Monday, October 26, 2009

2009 Slice, Dice + Spice NY Champs!

So, when are we all taking a trip to Chef Kate Elliot's restaurant, Juniper. ?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Are you there blog? It's me, Laura. I have Raspberry Scones.

You know how some food bloggers parlay their work into cookbooks? Or become food writers or food photographers. Or pursue a full-time career in the culinary arts.

Not me. This little blog, which I have woefully neglected lately, has not gotten me a food-related job.

But it has helped me get a web-related job.

Three weeks ago, I joined SUNY Geneseo at its Web Communications Manager. (Check us out on the TODAY show!) I'm work in the College Communications department, and I'm in charge of the College's strategic communication and brand conformity across the web, which includes our website (re-launch to come soon) and social media.

It is a *big* job -- transitioning a website with 30,000+ pages is daunting -- but I don't think I've ever gotten a warmer welcome or more support at work than from my new employers. It's a challenge but it's a very good one. (And the salary increase doesn't hurt, either.)

But back to the topic at hand: all that time spent writing about and photographing food, updating on facebook, tweeting on twitter, etc. etc. -- it all helped me land my new job. I don't think I would have gotten an offer without my time spent here.

It's so strange, isn't it? When you do something as a hobby, you just see it as that: something pleasant to do to pass the time. But you never know when your playing will turn into something bigger, and when it does, it's a happy surprise.


Our department is housed in a renovated frat house (insert joke here), which means we have a full, working kitchen. (Also, one and a half baths.) So about a week after I started, I brought in some raspberry scones and heated up in the oven before serving. They disappeared quickly.

I don't think there's anything wrong with using baked goods to assist with job-security, do you?

Raspberry Drop Scones (adapted)

1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp. large sugar crystals (or just use more regular sugar)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the cubed butter and use a pastry blender or your hands to work the butter into the dry ingredients; the butter should resemble small peas. Add in sugar and raspberries and mix gently.

Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, pour in the milk/egg mixture, reserving about a tablespoon for later. When the dough forms into a ball, knead the mixture a few times with the spatula/spoon and drop large spoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet.

Brush remaining milk/egg over top each scone and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for scones for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a rack.

Yields 8 - 12 scones.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Coconut Macaroons and Confections of a Master Baker

A few weeks ago, Stephanie to participate in The Edible Word for Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado.

The rules were to "pick a dish that she mentions in the book or an ingredient that she talks about. Find a recipe or create a recipe for that dish, pastry or ingredient, and make it! (or if you like, make one of the yummy recipes she's included in the book)

Post an entry with a picture to your blog and share with us what compelled you to pick that particular dish, and any history about the recipe you created or are using to make that dish."

Bullock-Prado's book is a fun read -- though the publishing company organized some of the recipes and chapters a bit oddly and I am bothered by the author's attitude toward people who aren't thin.

Bullock-Prado is known for her french-style, almond macaroons. It's a recipe and cookie near and dear to her heart, which she writes at length about. Unfortunately, it's so near and dear that she doesn't share her recipe with her readers.

Still all this talk about macaroons had me craving *coconut* macaroons and, fortunately, Bullock-Prado provides a nice recipe for these on her blog.

They come together quickly and easily -- and the result is absolutely delicious. I didn't dip these in melted dark chocolate, but that would be a nice touch!

Coconut Macaroons (adapted)

4 egg whites
3 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300-degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Combine all ingredients into a metal/heatproof bowl and set the bowl on a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning.

When the mixture is hot and has thickened slightly (about 10 minutes), use a medium sized cookie scoop, to scoop and drop batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are dark golden brown, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom half-way through the baking time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Game ON! Vote for my Finger Lakes Fantastic Onion Burger (and four sides) by clicking here, or send an email to with "FLX Ultimate Burger Vote: Laura Kenyon" in the subject line.

Thank you for your support and enjoy the recipes!

Finger Lakes Fantastic Onion Burger

Olive oil
2- 3 garlic cloves, minced (Mullala Garlic)
1 medium onion, diced ( Jones Brook Produce)
Round wholegrain loaf (Kitchen Blessings)
1 lb ground beef from Bedient farms
Salt and pepper
sliced tomatoes (Seneca Vegetables)
Baby arugula or salad greens (Ambrosia Acres Family Farm)
Franjo farms Onion Garlic Asiago spread
nasturtium flowers for plate garnish, optional (Ambrosia Acres Family Farm)

In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent; set aside and allow to cool to room temp.

Slice bread into four wedges, then slice horizontally to form buns; set aside.

Mix garlic and onion with ground beef; season with salt and pepper. Form four triangular patties (they should be similar in shape to the buns) about ¼-inch thick. Grill over medium-high heat, flipping once, to desired doneness.

While burgers are cooking, lightly brush the insides of the bun with olive oil, and place face-down on grill to toast.

When burgers are ready, place arugula or salad greens and tomato on bottom half of bun. Top with burger, then top with other half of the bun spread generously with Onion Garlic Asiago spread. Garnish plate with nasturtium, if desired.

Quick Pickles
1 pint of pickling cucumbers (Gale-Wyn Farm)
1 bottle of Roasted Garlic/Red Wine Balsamic Vinaigrette (Chef Lerman)
Sprigs of fresh dill (Firefly Farm)

Wash cucumbers and cut on a diagonal into ¼-inch slices; set aside. Heat vinaigrette in a small saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Add cucumbers, let simmer for a minute and remove from heat. Allow cucumbers to cool until slightly warm; add sprigs of dill and stir to mix. Cool to room temperature or chill before serving.

Height of Summer Tomato and Basil salad
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved (Gale-Wyn Farms)
Fresh basil cut in a chiffonade (Seneca Vegetables)
Maple Lemon-Lime Basil Vinaigrette (Canadice Kitchens/Sugarbush Hollow)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss tomatoes, basil, vinaigrette (start with a couple of tablespoons and add more if desired), salt and pepper.

Lime-kissed Fire Roasted Corn
Unshucked ears of corn (Jones Brook Produce)
Lime wedges
Salt and pepper

Heat grill to medium high. Peel back the corn husks, being careful not to remove them completely, and remove the corn silk. Pull the husks back up over the corn so the ear is covered by the husk. If necessary, tie a spare piece of husk around the end of the corn to keep the husk closed.

Place the corn in their husks on the hot grill; cover. Turn the corn occasionally, until the husks are charred on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove corn from grill and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Remove the husks from the corn, and rub the ears with lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper.

Market Fresh Peach Blueberry Lemonade
8 ripe peaches, washed and pitted
2 pints of blueberries, picked over and rinsed
1 whole lemon, rinsed
Honey, to taste

Combine peaches, blueberries, and lemon in a juicer and process. Taste, and adjust sweetness by adding honey if needed. Garnish with a lemon wedge and extra berries.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cooking as a Spectator Sport: An Interview with Michael Pollan

Here's an interesting interview with Michal Pollan on cooking as a spectator sport. I don't agree with everything he says (particularly about the obesity epidemic; this has shaped my thinking on that topic) but the idea that cooking was a giant evolutionary step is particularly provacative.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ultimate Finger Lakes Burger Challenge at the Canandaigua Farmers' Market

Slice Dice & Spice NY is an effort by Visit Finger Lakes to promote local food. They're hosting three farmers' market challenges in which a total of nine foodies shop their local market to find ingredients to build the Ultimate Finger Lakes Burger. Once all the events are completed, recipes & photos will be posted to the Slice, Dice & Spice NY site and open to online voting. Click here for info.

I was lucky enough to be included in the event and had such a good time!

Gale, Chris and I were worked with Chef David Buchanan from Bristol Harbor at the Canandaigua Farmers' Market Challenge. Chef David is so talented, thoughtful and all-around awesome that Shane & I are already planning a trip to Bristol Harbor for dinner.

If interested, you can view video of the event (my butt makes an appearance around minute 3:15 -- whee!) and more pictures (in which I look nefarious, because THE CAMERA DOESN'T LIE).

BIG thank yous to Chef David, Gale, Chris and, especially, the hard-working folks at Slice, Dice & Spice NY!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Indian-Spiced Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

What can I say about this sandwich, except NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM ?

Ok, I can say a bit more: it's perfect for summer because you don't have to turn on the oven. It's got a curry/mango kick. It takes advantage of all that fresh arugula that's available right now.

And it's freakin' delicious. So, to reiterate: NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

Indian-Spiced Pulled Chicken Sandwiches (adapted)

3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3/4 cup mango chutney
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsps. curry powder
4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 scallions, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup baby arugula leaves
4 very soft rolls, split

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, chutney, lime juice and curry until blended . Add the shredded chicken and scallions and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Place arugula on the rolls, top with the pulled chicken salad and enjoy.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream Cake

Happy Birthday, Sadie!

Today is Sadie's 11th Birthday. And we celebrated, at her request, with a homemade ice cream cake.

Make an ice cream cake from scratch is dead simple. (Time-consuming but simple.) Basically, I followed the instructions outlined in this guide and made a few tweaks. I'd recommend watching the video before making this cake simply to get a visual of what to do, but it really is easy. And delicious.

I did not use my own ice cream for this cake, but that is my next ice cream cake goal. If you use store-bought, make sure to choose a high-quality brand so that the cake's taste is fantastic as its aesthetics.

Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream Cake
1 package of Oreo cookies
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 qt. chocolate ice cream
1 qt. vanilla ice cream
non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
sprinkles (optional)
cake decorating gel (optional)

Place chocolate ice cream in the refrigerator and allow to soften.

Set aside 6 Oreo cookies. Crush the remaining cookies and, in a medium bowl, mix cookie crumbs thoroughly with the melted butter.

Press half to two-thirds of the cookie crumbs into the bottom of a springform pan. (The amount you use with determine the thickness of the cake's crust.) Set the remaining crumbs aside. Place springform pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to allow the crust to harden.

Place softened chocolate ice cream into a medium bowl and stir; it should be smooth and spreadable. Remove springform pan from the freezer and spread the chocolate ice cream evenly over the chocolate cookie crust. Sprinkle the surface of the ice cream with the remaining cookie crumbs (use as much or as little as you choose) and gently press the crumbs into the ice cream. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer until hard, at least four hours.

Once the cake layer is almost ready, place the vanilla ice cream in the refrigerator and allow to soften. Once the vanilla ice cream is ready, remove springform pan from the freezer and spread the vanilla ice cream evenly over the chocolate ice cream and cookie crumb layer. Recover the pan with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer until hard, at least four hours.

Remove the pan from the freezer and run a hot knife between the edge of the ice cream cake and the walls of the pan (this will help prevent the cake from cracking). Open the latch on the springform pan and remove the sides.

Place the cake on a cake decorating turntable or plastic cutting board and frost with the whipped topping. Split apart the reserved Oreo cookies and place the halves around the sides of the cake. If desired, decorated with sprinkles and decorating gel.

Return cake to freezer and chill for 3 to 4 hours until hardened. Before serving, allow to soften in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Slice cake with a knife warmed in hot water; dry knife before slicing .

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ultimate Finger Lakes Burger Challenge: IT'S ON!

Guess what?

I've been tapped to compete in Slice, Dice + Spice NY's Ultimate Finger Lakes Burger Challenge.

(YAY! And ... gulp.)

What's it all about? Here's info from the Slice, Dice + Spice site:

Are you ready to watch us build the Ultimate Finger Lakes Burger?

A total of nine Foodies have been selected to participate in each of the 3 Slice, Dice and Spice Farm Market Challenges at the Ontario County Farmers Markets in August. Each Foodie will be given $50 to use to purchase ingredients that they feel will create the Ultimate Finger Lakes Burger and side dish.

These Market Basket selections will be given to an Ontario County Chef (a select chef will be chosen for each of the 3 local Farmers Markets) and each of these Chefs will create three burgers and side using the very fresh from the farm, Finger Lakes ingredients. Then, the total of nine recipes will be posted on the Slice Dice and Spice NY website where YOU - Joey Q. Public - will be invited to try this recipe at home and vote ~ online for your favorite.

The shopping and cooking demonstration will be video taped and broadcast on the Slice Dice and Spice NY website and portions will be promoted on You Tube as well. This is a challenge that is live, lively and dependent upon you - the Ultimate Finger Lakes Foodie.

Did you see that? There will be online voting (hint, hint).

If you're in the area, please feel free to come down to the Canandaigua Farmers' Market this Saturday and watch the fun. Shopping starts at 8:30am, cooking begins at 9am. (I know it's early, but you can get a morning jolt with coffee from The Dalai Java and pastry from Kitchen Blessings or Peight Bakedgoods!)

If you can't make it, rest assured: I will remind you - repeatedly - to vote for me.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Shrimp Fried Rice

I know this is weird but, after boiling up some shrimp for dinner, I had leftovers. (There was leftover shrimp -- when does *that* ever happen?)

Not wanting to let shrimp go to waste (because they're shrimp and not using them up would be a crime against both nature AND the culinary gods) I went off in search of a fried rice recipe.

Kian and Sadie LOVE fried rice. We've taken them to Japanese teppan/hibatchi restaurants Plum Garden and Da Ru Ma (where I always order the lobster and filet mignon combo because, c'mon, how can I not?) and, on top of loving the cooking theatrics, the kids dive right into the fried rice.

I came upon this post for fried rice by Jaden Hair, hosted on Simply Recipes -- it is fantastic. Not only does Jaden provide a stand-up recipe, she explains the hows and whys behind fried rice: use day-old rice for an ideal end result, cook over high heat, fry the ingredients separately.
You don't need a wok, either. Read her post for more details.

The recipe is dead simple, comes together quickly, and tastes fabulous. Plus, once you've tried it out, you can easily see where substitutions can be made. No shrimp? Try chicken or pork -- or leave the meat out altogether and just roll with the eggs. Go vegan my swapping out the meat and eggs in favor of tofu. I replaced green onions with Bianca Di Maggio onions from my CSA (admittedly, not a *huge* difference); garlic scapes or even some diced white onion would work, too. I snuck in some whole grains and fiber by using brown rice over white rice.

So, take look what you've got in your fridge and pantry and let your mind play with the possibilities of tonight's dinner: fried rice.

Shrimp Fried Rice (adapted)

8 oz. cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped into bite-sized pieces if needed
2 Tbsp. cooking oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten
2 stalks green onion, minced
4 cups leftover brown rice, grains separated well
3/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil

Heat a wok or large sauté pan to medium heat; add 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil and swirl to coat pan. Add the eggs, stirring to break up and scramble the eggs with a spatula (use a high-heat proof plastic spatula if cooking on a non-stick surface). When the eggs are almost cooked through (they should still be slightly runny in the middle), scoop out the eggs to a separate bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the wok or sauté pan with a paper towel, add the remaining cooking oil and turn to high heat, swirling to coat. When the oil is very hot, add the green onions and fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add in the rice and stir well to mix in the green onions throughout. Spread the rice all around the pan and let the rice heat up, untouched, until you hear the bottoms of the grains sizzle, about 1-2 minutes. Use the spatula to toss the rice, again spreading the rice out over the surface of the pan.

Drizzle the soy sauce over the rice and toss. Add the peas, the cooked eggs, shrimp and sesame oil, tossing to mix evenly. Let everything heat back up again, taste and add an additional teaspoon of soy sauce if needed.

Serves 4.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Black Raspberry Muffins

Guess what? This is post #501. What a long, strange trip it's been...

"If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one food," said Sadie, "it would be these muffins."

You will have to make them yourself to see if you agree.

Black Raspberry Muffins (adapted from Cook's Illustrated, via The Bitten Word)

2 cups fresh black raspberries, washed and picked over
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar, and another 1 tsp. sugar, separated
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
More sugar for sprinkling (I used vanilla sugar)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425-degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with muffin liners, and lightly oil the top of the pan with oil.

Bring 1 cup berries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk remaining 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar together with the eggs in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not over mix.)

Use an ice cream scoop, large spoon or 1/3 cup dry measuring cup to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon a teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle additional sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins

Thomas has nothing on me.

And certainly nothing on Nicole, who developed this recipe.

In the convenience of your own kitchen, you can whip up cinnamon-raisin English muffins -- from scratch -- in about an hour. (And most of that is sitting around, waiting for the yeast to do its thing.) Your kitchen can be filled with the scent of cinnmony goodness, your toaster can pop up tasty little treats, and your mouth can be made happy by a breakfast favorite -- made that much better because these babies are fresh.

I may never buy another packaged English muffin again. Sorry, Thomas.

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins (adapted from Baking Bites)
1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup fat fat milk (100-110 degrees F)
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups flour
1/3 cup raisins

Whisk together water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl; let mixture stand for 10 minutes until slightly foamy.

Stir in remaining ingredients, except the raisins, and mix until smooth. Stir in the raisins, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 45 minutes to relax and rise.

Lightly grease a frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls (it will be sticky) onto the pan and cook until medium brown on the bottom. The top and sides will appear set and/or a bit dry; this should take a few (or maybe more) minutes. Flip over and cook other side until brown.

Cool on muffins on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. To serve, split with a fork and toast.

Makes about 10 muffins.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Grilled Flank Steak with Soy-Chili Glaze

Try to look past the messy composition of this picture, and just stare at the deliciousness of this flank steak. Because it is frickin' amazing.

This steak comes from Bedient Farms, which I can not heap enough praise upon. I don't know what owner Angela Bedient feeds her cows but it must be something fabulous. I think they might actually live like the cows in those Californial cheese commercials.

Speaking of commercials, when you bite into this steak -- well, after you've recovered from the explosion of flavor bursting on your tongue, and after you've regained consciousness from delicious-overload -- that Beef: It's What's for Dinner song will pop in your head and you will remember all that is wonderful about eating beef again.

Grilled Flank Steak with Soy-Chili Glaze (adapted)

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 1/4 pounds flank steak
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Lime wedges

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small saucepan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to turn golden. Add the soy sauce, sugar and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until syrupy, about 3 minutes; let cool.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Grill the steak for 10 minutes for medium-rare meat, turning once; during the last minute, brush all but 2 tablespoons of the glaze over the steak. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes.

Thinly slice the steak and brush with the reserved 2 tablespoons of glaze. Transfer to a platter and serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee (Hot, too)

Photo courtesy of Kanko'

One of my favorite summer drinks is iced coffee. A jolt of caffeine and a hit of sugar, mellowed by a bit of cream is the best way to start the day.

The thing is that, if I buy iced coffee – from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or even the coffee bar at Wegmans – I’m out about $3 each day, which, if you remember your multiplication tables, can add up to $21 a week.

That’s a lot of cash for a beverage, especially when it’s watered down, overly bitter and not alcoholic. (Plus, I could use that money to buy something at deep discount from Anthropologie.)

So I’ve started making my iced coffee at home, using the cold brew method. It’s very simple: mix ground coffee with water, let it sit for 12 hours, filter out the grounds, then mix the coffee concentrate with water and ice for a delicious iced coffee. If you’re in the mood for hot coffee, mix the concentrate with water in a mug and nuke it in the microwave and –-bam-- hot cold-brewed coffee.

It’s easy, it’s fun, it tastes good. What are you waiting for?

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee (source)

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
1 1/2 cups water
Milk & sugar (optional)

In a pint jar, stir together coffee and water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk and sugar.

NOTE: To make hot coffee, dilute concentrate one-to-one with water and heat in the microwave.

Yield: Two servings.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Very Vanilla Ice Cream

It's summer and we need to eat ice cream.

Vanilla isn't usually my go-to flavor; I like something different, something a little more adventurous. But when making ice cream at home, for a crowd, vanilla is a flavor everybody likes. And, frankly, when vanilla ice cream turns out this well, it should be a go-to flavor.

This recipe yields a wonderfully rich and creamy ice cream that packs a strong vanilla punch. It's not a wallflower vanilla; it can stand on its own. But if you felt like pairing it with other things, like some blueberries and blackberries heated up on the stove with a bit of berry jam, or in a tall, fizzy root beer float, fear not: this vanilla ice cream plays well with others.

Very Vanilla Ice Cream (adapted)

1 vanilla bean
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs

With a knife, halve vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a large heavy saucepan and stir in extract, cream, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove pan from heat.

In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add hot cream mixture to eggs in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170-degrees. (This may happen instantaneously; do not let boil.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, at least 3 hours or until cold, and up to 1 day.

Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, in 2 batches if necessary. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Ice cream may be made 1 week ahead.

Yields 1.5 quarts.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Wishing you, your friends and your family a festive and fun-filled 4th of July!

Glazed Sugar Cookies

For the cookies:
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes and place cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes until light golden brown. Cool completely before glazing.
Yields about 30, 2-inch cookies


1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water or milk
food coloring, if desired (I used gel food coloring)
1 tsp. extract (almond, orange, etc.; vanilla extract will turn white icing tan)

Stir confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, and water together. Stir in food coloring if desired. Stir glaze before each use to ensure a uniform color.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish?

Jesus H. Christ, are you kidding me?

Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:59pm EDT

Risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish?

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Three U.S. scientists are concern about the potential of people contracting Creutzfeldt Jakob disease -- the human form of "mad cow disease" -- from eating farmed fish who are fed byproducts rendered from cows.

Mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a fatal brain disease in cattle, which scientists believe can cause Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in humans who eat infected cow parts.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Dr. Robert P. Friedland, a neurologist at University of Louisville in Kentucky and colleagues suggest that farmed fish fed contaminated cow parts could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

[Farmed fish are fed COW PARTS? --LRK]

The scientists want government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed.

Eating fish at least two times a week is widely recommended because of the beneficial effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the heart and brain, they note.

"We are concerned," Friedland and colleagues write, that eating farmed fish may provide a means of transmission of infectious proteins from cows to humans, causing variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

"We have not proven that it's possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited," Friedland said in a prepared statement. "Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows," he added.

The risk of transmission of made cow disease to humans who eat farmed fish "would appear to be low," the scientists emphasize, because of perceived barriers between the species, but that's no guarantee that it can't happen.

"The fact that no cases of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease have been linked to eating farmed fish does not assure that feeding rendered cow parts to fish is safe," Friedland said.

"The incubation period of these diseases may last for decades, which makes the association between feeding practices and infection difficult," he points out.

"Enhanced safeguards need to be put in place to protect the public," Friedland concludes.

SOURCE: Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, June 2009.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Roasting kohlrabi

See these things?

These are kohlrabi. Kohlrabi are in the broccoli family; both the root and the leaves are edible. Though they're available year-round (if you can find them; I only see them in this area through my CSA or sometimes at the farmers' market) they're most abundant in early summer.

So what do you *do* with them? Lots and lots; from : "Cut into slices or wedges and add to Chinese stir-fry or Indian curry. Combine peeled kohlrabi with potato when making scalloped potatoes. Dip kohlrabi slices or sticks into tempura batter and deep-fry. Add shredded kohlrabi to coleslaw for extra crunch."

But for a very easy prep, remove the leaves, throw away the stems and any tough center ribs, then shred the leaves. Saute with a bit of olive oil and garlic; finish with salt and pepper. (Or use leaves in any recipe that calls for a slow-cooked green.)

As for the bulbs, pare away the tough outer skin then jump into Alanna's recipe for roast kohlrabi. Essentially, you'll dice the peeled kohlrabi, toss with olive oil, garlic and salt, then roast in a 450-degree oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, stirring the cubes every five minutes once you've reached the 20 minute mark. Once they're done, serve immediately as is, or toss with your favorite vinegar.

It really doesn't get much easier than that. The finished product is reminiscent of broccoli but better as the roasting caramelizes the kohlrabi's sugars and the garlic perks the whole thing up. So easy, so delicious.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Daring Bakers' Challenge: Bakewell Cluster Tart…er…pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

A Bakewell Tart consists of three parts: a shortbread-crust, a jam layer, and a sponge-like frangipane.

I had high hopes for this challenge. The shortbread crust came together nicely and the scraps baked up into lovely cookies when topped with a bit of jam. I made the jam with strawberries I bought from my CSA; it, too, was delicious.

And then there's the frangipane. I don't know where I went wrong, but I began to suspect a problem when the frangipane starting poofing up on oneside and staying flat on the other. By the time it came out of the oven, the top of the tart looked like a mountain range. A mountain range oozing butter. Once it cooled, the rough-terrain flattened out a bit, but still: atop it sat a buttery Lake Titicaca. I poured off the liquid and let the tart cool fully.

Sure, it looks normal but the taste ... well, let's just say I can see where the dessert was supposed to go, but am keenly aware of what its lacking.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Orange Maple Butter

Sometimes when flipping through a magazine, I'll see a recipe and think, "I have to make that." And sometimes, it actually happens.

I spotted this recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes in last month's Martha Stewart Living and the next morning -- a Sunday (is there a more perfect day for pancakes?) -- I was up, bright and early, making stirring, pouring and flipping.

It was well worth it. The blueberries burst lustfully with each bite of pancake, and the orange maple butter -- a concoction so delicious you'll be desperate to find uses for it if there are any leftovers -- just makes breakfast that much better.

There are two small changes I might make next time. The first is adding zest to the pancake batter itself (this is in addition to the zest in the butter). I love the bright sunshine-y flavor of orange paired with the sweet muskiness of the berries so much, I really can't get enough.

The second is eliminating orange juice from the orange maple butter. I couldn't get both the juice and the syrup to fully emulsify into the butter so while delicious, it was a bit "weepy" and unappealing to the eye.

The recipes for the pancakes and the butter appear without these changes.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Orange Maple Butter

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar, divided in half
1 1/4 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups fresh blueberries

Orange Maple Butter (recipe follows)
Pure maple syrup

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, butter and egg. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (mixture will be lumpy).

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (for keeping pancakes warm). Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toss blueberries with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Brush griddle with melted butter. Spoon batter onto griddle 1/3 cup at a time. Sprinkle with sugared blueberries, about 2 tablespoons per pancake. Cook until edges are set, 3 to 4 minutes (bubbles won't appear as with traditional pancakes). Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and blueberries, adding more butter to griddle and keeping prepared pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven. Serve with orange maple butter and pure maple syrup.

Orange Maple Butter

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Using a rubber spatula, combine ingredients in a small bowl. Orange maple butter can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Strawberries are in season, and in abundance! They're tempting in pies, jams, shortcakes, cookies, muffins and scores of other sweets. But perhaps this season, you'll try them as part of a savory dish.

Paired with soft cheese and fresh greens top a hot, crispy pizza crust, strawberries find a new home as dinner, not dessert. It's a light and lovely meal for a summer's evening.

Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza

1, 12-inch prebaked pizza crust (store bought or homemade)
1/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (or other soft cheese)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup greens (watercress, mizzuna, arugula, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Dash of salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Place crust on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes or until hot.

Remove crust from oven and arrange goat cheese evenly over crust.

Combine strawberries, watercress, olive oil, juice, salt, and black pepper; toss gently to coat. Arrange strawberry mixture evenly over goat cheese. Sprinkle pizza with Parmigiano-Reggiano and nuts. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest Post: Marcia Rice

From friend-of-the-blog, Mark Pescatore:

Marcia Rice: pronounced MAH-SEE-AH, not like the older sister on the "Brady Bunch."

My brother was singing the praises of his rice cooker a couple of years ago and eventually bought one for me as a Christmas present. And yes, when it comes to cook and reheating rice, it's swell. But seriously, how much plain white rice or brown rice can you eat? Then, we went to a party being thrown by Marcia and discovered her delicious rice. It's ridiculously simple to prepare, but you will be amazed at how flavorful it is.

Marcia Rice

2 cups rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Goya Adobo all purpose seasoning with pepper (yellow label, red top)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse rice, then put in rice cooker with normal amount of water required by your rice cooker. Add in all ingredients, stir, turn on rice cooker and cook as normal.

Notes from Laura:
You can make Marcia Rice without a rice cooker; simply add the Adobo and olive oil to the cooking water before adding the raw rice, and proceed as normal.

As Adobo seasoning already contains salt, you also may want to reduce or eliminate the additional salt.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

If you've been looking for a recipe that shows off the bright, brilliant flavors of both strawberries and rhubarbs, that looks gorgeous on the plate and, of course, is lip-smackingly delicious, look no further.

It's so good that Kian has asked if he could have one, all to himself, for his birthday.

I think I can make that happen.

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart (source)

Pie dough (either homemade or store bought)
2 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
3/4 tsp. cinnamon, divided
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Line bottom of dough with a piece of foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil. Bake for 5 minutes, remove pie weights and foil and bake an additional 5 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Combine rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, water, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until rhubarb is tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in strawberries. Spoon strawberry mixture into prepared crust. Combine 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of sugar; sprinkle evenly over tart.

Place tart on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling is set. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Apple Strudel: A Daring Bakers' Challenge

Guess what? It's that time again -- Daring Bakers' Challenge time!

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Apple Strudel is not one of those desserts I'd normally think to make so, yet again, the DBers have pushed me to try new things. (Which is a good thing.) And strudel is a lot easier to make than I thought.

The dough came together quickly -- throw some flour, water, vinegar, salt and oil together, then knead -- and it was fairly easy to roll/pull out and make thin. The filling was as easy as, well if not pie, then strudel filling. And then you roll the whole thing up, put it in the oven and, presto, you've got yourself some strudel.

I would have preferred a sweeter filling; perhaps I'd add more sugar (and cinnamon) to the apples in the future, or try something else entirely (a sweet cheese filling mixed with Nutella?). The pastry, however, was just as a strudel should be: flaky and crispy.

Despite my quibbles, I had seconds with vanilla ice cream. As did Shane, Kian and my friends Jenny and Nancy, so how bad could it have been?

Apple Strudel

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)
strudel dough (recipe below)
1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How To Make Broccoli Fattening: Broccoli Bacon Salad

Take fresh, chopped broccoli.

Add some raisins & red onion.

Mix with crumbled bacon.

Toss the whole thing with mayonnaise, sugar and a touch of vinegar.

Voila! Deliciously fattening broccoli.

Broccoli Bacon Salad
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled into bits
8 cups broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup raisins

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

In a large bowl, combine bacon, broccoli, onion and raisins; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture and toss until well combined. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Serve chilled.

Yields 16 servings.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Khatte Chole

Another chick pea recipe! But, this is the last one for a long while because I'm not sure how chickpeas could taste more delicious than in this dish.

This recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey's classic cookbook, Indian Cooking. I stumbled on it via a discussion on Shapely Prose (linking to this recipe) and, not only is it delicious (bury-your-face-in-your-plate delicious), but it's inexpensive and easy to make.

I adapted it slightly from the original to use canned chickpeas rather than dried, and added a teaspoon more of Garam Masala.

Khatte Chole (Sour Chickpeas)

2 cans chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
3 onions, chopped
2.5 tsp salt
1 green chili, chopped
1Tbsp. ginger, grated
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
6 Tbsp. oil
2 tomatoes, skinned
1Tbsp. coriander
1 Tbsp. cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp cayenne

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 tsp salt, chili, ginger, lemon juice, and 2 TBS onion, chopped fine; set aside.

In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add remaining onion. Fry about 10 minutes, until onions begin to brown. Add tomatoes and cook another 10 minutes, mashing with back of a spoon.

Add spice, stir and let cook 30 secs. Add chickpeas, salt and chickpea liquid plus enough water to equal 1 ¾ cups Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove skillet from heat, and stir in reserved salt, chili, ginger, lemon, onion. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mediterranean Chicken Sandwiches

If you look on the sidebar or at the bottom of each post, you'll notice that give recipes a grade using the standard system: A to F. You'll also notice that there are almost no Fs, Ds, or Cs and very few Bs; it's mostly As. That's because, at some point on the blogging journey, it felt pointless to post bland, boring, flavorless results. So when I test a recipe that isn't so hot, I (usually) let it fall by the wayside

Which leads me to what I do post: the OPPOSITE of bland, boring or flavorless, but fantastic, scrumptious, dream-about-it-at-night delicious food. And that's what we have here, with these grilled Mediterranean chicken sandwiches.

There are a number of elements that make this sandwich bite-worthy -- grilled ciabatta bread, fresh basil, roasted peppers, melted mozzerella -- but by far, the piece that pushes this sandwich into a category of amazing deliciousness is the sundried tomato pesto mayonaisse. So simple, so tastebud-popping wonderful.

The recipe follows below, but feel free to play with it. Obviously, you could use a grill instead of a broiler and cook it up along with some grilled veggies. Yesterday, I swapped out the chicken and mozzerella for turkey, capicola, and provolone cheese, left off the peppers, added some red onions, and ate it, chilled, as part of a picnic lunch. It was fantastic.

Mediterranean Chicken Sandwiches (source)

1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) sun-dried tomato pesto
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (8-ounce) loaf ciabatta
12 large basil leaves (or enough to cover the sandwich)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sliced bottled roasted red bell peppers
1 large tomato, thinly sliced

Combine pesto and mayonnaise in a small bowl, stirring to blend.

Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook for 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken to cutting board, and cool slightly. Cut chicken lengthwise into thin slices.

Preheat broiler.

Cut ciabatta in half horizontally. Place bread, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove bread from pan. Spread pesto mayo evenly over cut sides of bread. Arrange the chicken slices evenly over bottom half. Top chicken evenly with basil leaves, and sprinkle cheese over top. Place bottom half on baking sheet, and broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Arrange roasted peppers and fresh tomatoes over cheese, and cover with top half of bread. Cut into 4 equal pieces.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Orange & Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I love being a Daring Baker, but there are some months when I LOOOOOOVE being a Daring Baker. Love, loff, LURVE.

April is one of those months. Our host, Jenny of Jenny Bakes, gave us a base recipe -- "Abby's Infamous Cheesecake" -- and let us adapt the hell out of it.

It was awesome.

I knew I wanted to serve this cheesecake as part of Easter Brunch, so I wanted to keep the flavors light and bright. Orange was a natural choice (and afforded me the opportunity to try my hand at candying oranges for decoration, too). I added the seeds from a vanilla bean, too.

The result is seriously delicious cheesecake; creamy and dreamy, with a perfect balance of orange and vanilla. (And no cracks on the top!) We devoured it.

One note: this cheesecake isn't as firm as others I've made, but I'm not sure if that simply what the recipe yields, or if I should have baked it a tad longer.

No matter: it's a delicious cheesecake, a wonderful recipe ready for endless adaptations, and one of my favorite DB challenges. Thank you Jenny for a great challenge!

Check out hundreds upon hundreds of other cheesecake variations through the Daring Bakers' Blog roll.

Orange Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 Tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
2 Tbsp. grated orange zest
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

Combine cream cheese, sugar and zest in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, and orange juice and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. Wrap bottom of pan tightly with aluminum foil to prevent leaks.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Bake cheesecake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top.

After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill (preferably overnight). Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chili Garlic Shrimp

I spotted Jasmine's recipe for Chili Garlic Shrimp on her blog Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and started drooling. Oh God, did it look good and Oh God, did I have to make it.

This recipe does not disappoint. Sweet, spicy, salty, fishy (in a good way!) -- it's just too delicious. Shane and I inhaled it, fighting over every last morsel. Jasmine served it with glass noodles, though I served it over some brown rice so every little bit of sauce could be soaked up.

Mmmm, delicious.

Chili Garlic Shrimp

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spicy Chickpea & Spinach Curry

What's with all the chickpea recipes lately?

Honestly, I don't know. I'm just drawn to garbanzos right now. They taste good (or rather, they taste good when you add yummy stuff to them) and they're high in protein and fiber.

And they're easy to deal with, as in this recipe. Throw them in with some spinach, tomatoes and spices, let cook for 20 minutes and voila! Dinner (and maybe lunch the next day).

It doesn't get much easier than that.

Spicy Chickpea & Spinach Curry (adapted)

2 (15 oz) cans of chickpeas, drained
10 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp. garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, combine all ingredients and stir to combine; cover pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lasagne Verdi al Forno: A Daring Baker Challenge

I really enjoy participating in the Daring Bakers because A) I get to try out recipes that I might not normally be drawn to and B) my skills as a home cook are challenged.

Some challenges are easy for me, and others make me want to run and hide.

I must admit that this month's challenge -- which asked DBers to make pasta from scratch, and create a lasagna using bechamel -- was a run-and-hide challenge.

Why? One: I'm picky about lasagna. Two: I don't have a pasta machine, so rolling out the lasagna would have to be done by hand. Three: I'm not a bechamel fan.

Let me say right here (in case anyone was experiencing recipe related suspense!) that I am so glad to have participated this month. The resulting lasagna was fabulous.

Yes, crafting pasta from scratch without a pasta machine was intimidating. But the dough was beautiful, and surprisingly easy to work with! (And, um, using the dough hook on my stand mixer made bringing the dough together a breeze...) It rolled out nicely and, as long as I kept it lightly floured, did not stick to the board.

Did I get it as thin as I could have? Probably not. Still, the lasagna was lovely, tender, and so much better than dried pasta. And a beautiful vivid green -- perfect for the dawn of Spring!

As for the bechamel, it provided a wonderful rich creaminess to the lasagna. But the most prominent flavor (aside from the oodles of freshly grated Parmesean) was the meaty ragu -- so much depth, so much flavor. (The ragu is slightly adapted from the original recipe.)

After assembling the lasagna, I had about 8 noodles left over, so I spread them with part-skim ricotta (16 oz. total) mixed with chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper, and rolled the noodles up. I topped all this with an impromptu sauce: I sauteed 6 oz of ground sweet sausage, about two chopped onions and 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic. Then, I added the leftover canned tomatoes from the ragu, and let simmer for 5 -10 minutes to let the flavors meld. In a small casserole dish, I spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom, topped it with the lasagna rolls, and smothered them with the remaining sauce. Then, I baked them in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, topped the rolls with some shredded mozzarella, and baked for another 5 minutes before serving. Delicious!

All around, this was a great challenge and a delicious recipe. Many thanks to this month's hosts: Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande.

Check out all the other DB versions of the recipe at the DBers' new home, The Daring Kitchen.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:


A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
2 medium onion, diced
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat

4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.
Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.