Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Holiday Eggnog Tiramisu Trifles

Tiramisu has long been one of my husband Brad's favorite desserts.  His favorite is green tea tiramisu (Geisha, my favoirite sushi place in NYC, has the best one), which I will have to try making soon for this site.  However, for our New Years Eve dinner, I made eggnog tiramisu trifles, which I served in white wine glasses.  In my opinion they didn't taste too eggnog-like at all, which is probably a good thing.  They did have a bit of flavor of each of the various types of alcohol used in preparing the dessert and were gone pretty quickly in our house (always a good sign).

I based the recipe on a recipe from a 2003 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine that I found online, but cut the recipe in half because I didn't need 16 desserts that the recipe called for.  I wound up making seven in the end. This recipe was a bit complicated, but well worth the effort.  My initial plan was to use some edible gold powder to make it sparkle as a New Years Eve treat, but unfortunately I did not have a chance to pick up the edible gold in time for 2010.  Perhaps next year.

Here is the recipe that I used:

2/3 cup plus 2 T sugar
2/3 cup water
1/8 cup plus 1/2 tsp rum
2 T brandy
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 8 oz containers of mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4 tsp instant coffee
4 T kahlua or other coffe liqueur
1 box of ladyfinger cookies (about 30 cookies)

First, I whisked the 2/3 cup of sugar, 1/8 cup of water, rum, brandy, egg yolks and nutmeg in a metal bowl.  Then I whisked in a double boiler for about four minutes until the mixture thickened.  Then I whisked in the two containers of mascarpone cheese until it was fully combined into a custard.  In my lovely mint green mixer, I whisked together the whipping cream and vanilla until the cream formed peaks and then added to the mascarpone mixture.  This mixture is the first component of the trifle.

Next, I brought 1/2 cup of water to boil in a saucepan.  I added 2 T of sugar and the coffee powder.  Then I used this mixture to coat the ladyfingers.  Warning - this must be done quickly on both sides or the cookies will dissolve.

Then, I layered the trifles in the wine glasses with the tiramisu mixture and the cookies (although the layers are not that distinct in the final product).  I sprinked some ground chocolate on the top, and then rediidgerated for about 10 hours until the desserts were firm.  This may not be the most stunning looking desert in the world (unless you take my suggestion and get some gold powder) but it was quite good tasting and a perfect dessert for New Years Eve - certainly a good way to start out a new decade.  I garnished the dessert with some tiramisu cookies that my mom sent to us with our Hanukkah gifts.

We had some wonderful Chicken Marsala for dinner tonight - a classic in our kitchen.  Either my husband or I will post that one soon, so stay tuned.

Tiramisu on Foodista


Sasha's Kitchen: Royal Iced Purse & Shoe Sugar Cookies

This project began when I discovered all of the beautiful and colorful cookies that could be made at home simply with royal icing.  I was planning on starting with a simple project like snowmen for the holidays.  However, I discovered the store New York Cake, where you can purchase just about anything for baking projects (including royal icing, an array of professional food colorings, hundreds of cookie cutters, fondant and gold powder to name a few), all at extremely reasonable prices.  When exploring the website, I noticed that they sold cookie cutters in the shapes of purses and shoes, and thus an idea was born.  I just realized that they also sell purse shaped cake pans for making purse cakes with fondant, which I plan on doing in a future project.

For this project I purchased the following: a couple of one pound bags of royal icing mix (basically confectioners sugar and meringue powder), the cookie cutters mentioned above, and a set of 12 professional food colorings.  This makes a perfect group project, and we were joined by one of my good friends from college, Dave and his fiance Marielle, who were visiting from Boston over the holidays.

The first step to make these cookies (or frankly, cookies using any cookie cutters of your choice if you're not into purses and shoes) is to prepare the dough for the sugar cookies (or perhaps they are really butter cookies?).  I used the following recipe:

4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 sticks of unsalted butter (make sure the butter is cold)
2 cups granulated sugar

Using your mixer, beat the butter and the sugar well for a couple of minutes at medium speed.  Lower the speed and beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.  Then slowly add the dry ingredients and mix fully until it forms a cookie dough.

Roll out the dough on a large area using a rolling pin (you can use a bit of flour if the dough is too sticky) until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Note:  I am not so great at this step, but someone who has a little more upper-body muscle can surely help out here.  Then, cut with the cookie cutters and bake the shapes at 350 F for about 15 minutes.

To make the Royal icing, I suggest purchasing and using a small bag from NY Cake (see links above).  We followed the instructions on the bag but added an extra tablespoon of water to make the icing a little easier to use.  Then we divided the icing into seven bowls and mixed with a drop or two (use very sparingly as the coloring is very strong) of the high-grade food colorings.  This turned out to be plenty of icing to color all the cookies.

Then for the fun part - Brad, Dave, Marielle and I "painted" the cookies to make them look like purses and shoes.  I would suggest using a set of inexpensive watercolor brushes (ones that are unused).  I had an inexpensive set of brushes that I intended to use for this project, but somehow had misplaced all but one or two of the brushes, so we used a combination of the brushes we had, and some spoons and other utensils.  This worked out just fine, actually, but NY Cake also sells fine tip plastic bottles for applying Royal icing, which I plan on investing in for my next Royal icing project.  The food colorings were fantastic, as the colors were vibrant and beautiful.  Such colorings can also be used when working with marzipan and fondant.  If the icing starts to harden in the bowls (because you and you friends don't decorate the cookies fast enough) you can add a teaspoon of water. 

Some of the cookies looked better artistically than others.  We did attempt to make a few "designer" purses, using as models a few dog-designer purses in my pug's toy collection (she has a few classics - Chewy Vuitton, Muttsoni, plus a Dolce & Grrrrbana Shoe).   This was a fun New Years Day project to do with out out of town friends and thus, I highly recommend such cookie parties as a great way to spend time with friends.

Future projects to look for in the New Year from my kitchen:  homemade limoncello, new salad recipes, homemade hard cheeses, tiramisu triffles, chicken marsala and glow-in-the-dark jello.

Cookies on Foodista


Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: London Broil

So I've always loved London Broil but had never cooked it myself and decided it was time I tried. I looked up a few recipes online and cobbled together a marinade from the things I liked.

1 cup of red wine (we used a malbec)
2 tbs minced garlic
Cracked Black Pepper
Olive oil (maybe a few tbs)
Truffle Oil (a tbs or so - a little bit goes a long way)

I marinated the steak overnight in this mixture and turned it this morning as I didn't have a container where the steak would be fully immersed. I also thought it would be a shame to waste such a delicious marinade so I bought some 'baby bella' mushrooms and chopped up 1 vidalia onion and cooked them in the marinade until the wine reduced a bit.

I ended up serving it with my garlic mashed potatoes and some Brussels Sprouts. I cooked one container of sprouts, sliced into discs (as I don't like them whole for some reason), 1 bunch of scallions and seasoned with black pepper and a teaspoon of minced garlic. This is actually my co-worker's girlfriend's recipe for sprouts but I have adopted it as it's the ONLY sprouts recipe I have ever liked. I just browned them a little in a pan with some olive oil.

I seared the steak under the broiler on high for about 10 minutes on each side until it was a little more firm to the touch. I also basted it with some of the remaining marinade a couple of times.

I was extremely happy with the results. You could definitely taste the marinade and all the flavors as I had let it soak in for so long and the mushrooms and onions complimented it perfectly since they were cooked in the same sauce. We also ate it with the Malbec in the marinade which was great. I'd say this would serve about 4-5 people but depends on the size of the steak and how many potatoes you make.

Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Dumplings

I love Chinese style dumplings. My Chinese side of the family has a family cookbook with recipes that have been handed down through the generations. When my Polish father and my Mom got divorced that cookbook was just about the only thing my Dad asked for. Oddly, he is the one who taught me how to make these.

I decided to make these for a New Year's Eve party this year. They are very inexpensive to make and are always a big hit. They freeze well so I always make a ton of them.

2 lbs ground pork
2 bunches of scallions
1/2 cabbage (shredded)
2 tbs minced garlic
small piece of ginger, minced
2 packages of dumpling wrappers (we use Gyoza wrappers as they are thinner)
1 bottle of dumpling sauce (I like to add some hot dumpling sauce as well)
soy sauce
black pepper

I've also had great success with a shrimp, water chestnut and shitake mushroom mixture instead of the ground pork but you have to get good large shrimp since they taste better and I add more soy sauce to the mixture. Sometimes I add water chestnuts to the pork ones as well.

You combine your pork, cabbage, scallions, ginger, garlic, black pepper and a little soy sauce in a mixing bowl and mix them well.

It helps to have two people. One to portion out the amount of meat filing onto the wrappers and one or two to actually wrap the dumplings. You simply get a bowl of water and wet the outside edge of the wrapper to wrap the meat. Try to make sure they don't open back up.

Once you have them all wrapped heat some peanut or vegetable oil in a pan and hot it nice and hot. Olive oil tends to burn to easily in this process. Sometimes I use sesame oil and chili oil instead to add more flavor. You want to saute the dumplings in oil until they get a nice crispy brown side to them. Maybe 5 minutes per pan? You just need to check them. Then you add some water to the pan and cover it for a few more minutes until most of the water has been absorbed.
When reheating, they are best reheated in the oven covered. Enjoy!


Friday, January 1, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: How To Roast A Rack Of Lamb (New Years Eve Dinner)

The main course of our New Years Eve dinner last night was a herb crusted rack of lamb. I had actually never prepared a rack of lamb, even though lamb chops are one of my favorite foods, because they are also generally on the expensive side. However, that makes New Years (or any holiday) the perfect occasion for preparing such a dish. I purchased a 3 pound  rack of lamb for about $40 at M&S Prime Meats (a wonderful Italian Market and butcher) here in Park Slope.

I found an online recipe that was surprisingly simple from the now-deceased Gourmet Magazine online at Epicurious. The original recipe can be found here.  I made some changes that are below for the final recipe that I adapted.

Here is the recipe that I prepared – I used a lot more herbs than the original recipe called for, which was absolutely delicious.

Two 1 ½ pounds racks of lamb, trimmed to only one layer of fat (I used regular chops, not french chops)
1 ½ tsp salt
¾ tsp pepper
1 tsp canola oil

3 cloves of garlic, diced
¼ cup parsley, diced
3 T chopped fresh thyme
3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 ½ T pepper
1 ½ T canola oil

To prepare the racks of lamb, heat a Dutch oven with oil for two minutes. Rub the meat with the salt and pepper, and sear on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a roasting pan and coat with the herb mixture. Coat well and densely, pressing so that the herbs adhere to the meat on all sides.

We cooked the meat on convection roast setting for about 40 minutes at 350 until it was tender and slightly pink. After about 30 minutes, cover the meat with aluminum foil for the duration of the cooking process. However, this process will vary depending on the oven you use, and the size and shape of the rack of lamb. Cut each rack into chops and serve.  In my case, we had 6 chops (3 each) which was plenty.  These are single chops which are a bit harder to cut into chops and not as "pretty" looking as french double chops, which we will use next time.

Our pug, Dakota (who normally does not beg for food unless it is one of her favorites) went crazy for this – she really wanted a bite! After dinner she ran round the apartment looking under the table to see if there was just one morsel left. We did save a tiny bite for her New Years Eve treat.  Preparing a rack of lamb may be a bit pricey, but is actually quite simple and not a lengthy process like braising meat.  Happy New Years!


Sasha's Kitchen: Caesar Salad (New Years Eve Dinner)

Caesar salads have long been one of my husband's favorite dishes. We both like Caesar salads so much that we chose to serve it at our wedding at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Before I learned to prepare my own Caesar dressing, others always told me about these wonderful Caesar dressings that they made and offered to share their recipes. However, I actually was never impressed, as these dressings were often too heavy on the anchovy flavor, not made properly (real Caesar dressing requires raw egg yolks), or were not creamy enough for my tastes.

I have worked for awhile to perfect my Caesar salad recipe using the proper mix of ingredients. When I first started making it, I would often have to make it twice before getting the dressing to the right consistency, because it did not emulsify properly. This was obviously frustrating, and I have since corrected this by being sure to add the ingredients in the proper order and mixing in steps. The end result should be a classic, creamy Caesar dressing. My husband and I chose to make this Caesar Salad recipe last night for our New Years Eve Dinner, which also consisted of Herb-Encrusted Rack of Lamb and Eggnog Tiramisu Trifles.
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 egg yolks
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T lemon juice
2 T water
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce (use Lea & Perrins)

Bag of romaine lettuce
1 clove garlic
Grated parmesan cheese

Smear the garlic over the inside of a salad bowl and put aside. To make the dressing, put the anchovies, egg yolks, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and water into a food processor (like a miniprep) and process for 30 seconds. Add the Canola Oil in stages, blending in between to emulsify. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the salt and pepper. At the end, add 1 tsp of Worcestershire Sauce and be sure to use the brand Lea & Perrins (which for years, I called Lea & Pepprins, until my husband corrected me!).

To make the salad, mix the dressing with the romaine lettuce and add to the bowl with the garlic. Top with croutons and parmesan cheese.

Caesar Salad on Foodista


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Margie's Kitchen in Boston: Lymon

Photos by Lena

My title uses the Middle English name for lemon in deference to the first English reference to this berry fruit at the beginning of the 15th century. The lemon goes back much further, back to the beginning of civilization. Its earliest identification is associated with the Indus (Ancient Indian/Pakistani) Civilization around 5,000 B.C. (see Food in History by Reay Tannahill for more interesting insights on the importance of food and cookery in history). As for modern cuisine, the lemon is an important source of the “sour” flavor, and along with the other four flavor groups: bitter, hot/pungent, sweet, and salty, are considered essential balancing agents in the human body.

The lemon is an ingredient seen in every kind of food to sharpen flavor alone or in combination with other seasonings. When combined with sweetness, the true essence of a lemon is revealed. What I recall with fondness about the ethnic cuisine of my mother and grandmothers are many things, but in particular those dishes that used lemon as a key ingredient: lemon meringue pie, homemade lemonade, hot lemon pudding served over home-made ginger bread; and then there were my Italian grandmother’s fried artichoke hearts sprinkled with lemon juice. They say that touching and smelling lemons makes one happy. I think this may be true because I’ve gotten the greatest satisfaction from cooking with lemons, and my favorite liqueur is limoncello, a homemade variety introduced to me ten years ago in my cousin’s flat in Arezzo. A close imitation to hers is the Pallini brand (remember to place the liquor bottle in the freezer for several days to get the true affect).

So, before I tell you all about my favorite “lymon” recipes,
let me first pour a little glass of limoncello—now I can begin:

Over the years I’ve collected many cookbooks, particularly of the ethnic variety, and embedded as an ingredient in many of the recipes is lemon: The Flavor Principle by Elisabeth Rozin, Memories from Brownie’s Kitchen by Brownie Schrumpf, The Vegetarian Epicure: Book Two by Anna Thomas Nationality Rooms Recipe Book of the University of Pittsburgh, Ciao Italia by Mary Ann Esposito, and Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, just to name a few.

The Flavor Principle (1973) is a wonderful cookbook. I bought my copy (now out-of-print) at CMU’s (Carnegie-Mellon University’s) bookstore many ions ago as a graduate student trying to escape operations research and other quantitative coursework [I should have trusted my instincts more.] The recipes all center on one or more ethnic flavor principles, e.g. lemon-oregano or cultured milk (sour cream or yogurt)-herb or spice. I have many favorites that use lemon, including “Baked Eggplant and Zucchini (Lemon-Oregano)” (201).

1 medium eggplant, peeled, sliced, and quartered
2 or 3 zucchini, sliced

1 large yellow onion, sliced
½ cup olive oil

½ cup lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoon salt

Dash fresh ground pepper

1 tablespoon crushed dried oregano

1 clove garlic

Place eggplant, zucchini, and onions in fairly deep casserole. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Cover and bake in a preheated 375˚F oven 40-50 minutes. Serves 6. Fresh herbs can be substituted for dried.
Memories from Brownie’s Kitchen (1989) is full of hardy Mainer recipes. My favorite is called “Common Sense Coleslaw” (28).

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground ginger
2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 cups shredded green cabbage

Wash and dry completely shredded cabbage. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, except cabbage. Add cabbage; toss to coat well. Cover; chill at least 2 hrs. [Note: I first soak cabbage in water for about ½ hr. with the ½ tsp salt]. Makes 8 servings.
The Vegetarian Epicure: Book Two (1978) is another out-of- print cookbook acquired during my time at CMU. I have many favorites but I would like to share one recipe that I’ve never made, because of my fear of layering cooked meringue shells. I may get the courage to make this scrumptious recipe “Lemon Torte” (326-327) but I would love to have a beta taster go first.

1 ¼ cups egg whites
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ⅔ cups ground almonds (unblanched)
Lemon filling (see below)
Garnish: blanched almond halves

Beat the egg whites with sugar until they hold soft peaks. “Sift together the second cup of sugar and the cornstarch and then add it to the egg whites along with the almond extract, and continuing beating until egg whites are stiff. Fold in ground almonds.” Butter and flour 2 10 inch cake pans and divide egg whites between the two, “spreading it as flat and smooth as possible”. Bake layers for 1 ½ hours in preheated 275˚F oven. They should be pale and gold in color and shrinking away from sides. Let them cool slightly in pan then remove and let them cool completely on racks.

Lemon Filling

“4 tablespoons cornstarch
¾ cup cold water
⅓ Fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 egg yolks
1 ½ tablespoons butter

Combine all ingredients up to eggs yolks in heavy-bottom saucepan. Stir over low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Stir with whisk if needed. When thick, remove from heat and beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Return to low heat for 3 minutes only and then remove from heat, stir in butter and let cool, stirring occasionally.

Spread half filling over one meringue layer, place the second layer on top, spreading the remaining filling on the top with some filling spread only on the sides of the top layer. Chill torte for at least an hour. Serves 10.

Nationality Rooms Recipe Book (1975) was originally designed as a fundraising project for the upkeep of the nationality rooms at the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt (University of Pittsburgh). The cookbook may still be available at the gift shop or you can check the link. The recipes in this book are truly ethnic. I just bought this cookbook recently and have tried one recipe (“Iranian Spinach and Lamb Meatballs”). Here are two recipes using lemon that I would like to try very soon: “Leeks-Turkish Style” (155) and “Filled Pastry (Hamantaschen)” (177).

Leeks-Turkish Style

2 pounds leeks
2 onions
⅓ cup olive oil
1 carrot (pared and cut into ¼˝ slices)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dill weed
2 tablespoons rice
¼ teaspoon sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1 lemon for garnish
Salt to taste
1 cup of water

Cut leeks into 2˝ long pieces. Wash and drain. Saute finely chopped onions in oil for five minutes. Add leeks, carrots, tomato paste and dill weed. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, shaking pan and stirring frequently. Add rice, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and water. Cover and cook another 30 minutes or until leeks are tender. Remove from heat and cool. Serve with lemon at room temperature. Serves 6.

Filled Pastry (Hamantaschen)

1 cup pitted prunes
¼ cup golden raisins
½ orange, sliced
½ lemon, sliced
½ cup orange-chocolate liqueur
¼ chopped blanched almonds or walnuts
1 recipe homemade biscuit dough
(or 8 oz. crescent roll dough)
Churned honey
Grated rind of half and orange

Pour liqueur over dried and fresh fruits in saucepan and simmer lightly, covered for 10 minutes, until prunes are slightly plumped and some of the liqueur is absorbed. Remove from heat and cool. Place cooked fruit (reserve half of raisins) and liquid into a blender. Blend. Remove. Stir together with ½ chopped nuts and other half of raisins. Prepare biscuit dough and roll out into a 6x16 inch rectangle. Cut into 2
˝ squares and then cut each square into 2 triangles. Spread half of triangles with honey(not quite to edge) and then sprinkle with grated orange rind. Cover with plain triangles, seal edges, and flatten with rolling pin. Put 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in center of each triangle, bring up corners, and press firmly together. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkle with reserved nuts. Bake at 375˚F for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Ciao Italia: Traditional Italian Recipes from Family Kitchens (1991) is the first cookbook drawn from the New Hampshire PBS Ciao Italia cooking show hosted by Mary Ann Esposito. Mary Ann has published several other cookbooks, including Ciao Italia in Tuscany. My favorite still is her first cookbook, and there are several lemon-based recipes but my favorite is “Pane di Signora Belurgi”(121), a lemon-egg, Tuscan bread. Making bread had always been intimidating for me, and bread making machines seemed to take away the purpose of making bread at all. It was until I tried this recipe, which yields double the 2 round loaves as suggested, that I got over my fear of making bread. This is a Tuscan-style hard exterior bread. I’ve given it as a gift to many individuals¸ and they have all told me how much they like the bread. As with other breads containing no preservatives, the shelf life is about 3 days, but much longer in the refrigerator for toasting, and all loaves can be wrapped in foil and sealed in a container or bag in the freezer for several months.

2 tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast

1 cup warm (not hot) water
3 Tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar

6 large eggs
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) butter, melted

½ cup warm milk

2 tablespoons vanilla

Juice of 1 large lemon (I add juice of two)

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
9-10 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water and 1 tablespoon sugar for egg wash

In bowl or large glass measuring cup, dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons sugar over and stir to dissolve. (I would warm bowl or glass cup before placing warm water and yeast into them, as well as utensil used to dissolve yeast and sugar). Let bowl sit in warm place until foamy, about 10 minutes (I warm up microwave first then put in yeast bowl). Meanwhile, in large bowl that has capacity to hold 10 cups flour, beat 6 eggs with whisk to pale yellow, add 1 cup sugar, melted butter, milk, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest and beat for 5 minutes with whisk. Stir in yeast mixture and mix well. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing with a spatula until it becomes very thick and holds together (may not need all of the 10 cups). Turn dough onto floured surface (you will need to keep surface well floured) and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place bowl in lightly butter deep bowl (not metal), turn to coat, cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap (or clean towel), and let rise for 2 hour, or until double size (warm microwave for about 1 minute and then place dough into it).

Turn dough out into well-floured surface. Divide into 2 (there really is enough for 4 loaves or you could cut recipe in half to make two loaves). Shape into 2 free form loaves and place on greased baking sheet, cover with towel, and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes (I place onto of oven while it is warming up). Preheat oven to 375˚F. After 30 minutes brush top of loaves with egg wash. Bake for 45 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned and hollow-sounding (bread should be done in less than 45 minutes (check at 35 minutes for Esposito’s definition of doneness). Let cool on racks (although you will be tempted to slice into this bread immediately).

Finally, let me end with Irish Traditional Cooking (2005), a gift from my son for the holidays. I haven’t had much time to browse the cookbook, but I’ve found several appealing recipes using lemon. In honor of my mother, who made home-made lemonade and would be happy that I’m writing about food, let me present Darina Allen’s version titled “Protestant Lemonade” (269).

Basic Syrup (Makes 3 ½ cups):

2 ½ cups sugar

2 ½ cups water

Dissolve sugar and water into saucepan and bring to boil. Boil for 2 minutes, the allow to cool. Store in refrigerator until needed.


4 lemons

1 ¼ cups syrup

3 ¼ cup water

Springs of fresh mint or lemon balm (lemon-scented member of mint)

Squeeze juice from lemon and add syrup and water. Taste and add more water or syrup if necessary. Add ice and springs of mint.

Lemon on Foodista


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Thai Coconut Beef Udon

I ate quite a bit of ramen noodles during my days as a college student at Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia.  Ramen is one of the staples of a college student and in those days only required a plug-in “hot pot.” Other college “cooking” experiments in those days included peanut butter and jelly, microwave cocktails, quite a bit of amateur bartending and of course jello. I did do a little cooking the summer I spent in the apartments at Haverford after sophomore year, and had plans to help my roommate cook a pot roast that she had brought from home, except that someone entered our apartment when we were gone to steal the pot roast from the freezer and a half-used tub of Crisco (seriously, some 10 years later we have no other explanation for this, as nothing else was disturbed).  Consider below a Thai take on the college classic for a quick grownup meal.

Udon noodles, in my opinion, are the grown up version of ramen noodles. This may not be what they are intended to resemble, but they always remind me of those college instant ramen days. Udon is actually Japanese wheat-flour noodle that can be served hot or cold. It can be combined with tofu for a vegetarian soup or with beef or chicken.

Tonight I attempted to create a udon noodle dish using my extensive collection of thai spices (some of which my mom brought back from her trip to Thailand) and a coconut broth. For some reason I couldn’t find a udon recipe using a coconut broth, which I thought would be the perfect combination with udon, so I created my own.

Here are the ingredients I used. Note that I feel I used too much ginger in my broth that I made tonight (it was fine, but a little heavy on the ginger) so I am making the adjustment accordingly in the recipe I am sharing here.

1 lb flank steak (you can substitute grilled tofu if you prefer to make a vegetarian dish)
4 cloves minced garlic
½ tsp powdered ginger
8 oz udon noodles
2 cups lowfat chicken stock
1 tsp dried lemongrass
¼ tsp saffron
3 small pieces dried galanga
1 can lowfat coconut milk
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Season and grill the tofu or steak as you wish. In a pot with 1 tsp salt, bring the noodles to boil to cook for about 10 minutes, as per the package instructions. In a sauté pan, add the garlic, ginger, galanga, lemongrass and saffron to the chicken stock and lowfat coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and allow to simmer for a bit until the right consistency. Add the noodles and the steak and/or tofu. Garnish with the scallions, mint and a bit of pepper and serve hot as a soup.

I am very excited to report that my purse and shoe cookie cutters and professional grade food colorings arrived today. I plan to bake some lovely and trendy purse and shoe cookies, as well as some upcoming cake projects exploring the use of fondant as a decorative meeting.  In addition, we are planning quite the New Years Eve dinner to bring in a better 2010, so stay tuned for that too.  My menu for NYE, which will be the subject future posts, will include my take on a tiramisu truffle and how to prepare a perfect rack of lamb.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Torch It! - Making Creme Brulee at Home

I have always enjoyed eating crème brulee in restaurants, but never really thought about making my own. As a kid I loved ordering it when my family went out for dinner and always considered it a special treat since it was something that we never made at home.

Recently, I discovered that it is quite inexpensive to purchase a small crème brulee torch that can be used in preparing crème brulee in your own kitchen. It is actually very easy, and, if you follow the instructions carefully, safe. The end result was a professional looking (and tasting) crème brulee.
I purchased a crème brulee set, manufactured by Bonjour, containing a small brulee torch and four crème brulee dishes from the online cooking website, Sur La Table, which is an excellent site for purchasing any kind of cooking or baking equipment and accessories. The set cost about $40 dollars.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at the time of purchase that the torch did not come with fuel, and had to locate a butane source at the last minute.

After a bit of research and some suggestions from my Facebook friends, I learned that this can be found at either a hardware or a good cooking store. Unfortunately, the first hardware store I went to was closed today, so I went to Tarzian West, an excellent neighborhood cooking store here in Park Slope and purchased an aerosol can of butane for about $3.99 that I used to fill my brulee torch. My neighbor kindly offered to let me use his brulee torch (which turned out to be a much larger propane torch, nearly the size of a fire extinguisher). However, my husband and I were more comfortable using the smaller torch that we had purchased.

I am sure there are many recipes for different flavors of crème brulee, but tonight, since it was my first time making it, I followed the traditional recipe for crème brulee that came with the Bonjour packaging materials.

1 cup heavy cream
3 T plus 1/3 cup of sugar
2 extra large or jumbo egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla

This is enough to make 4 crème brulee desserts, although you could certainly double or triple the recipe if you were having a crème brulee party.  First, preheat the oven to 300 F and prepare a large pot of boiling water. While the water is heating up, combine the 3 T of sugar with the cream over medium heat and stir until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, about 5-6 minutes.
Next, beat the egg yolks (after separating out and discarding the white portion) with the vanilla until smooth and slowly add the hot cream mixture, beating until blended. Strain in a sieve and divide among the four 4 oz dishes.

Arrange the crème brulee dishes in a broiling pan and add the boiling water to the pan so that it is leveled about halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake at 300 F for about 25 minutes, until the custard is just set. The chill in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours.

Next, sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of a cup of sugar on each brulee on the surface (the sugar will be caramelized with the torch). I used about 1 T for each brulee, distributed evenly on the surface of the ramekin dish.  Using the brulee torch, move the flame continuously across the surface of the ramekin using a circular motion until all of the sugar is caramelized and golden brown (but not burnt).   You should carefully read the instructions on how to properly use your torch before doing this, though.  Once we had located the fuel, the Bonjour torch worked well and was easy to use.  The photo below shows the creme brulee about halfway through the torching process.

This dish is so easy to make, yet impressive and spectacular looking (and fun to make) that this makes an excellent dish for a party (as a friend of mine in California suggested) where each guest can use the torch to prepare their own crème brulee. I plan on having a crème brulee party at some point in the very near future!
The end result looked and tasted delicious – I highly recommend investing in a crème brulee kit and trying this out at home. I’m certainly glad I did! You could serve it on its own, or with a side of fresh berries or other seasonal fruits.


Brad's Kitchen In Brooklyn: Greek Cuisine - Spanakopita

When my wife and I began cooking frequently, one of the first recipes I wanted to learn how to make was spanakopita. Spanakopita is a classic Greek dish, consisting of filo dough pastries filled with spinach and feta cheese. My ancestry is part Greek-Jewish (my grandfather’s family came here from Greece), hence my interest in preparing the dish. I enjoyed eating them when I visited Greece on a family vacation in 1999.

My wife and I have prepared this dish several different ways. Usually, we use pre-made filo dough, which can be purchased at any supermarket. This dough has a nice texture and is light and airy when filled and baked. The downside is that it is difficult to form with your hands because of its flaky texture and the pastries are never professional looking. It rips apart easily.

Tonight, we prepared spanakopita using filo dough that we made in our artisan mixer. We were initially planning on using store bought filo dough that had been frozen. However, the filo was no longer in good shape and broke apart when I touched it. Hence, my wife filled in by quickly preparing her own filo dough.

This homemade dough was also tasty and easier to shape into a nice triangular pastry, because it is malleable. However, it is decidedly less crisp and flaky than the store bought filo dough. After doing a little bit of research, I learned that this homemade filo is actually closer to the more genuine Greek filo dough, as most Greeks preparing the dish will make the dough themselves using a similar recipe as we did. Although this is the authentic way, I personally prefer the thin and crispy store bought filo dough for a lighter pastry that highlights the spinach & feta filling. However, my wife, Sasha preferred the homemade version.

Spanakopita Filling

16 oz Spinach (we used two packages of frozen spinach, defrosted)
16 oz Feta Cheese (two packages; you can also use lowfat Feta if you prefer)
1 T melted butter
1 beaten egg
¼ cup of canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Greek Filo Dough

5 cups flour
5 T oil
2 ½ cups of hot water
2 T vinegar
Pinch of salt

- or use store bought filo dough roll

After you prepare the filling, make the dough in your artisan stand mixer. You can add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky. When you have the dough at the right consistency, roll it out on a flat surface using a rolling pin.

Cut large circles on the dough and fill with the filling. Then fold the dough over and pinch into a triangle, much the same way as you would prepare a hamentaschen.

When the pastries are done, glaze with an egg wash, consisting of one beaten egg and 1 T of melted butter, using a pastry brush.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the spanakopita are lightly browned.

Note: This recipe makes about 12 good-sized spanakopitas. If you want to make less, you can easily cut the recipe in half without a problem. You could also make them smaller, as an appetizer, rather than as a main course.

This article was written with a bit of assistance from my wife, Sasha.

Greek Spanakopita on Foodista
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