare. I love my version of gormeh sabzi, but no, it's never quite the same. Mine is good, I really like it, but I think it was also the feeling of having this great woman make me great homemade food. Plus, I usually have a problem with somehow getting sand in mine (sigh).

A few Christmases ago (I believe, or maybe it was a birthday), I got a persian cookbook from a dear dear friend of mine. I haven't made a lot out of it, but decided to try something new, and chose Kuku Sabzi. Basically, baked herb omlette-- heck, since I made japanese omuraisu omlettes earlier, why not try a persian omlette too, right?

I halved the recipe, and it made four triangles. You're supposed to eat it with yogurt and pita, but I have neither, so I ate it with a low carb tortillia (cough, ahem). I know, I'm a sham, but it's all I had... and none the less, it was still pretty good. Kuku sabzi is a very lite, nice dish-- it's got a strong herby flavor, which is nice, but I wish I had added more salt. I think the yogurt would really help give it some more flavor, and I wish I had some.

The walnuts are a nice treat because they add some crunch and a different, warmer flavor than the mild eggs and the potency of the mixed herbs.

I think I'd like to try making this again, when I have more time to eat it (honestly, it's been a week since I've made this and I have two helpings left and I'm really not sure if I can eat leftover eggs after that long).

But it was fun to make something new and out of my normal comfort zone. :) I'm excited to try more recipes from this persian book 'o mine.

Kuku Sabzi
From Cooking Around The World : Middle Eastern, by Soheila Kimberly
1-2 saffron strands
4 eggs
1 leek, chopped
2 oz spinach (I used frozen, which I microwaved to unfreeze)
1/4 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 chopped fresh spring onions
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Oven at 350 Degrees Farenheit

Soak the saffron strands in 1 tablespoon boiling water.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add in all the chopped vegetables, herbs, garlic, and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper, then add the saffron water. Stir thoroughly to mix.
Melt the butter in a large ovenproof dish and pour in the vegetable and egg mxiture.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the egg mixture is set and the top is golden. Serve hot or cold, cut into wedges, with yogurt and pita bread.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shepherd's Pie, Take 2.

Because Jeff helped me update my foodblog's beautiful layout to make room for the foodbuzz featured publisher stuff, I told him I'd make him anything he wanted (though I'd do that anyway, so really....)

Of course, he requested Shepherd's Pie. I believe that Shepherd's Pie and Lamb Risotto are the two things I make that Jeff REALLY LOVES. Maybe even more than apple pie. Granted, he really likes my meatballs and hamburgers, but man, Shepherd's Pie. He's a sucker for it, and I'm glad to make it. I love when he eats it and gets all happy and cheerful and hugs me a lot and rubs my back and coos his I love yous.

That makes it sooo worth it. Plus, it's easy!

Awhile back I also made Shepherd's Pie. It can be found in this post. At that time I didn't use enough fresh herbs to really give it the punch that we wanted. We had this Shepherd's pie at Cheesecake Factory that was awesome that had given us the inspiration-- but this time, I had the herbs. I had the herbs, I had the meat, I had the potatoes, and thus, I had Shepherd's Pie.

And it was really good. It was perfect and yummy and warm in my tummy. I feeeel like I might use MORE herbs next time, but heck, who knows. I think to Jeff, it was pretty perfect, and in the end, that's what matters....

Shepherd's Pie 2

2 medium white rose potatoes, cubed
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk (or until smooth)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
garlic powder to taste
1/4 large, sweet onion, chopped
1 roma tomato. chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1/8 cup frozen green beans
1/8 cup frozen green peas
1/8 cup frozen corn
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon wheat flour
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemarry
1 teaspoon freshly torn sage
1 teaspoon freshy torn basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon ketchup
1/8 cup red wine
1/8 cup grated cheese
caramelized onions

Oven at 450 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Boil the cubed potatoes until tender. Drain, then mash well, mixing in the butter, milk, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Make sure to mix in enough milk to make the potatoes extremely creamy, and smooth enough to spread.

In a large skillet, drizzle some olive oil and two teaspoons of butter. Add all the vegetables but the tomatoes and start to cook. Add the ground lamb and beef, and cook until the meat has browned and it's juices have seeped. Add the Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes. Allow to simmer together for five minutes, then add the ketchup. Stir and fold to mix all together and allow to simmer until the tomatoes break down slightly. Add the red wine and herbs and continue to stir and simmer for another five minutes. Add the flour and whisk into the sauces, then remove from heat.

Pour the meat mixture into an oven safe casserole dish, spread to form an even surface. Top with the mashed potatoes, and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until brown. Broil for the last few minutes if necessary.

Remove from oven and topped with caramelized onions.

Stephanie's Chocolate Chip Cookies, V 3.0

About a month ago I made Jeff chocolate chip cookies. Upon making them we realized... these were no longer my favourite cookies. The texture was too bready.... and they were really tasty, but... just not what we wanted.

That post is here.

For the first South Park Wednesday of the season (check out last week's episode, hillarious), I decided to try my hand at another batch, to change it and make it more of what, I hoped, we wanted. I like my cookies soft... with a bit of crunch, but fluffy and a bit doughy. Jeff like's his with a bit of crispness, so I have to combine the two, which is a difficult task, let me tell you.

These cookies do a good job of it. They're sweet, though next time I might put a bit more sugar in them (I like irritatingly sweet cookies). The dough at first seemed very soft, and still breadlike, which was disappointing. However, allowed to sit a few moments and they crisped up. I believe these still need some work, but man, they are still crisp and yet soft, they are both. I think they need a bit more roughness to their texture, a bit more "melt" if you will.

But they went over well, there's only a few left which Jeff and I are slowly snacking on. They had a good texture, they look really pretty-- toasty brown on the edges. I think next time fresher chocolate would be good, we used the leftover chocolate bars from the leftover fire pit s'mores. So next time: more chocolate. But in the end I'm pretty happy with these. I'm gonna keep messing with the recipe but this ain't bad, it's a start.

Stephanie's Chocolate Chip Cookies V 3.0

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Oven at 350 Degrees.

Cream together the sugars and butter. Mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix into the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips and form into balls on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes.


On LJ for like... two weeks there kept being posts for Omuraisu. I'm part of the "Picturing Food" community, which I like to look at in between posts that let me keep up from old high school friends. It's a nice thing to see all the different things people eat. And after I saw Omuraisu, I had such a craving for it... it's something I'd never had before, so I don't know how I could crave it, but for some reason the idea of ketchup stir-fried rice with eggs on top just did me on. I had to have it.

So after spending hours on Just Hungry just looking at all the food and also reading about the different types of japanese cuisine, I was stoked to make it. I had no idea there were Westernized foods. I also didn't know one of my favourite dishes, made by one of my high school friend's japanese mom, was a Westernized dish. Tonkatsu. I'm guessing it came from schnitzel. But gosh darn it's good.

Oh, but right, this post is about Omuraisu. I set out to make omuraisu after this craving. I had a bag of brown rice in my fridge so I made a whole bunch of it early, and then realized I couldn't make omuraisu, but I forget the reason now. I believe an ingredient was missing, though I'm no longer sure of what that was. Then I waited until Monday to make it, and was super excited to go home and make omuraisu, delicious omuraisu, and eat it while watching some cartoons. But I had to work really late at work, I didn't get home until 10 or so, they even offered me dinner at work and I said No. No thank you. I'm going to make Omuraisu tonight.

And I did.
The recipe on Just Hungry is very general. Brown rice, chicken or ham, onions, ketchup, eggs. And the eggs are just, well, eggs. Most recipes were like that, and I... I wanted more in my stir fried rice. So while I did stir fry it with ketchup (though I ran out....) I also added corn, peas, and of course had the onions and chicken.
The omlette I made the way I make omlettes, which is with a little bit of milk and water for fluffiness, cooked slowly. I put cheese in the middle (cheddar and parmesan), because that sounded good while I was making it too. Yes. Cheesy, ketchupy, eggy stir fried rice.

And it was good. It was japanese comfort food, and it comforted me after a long day of work. I was exhausted, and it was the perfect ending. I scarfed it down, watched cartoons, and enjoyed a good nights sleep. Next time though I think I'll make less.

Recipe adapted from Just Hungry

1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
1/2 chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/8 cup combined thawed frozen corn and peas
shredded cheddar and parmesan cheese, just a small handful
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
a few drops of water
salt and pepper

Saute the onion until transparent in the butter. Add the chicken stir/saute until done. Add the rice and veggies, toss until heated through. Add about 2 tablespoons of ketchup, just enough to flavor the rice but not make it soggy. Season with salt and peper and mound onto the plate (or save for putting it in the omlette).

Spray a pan well with non-stick spray. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and water, and whisk well with a beater, add a little salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan and cook on low to medium-low heat until heated thoroughly and the middle is just slightly soft in the middle. Put the cheese in the middle and fold, allowing the heat to cook and melt the cheese. Serve with a small amount of ketchup if desired.

Alternatively, you can put the rice inside the omlette, which I was tempted to do-- but didn't, because man, that was a lot of rice.

Potage Crecy

I keep "deciding" to choose one recipe from each one of my cookbooks a month (at least) and to make it for Foodival. But then I keep... not doing that. I get excited about other food I want to make, I lose jobs, I get jobs with a lot of overtime (now, now now I only have Sundays not working, but look out for my show, DJ and the Fro, when it comes out in May!).... all in all, it doesn't happen easily.

However this time I picked a few recipes from a few books, and this is the first one. A few years ago I got a French cookbook as a present. It's a William's Sonoma cookbook, and I got it in conjunction with my Middle Eastern cookbook, which in the end I've cooked more from. However, I've learned a lot from my French cookbook. I've read it front to back a few times, while only ever using two recipes from it (I believe, I might have done four actually now that I think about it).

French cooking is supposed to be the.... not the epitome, per se, but it's the beginning. When being taught, most people are taught in the French style-- a lot of people go to master the french style of cooking, which has a lot of finesse and brings us words like mise en place and sautee and julienne. A lot of the fundamentals-- those are french, though every culture has them. So it's nice to go to French cooking (which I also love to eat, by the way, I'm a big fan of certain french fare-- such as cheese, and a lot of the pastries and street food) and do things the traditional way. The William's Sonoma book tells where things come from, too, and why things are named the way they are. Much like my Alton book's, but more to the point.

I picked this soup because, hell, I like soup. I wanted soup. I wanted something easy for me to take to work, heat up fast, and eat at lunch time that was filling (but not fattening) and healthy and delicious. This soup is all of those things.

It's a potage, which in French cooking there's three types of soup. The potage, which is a thick soup that's hearty and filling; the rich soups made from stock and sometimes cream, bisques; and the consommes which I guess are clear. I believe French Onion is made from consomme.

Anywho, I thought a potage might be nice. Potage Crecy is basically a potato and leek soup + carrots. Crecy is an area in France famous for it's carrots. All of this taught to me by William's Sonoma (who I bought my igloo cake pan from, go figure!).

This soup is more like potato and leek than carrot to me. I taste the carrots, they're slightly sweet, and I doubt I used enough... but it's a good, basic soup. It's hearty, it's got a good oniony/leeky flavor from the leeks, and it's got that slight sweetness of carrots. I didn't follow the recipe to a T, because I didn't want to add cream (I added a slight amount of milk), and I didn't... I don't remember what else I didn't want to do so changed.

It made a ton, I'm still eating the leftovers. I made it last Sunday and I've been having a bowl at least every couple of days. I'm excited to have some for lunch tomorrow.
Potage Crecy
Mildly Adapted from William's Sonoma French Cookbook

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, including the green parts, rinsed thoroughly and thinly sliced
5 thin, long carrots, washed and diced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 - 3/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine
1/2 teaspoon groudn nutmeg
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, melt the butter and the olive oil. Add the leeks and saute, sitrring occasionally until softened. Add the carrots and potatoes and saute for about 4 minutes, until softened.
Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme and wine, cover, and allow to simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until thick and smooth. Mix in the lemon juice, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, then add the milk. Bring back to a simmer, then adjust seasonings to taste.

Strawberry Cupcake Truffles

I'm in love with truffles. When Valentine's Day comes around I can't get enough-- it's one of the only times of the year that I ever get truffles (unless I go on a trip, sometimes I get them from specialty chocolatiers in a new city) but on a day to day basis, no truffles.

Around Valentine's Day I kept seeing posts pop up for making your own chocolate kisses, etc, usually using cupcake pieces and the like, or at least the frosting. I was thinking, man, what a good idea if someone doesn't eat all my cupcakes, because frankly, I seem to have more cupcakes than friends usually and most of us get fed enough as it and a lot of them are finicky about eating too many sweets.

So I made these, and I have slowly been devouring them. They are more amazing than the cupcakes, I keep them cold in the fridge (because otherwise they'll melt, the ganache I made was too soft), and each one is cold and sweet and creamy and heavenly. Le Sigh.

I just used the leftovers of my chocolate cupcakes, the strawberry frosting on them and also left over in the container, and a bit of the cheese vanilla cream I had for the 'filling' for the cupcakes. Heck, they made delicious cupcakes, I couldn't see why they'd make terrible truffles. After mixing them together, rolling them, and then letting them sit in the fridge, I dipped them in ganache and let them set again.

'Course, again, I made the ganache too soft. Alas, we can't be perfect all the time...

Strawberry Cupcake Truffles

Any leftover cupcakes
Any leftover strawberry frosting (recipe here)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons cream (I used half/half, shame on me)
1 teaspoon butter
a sprinkling of salt
a dash of vanilla extract

Mix together the cupcake stuff and frosting stuff, allow to chill for 30 minutes, then form into balls or shapes and chill again for 15 minutes or so.
While allowing to set, in a double boiler melt together the chocolate chips and cream. Mix in the butter after removing from heat, then salt and vanilla extract. Take each ball and dip into the ganache mix with a spoon. Place on wax paper and allow to set in the fridge or freezer.

Note: You probably wanna do something better for the ganache. I admit mine was subpar. Delicious, but I was in a rush and it definitely didn't set right.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Banana Hazlenut Coffeecake

During my 'hiatus', I made this banana and hazelnut coffee cake. I got the recipe, I believe, from Technicolor Kitchen though I'm not certain... because I definitely saved this one awhile back.
As everyone who reads this blog knows, Jeff and I are huge fans of bananas. We pretty much eat them everyday. I also love hazelnuts (read: love of frangelico, inteeeense). So this was kind of the perfect coffee cake.

Which we didn't finish. Sigh.Just a note. If you make this, don't let it sit forever, because it'll get gross. The bananas will get hard and black. But when it's fresh and warm, it's super tasty. I really enjoyed it!

Bananas are loaded in vitamins, obviously. While cake isn't, it's sometimes nice to have a warm treat in the morning. I have them too often (cinnamon rolls, banana cake, cookies, pie, oy vey), but once in awhile it's good. And hazelnuts are filled with Vitamin E, and that's really good for your skin and hair (oh, yeah, and your heart). So that's another advantage of this coffee cake.

But who am I kidding? Just eat it.

Banana and hazelnut coffee cake

1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
3/4 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 large ripe bananas
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon hazlenut liquor
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Oven at 350 Degrees Farenheit.
Grease or spray a baking dish, either a round or square one.

To make the topping, place the flour in a large bowl with the hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Pour the melted butter in and mix together until crumbly.

Slice the bananas and toss with some lemon juice in a small bowl.

To make the cake, first combine all the dries in a medium mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, and liquor. Mix all together. Mash in the banana, then slowly add the dries. Mix until smooth and thoroughly combined. Spoon into the pan, and when halfway full make a single layer of sliced bananas, cover with the rest of the cake mixture and top with the remaining bananas, then the crumb mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes, serve warm or cold, with a drizzle of honey (optional).