8/31/08

Daring Bakers: Eclairs

August brought a new challenge from the Daring Bakers: eclairs! I was beyond excited. I've loved eclairs ever since I was a little girl. My mom claims making them, but I don't remember that :)

The recipe was to make 24 eclairs, and I knew for sure I did not want to be the sole consumer of these marvelous things. I decided to have a potluck and invite a few friends over. And then I set out to bake the eclairs.

The recipe, which you will find posted on Meeta's blog, was very straight-forward and I loved that I was able to make the chocolate glaze and the filling a day ahead. Both the glaze and the filling were easy to make and tasted delicious. In fact, I still have the leftovers sitting in my fridge...wonder how long they will last ;)

Then, on the day of the potluck, August 24th, after cleaning my apartment, scrubbing bathroom floors and making a white bean dip, I set out to make the dough for the eclairs.

The process of making the dough in a pot from milk, butter and flour was new to me, but seemed to work out well. Once I added the eggs, the dough seemed a bit thicker than I thought it would be, but I decided to go ahead and continue the process. Shaping eclairs was quite a "to do." And I definitely did not end up with 24 eclairs: more like 13 with a few random round ones.

Following Tartelette's advice, I froze the formed eclairs, and defrosted them while the oven was heating up. Once in the oven, the eclairs appeared to do nothing: I was worried. And then, all of a sudden, they browned and rose: they were gorgeous! I was thrilled and did a little happy dance.

But then, just as I was about to take a few pictures, they completely deflated, as did my mood. My mom thinks I did not bake them long enough. I was devastated. With no time to remake them, I continued with the recipe.

Right before deflation happened....

I cut the eclairs in half and discovered that the insides were still wet. The clock was ticking, my friends were coming over soon, and I wanted to nix the entire idea. Then I got a hold of myself. I put the cut eclairs back into the oven in order for them to finish baking.
I then used a pastry brush to "paint" the tops with the chocolate glaze, filled the other half with the filling and put the two together.

They did not turn out as beautiful as I had hoped, but the taste was definitely good. I think all my friends liked them (they even took the leftover eclairs home).

Here's a picture of a mini puff I made: I think they are "funner" to eat than a full eclair :)

8/29/08

Orzo with Bacon and a Poached Egg

This recipe is inspired by Chefs Gone Wild's Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.

Instead of getting my apartment ready to be repainted, or packing for my trip to Montreal (!!!!), I was thinking hard about what to make for dinner. I decided to give spaghetti alla carbonara a try. I have made this dish a while ago, and let's just say it did not turn out well.

And then before I even started, I hit a roadblock: I had no spaghetti! And no cheese! (Last night, out of boredom I at all of the shredded Parmesan I had). I decided to use orzo instead. And that's how I came up with Orzo with Bacon and a Poached Egg.

Ingredients

cooked orzo
4 strips of bacon, cut
1/4 cup of sliced onion
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tablespoon of capers
1 poached egg
cilantro
black pepper

Directions
1. In a hot pan, cook bacon until almost crispy
2. Add onions and garlic to the pan with bacon and cook until the onion and garlic are tender
3. To the pan add cooked orzo and capers
4. While the pasta (orzo) is getting friendly with the bacon, onions, garlic and capers, poach an egg
5. Put orzo et. al. in a bowl, make a well, and put a poached egg into the well
6. Season with black pepper and cilantro

7. Break the egg with a fork, and mix everything together

8/28/08

A Simple Dessert: Pears, Chocolate, Pecans

This dessert idea is a play on one of my favorite things: Granny Smith Apples, Nutella and Walnuts.

This time, I cut up a pear, dipped the slices into a home-made chocolate glaze and covered them with toasted pecans. Really good!

8/27/08

BTB Sandwich

As if eating bacon in the corn soup wasn't bad enough, I decided to make a BTB Sandwich!

Ingredients and Directions
Make a sandwich with bacon, brie and tomatoes. Yes, seriously.

PS: not photographed are a few slices of red onion I slid into the sandwich later.

Corn Soup with Bacon

When I heard about Sweet Corn Root Source Challenge, I thought of doing a corn gazpacho. This turned out a bit of a crazy idea, but I thought I'd share it with you regardless.

Ingredients
2 ears of corn, kernels removed (reserve 1/4 of a cup)
1 cup chicken stock
a few slices of bacon, cooked till crispy, and crumbled
2 tablespoons of red onion, finely chopped
cilantro to garnish
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
1. in a food processor puree all but 1/4 of a cup of corn with 1 cup of chicken stock; season with salt and pepper
2. put the corn mixture through a fine sieve
3. in a teaspoon of oil remaining from cooking the bacon, cook 1/4 cup of corn and the red onion
4. pour the corn "liquid" into a bowl and top with crumbled bacon and sauteed corn with onions; garnish with cilantro

Corn Salad inside a Tomato

Root Source Challenge for this week is Sweet Corn. Ideally, sweet corn should not even be cooked. That's what inspired this Corn Salad inside a Tomato idea.


Ingredients
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1/2 cup black beans
2 tablespoons of finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons dill, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced (or use a Microplane)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
a few tomatoes, top and insides carefully removed using a melon baller

Directions
1. Combine the first four ingredients
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together garlic, olive oil and vinegar, and season with salt & pepper
3. Add the dressing to corn/beans/onion/dill mixture
4. Spoon the salad into a tomato

8/26/08

I feel so flattered

One of the biggest rewards of writing this blog, is seeing your comments. I love them. They make me smile, feel appreciated, and happy that you like my ideas. (We all want to be liked, right?)

Another reward is when other bloggers mention me in their posts, or recreate my recipes.

Here are just two examples:
One blogger recreated my mini fritatas recipe; another recreated my no-cooking-required mango soup.

PS: Here's another one: Wednesday Night: Sweet Potato-Carrot-Ginger Soup

8/25/08

Italian Sausage Calzones: Mmm Mmm Good!

The next Root Source Challenge from Cookthink is Italian Sausage. Before I came up with the idea for these Red, White and Green Italian Sausage Calzones, I thought about making Italian sausage meatball sandwich; Italian sausage arugula salad; pizza; and even soup. But the calzones won! (Red: tomatoes/sausage/red pepper flakes; white: onions, cheese, dough; green: cilantro)

Ingredients

8 oz of Italian sausage, browned, seasoned with red pepper flakes and oregano if needed
1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
1 small tomatoes, seeds removed, cubed
a few tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup of shredded cheese, or more
olive oil
1 pizza crust in the "can"

Directions

1) preheat the oven to 425F (place a cookie sheet inside)
2) meanwhile spread the uncooked pizza dough on a oiled cutting board and divide into 2 parts
3) use a fork to make some holes in the dough
4) top each piece of dough with a bit of olive oil, sausage, sliced onions, tomatoes, cilantro and cheese

5) carefully fold each dough to make calzones and seal the edges
6) spread a bit of oil on top of the calzones and cut a few slits to allow the air to escape

7) carefully place the calzones on the preheated cookie sheet (either use parchment paper and or cornmeal on the cookie sheet to prevent sticking)
8) bake for 18 minutes
9) remove calzones from the oven and let cool for a few minutes

10) slice in half and enjoy!

They were huge! I barely was able to eat 1/2 of the calzone...but the night is still young :)

8/24/08

Tilapia Salad with Arugula and White Beans

Here's a simple, but delicious salad I made from leftovers of tilapia from last night.

Ingredients & Directions

In a bowl combine 1 cooked tilapia fillet, 1/2 cup of white beans, and a handful of arugula. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper and red pepper flakes.

Tilapia and white beans are almost bland in flavor, but arugula and red pepper flakes brighten this salad up.

Oldie, but Goodie: Smoked Salmon & Brie Sandwich

I'm reposting this sandwich because I'm submitting it to the SnackShots #6: Sandwich contest.

While at the grocery store I was inspired by smoked salmon on sale. I'm Jewish, and one of my favorite sandwiches is bagel with cream cheese and lox. For the contest, I decided to give this classic a bit of a twist.

Ingredients and Directions
1) In a food processor puree a roasted red pepper, a tablespoon of capers and a drizzle of olive oil
2) Split a sundried tomato ciabata in half and smear the roasted red pepper spread on the bottom
3) Top with thinly sliced red onion, layers of smoked salmon, slices of brie cheese, and top with the other half of ciabata

Enjoy! This could not have been easier.

Note: originally I was planning on using slices of roasted peppers instead of a puree, but Jenny thought the sandwich will not hold together. I thought that sounded reasonable, and went with the puree. Having done so, I think my original idea was better. Try it whichever way you like: the taste is fabulous!

8/23/08

Another Watermelon Salad: with tomatoes, arugula & Parmesan

Here's another salad to make with watermelon:

In a bowl combine chunks of watermelon, tomatoes, arugula, toasted pine nuts and shredded Parmesan cheese. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss and serve.

I had the salad for dinner with Parmesan crusted tilapia, which was delicious, but not pretty enough for the pictures. (I simply washed the tilapia filets in an egg/salt/pepper bath, and then coated it with shredded Parmesan cheese. I then cooked the filet in butter for about 5 minutes on each side.)

Garbage or Soup?

With the price of food increasing, I feel horrible throwing groceries away. Today, instead of throwing away the produce that has seen better days, I decided to make soup.

Broccoli, Celery & Cheese Soup

Ingredients (sorry, there are no amounts: I just used whatever I had in the fridge)

Chicken broth, water
Cut up broccoli
Cut up celery
Cut up onion
Plain Yogurt
Cheese
Salt & Pepper
Tortillas

Directions

1) Bring chicken stock and water to boil in a pot
2) Add vegetables (make sure they are covered in the liquid: add extra water if needed)
3) Cook the vegetables till tender
4) Puree the vegetables with the liquid in the food processor
5) Add plain yogurt and chunks of cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
6) Pour back into the pot, reheat, and serve garnished with fresh dill and tortilla chips on the side

Thoughts: I had more liquid than I wanted, but no potatoes to thicken the soup. Still, it turned out surprisingly well, keeping in mind the vegetables would have gone in trash otherwise.

Restaurant Week: PS7

Last night, Jenn, Wendy and I met at PS 7 for dinner. This was my and Jenn's first time at PS 7, but Wendy has had drinks/appetizers there before. From the moment we walked in, we had excellent service, the decor was dark browns with blues and whites, and the food: the food was awesome. I'm seriously tempted to come back next week for lunch.

Jenn, Wendy, me

Vanilla mojitto: YUM


For an appetizer I chose Ale Poached Mussels (Prince Edward Island mussels with rustic bread, rosemary, ale and mustard broth). I was shocked by the shear amount of mussels. And then came the taste: the ale was mild, the mustard was spicy and grainy, the bread was crusty and buttery, and the mussels were perfectly cooked. That could have been an entire meal in itself.


Jenn and Wendy chose Black Pepper Parmesan and Lemon Gnocchi (hosue made gnocchi with duck confit, haricot vert, pearl onions and watercress in a sage and vermouth broth). The gnocchi could have been a bit softer for my taste, but the girls liked their appetizers and wished they had a spoon to finish off the sauce.


For the main course I had Beef Shortrib and Tenderloin (over roasted summer root vegetables, pomme frites and red wine sauce). This was a perfect meat & potatoes dish. Shortrib was fork-tender, while tenderloin was pink in the center and delicious. Pomme frites were skinny and crispy, and for the vegetables I had adorable mini carrots.


Jenn chose Sauteed Sea Scallops (with yukon gold potato mash, haricot vert, wild mushrooms and a sage emulsion). The dish was delicious, but unfortunately one of the scallops looked a bit undercooked.

Wendy chose Five Spice Laquered Chicken Breast (with black plum and ginger dumplings, Napa cabbage and wild mushroom saute, coriander duck jus).


There were 3 choices for dessert, and seen as there were three of us, we ordered one of each: Chocolate Souffle Cake (with bourbon cream), Beignets (with chocolate sauce and raspberry jam), and Fresh Fruit Crisp (strawberry and rhubarb with house made vanilla bean ice cream). Surprisingly, the last dessert was my favorite. According to our waitress, though, the souffle cake was "plate lickable."


This was a great dinner! Highly recommended.

The only snafu happened with Wendy's drink, which was insanely strong, and then after being replaced, was spilled on our table. "Stuff" happens.

8/21/08

Mini Fritatas with Potatoes, Broccoli & Cheese

Thursday is my dancing night. After a quick trip to the library, I only had a little bit of time to make dinner. Good thing I already had an idea of what I was going to make: Mini Fritatas with Potatoes, Broccoli and Cheese.


Ingredients
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 onion, cubed
1 garlic clove, sliced
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
2 handfuls of broccoli florettes, cut into small pieces
6 medium eggs (or 4 large)
a splash of milk
cooking spray
a few slices of thinly cut oven roasted turkey breast (optional)
1/2 cup of shredded cheese

Directions
1) preheat the oven to 380F
2) heat oil in a pan, add potatoes and cook until they are golden brown
3) add onions and garlic to the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and add a few pinches of red pepper flakes
4) cook the vegetables till they are tender (undercooked potatoes are horrible)
Note: to help potatoes cook quicker, add a few tablespoons of water, cover the pot and let the vegetables steam
5) add a few handfuls of broccoli and cook a few more minutes
6) whisk the eggs and milk together (I did not have milk and used fat free half & half instead)
7) spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, add vegetable mixture and top with some of the egg mixture
Optional: first "line" the muffin tins with thinly sliced turkey breast (or ham) and then add the vegetables, followed by the egg mixture
8) bake in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the eggs are nearly set
9) top with shredded cheese and put the muffin tin under the broiler for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling
10) serve immediately (makes 7 muffins)

Variations
You can obviously add or subtract any of the vegetables, choose the cheese you like and add protein in form of chicken or shrimp. Have fun!

SiteMeter & A bit of Publicity

Ever since I installed SiteMeter, I can track the traffic on my website and learn how people find my blog: it's both fascinating and obsessive :)

That's also how I learn when other blogs and websites mention my posts. Today I learned that Serious Eats, the lovely people in charge of Photograzing, posted a shout out to my "What to do with one egg?" idea. Thank you!

Here's the direct link.

8/20/08

Restaurant Week: Farrah Olivia

After a lackluster experience at Equinox, I decided to give Restaurant Week another try. I made two reservations, and yesterday Jenn and I went to Farrah Olivia (This Friday I'm going to PS7 with Jenn and Wendy).

The restaurant, located in Alexandria, is as pretty as a picture. Casual and yet modern and impressive at the same time (check out the website for the interior design pictures). We sat outside, enjoying the nice evening weather and occasional honking cars.

Farrah Olivia provided 4 choices for each of the courses (quite impressive!). First, we were presented with a bread basket accompanied by 4 different spreads: sundried tomato (my favorite), butter with honey, cottage cheese with horseradish, and seaweed pesto (?). Both of us were hungry, and our bus boy was nice enough to replenish both the bread and the spreads.

For an appetizer, I had gazpacho made from tomatoes on one side and eggplant on another. It was divine: cool, refreshing, and yet spicy: and look at the presentation!

Jenn chose white grits with black liquid corn and candied red cabbage. We had no clue what that would look/taste like. The grits were formed into a ball with liquid black corn on the inside, and then deep fried: delicious! The candied cabbage was sweet and tender.

For the main course I chose a pork chop. Why? Because I still haven't attempted to cook pork, even after my Chef on Call with Nathalie Dupree. The pork was tender, juicy and was accompanied by smoked lentil puree, curry sauce, and sauteed peaches with onions and arugula (or maybe it was spinach). This was a lovely take on pork chops with apple sauce.

Jenn had a pan roasted chicken breast with curry banana crust and quinoa salad. The chicken was juicy, the banana crust was crispy (duh), but the quinoa salad was unfortunately slightly undercooked.

And then came the dessert. As soon as I saw "chocolate" on the menu, I knew that's what I was going to choose. I had espresso chocolate cheesecake with two sauces: one was yogurt-like, another one was puree of apricots. Dense, chocolaty, rich, smooth, yummmmmmmmmmmmm.

Jenn had coconut panacota. It was refreshing, light, sweet and fruity.

Final Thoughts: if you live in DC area, definitely make reservations at this progressive and charming restaurant! Both Jenn and I were absolutely happy with our choices of food.