I should be locked up for making Nancy Silverton's brioche pecan sticky buns. When you lose track of how much butter goes into a recipe, you know you're in for it. The last few weeks I have been tuning in to the old Baking with Julia series on PBS. When Nancy Silverton, owner of the La Brea Bakery, prepared these sticky buns from a basic brioche dough, I just knew I had to take a stab at making it. The result was a super tender and flaky, to-die-for, delicacy that was worth the 24 hours it took to make from start to finish. If you want to make something extra special and are willing to put in the time and care necessary, make this. You'll wow just about anyone who gets the privilege of eating one.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I have a giant soft spot for seafood. My husband, on the other hand, loves his red meat. So when we dined at Hank's Oyster Bar a few months ago, it was no surprise that I ordered the bouillabaisse and he ordered, drumroll please, a burger. His burger came with Old Bay french fries. I may have picked a few off his plate, and loved them. If you like seasoned or cajun fries (like the ones at Five Guys), you might just want to give these a try. Whether you choose to bake 'em or fry 'em, your french fries will love being sprinkled with a little something from the Old Bay!
Monday, May 24, 2010
image found hereI've already heard the words "I'm bored" uttered in this household and I'm only a week and a half into summer. I decided to get the planning in motion real quick. There are many fun things to do when children are home for the summer and planning helps summer become a fun experience for all. We change it up a little each summer in order to make it seem like a new adventure.
Here are some ideas you might try to help kill boredom:
- Plan something different for each day of the week, but repeat it with a slight variance each week. For example: Monday - Park/Playground, Tuesday - Library, Wednesday - Craft/Cook, Thursday - Family/Friends, Friday - Pool/Lake/Creek (Can you tell I live in the South?)
- Pick a theme for the week and plan activities around the theme each day. Example: Pirate, Cowboy, Princess, Mother Goose, Robots. This is where the child can really become educated and have fun learning about their interests. This was successful at our house one summer, but I did the themes every other week to give myself a little break. I'll let you brainstorm how many possibilities there are with a theme and development of the theme.
- Take advantage of museums in your city or town. Have you heard of the reciprocal program? The program allows you to pay one flat membership fee to take advantage of multiple museums. We are joining because free visits to our zoo are included with the local children's and science museums. You can use it for other cities and states if you travel or have museums in neighboring cities. Check the program out here.
- Visit different parks, playgrounds, greenways, campgrounds and state parks near your home. We have a wonderful state park hike a few miles from us of which we take full advantage.
- Find interesting and interactive places to explore in your hometown. Visit a local candy factory, dairy or berry farm.
- Don't forget summer reading! Join your library's summer reading club. Our local baseball team also has a summer reading club which gives tickets and prizes to games all summer long if children keep reading. Try these national programs for extra incentive rewards for children such as Barnes and Noble Summer Reading or Chuck E. Cheese's Reading Rewards.
- Commemorate the end of summer with a party compiling a scrapbook of the fun you had together complete with photos and mementos. Summer always goes by so fast so create memories that last!
Friday, May 21, 2010
When it comes to jam I love freezer jam for its fresh flavor and color. I love to spread this quick jam on bread or use as a topping for ice cream. I prefer the no-cook freezer jam pectin mix that has a 3-step process: crush, stir, and freeze.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 package Ball Freezer Jam Pectin mix
4 cups strawberries, hulled
Measure 1 1/2 cups sugar into a bowl. Add pectin stir until mixed. Crush strawberries by pulsing in a food processor. Combine strawberries with pectin mixture. Stir 3 minutes. Ladle jam into clean jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Let stand 30 minutes. Makes about five 8-oz jars. Freeze for up to a year or refrigerate up to 3 weeks.
By the way, did you ever wonder what the little seeds on the outside of the strawberry are called? I didn't either. But, my husband, who likes the obscure, told me that they are Achenes (pronounced a-keens). He found this information in a book called, The Whatchamacallit, that he bought on Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/Whatchamacallit-Those-Everyday-Objects-Things/dp/B002T4505A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276354436&sr=1-1 .
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I got the inspiration for this risotto from the show Private Chefs of Beverly Hills (I like this show, guilty!) Two chefs were assigned to make a carb-free dinner party for a Beverly Hills socialite and one of the things they came up with was a risotto made with cauliflower instead of arborio rice. Unfortunately for me they didn't really show how it was made in great detail, so I was on my own for this one.
First, I figured out that I needed to turn the cauliflower into something that resembled rice and that's when the food processor came to mind. After that I just treated the recipe like I would regular old risotto by slowly adding stock until the cauliflower became tender. I kept the flavor profile simple by showcasing the cauliflower with black pepper, Parmesan and fresh parsley.
I have to admit, this is really good. Going into it, don't expect that the cauliflower will taste exactly like rice. But it is a pretty good substitution if you are craving comfort food, but want to keep the carb count to a minimum.
Cauliflower Risotto with Parmesan and Black Pepper
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons half-and-half or cream (optional)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for shaving
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it is completely chopped to the point that it looks like a grain of rice. Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add shallot and saute until softened. Add pulverized cauliflower and begin to stir around to coat. Add stock, a little at a time while cauliflower cooks. When cauliflower is tender, add cream or half-and-half if using. Season with salt and pepper and stir in grated parmesan cheese. Finally, sprinkle with parsley and place in a serving dish. Top with shaved parmesan (use a vegetable peeler for this) and more ground pepper.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The chocolate chip cookie intrigues me. While it is one of the most common, basic cookies out there, it has varying faces. Depending on the recipe and technique, the chocolate chip cookie can end up being soft, chewy, thin or crispy. There are many factors that help a cookie baker control its outcome and one such technique lies in the creaming stage (the process of mixing fat with sugar). I gleaned the following helpful tip from the book Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen:
The amount of creaming affects the texture of the cookie, the leavening, and the spread. Only a small amount of creaming is desired when the cookie must retain its shape and not spread too much. Also, if the cookie is very short (high in fat and low in gluten development), or if it is thin and delicate, too much creaming will make the cookie too crumbly.Depending on how you like your cookies, whether it's chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin, you can control the outcome. So before you turn your mixer on high-speed, think about what you want your cookie to look like when it comes out of the oven!
Friday, May 14, 2010
When I saw three mangos sitting on my counter at their ripest, I knew what I had to do: make sorbet. There was also a Valencia orange hanging out, so I decided to add a little zest and juice to give the sorbet depth. While most sorbet recipes use a simple syrup, I really did not want the added sugar. Simple syrup is comprised of equal parts water and sugar and heated until the sugar dissolves. My take on simple syrup? Equal parts water and organic agave nectar that is whisked together, no heating required.
Mango and Valencia Orange Sorbet
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup organic agave nectar
3 ripe mangos, peeled and roughly chopped (about 12 ounces)
1 small Valencia orange, zested and juiced
Whisk together water and agave nectar. Set aside. Put chopped mango, orange zest and orange juice in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add half the simple syrup and puree until smooth. Keep adding the simple syrup until sorbet is pourable and coats the back of a spoon. Freeze in an ice cream freezer according to manufacturer instructions. Makes about 1 pint.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Have you ever seen this knobby root in your produce section? If you seek out celery root, you will probably find it tucked away somewhere among other more common vegetables. Its humble, and maybe ugly appearance might scare shoppers away. If you've never had celery root, give it a try.
Take it home and peel or cut away the skin, like you would with a winter squash. At this point you can pretty much do anything: boil, deep-fry, roast, steam, puree into a soup or even serve raw. It pairs well with flavors such as tarragon, apples, chives and garlic.
The easiest way for first timers is to incorporate celery root into mashed potatoes. Chop the celery root and boil until tender, just like you would with potatoes. In my experience I have noticed that celery root takes longer to cook, so if you want to boil the celery root along with the potatoes, cut them half the size as the potatoes. Finally, just mash the potatoes and celery root together, adding cream, butter, herbs, whatever you love with your mashed potatoes.
Are there any other celery root fans out there?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
When I made this carrot almond salad I had been craving I had to google "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation" by Marty Robbins for nostalgic reasons. Back in the college days, I worked at a soup and sandwich shop one summer as a waitress. The owners made a carrot salad similar to this one that was served as a side item on the plate. Marty Robbins played every day. I loved the carrot salad and tried to recreate it here. For some reason, I always liked that Marty Robbins song too. Here's to old times...
Carrot Almond Salad
2 pounds carrots, chopped in food processor
1 cup slivered almonds, chopped in food processor
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Make a well in the middle of the carrots. Dump in almonds, juice, honey and almond extract. Mix ingredients in well and then fold all together until combined. It tastes like sunshine.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The grilled cheese sandwich is one of my favorite comfort foods and its simplicity makes it even more appealing. I have set two key ground rules when making a grilled cheese.
First, the grilled cheese needs quality ingredients. Good cheese. Good bread. Butter. That's it. This past weekend I decided to experiment with a few new cheeses to see how they would stand up in a grilled cheese.
Jarlsberg: Sharp and similar to Swiss cheese in flavor and texture.
Havarti: Creamy, smooth and mild. I think kids would really dig this one!
Habanero Cheddar: This cheese packed heat, a really fun alternative to regular cheddar.
Second, the grilled cheese needs to be made right. Here's how I do it:
To make a grilled cheese, first butter two pieces of bread. Use softened butter, not melted, and don't bother trying to smear cold butter on the bread. Heat a fry pan on LOW. That's right. If you want perfectly toasted bread and melted cheese, low and slow is the way to go here.
Place on piece of bread, buttered side down on the pan. Top with an even layer of cheese that is thinly sliced. Top off the sandwich with the other piece of bread and leave it alone for a few minutes. Just put a timer on and walk away.
When the bottom looks like this, flip it. The cheese will look like it's on its way to melted perfection at this point. Wait a few more minutes until the other side is toasted and the cheese is melted.
A crisp crust that is perfectly toasted and a creamy, oozy cheese center awaits you!
Monday, May 10, 2010
What if you never had to rely on a recipe? In Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, Michael Ruhlman explains ratios for various cooking procedures divided in chapters from Vinaigrettes to Cookies. Each ratio is explained to help understand why ingredients are used and then Ruhlman lists a few recipes to help the reader understand how to take a basic ratio and turn it into something much more.
It may sound a little on the technical side, but coming from someone who is not a numbers gal, it makes more sense to learn a simple ratio rather than memorizing recipe after recipe. I love books like this because it has helped me to not use a recipe as a crutch, but more of a way to learn the basics and then create something of my own. To me, that's what cooking is all about.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I had my first crab cake while visiting my aunt and uncle in Maryland when I was just twelve. I remember watching my Aunt gently mix lump crab meat and just a few simple ingredients together and form them into cakes. She fried them for a couple minutes in a skillet with melted butter just until browned and served them on a bed of lettuce. It was not until years years later that I had another one and till this day I have been experimenting with various recipes that have the flavor and texture like my Aunt Dot had perfected. This recipe is the closest to that first taste of a crab cake many years ago. In this case, the crab meat is not from Maryland, but Alabama's Gulf Coast. These crab cakes are placed on top of a mix of tender greens and topped with fresh raspberries and a raspberry vinaigrette.
Crab Cakes with Fresh Snipped Parsley
1 pound fresh lump crab
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
juice of a lemon
2 tbs of fresh minced parsley
Put crab meat in a bowl. Mix rest of ingredients and add to crab meat. Chill for two hours. Form into 6 cakes. Place in buttered skillet on medium heat and brown on each side. Alternatively the cakes can be placed on a buttered sheet pan and baked at 450 degrees until lightly browned.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I have made Indian fried bread for over 30 years. Even though I am an empty nester and have more time on my hands, I still like to make quick recipes. I love yeast breads, but I do not always want to spend the time making the dough and waiting 2 to 3 hours. Indian fried bread is a fun bread to make and was always a hit with the kids in my house.
Whole Wheat Indian Fried Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 cup warm water
2 cup cooking oil
Combine flour, salt, baking powder, powdered milk, and warm water. Stir only until blended. Roll out into a circle, 1/4 inch thick. Cut and fry in oil until crisp. Serve warm with whipped butter, honey or jam.
Monday, May 3, 2010
As sophisticated as the name sounds "en papillote" simply means "in parchment." This method is one of my favorites for preparing fish because it delicately steams the fish along with whatever aromatics and vegetables are put in the paper, making it a great meal to make when you have a random assortment of herbs and vegetables that need to be used up.
To make the parchment packages you'll need a craft knife or a pair of scissors and a piece of parchment folded in half, as shown.
Because I'll be using a craft knife, I placed my piece of parchment on an inverted cookie sheet.
Here I'll cut along the folded paper as if making a paper heart.
When unfolded it should look like a valentine! Precious.
Wild caught salmon was on sale, so that's what I'm going with.
I gathered some rosemary, zucchini, carrot and lemon that I had on hand. Substitutions are welcome here!
Now just pile everything on one side of the parchment. Add a little olive oil or a pat of butter and season with salt and pepper to help create a nice sauce inside each package.
To tightly seal the package, make a double fold to make sure it doesn't open up during cooking and place on a cookie sheet.
Everything cooks together, infusing flavor through the fish and the vegetables. And best of all, no frying pans were dirtied in the process!
Salmon en Papillote
4 fillets wild caught salmon
1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch coins
2 carrots, julienned
1 lemon, sliced
4 sprigs rosemary, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil, or 2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut vegetables the same thickness to avoid overcooking. Place salmon on parchment sheets that have been folded in half and cut out into half-heart shapes. Top with fresh rosemary, lemon slices, carrots, zucchini and a pat of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Seal tightly by folding the edges over twice. Repeat with other packages. Arrange packages on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, adjusting time depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve in the parchment packages.