2/28/09

Daring Bakers: Flourless Chocolate Cake

I must admit this is by far my favorite Daring Bakers Challenge!! And I think I'd actually make this recipe again.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This is the shortest recipe and directions, so I will copy and paste it here for all of you (I would definitely encourage you to make this cake!).

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan (I used Emily's spring-form pan) and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.



3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.



4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.



8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.



I served my cake a few different ways with strawberry puree and mini chocolate chip ice cream.



Everyone I shared the cake with LOVED it! I did too. Let's see what March brings us.

2/27/09

My Awards

I decided to put all of my awards in one place. I will update this post if/as I get the new awards :) [Fingers crossed]

Thank you, Jhonny walker


Thank you, Sophie.




Thank you, Melissa.


Thank you, Melissa.









Pho

This past Sunday I went to a Pho restaurant in Arington with Jenn and Joenn. This was a cafeteria style place: no special decorations, little ambiance, but we came for the food.

The menu was simple: pretty much just soup and drinks. I was sad they did not have any appetizers. Not being super adventurous when it comes to meat, I ordered #9 (Jenn did the same!).


Joenn, on the other hand, ordered something with meatballs and tripe. Tripe!? I guess it's a lining of a stomach! I was brave and gave it a taste: I'm not a fan. It pretty much has no taste, but has a very chewy consistency. What I did like that Joenn ordered, was this pretty drink seen below. It was a coconut milk drink with jello cubes inside: sort of orange-y flavor.


And then came the soup (pho). The broth was very flavorful, but I still added a bit of hot sauce. We were also served a plate full of basil and sprouts. Oh, and the noodles were amazingly soft.


This was definitely a great meal....and the price was unbeatable!

Confession: after the meal Jenn wanted to get pancakes. Having made blueberry & mini chocolate pancakes for breakfast I wasn't very interested in that idea, but still came along to IHOP and ordered chicken wings!!!

2/26/09

Pureed Beet Soup

Lately I've blogged about quite a few beet ideas.

Coming home a few days ago I remembered that I had two boiled beets sitting in my refrigerator. I gave them a quick smell test, and decided they were still good. But what to do with them? I decided to make a pureed beet soup (something I've seen other bloggers do in the past). Unfortunately, my idea of thinning out the soup with milk went out of a window because my milk has turned sour.

Instead, I pureed 2 boiled and peeled beets with a bit of water (until the mixture reached the right consistency), seasoned with salt and pepper and added a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill.



Overall, this was not a bad idea, but it really could have used a bit more flavor, if only I had more time and ingredients to devote to this soup.

How would you have spiked this up?

2/25/09

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This expression applies to art, your child's finger painting, how attractive you are to a certain person, and food!

Yes, food!

There are multiple websites out there who show the best food photos submitted by a zillion of food bloggers. What makes the process so amusing is when one such site deems my photo worthy, while the other says it's too dull, unsharp, or has a poor composition. Still, I keep on trying, and I'm constantly amazed at the talent demonstrated by my fellow bloggers.

Just a few days ago after I posted Beet and Orange salad, I was talking to Anna, and she said she thought the salad looked too posed..but that was my intention! I feel super validated because Serious Eats chose my photo as their favorite photo of the day posted on Photograzing :)

A Sandwich for Jenny: Brie, Roasted Pepper & Steak

Last week, my good friend Jenny came to town from NYC. The only time we had to see each other was Saturday night. Jenny is one of those super easy going people and was up for whatever. I suggested we should just hang out and have dinner at my apartment. She was fine with that plan.

When I asked Jenny what she wanted to have for dinner, she said it did not matter, she was easy :) Of course that wasn't super helpful. Then Jenny decided that she wanted babaganoush (an eggplant spread): I could do that! I thought it'd be fun to have dinner of a few dips, a sandwich and a super special dessert (can't reveal it till February 28th!).

For dips I made hummus and babaganoush. I also pan roasted asparagus and bought white wine. The star of the dinner, however was the Brie, Roasted Pepper & Steak Sandwich.

Ingredients and Directions
1. Slice a French baguette lengthwise and toast. Top the bread with pieces of brie and roasted red pepper.



2. Top the pepper with watercress and thinly sliced steak. Top with the other half of the French baguette.



If I say so myself, the sandwich was fabulous! I like the crunchiness of the bread paired with the buttery texture of brie. The juices from the pink steak mix in with the slightly bitter flavor of the watercress, and the red roasted pepper not only provides a bit of sweetness, but also a pretty color.

Raku: Sushi with the girls

Over the last 3-4 years, I've had 3 blind dates at Raku. The dates did not go too well, and I've formed a negative association with this restaurant. Then Anna S. and Wendy took me there for dinner for my last birthday, and a few months ago I went there for dinner with Lisa. Both experiences gave me new and happier memories of this place.

For President's day I met with Radha, Theresa and Adrienne for sushi and jewelry making. The service at Raku was attentive, the atmosphere casual and fun. All of us ordered sushi. I had salmon & avocado roll and a crunchy spicy tuna roll (something my friend Jenn introduced me to a while back). The sushi was good!



Radha was nice enough to let me take a photograph of her shrimp tempura roll: what awesome presentation!



What are your favorite sushi rolls?

2/24/09

Vinegret: Russian Beet Salad

A short little while ago I blogged about my favorite Russian potato salad. I told you it takes a lot of work to prepare the salad, but it's so worth it!

There is a variation to this salad called vinegret. What you basically do is add beets and sunflower oil and subtract mayonnaise, dill and Granny Smith apple.

Give this a try!

Ingredients
(these are just some guidelines: feel free to add more or less depending on your preference)
2 potatoes
3 beets
5 carrots
1 can of peas
6 baby dill pickles
3 eggs
sunflower oil

Directions
1. Cook potatoes, carrots, and eggs. It is very important not to overcook the vegetables: you don't want the salad to turn into a mush. At the same time, however, using undercooked potatoes is a crime in my book :) [Note: I cooked potatoes and carrots without peeling them first; my mom, however, recommended peeling carrots first: she is absolutely right! Follow her advice.]
3. Separately cook the beets in their skins and then peel and cube: be careful to get your fingers stained with beet juice!
4. Once the potatoes, carrots and eggs are cool, peel and cube them.
5. Cube pickles, and add them to the potato/carrot/egg/beet mixture.
6. Add a can of peas and enough sunflower oil to mix everything together.
7. Season with salt and pepper, and if you want add finely chopped onion.
7. Let the salad sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Oooh, People Like my Stuff!

Yesterday, Jo, aka my food blogging mentor, contacted me to let me know that my ice cream post was one of the most gawked at pictures on Foodgawker in the last 7 days. This made me incredibly happy! Yeai!!!!


New Orange In Town

What's that saying about a mother always being right? Well, in this case it's true.


A few weeks ago I was chatting with my mom on the phone, and she told me about a new variety of oranges that she has tried: Cara Cara. She said it was a combination of an orange and a grapefruit, and that I should definitely try it.


My mom often shares her latest finds with me: different kinds of yogurt, sugar free ice cream, etc. I always listen, but rarely do I actually go ahead and buy those products...I guess I just typically buy whatever it is that I typically buy.


Then a week ago I was at Whole Foods shopping for one of Robyn Webb's recipes and had to pick up an orange. When I came home, I realized that I actually picked up a Cara Cara orange my mom told me about! I was so excited.




I decided to use the orange to make a beet with orange, blue cheese and pecan salad. The color of the flesh was slightly pinker, and the taste was both sweet and slightly tart at the same time. This was such a great citrus!

From the Sunkist website:

Cara Cara Power Oranges are a special variety of juicy, low acid, seedless navels packed with more natural nutrition and minerals to power a healthy immune system. Cara Caras are an excellent source of vitamin C, A and fiber; a good source of foliate and potassium, and a natural source of Lycopene, the disease-fighting antioxidant. The bright orange exterior covers a deep, rich pink pulp, which is extremely sweet, and few to no seeds. This power-packed citrus is gaining in popularity and with its lower acidity it is a great treat for kids.

Cara Caras are at their peak in December and January. BETTER HURRY UP!

2/23/09

Beet & Orange Salad with Blue Cheese & Pecans

I'm Russian-->I love beets!

Last weekend I made a really quick, but pretty and delicious salad. I hope you give this a try. Keep in mind that you can mix all the ingredients in a bowl instead of doing a "layered" salad: I just think this way the salad looks a lot prettier!

Ingredients
1 beet, cooked, peeled and sliced (I boiled mine, but you can roast it in the oven. I also used a mini cookie cutter to make perfect rounds, but you can just slice it)
1 orange, segmented
blue cheese
toasted pecans
olive oil
salt & pepper



Directions
1. Either combine in a bowl, or arrange on a plate beets and oranges.
2. Toss blue cheese and pecans with beets and oranges, or form into a bowl and put in the center of the plate.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

You can also add some greens to the salad: I think arugula or watercress would be a nice touch.

How do you like to eat your beets?

2/20/09

Home Made Ice Cream: 3 Flavors

Last weekend I decided to make home-made ice cream. Ok, it wasn't completely voluntary (more on that later), but it was a fun project.

I used a simple recipe:
2 cups heavy cream, 1 cup whole milk, dash of vanilla, pinch of salt

I divided the mixture into 3 bowls: plain vanilla, vanilla with added mini chocolate chips and vanilla with fresh strawberries.

Since I don't have an ice cream maker, I followed a process I used when making pomegranate sorbet: every 30-60 minutes I stirred the "forming" ice cream with a wooden spoon. Eventually everything was frozen!

The 3 different flavors tasted pretty good, but I definitely did not achieve the creamy texture of the store-bought ice cream. Will I try this again? Maybe, but only if I come up with some fantabulous add-ins.


And now for audience participation: what's your favorite ice cream flavor and/or topping?