Friday, December 28, 2012

Beet Salad: Simplicity at its best!

An Alice Waters recipe.

                                                          Beet Salad

Alice Waters. Synonymous with the organic food movement. Restaurateur. Proprietor of the famous Berkeley, CA restaurant, Chez Panisse. 2013 will be the year I visit her establishment!

Our daughter likes to give me a hard time whenever Chez Panisse is brought up in conversation, ever since I posted on FB that I cannot wait to visit this restaurant because of their rule of no electronic devices (cell phones/laptops) are allowed in the restaurant; this is printed on the menu itself. Ruins the ambiance. This is one of my all-time pet peeves - cell phones at the table.

She asks, "That's why you want to visit Chez Panisse? For the no cell phone rule? What about the world renowned food?"

Yes it's about the food, but also for "the rule". If only more restaurants would implement this policy.

What ever happened to wanting a meaningful engagement with family or friends with no interruptions? I'm not talking about checking the time (people are not wearing watches anymore) or if the babysitter has called. But is it so important to know that so-and-so is blowing milk out of his/her nose or what they are having to eat at the moment? Take an hour or so from electronics and enjoy real life a bit - you just may enjoy it.

Can this be any simpler? Beets. Vinegar. Oil. Salt. No, I don't think it can. I toyed with the idea of adding some fresh thyme - I love thyme. But being an Alice Waters recipe I thought I should try it as written first.

We (the husband & I) purchased the most beautiful beets from the farmer's market this past weekend. He adores beets. Originally I was going to make a raw beet and carrot slaw, but I used up all the carrots in the chicken noodle soup I made to soothe the nasty cold he came down with. The slaw will have to wait for our next visit to the farmer's market.

I typed in "simple beet salad" in Google search and came up with the recipe here. I'm thinking this can be made even tastier by tossing the warm beets with the vinaigrette and letting them marinate for a few hours.

Success meter (1-3): 3

If you don't want the red beets to mar the golden beets, bake them separately.

The carrots used in the soup.

I tossed the beats with the vinaigrette seperately so the red beets would not "bleed" into the golden beets.

You can see the red beets seeped their color into the golden beets since I baked and stored them in the same dish (I baked them the day before).

Toss the beets together just before serving.

Chicken Noodle Soup
(Future post.)

You can find the beet salad recipe here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WW: Kettle Corn!

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

This week was a freebie for the Wok Wednesdays group. This meaning we can choose any recipe from the book or make up one of our own; or choose not to do anything if we were too busy with the Christmas holiday.

I orginally chose the latter - to skip this week. When I got the munchies and headed for the popcorn in the cupboard, I thought - lets wok it! I added a bit of sugar as well to make my own kettle corn. I'm sure I did not put in as much as the vendors at the farmer's markets do, still it was very tasty. I think the wok made it taste even better!

Success meter 1-3: 3

To make your own kettle corn, just follow the directions on the popcorn bag and add a tablespoon or two of sugar with the oil (I have read recipes that call for up to a 1/4 cup of sugar! Too much in my opinion).

Visit Wok Wednesdays on Facebook!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stracciatella (Spinach & Egg Soup)

Recipe from The New Basics Cookbook
by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

As you can see I did not use the photo of the finished soup as my main picture because you would have looked at it and passed this post right up!

I chose this recipe because it sounded interesting, not to mention easy, and would be quick to make; and who doesn't need quick during the holidays?!

Not the most enticing looking soup, but it wasn't half bad. Not sure if I will give this another try. Then again I may - it was quick and healthy, and some days I don't feel like making a real complex meal.

Success meter (1-3): 2

Chiffonade the spinach and place in large soup bowls.

Top the spinach with Parmesan-Reggiano and freshly ground pepper.

If I do try this again, I will add the spinach and cheese to the broth. It was a bit messy stirring the broth in the bowl itself. Also would use a little less cheese. The Parmesan was deffinitely the dominant flavor.

Bring the broth to a boil, remove from heat and add egg mixture, stirring constantly.
Looks great! IF I were making a custard - which I wasn't.

I brought the broth back to a boil to make sure the eggs were cooked, stirring constantly in hopes the egg would form ribbons - like they do when you order egg-drop soup from a Chinese restaurant.

No beautiful ribbons - just curds.

I told you it was not pretty - but really, it wasn't bad.

Actually as I sit here and type this, I'm thinking it would be worth a second try; even just for the sake of getting the egg to form ribbons instead of curds. Maybe I poured the egg in too fast, I was trying to take a picture of the egg being poured and forming ribbons (I had swirled the broth beforehand to keep the egg moving in a circular motion). Hmmm..

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD: Finnish Pulla

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing baker: Beatrice Ojakangas

I was not going to publish this post after the tragedy in Connecticut. I felt guilty going on with the enjoyments of my everyday life. I realize that life does, and must go on after such horrific incidents. That all we can do is keep the victims in our hearts and thoughts and never, ever, forget them, and hope that we can somehow curb these horrible acts from happening in the future; and to love and cherish those around us.

Therefore this post is dedicated to all in Newtown, Connecticut ~ my heart goes out to them.

As I have mentioned before, everyone should at least once try their hand at bread making. The aroma of the yeasted bread rising alone, not to mention the bread baking, fills your kitchen with a heavenly wonderfulness, and prepping the dough really isn't that difficult; it's easier then you would think and the braiding of this loaf was a lot of fun.

The finished bread is soft, sweet and with just a hint of cardamom spice. As with all breads, it is best the day it is baked. I placed leftovers in a Ziploc bag, by day three the bread was stale - but a short stint in the microwave (ten seconds or so) it was back to its first day softness.

Success meter (1-3): 3

There is no comparison to the aroma of freshly ground cardamom and the ground cardamom you purchase in the store; the difference is night and day.

Beautiful cardamom flecks.

Did anyone else have problems with the dough shrinking after being rolled? They were shorter than the suggested thirty-six inches. I just tugged and stretched them while braiding..

Wreath formed and ready for its last rise.
(A bit uneven, but not bad for my first braided loaf!)

I did not need to add yet another type of sugar (pearl is called for in the recipe) to my collection, so I took Carmen's (Baking is my Zen) suggestion of crushing sugar cubes. Thanks Carmen!

Not so pretty after the rise ~ I may have let it go too long.

Topped with sugar and sliced almonds.

It turned out beautifully in the end.

I pulled my Finnish cookbook from the shelf to see if it had a Pulla recipe, and to my surprise the food editor of this book is Beatrice Ojakangas, the contributing baker for this TWD recipe. The ingredients are the same, though in different increments.

Beatrice recommends (in Fantastically Finnish) to serve the pulla with Egg-Cleared Coffee (recipe follows). I vaguely remember hearing something of this egg & shell in coffee grounds bit before, but never have tried it myself. Have you?

This would be a wonderful bread to serve on Christmas morning. If you would like the recipe you will find it on Erin's blog The Daily Morsel, or you can purchase the book, Baking with Julia (the recipe is on page 106).

Do make sure and check out my fellow baker's take on this recipe. There are always interesting variations from ingredients to finishing techniques.

Egg-Cleared Coffee

8 cups cold water
1 egg, well washed
16 slightly rounded teaspoons coffee, plus one for the pot

Bring the cold water to a boil in a coffee pot or saucepan. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, crush the egg (shell and all) into the dry coffee grounds and mix thoroughly. When the water has come to a rolling boil, add the egg-coffee mixture and stir quickly. Let it come to the boiling point, and remove from the heat. Repeat this twice more. Then cover and let stand about 5 minutes so the grounds can settle.

Makes 8 cups.


Coat of Arms

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WW: Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

Simple. Easy. Tasty.

This was a nice change from our standard steamed, un-seasoned, broccoli we usually have.

I found pressing the ginger through a fine sieve yielded more juice than squeezing the pulp with my fingers.

A salad spinner works great to remove water from your vegetables prior to stir-frying; dry vegetables are a must to avoid hot oil splatters!

You will not find the recipe here on my blog or within the Wok Wednesdays community. We encourage readers to go and purchase this book at their local independent bookstore or on-line.

Make sure to visit my co-wokkers to see their results on this stir-fry.
Look for the LYL link on the Wok Wednesdays page.

Visit Wok Wednesdays on Facebook!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TWD: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan

This Tuesdays with Dorie snuck up on me. How did it get here so fast? It was Monday before I realized I still needed to bake these. I just wasn't into baking and blogging this day, which shows in the pictures, especially the final product - not what I had envisioned anyway.

This is one of those recipes I don't know if I really like or not; like the first time I made kale chips. Where at first bite you think hmmm it's OK - yet you keep eating more hoping to find that taste sensation that will hopefully knock your socks off, or at least wow you somewhat. The kale chips grew on me - these however did not.

The recipe calls for minced fresh ginger (as well as dried) which I did not care for. I did not like that it would stick to my teeth and make me feel like I'm biting down on something that should not be there. If I were to make these again (which I'm not) I would use ginger juice instead. You just grate your ginger and press through a fine sieve (or squeeze the pulp with your fingers) to extract the juice. This I just learned from Grace Young's Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.

Maybe if they were called molasses baby cakes, because that is all I could taste, my perception would have been different. The molasses overpowers the ginger and there is not even a hint of espresso flavor. There are several chocolate recipes that call for a small amount of espresso which will enhance the flavor of chocolate, but not necessarily give you a coffee flavor. However this recipe called for a whole quarter cup! I thought for sure there would be a hint of joe in these little cakes.

If molasses is your thing - these cakes are for you! Don't get me wrong, I like molasses; I was just expecting more of a ginger flavor. I guess I have been spoiled by the delicious gingerbread my friend makes every year at Christmas.

Success meter (1-3): 2

Dried pears reconstituted in apple juice for decoration.

Yep - that's black pepper you see. This too was unnoticeable due to the overpowering flavor of the molasses.

One jar of molasses yields one and a half cups. This made me one half cup shy of the two cups called for in the recipe. I made up the difference with Lyle's Golden Syrup.

As with making cookies, beat your sugar and butter till light and fluffy.

Adding the exorbitant amount of molasses.

Fold in the dry ingredients.

I adorned two cakes with a star on top, two cakes with stars on the bottom, and left two plain.

I was hoping that the stars on top would have risen with the batter - not the case.

This one was baked in a glass ramekin. Not looking so very pretty.

I just love paper pans - especially for gift giving.

The cakes had wonderful texture. Soft, chewy, and moist. The section with pear helped tame the boldness of the molasses. These cakes would benefit with diced pear throughout.

If I had more time I would have adorned the cakes with a chocolate (or mango! mmm...) sauce and diced pears.

You can find the recipe for these baby cakes on Karen's blog ,our host this week.

Do venture over to Tuesdays with Dorie to see what others have done with this recipe.