Monday, December 31, 2012

Cooking Ambitions for 2013

I read this list of cooking ambitions for 2013 and really liked a few of them. Editing their list, I resolve to:

Stop being afraid of making cakes. 
When I first met Jake, I told him that I didn't bake; it took too much precision and I don't really have a sweet tooth. But now that I have kids - and I refuse to let them eat store-bought cakes with more frosting than taste - I do make cakes.

Dylan's Birthday Bûche de Noël

Make friends with dough, especially sourdough.
I have made progress on this front, even making my own baguettes this year. But sourdough...yes, that's on my to-cook list this year.

Baguettes, Colwin-Style

Use our slow-cookers way more.
I don't own a slow-cooker. Sorry, Soraya. It was the victim of our great downsize...and I don't miss it.

Make sauerkraut.
Hmmm...I love sauerkraut. Okay, I'm on board with this goal.

Continue our quest to love anchovies.
Salty, little buggers. Okay. I'll find a few more ways to use these than on top of pizza!

Drink more/learn more about wine, especially white wine, because we sometimes ignore it.
I am guilty of ignoring whites, certainly. So, I'll agree to this one.

Here's a Cima Collina wine from the Pop-Up at La Balena...

Sharpen our knives more often (doing it ourselves, on the wet stone) instead of just complaining that they're getting dull.
No arguments here.

Cook at least one recipe from all the cookbooks we "collect" and never use.
I'm glad to see that I am not the only one with this affliction. My cookbook collection is out of control, especially since I began reviewing cookbooks this year. My solution: I took a bunch of cookbooks off my shelf - some have never been opened - and decided that they would find homes with other friends as gifts. For instance, I'll put an Italian cookbook in a basket with some pastas and other Italian necessities. Makes sense, right?

My first cookbook review for Quirk Books: 
Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever

Buy one new kind of cheese per week. Think about it, that's 52 new kinds of cheese in a year.
No need to say anything here. Caseophiles'R'Us. Just yesterday we went to The Cheese Shop and I said, verbatim, "Okay, boys, I know you have your favorites, but I want you to try at least one new-to-you cheese today." Riley discovered that he really like a Sicilian peppercorn pecorino while Dylan found a local Swiss-style from Schoch Dairy in Salinas that is his new favorite!


Eat all our produce before it rots.
Most of the time I'm not guilty of this, but it does happen from time to time, especially when I shove things into the bottom shelf and forget what's behind them. Whoops.

Have a fondue party.
Is is a party if it's just my family?!? We love fondue. Who doesn't like dipping, dunking, and swirling?

Cook more, but really cook (pizzas and quiches don't count).
I don't think I need to cook more, per se. But I do need to cook more with purpose. We only managed to make it through the Ks on our Cooking Around the World Adventure. We need to knock off the rest of the globe this year.


Make vin d'orange for summer entertaining. (Vin d'orange is a dangerously strong cocktail, that tastes just right on a summer day. It takes a couple of months to make, and so requires thinking ahead.)
I have no idea what vin d'orange is. That, in itself, makes it a worthwhile resolution for me! I'll keep you posted.

Start composting.
Once we get back into a real house with a real yard, this is a no-brainer. For now, in our postage-sized townhouse. I'll just have to be a little less green. Sorry, Earth.

Perfect our chicken tortilla soup recipe.
I don't like chicken tortilla soup.

Make spicy pickles.
This goes along with my 'make sauerkraut' resolution.

What are your 2013 cooking ambitions? I'd love to hear: constantmotioncamilla [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rose Harissa {Morocco}

Inspired by this recipe for Rose Harissa Moroccan Lamb and Flatbreads, I set about trying to track down rose harissa. It wasn't as easy to obtain as you would think. Harissa, yes. Rose harissa, no. So, I did what I always do when I hit an ingredient hurdle: I make it! Though that wasn't as easy as you would think either. I put out a call to a few of my gardener friends, asking for fresh roses, though this completely the wrong season for it. Two of the three I asked said, "Can you wait till May?" One said, "Well, I have a few." I'll take 'em! So, I drove over to Belle's house and, while Dylan fed her koi, I took every last bloom on her bush. Sorry, Randy!


I started with this harissa recipe and this rose harissa recipe, then, as expected, I did some swapping and swerving to come up with this - my own version of rose harissa.

4 C roasted red peppers, skinned and deseeded
1 t ground guajillo chile
2 t crushed garlic
1/2 C dried, organic, food-grade rose petals
1 C organic, food-grade rose petals (Thanks, Belle!)
peel from 1 clementine
pinch of saffron
1/2 t ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground coriander
2 t organic brown sugar
1 T rose water
1 t orange blossom water
2 T sesame seed oil
2 T olive oil

For toasting and grinding
8 whole cloves
2 star anise
1/4 t brown mustard seeds
1/4 t caraway seeds
1/4 t cumin seeds
4 cardamom pods








In a dry skillet, toast the above ingredients until they are aromatic and releasing their essential oils. Let cool, slightly, and grind in a spice or clean coffee grinder.

In a blender, in two batches, blend all of the ingredients form a smooth paste or sauce. Spoon into clean jars and top with a layer of olive oil. I garnished my jars with a few dried rose petals. Store in the refrigerator and use within a month.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apple Pie with a Gingerbread Crumble


Years ago - say, twenty five years! - my typical Friday night was to bake an apple pie with one of my best friends and, then, settle in for a night of watching romantic comedies. Yeah, we were real party animals. It's no wonder that the cool kids didn't invite us out for things such as rolling pumpkins down city streets! But we could recite every line from The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally.

I have no idea what recipe we used to use. This is what I used tonight.


Crust
2 C flour
1/2 C organic powdered sugar
3/4 C butter
4 T heavy whipping cream

Use a pastry cutter to cut the flour and powdered sugar into the butter, forming pea-sized chunks. Add the whipping cream until the dough comes together into a ball. Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper - to fit your pan with at least 1" overhang. Press the dough gently into the pan and trim the crust to the top of your dish. Flute the edges and reserve the dough for the topping. Place the crust in the freezer until the filling is ready.

Filling
2 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 t ground cinnamon
2 T butter

Stir the apples with the sugar and spices and scoop them into the chilled crust. Dot the apples with butter. Preheat the oven to 415 degrees.

Topping
leftover ninjabread dough
leftover crust dough (above)
1/4 C organic brown sugar

Use a pastry cutter to create pea-sized chunks with the topping ingredients. Top the pie with the gingerbread topping. Place strips of foil around the edges of the pie.

Bake for 45 minutes with the foil on. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, but serve warm.

Edible Flower Friday: Coming Up Roses

For December's Edible Flower Friday, I decided on roses - or, rather, rosewater. I am not a big fan of cut roses. It would be fair to say that I despise rose bouquets. Roses on bushes, I love, especially those small, potent Cecil Brunner roses; cut roses with ferns and baby's breath, are not beloved and my husband knows it. But that is another story.

I do, however, adore cooking with rosewater. It adds a little botanical intrigue to recipes and, really, doesn't actually taste like roses. Here are a few recipes from my blog...

Muhammar (Bahrainian Sweet Rice)
This sweet, sticky rice seemed an odd pairing with spicy fish on our tabletop travel to Bahrain. But it was actually quite delicious.




Last January we ended our Feast of Befana with this Spanish Epiphany Bread. 



I made this tomato jam for a Moroccan-flavored birthday party for Jake a few years back. 

And probably our favorite combination of flavors with rosewater is rosewater+raspberry. Here's my version of the...

from Cyprus


Do you like to cook with rosewater? If so, I'd love to hear your favorite recipe. Leave a comment or email me directly at constantmotioncamilla [at] gmail [dot] com. Or find me on twitter: @Culinary_Cam.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Churchkhela for New Year's Eve {Georgia}


Our final international treat for our Global Dessert Tasting menu, based on Global Table Adventure's new year's food suggestions - is a nut candy from the Caucausus Mountains in Georgia. Normally we quickly eat a dozen grapes to accompany the strokes of the clock at midnight - in Spanish, or Portuguese, style - but this year, we'll be getting our 'grape' on with churchkhela, a Georgian grape confection.

While Sasha's recipe looks fantastic, I wanted to simplify and find a recipe that used grape juice instead of me having to puree and drain grapes overnight. I still needed 3-4 days for it to dry. And since we're an anti-walnut household (don't ask!), I went with pecans.

40 pecans, approximately
6 C grape juice
3/4 C organic granulated sugar
1 C flour
Confectioners' sugar




I didn't have a needle. But I always have sterling silver jewelry wire. So I improvised and threaded my "needle" with heavy-duty thread. Riley and I carefully threaded the pecans onto our thread, looping it when we were finished.

In a large pot, combine the grape juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, then very gradually whisk the flour into the heated juice. Bring to a boil, again, stirring constantly. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly.



Rig something on which you can hang the nuts after they are dipped. I used a jewelry rack, but you can use a wire hanger or something like that. Be sure that there is something below that is either disposable or washable.

Dip the strand of nuts into the grape mixture, allowing the nuts to dry for 20-25 minutes or until the coating is slightly tacky. Return the nuts to the juice, which has been kept warm, and repeat the dipping process. Allow to dry again for 20-25 minutes or so. The drier the coating, the better the next layer will adhere.

Repeat the dipping process, 6 to 8 times, or until the nuts are completely coated. Leave to dry for 3 to 4 days, until the strands are no longer sticky to the touch. When dry, pull out the strings and dust it with confectioner's sugar.

To serve, cut the delicacy into rounds.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mexican Fruit Salad {¡Feliz Navidad!}


In the style of the refreshing fruit salads you can pick up at the puestos de frutas all over Mexico, I decided to make a Mexican fruit salad for our family's Mexican Christmas feast. It's hardly a recipe, but it is delicious!

Fruits, thinly sliced or julienned (I opted for pineapples and carrots)
salt
chili powder
lemon juice
pomegranate arils for garnish

Arrange the fruits on your serving platter, season with salt and chili powder. Drizzle with lemon juice. Garnish with pomegranate. Enjoy.

Champurrado {¡Feliz Navidad!}


On this grey and drippy Christmas afternoon, the boys were asking for hot chocolate. I decided that since we were heading out for our (larger) family potluck with a Mexican theme, this year, I could make champurrado - Mexican chocolate atole. Filipinos have a dish called champurrado, too, but it is completely different.

6 C milk
1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 C organic granulated sugar
1 C masa harina
cinnamon sticks for garnish

Whisk the milk, cocoa powder, and sugar together until smooth. Bring to a simmer. Whisk in the masa and cook until thickened. Serve in mugs with cinnamon sticks.

Figgy Pudding {Dickensian Christmas Eve}

I originally had Plum Pudding with a Hard Sauce on our Dickensian Christmas Even menu, but Nonna asked, "No figgy pudding...like the song?!?" Fine.


I started with this recipe for Warm Sticky Figgy Pudding, on the FoodNetwork's website, but I wanted more fig than date and didn't have any chocolate in the house - that was unwrapped and not destined for stockings, that is. So, I adapted quite a bit...

2 C dried figs
1 C dates

Cover the dates and figs with boiling water and steep till cool. Drain the liquid, but reserve 2 C for the recipe. Destem and deseeds the fruits and use a potato masher to create a paste.

In a large mixing bowl place the 2 C of liquid, 1 t baking soda, fruit mash, 1 C organic brown sugar, 2 T dark rum, and 2 eggs. Whisk until smooth. Butter your ramekins or other baking dishes.

Gently fold in 2 C white whole wheat flour, 1/2 C ground almonds, 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 t baking powder. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins - less than 3/4 full. It will rise.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes...until the top springs back to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert to unmold. Serve with a hard sauce and/or vanilla ice cream. We just had the ice cream...and mugs of Smoking Bishop.

Merry Christmas!





Roasted Goose {Dickensian Christmas Eve}

While our Thanksgiving menus are decidedly non-traditional, I decided to go ultra-traditional with a roasted goose being the centerpiece of our Christmas Eve dinner. One of my friends from high school is also making a goose this year; I'm sure we'll be swapping our challenges and our successes. This was delicious and moist!


Never having roasted a goose. I did a lot of reading while the goose defrosted for a day and a half, debating on cooking technique. In the end, my goose is the product of a multitude of recipes.

Step One: defrost the bird...oh, after you recover from your coronary of paying for the thing! Kathey mentioned that hers was pricey. Mine was, too, but it was worth it.

Step Two: To brine or not to brine? I opted not to brine, but I did rub our 11-pound bird with truffle salt and let it sit for 4 hours.

Step Three: Stuff. I am not a fan of stuffing cooked inside a bird. Can you say botulism?!? So, I stuff with whatever I have on hand to help my roast keep its shape. For this I used a whole pomegranate and two Meyer lemons. Also, in calculating cooking time, what I read instructed: 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes per pound. I cooked ours for 4-1/2 hours.


Step Four: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. I opted to steam the goose for the first hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Place 2 C of coffee and 4 halved lemons in the bottom of your roasting pan. Use something to keep the bird off the bottom of the pan; I placed mine on top of half a dozen watermelon radishes. Cover and roast for an hour.

Step Five: 2nd hour of cooking...I squeezed the juice from the roasted lemons over the bird and drained off the fat rendered during the first hour. Return to the oven, covered, for another hour.

Step Six: 3rd and 4th hours of cooking...drain off fat again. And return it to the oven for another 90 to 120 minutes. Baste with cooking liquid every 30 minutes.

Step Seven: Brown. For the last 30 minutes of roasting, rub butter over the exposed skin and return it to the oven uncovered. In the end, my goose was not very photogenic - the skin split over the breast, but it was amazingly tasty.

Step Eight: Carve and serve with gravy, stuffing, and whatever else you want.

Merry Christmas!

Smoking Bishop {Dickensian Christmas Eve}


At the very end of the beloved Charles Dickens holiday classic A Christmas Carol, a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge and his long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit share an oddly named libation: a smoking bishop.

"A Merry Christmas, Bob!" said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!"

The drink, as NPR's Neda Ulaby discovered when she interviewed Cedric Dickens, Charles's great-grandson and author of Drinking with Dickens, is hot, spiced wine similar to wassail — something like a mulled wine, scented with citrus and infused with port.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • same amount of water
  • 1/2 C organic dark brown sugar
  • juice from 4 roasted oranges + 1 roasted grapefruit
  • 8 T of mulling spices (cinnamon, cloves, all spice)

Procedure
Place all ingredients in a large souppot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let steep for another 30 minutes. Before serving. Pour in 1/2 bottle of port and warm.

We served this with our figgy pudding. Recipe to come. Cheers!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Revising the Dickens

After finding this 16th century recipe for mincemeat pie, I decided to nix mincemeat pies from our Christmas Eve Dickensian feast. Yuck. And yuck again. I'm sorry. I try to be open-minded about food, but this sounds so unappetizing to me - mutton, saffron, suet, vinegar, prunes, raisins, and dates...oh, and powdered beef broth.

I don't want to waste all that good fruit!


Pyes of mutton or beif must be fyne mynced & seasoned with pepper and salte and a lytel saffron to colour it
suet or marrow a good quantitie
a lytell vynegre
pruynes
great reasons
and dates
take the fattest of the broath of powdred beefe. 
And if you will have paest royall
take butter and yolkes of egges & so to temper the floure to make the paest.

Other changes: Nonna requested figgy pudding - like the song! - instead of plum pudding, so I changed from the brandy hard sauce to vanilla ice cream.

Bûche de Noël with Eggnog Slush



Every year I make a Bûche de Noël for my almost-Christmas baby's birthday. This year Dylan asked if I could add an eggnog glaze on top. Okay. And he was also in charge of the decorations this year. Let's just say 'less is more' is not his motto. This bûche had marzipan grubs, worms, holly leaves and berries, mushrooms, and gingerbread hearts!

I use Nick Malgieri's recipe in Perfect Cakes as my starting point. You can also find his recipe on the FoodNetwork website. His chocolate genoise is, well, perfect. Actually his book is aptly named; there is not a recipe in there that I've made that hasn't turned out just divine. I did opt for a marscarpone filling instead of the traditional coffee filling.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet:3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa

Butter and line a 10" x 15" jelly-roll pan with buttered parchment.

Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, test with your finger. Then whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.

The filling...1 container of marscarpone cream, 1 brick of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, 2 C powdered sugar, a splash of almond extract. Blend all together with a hand mixer. Spread evenly over cake layer.

Cocoa Buttercream Frosting...
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) butter, softened
To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Whip on medium speed until cooled. Add 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa. Beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.

Eggnog Glaze...
1/2 C organic powdered sugar
1 T eggnog

Whisk till smooth.

To assemble..
Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with the marscarpone filling. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Slice a piece from one end and place it on top of the log to make a branch stub. Frost with the buttercream, drizzle with glaze, and decorate with marzipan mushrooms, holly leaves, holly berries, and grubs and bugs.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ninjabread Men {Cookies}


When I posted that D was making ninjabreads, a friend asked, "What's ninjabread? I like the sound of it, and I'm curious...” I admitted that it’s nothing except gingerbread dough cut with cute lil’ ninja cookie cutters.


 












The Basic Dough...
1 C butter
1 C dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 C unsulphered molasses
6 C white whole wheat flour
1 C chestnut flour
2 T baking powder
1 T ground ginger

Melt the butter and whisk in the molasses, sugar, and eggs. Add dry ingredients and blend till you have a stiff dough. Split dough into quarters and roll into a ball. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll dough to desired thickness (I kept them fairly thick to withstand little hands) and cut out your pieces. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness.


Once they cooled, D decorated them with store-bought candy eyeballs and frosting. I know, I know…but he’s happy and I have more stuff to prep before the party.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blame the Mayans: End of Days Dinner

So, today is the day on which the Mayan calender ends. 12.21.12. Will the world end today? Not bloody likely. Why did they pick this date? Who knows! But I'll certainly commemorate this day with an end-of-the-world Mayan-inspired dinner.  Click on each title to go to the recipe post.

Image from laughtershub blog



Death by Chocolate Truffles {End of Days}



















Ingredients
  • 12 oz high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
  • pinch of fennel pollen
  • 1 T licorice liqueur
  • unsweetened cocoa powder


Procedure

In a small, heavy saucepan bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a separate bowl with fennel pollen and licorice liqueur. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk till smooth. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Roll half-teaspoon sized balls in your hands as quickly as you can. Roll in unsweetened cocoa. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight before serving.

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