Monday, December 31, 2007

Week of December 30

Happy (almost) New Year!

Time to start another year of blogging about food and drink. I have gotten some great feedback from you as to what you want to see and read about. As a result, I'll be trying to include more easy-to-make recipes that can be made on a weeknight after work (as opposed to prepping them a few days ahead).

I'll also be tackling some "special projects": these may be show-stoppers for dinner with friends (homemade pasta, candies or a beautiful pastry) or fun food projects (homemade grenadine, preserved lemons, jams and jellies).

No matter what I'm up to, meal planning is still important, so:

On Sunday:
  • I went grocery shopping
  • We went out to dinner at Eastern Standard (order the mahogany clams with house-made smoked sausage if they're available)
Week of December 30

Dinner out at the Eastern Standard: Many lovely cocktails and a very delicious dinner

New Year's Eve: Playing Tapas for 2007
Gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto (no jamon to be found)
Marcona almonds
Chorizo in red wine
Garlic shrimp
Fennel salad
Rice balls with cheese
Eggplant with sherry vinegar
Mahon & membrillo (thanks Mom!)

Peanut Brittle (thanks Ann!) and Fudge (thanks Chryssa!)

New Year's Day
Breakfast: Kouign Amann, courtesy of David Lebovitz
Lunch: Lentil salad with chorizo
Reubens on seeded rye
Carrot salad

Mashed potatoes
Oven-roasted brussels sprouts

Mark Bittman's Autumn millet bake (courtesy of 101 Cookbooks)
Steamed green beans with shallots

Chicken Marsala
Orzo with roasted garlic
Green salad

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Drink of the Week: Hague Cocktail

Have you tried Chartreuse yet? It's a French liqueur which is produced by Carthusian monks (their order is located just Southwest of Lyons, France). It is flavored with 130 different herbs and only two monks know the entire recipe. Chartreuse is distilled in both green and yellow versions. The green is higher in proof and is more herbal in flavor.

Chartreuse may be drunk straight as a pre- or post-dinner drink, but it also mixes wonderfully in cocktails.

This is the Hague Cocktail: a marvelous way to use Green Chartreuse in a drink. The herbal quality of the Chartreuse blends beautifully with the herbal notes in the vermouth.

Hague Cocktail

Stir (do not shake) in an iced mixing glass:
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce Green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Serve in an iced martini glass. (Technically, this should be garnished with a cherry, but I had none on hand.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Back in the Kitchen

Okay, that was longer than a week. But I am back.

I have made a major change in my life. Earlier this month, I left the company I worked for for nearly five years. It wasn't an easy decision and I miss my great friends and co-workers dearly, but this leads to the next stage in my professional life.

I left my job to start my own personal chef and catering services company. I'm still fleshing out a lot of the details and will bring you up to date once I am open for business.

In the meantime, I will still be posting here and will keep the recipe ideas coming.

Have a great holiday season!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Brown Sugar Butter Cake

Okay, finally. I have been promising people this recipe for a looooong time.

The original recipe for this cake comes from Gourmet magazine. That version has you make blackberry jam and frosts the cake with an Italian buttercream (marshmallow-like frosting). I tasted this cake at my mother's house. Instead of the buttercream, she used cream cheese frosting and it was a great combination.

I have adopted this cake wholeheartedly and it has become an active part of my repertoire. A few major points in its favor:
  • Everybody loves it. Seriously, not one person has expressed anything but absolute delight about this cake.
  • It's easy to make.
  • It freezes really well. You can make layers in advance and thaw them as you need them.
This first picture is of the wedding cake I made with this recipe. It took 4 batches of the recipe to make and was really enjoyed by everyone at the party where it was served.

Later, I made a mini-cake batch. One batch of batter will fill 6 4" mini cake pans. This picture is of what happens when you only use 4 4" mini cake pans and pretend that it won't matter. Ah well, I trimmed off the messiness and went onward.

Further down in this post is a shot of an ice cream cake I made with one of these 4" layers. I cut it in half, put softened ice cream in the center and then covered it with a chocolate ganache. Into the freezer and to serve when it's firmed up. Yum.

Brown Sugar Butter Cake
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (find it at Trader Joe's, or pulse almonds with the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor until finely ground)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 large eggs

Makes 3 8" or 9" layers, 1 12" layer, 6 4" mini-cakes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together the almond meal with 1/2 cup sugar. (Or, if using whole almonds, pulse nuts with sugar in a food processor until finely ground.)

Generously butter cake pans and divided nut mixture between pans. Shake each pan to cover sides and bottom with nut mixture. Leave any extra nut mix in the bottom of each pan.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla in a small bowl or pitcher.

Beat together butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl of mixer with paddle attachment at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing just until batter is smooth. Divide batter among your cake pans.

Bake, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in centers of cakes comes out clean and edges begin to pull away from sides of pans. About 30 minutes for 8" or 9" pans, 20 for 4" pans, and 45 minutes for one large 12" layer.

Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of each pan. Invert racks over pans, then flip cakes onto racks to cool completely, about 1 hour.

If freezing your layers, wrap them well in plastic wrap before freezing. When thawing, put the layers into the refrigerator and let them thaw 24 hours before using.

To serve: Make a batch of cream cheese frosting. Try one from Joy of Cooking or the Silver Palate. A really good version is here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week of December 2

Ok, the holidays have officially hit.

I spent all weekend up to my elbows in melting (read: burning) sugar, so I have no idea what the hell we're eating this week. I pulled a few soups out of the freezer, checked my pasta stash and we're off.

Bottoms up.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Drink of the Week: Kumquat Daiquiri

Did you know that it's kumquat season? Missed that memo, did you? I usually see those lovely little boxes of fruit at the market and buy one. Then it molders away on my counter and then I throw out a bunch of softened, semi-moldy fruit. Sigh.

While it won't use up a whole box of kumquats, this drink is a way to put a dent in your supply. You can use rum (right) or tequila (left) in this drink, depending on your preference. After an exhaustive taste test, we decided we prefer rum. If you use tequila, this becomes a Kumquatarita.

Kumquat Daiquiri

In shaker, muddle together:
  • 4-5 kumquats (easier if you cut them in half first)
  • small spoonful sugar
Fill shaker with ice, and add:
  • 2 ounces rum
  • juice of 1/2 lime (just squeeze it in)
Shake, shake, shake. Serve up or on the rocks. Garnish with mint, sliced kumquat or lime wheel.
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