Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Asparagus Feta Cheese Egg White Breakfast Frittatas

I was going to post a recipe for my amazing chewy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  However, the cookies were consumed in record time, and the photos accidentally were deleted from my camera.  I am not happy about this!  So, I am going to have to make a new batch of those cookies tomorrow (yes, they were that good) and save that post for next week.  In the meantime, I am sharing a less sexy, but perhaps healthier recipe for the egg white frittatas that I made for my husband and I for a quick and easy breakfast this morning.  I'm not much of an omelet maker.  I've gotten some requests to share omelet making techniques on this site, but that is going to require further reading on my part since I always have difficulty flipping my omelets and getting a lovely shape.  But my frittatas are always beautiful, perfect and loaded with yummy cheeses and vegetables.  I usually use whatever cheese and fresh vegetables I have left around the house, so this morning I prepared a simple pair of frittatas using egg whites, asparagus and feta cheese.  I used egg whites here that I had left over from making tiramisu for a dinner party that we are hosting tonight (tiramisu uses only the egg yolks).

Sasha's Quick Asparagus Feta Cheese Egg White Breakfast Frittata
6 egg whites (separated from the yolks)
4 stalks of asparagus, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup feta cheese

Combine all of the ingredients together and fill two small souffle ramekins.  Be sure to butter the ramekins or spray with PAM before filling with the frittata mixture.  Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick to make sure they are done.  These are perfect for a weekend breakfast or a first course for brunch.

Frittata on FoodistaFrittata


Friday, March 12, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: My Favorite Classic Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Pizza

One of my favorite easy meals to make during the week is homemade pizza.  This newest pizza was prepared just a couple nights ago using a pizza stone and conventional kitchen oven.  I have subsequently learned that there are couple of other excellent ways to prepare homemade pizza, including both "pizza stone" pizza and grilling pizza.  I have several friends who have been experimenting with grilling pizza, but living in a brooklyn condo, this isn't something I have been able to try at home.  I look forward to grilling pizza when visiting family at summer barbecues.  But, until then, I would like to share my homemade, pizza stone crispy crust pizza, which I think presents an excellent alternative for those of us without regular grill access.

Usually, I like to make adventurous pizzas with a variety of different toppings when preparing homemade pizza.  For a discussion on homemade pizza making and pizza stones in a prior post, click here.  That post also includes a recipe for my pizza with asparagus, goat cheese, yellow tomatoes, zucchini and caramelized onions.  Once an awhile, I prefer a plain marinara pizza classic.  Thus, a couple evenings ago, my husband and I prepared our tomato, basil and mozzarella classic.  The crust on this pizza was truly sensational, proving that my $18 pizza stone was truly money well spent in preparing a classic puffy, yet crispy crust.  I consider this crust to be so good that it qualifies as a homemade classic - it's just that good.

With such a basic pizza, it's all about the quality of the cheese that you use.  I used homemade mozzarella in making the pizzas from M&S Prime Meats around the corner.  As a make-it-yourself from scratch kind of girl, I have been itching to make my own mozzarella and ricotta cheeses to incorporate into both my pizzas and lasagnas.  However, the homemade mozzarella at M&S Prime Meats is always delicious and prepared fresh each day.

Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
2 packages dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

First, activate the yeast in the warm water with the sugar for about 10-15 minutes until it becomes bubbly and frothy.  Then mix with the other ingredients until it forms a dough.  I usually do this in my mixer, but it's not too hard to mix the pizza dough by hand.  Allow the crust to rise in a well-oiled (sprayed with PAM) covered bowl for about an hour and a half.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel.  Then top make the pizza, stretch out the dough into a pie.  I usually have enough dough for two pies based on the size of my stone.  The dough should be nice and stretchy so that you can pull it into a pie shape with your hands.  It takes a little bit of practice to stretch a pizza pie, but you'll get the hang of it with a little bit of practice.  It's an art.

Top the pie with plain tomato sauce, sliced mozzarella and oregano.  Bake for about 30 to 4o minutes at 400 degrees on your stone until the pizza is crispy.  Add fresh basil leaves a few minutes before you are ready to take your pie(s) out of the oven. 

Pizza on FoodistaPizza

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Creme De Menthe Chocolate Chip Shamrock Cupcakes

Many of my readers have probably figured out that I enjoy making cupcakes for just about any occasion.  So, even though I don't have a drop of Irish blood, I would be remiss if I didn't prepare a cupcake for St. Patrick's Day.  I love festive, bright colors, so it was natural for me to consider that the cupcakes would need to be some shade of green.  Rather than peppermint extract, which I felt would be too powerful of a flavor for cupcakes, I decided to use creme de menthe liquor to flavor the cupcakes.  You can buy creme de menthe liquor in a lovely shade of shamrock green, which provides both flavor and color to the cupcakes.  I also incorporated chocolate chips, to add chocolate flavor as well, which mixes nicely with the mint.  The end result tastes like a cupcake version of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  I enjoyed making these, and they were actually not too complicated to make.

I'm a planner so it might not surprise you to know that I have already thought about my cupcake recipes and designs for the next couple of weeks.   I do sometimes cook on the fly, but 85% of my meals are those that I meticulously plan in advance of my weekly Sunday grocery shopping so I don't have to think about it during the week.  I'm also not so great at keeping secrets so I'm spilling my upcoming cupcake plans: pug puppy cupcakes (in honor of my pug's upcoming birthday), coconut cupcakes and s'mores cupcakes . . . So stay tuned.  It make take me a month or so to get through all those flavors with the holiday of Passover approaching soon.

Creme De Menthe Chocolate Chip Shamrock Cupcakes 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup green creme de menthe
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Sasha's Creme De Menthe Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick of butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1 T creme de menthe
drop of green food coloring

To prepare the cupcakes, mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In a stand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar butter until smooth.  Beat in the dry ingredients alternating with the creme de menthe and milk. Next, mix the chips in a bowl with a teaspoon of flour.  I have learned that if you mix the chips with flour first, they won't sink to the bottom of the cupcakes like they otherwise would.  This is one of my "baking secrets" that I picked up from a cupcake-baking friend.  Mix in the flour coated chocolate chips.  

Spoon the batter into 12 cupcake liners in your silicon baking tray.  Bake for about 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  It may take a bit longer depending on your oven.  My cupcakes came out after about 35 minutes.  To test if they are done, stick in a toothpick and when it comes out clean the cupcakes are ready to come out.  You don't want the cupcakes to brown, so if that starts happening, it is certainly time to remove them from the oven.

To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add confectioners sugar until a frosting is formed.  Beat in the creme de menthe and food coloring.  The end result is a basic cream cheese frosting that has a subtle creme de menthe flavor.  I made the little shamrocks using marzipan that I mixed with a drop of green food coloring in my kitchenaid mixer.  The cupcakes are the same pretty color of mint green as my mixer.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Sushi Part II - Crab, Portobello & Asparagus Rolls

I think I have already established my love for making homemade sushi rolls, ever since the night my husband proposed to me after homemade sushi.  However, until last night, I had only prepared my sushi rolls with salmon, tuna, shrimp, in addition to various vegetables.  I had never so much as made a homemade California roll because I didn't have access to high quality, sushi grade crabsticks.  Until now!  I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that my local asian fish market, Ocean Market, in Park Slope carried sushi grade crab sticks for a mere $8 a package.  I immediately purchased the ingredients to make a new roll with crabsticks (in addition to California rolls).  This one is very easy, as long as you roll the sushi properly, and is meant as a follow up to yesterday's post about rolling your own sushi at home.

For instructions on making your own sushi and for my Salmon, Asparagus & Pesto sushi rolls, click here.  If you want to substitute and prepare more traditional California rolls, use cucumber and avocado instead of the portobello and asparagus.

Sasha's Crab, Portobello & Asparagus Rolls (makes 4 rolls)
1 1/2 cup of sushi rice
3 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
8 crabsticks (2 for each roll)
4 stalks of asparagus
1 portobello mushroom, sliced
2 sheets of sushi nori
soy sauce and wasabi for dipping

My inside-out classic California roll, pictured above.

First prepare the rice as instructed in my earlier sushi recipe.  Once the rice is cool, spread it on the sushi nori, leaving two inches at the top.  If you want to make an inside out roll, spread the rice on the entire sheet of nori and flip it over on your sushi mat before rolling the sushi.

To prepare the vegetables, slice the portobello mushrooms and steam or boil the mushrooms and asparagus.  Lay the vegetables on the rice horizontally on the side of the rice nearest to you, and lay the crabstick next to them.  Roll the sushi away from you into a roll.  If you are not doing the roll inside out, you will need to use a bit of water to seal the nori on the edge of the roll.  The combination of the asparagus and portobello went very nicely with the crabsticks (which I believe are imitation crab, as commonly used by sushi restaurants in California rolls).  It was another enjoyable night of sushi in my house.

Emily's Kitchen in Seattle: The Fluffiest Matzo Balls West of the Mississippi

Everyone knows that not all matzo balls are created equal. I started experimenting with matzo balls in Jerusalem, and even though I use the exact same recipe, they are different in the US. In Jerusalem they were a little more dense and took a lot longer to lighten up, whereas they practically hit the water fluffy here. Maybe that is a metaphor for something.

On the other hand, one should not be intimidated by the matzo ball. I link the myth of the matzo ball to the myth of gardening and writer's block: Everyone can have a green thumb, and everyone can write, and likewise everyone can make a matzo ball. It may take a few tries, but plunging a spoon into that perfect, moist, melt-in-your-mouth matzo ball is worth the effort.

As part of the Matzo Ball Soup Off here in a Kitchen in Brooklyn, check out these matzo ball masters: Sasha's Matzo Ball Soup and Eric's Matzo Ball Soup.

Here is the recipe I use. I got it off of and I have never looked back. I, as usual, have changed a few things. Perhaps I should keep them secret like a good old crafty Jewish cook. But for you, I tell the truth.

4 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup matzo meal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
pinches, up to 1/2 tsp., of the following:
black pepper, cumin (optional - my addition), dill (optional - my addition), garlic powder

I know, you're thinking cumin AND dill? I am one of those people who puts cumin in everything. Just a little.

Mix up the dry and wet ingredients separately. Add the wet to the dry and combine - without over mixing! Over mixing is death to matzo balls.

Refrigerate the mixture for an hour.

This is a good time to get a broth going. I do not make a traditional chicken broth because I'm a vegetarian. You, however, may choose to make one, chicken neck and all. Alternatively, I like to make a vegetable broth with fresh vegetables, lots of salt, pepper and cumin (yes). I brew the stock veggies for a while, then strain them out and start adding spices until it tastes a little like chicken soup. I swear, people who eat my soup can't always tell it's vegetarian (salt is key).

Another option is to buy a soup mix - either a packaged broth or a "chicken flavored" powder mix, like the one by the brand Osem, which can be found in the kosher aisle. It is kind of toxic stuff, but it tastes, well, like chicken. Add chopped celery and carrot to your broth for the total experience.

What I do is once my balls are in the fridge for about half an hour, I get my broth ready to receive them. Bring the broth to a rolling boil. Add the chopped carrots and celery about now.

Remove your mixture from the refrigerator, and with the broth at a high simmer, form small balls (about 1 inch in diameter) and drop them into the broth.

Side note: I have a moment of panic right about now. The gates of heaven are open and my balls are undergoing judgment: who shall sink and who shall float. If you have faith, treat the balls with love and respect, and follow the recipe, they will float. I'm not joking.

The balls will, at first, hit the bottom of the pot, but in a few moments they will spring up to the surface and bob there, absorbing broth and getting bigger. Let them hang out there in the simmering broth for about 20 minutes.

If you have a few hours before dinner, I suggest boiling the balls in a separate pot of salted water so that they don't absorb all the broth first. It is sort of embarrassing to run out of broth when you have dinner guests, and these suckers will just keep on growing off the life force of broth like Audrey II. As my mother has been known to say, "this matzo ball is the size of a head of a small child!" On the other hand, letting the balls sit in the broth for a long time is a pretty good cure for dense sinker-types.

Matzo ball soup is somewhat labor and emotionally intensive, but once you have the hang of it it's very easy. I make it just about every other week for my shabbat table, and it's always a crowd-pleaser. It is warm, hearty, salty, a tribute to the old days and it just makes people feel good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto - Road Trip to Niagara

A few weekends ago I was lucky enough to take a trip to Niagara with fellow blogger Sasha, her mother, her mother's friend and our dear friends Shannon, Lisa and Lisa's husband Jeff. Lisa, Shannon, Jeff and I drove down on the Friday night and stayed at the lovely Hilton Doubletree in Niagara Falls. The next morning we drove to meet Sasha and her party at Inniskillin. You can read about Sasha's impressions of Inniskillin in her article.

After Inniskillin, we headed to Lailey where the wonderful Derek Barnett guided us through his beloved winery. Derek's passion for winemaking was clear to us from the very beginning. His enthusiasm and verve were evident the whole afternoon!

Derek and I really bonded over our mutual passion for local, sustainable eating and drinking; as well as our passion for Ontario wines and pairing them with food. For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian wine, there is a reason why; most of it never sees its way out of the country or into a Canadian liquor store! Lailey is a small winery that sells most of its wine out the door; only a few varieties (such as the VQA Pinot Noir) ever see the inside of an LCBO liquor store, and the bottles that do can only be found in the Vintages section as production at these boutique vineyards is so small, the price can become high for retail. Lailey specifically trains their vines to curtail and control growth, which also makes it expensive for them to grow the grapes.

After our tour, we got down to some serious tasting. Derek first brought out two Chardonnays for us to try; the 2008 Brickyard and the 2008 Canadian Oak. I absolutely did not realize how different the soil can make in the taste of wine, but it was clearly demonstrated to us at Lailey! Though grown in the same year, the Brickyard grapes were grown in red clay soil and the Canadian Oak grown just a few dozen metres away in looser, more aerated soil. Most of our party preferred the citrus notes of the Canadian Oak, however I and a few others preferred the smoothness and textures to the Brickyard. Derek is determined not to sacrifice flavour for alcohol or sugar content; either of which can overwhelm delicate flavours; especially in whites.

Our next tasting was a revelation to me. Derek brought out two Pinot Noirs for us to compare; again from the same year but different soil. The 2008 Pinot (which is usually the Lailey wine most likely to be found at the liquor store) was ruby red in colour and quite lovely and jammy; a wonderful wine all around thoroughly enjoyed by our party.
My revelation came with the 2008 Brickyard Pinot Noir. Right away, the colour was more of an earthen red and I could see the difference the red clay soil made. Honestly, I could have sat at that table all day without drinking - simply smelling that wine. I just looked at Derek and smiled. It was like vanilla and violets in a glass; it tasted like I would imagine the colour purple would taste in food form. I told Derek that the wine reminded me of the African Violets my Granny used to keep when I was a child. All of a sudden, Derek got the biggest smile on his face, lighting up like a child on Christmas morning who knows he got a bike under the tree.

He asked if I wanted to try other reds and I readily agreed. All of a sudden, wine was coming at us with the enthusiasm of a man who knows he's found an appreciative audience; people who appreciate his art.
So began my journey; and the journey of our table. Next came the revelatory 2007 Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This was my favorite Lailey red by far; the notes of violets and vanilla were a bit stronger here and I ended up buying a bottle. To me, this was joy in a glass! This wine begs for lamb or a steak to go with it, or just to be sipped before a fire or on a sunny patio.

Before this trip, I had never tried an aged wine (I know, I'm a bad foodie!) and had told Derek that as we were discussing the Pinots and how the flavours change with aging. The dear man brought in a 2002 Merlot with gorgeous jamminess and vanilla hints, a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon which was redolent of potatoes, grass, earth and ocean. It sounds odd, but it was absolutely delicious!

Next came what we were actually meant to be tasting that day; the icewines. Another revelation to us all. Along with the other vintage red wines he brought out, Derek was generous enough to bring out the very last bottle of Lailey's 2001 Riesling Icewine. It had a tropical aroma with dried fruit flavours like fig and dates. It had this beautiful amber colour with a thicker consistency from the aging. Lisa rightly described it as drinking liquid gold.

From there, we went from an aged icewine to a relatively young one; the 2007 Vidal icewine. It was a deep yellow gold colour and had an amazing aroma and flavour of lychee and peaches. I also picked up a couple of bottles of this one. I still haven't decided if I should drink it or age it!

I had no idea before this trip that aging icewine was an option, but Derek explained that the fruity tropical elements give way over time to more dried fruit flavours, and the colour goes from gold to amber.

Last, but certainly not least came something special I had never tried; a red icewine. We tasted the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon icewine which had a lovely cheese aroma with jammy and berry-like tones to it; strawberries, blueberries, cherries. An amazing new experience and I know many of our party loved this one as well.

We were so lucky to have this unique experience at Lailey; this was certainly not an ordinary wine-tasting. Derek's knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for his product and region were such a joy to behold. Thank you so very much to Derek and all those at Lailey who gave us such a special afternoon. I will never, ever forget it and will hopefully be back at Lailey with my family later this year to stock up!

Sasha's Kitchen: Salmon, Asparagus & Basil Pesto Sushi Rolls

I love making homemade sushi rolls.  The first time my husband, Brad, and I made our own sushi, it turned out so well that he proposed to me after the meal.  Thus, homemade sushi is near and dear to our hearts.  I can't help but remember that wonderful night every time Brad and I prepare sushi.  Last night,  I tried a couple of offbeat rolls that vary from the typical rolls you might find in sushi restaurants.  The salmon, asparagus and homemade basil pesto rolls was especially savory and delicious.  It was fairly easy to make and was one of our favorite new rolls.  We plan to do another night of sushi tonight, using some different fish and combinations, so stay tuned for another sushi post in the next day or two.

Sasha's Salmon, Avocado & Pesto Sushi Rolls
6 oz sushi grade salmon (I always get a bit extra, as this is enough for 4 people, for about 8 rolls); ask for the salmon to be skinned
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
several stalks of asparagus
1 1/2 cups of sushi rice  (this will be enough to make 4-5 sushi rolls)
3 T seasoned rice vinegar
sushi nori (seaweed)

First, prepare the rice.  You will need to spend about 15 minutes rinsing and re-rinsing the sushi rice until the water runs clean before using it.  This is important to allow the rice to have the right color and flavor so you should not skip this step.  Then, add the one and a half cups of rice to 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, the same way you would cook regular rice.  Once the rice is done, mix in the seasoned rice vinegar and allow the rice to cool.

Prepare the pesto by combining the basil, pine nuts, olive oil and cheese in a food processor.  You can also add some red pepper flakes if you want some heat.

To prepare the sushi rolls, place the sushi nori on your sushi rolling mat.  Here are some generic instructions on how to roll the sushi.  Press the rice into the nori, leaving the top inch and a half without rice.  Line up the pesto, salmon (cut into a long strip) and a stalk of asparagus lengthwise on the side of the rice/nori closest to you and roll away from you.  You can dip your fingers in some water and use the water to seal the roll.  Cut into six or seven pieces and enjoy with some wasabi, ginger and soy sauce.

For dessert, try my green tea ice cream.  Click here to read about my cupcakes frosted to look like sushi.


Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Shepherd's Pie

This was my first time making Shepherd's Pie. I don't even know if I've ever really had good or traditional Shepherd's Pie before but Jenn has gotten me hooked on Hell's Kitchen which in turn got us watching Kitchen Nightmares and Gordan Ramsey has saved a couple of restaurants with his Shepherd's Pie so I figured I needed to try and make some. I even flipped through his cookbooks at the bookstore and didn't see his recipe anywhere so I turned to the internet. I started with Alton Brown's Shepherd's Pie recipe and made a few minor modifications. Mainly because I forgot to get a few of the ingredients while at the grocery store and had to use what I had at home.
What I used which would probably serve 4-6:
1.5 lbs. (actually a little less) ground beef (although I think Lamb is traditional)
3 large baking potatoes
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 12 oz. can of peas and carrots
1/2 a can of campbell's tomato soup
8 oz of water mixed with better than bouillon chicken broth mixture
1.5-2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp flour
1-1.5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan Cheese
1/3 cp of milk
Rosemary, oregano, basil, black pepper, salt, ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

When it comes down to it, Shepherd' Pie is an all-in-one meal that is inexpensive and hearty. It's basically your meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes and baked. To start you peel your potatoes as you need smooth mashed potatoes to cover the meat mixture. Then cut them into pieces to boil more quickly and boil them until soft and set aside and keep warm. Then, heat your vegetable oil and throw in your onion until it's soft and starting to brown. Then add your ground meat and some garlic and spices and start to cook the meat. After it started to cook nicely I added the chicken broth, flour, tomato soup, and Worcestershire sauce to create the meat mixture. At first it was pretty watery but I cooked it until some of the water boiled off and the sauce thickened. I figured it shouldn't be too watery. Once it was thickened I added the vegetables.

You should preheat your oven to about 400 degrees and make your mashed potatoes. Mine were just milk, minced garlic, salt and pepper stirred together until smooth. Then you layer your pan with the meat and vegetable mixture on the bottom and seal it in with a layer of mashed potatoes. I spread the potatoes over the meat and then topped it with a little Parmesan cheese and ground cayenne pepper to help it get a nice browned top when baking.

Alton's recipe called for around 25 minutes in the oven and I figured I'd put it in for around 20 or so and finish it off under the broiler... Unfortunately our broiler decided not to turn on last night so I just set the oven up to 500 degrees towards the end and turned on the oven light and played darts (yes my dartboard is in my kitchen) until it started to brown.

In the end I was very happy with the outcome. The meat mixture was juicy but not watery and very tasty and the mashed potatoes had a nice crunch to them at the top with a little bite from the cayenne pepper and it didn't fall apart when I tried to plate it. If I do this again, I will try to do it with lamb instead and hope my broiler is working!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Matt's Kitchen in D.C. - Rogan Josh

Rogan Josh is Kashmiri in origin although it seems to be considered one of the "classic" Indian dishes - basically, it is a type of lamb curry with flavors of cinnamon, paprika, cloves and cardamom, among other things. "Rogan" means "oil," and "josh" means heat or boiling, so the name means something like "cooked in oil at intense heat." That being said, the dish does not require a lot of oil, at least the version I made, and if you use lean lamb it does not contain a lot of fat. Another benefit is that it will make your kitchen smell delicious. Finally, and most importantly, it tastes great and it is nearly foolproof if you have the right ingredients.

This version will serve around 6-8 people, depending on the size of their appetites. The ingredients list may look a little daunting but if you have stocked up on the spices ahead of time, like I suggest, the rest of the ingredients are pretty standard.

4 lbs. of lean lamb from the leg or shoulder (*see note)
1/2 tsp. chili or cayenne powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 green cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup plain yogurt or 5 tbsp. yogurt and 3 tbsp. tamarind water
5 cups hot water (homemade chicken or lamb stock would be excellent here)
1/2 tsp. garam masala

For the paste:
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
3-6 large red chiles, stemmed, seeded and chopped
10 black peppercorns, crushed (**see note)
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
2 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
3 tsp. paprika
3 cloves, crushed (or healthy pinch of ground cloves)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water

*Note #1: when you buy the lamb, getting it boneless will make your life much easier. You want to cut it into roughly 1 inch chunks, not too small because they shrink when they cook. Also, be sure to clean the fat and silverskin off them if there is any, this will make the pieces chewy.

**Note #2: Don't leave out any spices here! - the best thing to do is stock up on whole spices, then when you need a certain amount, toast them in a pan until brown and grind them with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. If you stock up on various common spices, you can basically throw together Indian dishes at will with some meat and veggies

Anyway, on to the recipe. After cutting the meat into cubes, put it in a bowl and rub the chili powder and salt all over it and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions. Cook until slightly browned, then add the cardomom and bay leaves and stir. Add the meat, turn up the heat a bit and cook for two minutes, then lower it and simmer for 3-4 minutes, covered.

To make the paste, toast all the spices and grind them with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. Add the other ingredients to a food processor along with the spice mixture and blend until smooth. I would, however, keep out the cinnamon and just add it whole to the onion mixture when you put in the paste.

Unover the pan and stir in the paste, so it is coating the meat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the yogurt and add the hot water. Cover the pan and simmer for around 1 hour.

Uncover the pan and turn up the heat so the sauce is reduced and thick and creamy, with not much additional liquid. This may take a little while, and when you are near done you should try a piece of lamb to make sure it is tender enough - at this point it should be, but if not, then add a little more water. Stir and add the garam masala and also salt and pepper to taste. Serve with basmati rice.

As with many stews, this becomes even better the next day, so don't hesitate to cook it the night before and put it in the fridge overnight.

Sasha's Kitchen: Green Tea Ice Cream

Over the weekend, my husband and I prepared green tea ice cream.  It was quite simple to make actually, since the only real flavoring required was Matcha tea powder, a green tea powder in a lovely olive green hue.  I am planning on making a green tea tiramisu next weekend, and I had bought a couple of ounces of Matcha powder.  I had a little bit of extra powder, and decided that I could either make green tea macarons or green tea ice cream.  I decided to leave the macarons for another day and prepared the green tea ice cream instead.  The end result was a rich, creamy and delicious ice cream with the green tea flavoring of the Matcha powder.  This is always a wonderful end to a sushi meal for me at any Japanese restaurant, yet it was so easy to make ourselves in our old, but trusty ice cream machine.  We are making sushi rolls this week, so the timing was perfect.

I bought the green tea powder at a wonderful local tea and spice store that I just discovered last week a couple blocks from my home called PS Coffee Tea N Spices.  This store is a fantastic place to buy just about any tea or spice you could possibly imagine at reasonable places, by the ounce.  So instead of overpaying for a lifetime supply of Matcha Powder at Whole Foods, I simply bought an ounce for a mere three dollars.  Perfect for both of my planned recipes.  I also bought an ounce of two other lovely teas - a dark tea infused with lychee and a fragrant apricot tea.

Green Tea Ice Cream  (recipe from Epicurious)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 T Matcha Powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar

Bring the cream, milk and salt to a boil in a large pot and take off heat.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, Matcha tea powder and sugar.  Add a cup of the cream mixture to the egg mixture.  Add this mixture back to the pot and put on medium heat and stir until the mixture thickens  to coat the back of a spoon and an instant read thermometer registers at 170 F.    Avoid turning up the heat too high, as the mixture should not boil.  Next, strain using a strainer and refrigerate the custard for about an hour. Freeze using an ice cream maker (I used an old Doniver that still works just fine) following the manufacturer's instructions.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Chocolate Raspberry Whoopie Pie

A Whoopie Pie is a baked good made out of two round pieces of chocolate cake or cookie with a whipped, sweet frosting in between.  Its origins come from the Amish (the 'Pennsylvania Dutch') community, where it is said that the farmers' wives would put them in their husbands' lunches, at which point, the farmer would shout "Whoopie" upon discovering the pie in his lunch pail.  This dessert, however, according to a fairly recent New York Times article has finally hit the mainstream.  Now, this Amish dessert can be found right here in New York, and perhaps in your kitchen too, as they are not too difficult to make at home.  In fact, even Oreo has started marketing its own version of the Whoopie Pie, the Oreo Cakester

To make this Pennsylvania Amish classic, I adapted a recipe that accompanied the New York Times article into a Chocolate Raspberry Whoopie Pie.  I followed the original recipe for the cakes, but adapted the whipped frosting into a raspberry flavored buttercream that complemented the rich chocolate cookie-cake nicely.  The cakes are good, but quite decadent and best split between two people.  

Chocolate Raspberry Whoopie Pie (adapted from the New York Times)
1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa (I used Droste)
1/2 cup buttermilk

3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks butter at room temperature
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 T seedless raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  To prepare the cakes, beat the butter and the brown sugar in a stand mixer until creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and creamy.  Then alternate adding the dry ingredients (mixed together in a bowl) and the buttermilk.  Using an ice cream scoop, spoon or 1/4 cup measuring tool, scoop the batter into round circles on parchment paper lined baking sheets.  The recipe should make 10 to 12.  Bake at 350 for approximately 14 minutes (mine took about 16 minutes) until the cakes spring to the touch and are toothpick clean on the inside. 

To make the raspberry buttercream, use a double boiler, or a pot of water and a metal bowl.  Bring the water to a boil and combine the egg whites sugar in the top half of the double boiler.  Whisk until a baking thermometer reads 180 degrees and the sugar is dissolved.

Transfer the egg mixture to a mixer, and beat on high for a couple minutes until the mixture doubles in volume (as if you were making an Italian Meringue).  Use the whisk attachment on your mixer.  Beat in the butter on high one half Tablespoon at a time.  Add the vanilla, and beat in the salt and raspberry jam.  Whisk in the mixer for another minute on high, and continue to whisk if the mixture curdles at all, until smooth.  Scoop with a large spoon between two of the cakes for your decadent Chocolate Raspberry Whoopie Pie.

Whoopie Pies


Matt's Kitchen In D.C.: Cooking With Kids - Banana Bread

Banana bread needs no introduction, it is a quick and easy bread that is good to eat just about anytime. Zachary eats at least a banana a day, if not more, so this recipe was not a tough sell. The only difficult part was saving three bananas so they could reach the requisite level of ripeness (i.e., over-ripeness). As with many of the "cooking with kids" recipes I have posted, it follows the familiar formula of combining dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, and then stirring them all together.

This recipe is a version of one found in The Best Recipe Cookbook, an essential standard cookbook, published by the good folks at Cook's Illustrated magazine - also essential, in my opinion.

3 very ripe, browning bananas - browner is better, within reason
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten gently
6 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. You can bake this in a bread pan, if you have one, or in an 8x8 cake pan. I opted for the cake pan, the only difference is baking time. So go ahead and grease whichever pan you are using.

The most fun part of the recipe, is, of course, mashing the bananas - mash them good! Then add the yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla and stir to combine.

Whisk together all dry ingredients, including walnuts (we omitted the nuts in our recipe because Zachary generally objects to finding crunchy bits in his food).

Finally, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The trick is here is to fold them in gently with a spatula, and just to the point at which they are combined (i.e. there is no "raw" flour apparent in the mixture). The reason is, the more you stir, the more gluten develops and too much gluten will result in your bread being small and tough. That being said, this may be a good task for the parent to handle, if the child is a potentially vigorous stirrer.

Finally, scrape the batter into the greased pan and put it in the oven. If using a breadpan, the cooking time is about 55 minutes but I would suggest testing it at 40-45 minutes just to be sure. The cake pan time is a lot less, try testing at 30 minutes. For the baking impaired, testing means removing the bread and sticking a cake tester into the middle - if it comes out clean, your bread is done. If it comes out with batter on it, put the bread back in for several more minutes and then test again until you get it right.

Once you are satisfied, let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. As the picture illustrates, this bread was extremely popular with Zachary. After spending some time in the fridge, a slice will benefit from a few brief seconds in the microwave to warm it up - or alternatively, you can toast it. Once you have a made it a few times, you could try modifying the recipe - add a 4th banana, for example, or add some chocolate or cocoa powder to the batter.
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