1/31/11

Vegetable Medley: don't throw away your random vegetables!

I often have random ingredients left over from my regular cooking and/or from the recipes I make for Robyn Webb. As hard as I try, some of those random ingredients end up in the garbage. And I end up feeling guilty. "Great."

Yesterday, instead of throwing some of the random vegetables in my refrigerator away, or letting them stay there till they go bad and then having to throw them away, I decided to use them and make a vegetable medley.

This is really not a recipe. The amounts I used were the ones that  I had on hand: go ahead and use what you have. The idea is just to get a bit creative and to not waste your food.

Vegetable Medley

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (I used 1/2 squash I had leftover from making a warm butternut squash salad with cranberries and almonds)
1/2 diced red onion
1/2 cup chopped green beans
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
1 cup defrosted corn (or use fresh or canned)
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 tablespoon lime juice
chopped cilantro

{Note: I finally switched to my 50 mm lens and to all manual thanks to the encouragement from Sala. Maybe eventually I'll start shooting in RAW.}


Chopping the squash was the hardest part in making this side dish. Because the squash is so oddly shaped, it's difficult to make the pieces the same size/shape, but do your best!


Directions

1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add butternut squash and saute for 5 minutes.
2. Add onions and green beans. Season with salt & pepper and crushed chili flakes. Saute for 5 minutes.
3. Add defrosted corn. Saute for 5 minutes.
4. Add diced pepper and lime juice and cook just for a few minutes. You want to retain the crunchiness of the red pepper. The lime juice will brighten everything up.
5. Serve topped with cilantro.


This is a great side dish or can be served as dinner with some bread or topped with a fried or poached egg. You know how I like poached eggs on everything!


You can also have this for breakfast if you are not one who likes cereal or oatmeal. This is filling, healthy and oh so versatile.


Have you rescued some random ingredients lately? If so, please share!

1/28/11

Baking whoopie pies with Mary and Jenna

Lately, the only kinds of dates I've had are my baking dates with Jenna. I'm not complaining: she's fun, we get along great, and there is no pressure of having perfect hair, makeup and outfit. And I never have to wonder if she'll call me and want to see me again ;)

Last weekend we decided to get together for another one of our baking dates and invited Mary to come along! The more the merrier. Since my condo is located geographically in the middle, I played host. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to neaten up a bit and to show off my new bedroom furniture!

Before the baking started, we caught up, enjoyed a light lunch (Mary brought delicious flat bread with mushrooms, roasted beets and cured meat) and I had fresh French Bread and a salad I made for Robyn's blog that morning.

Then it was time to bake! This time around we decided to make whoopie pies. It was the first time for me and I was excited, slightly nervous, but knew I was in good hands: Jenna is a great teacher!

Special Thanks to Jenna for typing up the recipe!!


Chocolate Whoopie Pies
From Baked Explorations, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Yields 10-12 large whoopie pies, 15-17 small pies



Ingredients

3 1/2 cups (17.5 oz) All Purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (2.18 oz) dark cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) hot coffee
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) hot water
2 cups (15.32 oz) light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup (6 fl oz) canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 fl oz) buttermilk, shaken
Swiss vanilla filling (recipe follows)


Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the AP flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Pour the hot coffee and hot water over the cocoa mixture and whisk until the mixture is completely smooth.

4. In another medium bowl, combine the canola oil and light brown sugar. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

5. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture.

6. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe into 2 inch rounds on prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart (or scoop onto sheets with a small scoop).



7. Bake 10-15 minutes, until the cookies crack slightly on top and spring back in the center when gently pressed. Let cool completely, then remove from sheet with an offset spatula. Pipe or scoop half of the rounds with the filling. Top each piped round with another cookie and serve.


Swiss vanilla filling
5 egg whites
1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz) sugar
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites and sugar. Place over a pan of simmering water and gently whisk until the sugar dissolves (test this by dipping your finger into the mixture - when you can no longer feel grains of sugar when you rub the mixture between your fingers, then the sugar has dissolved) - the mixture will be slightly warmer than body temperature.

Transfer bowl to mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth, white, and fluffy - about 5 minutes. Add the butter, one piece at a time. Add sea salt and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Beat until the filling is smooth and glossy (it may look curdled, but just continue to beat - eventually the mixture will come together).



Check out our piping job!!



Please ignore my slightly old manicure. Just look at these gorgeous whoopie pies!


There were so many of them! Luckily Jenna and Mary took some home and I shared the rest with my friends. I'm not to be trusted to be alone with baked goods.




Loved hanging out with Jenna and Mary, learning how to bake a new treat and having something sweet for dessert. I doubt I'll ever bake these again, but it was fun.

I also really appreciated that Jenna was awesome about cleaning up right away: that way I wasn't left with a sink full of dishes. Instead, as soon as the girls left, I took a sugar induced nap.


Here's to more fun baking dates with the girls!

Do you bake or cook with your friends? What are your favorite recipes for these get togethers?

1/26/11

How to make breakfast burritos at home

This morning for breakfast I had a light WASA crackers with some Laughing Cow Cheese. That's not my idea of an ideal breakfast. Also, the light WASA crackers taste like cardboard: from now on, I'm sticking to the original ones.

What's my idea of a great breakfast you ask? Well, it definitely includes eggs. This weekend a friend was visiting from out of town and I only had a few hours to spend with her in the morning. You make sacrifices for friends, right? Even if it means waking up at 8 am after a night of salsa. Friends are worth it!

When I was trying to decide what to make for breakfast, I remembered I had some giant  tortillas left in the refrigerator and thought Why not make breakfast burritos? Seriously, it's one of the easiest things to make and you can customize it to your likes and dietary restrictions.

Breakfast Burritos (for 2)

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 onion, diced
1/4 jalapeno finely chopped
3 small cooked red potatoes, diced
2 strips turkey bacon, diced
3 eggs, whipped with a bit of whipping cream (whipping cream is optional: I just happened to have it on hand)
2 tortillas
2 scallions, finely chopped
shredded cheddar
avocado, diced
salsa


Directions

1. In a skillet heat oil, add onions and jalapeno and cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Add in potatoes and bacon and cook until  bacon becomes a bit crispy and potatoes have browned.


3. Scramble the eggs with salt and pepper. Don't overcook them!
4. Spoon potato/bacon mixture on one side of a tortilla. Top with scallions and Cheddar.



5. Add scrambled eggs, cubed avocado and salsa. The eggs will immediately start melting the cheese.


6. Fold.


7. Cut in half and eat immediately!


What to serve with this? Mimosas of course!


What's your favorite breakfast to cook for company that's quick and filling?

1/24/11

What to do with butternut squash? Make a warm salad.

Are you tired of the same old same recipes for butternut squash soup, lasagna, risotto and pasta? Well, I have something a little bit different for you.

Remember I wrote about a butternut squash salad I had during lunch with Cathy at Cowgirl Creamery? I decided to try and replicate it at home. But of course I had to make a few changes...plus, I could not remember if the butternut squash in Cowgirl Creamery's salad was raw or cooked.

This really not a recipe. It's just a combination of a few ingredients: butternut squash, toasted almond slivers and dried cherries.

Warm Butternut Squash Salad with Almonds and Dried Cranberries.

First, peel your butternut squash. I used one of the peelers I have from freelancing for Robyn. But obviously any peeler would do. Just make sure it's sharp.


By the way, before I continue, check out my little organizational system: I use my refridgerator and magnetic hooks to organize some of the things that I use often. Like it? I find it incredibly useful.


Back to the salad...using a box grater, grate butternut squash. That counts as exercise, right? Doesn't it look like Cheddar?


Then chop parsley and toast almonds.


Lastly, heat a bit of olive oil in a pan and saute butternut squash for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add parsley, cranberries and almonds. Mix. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Check out one of my new bowl: I bought it at Crate & Barrel outlet with Linda. Isn't it adorable? The other ones are yellow, light blue and red. I'm sure you'll see them on this blog soon enough :)


This is a great dish for vegans and vegetarians or any meat lovers who want to try something a bit different. I actually had leftovers (cold!) for breakfast.


Of course there are many variations: use dried cherries or dates, instead of almonds use pine nuts or pistachios, and you can always add fun spices like cumin, chili powder or cinnamon. You can also use carrots instead of butternut squash or even sweet potatoes.


Now a question for you: how have you used a butternut squash other than in soups, pastas or just roasting?

1/21/11

I work for food: literally

I work for food: literally! Obviously I have a full time job that allows me to pay bills, take vacations, try out new restaurants, buy shoes and jewelry and treat myself to chocolate, flowers, and kitchen dishes.

I also have a freelancing job which allows me to test (and keep!) different kitchen tools, food products and recipes. That's what I've been doing for Robyn Webb's Fabulous Food Finds for the last year. Robyn finds the products, comes up with recipes and writes up the posts; I'm the chief cook, photographer and editor.

I like some recipes more than others, same goes with products. Some I use quite a bit, some are hiding somewhere in one of my "garbage" drawers. That's just how things go. My friend Paige keeps on asking me to write a post about my favorite kitchen tools and if/when I do, many of them would be the ones I've "inherited" from Robyn.

I wanted to share with you two recipes I've cooked in the last few weeks for Robyn. The first one is Sauteed Spinach with Marash Peppers. Do you know how long it takes to wilt 3 pounds of spinach? At least 15 minutes, unless you have a really large pan. It's almost magical to see what 3 pounds of spinach turns into after it meets some heat.

This recipe was easy to make and consisted of just a few main ingredients: spinach, marash pepper spice, red onions and pistachios. I really liked the contrast of wilted spinach and bright crunchy pistachios, which happened to be some of my favorite nuts. This is my favorite photo from that post:


Needless to say, I had quite a bit of spinach left after eating this dish a few times. What to do? I decided to make a frittata: it could not have been easier. I sprayed a round pie Pyrex dish with some oil, added sauteed spinach (without nuts!) to the bottom of the dish, added half a can of chickpeas and poured a mixture of 4 eggs, salt & pepper and a bit of milk on top. In the oven it went for about 25 minutes at 375. I then sprinkled the entire dish with shredded cheddar and let it hang out in the oven for 5 more minutes. This was great both hot out of the oven for dinner with a side of a salad and cold the next few days for breakfast.

The second recipe is Salad Nicoise. This is not the first time I've made Salad Nicoise for Robyn, but this one used actual tuna steaks: love! It is a great salad to have year round as it includes potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. In this rendition, Robyn added watercress, which I really enjoyed. You can layer the ingredients together for a fancy look, as I did on the photograph below, or you can also mix everything together in a bowl.

Don't like green beans? Add asparagus. Don't want to use tomatoes when they are not in season? Add jarred roasted peppers. Make this salad your own.

The one and only thing I did not like about this salad were anchovies. Sorry, I'm just not a fan. As soon as I took the photographs for Robyn's blog, I removed the anchovies from the salad! {Guess who's getting a jar of anchovies!?}


I just received an email from Robyn with the recipes I'm making for next week: they are fun and simple, which is exactly what I need as this weekend is going to be busy! A friend is visiting from out of town tomorrow, then my furniture is supposed to be delivered and at night I'm going to Saturday Night Sips.

And then Sunday I have a fabulous date lined up!!!! Not the kind of date you'd think though....it's another baking adventure with Jenna of Modern Domestic and this time around we've invited Mary of Arugula Files to come along and play in my kitchen: Whoopie pies are the plan!

What are your culinary adventures for this weekend? Have a great time!

1/19/11

What is Saturday Night Sips event in Washington DC?

I'd like to tell you about Saturday Night Sips. Through the magic of Twitter, I was invited to this event by one of the organizers, Greg Nelson, aka @socialepicurean. The event marries food, drinks, chefs, mixologists, and most importantly two great beneficiaries: DC Central Kitchen and Martha's Table. Please see the information below directly from the eventribe website, where you can order your tickets.


Saturday Night Sips is a cocktail reception with JOSE ANDRES, ALICE WATERS AND JOAN NATHAN, celebrating the role young people play in fighting hunger both locally and nationally.  The event will have tastes from the area's hottest young chefs, specialty drinks created by DC mixologists and wine tastings by Le Baccanti and speakers from Martha's Table and DC Central Kitchen. 

Join your community in celebrating health and nutrition while combating hunger and poverty in DC.  Saturday Night Sips will be located at 1609 16th St. NW, Washington, DC  20009.  Here we will feature several rooms showcasing young local chef's.

Confirmed Chefs include:
Will Artley of Evening Star Cafe
Graham Bartlett of Zengo
Antonio Burrell of Masa 14
Shannon Overmiller of The Majestic Cafe
David Varley of Bourbon Steak
Garret Fleming of Eatonville
 Confirmed Mixologists include:

Dan Searing of Room 11
Gina Chersevani of PS 7′s
Owen Thomson of Cafe Atlantico
Jeff Faile  of Palena

To find out more information about the beneficiary organizations, please visit the following websites:
www.marthastable.org -
Martha's Table aims to help end poverty with both short and long term solutions.  Our mission is to help at risk children, youth, families and individuals in our community improve their lives by providing educational programs, food, clothing and enrichement opportunities.
www.dccentralkitchen.org -
DC Central Kitchen is a community kitchen that serves as a central location to recover unused food, prepare and deliver meals to parnter social service agencies, train men and women for jobs in the foodservice industry, and intellectually engage volunteers.

Menu Design By: Anemone

1/18/11

Friends, Paula Deen & Pork salad

I have great friends, and I'm very thankful for all of them!! I especially appreciate my friends who no longer live in DC but still stay in touch and mean a lot to me. This post has to do with two of them.

First, look at the thoughtful housewarming gift I received in the mail from Kenny! I doubt I'll actually use this cutting board for cutting, but I absolutely love that it's personalized and in Spanish :) {If you want to order one for yourself or a friend who loves to cook, go here.


Moving to my other friend who moved away from DC...Paige flew from Atlanta for a weekend in DC and came to visit me in my new condo for an evening of cooking, catching up and eating. Paige and I became friends when we lived on the same floor of an apartment building and had such a great time getting together for craft projects, TV watching, dinners and just girl "stuff." She also always made sure that I evacuated my apartment when we had fire drills.

And then she decided to move back to Atlanta! We kept in touch and two years ago took a trip to Savannah. Alas, we did not have the time to stand in line and make reservations for The Lady and Sons restaurant, so this time when Paige came to visit me, she brought a jar of Paula Deen's Sun Dried Tomato Marinade.


For dinner we decided to cook something simple so that there'd be more time for catching up, instead of chopping, sauteing and mixing things. I made mashed potatoes with garlic and a bit of cream and a salad of lettuce, avocado, radishes, white onion, dill, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Paige made pork chops: she drizzled a pan with some olive oil, put the pork chops down and poured Sun Dried Tomato Marinade on top of them. That was pretty much it. She turned the pork chops a few times and also added a bit of water while the pork was cooking to thin out the marinade. And we just used a thermometer to figure out when the pork was done. Yep, that's us: two Jewish girls cooking pork! Make sure you don't overcook the pork: it's already dead when you buy it: please make sure it's a bit pink when you eat it.

The pork turned out flavorful and juicy and could not have been easier to make.

We drank some Riesling, had dinner accompanied with sourdough bread and for dessert had cherries with home-made whipped cream.

Public announcement: friends should not let friends be alone in a house with sourdough bread and olive oil.

 The next day for lunch I decided to use the leftovers from our dinner to make a healthy salad. {I also happen to think that it's pretty.}

Pork Salad with avocado and radishes

All you need is lettuce, sliced avocado, radishes, and leftover cold sliced pork. Drizzle with some olive oil and you are set.


 Remember to tell your friends how much they mean to you!

1/16/11

Phillips Museum celebrates 90 years

Sometimes the best things in life are free. When I heard that Phillips Museum in DC was celebrating its 90th Anniversary with free admission and cake, I was eager to pay a visit to this jewel of a museum. One of my favorite rooms in this museum is a Rothko Room that has four paintings by one of my favorite artists.

I was happy that Jenna agreed to join me on my mini cultural adventure. One horrible Metro ride later, I was ready to see some art. Luckily there wasn't a line when we got to the museum, but it definitely was crowded. Very crowded. Fyi, parents, don't let your kids sit on the floor when there are crowds of people trying to make their way through to see different paintings.

Speaking of paintings, I really loved two big canvases by Howard Hodgkin. The colors are so vibrant and alive...maybe I should do something similar on a wall of my living room?





I like art. But I must admit that what I really wanted to see were the cakes designed by some of the top pastry chefs in DC for 90th Anniversary of Phillips Museum. Alas, there were no samples: you can look, but you can't touch (or taste).




Below are my photos of the cakes and descriptions provided by Cecilia Wagner | Publicity and Marketing Manager for Phillips Museum.

Enjoy and please let me know in the comments area which cake was your favorite. I'll put a few stars by my favorite cakes.
Restaurant Eve Birthday Cake
by REBEKKA BALTZELL|RESTAURANT EVE

“My inspiration for the cake is to take some of my favorite artists in The Phillips Collection (the French impressionist Monet, van Gogh...) and using their color palettes, create more of a sculpture than a traditional cake shape in keeping with the timeless spirit of the Phillips.”





A Whispered Candle ***
by KEVIN BOXX | DOMASO

“This devil’s food cake, with milk chocolate praline filling and grand mariner butter cream combined with an orange scented white cake with orange blossom and chamomile-infused butter cream, takes its inspiration from the aura of Oskar Kokoschka’s Portrait of Lotte Franzos (1909). The painting crosses the boundaries and generations that define The Phillips Collection, as if it were holding a conversation between other works in the collection. A key piece, if you will, that makes one understand why Phillips chose it for his home. Two flavors are intertwined to produce a bold and graceful whispered conversation in intimate but evocative confection.”




Spicy Ginger Cake **
by PETER BRETT | BLUE DUCK TAVERN

Chef Brett was inspired to create this cake by the energy and boldness of Matisse’s Interior With Egyptian Curtain (1948) in The Phillips Collection.  The themes of vitality, growth, and regeneration represent to Peter the Phillips’s 90 year history, especially after the reopening of the original house. The foundation of his cake will be built on tiers patterned after the painting’s curtain, window with palm tree, and coral table top, culminating in the bowl of fruit.


CakeLove Birthday Cake 
by WARREN BROWN | CAKELOVE

“I love the layers of colors and expression of light in the works at The Phillips Collection. Layering paint to express light inspires me to layer a variety of flours, spices, sugars, and liqueurs to create texture and flavor in the layers of a cake.  Accents on the cake’s exterior are hints of the treasures waiting to be uncovered with each bite. Butter and sponge cakes are layered with an old-fashioned, cooked milk buttercream and gently sculpted. The cake is covered in French meringues and accented with flurries of candied nuts and candies.”


Pecan Butterscotch Cake *****
by CHRIS KUJALA | RIS

“I developed this Pecan Butterscotch Cake in honor of the Phillips’s 90th Anniversary because I wanted to create something that represents one of the many ‘truths’ that exist in both art and food.  Like many great artists, my work in the kitchen requires talent, skill, and precision…but we’re all still a bit nutty.”



Quark Torte 
by TRAVIS OLSON | 1789

“I am going to prepare a ‘quark torte,’ a sort of cheesecake that would be found in Paul Klee’s home country of Switzerland. The outside of the cake will be decorated with colored spice cookies that mimic the shapes and colors of Klee’s painting The Way to the Citadel (1937).”





Equinox Birthday Cake ***
by TOM WELLINGS | EQUINOX

“My inspiration for the 90th Anniversary cake is Untitled by Alexander Calder (1948).  The linear movement and use of the space surrounding the sculpture is what I will try to capture in my cake, using dark chocolate mousse, Tahitian vanilla, lemon biscuit, and various crunchy elements.”