IN MY KITCHEN: AUGUST 2016

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Following the footsteps of Celia (Fig Jam and Lime Cordial) who started this party now hosted by our friend Maureen (The Orgasmic Chef), I invite you for a small virtual tour of our kitchen. Maureen is taking a small break to recover from surgery, I know everyone is looking forward to having her back to the blogosphere next month. A warm hug going her way….

In our kitchen…

macadamias

Well, this was in our kitchen a while ago, it’s gone. When we were in Hawaii we grabbed a bag and were hopelessly hooked.  It is basically impossible to eat just eight. I am not too surprised that amazon has several kinds for sale, although it’s hard to justify the price they ask for it. Take a look with a click here.

In our kitchen…

FirstTomato

The first tomato produced in our garden!  Can you see how juicy it was?  We enjoyed it in full mindful eating mode, as it deserved…

In our kitchen…

noketchup

You might remember I used another type of Not Ketchup in my last post, the Cherry Chipotle. This one, Tangerine Hatch Chile is my favorite. Love it, love it, love it!  I used it in turkey miniloaves, I smeared it on top of hamburgers, grilled pork tenderloin, it’s a fantastic product.  Very low in carbs, just the right amount of spice. Go visit Erika’s blog to see all the different types she came up with.

In our kitchen….

tortillas
We got this tip from our friend Virginia. Instead of buying tortillas from the grocery store, she goes to a Mexican restaurant in town to grab bags of this brand.  The difference in quality is amazing indeed!  If you happen to find this brand where you live, give it a try. Intense corn flavor, perfect texture.  Unless you are going to make them from scratch, you cannot find a better option.  We buy two or three bags at a time, they also freeze pretty well.

In our kitchen….

scissors

A new pair of scissors.  I finally got tired of struggling with scissors that refuse to cut through plastic bags, or are too flimsy. These work great and look pretty good too.  I’m a happy camper!

In our kitchen….

bowl

A new bowl… I got mesmerized by its color and shape. It was on sale at Marshalls, and I could not resist bringing it home.

In our kitchen….

verjus

A new ingredient to play with. I’ve flirted with Verjus for years, but finally reading a post by my friend Elaine over at foodbod, I caved in and got some. Stay tuned for my adventures with it… Buck seems quite intrigued… Is that something I would like?

In our kitchen…

beets2

Roasted beets, made in our toaster oven early on a Saturday morning…  since Phil doesn’t care for beets that much, they were mine, all mine…   This batch lasted for several days, and I enjoyed over salads, mixed with a stir-fry of ground chicken, they add a tone of sweetness with their earthy flavor.  Love them!

In our kitchen….

Starter

Dan, my sourdough starter, got over-enthusiastic and wanted to take over the countertop!  I guess warmer temperatures will do that.  I put it to good use, there will be a post very soon about a certain sourdough bread… Stay tuned.

In our kitchen…

MisoEggplant

A work in progress… Eggplant cooked sous-vide and then finished with a miso-sesame glaze.  I need to perfect the recipe, it has potential, but my first two attempts ended with eggplant a bit too mushy for my taste. However, the sous-vide definitely gets rid of any bitter taste without the need to salt the eggplant.

In our kitchen….

crossoverscomposite

Different types of yogurt from Fage called Crossovers. They join unexpected flavors and are quite delicious. My favorite is the carrot-ginger with roasted pistachios.  I think these ingredients would go very well together in a salad…  Or once the weather cools… a warming soup. But, it goes without saying I am in no hurry to make soup. No hurry at all.

In our kitchen…

UncleVal

A bottle of Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin. The bartender at the golf club in our town made a Dry Martini for us using it and it is surprisingly floral. Totally different from any gin we’ve ever tried. Phil likes it more than I do, but if you are into mixed drinks, give it a try.

In our kitchen…

Herme

I blame it on our friend Gary, who “twisted my arm” to get this book. He said I needed it. Well, it is pretty fantastic, although each recipe, to be made exactly like the master does it, would need ingredients to be special ordered. Just to give you one example, the simplest Vanilla macaron shell requires not one, not two, but three different vanilla beans… Oh, the humanity! Still, it’s a masterpiece of a book, and I’m glad I did not resist.

In our kitchen…
Something that happens more times than I care to admit….

cartoon

Reprinted with permission from Abby Has Issues…  she does such great work! I follow her blog and Facebook page, and was thrilled when she gave me permission to share one of her cartoons.  The story of my life, honest!

And because life is not just about cooking, I shall talk lipstick! I don’t usually wear make-up, but I do love  a little lipstick.  The Cover Girl’s Oh Sugar line is amazing: shiny, smooth, feels great on the lips, and on top of it, they are very affordable. Our grocery store carries every single color available. After grabbing some avocados, tomatoes, I stopped by Cover Girl and grabbed Jelly and Punch. Is that cool or what?

lipsticks

 

I hope you enjoyed this little tour around our kitchen…  The pups are quite anxious to say hi to all of you, but first I want to share some bits of our past. 

 

Chief’s Stories

Chief1
Phil is a pretty good dog trainer. Back in Oklahoma when we had the sweetest dalmatian ever, Pits, he trained him to balance a treat on the nose. Pits would be static, waiting for the command “OK,” when he would flip the treat high up in the air and grab it.  Chief never had the patience for it, he could maybe hold it for one second but that was it.  Anyway, one day Phil is making Pits do his balancing trick, he placed the treat, held his hand up and kept saying… wait…. wait….. wait….  Just as he was going to give the OK command, Chief dashed running like a maniac, jumped up, grabbed the treat off of Pits nose, and ran away with it!  It was THE funniest thing ever, and I’ve always regretted we could not catch it on video. It would have gone viral, I know that for a fact…    Chief was really one of a kind…. We miss  him.

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Hello!  My name is Buck, and I believe this sofa is the best spot in the house, although you will not find me here when Dad is around… He starts waving his hands and acting all steamed up. Borderline irrational, if you ask me.

 

ThePrince

Truth is, my poise and class are evident no matter where I am resting my handsome body.

 

OskySofa1
Hello! My name is Oscar and evidently I know how to make the best spot in the house even better.

With my long legs, I am the only one who can see all the goodies Mom and Dad are enjoying for dinner.

Osky composite

 

But, of course, we all know Oscar has his idiosyncrasies…

ricecrackernonoI thought I made it clear I do not care for rice crackers!

Buck has his issues too. His favorite time to play in mud is right after getting a bath. Frustrating, to say the least. One of the reasons why his Mom’s hair gets more gray with each passing week can be seen in the short video below.

 

Well, that all for now, folks…
We hope you are enjoying this beautiful season!
See you next time…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Ka’Kat, a Middle Easter Snack Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Spinach and Chickpea Curry

THREE YEARS AGO: Sautéed Zucchini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

FOUR YEARS AGO: Orzo with Heirloom Tomato Relish

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Rhubarb Brouhaha: Revelation Compote

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Love me tender…

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FRESH STRAWBERRY YOGURT BUNDT CAKE & A BONUS RECIPE

First Monday of August, summer going at full blast, many many days in the triple digits which means triple joy for yours truly. I know it will end too soon, but for the time being, allow me to celebrate the joys of this fantastic season…  Apart from the weather, I have even better reasons to celebrate: this month at The Secret Recipe Club I was paired with a food blogger who is very dear to my heart, Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious. Both Dorothy and I are “old timers”  with the group, we’ve been members for many years, together first in Group D, and now in Group A. A lot goes on behind the curtains in the club, did you know that? For instance, we have a closed Facebook page in which announcements are made, reminders are sent by the moderators so that no one forgets to sign up for next assignment, or to post on Reveal Day. And of course there is a bit of chit-chat that goes on.  Years ago I noticed that Dorothy is incredibly efficient. Assignments would go out, and within a day or two she would come back and say that her post was pretty much ready to go. Everyone else was perhaps only starting to stalk the assigned blog. To make a long story short, we  became fierce friendly competitors, every month trying to beat each other  in picking the recipe, cooking it and composing the post.  I always have a ton of fun with it, although she is pretty hard to beat. But seriously, now, she is a top-notch blogger, with 25 years of experience in food writing. Did you get that part? Twenty-five years. And she is quite active in recipe development, as you can tell by the many recipes listed here.  I urge you to read her About page, because it reflects so well the type of person she is: witty, positive, intelligent, upbeat. We almost met in person last month, but unfortunately she had family issues that prevented her from joining a fun lunch I had with two other fellow secreters, Karen, from Karen Kitchen’s Stories, and Lauren from Sew you Think you can Cook. We had a blast! Next time, I hope she can join us…   But, back to her blog, I’d like to quote one paragraph from her About page, one I could sign below with gusto (literally!):

Even if I trim the fat, or salt, or sugar, it has to taste fabulous. If it tastes like cardboard, I don’t care how healthy it is, no one will eat it. And where’s the joy in that?

I have a shockingly long list of stuff that I bookmarked as possibilities for this post. A few examples to water your mouth are: Farro Date Salad with Mango and ArugulaChicken Brie and Apple TurnoversSticky Lemon Oregano ChickenPopeye Pasta… World’s Best Smoky Burger (oh, yeah…), Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon, Kale, and PecansFlourless Oat Caramel Cookies (swoon!)…  Crunchy Granola Bars better than Nature Valley… or how about Slow-Cooker Paleo Ribs in Tablecloth Stainer Sauce? So, what did I pick? I had to go with two recipes, just because…. first, a Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Bundt Cake, because if you cannot face your cake baking demons in the name of a great food blog, there’s gotta be something wrong with you! And the following week I made the cutest meatloaves ever: Cherry Chipotle Meat Loaf Cupcakes.  Both were… how should I put it?  Shockingly Delicious!  

Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake

FRESH STRAWBERRY YOGURT BUNDT CAKE
(from Shockingly Delicious)

for the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
12 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
for the glaze:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
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Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set it aside.
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In a bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in lemon juice and almond extract. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. Gently stir strawberries into the batter.
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Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool 25 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Once cooled, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Makes 12-16 slices.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: One of the things I loved about this cake is that the recipe calls for enough batter to actually fill the Bundt pan to the appropriate level. More often than not, I face the problem of the disappearing cake batter: no matter how closely I follow the instructions, it seems the amount is never adequate. Not this time. And the smell, while baking was intoxicating, in the best possible way…   Of course, un-molding a cake from a Bundt pan can be quite stressful, I could feel my heart pounding as I negotiated the big hot pan, the rack underneath it, the kitchen cloth, and the hot pad. Tap, tap, tap, hope, hope, hope, and voilà the thing of beauty, smooth and fragrant, out of the pan in a single piece!  There was a happy dance. With a shriek (a la Karen).  I glazed the cake next morning, very early, then sliced it and took the full batch to our department, because the best part of baking a cake is sharing it. The cake disappeared fast. It was exactly what Dorothy promised it to be, very moist, excellent lemony flavor, the sweetness of the strawberries a perfect addiction to the smooth crumb.

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Of course, where there is cake, there is agony. Turning the Kitchen Aid on with the paddle still up, that was a mistake. Flour in the eyebrows, anyone? And the correct place for icing is definitely not the human thigh, although the pups could disagree. They were following me around for a while even after I washed it all off.

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Strawberry Bundt Cake, from Bewitching Kitchen

Before I say goodbye, one more featured recipe from Dorothy’s great blog!


BONUS RECIPE


Meatloave Cupcakes221

CHERRY CHIPOTLE MEATLOAF CUPCAKES
(slightly modified from Shockingly Delicious)

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled, trimmed, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped mini sweet bell peppers, stemmed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
A few grinds black pepper

1 pound organic ground grass-fed beef
1/4 cup almond flour (or almond crumbs, see notes)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make vegetable mixture: Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shallots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peppers, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat off and remove pan from burner; set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Make meat loaf cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, combine vegetable mixture, beef, almond flour, Dijon, egg, Not Ketchup, and parsley. Use hands to combine well. Lightly oil 8 muffin tins. Divide meat loaf mixture among 8 muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove pan from oven and cool for a couple of minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: How could I resist meatloaves in cupcake format? User friendly, impossibly cute, and giving me the chance to try a new product, the “Not Ketchup”, praised by Dorothy in her blog. Not Ketchup comes in several flavors and is  produced by another food blogger I follow, Erika from Erika’s Kitchen.  It is very tasty, like a grownup ketchup with very complex flavor and not as sweet as your regular kind.  I loved it so much that I placed another order for her Tangerine Hatch Chile version, apparently even lower in carbs.  For the meatloaves I replaced regular breadcrumbs with Toasted Almond & Pecan Breading, a product that was a bit of an impulse buy on amazon. They often show a list of suggestions based on your previous searches, and I fell for this one. I do realize I could make my own almond-based crumbs, but every once in a while I like to splurge. I was very pleased by this product, actually. It smells amazing, and offered the right texture to the loaves, not dry at all.  If you’d like to try it, click here. (I am not affiliated with amazon, and will not make a single penny from your purchase).

We loved these little loaves!  The recipe made eight little servings, half of them were gone for our dinner, the others enjoyed for lunch two days in a row, they re-heat beautifully in the microwave. Between you and me, they taste fantastic straight from the fridge, but if you do that, be discreet and take tiny morsels from the bottom, so no one will notice.

Cherry Meatloaf Cupcakes, from Bewitching Kitchen

Dorothy, as you imagine, I could hardly contain  my excitement when the email arrived with your blog as my assigned site to stalk…  I hope you had a blast with yours too this month!  And be ready to jump on the next one, because I am revving my engines, baby…. 

As usual, my readers are invited to browse through the collection of recipes posted by other members of Group A of The Secret Recipe Club. Just poke the frog and be ready for some virtual fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Salad with Red Grapes and Avocado

TWO YEARS AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

SIX YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

 

PICKLED RED ONIONS

Those who follow my blog might notice that onions rarely appear in our recipes. But here I am to give them full attention in a simple but delicious preparation I saw over at Kelly’s Inspired Edibles. For unknown reasons, in the past few years I’ve developed a huge passion for pickled stuff. I’ve always enjoyed olives and capers, but now every time I see a recipe calling for pickled anything, I start anticipating that sharp bite on the back of the tongue that only the right amount of acid will cause.  Perhaps I developed a “pickled tooth?”  I do take liberties with the English language, but maybe that’s a bit much. At any rate, I loved the fuchsia color of the onions and the pickling liquid, and with each passing day it only got better. I enjoyed the full batch, from first to last slice, since Phil and onions do not get along well.  This recipe is ready in minutes, I hope you’ll give it a try.

Pickled Red Onions

PICKLED RED ONIONS
(from Inspired Edibles)

1 medium red onion, peeled quartered and sliced thin
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
8 or so peppercorns
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Bring a kettle of water to boil. Place sliced onions in a colander or mesh sieve and hold over sink. Carefully pour boiling water over the onions to soften them, allowing the water to drain through. Set aside.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a clean pint size mason jar until sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Layer in the warm soft onions, thyme sprigs and peppercorns, making sure everything is submerged in the vinegar mixture. The jar will be quite full, you might have leftover onions, just save them for another purpose.

Place lid and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Leftover pickled onions will store for 10 days or so in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Served

Comments: These onions go well on many types of food.  My favorite was spooned over ground chicken with Tex-Mex spices served with a corn tortilla, but I had it on salad greens, with grilled salmon, and… just to make sure Kelly was onto something, I munched on pieces standing in front of the fridge, fork in hand, smile on face. Yeap, she is right. It will curl your toes in every direction.. and that’s a good thing!  The pickling liquid is fantastic as the base of a vinaigrette, and I even enjoyed a little drizzle over avocado slices. Once again, this recipe proves that simplicity can be very good. I know there is a time and place for dressings that mix 17 spices, half of them roasted, juice of preserved lemons emulsified with first pressed pistachio oil, but… when you have something that awes your palate with only a few ingredients… it’s a gold mine. Make this, marvel at the color, the taste, and stop by Kelly’s site to say merci beaucoups!

Pickled Red Onions, from Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Mini-Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

THREE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

SIX YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

RUTABAGAS ANNA

Talk about life not being fair. This poor veggie falls quite short on looks, no way to sugar coat that pill. But to add insult to injury, someone decided to name it rutabaga. I mean, c’mon!  “Go to sleep now, or the rutabaga will come and get you!” No wonder most people don’t even look at them at the grocery store. My friend Denise tells me that in England they are called swedes, a much more poetic name. I was intrigued, so a quick stroll through Wikipedia-Land brought the light at the end of the tunnel: the name has its roots in old Swedish. Rotabagge from rot (root) + bagge (short, stumpy object). so swede would be a natural choice to name these ugly ducklings.  Call it swede, rutabaga, white turnip, or snadger (yeah, that too), this recipe is absolute perfection.  I still cannot believe that two ingredients (sliced swedes and butter) plus a little seasoning could result in such a perfect side-dish. Pretty easy on the eyes too. So, get over their funky looks and unfortunate name. Bring them home, get slicing and cooking… Did I mention it is reasonably low-carb?

Rutabagas Anna1a
RUTABAGAS ANNA
(slightly modified from Ketogasm)

2 small rutabagas, thinly sliced
½ stick of butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice rutabaga thinly using a mandolin or knife. Reserve the sliced rutabaga in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add thyme to melted butter and let it gently simmer for a couple of minutes.
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Pour the melted butter herb mixture over the sliced rutabaga. Ensure the slices are evenly coated by rubbing them all with the butter using your hands. Gloves work wonders here…

Arrange and layer the rutabaga slices, dividing among the muffin tins, larger slices at the bottom, overlapping smaller slices on top.   Drizzle any remaining butter over your rutabaga little towers. Cover the muffin tin with foil.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking uncovered for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are golden and crispy.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

rutabagacomposite
Comments: I found this recipe over at Ketogasm, a blog that is new to me. Being a huge fan of Potatoes Anna, but rarely indulging in it, I thought that this version with a lower-carb root veggie could be worth trying. We both loved it. The rutabaga gets very creamy, with the crusty edges offering a nice contrast, very similar to the authentic Anna. I don’t usually like to mess with classics, but there’s really nothing  bad to say about this version.  My only recommendation is to add more slices to the muffin tin than you think you’ll need. The little towers collapse a lot during baking.  Next time I’ll start with three rutabagas and make 6 individual portions. We love our leftovers, and I am not finicky about warming up in the microwave for my lunch next day.  If you’d like to serve these for company, do the first step of baking, covered, and reserve. Twenty minutes before serving, finish them uncovered.  They keep warm for quite some time.  You can add different spices, perhaps. Smoked paprika sounds great, maybe a little cumin for a Southwest flair. Great side dish, satisfying without being too heavy.

Note to self:  Try alternating slices of rutabaga and sweet potatoes,
I bet it could look and taste wonderful too!

 

Rutabagas Anna, from Bewitching Kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Ultimate Raspberry Sorbet

TWO YEARS AGO: Crispy Cornmeal Sweet Potato Fries

THREE YEARS AGO: Pan-grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika & Avocado Cream

FOUR YEARS AGO: Golden Saffron and Fennel Loaf

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2011

SIX YEARS AGO: Heavenly Homemade Fromage Blanc

SEVEN YEARS AGOA Perfect Sunday Dinner

 

A TALE OF TWO MACARONS

compositeMac
This post is long overdue. The Cinnamon Macarons were made 11 months ago with our friend Cindy, who traveled from Oklahoma to spend a weekend with us. It was our second adventure to perfect these finicky babies, and Cindy, being way more organized than yours truly, brought a bunch of notes about what should have been improved from our previous attempt.  Of course, we had so much fun cooking together that we barely paid attention to the notes, and managed to overlook a couple of tips given by Kathryn Gordon in her beautiful book Le Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home.

Macarons3

 

CINNAMON MACARONS WITH CRUNCHY CACAO NIB FILLING

OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE

Equal amounts of almond flour and confectioner’s sugar plus a pinch of salt are mixed with a little cinnamon in the food processor and pulsed a few times. Then some granulated sugar and powdered egg whites are added, pulsed a few more times. The whole mixture is sifted.

A French meringue is prepared with 4 egg whites and a bit of cream of tartar, added to the sifted ingredients, and piped into rounds.

Our filling of choice was a Crunchy Chocolate Ganache made with semi-sweet chocolate, light corn syrup, heavy cream, a bit of butter and – for the final pizzaz: roasted cocoa nibs.

(full recipe can be found in Les Petits Macarons)

oops

Comments:
The only problem we had in the making of this recipe was that  in some shells the feet “slipped out.”  It was hard to find a precise reason for that boo-boo, so we are left with the suspicion that macarons do not appreciate being watched during baking. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  But, you want to know something funny? A little sharp knife worked wonders to trim the runaway feet, and the resulting crumbs go UNBELIEVABLY well over some ice cream. Life gives you lemons? Make lemonade! Macarons give you extra feet? Sweet crumbs it is!  Full-disclosure: Cindy and I nicknamed them  “toe nail clippings”, much to our husbands chagrin. Oh, well… We could not resist. They were mighty tasty, though.
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Cindy, sorry it took me so long to compose this post!  That also means that you are overdue for a visit for take FOUR on macarons… Take four, you ask? Well, I made them again a few months ago, this time all by myself, which is not nearly as much fun!

Cinnamon Macarons, from Bewitching Kitchen


MACARONS, TAKE THREE


Back in February I felt the urge to make macarons again. You know, Valentine’s Day, romance in the air, but winter still lingering around. I wanted a batch of super bright and sexy macarons. Is there anything sexier than raspberries? Obviously not.  I opened all my macaron cookbooks (thanks to our friend Gary I own several), searched the net, but when I stumbled upon this recipe, I could not stop thinking about it.  Tricia shaped her macarons as little hearts!  Of course, knowing my limitations I did not even try to go there. They would end up more like rodent livers or something.  But maybe next time…

Raspberry Macarons2


RASPBERRY MACARONS

(adapted from Saving Room for Dessert)

for the shells:
150 grams almond meal, sift twice
150 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted
55 grams egg whites, aged overnight

for the meringue:
150 grams granulated sugar
37.5 grams water
55 grams egg whites, aged overnight
gel food color, red

for the filling:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, pureed and strained
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (more or less as needed for desired consistency)

Prepare 2 sheets of parchment paper and two baking sheets. To ensure consistent sized cookies, trace a cookie cutter on the parchment paper as a template then turn it over before piping. Prepare a pasty bag fitted with a large round tip. Set aside.
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Place the almond meal and the confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. In a large mixing bowl sift together the almond meal and confectioners’ sugar. Make a well in the center and add 55 grams of egg whites. Fold the mixture with a spatula until it becomes a thick, paste-like batter.
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Place the remaining 55 grams of egg whites in the large mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside. In a small saucepan combine the granulated sugar and water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and heat to 225 degrees. Once the syrup reaches 225 degrees, turn on the stand mixer and beat the egg whites on high. Continue to beat the whites while cooking the syrup until it reaches 239 degrees. You want the meringue to be at soft peak stage so if it reaches that stage before the syrup reaches 239 degrees, turn the mixer down to low. When the syrup hits 239 degrees remove it from the heat and slowly pour it into the egg whites while the mixer is running. Try to stream the syrup directly into the whites close to the side of the bowl so it won’t cool too quickly. Whip on high for a minute then reduce the speed to low and continue beating until the bowl has cooled slightly and glossy stiff peaks have formed.
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Add about half the meringue to the batter, gently folding until combined and smooth. Gradually add the remaining meringue, and food color if using, and fold until the batter is smooth. To test consistency, pick up the spatula and if the batter ribbons back into the bowl, it is ready. It should be like lava blending back into itself after about a minute.
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Heat oven to 300 degrees. Fill pastry bags with the macaron batter. Pipe the batter into rounds. Once the first sheet is filled, rap the pan on the counter a few times to rupture any air bubbles trapped in the cookie. Rotate the pan and rap again. Set the baking sheet aside to allow a shell to form. This will take about 20-30 sitting out at room temperature. Pipe another sheet of cookies and repeat.
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Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes for until you can lift the cookie off the parchment coming away clean. Remove the entire sheet of parchment paper with cookies intact to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cool, remove the macarons from the parchment and fill as desired.
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To prepare the buttercream, blend the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the vanilla, raspberry puree, and about 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar until you reach the desired consistency for the filling. It does not have to be as thick as cake icing as it will harden once refrigerated. Pipe mounds of buttercream on once cookie, top with a matching macaron and twist a little to spread the filling. Refrigerate macarons for 24-48 hours before serving for the best flavor. Allow them to rest at room temperature about an hour before serving.
 .
Makes 30 filled macarons, or about 60 individual shells.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Definitely some major improvement this time, thanks to a new sifter with a slightly bigger mesh size. Sifting the almond flour/sugar mixture was a breeze, and I decided to simply discard the small mount of coarse bits left in the sieve. Every recipe insists on a fine mesh, but I suspect you don’t need to go too fine, unless you enjoy spending 20 minutes to sift 1 cup of stuff… Nope, not happening again. I am pretty happy with this arrangement. This is a OXO brand sieve, found in our grocery store for very cheap.  I love it!

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The meringue worked very well, although I was in full hyperventilation mode trying to negotiate the temperature of the simple syrup and the beating of the egg whites all by myself. A second pair of friendly hands would be more than welcome…  The final batter had that flowing lava consistency, which always gives me a smile, after all, how many people have actually seen lava flowing? Hopefully not that many, not the type of stuff I’d like to face.  At any rate, I guess now it’s a matter of working on technique, piping circles more consistent in diameter, doing a slightly better job in the “macaronage step.”  I was afraid to deflate the batter too much and ended up with some spots where the flour mixture did not fully incorporate.  When that happened, the shells cracked during baking.  I was lucky that it happened to just a few. Being the magnanimous person I am, I quickly swallowed them before Phil even had a chance to see them. What can I say? I give, and give, and give.

Raspberry MacaronsAren’t we adorable?

 

Raspberry Macarons, from Bewitching Kitchen

I hope you enjoyed my little Tale of Two Macarons… I now realize how much I love making them, and hope to try a slightly different take on the subject by baking up a batch of…are you ready for it? Savory Macarons! Kathryn’s book has many variations.  Don’t you think Saffron Macarons with Tomato Confit Filling sounds amazing? I might just have to go for it…

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken in Green Pipian Sauce, Sous-vide Style

THREE YEARS AGO: Classic Shrimp Gobernador Tacos

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

PERFECT SOY-GRILLED STEAK

I am not too fond of superlatives when it comes to cooking, as what I might consider perfect won’t necessarily hit the jackpot for everyone else. But that’s the title of the recipe by Mark Bittman that happened to be one of the most popular according to a recent round-up by New York Times. If you don’t subscribe to their cooking newsletter, consider doing so. Oddly enough, Phil was the one who drew my attention to it. I joked that we have hundreds of cookbooks in the house, but he never opens a single one to look for inspiration. However, he gets mesmerized by the New York Times collections, and if I resist reading the page, he will drag me in front of his computer to point out all the ones “we should make soon.”  We. You know, that pronoun that means more than one person doing something together. So, yes, that’s how I ended up making this recipe.  I opted for the sous-vide route because it makes the best flatiron steak in the known universe. How about that for disliking superlatives?

Soy Grilled Steak

 

PERFECT SOY-GRILLED STEAK
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger
½ teaspoon peeled and minced garlic (I omitted)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 flatiron steak
salt to taste

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Place the steak in a plastic bag or tight container and add the sauce. Marinate while you heat the grill, or if possible, longer. Season lightly with salt right before grilling.

For rare meat, grill about 3 minutes a side for steaks less than an inch thick. For larger or more done steak, increase the time slightly.

Sous-vide preparation: after marinating the steak, remove it from the soy-based sauce and place in a vacuum bag. Seal it and place it in a water-bath set to 134 F for three hours. Remove from the bag, discard any accumulated liquid and sear on a very hot grill for a minute each side.

Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You definitely don’t need a sous-vide gadget to make this steak. But I tell you, if you have one, it is so worth putting it to use here!  I make the marinade early in the morning, add the steak into a bag with it. When we are home for lunch I discard the marinade, vacuum-seal the meat and place it in the water-bath until dinner.  Timing is so flexible that I don’t even worry about being late.  A quick side dish of sautéed veggies and a simple salad, maybe some bread, that’s all we need to be happy campers.  For this particular dinner, we paired the flatiron steak in all it’s medium-rare glory with cauliflower gratin (leftover from the evening before) and sliced heirloom tomatoes with avocados and almonds. Pure gastronomical joy, I tell you…

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Now, going back to that collection of 10 most-popular NYT recipes. Several gems in there. We are both very interested in the Skewered Chicken with Peanut Sauce,  Phil says he wants to make the Pork Chops with Brandied Cherries, I will definitely be making the Flattened Chicken Thighs with Roasted Lemon Slices (wow!)… As far as sweets, the Almond Cake makes me dream… and Julia Child’s Berry Flan goes to the top of my beloved’s list. In summary, out of 10 recipes 6 are definite keepers. Not too shabby at all…

Perfect Soy-Grilled Steak

ONE YEAR AGO: The Devil’s Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Heart of Palm Salad Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: Potluck Frittata and Lavoisier

FOUR YEARS AGO: Home-made Corn Tortillas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Peanut Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros: A Brazilian Party!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Lemony Asparagus

FOCACCIA WITH GRAPES, ROQUEFORT AND TRUFFLED HONEY

Truffled honey. Can I get a group OMG going? I hope so… that stuff could probably be under a list of controlled substances…  I better use mine up before it does makes into the list.  But back to the focaccia. I wanted to bake something for a departmental get-together, scheduled for a Thursday evening. Weather forecast for that week was high 90’s, low 100’s, so turning the oven at 450F seemed wrong on many levels. But the weekend before we got a little break with some rain and cooler temps, so I decided to get the baking out of the way as early as possible on Saturday, then freeze my production until showtime.  I also wanted something a little different from the same old same old, and a grape focaccia came to mind. In Tuscany, it is called  a Schiacciata con l’Uva, a name that beats grape focaccia into submission. I found a recipe at epicurious, but ended up winging it myself. Rebel is my middle name.

Grape Focaccia

FOCACCIA WITH GRAPES, ROQUEFORT & TRUFFLED HONEY
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup very warm water
1/8 cup milk, full-fat
1  teaspoons sugar
1 + 1/2  teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil for dough plus more to spread
seedless black grapes
Roquefort cheese, crumbled
dried thyme to taste (or fresh)
Maldon salt flakes
truffled honey (or regular honey)

In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer stir the warm water, milk, sugar, and yeast.  Add the flour, salt and  Add the flour, salt olive oil (2 tablespoons) to the bowl, then knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it by hand briefly, a minute or so longer.

Place the dough inside an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 90 minutes. It will more than double, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Brush a half-sheet baking pan with olive oil, transfer the risen dough into it, and allow it to rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten. Add olive oil on top (about 3 tablespoons)  and spread the dough to cover the baking sheet.  Cover it again and let it sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.  While the focaccia is in its second rise, turn the oven to 450F.

Top the dough with grapes sliced in half, the crumbled Roquefort cheese, thyme, add coarse salt all over, then drizzle the surface with a little truffled honey.  Do not add too much, as the flavor is very potent.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. If the top is getting too dark, reduce the temperature to 425 F after 10 minutes.

Cool it on a rack before slicing in squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositeFocc

Comments: Before anyone criticizes me for taking liberties with the thickness of the schiacciata, let me state upfront that I like my focaccia to be thick and pillowy. If you want to stick to tradition, stretch the dough to the extension of a full baking sheet instead of half.  It will then be thinner and crispy. The combination of grapes with blue cheese is a classic, but when truffled honey was added to it, I’d say I hit that one out of the park. And I don’t even like baseball!  One word of caution, the stuff is potent. When you open the bottle, the intensity of the truffle smell will surprise you. Use it sparingly or it will overpower every other flavor in the focaccia. Of course, if you don’t have truffled honey, use a regular honey instead.  Maybe you own a bottle of truffle oil? In that case, put a small amount of it to use, maybe mix a few drops with regular honey… I suppose that could work well too.

pieces

Grab a piece or four… and be happy!

Grape Focaccia, from Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip over Cucumber Slices

TWO YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 
Shrimp Moqueca

 

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