Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pear, Brandy and Walnut Cranberry Sauce

I remember the first holiday my family switched over from the canned “cranberry” abomination to making our own.  It was my third year in college when I spent a lot of time watching the Food Network instead of writing papers.  Which is not to say I didn't write the papers just that I did the writing at literally the very last second before they were due, editing and printing the papers minutes before catching the bus to class.  All the while frantically praying to the goddess of procrastination,  my long time muse.  I did well in all my classes I was just much more interested my new passions born out of living alone for the first time in a big city; cooking, coffee, and beatnik poetry. 

Unfortunately my last minute writing technique was so successful that it's the only way I know how to write to this day.  Which is why I often neglect this blog unless someone in my life writes me an email that basically amounts to “blog today or else...”  So if I've been promising to write about something fabulous I fed you or told you about or a recipe you sent me to try and it isn't blogged about yet, you need to write me a kind but pressing email telling me to hurry up and write about whatever it is.  It works, promise.

Anyway somewhere along the line in the plethora of cooking shows I was watching I got the itch to make real cranberries since my brother was and still is ion love with all versions of cranberry sauce.  So I bought cranberries and enlisted my little brother to help me make them.  We just cooked the simple version off the back of the bag.  Equal parts sugar and water, the bag of cranberries and boil until the berries burst. 

We were fascinated watching the berries burst all over the pot which my mother heard from the other room and probably imagined as something much more dangerous than what was actually happening because she came to watch too.  It really is the simple pleasures in life because we had more fun making those berries than most of the rest of dinner and they were delicious, we never went back to buying the canned stuff

As the holidays went on we got creative and started adding orange zest or cinnamon and comparing them hot versus how good they were cold.  Soon my brother and I were making 3 or 4 batches of cranberries to feast on  while home for the holidays.  It became an obsession and is still a holiday tradition to make too many cranberries.  I certainly wasn't going to shun the tradition this year but since I'm making a habit of making new and interesting food I knew I would have to up the ante on the creativity of the cranberries this year.

The fella and I made these for Thanksgiving and fell in love.  They are the best cranberries ever.  With brandy, pears, and walnuts how could you possibly go wrong.  Though they take a little effort they are very much worth it and will wow everyone at the table.  My family, the fella, the chef and I made these disappear very quickly.  We ate them with dinner, then a little bit after dinner, then for dessert, then on top of dessert.  They are great alone but on top of coconut ice cream they are divine.  Dip in a gluten free Christmas cookie and you may never leave the table.  Or you may become so drunk on cranberries you end up playing hours of ridiculous card games.  Either way you will be very happy.

Funny to think my cooking obsession started with cranberries and has led me to French cooking and a food blog.  From playing with food with my little brother to my brother being old enough to drink and me cooking with these two crazy lovable guys.  From living for a year in Iowa with no kitchen to making gourmet meals every night. 

Okay enough end of the year nostalgia.  It's been an amazing journey 2009 but its time to move on to frog legs and shirataki noodles.  In other words, you  haven't seen anything yet.

Oh and will someone convince Jacob to share with the rest of the world what he did to the turkey?  It was the best turkey I've ever tasted and I wasn't around to watch his secret ninja cooking techniques to find out what he did.

Pear, Brandy and Walnut Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup, plus 2-3 tablespoon brandy, divided use

2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in half
8 black peppercorns

12 ounces fresh cranberries, picked over
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 medium firm but ripe bartlett pears, peeled

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

 Pour 1/3 cup brandy into liquid measuring cup; add enough water to reach 1/2 cup liquid total. Set aside. Place broken cinnamon sticks and peppercorns in center of small piece of cheesecloth or large tea bag and tie closed using kitchen twine.

In medium saucepot, combine cranberries, agave nectar and cinnamon-pepper bundle. Using large holes on a box grater, grate pears into saucepot. Stir in brandy-water mixture.

Over high heat, bring cranberry mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook 10-12 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the mixture has combined, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons brandy. Let cool. Remove and discard cinnamon bundle. Stir in 7 tablespoons toasted walnuts. Transfer mixture to small serving bowl; sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Original recipe from Food 52.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Failed But Yummy Souffle

I've had a lot of fun cooking this year.  I ate a lot of things I never thought I would, cooked things I've never attempted before and learned a completely new way of eating.  There are just two cooking goals I had for myself before the year ended that I didn't get around to: mastering a soufflé and making a gelatin dessert that set properly.  So on Christmas day with the chef to egg me on I thought I would try a simple (or so I thought) soufflé so I could get that obstacle out of the way. Like so many things in life it didn't turn out the way I thought it would but it was still fun and delicious.

A lot of little things went wrong while I was trying to soufflé  I forgot to sift my flour.  The whisk wasn't perfectly dry.  My safety net disappeared to attend to a cat feeding before the snow got too bad emergency just as I was starting the part of the process I was unsure about.  I was flustered from being at an annoying job for the 6 hours before dinner.  And my family was walking in the door just as I got to the step where I couldn't walk away from my ingredients without them falling.  It wasn't an ideal situation to begin with so I wasn't too surprised when my soufflé didn't poof.  Fearing just this out come I had given the fella strict instructions on which bottle of wine to open for me in my fallen soufflé sadness and just the right tone to say “there there bunny” to me.

I pouted over the sad looking soufflé but since everything else on the table looked so fabulous I never managed to look any where near as pathetic as my fluffy obviously starving to death princess did. 

Besides I had every one I loved around a big purple table with amazing food, even a soufflé failure couldn't get me down.  And the surprising thing was that the soufflé, as unattractive as it looked tasted really great.  A creamy cheesy warm treat.  It nicely filled the gap in the dinner left by the crispy rolls or focaccia  we usually have at holiday dinners. 

So the good news was the soufflé despite its ugliness was tasty enough to warrant the effort which means I'll be motivated to try it again on a day with less stress when I can better focus.  And Julia Child has an entire section devoted to soufflés in Mastering the Art of French Cooking that I apparently need to read over a couple more times.  I will make a puffy wonderful soufflé happen.  Most people have resolutions about losing weight, I have them about cooking somewhat complicated food stuffs.  I'll let you know when I succeed.

Cheese Soufflé

1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon Parmesan

1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sifted rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

4 egg yolks

5 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely grated swiss or Parmesan cheese

Before you start:  place your eggs on the counter so they will be room temperature when you need them, measure out all your ingredients and have them close at hand, and make sure all the bowls, whisks and mold are very clean.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter inside of soufflé mold and sprinkle with cheese.  Set aside for later.

In a small pot put the milk on a medium heat to begin boiling.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the flour with a wooden spatula and cook over moderate heat until foamy, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  When mixture is no longer bubbling pour in the boiling milk.  Beat vigorously with a whisk until well blended.  Beat in the seasonings.

Return to medium high heat and boil, stirring with the whisk for about 1 minutes.  Sauce will be very thick when you're finished.  Remove from heat and set aside while you separate eggs.

Drop the four egg yolks one at a time into the hot sauce pan, reserving the whites in a metal or ceramic bowl for later in the recipe.  With the whisk beat the yolks individually into the sauce.  Continue with each yolk until well incorporated.  Keep the mixture at a tepid temperature while preparing the egg white mixture.

Beat the five egg whites and salt with a whisk or in a stand mixer until stiff by starting at a low speed, gradually increasing it as the eggs become foamy.  Take about a minute to raise mixer speed from low to high, constantly using a spatula to push the eggs off the sides of bowl and into the beaters.  Stop when the beaters leaves slightly shiny peaks in the surface of the mixture.

Stir a big spoonful of the egg whites into the warm sauce.  Stir in all but one tablespoon of the grated cheese.  Delicately fold in the rest of the egg whites being careful not to over fold and break the fuffly consistency.

Put the incorporated soufflé mixture into the prepared mold.  It should be about 3/4 of the way full.  Tap bottom of mold on counter to smooth the surface of the soufflé  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Set rack in middle of the oven and immediately turn heat down to 375.  Do not open the door for the next 20 minutes.  In 25 to 30 minutes the soufflé will have puffed a couple inches over the rim of the mold and the top will be nicely browned.   Serve at once.

Gluten free version of recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wild Rice Stuffing and Kale Chips

 This year was my first hosting Christmas dinner and trying to do it gluten free in a way that everyone would still make everyone happy.  Which was exciting and nerve wracking all by itself.  The problem was I had to work for 6 hours Christmas afternoon which left me no time to actually cook much of the meal itself.  Luckily I have two very talented men on hand in my kitchen.  The fella and the chef were kind enough to do most of the cooking and did a fabulous job. 

There were a couple moments while I was stuck at my desk taking relay calls listening to other people talk about their meals and wondering what was going on in my kitchen.  It was torture to be at work, on Christmas nonetheless, while the chef and the fella handled everything back home.  I wanted to play food, not eavesdrop on other people's phone calls, darn it.  And it was driving me crazy wondering what exactly would happen to the recipes I had handed off to the men that morning.  Would I come home to alien brain frittered stuffing or a bacon wrapped smoked turkey with an octopus stuffed in it?  The anxiety was for naught, the boys did amazing.  The only food that didn't quite turn out were the things I cooked oddly enough, but that's a story for another day.

It was lovely having my family over.  I think they even enjoyed the not so traditional food and the lack of gluten.  My parents even surprised us by bringing their adorable little present opening food hound who laid under the table to whole meal totally offended that no one was dropping any food on her and that she wasn't the center of attention.  You can see how neglected and abused she is cuddled up amongst the various feet that aren't currently petting her.

The dogs weren't the only ones giving me cute sad eyes though.  I probably nearly broke the chef by forcing him to use a recipe and one that didn't call for any fun ingredients even.  He obviously isn't too torn up over the stifled creativity however as I witnessed him stuffing cannelloni beans and chicken thighs in tiny pots last night so he's recovered. 

And after having the mushroom wild rice stuffing from a recipe in Bon Appetit I can safely say it would have been improved by a little creativity or perhaps just some nuts to give it a little texture.  It was tasty stuffing and the mushroom with wild rice combination really works, it just needed a little something extra to make it pop.  The cranberry wild rice stuffing with toasted hazelnuts I made for Thanksgiving was much more exciting and will probably be what I make for stuffing related situations in the future.

One of my brief contributions to the meal was to make a couple different varieties of kale chips to snack on while waiting for the meal to finish.  My mother sent me the idea for kale chips during the summer when I was lamenting yet another CSA box full of greens. Now I wanted to make them for her to see what they were like. 

Kale chips are super easy and tasty way to use up left over kale or any other hearty green you aren't usually a fan of.  All you need is salt, pepper and the seasoning of your choice and you have a healthy simple snack.  These always disappear right away at my parties.  It isn't until afterwards I let people know they just willingly devoured leafy green veggies.  They have the same taste and texture of regular chips but are so much better for you.  I can't recommend them  enough.  Just don't get into an in depth conversation about cephalopods while making them and manage to salt the tray of kale 3 or 4 times because that's just too much salt and even your supportive mother will not eat many of the chips at that level of sodium.  Not that this has ever happened to me or course,  totally hypothetical. 

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pinch, cayenne pepper
seasoning of your choice, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rip the kale leaves into bite sized pieces, making sure to remove all the hard stems.  Run the pieces of kale through a salad spinner until dry or wash them thoroughly and then pat dry.  Place the kale across a large cookie sheet without overcrowding it. 

Spray or drizzle kale with oil, then toss until just oiled on all sides, using an oil sprayer makes this process super easy if you have one.  Sprinkle the kale with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper and the seasoning of your choice--Montreal steak seasoning or 5 spice powder work really well—or extra cayenne is delicious if you want something really basic. 

Arrange the kale pieces evenly over the pan so that they don't over lap much, do several batches if you have to.  Place in oven for about 10 minutes then check on them.  The kale should be crispy but not brittle or blackened.  If it is still moist in places, agitate the kale and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes, watching it closely so that it doesn't burn.

Wait for kale chips to cool.  Remove from pan with spatula and serve.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Curry Glazed Chicken Legs and Walnut Apple Salsa

By now we all know I'll use any excuse to put curry on anything so curried poultry with a side of apple salsa screamed “make me now” and “oh my god perfect cold weather meal” all at the same time.  The original recipe called for duck legs which I'm sure would have been delicious but I'm simple and cheap so substituted in less fatty and far less pricey chicken parts with just as amazing results. 

And as the fella, the chef, and I found out before our wacky wine party last weekend this is the perfect recipe to make just before a get together because it is the gift that keeps giving.  The fella and I ate the chicken and a bit of the salsa for dinner the night before, the three of us ate the left overs, there was a gloriously large amount of salsa left over to serve the guests with some blue corn chips, and the curried chicken fat that we poured off the meat got added to a polenta the chef threw together.  Which isn't even to yet mention how amazing all of the parts of this meal were. 

The spicy tender lightly curried chicken is crispy and delicious.  The salsa is mind boggling in it's greatness.  It's just spicy enough and the crisp apples mixed with the crunchy walnuts is something we all loved so much we were slapping our foreheads at not thinking of it before.  Walnut and apple salsa may be my new favorite condiment.  I can't recommend it enough.  And that polenta the spicy chicken fat went into was amazing not to mention purple.  I highly approve of all things purple.  But that's for Jacob to blog about (the polenta not my fetish for purple objects.)

 Curry Glazed Chicken Legs

4 to 6 chicken legs
3 cloves garlic
2 minced jalapeños
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 orange, zested
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice (from about 4 limes)
1 cup chicken stock.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and pat the chicken legs dry with paper towels.

Using a food processor blend the garlic, jalapeños, curry, ginger, zest and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in enough olive oil to make a paste, 2 to 3 tablespoons.

Rub the paste into the chicken legs, season with salt and pepper and place in a large roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour to render the fat. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Pour off the fat and reserve for another use (such as creating a spicy chicken and blue corn polenta.)

Pour the orange juice, lime juice and chicken stock over and around the duck pieces and cover the pan loosely with parchment paper or foil. Return to the oven for 45 minutes to tenderize the meat.

Transfer the chicken legs to a platter. Scrape the edges of the pan with a spoon to incorporate the caramelized bits into the juices. Strain. Taste the pan juices and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm. Just before serving, crisp the duck in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Spoon the pan juices over the duck legs and serve with walnut apple salsa.

Walnut Apple Salsa

1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 limes)
2 tart apples, peeled and cored
1 small onion, finely diced
A handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced, seeds reserved
1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted.

Pour the lime juice into a medium bowl. Finely dice the apples and toss with the onion in the juice.

Add the cilantro, peppers, ginger and agave nectar, tossing until well combined. Season with salt to taste. Add back some of the reserved jalapeño seeds to adjust heat of salsa.

Just before serving, add the walnuts.
Original recipe from New York Times Magazine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Technical Difficulties and a Rant

I've just found out that I'm not actually sitting over here talking to myself in cyberspace for the last couple of months, its that there is just some weird glitch that has been hiding all your lovely comments from me. So if you've commented and I haven't gotten back to you it's because technology has failed us and I didn't see any of them. I appreciate all your comments and feedback a lot so keep them coming, you just might get a belated response. If you want a more immediate response feel free to e-mail me.

Also I didn't think I had to mention this but it was brought to my attention last night that I apparently do. All the pictures I post here are my personal pictures that I took and host and are copyrighted to me. I don't put water marks on them because I want you to see the yummy food not my name sprayed across them. So feel free to cook anything I post here and link back to my pictures just don't steal my pictures and my original recipes without even giving me credit.

Food bloggers are a community. I see yummy things on other people's sites and cook them, modifying them for my gluten free and sugar free diet for the benefit of others on the same journey I am on. But when I post these recipes to share I always link them back to the person I found the idea from. I am 100% honest about the fact that many of these recipes are not mine I'm posting my experience about cooking what they created and telling you where to find more of their ideas.

People worked hard on these recipes and posting them so other people could enjoy them, I would never steal their creative spirit by passing them off as mine. So it's not very neighborly when the few recipes I did create are being posted without being credited back to me in any way. If you like what you found here give me some credit when you repost it. You wouldn't steal the braised cucumbers out of my kitchen so why steal my photos and recipes.

How rude. Now lets all go have a gluten free brownie and play nice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flax Seed Foccacia

Someday soon when I have a couple seconds to breath I will tell you all about the fabulous weird wine and bizarre food party I hosted on Sunday. It was fabulous and oh so much fun. I adore my wine loving friends and spending the day in the kitchen dreaming up tasty culinary oddities with Jacob is my new favorite hobby. We did a lot of playing off each other to co-create yummies for this party. It was a lot of fun and it was all highly amusing.

This focaccia is what I made as a place to spread the very spicy and complex mustards that Jacob brought along homemade the night before. He posted the recipes for those on his blog (which you should be reading) and so here is the bread to go along with it.

They worked out really well together. The bread was just moist and hearty enough to be a perfect base for the mustard. I was surprised that it was so good for such an embarrassingly easy recipe, this is rarely the case for gluten free bread after all. This bread was also a nice place to spread cheese. Next time I may even try spreading it in a cookie sheet to make a thinner crisper bread that's more crostini like.

The wheat eaters at the party had no idea this was sans gluten and the plate of focaccia disappeared faster than you could say “mustard seed.” I'd say that counts as successful party food.

Flax Seed Foccacia

2 cups flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar
5 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

In a large bowl combine flax meal, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

In a smaller bowl, mix together agave, eggs, water and olive oil.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, mixing well, then allow to stand for 2-3 minutes so that batter thickens. Pour batter into a greased 11 by 7 or larger glass baking dish. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or so until a knife comes out clean

Cool. Cut into squares. Slather in extremely spicy and delicious mustard a la Jacob.

Original recipe from Elana's Pantry.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gooey Gluten Free Hazelnut Brownies

I was having one of those nights where the fella was out of town so there was no one to talk me out of my overwhelming urge for a brownie. A big ooey gooey chocolaty mess of a brownie. Rich and fudgy and melting off the fork before it even gets to your mouth kind of brownie. You know the kind I'm talking about.

None of these adjectives however tend to apply to any gluten free brownie I've ever seen. All of the recipes I could find online looked disappointing or down right scary. I was not to be deterred from my brownie craving so easily so I took Mark Bittman up on his promise to know How to Cook Everything. Sure enough he had a brownie recipe that I was fairly sure I could modify with some sort of nut flour and come up with something tasty.

When the hazelnuts fell out of the cupboard I took that as a sign. I toasted them and ran them through my little coffee grinder and made fine ground hazelnut flour, pouring it in until I had the gooey consistency I was hoping for. But it was still missing something, looking at the liquor shelf I realized what it was...booze! So I threw in some brandy just to be super decadent.

Now I crossed my fingers that this experiment would result in the best brownies ever as I was in no mood to be denied chocolate. I figured that if worse came to worse this would be a very yummy boozy batter to lick raw from the pan if it for some reason refused to cook. Luckily it didn't come to that because 20 minutes later I had the best brownies in the world in my kitchen. Better even than any gluteny brownie. These literally were the best brownies I had ever tasted.

The chef, the roomie, and her friends all happened to be witness to my fabulous creation so I sat them down and “forced” them to taste test my brownies. I didn't stop at the brownies however. I had made Carmel Pear Ice Cream from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop the day before and so put a tiny scoop of that on the warm melty brownies. The ice cream which was almost too sweet on it's own was the perfect contrast to the dark chocolate. Everyone agreed these were the best brownies in creation. We made so many yummy noises the house was probably vibrating.

Then the chef had to go and say something about how the only way these could be any better was with raspberry sauce on top of the ice cream. So of course the next afternoon I bought some raspberries and made it so. He was right the chocolate, pear, raspberry creation is out of this world. As you can imagine this tray of brownies barely lasted two days. And I'm still dreaming of them, trying to resist the urge to make more, trying to wait at least a couple more days before giving in and baking them again.

I was so focused on getting these brownies to turn out that I didn't experiment this time around with substituting in agave nectar. When I give in and bake them again I will update the recipe. Until then I put in parenthesis the modifications to the ingredients I think would make using agave instead of sugar work. If someone wants to give it a try please let me know what happens.

Gooey Gluten Free Hazelnut Brownies

8 tablespoons butter (reduce to 6 tablespoons)
3 ounces dark unsweetened baking chocolate

1 cup sugar (replace with 3/4 cup agave nectar)
2 eggs (replace with 1 egg plus 1 egg white)
1 cup hazelnut flour

pinch of salt
1/ 2 teaspoon vanilla (omit this)
1/ 4 cup brandy (reduce to 3 tablespoons)

Heat oven to 350 degrees (325 if cooking with agave nectar.) Grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with butter.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate is just about melted, remove from the heat and continue to stir until smooth.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in sugar (or agave.) Then beat in the eggs one at a time. Gently stir in the hazelnut flour (make your own by toasting, removing the skin from and grinding the nuts in a coffee/spice grinder until very fine), salt, vanilla, and brandy. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until just barely set in the middle, about 20 minutes. If in doubt under cook them slightly rather than over cooking them.

Top with Caramel Pear Ice Cream and Raspberry Topping for the ultimate dessert.

The sugar free gluten free version of this recipe can be found here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pureed Pea Soup with Truffle Oil

This is revenge soup and boy was it tasty.

See a year or so ago I worked at a not great oh so sorry, my bad...South Western restaurant here in Madison. The menu at the place hasn't changed in over 10 years and the cafe part of the place grossed about 20 bucks a week, if that gives you a hint of the culinary bleakness of this supposed dining establishment. Since there were no customers to speak of and I wasn't allowed to help with tables in any way shape or form I had a lot of time to eaves drop and chat with co workers.

So though the menu was unpalatable and often the cause of gastroenterological distress the owner managed to have a seriously bloated ego about his cooking skills. One day he had the whole staff ooing and ahing at some canapés he had made out of the French Laundry Cookbook as he pointed back and forth to the picture in the book and his creation. Much brown nosing occurred in the form of “it looks better than the picture” and so on and so forth.

After an 8 hour shift of making one latte and then repeatedly cleaning every square inch of the espresso machine to stay busy I was less than impressed. I did however peak at the book once he was gone. It's a beautiful book with very very fussy recipes which I suppose for a lot of people is a big thing. When he came back to claim the book and stared at me with the disapproval reserved for the lone employee than refuses to be a sycophant I was looking at a recipe for some fancy chocolate cake. I blurted out something about wanting to give it a try.

“Well dinner there costs hundreds of dollars there you know. My wife and I ate there on our honeymoon.” These and many other details I was supposed to be impressed by sailed over my head to which I replied, “No I mean it would be fun to cook.” He looked at me like I had peed in his crème Anglaise, scoffed while snatching away the book and walking away saying something about that being doubtful under his breath.

The end of my tenure at this particular restaurant was as needlessly dramatic as this man's food was horrible so I've held a bit of a grudge. And you can ask the fella I hold grudges for life. I'm still mad at a boy who tried to pull my pants down on the playground in kindergarten for example. So when I was looking at cookbooks at the library and found the French Laundry book I knew I had to cook something out of it just to prove my old boss wrong by cooking something fabulous from it. Not that he would ever know of course nor would he care but I wanted to put that energy into the universe and end this grudge I've been holding. A perfect “I told you so” moment that would end in me and the fella eating something nice for dinner.

Looking through the book now that I know how to cook and spend time with a chef I was able to see that the French Laundry isn't even that special. I eat better most nights of the week albeit sans caviar and foie gras. Not to mention none of those desserts were going to gluten free friendly even after heavy modification. So instead I went in search of a hoity toity recipe that would put to use some of this bottle of truffle oil I have and worry about spoiling while it sits in the back of my cupboard. In the process I found a recipe for pea and truffle oil soup. And since I was on a soup kick it seemed perfect.

It is sadly however not spring so finding English peas to shell and cook to perfection following all Thomas Keller's fussy instructions was not going to happen. So I bought frozen peas and carried on from there. It turned out to be a genius move seeing as his complicated instructions end in flash freezing the peas and then pureeing them so I just thawed the peas and went on with the recipe from there.

It was a lot of work and not really worth the effort for the end result. Forcing pea puree through a sieve has got to be up there with child birth on the scale of long difficult and painful life experiences. It did however make for a very creamy soup. And a very beautiful green soup as you can see from the picture that hasn't been color edited. Plus it was a good excuse to make Parmesan crisps which are as fun to make as they are tasty and I really enjoyed my truffle tinted green soup sipped from a mug with a crispy thin bit of cheese.

So there you have it, revenge soup. In your face snotty restaurant owner man.

Pureed Pea Soup with Truffle Oil

2 pound bag of good quality frozen peas
1/4 cup agave nectar (approximate)
salt to taste
1/2 vegetable stock
1/4 cup water (approximate)
white truffle oil
Parmesan crisps (recipe below)

Place frozen peas in colander and run cool water over them just until they are no longer frozen but not until they are mushy. Run thawed peas through food processor until smooth. Pour about a cup at a time of pureed peas in a mesh sieve Force the pea puree through the sieve into a large bowl, this will take a lot of time and elbow grease so be prepared. You should have bright green very smooth puree in the bowl and the dry tougher outer portion of the peas left in the sieve Discard the pea hulls (or save to toss in risotto or pasta later) and run the remaining cups of pea puree through the sieve

When you have pushed all the peas through the sieve add the puree back into the food processor. Add agave nectar (I used about 1/4 cup) and salt to the puree to your particular taste and process to combine. Check peas for taste and adjust seasoning as you like.

Add vegetable stock and water (enough to make the soup the consistency you like) to food processor and processor briefly again until combined. If serving cold pour into mugs or small bowl with narrow tops. If serving warm, gently heat soup over low heat and pour in mugs. Just before serving drizzle a bit of truffle oil in each mug of soup and top with a Parmesan crisp “lid.”

Parmesan Crisps

1/ 2 finely grated Parmesan
silicon baking mat

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of cheese near one corner of the silicon mat and using your fingers spread the cheese into a thin 2 inch circle. Repeat with the remaining cheese, leaving a 1/2 inch of space between the cheese circles.

Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Use a small metal or heat safe spatula to very gently dislodge them from the mat and transfer to a plate to cool. They will be soft while removing from mat but will harden as they cool. Use to top pea soup as a decorative lid.

Modified and made slightly less complicated from a Thomas Keller recipe in The French Laundry Cookbook.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Scones

While getting ready to host a wine tasting party this upcoming weekend I've been shuffling through all the bookmarked recipe ideas I have saved to see what weird and wonderful snacks to make. In the process I've been finding recipes I've been remiss in not yet posting.

I made these scones months ago for our house warming party. They were delicious. So delicious in fact no one even noticed they were gluten free which is a compliment when you can trick wheat eaters into making yummy noises over something sans flour. But shame on me for taking so long to tell you about them. They were easy, had a nice chewy consistency and took care of the scone craving I had at the time. Now that I rediscovered this recipe I might have to make them again tonight.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Scones

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl mix almond flour, salt, and baking soda together. In a separate medium bowl mix the coconut oil, agave nectar, and eggs together until blended. Add cocoa powder to wet ingredients. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix well. Briefly stir in dark chocolate.

Place 1/4 cup of batter onto parchment paper lined baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Repeat for each scone and space about one inch apart. Bake 12 to 17 minutes or until scones pass the clean toothpick test.

Original recipe from Celiac Chicks blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Red Lentil Soup

This is one of those recipes that is so fundamentally simple it seems like it couldn't possibly be that great. The fact that when it's finished cooking it looks like a pot full of orange mush doesn't do it any favors either. But once you top it with a few crumbles of feta and almonds this soup shows what it's all about.

I certainly didn't think I was going to like this soup as much as I did. It seemed like something this mushy was going to be a chore to eat and wouldn't be very yummy but it showed me how wrong I was. It is warm and filling and perfect for fall low maintenance low fat cooking. It was great the first day and just kept getting better as left overs. Those lentils suck up moisture though so keep some extra stock around to thin out the left overs the next couple days.

Think while I curl up under a blanket this afternoon I'm going to start another pot of this.

Red Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

6 cups good-tasting vegetable stock (or water)
1/2 cup brown rice, picked over and rinsed
1 1/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed

slivered almonds, toasted
black oil cured olives, chopped
feta, crumbled

In a big soup pot, over medium heat, combine the olive oil, onion, shallots, and red pepper flakes. Let them brown, and caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the rice. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the rice is about half cooked then add lentils four about another 10 minutes or until both rice and lentils are very tender, and not at all toothsome. By this time, the lentils will have collapsed into a thick slop of sorts. If you need to add more water/broth at any point do so a splash at a time, until the soup thins out to the point you prefer.

Unless you used a salty broth, you will likely need to salt generously, until the the soup no longer tastes flat. Serve each bowl topped with almonds, olives, feta, and a slight drizzle of olive oil if you like.

Original recipe from 101 Cookbooks blog.

Root Vegetable Flatbreads

A couple weekends ago the fella and I drove to visit my family for the afternoon. While we were waiting on gathering the entire family to have dinner together my mother got out the Vitamix that had been hiding unused in my grandmother's basement for a while. It is an original version from the late sixties with a very vague instruction manual and no lid for the spout on the top. The book suggests using an apple to cover the hole in the top of the mixer while it is in use. Ah the good ole days when seatbelts and kitchen appliances with safety latches were largely over looked.

My mother stood back amused as the fella and I made flour out of everything she handed us. An hour later we had several pound of very finely ground almond flour, lentil flour, chickpea flour, and brown rice flour. At the cost of some raw ingredients and the loss our hearing for the afternoon (chickpeas in a grinder is one of the worst noises you will ever hear) we had enough flour to play with for months. Now I really want a Vitamix, a hand flour grinder, anything to never have to pay the outrageous prices for non gluten flour again.

Now the problem became what to make with something as crazy as lentil flour. All signs pointed to some flatbread Indian type creation. So I modified a flatbread recipe that called for wheat flour by switching in almond and lentil flour. It seemed likely to fail but with enough creativity I made it work. These were okay with the Shahi Paneer for “date night” dinner with the fella the other night but they weren't as great as I was hoping for.

The problem was I made them too thick, trying to roll them out and treat them like the gluteny original recipe would have which lead to a lot of crumbled dough and flatbreads that were raw in the middle. I put the rest of the dough in tin foil in the fridge for the next couple of days trying to figure what to do with it, worried that I wasted my exciting homemade flour on this creation.

While I was trying to figure out what to bring to my wine tasting group I remembered this flatbread dough was waiting to be fried up. I figured that though they weren't that great people might find a couple bites each interesting and it at least wouldn't get thrown away. To my great surprise while cooking them up at the last minute, this time around they were amazing. Turns out allowing the vegetables time to moisten the dough improved the consistency a lot and hand shaping tiny bite sized pieces made them easier to fry and made sure they got cooked all the way through making them chewy but crispy . My recipe worked out really well and I almost would have never known if I wouldn't have been too lazy to make something original to go with my wine.

These went over really well at the tasting. Not sure they are the perfect thing to pair with Malbec but it worked out alright nonetheless. So here is the recipe for all my fellow winos who wondered what was in the weird little fried breads. There are a lot of ingredients but I tried to organize them so you can track down all the related ingredients at the same time rather than running in circles around the kitchen.

Root Vegetable Flatbreads

1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 cup lentil flour

2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup grated radish or zucchini
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 chili, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 egg, whisked well
2 tablespoons yogurt

2 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder

oil for frying

Dry roast the chickpea flour in a frying pan over medium heat until it is fragrant and no longer smells raw. The flour will give off a really nice smell as it cooks letting you know when it's toasted. It will benefit from being shifted through a mesh sieve after toasting so it won't be clumpy. I shifted the other two flours before adding them too the bowl as well.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the oil.

Coat your hands with a thin layer of oil and hand mix the ingredients together until it is a sticky fully integrated dough. You will probably need to add a couple tablespoons water to get the dough to be properly sticky and hold together without crumbling. Keep kneading the ingredients together with your fingers until it is moist enough to form a ball.

Add enough oil to a large frying pan in fry the bread. When the oil is hot enough for frying add more oil to your hands and beginning forming thin cookie sized rounds out of the dough with your fingers. Get them as thin as you possibly can without the dough crumbling. They don't have to be perfectly shaped or a totally uniform thickness.

Fry as many as you can fit in the pan at a time without over crowding them, for about 1 minute on each side or until they just start turning brown. Remove from pan and drain on a plate covered in paper towel.

The dough will keep for a couple days if stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator. This recipe makes enough for two people to nibble on for days so I fried up small batches over the week. The dough actually becomes easier to work with the day after it's mixed up as the grated vegetables give off some moisture so if it is giving you trouble right after combining it, chill it over night and come back to it the next day.

Idea from very not gluten free original recipe at Ecurry blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shahi Paneer

When I want to treat myself while not thinking about little things like fat content and such this is my favorite dish to order out in an Indian place. It is a saturated fat monster of a meal what with heavy cream, cashews, and tons of cheese. It's a treat for sure and not a dish to put in the regular cooking rotation. It was a fun experience to cook at home though because it turned out so well we pretty much have no need to go out for Indian anymore. We cooked little fried lentil and chickpea breads with this paneer and had a really great Indian feast.

After making this meal however I'm officially fed up with paneer. This is the hazard of bulk food shopping. We've made some really delicious curries out of it but the remaining 2 pounds are going in the freezer to be excavated in a couple months. I need a break from paneer.

Shahi Paneer

8 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided use)
1/4 cup chopped cashews, roughly chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 pound paneer, cut in small cubes

2 medium onions, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cubeb pepper
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 cup Milk
4 tablespoon heavy cream

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Saute the cashews and raisins until just barely browned. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add 5 tablespoons of oil to pan. Fry paneer until browned over medium heat. Remove from pan and reserve.

In food processor puree onion, ginger, garlic, green chili into a fine paste. Fry the mixture in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until golden brown. Add salt, chili powder, cubeb pepper, turmeric powder, and garam masala. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add milk to make a gravy. Bring the gravy to boil then reduce the heat and cook until the gravy becomes thick. Put a most of the toasted cashews and raisins in the gravy while it is being cooked, reserving a small portion for decorating.

Add paneer cubes and cream, heating for 5 minutes. Garnish with extra cream, cashews and raisins.

Original recipe from Indian Food Forever.

Spicy Coconut Milk and Mushroom Soup

It started innocently enough with my 3 jalapeño curry, the fella amped it up with 4 Serrano in his pea and paneer dish and the chef shamed us with this evilly delicious soup. There were 5 unseeded habenaros involved. I think it is safe to say I will not be continuing the spicy cooking challenge by making a jerk sauce with 6 Scotch bennet peppers. I'm okay with letting Jacob win, he is after all the professional.

The really amazing thing about the soup was that not only was it hot but it was tasty as well. Yes it made us all cry in the very best way while clutching our beers (mine sorghum from Red Bridge and theirs Founder's wet hopped seasonal) but it also had great flavor. The habenaros open up every taste bud you never knew you had to all the other things going in the soup. Citrusy lemon grass, salty fish sauce, herbal cilantro, creamy coconut milk. They all work together to make something amazing.

We're all crazy people who like spice so the heat wasn't a problem for us. If you aren't up for that much spice you can put in less peppers or cook some of the heat off of them by frying up the onion puree which will cut the spice a bit. And if the spice is still too much in the finished product you can do what we resorted to and pour it over some brown rice and toss in some paneer to add something to compete with the habenaros.

Spicy Coconut Milk and Mushroom Soup

1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 medium onions, chopped

3tablespoon lemon grass puree
1teaspoon fish sauce

5 cloves of garlic
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
5 habenaro peppers, seeded

3 cups coconut milk
6 Cubeb peppercorns, ground (1 teaspoon of regular pepper and a pinch of clove would work fine)
2 1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (mint or basil will work as well)

In a pot heat oil over medium heat then add mushrooms and one of the chopped onions. Cook until browned. Add lemon grass and fish sauce.

Puree remaining onion, garlic, ginger and habenaros in the food processor. Add in one cup of the coconut milk and puree until you have a paste. If you want to lesson the heat of the soup sauté this puree until the onions are no longer raw before adding to the pot with the mushroom mixture.

To soup pot add remaining 2 cups of coconut milk, peppercorns, and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add cilantro and simmer soup for 5 minutes. Serve over brown rice with paneer or tofu to cut spice if needed.

A purely original Jacob Schenk recipe.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Leek and Fennel Coulis

This simple but flavorful sauce is a great addition to just about anything. Fish, chicken, veggies or pasta with the addition of a little Parmesan. When I'm having a lazy menu making week I whip up a full recipe of this and use it to top a low maintenance piece of meat and then later in the week when I have zero time to cook I toss it over some pasta. Recipes like this keep me sane when I'm working too much because the only thing worse than working two jobs is not eating well and trying to make it through the day.

Leek and Fennel Coulis

1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks, white part and two inches of green part, chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped

1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Saute leeks and fennel for 6-8 minutes until soft. Stir in thyme and spinach and cover skillet for 2-3 minutes until spinach is thoroughly wilted. Remove pan from heat and stir coconut milk into mixture

Transfer mixture to a food processor and puree on highest speed until smooth. While food processor is running on medium speed, slowly drizzle in olive oil.

Original recipe from Elana's Pantry blog.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

This soup is autumn in a bowl. It's filling, warm, healthy and involves pumpkin. What more could you ask for? Oh it's also embarrassingly easy for such a tasty dish.

I'm not usually excited about cooking that involved pouring things from cans and the spice cupboard, adding heat and eating. But sometimes that's all you have the energy for, and this is the perfect thing to make while in one of those moods and still having a great dinner no one will realize you put nearly no effort into. And those cinnamony roasted pumpkin seeds I made the other day are a amazing on top of this.

The chef and I decided this soup is pretty great but it's probably missing bacon. It needs a little something extra to amp up the flavor and take it from yummy to out of this world. Oh darn guess I'll have to cook it again and experiment with adding bacon next time. Unless someone wants to do that arduous task and let me know what happens.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

2 cans black beans (15 oz each), drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can (16 oz) pumpkin puree
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Baked pumpkin seeds, for garnish

In a food processor puree the beans and tomatoes with half of the vegetable broth.

Warm oil in a large pot then sauté red onion, garlic, cumin, salt, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and cayenne on medium heat until onion and garlic are brown; about 3 minutes.

Add pureed ingredients, pumpkin and the rest of the broth to the pot. Simmer uncovered until thick, stirring often and scraping the bottom, about 40-45 minutes.

Before serving stir in balsamic vinegar. Garnish with baked pumpkin seeds.

Original recipe from Noble Pig blog.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mattar (Green Pea) Paneer

A couple of weekends ago the fella and I went to visit some friends in Milwaukee to catch up, meet their newest bull mastiff and go bulk food shopping. As a result much fun was had and we came home with a gallon of marinated artichoke hearts, a barrel of kalamata olives and 5 pounds of paneer to list only a few items of bulk insanity. Artichokes and olives have therefor been making a lot of appearances in our cooking as of late. Being the curry freaks we are I figured that paneer would be gone in no time. Turns out finding interesting dishes other than saag paneer is more difficult than one would think. Fortunately we are resourceful and the Internet is on our side.

When I put the fella in charge of finding something delicious to make involving paneer he stumbled upon the rather interesting site of Indian Food Forever. Any Indian dish you've ever wanted to make is there and easy to find but the recipes are like a scavengers hunt of randomness. The ingredient lists are not in any logical order and the instructions call for the already mangled ingredient list willy nilly. So it's a good Indian cooking research with recipes that need to be translated into something usable before cooking, you've been warned.

At first green pea and paneer curry sounded a little dubious. But as the chef and I sat on the couch writing and let the fella do the cooking we started to smell the awesome that was emanating from the kitchen. It was about then I stopped doubting dinner would be delicious and started wishing dinner was ready.

It was a nice change to eat something this fabulous without having to be involved in it's creation, the chef and I both agreed. The fella had a huge dinner success and got to carry around the smug look of someone who made the two resident foodies coo over a perfectly spicy Indian dinner. Though we have now officially started to play with the somewhat scary precedent of trying to one up one another in making spicy food. I made a kidney bean curry with three jalapenos, the fella paneer with 4 serranos and I can only imagine what the chef will do with 5 chilies when it's his turn to cook. I'm sure it will be wonderful if dangerously spicy

Mattar Paneer

2 medium onions, chopped (divided use)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 cup ghee or coconut oil
1 pound Paneer

1 tablespoon ginger, grated
4 bay leaves

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1pound shelled green peas
3 green chilies, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1cup plain yogurt

1 cups water

In the food processor make a paste out of one of the onions, the garlic and the coriander.

Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cut the paneer into 2 inch cubes. Fry the paneer to light brown then remove to a plate.

Add the remaining onion, ginger and bay leaves to the oil in the pan and fry until the onion is golden brown. Then add the turmeric and the onion paste mixture and fry about another 5 minutes.

Add the paneer, peas, yogurt, chili, tomato and salt to taste. Stir for 5-6 minutes over low heat until well combined.

Pour in the water and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens a bit. Serve the matar paneer sprinkled with garam masala and coriander if you like.

Original recipe from IndianFoodForever.

Absinthe Ice Cream

I've been waiting for an excuse to make this ice cream for a while now. Every great cake needs a complimentary and equally exciting ice cream at it's side so the fella's birthday was the perfect time to try it out. Especially since I happened to have a dozen egg yolks left over from making the angel food cake which was the exact number of yolks needed to double the ice cream recipe I had my eye on.

No matter how fussy they sometimes might be David Lebovitz's recipes are always spot, I go to his ice cream recipes in The Perfect Scoop again and again because they all work and turn out great even. The bonus is all the ones I've tried so far tolerate substituting in agave nectar for sugar without changing up the recipe portions. So all the hard work of ice baths, tempering eggs, and perfectly heated cream was worth it. Okay the hardest part of the whole experience of cooking for the fella's birthday was to not start drinking the absinthe without him at 3 in the afternoon. The Libertine absinthe at Vom Fass (I'll talk about this addictive store more later) is excellent and worked perfectly in the custard base.

This made the tastiest ice cream ever. Even people who aren't all that into the licoricey absinthe flavor loved the ice cream. It was a huge success if the loud chorus of yummy noises and calls for second helpings were any indication when I served the cake and ice cream. And now I have an excuse to nibble on absinthe flavored ice cream periodically whenever I need a bite of something sweet.

Absinthe Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
A pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons absinthe
1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate truffles or chocolate chips

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium low heat.

Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Pour the cream into the smaller bowl set a strainer over the top for straining the egg mixture later.

In a small separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the cream. Stir in the bowl over the ice bath until cool, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight. Stir in 3 tablespoons of absinthe. Taste, and add another one if desired.

Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. During the last couple minutes of churning and in the chopped chocolate bits.

Original recipe from David Lebovitz's blog.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rice Flour Angel Food Cake

The fella has only one requirement for his birthday: there must be an angel food cake with blue frosting. I love him more than air but in case you've never tried angel food cake making is a pain in the behind. There is also the fact that boxed cake mixes are my Achilles heel of baking. I can make a three layer hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting from scratch without breaking a sweat but show me a boxed cake and I can almost guarantee it will not turn out.

The first two years the fella and I were together I made the mistake of thinking a boxed angel food cake would be the way to go because even though baked goods in boxes are my nemesis it had to be simpler than doing it from scratch. Right? Both times I spent an afternoon in the kitchen glaring at the box and swearing at the electric mixer. No matter how much I beat the mix it wouldn't fluff up. Convenience food? Ha. After much pacing of the kitchen and many choice words I did end up with a mostly in tact cake placed on the table and frosted and me with a smile on my face, trying not to let on to the fella the amount of crazy I had just re-harnessed behind my beaming faux house wife facade before he got home.

There were a couple moments while making those cakes when all the angel food cakes I would make for the rest of my life flashed before my eyes and I wanted to give up. Was a deep meaningful relationship with a man I love dearly and connect with on almost every level worth making angel food every year? It turns out it is but I still dislike angel food.

This year a box mix wasn't even an option. If I was making this cake I was making a gluten free cake I could eat and if I was going to go through that much effort I was going to make the best freaking angel food cake ever. This would be the year I made piece with angel food.

It worked. I took the super simple recipe for basic angel food cake in The Joy of Cooking and switched rice flour in for the cake flour and stirred in some chocolate flakes to make it more interesting. It was a long 35 minutes waiting for that cake to finish. There is no window in my oven door and opening to peak in would have ruined anything so for 35 long minutes I was sure that I had just wasted a dozen eggs and my afternoon for nothing. When the timer went off and a perfectly risen fluffy gluten free made from scratch angel food cake came out of the oven I couldn't help but do a little dance and congratulate myself. The fella was thrilled and belly laughed at me for my lack of modesty.

Now there was the issue of blue frosting. I thought of all sorts of creative and crazy ideas for flavors or ways to make it blue without food coloring but in the end I went simple. Homemade whipped cream with blue food coloring heaped on the top of the angel food cake so that it looks like a fluffy blue cloud of yum. As you can see the fella was excited by this prospect and I'm excited that I finally made a yummy birthday cake for him.

Turns out angel food cake isn't that difficult after all. The trick is reading the recipe a million times before starting and making sure absolutely all the tools you'll need for all the steps are within arms reach because once you turn that mixer on for the first time you are not leaving that corner of the kitchen for a good 10 minutes but the result is worth it.

So happy birthday to the fella, hope you've had the best birthday week ever.

Rice Flour Angel Food Cake

1 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/ 4 cup dark chocolate pieces or chips

12 cold egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Have ready an un-greased 10 inch tube pan.

Sift together the flour, sugar and salt three times into a medium bowl.

Pulverize the chocolate chunks in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat together on low speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute the egg whites, water, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and lemon. Increase mixer speed to medium and continue beating until the mixture increases in volume about 5 times and resembles a slightly translucent soft foam. This should take around 2 to 3 minutes. The foam will hold soft moist peaks when beaters are lifted.

One tablespoon at a time slowly beat in the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar. Do this process over the course of 2 minutes. When the sugar is added the foam will be a creamy white and hold soft glossy peaks that bend over at the points. Do not beat until stiff.

A 1/4 cup at a time sift a fine layer of the flour mixture evenly over the surface of the batter and fold gently with a rubber spatula just until the flour is nearly incorporated. Repeat 7 more times with the rest of flour mix until no traces of flour are visible. During the last addition of flour mixture add the chocolate pieces.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread to level the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool upside down for at least 2 hours, setting the tube over a bottleneck or resting the pan on 4 glasses.

Original recipe from Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker's The Joy of Cooking.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

The end of CSA season meant I've had seemingly one of every kind of squash in existence sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to be inspired to do something with them. Then the chef brought over a couple more squash just to mock me the other day. At that point there was no point in delaying it any longer, I took a knife to every squash in the kitchen and roasted them. This will force me to find something to do with their various roasted flesh as every time I open the fridge there they are tempting me. Tonight I simply warmed the acorn squash in some butter in a frying pan and was very happy with it.

However I'm very much my mother's daughter (no worries, I mean it in a good way mom) and the thought of all those squash seeds going to waste was unthinkable, I had to do something with them. I've never made roasted squash seeds before so it was fun to grab the first spice that came to me out of the spice cupboard. Cinnamon with salt sounded divine and it was. I was very pleasantly surprised with the results and made this same combination twice since then.

Even better than the cinnamony seeds themselves is that they are awesome in a salad. I've been hooked on throwing them in mixed greens and spinach with feta cheese and a vinaigrette of olive oil and fig vinegar. It's tastes way too good to be that simple.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds
olive oil

Reserve however many seeds you get from pumpkins and other random squashes you have around for cooking. Toss the slimy pits from around the seeds. Rinse the seeds then spread them over a baking sheet.

Heat oven to 350. Put just enough oil over the seeds so that they are coated. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon to suit your taste.

Bake for 20 minutes or until well toasted.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Spicy Kidney Beans with Tomato and Yogurt Sauce

These cold windy fall evenings are perfect for rich spicy curries. And we all know how much of a curry obsession I have so when I saw yogurt, goat cheese and kidney beans in a recipe I was all over it. This recipe is perfect so there isn't much for me to add. Three chilies made for a very spicy curry though so be warned if you like to take it easy on the heat scale.

I paired it with Helfrich Gewurtraminer and some almond naan and couldn't have been happier. It seems crazy but Gewurtraminer and curry is amazing. The wine was a easy sweet spice and fruit wine with okay body but after a few bites of curry and it just popped, making both the wine and the food that much better. Learning this fact has only helped fuel my obsession for two of my favorite things.

Spicy Kidney Beans with Tomato and Yogurt Sauce

1 1/4 cup of dried kidney beans

1 cup of yogurt
2 tablespoons of chickpea flour
1/2 cup of goat cheese, mashed with a fork

1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
3 - 4 fresh chilies, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of oil
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida

1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of garam masala

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped

Soak the kidney beans overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, transfer to a medium large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer until the beans are tender - roughly 1 hour. Drain the cooked beans and set aside.

Whisk together the yogurt and chickpea flour until smooth. (The chickpea flour helps to prevent the yogurt from curdling. I made my own by putting some chickpeas through the coffee grinder.) Mix in the mashed goat cheese, stirring well to make sure the cheese breaks up evenly throughout the yogurt. Stir in the garlic, salt, turmeric, cayenne, and chilies. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium large pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the ginger and asafoetida and stir and fry for a few minutes. Now add the tomato and garam masala and simmer until the tomato thickens - roughly 5 minutes.

Stir in the cooked kidney beans and yogurt mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. Garish with the parsley and serve over hot rice.

Original recipe from Lisa's Kitchen Blog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fig and Bacon Brussles Sprouts

I've finally found a recipe that makes brussles sprouts delicious.

Actually that's a lie. What this recipe really does is manage to combine figs and bacon cooked together to perfection, the flavor juxtaposition of which is so amazing you forget there is brussels sprouts on the plate as well. Chewy sweet figs coated in salty bacon fat is surprisingly great. Bacon alone makes sprouts edible but this is a whole other league of yum. Don't take my word for it go try it.

Jacob made a variation of this the evening we were baking the chocolate bacon cake and found ourselves with a lot of left over bacon to play with. Those brussles sprouts were swimming in bacony goodness and then ramped up with some fig vinegar. They were good but I wasn't in love with them.

So when I went to cook these sprouts Jacob was a little dubious quipping, “didn't I make this same thing a couple weeks ago?” I defended my recipe choice claiming it would be amazing and totally different while in reality the only reason I was trying this was I had CSA brussel scprouts and wanted an excuse to buy figs. All I was hoping was that I wouldn't fail epically.

The joke was on us both. We started nibbling on the sprouts while waiting for the random curry I was also making to finish. Both of us had the same reaction of stopping to stare at one another wide eyed and a bit impressed. They only got better as the figs had time to get more and more chewy. Then he had the inspired idea to add some apple vinegar which made the sprouts somehow even tastier. I think the slightly sweet fruity vinegar worked out better in the dish than the balsamic vinegar that the original recipe calls for.

Playing in the kitchen with someone who really knows food is amazing fun, but making a professional foodie something that is rewarded with yummy noises and that delighted look of stunned satisfaction is somehow even better. Bacon and figs...who knew?

Fig and Bacon Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces of bacon, chopped
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 cup dried figs, stemmed and quartered
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Pour oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to crisp, about 8 minutes.

Add sprouts, figs and water to pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then cook undisturbed until sprouts are tender, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and continue to cook until any remaining liquid evaporates.

Add vinegar to taste just before serving.

Original recipe from Mark Bittman in the New York Times.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chocolate Bacon Cake

This cake is what happens when you spend time drinking with a chef and say crazy things like “how would one go about making a gluten free cake with port, bacon and chocolate?” And said cooking expert is just wacky enough to take the question as a challenge, not only making it happen in a very tasty way but never once cocking an eye brow at the weird idea. So together Jacob, the chef with multiple “most unique” cooking titles and I threw together this chocolate bacon cake for the birthday party of our celiac friend Q. It was a big hit and a lot of fun to make. Two packages of bacon were cooked in the making of this delicious dessert.

The only problem with this cake is that it will conquer even the greatest sweet tooth. I highly recommend making it next time you need the most creative baked good possible, just remember to eat truffle sized amounts of it and have large amounts of chocolate and bacon loving friends around to help you conquer the cake. It's that rich and evilly tasty. Somehow the sweet flourless cake combines perfectly with the bittersweet salty bacon frosting. The powdered sugar makes it nearly perfect.

Oh did I mention this cake is out of this world but absolutely not something that follows the French diet at all? Yeah whoops. It was just so good I had to write about it anyway. It was a big hit.


1/4 cup red wine reduction
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Or invest in a 9-inch silicon pan which requires no greasing or lining.

To make a wine reduction pour most of a bottle of a decent red wine (something bold like tempranillo or syrah) into a saucepan over medium low heat. Keep on a gentle simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrupy consistency.

Stir chocolate (I used half bittersweet and half semisweet), butter, wine reduction, and vanilla in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 1 cup sugar in large bowl until thick and pale, and slowly dissolving ribbon forms when beaters are lifted, about 6 minutes. Fold 1/3 of egg mixture into lukewarm chocolate mixture. Fold remaining egg mixture into chocolate mixture.

Place prepared pan on baking sheet. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 55 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Remove sides of pan; transfer cake to platter. Remove parchment paper.

Original recipe from with creative embellishments from Jacob.


4 ounces bacon fat (rendered from 1 package good quality bacon)
4 ounces 100% cacao dark chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream
powdered sugar for decoration

Use your preferred method for cooking bacon, setting aside rendered fat. While fat is warm run it through a sieve to strain out the ugly left over bacon pieces. Reserve cooked bacon for decorating the cake later.

In a small double boiler gently melt together 4 ounces of the bacon fat and 4 ounces of dark chocolate. When melted add heavy cream and stir to combine until homogeneous.. Allow mixture to return to almost room temperature at which point it will thicken enough to smooth over the cooled cake. Place in refrigerator until frosting is firm, about 20 minutes.

To make your own powdered sugar place about a 1/2 cup regular granulated sugar into the blender. It seems crazy but it works, don't try try to substitute the food processor for this it won't accomplish anything. You might need to agitate the sugar occasionally to get a uniform powder consistency.

I then used a damask stencil, placed it over the firmed frosting and sprinkled powder sugar over it. Using the left over bacon, chopped into small pieces I a framed the stencil decoration.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eggplant and Chickpea Stew

Instead of writing a novel in November I'm going to try to put that same sort of frantic writerly spirit into getting back to blogging about food. I'm hoping to write something here everyday in November. Horrible foodie that I am I have been eating, cooking, and generally carrying on in the kitchen plenty lately I just haven't been posting about it. And I've been eating such amazing things it's wrong of me to not be talking about them. Somewhere along the line since the last time I wrote there was chocolate bacon cake which the world needs to know about.

I'm starting with something something simple but tasty. It's hearty and warm so it's perfect for the chilly fall weather when I know all I want is soups and stews, bonus points if there are copious amounts of beans involved. There are a lot of ingredients but they all come together easily. The only hard part was frying the eggplant which I would skip all together when cooking this again, it didn't contribute anything to the dish other than extra fat.

Eggplant and Chickpea Stew

3/4 cups dried chickpeas

8 tablespoons ghee, or a mixture of butter and olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 green chillies, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder

2large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 cup water
1 pound fresh spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped

small handful fresh cilantro chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Soak the chickpeas overnight in water with a drop of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the chickpeas are tender. Drain and set aside.

Preheat an oven to 325°. Meanwhile, heat 6 tablespoons of the ghee or butter and oil mixture in a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the eggplant and fry, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the cubes are well-browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining ghee or butter and oil to the pan. When hot, add the ginger, chillies and cumin seeds and fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until the seeds turn dark brown. Toss in the asafoetida, wait a few seconds, then stir in the tomatoes. Add the coriander, paprika, cayenne and turmeric and cook until the tomatoes reduce to a thick sauce, about 10 minutes.

Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the chickpeas, eggplant and spinach. Remove to a casserole dish, cover, and put in the preheated oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, garam masala, salt and pepper just before serving.

Recipe from Lisa's Kitchen Blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Julia Child is a Cruel Mistress

This saucy pile of potatoes covered in fat and oil is so not diet friendly. Not for the Montignac Method, not for anyone. So I won't be posting the recipe here. It's just that after not posting for over a month I needed to get back into the swing of things. And after spending two days cooking this for a friend's highly esoteric monk fish roasting party someone needed to see this madness.

So behold Salade Nicoise a la Julia Child. Or as I will be calling it from now on Bitch Salad.

It seems simple enough until you're boiling those potatoes you can't seem to convince your CSA to stop sending you every week, that your friends are sick of you pawning off on them. About then when it's too late to turn back you really read the recipe and see it is three recipes hidden in a recipe for a freaking salad. Two different vinaigrettes and a potato salad? Seriously?

My potatoes committed some sort of explosive suicide while I was wire whipping (Julia is kind of kinky, I always thought of it as a whisk) the first vinaigrette. At which point I gave up and went to a wine tasting and thought about not cooking for awhile considering everything I've tried to make this week was an epic failure.

My spirits were a little higher this afternoon when I skipped out of work half way through the day and gave the potatoes a stern talking to. They weren't pretty and were over done but with the other vinaigrette coating them they were plenty tasty. I have to give it to Julia Child she is a huge picky fussbudget but it's usually for a reason. That one bite of potato salad was the best I've ever had and not just because I miss potatoes. It was delicious and subtle, with scallions making up most of the favor instead of the unfortunate cloying German mayonnaise and mustard version that is so popular.

The fun really started when I got to pile massive amounts of random vegetables and fish on the potato and lettuce bed. I'm actually surprised at how tasty it looks. Hopefully the carb eaters of the world will enjoy it. If it's a disaster after following all of Julia's wacky instructions I really might make the fella take over the cooking. The one thing I can say for this recipe is it didn't ask me to taste raw eggs to check the seasoning which was an actual instruction last time I cooked out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Oh that Julia Child she's a character.