ZUCCHISAGNA: A TWIST ON A CLASSIC

I don’t think there is such a thing as a person who doesn’t like lasagna. I may have already mentioned that the technician of the lab where I did my PhD in Brazil did not like chocolate nor french fries. Outrageous! She still loved lasagna, proving the point I just made. I hope you’ll let this stretch in Logic 101 slide… :wink: Anyway, I am a lover of this Italian classic, but it’s one of those dishes that can make you feel super full at the end of the meal, even if you exercise severe portion control. Layers of pasta with bechamel, meat sauce, usually a pound of cheese per square inch…. I never order it in restaurants, and confess to making it at home only once in a blue moon. Using thin slices of veggies to play the role of the pasta lightens things up quite a bit. You can use eggplant, butternut squash (Anne Burrell has a great take on this version, BTW), and of course, zucchini as I did here.  A couple of details are important to keep in mind, though. You must pre-cook the zucchini slices or you’ll run the risk of having a watery, unappetizing concoction in your hands. And use a light hand on the cheese.  The delicious meat sauce should be the center of  your attention. Vegetarians? This dish is not for you, sorry. Primal-afficionados? Grab your forks, and dig in!

Zucchisagna1ZUCCHINI RIBBON LASAGNA
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled plum tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
12 ounces ground turkey, preferably dark meat
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
5 medium zucchini, trimmed
olive oil and lemon juice for brushing zucchini
1 + 1/2  cups full-fat ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Make the sauce: Pulse tomatoes with juice in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook shallot and red-pepper flakes, seasoned lightly with salt, stirring occasionally, until shallot is tender. Add turkey; cook, breaking up any large pieces, until browned. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in oregano and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let cool.

Make the lasagna: heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta with the egg, season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Slice zucchini lengthwise into thin strips (about 1/8 inch thick) using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Brush each slice with a 1:1 mixture of olive oil and lemon juice, and cook on a griddle or grill pan for a few minutes on each side until the slices get some color. Blot on kitchen paper and let them cool to room temperature. Place 5 or 6 zucchini slices, overlapping slightly, in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 1 cup sauce. Dot with ricotta. Repeat twice with zucchini, remaining sauce, and ricotta, alternating direction of zucchini at each layer. Finish with a final layer of zucchini, cover the dish with ricotta, sprinkle the Parmigiano on top.

Bake uncovered until lasagna bubbles and top is nicely brown, about 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: As I read the recipe from Martha Stewart’s site, a few things bothered me. First, the use of raw zucchini to assemble the lasagna.  In my opinion, that is asking for trouble. Second, the ingredient lists TWO medium zucchini for the full recipe. Unless their zucchini was treated with massive doses of auxins, two won’t be enough.  I used 4 medium zucchini, 50% more ricotta than called for, and my ingredients were enough to assemble a 7-inch square dish instead of an 8-inch.  Of course, some variation is expected, but overall I think the recipe as published in her site had some issues. My version worked great, this was a delicious meal, satisfying without that feeling of “I am going to explode if I don’t go for a walk” often associated with the real lasagna.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but… when you want something lighter, try this version. It won’t disappoint you at all…

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Dinner is served: Zucchisagna with Baby Greens in Lemony Dressing

ONE YEAR AGO: Ricotta Meatballs

TWO YEARS AGO: Farro Salad with Roasted Leeks

THREE YEARS AGO: It all started with a roof

FOUR YEARS AGO: Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree

FIVE YEARS AGO: Impromptu Pasta Dinner

MY FIRST FRESH TRUFFLE ADVENTURE: POULET DEMI-DEUIL

Last month I showed you a gorgeous fresh black truffle received from a special reader of my blog, who prefers to stay anonymous. The package also included the right tool to shave it, and a bonus bottle of white truffle oil. I had to come up with a nice recipe to showcase this once-in-a-lifetime goodie.  After spending hours with cookbooks, magazines, and surfing the net, I finally found the recipe: a classic French dish called “Poulet Demi-Deuil“, which loosely translates as “chicken in half-mourning”. Morbid? Well, not really, the name is associated with the black truffle slices showing through the skin, like a black veil.  Let’s say it’s poetic, ok? Chicken DemiDeuil
POULET DEMI-DEUIL  (Truffle Braised Chicken)
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 oz. fresh black truffle
2 Tbs. Madeira wine; more as needed
One 2-1/2-lb.chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
4 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
2 medium carrots, peeled 2 large leeks (white parts only)
2 medium zucchini
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the truffle very thinly using a mandoline or a very sharp, thin-bladed knife and a steady hand. Put the slices in a small bowl, add the Madeira, and let soak briefly to moisten the truffles (making it easier to slide them under the chicken skin and giving them some Madeira flavor).

Strain the truffle in a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Reserve the liquid. Moisten your hands under cold running water and loosen the skin on the chickens’ breasts and thighs, carefully sliding your hands between the skin and meat.   Slide the truffle slices under the skin of the chicken breasts to cover them, then slide a slice or two under the skin of each thigh. Finely chop the remaining truffle slices and set aside for use in the sauce. Truss the chickens, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight to allow the truffles to flavor and perfume the chickens.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, then rub with the softened butter. Set on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 40 minutes. (The chicken will be underdone.) Pour the stock, reserved chopped truffle, and reserved Madeira into a ovenproof, flameproof casserole large enough to hold the chicken with some room to spare. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid is simmering and cook until reduced to about 2 cups;  about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the carrots and leeks into square segments, keeping them separate. Wash the leeks well. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and cut out the center portion by slicing down its length to remove 4 rounded sides. Discard the rectangular center portion and cut the outer portions into uniformly sized pieces. about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the strings from the chicken and set it in the casserole, breast side up. Add the vegetables, cover and braise at a simmer until fully cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Raise the heat in the pan with the stock and veggies to high, and cook until the broth has reduced a bit, about 5 minutes. Swirl in the cold butter, one cube at a time, to thicken and enrich it. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, Madeira, and/or lemon juice. Spoon some sauce and vegetables over the chicken on the serving platter and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite1 Comments: My hands were shaking as I started slicing the truffle. In a flash-back, I had this vision of my days as a pos-doc in Stanford, around 1988. At some point I needed to use a special reagent: it was an antibody chemically coupled to a gold particle that could be later visualized under the electron microscope. In those days, such reagents were tremendously expensive, and the P.I. of my lab was definitely not swimming in grant money. So, I knew I had to be VERY careful and not make any mistakes once I opened that tiny little container. My hands were shaking, I was hyperventilating, even feeling a bit queasy.  But, back to the chicken, even though no gold-labeled antibody was involved, I went through similar hyperventilation as I worked to stuff the delicate slices under the skin. skinstuffing Phil at first was looking over my shoulder, but at some point he said “I think I should leave you alone with the truffle“. Smart man. The soaking of the slices in Madeira wine is a must, not so much for flavor, but to allow the slices to slide easily under the skin. If you don’t do that each slice will crumble in tiny pieces, and that would make a polka-dot instead of a black veil. You don’t want that. composite2
Of course, for such a special recipe, I had to make chicken stock from scratch, and used my favorite method: chicken wings, carrots, celery, onions, some herbs, a smidgen of ginger. In a little over one hour I had a luscious stock, dense with gelatin, intensely flavored.   It would be a crime to join fresh truffles with something poured out of a can, don’t you agree?

Pointers for success:  First, do the truffle stuffing under the skin 24 hours before you plan to make the dish. You get a much more intense flavor of truffle through the meat by doing that. Do not skip this advice.  Second, soak the truffles in Madeira wine for the reasons I specified.  Third, make your own chicken stock.  Those are three simple details that will make this recipe really shine.  And you don’t want to cut corners when dealing with such delicacy…

tastybite
Even though the truffle flavor is present in every bite of the chicken and in the sauce that must be spooned all over your side dish of choice, when you get one of the actual slices in your mouth, it is heavenly! I found it quite interesting that the smell of the fresh truffle, especially as the days went by, was almost unpleasant. Strong, and pungent, like a Pont l’Eveque or a ripe Camembert. But the taste… sublime!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, my secret friend!  In the near future I will share two more recipes using the special gift you were so kind to send me…

ONE  YEAR AGO: My Rio de Janeiro: A cookbook review
TWO YEARS AGO: Hearts of Palm Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
THREE YEARS AGO: Watercress Salad
FOUR YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup
FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Bread

YOU PUT WHAT IN YOUR WHAT?

Criticizing is easy, it comes naturally to most of us, I guess.  I’ve done my share of criticizing The Food TV Network, going on and on about the good old times when their shows were actually about cooking, not endless competitions. One example: Cutthroat Kitchen.  I mean, here we have a guy like Alton Brown, who joined the network with the goal of showing home cooks the science behind food preparation, the tricks of developing a perfect recipe. Now, he hosts a show I find incredibly silly.  And I am not alone. Hummm, did I say I was done with criticism?  Sorry, I got carried away.  I am here to actually praise The Kitchen, a weekly show on FoodTV I enjoy quite a bit. One of the things I like is the sense of spontaneity behind it. Marcela Valladolid is charming, adorable, knowledgeable, and I am a huge fan of Geoffrey Zakarian. Jeff Mauro is witty, and seems like a very genuine person, the more I watch the show, the more I like him. They have features like Tool Takedown, interesting and fun. The whole idea is to test a gadget that is supposed to perform a specific task, say peel apples. One person will use it and another will grab a veggie peeler or a regular knife, and they compete to see who does it better and/or faster. For the most part, they demonstrate that single-use gadgets are a waste of money and storage space. I also love a feature called  “You Put What in your What?”. As the name indicates, it involves unusual additions to recipes, or crazy food combinations.  And that brings me to this post. I hope you’re ready for it.

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I know, it scared me too! But, please, don’t run away screaming.  These cookies are delightful, the pictures do absolutely no justice to them.  I baked them early in the morning while the kitchen was still dark and had to take pictures under very unforgiving lights.  You’ll need to make the dough at least 4 hours before baking, the day before is even better, so plan accordingly.  I found the recipe at the The Spice House website. Of course, being the spice cookie lover that I am, and reading the rave reviews of those who made them, I could not wait to bake a batch.

Curry Cardamon Cookies

CURRY CARDAMON COOKIES
(adapted from The Spice House website)

Yields approximately 6 dozen cookies

(I made half the recipe and got 30 cookies)

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted, chopped

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture, a third at a time. Stir in nuts.

Divide dough into four rolls and wrap each in waxed paper. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (may also be frozen).

Slice into ¼-inch slices and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown, 12-14 minutes. Let cookies cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to a rack to cool thoroughly.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

rolls
I often tell our students to read the protocol carefully before starting a new experiment. Sometimes it would be nice to listen to my own advice.  The bit of “refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours” caught me unprepared. It was 9 pm and my intention was to bake them before going to sleep. Instead, I had to stick the dough in the fridge and resort to plan B: turn the oven on at 5:30am next day…    Oh, well…

They puff quite a bit while baking and release a fantastic aroma that will fill  your home with joy and tail-wagging dogs.

baking
Can you tell there is curry in them?  I doubt it. Actually Phil could, but I suspect he’s got a mass spectrometer in his nose, that man identify smells like nobody’s business. Our students thought they had ginger. I wish the pictures turned out better, but trust my words: these are GREAT cookies.  You know why I say that? I normally have one cookie of every batch I bake, no matter how tasty.  This was a FOUR COOKIE downfall.  I had four. One at home to make sure they were good enough to share, and the others during our lab meeting. They seem so harmless, but in my opinion they join all goodness a  cookie should have: sweetness that is not cloying, and a peppery, salty, addictive taste that mixed with the walnuts makes you go back for just one more. Maybe three.

cooling

This is another example of a cookie that will not win a beauty contest, I admit. But please, make them, share with friends, and dare them to guess the secret ingredient!

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, March 2014

TWO YEARS AGO: The Blogger and the Shrink

THREE YEARS AGO: The Wheat-Berry Transmogrification

FOUR YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Roasted Onion and Asiago Cheese Miche

BISCOTTI FOR A BABY SHOWER!

Biscotti Baby ShowerToday I have a special post for you!  We are throwing a virtual baby shower for a great food blogger I got to know through the Secret Recipe Club, Tara,  from Tara’s Multicultural Table. We are all baking biscotti for this party. Why biscotti, you may ask? Well, it is her second baby, and these are twice baked cookies: a natural choice!  Wanna see what I came up with? Here they are:

MapleWalnutBiscotti

I was quite excited to participate, because – believe it or not – I’d never made biscotti from scratch. But first, let me share a story. My first time enjoying biscotti was in 1991, during a visit to Italy. The best possible place to get acquainted with this delicacy, if you ask me.  I had given a seminar in a big vaccine biotech company, and they took me out for a fantastic dinner later that evening. After dinner, where vino was flowing freely, someone insisted that we should all head to a bar so that I could try biscotti dunked in grappa. I knew nothing about either entity, but quickly realized that they complement each other perfectly. The biscotti are hard, but the grappa softens it. And the sweetness of the biscotti masks quite well – maybe too well –  the alcohol in the grappa. Of course, after dunking, you’re supposed to drink the leftover grappa with the little tiny bits of biscotti that found their way to the bottom of the glass. Great food, vino, grappa, all framed by the beauty of Tuscany! Good thing I had already given my talk at that point, and was in full “dolce far niente” mode. At any rate, it was a magical evening. I remember a complete sense of awe as I walked back to my hotel under the most amazing full moon shining over the streets of Siena.  One of those perfect moments that stay with you forever. Since biscotti are so dear to my heart, I spent quite a bit of time debating which kind to bake for Tara’s baby shower. Of course, keeping it all baby-friendly, I’ll ask you to skip that dunking in grappa.  Unless there’s a full moon outside, then all bets are off… ;-)

tray

MAPLE WALNUT BISCOTTI
(from Susan Russo, for NPR)

Makes about 36 biscotti

for the biscotti:
2 cups unsalted walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing tops of loaves
3 tablespoons maple extract

for the icing:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Set aside.

In a large bowl, hand mix toasted walnuts, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Add maple extract and whisk until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times. Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Shape as a ball and divide it into 4 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough, and using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4 of an inch high. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with remaining three pieces of dough. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing, using a large serrated knife. Cut 3/4-inch-thick slices, using a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. Each loaf should yield 9 to 11 cookies.

Place slices on their sides back on to the baking sheets; place in the still warm oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30 to 60 minutes. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

To make the maple icing, mix the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup in a small bowl and whisk briskly until the icing is smooth and opaque and clings to the back of a spoon. Dip a teaspoon into the icing and drizzle the spoon back-and-forth over the biscotti. Allow to dry completely before storing. Store biscotti in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I was a bit nervous about this baking adventure, because I know that biscotti can be tricky to make, and that very few things are worse than bad biscotti, right?  I fell in love with the flavors of this recipe because anything with maple makes me all warm inside, and walnuts only make it better.  I suppose most people go crazy for chocolate, but I usually opt for other flavors in sweets.  The recipe called for maple extract, because it has a more concentrated flavor, so I was “forced” to place an order for some. It smells amazing!

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One of the tricky things about biscotti is slicing them after the first bake. You are supposed to wait for 20 minutes, and use a good quality serrated knife for the job. Worked great, I had no problems. By the way, I made half the recipe, and ended up with 18 biscotti, some quite small, cut from the edges. They are also called “sacrificial biscotti”. Honest. Not making that up.

I went for a double type of icing, the maple called for in the recipe, and then a drizzle of chocolate for cosmetic purposes.  But, after tasting them, I do think the chocolate drizzle did more than beautify them. The taste complements the maple and walnuts quite well.

dunking

Now that I am older, not necessarily wiser, I dunk my biscotti into a steaming hot cup of cappuccino… Great way to start any day!

Tara, I hope this virtual Baby Shower brought a big smile to your face, we certainly had a great time planning and making sure it was kept secret until today…

And here I share  the collection of biscotti from all virtual secreters who joined this party:

Biscotti Bites from Nicole at I am a Honey Bee

Blueberry Pecan Biscotti from Renee at Magnolia Days

Cinnamon Biscotti from Lauren at Sew You Think You Can Cook

Cranberry Pistachio biscotti from Stacy at Food Lust People Love

Dark Chocolate Orange Biscotti from Amy at Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Green Tea Biscotti Cookies from Rebekah at Making Miracles

Jam-Filled Mandelbrot from Kelly at Passion Kneaded

Maple Walnut Biscotti from Sally at Bewitching Kitchen

Nut-Free Anise Biscotti with Chocolate Chips from Susan at The Wimpy Vegetarian

Orange and Dark Chocolate Biscotti from Lynsey at Lynsey Lou’s

Orange, Date, and Almond Biscotti from Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscotti from Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Spa Water from of Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious

Biscotti Baby Shower

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

FIVE YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB: HERBED GOAT CHEESE SOUFFLES

 

Herbed Goat Cheese Souffle
Last Monday of February, a month that used to be my favorite. Summer in Brazil, carnival (not that I was that much into it, but still, a big break from work in the height of the summer was always well-received). That all changed 23 years ago, when I first moved to France and then, a couple of years later permanently to the US.  February is now a month I do my best to survive. I count the days for it to be over to get some hope of life percolating back into my veins. ANYWAY, I am sure you are not here to read me whine and pout. Instead, you are here for the reward of a revelation: which blog was my assignment for this month’s adventure with The Secret Recipe Club: it was the The Wimpy Vegetarian!  I literally screamed with joy when I got the email notification, because as a regular reader of Susan’s blog, I felt totally at home “stalking” it.  You should visit her “About” page, but let me just say that when she decided to become a vegetarian, or as she put it “to focus more on a plant-based diet“, her husband was not exactly thrilled. He went along with it for a while, but at some point started referring to “farro” as “horse food“. No bueno, folks. But Susan fought back using all the culinary skills accumulated from her classes at Tante Marie Cooking School, and turned veggie dishes (horse food included) into concoctions her husband could not resist. She succeeded big time, and her blog is there to show us how. There were so many dishes I bookmarked as tempting possibilities, but I narrowed them down to these:  Rustic Cauliflower and Tomato Gratin, Arepas Rellenas (I even have the special flour to make them, so I must get to this recipe at some point), Skillet Baked Corn Pudding, Farinata (another recipe I’m always dreaming about), Sweet Potato Biscuit Pillows (excuse me, I need to wipe drool off the side of my mouth), Broccoli-Cheddar Quinoa Casserole Tart. Susan is a fantastic cook and often enters – and wins – cooking contests, so pretty much anything on her site feels quite special.  Pay her a visit, and become a subscriber, even if you are not a strict vegetarian.

For my assignment, I went with very elegant Herbed Goat Cheese souffles. They turned out amazing!

baked

HERBED GOAT CHEESE SOUFFLE
(from The Wimpy Vegetarian)

1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
zest from 1/2 medium lemon
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh soft goat cheese
1 ounce ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (I used 4)
butter for the ramekins

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prep the ramekins by smearing them with butter and sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on the bottoms and around the sides. Set aside.

Rub the dried lavender between your fingers to reduce as much as half of the buds to a powder. Combine this with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, ricotta, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, thyme, honey, egg yolks, milk and flour together. Stir well to completely combine. Add to the reserved lavender mixture.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites just to a firm peak. Be careful not to get them too firm, or they’ll be difficult to fold into the cheese-yolk mixture. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cheese-yolk mixture in thirds using a large spatula. It’s fine to have lumps of egg whites in the mixture – it will not be smooth. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and fill the dish with hot water one-half the way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully spoon the cheese-egg mixture into the ramekins, filling them 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned on top and springy – firm to the touch. Remove and allow to cool in the ramekins for 15 minutes. The souffles will collapse and start to pull away from the sides of the ramekins. Run a knife around their edges and turn the ramekin upside down. The souffle should slide right out.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: What I loved the most about the recipe was the inclusion of lavender. It gave the souffle a sort of unusual component, Phil could not guess what it was, but once I told him it was lavender he could detect it. You need to add just a small amount, it is quite potent, don’t go crazy with it.  I was also surprised by the method of preparing the base, as I always make a bechamel type sauce. For this recipe, you mix it all and do not pre-cook, it goes straight into the oven, in a water-bath environment. Because I was afraid the mixture was a bit too liquid, I added double the amount of flour.  Not sure it was necessary, but they ended up with a very nice texture, and un-molded easily.

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This is the type of recipe that would be perfect for entertaining, or for that special dinner for two, candlelight and all… a first date, a first year anniversary, you catch my drift.  Any meal will be special when these are part of the menu!

Susan, it was a great pleasure to indulge a little more deeply into your blog, I hope you also had a blast with your assignment this month…

For my readers, the usual reminder to poke the blue frog at the end of my post. She will take you to plenty of great recipes made by my fellow virtual friends at The Secret Recipe Club.

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo (one of the best breads I ever made!)

 

 

OTTOLENGHI IN BRAZIL?

Was he really there?  Not that I am aware of, but his salads were part of my niece’s meals every single day we stayed there last Thanksgiving.  My youngest niece Raquel is a fantastic cook and has a ton of energy: with three young kids, she still finds time to make bread, bake all sorts of sweets (cakes included, she’s got the right genes), and exercise on a regular basis. Phil and I stayed with her, her hubby Celso and the kids during part of our last visit, and we were treated like royalty! She also hosted a lunch for our whole family that consisted of Brazilian classics like feijoada, pastéis, mandioca frita, farofa, mashed plantains, and a chocolate mousse with cachaça that swept Phil off his feet.  Almost literally. Not the type of dessert appropriate for kids, mind you…    Knowing that my goal was to leave Brazil with the exact same weight I had upon my arrival, she prepared several salads from Plenty, so that I could resort to a light meal every once in a while. My favorite was a salad with dates and chèvre, so when I arrived back home, I sat down with Jerusalem, Plenty, and Plenty More to be properly inspired.

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BABY GREENS SALAD WITH DATES, ORANGES AND ALMONDS
(modified from Ottolenghi & Tamimi Jerusalem cookbook)

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 ½ ounces pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
2 large navel orange segments
2 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sumac
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces baby greens
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt

Put the vinegar and dates in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and toss mixing well. Leave to marinate for about 15 minutes, then drain and discard any of the residual vinegar. Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the slivered almonds, season lightly with salt, and cook until dark golden.  Place them on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with sumac and red pepper flakes. allow it to cool.

When ready to serve the salad, place the baby greens in a large bowl. Add one tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat the leaves with dressing. Add the oranges, and dates, tossing it all gently again. Top with the almond mixture and the sesame seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  if you have Jerusalem, this version was a departure from his spinach salad with dates and toasted pita bread.  I am sure it is even more delicious, but I kept it simple this time, and used a nice coating with sesame seeds, plus orange segments which I think go very well with the dates.  I love the unique flavor that sesame seeds impart to dishes.  We have an Oriental grocery store in town that sells HUGE bottles of plain, toasted, and black sesame seeds from the Middle East for a great price, so I make sure to never run out of them.

And now, time to share a few shots of that wonderful lunch that joined my whole family: two sisters, one brother-in-law, four nieces (two with their respective husbands), 5 of my 6 grandnephews, and of course, my Mom presiding like a Queen over all of us.

FeijoadaFeijoada, a Brazilian classic…

All the “usual suspects” that are mandatory to go with it…

FeijoadaStuffOrange segments, shredded “couve” (similar to kale), farofa, white rice…

MandiocaFritaMandiocaServedMandioca frita, to die for!

PasteisPastéis, of three kinds: ground beef, cheese, and hearts of palm…
Choose your ticket to paradise!

Plantains2My first time enjoying this delicacy:  mashed plantains… very very tasty!

SaladOne of Ottolenghi’s salads….  nice counterpart for so many rich dishes!

MousseChocolateLa pièce de resistance…. Chocolate Mousse with Cachaça….
a complete dream in chocolate form!

MomNailsMy Mom’s 91-year-old hands…
I guess it’s clear where my fascination with nail polish comes from…

Mom&Me2One more visit that went by too fast… Until next time, Keep Calm and Carry On…  

Before I say goodbye, a little note to tell you that I just started a Facebook page for the Bewitching. It is a bit strange to start a page for a blog that is almost 6 years old, but I joined a Facebook group of bloggers and they advised me to do so.  If you want to like the Bewitching on FB, just click on the link on the right side. Thank you!

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

TWO YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

THREE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

RED VELVET CUPCAKES

If you are not completely overwhelmed by the influx of sweets, chocolates,  strawberries, and heart-shaped things in the blogosphere, you could be now, because I am adding one more shockingly red item to the 26.2 mile-long list. But, how could I resist joining this party, when I baked a batch of these:

RedVelvetCupcakes1
Aren’t you absolutely amazed?  Aren’t they cute? Did you notice the icing? Can you believe “I” made them? So many questions, I know… but you have to be amazed. Because I certainly am. Granted, this baking adventure was not drama-free.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(from Kristine’s Kitchen)

**recipe makes 24 cupcakes, I halved all amounts for a batch of 12**

for the cupcakes:
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 ounce) red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

for the cream cheese frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese (straight from refrigerator do not soften)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 – 3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine eggs, oil, buttermilk, red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat first on low-speed and then on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners, filling each a little over halfway full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 16-18 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in pans for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Beat together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and mix on low-speed until incorporated, and then medium-high speed until frosting reaches desired consistency, about 3 more minutes. For a stiffer icing, add more powdered sugar. Beat in the vanilla extract. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes as desired. Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

baked

The stunning paper linings were a gift from our friend Cindy. I decided to trim their tops after baking to make it easier to frost the cakes. I know my limitations.

iced
Everything was going on well, until it was time to frost the cakes. I was set on doing a good job on these, so I bought myself a pastry bag. Not a fancy one, but a disposable, single use plastic type. I filled the bag with the cream cheese frosting,  took a deep breath, and went to work.  All went smoothly for the first two babies, then all of a sudden, I squeezed and squeezed, and nothing came out of the pastry bag’s tip.  I told myself – you are a P90Xer, you can certainly squeeze harder than that! – and that’s when I felt a moist, cold, sticky feeling on my wrist, the consequence of frosting that had found its way up instead of down, and not satisfied to reach midway through my arm, was now splashing on the floor.

Not sure if you ever had to deal with this type of situation, but there’s only one word to describe it: messy.  Very messy.  The bag gets slippery, the frosting refuses to compact down, and the Jack Russell gets overly agitated from the sudden intake of sugar. Chaos in the Bewitching Kitchen. Still, only one little cake was lost in that battle, due to jerky movements on my part and the merciless Law of Gravity.

These cupcakes were moist, tender, and the frosting complemented them quite well. The only problem was the decoration added on top. It turns out that those sugar pearls were rock hard.  I thought they would more or less melt in the mouth, but… not the case. More the dental filling destroyer kind. I will use a different type of sprinkle next time.  Because obviously there will be a next time. And when that next time arrives, I intend to do as pros do, and twist the top of the pastry bag. It’s all in the details, my friends.  :smile:

BuckBoy

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

ONE YEAR AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

TWO YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

THREE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food