Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
My favorite part of Halloween is the candy. Candy makes me swoon. And the opportunity of getting mounds of it simply by dressing up, knocking on a few doors and saying "TRICK OR TREAT!" was always too tempting to pass up. I went every year as a kid (except the one year when I was punished and FORBIDDEN to go trick or treating -- probably the same awful year I had Mrs. Demperio for my teacher) I'm pretty sure I went a few times in high school and I know it didn't take much prompting from my Freshman year college roommate to whip up a headband adorned with paper triangles and go knocking on doors around Brockport. (After that year, I transferred to Marymount Manhattan and, alas, knocking on doors on Halloween in NYC was unlikely to yield the candy I sought. Other stuff, maybe, but not candy.)
So when Shane suggested we throw a Halloween party (and, faced with the challenge of making, and finding people to eat, Bostini Cream Pies) I knew sugar had to be a key factor. The theme was dessert -- all sugar, all the time. (Well, OK -- there were a few savories, but they weren't attacked with the ferocity of the dessert buffet.) Our friends brought tons of treats: Honor made gorgeous coconut pyramids, Phyllis brought warm-n-cozy apple crisp, Jenny baked up her grandmother's apple pie recipe (the BEST apple pie I have ever tasted), Nancy whipped up chocolate decadence cupcakes (frosted orange!) Beth & James plated elegant cookies with rubber tarantulas and Lauren came bearing vanilla ice cream to accompany everything!
As for me, I made the Bostinis, gingerbread pumpkin bars (via Culinary Concoctions by Peabody -- more on that later this week), little marshmallow-pretzel-M&M snacks I don't have a name for (again, more on that later), and this Strawberry Layer Cake. (Also, two giant bowls of Halloween candy, which both the kids and adults put a nice dent in.)
The cake recipe comes from Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Piner. The cake is pictured on the cover, and it's what made me buy the book. I'd been looking for an excuse to bake it, and the party gave the opportunity.
Strawberry, though certainly not an unusual flavor, is not one normally found in cake which, I think, is part of this cake's appeal. It's hard to miss -- and not love -- it's vivid pink color.
The cake is pretty sweet, but not cloyingly so (unless you eat a huge piece without a cold glass of milk), and has with the lovely fruity and perfumey flavor and scent of strawberries. It's fresh and delicious. The crumb is tender, yet sturdy enough to stand up to the stiff frosting (though I probably should have added more juice to thin it a bit and make it easier to spread).
Don't be put off by some of the ingredients. Even though the recipe employs cake mix AND Jell-O, the cake doesn't taste like pre-fab factory food. It just tastes very, very good.
My My's Strawberry Layer Cake (adapted from Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Piner)
1 (18.5 oz.) box white cake mix (without pudding)
1 (3 oz.) package strawberry Jell-O
1 Tbsp. self-rising flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp. sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
5 oz. frozen strawberries, thawed and well drained (juices reserved)
5 oz. frozen strawberries, thawed and well drained (juices reserved)
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
red food coloring, optional
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Lightly grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans; set aside.
For the cake, combine cake mix, Jell-O, flour, and sugar, mixing well. Add oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add water and strawberries; mix well (the strawberries will break up nicely).
Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake 25 - 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the layers in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then unmold each layer onto the racks to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the strawberries, sugar, and butter and beat until smooth and well blended. If needed, add the reserved juice, one tablespoon at a time, until a frosting-like consistency is achieved. If desired, add food coloring, one drop at a time, and blend until the color is uniform.
Monday, October 29, 2007
This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was a dessert I'd never heard of before: Bostini Cream Pies. Our host, Mary from Alpineberry, explained, "Bostini cream pie, like the name implies, is a twist on the traditional Boston cream pie. The dessert is vanilla custard topped with an orange chiffon cake and then drizzled with a chocolate glaze."
I think of it as a "special occasion" dessert -- rather involved, very decadent, extremely impressive and, naturally, delicious. The custard is unbelievably creamy with a luxuriously silky mouth-feel. The chiffon cake is bright and zesty with orange and while light and airy, it provides an excellent counter note to the custard and darkly rich chocolate sauce.
The recipe below yields "8 generous portions" but, because we threw a Halloween Dessert party this past weekend (more on that later) I wanted smaller individual portions as part of a dessert buffet. To that end, using the same proportions below, I baked the chiffon batter in a mini cupcake pan (this took about 12 minutes to bake), and put the rest of the batter in a 9-inch cake pan, baked for about 22 minutes, and then sliced into small square pieces of cake after the cake had cooled. (If I had to do it again, I would bake the chiffon only in the cake pan; I think the slightly larger size of my cake pieces stood up better against the custard and chocolate.)
Food at a Halloween party has to have an appropriate name...
Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
Makes 8 generous servings
3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten
9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean (EDITED: vanilla extract is okay)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter
To prepare the custard:
Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.
To prepare the chiffon cakes:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups.
Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat.
Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter.
Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.
To prepare the glaze:
Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm.
Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Just a quick reminder that today is your last chance to submit a post for RRC#9: The Candyman; the deadline is midnight PDT . Please visit Dolores at this month's host blog, Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity , for more details.
Cooked up by Laura Rebecca at 8:04 AM
Friday, October 19, 2007
The hardest part is maintaining patience while waiting for the sugar to caramelize. Over low heat, it took me a good 35 minutes to achieve a light golden color. After that though, it was a piece of cake -- or, slice of flan?
And the taste? Cool, creamy, rich -- flantastic.
Brazilian Style Flan
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
1 (14oz)Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Cups milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (optional)
In a small pan, combine sugar and water, and boil rapidly until a light golden color.
Pour sugar into the pan of your choice, my husband likes when I use a bunt-pan but the curves make it a little trickier. Any basic pie pan will due. Coat the bottom and sides. Let cool; it will be hard set.
*TIP: The easiest way to ruin your flan is by burning your sugar. Take your time and use a lower heat so the sugar wont come out too hard.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a bowl, mix condensed milk, eggs & milk together. Add the vanilla now if using; mix batter well.
Place pie dish into a large roasting pan and set on oven rack. Pour flan mixture into the pie dish, then add enough hot water to the roasting pan so that the water comes halfway up sides of pie dish. The flan shouldn't float. Bake flan in water bath for 90 minutes, until set in center. Let cool, then cover and chill overnight.
The flan can be made a couple days ahead.
Run a knife (or even better, a rubber spatula) around the edges to loosen. Place a serving plate that's a little bigger than the pie pan on top of the pie pan, and flip upside down. Gently remove the pie pan and cut the flan into sliced portions to serve.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Perhaps the most delicious way to prepare shrimp.
Thai Spiced Barbeque Shrimp (adapted)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry paste (Shane used a hot, red curry paste)
1 pound medium shrimp, deveined but not peeled
In a shallow dish or resealable bag, mix together the lemon juice, soy sauce, mustard, garlic, brown sugar and curry paste. Add shrimp, and seal or cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat a grill for high heat. When the grill is hot, lightly oil the grate. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, or place in a grill basket for easy handling. Transfer the marinade to a saucepan, and boil for a few minutes.
Grill shrimp for 3 minutes per side, or until opaque. Baste occasionally with the marinade.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
2 oz. Patron Silver tequila
1 oz. Cointreau liquor
Cup of ice
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
So I nearly dropped dead when I spotted Mo's Bacon Bar at Parkleigh. Chocolate and Bacon? ("You got chocolate in my bacon!" "Hey, you got bacon in my chocolate!") I was already a fan of Vosges' milk chocolate, a smooth, creamy concoction. I can imagine some might find it too sweet, but I like it very much.
And then you realise you're eating bacon. Once the chocolate melts away, you're left with little chewy bits of bacon and it's a texture I don't care for in the context of chocolate. It puts me off so much that I can't fully enjoy the flavor of the bar.
So, overall: good flavor, weird texture. I think Vosges could achieve a similar flavor profile -- without using pork -- by swapping the bacon for smoked almond bits. The bar would still combine sweet, smoky, and salty elements but the crunch of the almonds would be a nice contrast to the yielding texture of the chocolate.
Then again, "Mo's Smoky Almond Bar" just doesn't have the same impact.
My friend Nancy made this FABULOUS pasta for the party. I can't even describe how fan-freakin-tastic it is. I ate the leftovers for breakfast and dinner on Sunday, and we all ate it for dinner last night.
There is one serving left. It is mine.
The following is written by Nancy, pictured below:
Laura's 30th Birthday Linguine
One and a quarter boxes of Barilla Linguine
One and a quarter pounds crimini (white button) mushrooms
Three portabella mushrooms
Three bunches of spinach
One head and three cloves of garlic (I used purple and white garlic)
One mild sweet onion (about as big as a baseball)
One stick of butter (or more depending on your taste)
One-quarter cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
A splash of white wine
Melt about one-half stick of butter slowly over less than medium heat in a medium to large-sized skillet. Slice garlic very thin (think Ray Liotta in Goodfellas) and chop onion and then place both in skillet.
Start slicing mushrooms (this is important—do not wash the mushrooms—I learned this from my friend Cathy Chou). Once garlic is browned and onion is softened begin adding sliced mushrooms to mixture. At this point, you may need to add some more butter to keep mushrooms moist.
Add a pinch of salt as mushrooms cook (this opens their flavor), add about a teaspoon of Herbs d'Provence (HP) and a 1/2 teaspoon of parsley. As mushrooms cook, add more. You may need to add more butter, but definitely drizzle more salt on the new cooking mushrooms, some more HP and parsley.
Begin chopping spinach—wash thoroughly in a colander. Once mushrooms are cooked through, add about a quarter-cup of Parmesan cheese. Add it slowly so the juice from the mushroom/garlic/onion mixture can absorb it and you don't add too much! You don't want the mixture to be thick, but slightly loose and free.
Remove the mushroom mixture from the skillet and place in a bowl. Add about two teaspoons of olive oil and then begin adding spinach. Once spinach is cooked through, add the mushroom mixture back into the skillet and then add a titch more butter and a splash or two of white wine.
While this is simmering, boil water for macaronis. When water begins to boil, add olive oil (instead of salt—the mushroom/spinach mixture is salty enough) and then add the linguine. Cook for 11 minutes—al dente!!!
Then drain the linguine and place in the skillet with the mushroom/spinach mixture. Place in bowl and serve with Parmesan cheese on the side and a good crusty Italian bread with butter.
Serves about 8 (or ten--12 if this is a first course and there will be an entrée).
Monday, October 15, 2007
Shane and his Commie oysters.
Grilled Oysters with Fennel Butter, adapted
1 tsp. fennel seed, ground
1 c. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. chopped fennel greens
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 unopened, fresh, live medium oysters
Prepare and light a grill or preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).
In a small bowl, blend together the butter, ground fennel seeds, shallots, garlic, fennel greens, pepper and salt.
Arrange the oysters on the grill or oven rack, cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until they start hissing and begin to open.
Using an oyster knife, pry each oyster open at the hinge, loosen the oyster and discard the flat shell. Top each oyster with 1/2 teaspoon of the fennel butter. Return to grill and cook until butter is melted and hot.
This past weekend, Shane invited a few friends over to celebrate my 30th birthday. It was terrific! And delicious! You will not believe the food they made:
Grilled Oysters with Fennel Butter
Thai Spiced BBQ Shrimp
BBQ Halibut Steaks
Spinach & Mushroom-dressed Fettucini
Russian Tomato Salad
All so amazing. Thank you, guys!
Cooked up by Laura Rebecca at 1:01 PM
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I know it would have been better have a photo of the pie showing the double layers but I forgot. What are you going to do?
The pumpkin shape on top was made gently pressing a cookie cutter into a graham cracker half.
Pescatore's Prize Winning Double Layer Pumpkin Pie
Graham cracker crust, store bought or homemade (scroll down)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup + 1 Tbsp cold milk or half & half, separated
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups whipped topping, thawed
2 pkgs. (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding
15 oz. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Mix cream cheese, 1 Tbsp. milk, and sugar with wire whisk until smooth. Gently stir in whipped topping. Spread on bottom of crust.
Pour 1 cup milk into mixing bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk until well blended, 1-2 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and spices; mix well. Spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Garnish with additional whipped topping and nuts as desired.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
This is a Wegmans' recipe: it's not bad but it's nothing to write home about, either. It made a ton of sauce/gravy, far more than we could use and the whole thing was rather bland. (Sort of like hospital food.) All in all, not a winner.
Slow-Cooked Chicken with 40 Cloves (adapted)
1 pkg (approx 3 lbs) of chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, legs)
1 Tbsp vegetable Oil
2 cups total carrots, celery, onion -- chopped
40 cloves garlic, peeled whole Food You Feel Good About Peeled Garlic
6 Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
2 cups dry white wine
32 oz chicken stock
2 tsp dried Herbes de Provence
2 medium bay leaves
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley sprigs, rinsed and patted dry
salt and pepper
Dust chicken with a bit of flour.
Heat oil on medium in large braising pan. Brown chicken pieces lightly on all sides, 8-10 min. Remove chicken; place in slow cooker.
Turn heat to medium-low; add carrots, celery, onion and garlic to braising pan. Cook 10-12 min, stirring occasionally, or until garlic is lightly browned. Stir in 6 Tbsp. flour, add wine and stock; bring to simmer, stirring until thickened.
Pour wine/stock mixture over chicken in slow cooker. Add bay leaves and herbes de Provence, stir slightly to mix.
Cover; cook 3-4 hours on HIGH or 6-7 hours on LOW. Transfer chicken to serving platter. Remove bay leaves. Stir parsley into sauce; season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.
Recipe featured in Wegmans Menu Magazine, Fall 2002.
Nutrition Info: Each serving (2 pieces chicken, 1 2/3 cup sauce) contains 510 calories, 27g carbohydrate (3g fiber), 53g protein, 24g fat (8g saturated fat), 190mg cholesterol and 640mg sodium.
Serves: 4 - 6 Active Time: 25 min Total Time: 3 hours 30 min to 6 hours 30 min
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp butter, separated
1 lb chicken
1 lb sliced mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
¾ cup. Marsala wine
2 Tbsp half-n-half
Heat olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in pan to medium-high; add cutlets. Turn over when cutlet changes color one-quarter of way up and seared side is a golden brown. Flip and cook other side until browned. Transfer cutlets to clean plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add mushrooms, garlic and and a tablespoon of butter to pan, stirring occasionally, being careful the garlic doesn't burn. Cook about 3 min, until softened and browned. Stir in Marsala, stock, and half and half. Add cutlets; reduce heat to LOW.
Cook 6-7 min until cutlets are done (should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees F). If sauce is thin, continue cooking so that it may reduce, or add a bit of cornstarch to thicken. Transfer cutlets to clean serving platter and serve with sauce.