4/29/11

New additions to the kitchen

Happy Friday!!! So happy it's almost the weekend. As always, there will be quite a bit of cooking involved. There will be a pasta salad  and an arugula salad for Robyn; I am developing a recipe with dried morel mushrooms from Marx Foods, and need to figure out something to make for a friend's housewarming party.
In the meantime, thought I'd share a few additions to my kitchen with you.

Mary gave me these adorable owl measuring cups from West Elm for my birthday. How cute are they? I think I'll use them as regular bowls. LOVE.


When people ask me what I want as a gift, I never run out of ideas ;) I can come up with something that will cost $5 or $500...I'm just trying to be helpful! So when I saw these pretty Marimekko cups, I knew I wanted them (in fact, I have an umbrella with the red design and love it). So Anna was kind enough to give me all 6 cups for my housewarming present. And yes, I realize they are only 8 ounces...that's fine, I'll just fill them up with tea twice. No big deal.


While in New York City for my birthday celebration, I found this adorable yellow set of a mini pitcher and a sugar bowl at a consignment sore. Both were only $8 and are made in Ireland.


And here are all of my new kitchen "toys" displayed on my leaning bookcase! Little things make me happy :) And the sphere on the bottom shelf is the gorgeous mortar and pestle I got to keep from my freelancing assignment.


What new kitchen additions have you purchased recently?

Have a wonderful weekend!!! Cook something simple, delicious and share it with your family and friends!

4/27/11

Baguette with Apricot Rosemary Jam & Smoked Mozzarella

A few weeks ago I decided to stop by Penn Quarter Farmers Market. This was my first time this year, but I've been to the market in previous years and quite enjoyed it!

By the time I got to the market, it was almost closing time, and there was not much fresh produce other than apples. I did not want apples. I might have pouted. Who am I kidding? I totally pouted!

Instead, I decided to try Apricot & Rosemary Jam from The Copper Pot. This was my first purchase from The Copper Pot, but I've heard many great things about their jams, pasta sauces and oils.


Check out the ingredient list: apricot, sugar, rosemary and pectin. That's all! Can you get any more pure than that? The jam smelled amazing, but had a surprising consistency of baby food. I guess I'm just used to jams from a grocery store that are more "together." But what matters is the taste! It had a great combination of sweet and almost a bit savory because of the rosemary.


I also picked up a container of Applewood Smoked Mozzarella from the Blue Ridge Dairy Co. I've had their mozzarella before and was really happy with the quality. But honestly, I wish the guy selling the product was a bit more customer friendly.


The following weekend I decided to combine the jam with the mozzarella for a morning sandwich. I just added a toasted whole grain baguette and thinly sliced red onions.



Voila! Easy. Fresh. Slightly different from a typical breakfast or lunch sandwich and oh so very satisfying!


Have you been to a farmers market lately? What did you buy? How did you use it? Share :) {Check out basil and flowers I picked up from Penn Quarter Farmers Market last Thursday.}


4/25/11

Have you ever tried beet chips? Delicious. Plus, Yogurt Dip.

Last week my friend Cindy brought me a bag of beet chips from Philadelphia. I LOVE beets in any form: raw, roasted, sauteed, in soups, salads, or just eaten with a fork and a smear of goat cheese.

I had full intentions of just snacking on these beet chips at my desk. But Cindy had other plans: she wanted me to take photos of the chips and do something with them ;) Fine! I was happy to oblige.


Check out the super cute owl bowl: it's part of the owl measuring cup set I received from my friend Mary for my bday.



I decided to make a Cucumber & Dill Yogurt Dip to go along with the chips. It's pretty healthy, simple to make, and a great reminder that Spring is really here!

Ingredients
32 ounce container of low fat plain yogurt, strained overnight
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 garlic cloves, microplaned
1 small cucumber (I did not peel or seed it), diced
salt and pepper

Note: to strain the yogurt, I simply put it directly into a fine meshed sieve, and placed the sieve over a large Pyrex measuring cup. I put a plastic wrap directly on top of the yogurt (so that there will be no crust formed), and put the entire thing in the fridge. Check out how much liquid comes out!!! What you are left with is so much smoother and richer!


Directions
1. Put all ingredients into a bowl.


2. Mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.



The natural sugar in the beet chips goes really well with the acidity of the lemon and the bite of the garlic. The dill and cucumbers bring so much freshness to the dish.



The dip is also good on top of steamed or broiled salmon or with chicken.

4/22/11

Paul Bakery, from France to Washington DC, opens May 2!

This post could be titled "The benefits of being a blogger and why I'm glad I don't keep Passover rules."

Why?

Earlier this week I was one of the lucky bloggers to be invited to a baking class at the soon to be opened Paul bakery in Washington DC. In fact, the bakery will be open May 2nd, so get ready for amazing bread, desserts, soups, sandwiches and other delicious dishes. Thank you, Lisa Amore!


I love carbs. I love bread, especially when it's fresh and still warm from the oven. And I'm so glad I don't keep Passover rules because the baking class took place smack in the beginning of Passover.

Before I continue, here are a few facts about Paul:
·         PAUL was founded in 1889 by the Holder family and has continued baking bread in the traditional manner for over 120 years
·         We are artisanal bakers, passionate about the craft of baking
·         PAUL is France’s leading bakery
·         PAUL is now present in over 22 countries
·         There are nearly 500 PAUL bakery-cafés worldwide.
·         The store on Pennsylvania Ave., is being considered PAUL’s US Flagship bakery-café
·         PAUL will open a location in Georgetown (at the intersection of Wisconsin and M St’s NW in August.
We were greeted by Maxime Holder, President & CEO of Paul; David Dequeker, Chief Bakery & Pastry Chef, and Philippe Sanchez, President and CEO of Paul USA. And of course Lisa Amore was there to introduce everyone, get us excited about baking bread and make sure everyone had a wonderful time (which we all did!).

I was incredibly impressed by the cleanliness and the beauty of the kitchen. The tile was unbelievably white with gorgeous hand-painted motives. Paul uses German machinery, and it runs smooth like butter.

The photo on the left shows different types of flour used in bread. The photo on the right is of David showing us the giant mixer used in the bakery.


The photo on the left is a very clever machine that divides the dough into equally weighed pieces: that way, all the loaves are identical and bake at the same time. The photo on the right shows a machine used for resting the loaves of bread. To me it looked like mini hammocks in which the bread gets to hang out.


I did not take any photos of us mixing and shaping the dough because it was quite a messy and sticky process. But it was really fun, a good way to get out aggression and to learn how the bread is made the old way! The basic recipe has only four ingredients: flour, salt, fresh yeast and water!

Here are a few professional photos courtesy of Jason Colston for PAUL bakery http://www.jasoncolston.com/:





While the dough rested, we got to try some of the pastries: my favorite were the pistachio macarons!



And then it was time to get back to business.


Check out how the bread is transported from a rack into the oven:


The loaves then get slit with a really sharp razor. Why? So that the steam can escape. And of course it also makes the loaves pretty.



The bread in the middle was shaped by cutting the loaf with a pair of scissors: brilliant! That one was my favorite.



How beautiful does the bread look? And notice how much it has risen!



And then the room started smelling like fresh bread, and it was time to take it out of the oven. Here is my favorite loaf (I was lucky to take it home!).


A sign of well baked French bread is the amount of holes (reminds me of Swiss cheese).


And to check if the bread is baked properly, you tap on the bottom of the loaf: the sound should be very hollow. (I actually use the same technique for figuring out the ripeness of watermelons: it works!)




This was a fabulous event. I have a few loaves in my freezer as well as some fresh dough to make pizza.

I can't wait to check out the other food choices once Paul opens.

4/20/11

What to do with endives? Endive "Spring Rolls"

Last week I came home, and there was a box waiting for me by my door. It was full of gorgeous white and red endives from Discover Endives. I've been a fan of endives, but if you've never heard of them or seen them in your store, here's a little description from the website:

WHAT IS ENDIVE?

Endive is a member of the chicory family, which includes radicchio, escarole and curly endive. It is often called the queen of vegetables and is prized the world over.
It has a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor with a pleasantly mild bitterness — great served raw or cooked.
So Special...It's Grown TwiceEndive is one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow, requiring a two-step process before it is ready to be enjoyed.
The first growth takes about 150 days in the field, where the chicory plant grows from seed into a deep root. Tops of the leafy plant are then cut off, roots dug up, and placed in cold storage, where they enter a dormancy period.
As demand necessitates, roots are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 20 to 28 days in dark, cool, and humid forcing rooms, similar to mushroom growing. Thus, endives are available year-round.

I've purchased endives multiple times at my grocery store and used them as vessels to hold fun ingredients such as beets, grapefruit and blue cheese. For some reason, I'm not a fan of cooked endives. So this time around with a large box of endives I made several salads, gave some to my friend Cindy, and then decided to come up with a few fun ideas to share with you.


Endive "Spring Rolls"

Ingredients
endives
ripe mango, peeled & sliced into thin strips
cucumber, sliced into thin strips
carrot, peeled and sliced into thin strips

dipping sauce
1 part hoisin sauce
1 part peanut butter (I used the one with nuts)
Kikkoman Ponzu soy sauce to taste (Thank you, Foodbuzz!)
fresh cilantro, chopped
enough water to thin the sauce to the consistency you like

Directions
1. Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl.


2. Arrange the mango, cucumber and carrot strips inside the endive leaves.
3. Serve with the dipping sauce.



What can I say? I think this is a gorgeous appetizer or a snack. It's super colorful, healthy, has balanced flavors of saltiness and sweetness and is just fun to eat!


Do you like endives? How do you use them in your kitchen? Please share as I still have a few of them sitting in the refrigerator.