Friday, June 11, 2010

Nothing like home made beef stock

Bought a HUMONGOUS stock pot and made beef stock to freeze and do demi glaces and general cooking. I also went to Whole Foods and got coconut milk based ice cream, sangria sorbet, polenta, agave nectar and some other nice things :) I like Whole Foods better than Trader Joe's, but nothing like the farmer markets. The Agave nectar is interesting, with texture like honey but smoother, really sweet. I have to see how it behaves baking. Shall I got crazy or shall I read and learn from others mistakes ? :D

At last I got my semolina flour and perhaps this weekend I am going to make a batch of pasta. I have some nice mushrooms pate and I think it would be a great stuffing for my raviolis. I will don my alchemist hat and try several spices and herbs on the pate, to see what kicks the magic.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Herb crusted steaks with fire roasted shallot and german blue cheese butter

Oh brother, I almost ran out of space writing this title. Impressive description for an impressive taste. I like the overall taste of this steal, although I feel that the blue cheese butter hides the taste of the marinade :( I used Angus New York Strip steaks, my favorite, but you can use also Rib eye or our favorite cut.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

* 4 steaks (New York Strip, Rib Eye...)
* 1/2 cup Virgin Olive Oil
* 2 tbsp steak sauce
* 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
* 3 tbsp Roasted Garlic marinade
* 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Blue cheese butter:
* 3/4 cup unsalted butter
* 6 oz Blue Cheese
* 4 shallots
* 1 tbsp chopped parsley
* 1/4 tbsp salt
* 1/4 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 tsp French Whole-Grain Mustard
Herbs for steak:
* 2 tbsp chopped parsley
* 2 tbsp fresh chives
* 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and pour them over the steaks in a bowl. Marinate in the fridge a minimum of 1 hour, but 4-5 hours would be ideal.

Let's make the butter. Coat slightly the shallots with olive oil and roast them in pain, until the outside is blackened and the inside semi-soft. Set them aside, let them cool and peel and quarter them. We'll use them in a moment.

Dust your handy food processor, cut the butter and blue cheese in chunks (remove the rind from the cheese) and puree in the food processor to blend it. Add the shallot and pulse until combined with the mixture. Then add chopped parsley, salt, pepper and the Dijon mustard and blend it together. Place the butter mixture on a piece of parchment, roll it and then wrap it in plastic and chill.

Get the steaks, discard the marinade. Pat the herbs mixture on both sides of the steaks and fire that grill! Once you have the steaks cooked, serve with a pat of butter on top.

Preparation time: 45 minutes (plus marinade time)

Arugula, oranfe and fennel salad with Basil orange vinaigrette

A nice and fresh salad. I have to admit that I am a sucker for anything with citrus in it! :)

Ingredients (for 4 people)

* 1 bunch fennel
* 1 bunch arugula
* 2 oranges
* 2/3 cup orange juice
* 1/3 cup walnut oil
* 2 tbs chopped fresh basil
* Salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
* Basil baby leaves (for decoration)

To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together orange juice, walnut oil, basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Slice fennel very thin. If you try to do it with a mandoline, try not slice your nail as I did. If you are not going to use the  fennel right away, keep it in ice water until ready to use it. Cut stems off arugula and tear leaves in large pieces. Peel and cut the oranges into round slices.

In a bowl, toss together fennel and arugula with most part of the vinaigrette. Divide in plates, mix the oranges with the remaining vinaigrette and and place on the plates. Garnish with the baby basil leaves.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday dinner

Menu for tonight: lemongrass skewered, marinated grilled shrimp, sake-teriyaki marinated lamb chops served over grilled garlic toasts, corn and zucchini fritters on the side with a duo of dipping sauces (herb mayo and sweet chili cucumber relish) and for dessert, zabaglione with berries and orange. Finger still messed up :( Recipes as soon as I can :(

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dinner for today

Menu for tonight: Arugula, orange and fennel salad with basil orange vinaigrette, grilled steaks with chimichurri sauce, Parisienne potatoes with parsley and chives and for dessert, strawberries balsamico with mascarpone cheese and toasted pinenuts and cloves. And I did all the chopping and cooking with one hand, I sliced my fingernail with the mandoline (ouch! ) I'll post recipes when I can type :( 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cioppino - Fish soup

Recently I found this dish and I love it. It is a rich seafood and fish soup, reminiscent of the French "bouillabaisse" and the dear Catalan "suquet", a soup cooked by fishermen with a little bit of this and that (catch of the day). Cioppino comes from San Francisco, inspired from the Italian cuisine. The Italian fishermen started cooking it in his boats and later it became mainstream. Cioppino comes from the word "ciuppin", what means "chopped" and indeed, the ingredients are chopped in small pieces. I am going to propose some ingredients, but if you want to add, remove or replace any ingredient be my guest, remember, catch of the day! Be as creative as you want.

Ingredients (for 4 people):

* 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
* 1 chopped onion
* 2 minced cloves of garlic
* 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley (please, no dried powdery stuff! :( )
* 1 can stewed tomatoes (14.25 oz)
* 1 cup of chicken broth
* 2 crushed bay leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
* 3/4 cup water
* 1 cup white wine
* 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
* 1 pound sea scallops chopped (or 1 pound bay scallops whole)
* 12 small clams
* 12 cleaned mussels
* 1 can lump crabmeat (or if not from can, 1 cup crabmeat)
* 1 pound of firm flesh fish ( I use ono, but you can use salmon, cod..)
* Salt
* Black pepper

- Suggestions: you can add baby lobster, whole crabs cut in quarters... also, the onion can be replaced by shallots.

Be a busy bee and prep everything, then you won't have to run like a chicken without head. :) In a large stockpot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and parsley. Cook slowly until the onion is soft and transparent.

Next, chop the  stewed tomatoes and add them to the pot with all the herbs, the chicken broth, water and wine. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 1/2 hour.

Time to add all the seafood and fish. Raise the heat, let it boil, lower heat, cover and back to simmer, about 10 minutes, until clams and mussels open.

Ready! Serve it with some rustic bread on the side to dunk in the delicious broth and some chilled white wine.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Friday, April 30, 2010

Melange rouge

Got some strawberries and after experimenting and boiling, I created a desert I called "Melange rouge": Haagen Daas strawberry ice cream on a bed of sweet strawberry puree and topped with hot strawberry syrup.Yummy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Almonds failure and picking up the pieces: Amarettinis

Usually, us savvy cooks, we only post on our blogs our success histories but with the failures, we do as somebody said: If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence than you tried. But sometimes, we listen to Beckett:
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail Better"
This is my latest failure with a nice recovery. I found this delicious and simple recipe for Amaretto cookies, nice and fat little round almond balls. The original recipe called for blanched almonds, bitter almond sugar, white sugar, egg whites and confectioner's sugar. Fool proof, eh? Well, no. I had to get creative. Instead of 4 drops of bitter almond oil, I tempted fate with olive oil and Di Saronno Amaretto. I was able to roll the little balls, but once on the baking sheet, they deflated like balloons running out of helium and I got a hellish, flat, single layer of dough. Nothing has been written about cowards, so I decided to go ahead and bake it at 250 F.

The result was like a thin sheet of a chewy almond cookie, actually edible! I cut it in little pieces, sprinkled confectioners sugars and baptized it as Amarettinis :D Very nice as a snack or with cookies.

The ingredients for the cookies are as follows:

For 45 cookies
* 1/2 pound blanched almonds
* 4 drops bitter almond oil
* 3/4 white cup sugar
* 2 egg whites
* 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar, to sprinkle the cookies once baked

Preheat the oven at 250 F. Grind  finely the almonds when you are ready to make the cookies, to keep the flavor. Mix the almonds with almond oil, white sugar and lightly beaten egg whites. Knead the mixture until it gets a firm consistency. Moisten your hands and roll the dough into small balls, 1" in diameter. Place the balls on a baking sheet, covered with parchment paper or a non stick baking mat. Loosely cover the balls with tin foil, to prevent aliens reading their little minds (and over browning). Place the sheet on the bottom rack and bake for about an hour. Dust the cookies with confectioner's sugar using a sieve.

Now, if you want to go the Actor's Studio route and mimic my mess, replace the bitter almond oil with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of Di Saronno, make a mess, don't even bother to roll the balls, lay a layer of the dough on the baking sheet and there you go, Amarettinis! :D Once baked, cut it in pieces and dust it with confectioner's sugar.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tiramisu: an Italian delight

Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts; cocoa, wine, coffee... some of my favorites together, you cannot go wrong. Tiramisu is a quite new dish, its origin goes back to the 80's. There are several theories about who and when invented this heavenly dessert, but the most common is that it was created in Treviso, at Le Beccherie by the goddaughter and apprentice of the owner, Francesca Valori, whose maiden name was Tiramisu. 
For the longest time I had been hunting a good recipe for Tiramisu: please don't talk to me about instant coffee, ricotta cheese, Kahlua and other atrocious variations. I found a page dedicated to Tiramisu (I will mercifully omit the name, there were really horrible recipes there). I am not against variations, one of the pleasures of cooking is to experiment, but some recipes there were garish (one included Philadelphia cheese, sour cream, dream whip, coffeemate and coffee syrup, you catch my drift). I decided to look for recipes from Italy and I found one simple and classic enough. And delicious! . The recipe call for something called savoiardi. Those are the equivalent of ladyfingers. Here is the translation of the recipe.

Ingredients (for 6 people):
* 14 ounces of savoiardi (ladyfingers)
* 5 eggs at room temperature
* 1 cup of white sugar
* 2 cups of Mascarpone cheese
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Marsala wine, depending on how much you want to spice it up
* 2 cups of good espresso coffee
* Unsweetened cocoa powder

Make as many coffee pots as necessary to get 2 cups. I would strongly recommend to make a good espresso coffee, not a watery mix. Let the coffee cool off.

Separate the whites from the yolks. Beat the yolks with the sugar in  the electric mixer for at least 5 minutes, until you get a smooth and thick cream. Add the Mascarpone cheese, a spoonful at a time and fold with a wooden spoon, carefully. If necessary, towards the end, put it back in the electric mixer and mix slowly for a few seconds only, to homogenize the mixture. Add then the Marsala wine. 

Separately, beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks. Carefully fold them into the mixture you already prepared.

Take a rectangular or square pan and start lining up ladyfingers, until you cover the bottom. You can soak them first in coffee, or you can pour the coffee carefully on top of them, soaking them while they are in the pan.

Put a thick layer of cream on the ladyfingers and cover it with a second layer of ladyfingers. Cover with another thick layer of cream, sprinkle cocoa thoroughly on top and put it in the fridge for a few hours. 

Because it is made with raw eggs, make sure you keep it in the fridge and make sure your kitchen is spotless before you start cooking. Wash the eggs before cracking them and discard the shells immediately. The risk is not that high, but better be safe than sorry.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Et voila le Coq au vin

And here is the Coq au Vin. It was really fun to cook and easier than I thought. Just keep the simmer going and don't singe your eyebrows while doing the flambe! :D I followed Julia Child's suggestion and I made a side of parsley potatoes. I have lunch for tomorrow! :D

New Baking carrito!

Tired of hunting for baking implements and ingredients, ta-da! my new baking cart, with everything handy :D

New design, new recipes

At last I have a new design, one it really reflects what's cooking in my brain! :) Thanks to the Blog Fairy ( she works well, she works fast, she reads minds and she is extraordinarily talented. Kudos!

I completed my pending classes (Vietnamese cuisine, French pastry, ravioli) and I have nothing lined up now, I will have to shake things a little bit. Vietnamese cuisine class was fascinating, but it was not that cool to prepare 3 dishes at home by myself: we are talking 3 hours of prepping here, people. Once a year, with a bunch of friends cheering at home (better if they are knife proficient) and a nice glass of wine, but not  for every day. French pastry was extremely interesting but scary: talk about the butterfly effect. If a "pages" in Catalonia pays his electricity invoice, something may get altered in the recipe you are cooking in New Jersey. Or at least, so it seems. Yet, worth to try, a very delicate and tasty science. Ravioli was as fun as one can imagine. Once you get the knack of the machine, you start churning like crazy. Now, it comes the search for pasta recipes, the right blend of spices, flours and oils.

Today Sunday, I am going to tackle another Julia Child's classic, Coq au vin. Sometimes I am puzzled when I start reading her recipes, I wonder, is it *really* necessary to do all this? can we just jump from a) to d) and skip the skimming or the changing or pots or some weird and obscure voodoo juju? Well, once you start cooking the pieces fall into place. You see why no, you should not skip a single Child's spell and how what to do influences your food. It is a pleasure to cook but also a wonderful learning experience.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Creamy chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala is very simple to prepare and it is one of my favorite recipes. You can cook this recipe only with Marsala wine or keep on adding the extra ingredients to achieve the creamy and delicious sauce. Do not forget a little bit of crunchy bread on the side to clean the plate! :)

* A couple of chicken breasts, diced in chunks

* 2 tablespoons of all purpose white flour
* 1/2 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped
* 1 cup of mushrooms
* 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
* 1 cup of Marsala wine
* 1 tablespoon of Sherry wine
* 1/4 cup of chicken broth
* 1/4 cup of heavy cream
* Salt
* Pepper
* 1 table spoon of vegetable oil
* Angel hair pasta (optional)

Easy as pie. Actually easier, I do not find pies that easy. Cut the chicken in square chunks, medium size. Then mix the flour, oregano, salt and pepper. Usually I use a plastic bowl with a cover, but a plastic bag can do the trick. Or you can do it one by one if you feel fancy. Drop the chicken pieces in the flour mix, cover the bowl and shake, shake, shake. In a pan, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil and when hot, melt the butter in the oil. Then add the chicken, brown it and with a slotted spoon put it aside. Over low heat, add the Marsala wine and sherry to the pot and scrape the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. When the mixture starts thickening, add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes and put back the chicken in the pot. Cook all together for about 10 minutes, then add the broth and the cream. Cook it for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is reduced. While you are cooking, keep on tasting and rectifying the salt. Serving suggestion: serve over a bed of boiled angel hair pasta.

Preparation time: 1 hour

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More classes at Sur la Table

This month I attended two other great classes at Sur La Table: Fish 101 and Vietnamese cuisine. I was concerned about cooking fish properly; because I never liked fish very much, I felt I did not know beans about how to handle and prepare the fish. Cleaning, prepping, right temperature...we learned the whole process and some great recipes in the process. Vietnamese cuisine was also very interesting, with the mix of French and Asian ingredients, fusion long time before fusion was invented. Lemongrass and dill, fish sauce and chiles, fish and pork. We cooked a pork with lemongrass that was not of this world and we learned how to make spring rolls.