Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TeaTinis

My friend made these for her tea party and they were divine.

Vanilla Pear Spring TeaTinis

8 ounces of Absolut Vanilla vodka
2 Lavender Citrus infusers
4 drops vanilla extract
2 - 1 inch sections of vanilla bean
2 thin pear slices (fresh pear only!)

Pour your (room temperature) vodka into an empty cocktail shaker, add your infusers and let stand for 10 minutes

Remove the infusers and add 8 ice cubes to the shaker and shake like mad. Strain your amazing elixir into 2 freezing martini glasses. Top each glass with 2 drops of vanilla extract, 1 section of vanilla bean and 1 pear slice.

Cin cin!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Loroco Flower

I found this information on the website entitled "practically edible." Hmm...

Loroco is small green unopened flower buds used as an herb for flavouring in Central America. The closest taste comparison is might be to chard or spinach, or a cross between mild broccoli and squash. It is used in salads, rice dishes, stews and sauces. In El Salvador and in Honduras, it is added to the fillings in "pupusas." The Loroco plant is a woody vine. It grows wild in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and prefers a temperature range between 68 and 90 F (20 and 32 C.)

Loroco is not available fresh in the United States because the USDA's Commodity and Biological Risk Analysis team discovered that the plants can bring with them the "Diabrotica adelpha" beetle. But loroco can be bought in jars (brined or pickled in vinegar), or frozen. I wonder if the owners of Cabo Hermoso grow it themselves.

Salvadorean Lunch

Having read a review that made my mouth water, I pulled out the globe, had the boys locate El Salvador and San Salvador, and loaded everyone in the car to go to Cabo Hermoso for lunch.

We ordered pupusas (pork, chicken, beans, and loroco flower - a delicious exotic bloom, native of El Salvador) , platanos fritos, and something whose base seemed to be made of a spiced lentil flour. Everything was served with curtido, a spicy, vinegar-based condiment made from cabbage, carrots and other veggies - much like sauerkraut. And we ended the meal with a mug of Salvadorean hot chocolate.

It was delicious and we all but licked the plates clean. I'm going to have to locate some recipes!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Q&A - What do I do with langostino tails?

Jo wanted a recipe suggestion for langostino tails.

Cam says: Langostino typically refers to the tailmeat of the squat lobster which is, surprisingly, neither a lobster nor a prawn which it resembles quite a bit. It's actually more closely related to a porcelain crab or a hermit crab. Still, I use them how I would use shrimp or lobster. A fairly easy, but tasty dish is a lobster potpie. You can make individual pies in small ramekins or a large, family-style pie. Whatever you do, use cookie cutters to create some festive looking crust - hearts for Valentines, stars for Christmas. You get the idea.

Cook the langostino tails ahead of time and because they are small, you don't need to chop or shred the meat. Make your usual pie crust, but add some lemon zest for added zing. Make your usual cream sauce, but add some sherry. Stir the cooked langostino tails into the sherry-cream sauce and season with sea salt and pink pepper to taste. Add some rough chopped parsley. Line baking dish with crust, spoon in langostino mixture, top with crust - or use puff pasty, crimp edges and brush with beaten egg yolk, and bake till crust is browned. Maybe an hour at 350. For variations, add sauteed onions and fennel or carrots and peas.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sweetened Condensed Milk. Lots of It.

I love Thai food, especially at Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Thai Buddhist temple in Berkeley. It's not just a brunch, it's an institution. Fabulous food, reasonable prices, and lots of local color make it another of my favorite destinations when we're up there.

Pad Thai, Green Papaya Salad, Pumpkin in Yellow Curry, Coconut Gelatin. The only tragedy this weekend was that the little old ladies weren't there making Kanom Krok. When I inquired, I was told, "they're old. They don't come during the winter. They'll be back in the Springtime."
Disappointing. But I finally got up the nerve to ask the secret to their Thai iced coffee. Secret? It's no secret she told me. Use sweetened condensed milk. Lots of it.

Chocolates and Rhubarb Soda

It's not a successful trip to the East Bay without a stop at Bittersweet Cafe. So, after our Ethiopian dinner, Jacob and I headed to Rockridge for some sweet treats. The chalkboard outside gave me a chuckle, announcing: "Chocolate is love in food form: complex and bittersweet."

Inside, the smell of chocolate envelopes you like your favorite sweater and the racks of handcrafted chocolates wrapped in everything from plain brown paper and twine to ornately embossed gilded foil are as stunning as they are tempting.
I always try something new; Jacob leans towards a perenial comfort food - chocolate pudding. Since we were still stuffed from dinner, in a rare moment of self-control in the face of chocolate, Jacob offered to share.
So I ordered a spicy chocolate and grabbed something I'd never tried much less heard about: rhubarb soda. It was crisp, subtle, and is a new favorite. But that certainly didn't stop me from helping Jacob devour the pudding. We refrained from licking the bowl clean...but just barely.

"We Can Order Two Empty Plates..."

Unlike Harry's quip in When Harry Met Sally... when Jacob and I went to Cafe Colucci, an Ethiopian restaurant, we did not order two empty plates and then leave. We feasted. All the flavors were bold and big. Meat dishes, vegetable dishes. And we washed it all down with Ethiopian beer and honey wine. Normally I wouldn't enjoy a wine that sweet, almost syrupy. But it was the perfect pairing for the meal. I am definitely going to make Ethiopian as one of my month's culinary adventures. Maybe for Fathers' Day. Now I just have to locate a local source for that wine!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream...for Ici

Though this wasn't a planned stop, the line winding up the block made up stop to look. And we are so glad that we did. Ici in Berkeley's Elmwood area was an foodie's ice cream dream come true.

First, they make everything there in the kitchen and work with local, organic farmers to get the freshest and in-season ingredients. Second, all of their packaging and servingware is compostable: the ice cream cups and bowls are made from baggase which is derived from sugar cane; spudware spoons are made from potato starch and soy oil; and their clear plastic cups - for the free sparkling water - is made from a corn by-product.

And then there's the ice cream itself...amazingly unique concoctions that were as tasty as they were lovely. Voluptuous mounds of ice cream in delicate shades whose subtle flavors inspired moans of appreciation from everyone in the family. Wow.
I chose a scoop of pink peppercorn with a scoop of candied blood orange. Dylan opted for a chocolate-mint sorbet. Riley selected vanilla bean while Jacob tried a scoop of chai and a scoop of chocolate. We were in ice cream heaven.

Dare I saw that it was better than the San Crispino gelateria in Rome? Maybe it wasn't quite that good. But it's close.

Jellyfish Salad and Oodles of Noodles

I am only half-joking when I say that I plan our weekend get-aways around food. I don't JUST plan our itineraries to surround good food, but I certainly incorporate as much good food as I can. So, for our Valentines' weekend trek to the Bay Area, I made sure to include some exciting eating experiences. Because our first stop was the Cal Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, I typed "local favorite Golden Gate Park" into Google and came up with a list of spots. After reading a bunch of reviews on Yelp - and remembering that noodles for Chinese New Year are traditional - I settled on San Tung Noodle House in the Inner Sunset.

Watching Dylan devour his noodles reminded me of a Federico Fellini quotation, at least it’s attributed to him – “live life spherically and with childish enthusiasm and things will come your way.” Childish enthusiasm, indeed. Riley was definitely not as enthused by the jellyfish salad that had intrigued him on the menu. I'm pretty sure that the texture was off-putting. The taste of the jellyfish itself seemed to be incredibly bland; all you could really taste was the dressing, a sweetened soy sauce-based dressing with lots of cilantro. I enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Hot For You", a Valentine basket for my hottie

For my love, a few reminders to always keep it spicy! Jacob's goodie basket includes (1) table water crackers with cracked pepper - and a note that we'll pick something up at the Cheeseboard to spread on them; (2) dark chocolate bars infused with spices, one with chipotle, the other with chili and lime; (3) a spicy apple mustard, (4) rainbow peppercorns; (5) a box of organic candied ginger for a sweet and spicy treat; (6) chocolate-covered cinnamon sticks; (7) heart-shaped pasta with a note that I'll whip up some pasta arrabiata for him.

"You're TEA-rrific" Valentines Basket

Riley's basket is centered around tea and includes: (1) a ceramic mug; (2) a tea infuser; (3) a pewter tea-themed bookmark with recycled glass beads; (4) a bag of loose leaf tea; (5) a tea-infused chocolate bar; (6) Devonshire cream and orange blossom honey with a note that I will make him homemade, heart-shaped scones.

"Nuts About You" Valentine Basket

The Valentine basket I put together for Dylan contains:

(1) a tube of marzipan with a note that I will make any shaped goodies he would like. I've made mushrooms and bugs for him before. We'll see what he comes up with this time.

(2) Sesame almonds from Trader Joe's

(3) orange-honey almonds from the Stackhouse Bros. from the farmers' market

(4) Dutch butter-almond cookies.

And (5) a dark chocolate and hazelnut bar.


I'm Nuts about Dylan!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls to Put Under My Leftover Marscarpone Cream

I decided to make cinnamon rolls to use up the leftover marscarpone cream from the whole wheat Twinkies! Yes, in case you're wondering, the cinnamon rolls are whole wheat, too.

1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups white whole wheat flour

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans, divided
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
Directions
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter and salt; stir until melted. Let cool until lukewarm.

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, milk mixture, eggs and 1 1/2 cup flour; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

While dough is rising, melt 3/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in 3/4 cup brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Pour into greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle bottom of pan with 1/2 cup pecans; set aside. Melt remaining butter; set aside. Combine remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup pecans, and cinnamon; set aside.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, roll into an 18x14 inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter, leaving 1/2 inch border uncovered; sprinkle with brown sugar cinnamon mixture. Starting at long side, tightly roll up, pinching seam to seal. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. With serrated knife, cut into 15 pieces; place cut side down, in prepared pan. Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in pan for 3 minutes, then invert onto serving platter. Scrape remaining filling from the pan onto the rolls.

Homemade Twinkies

The idea of ingesting something that could theoretically survive a nuclear winter is a little unnerving, but when a friend requested 'homemade Twinkies' for his birthday cake, I had to do it. Probably should not have used whole wheat flour. But then we wouldn't have laughed as hard as we did. The marscarpone cream was tasty.

6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1-3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat 6 mini loaf pans with pan spray. Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Set the
bowl over a pot of simmering water, and whisk it continuously until the eggs are warmed and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and continue whisking until thick, foamy and pale yellow.
Sift flour and salt over eggs all at once, and fold together, being careful not to deflate. Transfer batter to prepared pans, filling 3/4 full. Bake until golden brown and firm, about 15-20 minutes. Cool cakes 10 minutes, and while still warm, invert to remove from pan. Brush each cake with simple syrup, then cool completely.

The cream filling...
1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 T vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4] cup heavy whipping cream
Marscarpone cream

Cream butter in a large bowl with a sturdy spoon or electric mixer until smooth and lump free. Add vanilla. Slowly add half the powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add half the cream, and mix well. Add the remaining sugar and marscarpone. Beat until fluffy. Makes about 5 cups.

Coconut Chutney's Cooling Effect

Palauan food, at least the dishes I selected, were a blend of spicy and sticky and in need a cooling counterpart. Fresh coconut chutney was the perfect foil.

2 cups freshly grated coconut
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
sea salt to taste
Method:
Combine ingredients and keep in fridge until ready to serve. Will keep for 1-2 weeks.

Lentil and Potato Curry
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
4 cardamom
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 small chillies, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp curry powder
1 cup dry lentils
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
salt to taste
1 tomato, chopped
3 cups water

Directions
In a medium size pot, heat the olive oil then add the onions, cumin, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Cook over medium heat, stirring for one minute. Add the minced garlic, tumeric, chillies, ginger and curry powder. Stir and cook for another minute. Add the lentils, potatoes, salt and water. Stir and cover. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils and potatoes are both tender, adding water if necessary. Add tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes more. Serve with rice.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Not Frozen, No Sprinkles

Not having had a chocolate covered banana before, I had no idea that they were supposed to be frozen or that they had cute little sprinkles on them.

So, when Jacob asked for a chocolate-covered banana for dessert, I melted some dark chocolate in a double boiler, peeled a banana from the fruit bowl, skewered it, and rolled it in the chocolate.

Mine weren't this pretty, but Jacob said it hit the spot. That's all that matters, right?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Burgers and Beets

I know people like different things on their burgers. For instance, Jacob loves bacon and bleu cheese on his; Dylan likes ketchup and mustard while Riley slathers on the relish.

I like to think that I'm fairly open-minded and culinarily adventurous - hence the name of my blog. And there are very few things I've eaten that I wouldn't eat again. But today I had an Aussie-style burger that I really did not enjoy.

Oddly, when I came home to read more about beets on burgers, I stumbled across articles about Aussies and Kiwis topping their burgers with beets, grilled pineapple rings, AND a fried egg. Wow.

I love burgers and am passionate about beets. But beets on my burger...I won't be repeating that anytime soon.

For all you carnivores, how do you like your burger?!?

Soup on a Winter Night

Nothing says 'cozy' like homemade soup on a winter evening.

Tonight I made a tomato-brown rice soup with garlicky croutons, fresh oregano, and feta cheese.

SUPER SIMPLE TOMATO SOUP

chicken boullion
tomato sauce (I always have tetras of Pomi on hand for mid-week dinners when I don't have time to make a fresh sauce)
fresh oregano
sea salt

Add cooked brown rice to the soup, bring to a simmer, and serve with homemade croutons and a sprinkling of cheese.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cin Cin Cinema

And while we're on the subject of foodie flicks, movies about wine also top my list of favorites.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the novel Sideways, the movie left much to be desired. But I loved Bottle Shock! Based on a true story, the film depicts 1976's "Judgment of Paris," the cataclysmic upset that changed the world of wine world forever; a Napa-based vintner beats out his French counterparts in a historic blind taste test.

Cin Cin, baby! What are your favorite films about wine?

Favorite Foodie Flicks?

"The spaghetti doesn't come with meatballs?!"
"No, sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone."

It probably comes as no surprise that I love foodie flicks. Tonight, after everyone fell asleep, I popped Big Night into the DVD player. An Italian restaurant whose food is too authentic, Stanley Tucci, and Tony Shalhoub. Need I say more?

Other favorites: Woman on Top, Chocolat, Like Water for Chocolate.

What's your favorite foodie flick?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh Goodness, My Guinness!

Had I not been roped into making homemade Twinkies for the birthday boy this weekend, I had planned to make a chocolate-Guinness concoction. Then I had to go and ask him for his favorite cake...

2 cups Guinness
2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups white whole wheat flour
4 cups raw sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

Frost with a dark chocolate ganache. And serve it with a pint of - what else?!? - Guinness.

Chocolate + Hazelnut = Pure Delight

Speaking of Frangelico, I make a spiked chocolate mousse that is absolutely decadent.

INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ pounds semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate
½ C espresso
½ C Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur from Italy)
4 egg yolks
1 C heavy cream
¼ C sugar
8 egg whites
pinch of salt


PROCEDURE:
Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler or bain marie over low heat. Stir in the espresso and liqueur. Cool to room temperature. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time.

Whip the cream until thick. Gradually add the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the cream.

Fold the egg white-whipped cream mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into individual serving glasses and refrigerate for – at least – 2 hours before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

Loving Baskets

Maybe it was those years working as a florist, but I used to truly despise Valentines' Day. Red roses made me cringe. And before I was pregnant with Riley, I never ate chocolate. So, a holiday whose trademarks were things I deplored wasn't big in my books.

I still maintain that people need to tell each other how much they love one another EVERY day, not just on the 14th of February, but I have forged some fun traditions for my three favorite Valentines. And, naturally, it's centered around food. I still don't like red roses.

Each year, I create a food-themed basket for each of my boys. Last year I made a "Bananas 'Bout You" basket for my littlest monkey, that included plantain chips, dried bananas, banana bread, and more; for Riley, it was a "You're the Apple of My Eye" basket full of fresh apples, apple rings, and apple cider. Jacob received a "We're quite a Pear!" with chocolate-pear-infused truffles, dried pears, and a hard pear cider.

I haven't quite decided on the boys' baskets for this year, but Jacob is getting an "I'm NUTS About You" basket. I'm thinking a bottle of Frangelico, hazelnut coffee, homemade biscotti laden with nuts, Moroccan-spiced nuts, and more...

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