Thursday, July 1, 2010

That's a knife

Steve and I have been pining for a new slicing knife for ages.  We considered getting one after Christmas using our Macy's gift card.  But opted for new bath towels instead.  Then we almost got one using a CB2 gift card, but couldn't.  (Side note: did you know that you can use Crate & Barrel gc's at CB2, but you can't use a CB2 gc at Crate & Barrel.  What?!)

So now, here we are six months later, and we find ourselves with a bit of a shopping bug and no money to use to squelch said bug.  Aha!  Wait a second, what do I see in my envelope of gift cards?  A $50 Visa card.  Yay!  Let's go!

We headed to Crate & Barrel again because we wanted to browse their summer sale. I picked up our outdoor dinner ware at this sale last year, and since we could use a couple more plates and skewers, we went expecting to get those.  The universe had other ideas because when we got there and saw that the Wusthof 10-inch slicer was on sale at $50 we changed our minds. 

We got home and could hardly wait to try it out.  The only serrated knives we have are two high-quality steak knives (but since they are short, they aren't much use to slicing most things) and one 9-inch crappy, rusting, light-weight knife from Target that can really mangle up a delicate crumb or tear meat.  Sometimes it works okay. 

We had a round loaf of Italian bakery bread, so we tested the knife on this.  We cut thin, even slices with ease.  I can only imagine how great this knife will work when I have to split a cake layer in half or thirds.  Like buttah.

Here's Steve trying it out to much glee and satisfaction.

Did someone say grill?

As soon as the weather turns from snow and ice and wind chill to humidity, sun, and long days, we break the grill out.  Our grilling season started early this year, but it was a bit of a false start.  The weather warmed up only to cool off again.  But now, here at the start of July, the grilling season has been in full swing for at least a month.  We find ourselves grilling at least once a week up on our roof.  (Yes, we take the appropriate and legally called for fire precautions - no gas grilling, five gallons of water, fire extinguisher, and we never leave the grill unattended.) 

A week or so ago, we had people over to share in the grilling for the first time this summer.  We prepared grilled leg of lamb and then sliced it up for gyros with tzatziki, pitas, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes.  Sides included hummus, a baked potato potato salad (Reka brought this creation that was made with all the fixings of a baked potatoes including BACON!), chips, grilled asparagus, Persian cucumbers, carrots, watermelon, etc.  Steve did the grilling and the tzatziki and it was all very delicious.  Excellent job.

Here are the before pictures.  There are no after pictures.

Donna and Steve talking lamb.

The Spread.

Looking west and waiting for that lamb!

As you can see, we had plenty of food and room for all of it and us. And such a nice evening.  We followed this feast with a round of Shanghai, Popsicles, Riesen, and mini Twix.  We like our junk food while playing cards.

Hope to have everyone over again before the end of summer.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sarah's Curried Chicken Salad

At Harcourt, we loved food.  The children's marketing department was often the epicenter for food at the company and we would use any excuse as a reason to bring in some tasty treats.  We all had skills in the kitchen from beginner to advanced, and our palates varied enough that we often had dishes that ran the gamut from sweet to savory.

Sampling each others culinary output led to the inevitable recipe sharing.  One of the publicists, Sarah, brought this salad to a picnic and I recently came across the recipe as I was flipping through my file looking for inspiration.  Steve thought it was high time I made this again (I have only made this one other time), so we had it for dinner last night.

The recipe can be adapted easily and stands up just fine without the pasta.

Curried Chicken Pasta Salad

2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 lb medium shell (or orecchiette, or macaroni) pasta noodles, cooked and drained
1/2 cup golden or regular raisins
1/4 to 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green onion
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup mango chutney
2 tsp curry powder
1 cup mayo or Miracle Whip
1 tsp ground turmeric
salt & pepper to taste

Mix chicken and pasta shells, if using, in a large bowl.  Add raisins, almonds, celery, and green onion.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Mix dressing ingredients - chutney, curry, mayo, turmeric - in a separate bowl and spoon/pour over the other ingredients.  Toss well to coat.  Add apple and toss again.  Chill until ready to serve.  This recipe makes a big bowlful, so it's perfect for sharing.

If not using pasta, there will be too much dressing.  You could probably only make half the dressing and it would be enough, or just make it all and spoon on what you need to dress the salad and use the rest as a dip.  If the pasta isn't there to bulk it up, the salad goes well with pitas and crisp lettuce.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chocolate Croissants

Yum, yum, yum!  After two days of work, these little beauties are finally ready for consumption.  Delish!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Food news bites

In the past couple of days, I have received emails or links about some interesting food news tidbits.  Thought some of you might be interested to know about these as well so I've rounded them all up here.  Click away my friends.

Not sure what to do with all those wine corks cluttering up nooks and crannies in the kitchen?  Or maybe you are wondering where all those corks come from and if they have an environmental impact?  Click here for answers and info on a cork recycling program.

The South has some of the best food in the country. Next time you are driving through the region, you can plan your meals as well as your sightseeing with the Southern Food Alliance's nifty food map.

Yum, yum, yum.  Gotta try this outlandish and rich sounding milkshake.

I tried posting my review of John Besh's cookbook, My New Orleans: The Cookbook here on Blogger but I kept getting error messages.  So here is a link to my review I wrote on Goodreads.

Happy weekend everyone.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The best Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone a few days early.  Wanted to share with you a delicious Irish Soda Bread recipe before the actual holiday in case you actually want to make it for yourself.  As I type this, I am taking breaks to eat some of this very bread.  I made mine yesterday.

A friend at Harcourt made this one St. Patrick's Day for our pot luck lunch in the office.  It was so delicious that I had to have the recipe, which turns out, she found on Epicurious

I have made very minimal adjustments to the recipe when I have made this because the recipe is just so dang good as it's written.  The only things I have done differently, or could do differently, is add a touch more buttermilk if the dough is just a little too dry to fully combine (as it was last night for some reason).  Not being a fan of raisins, I also reduce the amount that goes in to just a cup and a half.  If you love raisins, you would probably like to use the entire amount called for.  I haven't tried it, but I bet you could make several smaller loaves from one recipe by using round cake pans.  Every time I've made it, I've used the 12-inch All-Clad skillet.  This turns out one monster huge loaf that is easy to cut up into chunks to give away or freeze. 

Here it is in it's entirely as written on the Epicurious website.  This bread also has a September 11th connection (see below), so now when I make this, I remember 9/11 as well as all my buddies and good times at Harcourt.  It's good bread in every way.

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway
by Patrice Bedrosian, Brewster, New York
yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

Patrice Bedrosian of Brewster, New York, writes: "In the days that followed September 11, 2001, I — like so many Americans — gravitated toward roast chicken, meat loaf, and anything that brought comfort and ease to my home. You see, my stepbrother, Jerry O'Leary, a 34-year-old chef working at Cantor Fitzgerald's corporate dining room in One World Trade Center, was among the many victims on that terrible day. "I feel quite certain that Jerry's love for cooking stemmed from his mother, Julie Lestrange. And as long as I can remember, she has always had something delicious waiting for my family whenever we visit.
"I would like to share a recipe that Julie has given to me. My hope is that you will, in turn, share it with my fellow readers, encouraging them to enjoy this delicious and comforting Irish bread, to smile, and to remember the love between a mother and a son."  Offer this easy-to-make bread with plenty of butter and your favorite jam.

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups raisins
  • 3 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter heavy ovenproof 10- to 12-inch-diameter skillet with 2- to 2 1/2-inch-high sides. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dough; using wooden spoon, stir just until well incorporated (dough will be very sticky).

Transfer dough to prepared skillet; smooth top, mounding slightly in center. Using small sharp knife dipped into flour, cut 1-inch-deep X in top center of dough. Bake until bread is cooked through and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool bread in skillet 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in foil; store at room temperature.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cookbook review: Rose's Heavenly Cakes

(Published yesterday on Goodreads) 

by Rose Levy Beranbaum
September 2009
Wiley, 978-0471781738

This book is gorgeous to look at. I've had my eye on it since Christmas.  It finally dawned on me that instead of pining for a $40 cake cookbook, I should just see if the library had it and give it a test run.  Tah-dah! They did! 

Several things I noticed about this book:
-The photography is excellent and while not every recipe has a photo, there are enough pics to make the mouth water. 

-all recipes have ingredient measurements by both volume AND weight. I love that the weights are included as that's the most accurate way to measure most ingredients.

-this is not a book for casual/beginner bakers. Most of the recipes contained are involved, time consuming, or intimidating in length. There is no way most home bakers will be able to get the same results as Rose. I think home bakers with cooking/baking experience and know-how should be able to turn out some of these recipes, but they will really have to commit themselves to the project. For example, the recipe for the cake on the cover of the book (a Bernachon Palet D'Or Gateau) is over four pages long.

-many of the recipes do not require unusual cake pans. Quite a number of them call for the standard 9x2 round cake pan or basic 9" springform. There are recipes where other pans are needed, but I think there are enough to choose from using the standard 9x2 to satisfy.

-Rose is picky; almost snobbishly so. It's her way or the highway. She's picky about what kind of flour, what size pan (and why not to use the size not listed for a particular recipe), high quality ingredients, the importance of weighing eggs rather than just cracking in an egg. The list goes on. I know baking has a reputation for being picky, but really, for an average home baker, such pickiness isn't really necessary to get a good, delicious cake. That being said, I do agree that the better quality of the ingredients, the better the result will taste and feel.

-there are some good, basic cake recipes as well as ganache and frosting recipes. All of the cake recipes in this book are for the complete cake - meaning cake, frosting/ganache/filling, and decorations. This is one reason why each recipe is so long. Many of the basic components could be broken out and used on it's own with another cake or frosting.

-a good list of sources for specialty ingredients and a long, informative, section defining and breaking down ingredients

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Her tips and techniques are sound in their reasoning as she is a baker who makes an effort to understand the science behind everything.

I get to keep the book for three weeks thanks to the BPL and I will probably only get to try one of the cakes. I marked about two dozen of the recipes as ones I'd like to try. So what shall it be? Here are some of my picks:

-Karmel Cake
-Gateau Breton
-Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake
-Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache
-Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache
-Chocolate Genoise with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache
-Lemon Meringue Cake
-Torta Las Tres Leches (one of my favorite cakes!)
-Lemon Cheesecake
-Mud Turtle Cupcakes
-True Orange Genoise

Bottom line:
-Not for beginners
-Almost text book in its approach to ingredients and technique; a great learning tool (but very few pictures illustrating those techniques; it's not a photo step-by-step book which is why the baker needs to have some know-how of baking basics before attempting)
-Gorgeous food photography
-A great variety of cakes is covered (including wedding cakes and how to construct them)
-Very thorough in recipe steps, ingredients, and technique explanations
-Only purchase for serious, experienced home bakers who love to make complicated and beautiful cakes (or for people who like to look at pretty pictures of food)