Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Baked Ziti With Lamb Sausage (and Details on Tomorrow's Upcoming Giveaway)

Baked ziti is one of my favorite pasta dishes, so it is time to share this dish with my readers.  I actually prepared the baked ziti on Thursday evening, but I took a day off of writing on Friday.  This baked ziti has a twist in that I like to incorporate some kind of sausage.  I have prepared this dish with either lamb sausage  or chicken sausage.  Both are delicious combinations with the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, although this recipe was prepared exclusively with the lamb sausage.    In addition, I made my baked ziti with a homemade pasta sauce.  I discovered that taking photos of baked ziti is quite challenging because it is a very messy looking dish, inherently.  Thus, I attempted to "dress it up" for the picture with some artfully positioned basil leaves.  Finally, baked ziti is notoriously unhealthy, but I have attempted to reduce this by using skim milk ricotta cheese.  You could also use lowfat mozzarella, but this takes a bit of the pizazz and flavor out of the dish (and really, completely lowfat wouldn't be as much fun, right?)  This dish is a classic in my home - messy to prepare but not too difficult, and always satisfying.

Sasha's Baked Ziti With Lamb Sausage

1 box ziti noodles (1 lb)
1 lb fresh lamb sausage (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried basil
 2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup red cooking wine
16 oz fresh mozzarella cheese (sliced or torn into small pieces)
15 oz skim milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

Cook the pasta and set aside.  Saute the lamb sausages and set aside. In a pot, combine the tomatoes, seasonings, garlic and red wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer for about twenty minutes until the sauce comes to the proper consistency.  In a separate bowl, combine the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.

Next, spoon about half a cup of sauce into your lasagna pan.  I have an Emile Henry blue lasagna dish that I absolutely love.   I must confess that I have a fascination, almost an obsession with pretty solid color cookware - both Le Creuset and Emile Henry.  Next, layer the pasta, then the cheese mixture, then the sausage, then repeat with another layer of sauce, pasta and cheese.  Top with some remaining sauce and sprinkle with the half cup of  parmesan cheese.  Bake covered with a piece of tin foil for thirty minutes at 350 F.  Then take off the tin foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

I have a giveaway that I am going to introduce tomorrow of some exciting cupcake necklaces.  The giveaway will be open to my followers on google blogger and to my facebook fans, so please sign up as a follower (check the sidebar) and a facebook fan (top of the sidebar) to win a lovely glass cupcake necklace from New York designer Moon & Star Designs.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's post for details on how to win!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Margie’s Kitchen in Boston: Rum – Part II

Gingerbread with Rum Butter
There are some interesting rum-based recipes in the Beatrix Potter’s Country Cooking (1995) by Sara Paston-Williams. A word of warning, the recipes are reflection of the Lake District area where Potter lived. Some people might be offended by the recipe for RABBIT CASSEROLE WITH CHEESE AND HERB DUMPLINGS!

Warm Sticky Gingerbread with Cumberland Rum Butter (page 111)
1 cup black treacle (molasses)
1 cup demerara sugar (raw cane sugar; I used brown sugar)
1 cup butter (I used 1 and ½ sticks)
2 large beaten eggs, beaten
2 ½ cups “strong plain flour”
Pinch salt
1 ½ tablespoons ground ginger
1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
Sprinkle nutmeg
1 ¼ cup warm milk
2 teaspoons baking soda

Rum Butter (1/2 recipe)

½ cup soft brown sugar
⅛ Whole nutmeg, freshly grated (1 ½ teaspoons)
2 Tablespoons dark rum (less for more solid butter mix)
¼ unsalted butter

Some of the terminology used in this cookbook may require a British reference source.

Pre-heat oven to 300° F.

“Put treacle, sugar and butter in saucepan and melt over a gentle heat, stirring all the time. Remove from heat and stir in the beaten eggs. Sieve the flour with the salt and spices into a large mixing bowl and stir in the melted treacle mixture. In a separate bowl, pour the warm milk over the bicarbonate of soda and stir well. Add the flour and treacle mixture and mix together well.”
“Pour into greased and line 20-cm (8-inch) square cake tin and bake in the centre of a cool oven for about 1 hour, or until firm to the touch.”
“Meanwhile, to make the rum butter, mix the sugar, nutmeg and rum in basin. Melt the butter and pour over the other ingredients. Mix well, then pour into a bowl and leave to set. The butter is ready to use, but can be kept in a cool place, well-covered, for several weeks. If you find it too sweet for you, reduce the quantity of sugar by half.”

Serve gingerbread warm with the rum butter. I also like serving it with lemon curd or hot lemon pudding.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Restaurant Review of 'The Farm On Adderley'

The best brunch in New York City isn't in Manhattan.  And, Park Slope brunch might be getting a run for its money too.  I have long said that Rosewater in Park Slope has the best brunch in New York City, but the race is now a tie.  I had one of the best brunches of my life last weekend at a small farm-to-table style organic restaurant in Ditmas Park called 'The Farm On Adderley.'

It was a bit of a trip on the subway to get to Ditmas Park, about five stops past Atlantic Avenue on the Q train to Cortelyou Road, but well worth the trek.   The Farm On Adderley is no secret to those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods.  It was a 30 minute wait for a table for prime sunday brunch, and this restaurant was clearly the number one place in the neighborhood, surrounded by lovely, charming Victorian era homes.  Yes, this is still Brooklyn, but you have officially entered suburbia.  I loved every minute of it, from the wonderful farm fresh, seasonal ingredients used in my brunch, the friendly service, to my walk around the neighborhood filled with Victorian homes that qualifies as part of the Midwood Section of Brooklyn.  I had never been to Ditmas Park before, but I will be back for dinner at the Farm On Adderley soon!

The menu looked too amazing for my husband and I to stick to one entree a piece.  And why should we?  The menu was extremely reasonably priced.  All of the foods on the menu are prepared using exclusively farm fresh, seasonal produce from various organic and humane purveyors and farms.

We started off by each ordering a pot of lovely tea.  I selected the White Rose Melange tea, while Brad ordered the Unity Botanical Blend.  Then, we shared a salad, the Bibb Salad with pumpkin seeds, cranberries and goat cheese fritters, which hit the spot.  I enjoyed it so much that I am going to try preparing my own version of the salad this weekend.

For our entrees, I ordered the creative Red Flannel Hash, a dish prepared with cured corned beef, an egg sunny side up and beet puree.  The combination of the farm fresh beets with the cured corned beef was stellar.  This dish ranks very close to the top of brunch dishes I have had in my ten years living in New York.  My husband ordered a bit more traditionally - sausage, potatoes and eggs.  His dish was equally impressive and delicately prepared to perfection.  We also had a side of cheddar cheese grits, a dish that seems so easy, yet it was absolutely mouth watering.

Finally, we had two slices of sea salt chocolate chip brioche for dessert.  It would never have occurred to me to prepare brioche with a combination of chocolate and salt in the first place.  What a wonderful idea.  The combination was perfect and maintained the delicacy of the brioche, preventing it from being overly sweet.  This was the complete package, a delightful brunch from start to finish.  None of the dishes we ordered were overly complex, but the Farm On Adderley did all the little things right to create a charming and mouth watering brunch in a delightful ambiance, with wonderful service to match.  As I said above, we will be back for dinner very soon indeed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Matt's Kitchen in D.C. - Prize Winning Cheesecake Brownies

I work as a judicial clerk at a court located in the District of Columbia. One of the judges on this court (not the judge I work for) recently held a "brownie bake-off" - an event he apparently holds traditionally as part of pre-St. Patricks day festivities. I'm not sure why brownies, exactly, but my competitive spirit and culinary ambition drove me to enter the contest. The first thing I did was to enlist the help of my trusty co-clerk, who I will call Brigitte (not her real name). We decided to each choose a brownie test recipe and make it, and then compare notes. I opted for a cheesecake brownie using marscapone cheese, while she opted for a cocoa-powder based brownie that can only be described as "ultra-chocolatey." We then brought our creations to chambers for our co-workers to sample and provide feedback. Brigitte's came out quite well - they looked attractive, and delivered a deep and not-too-sweet chocolate dose. Mine were more of a failed attempt, unfortunately - the cheese didn't really set properly and browned in an unsightly manner in the oven. The feedback we got was consistent - Brigitte's chocolate brownie was superior, but tasters really liked the cheesecake angle if I could just figure out how to execute it better. So Brigitte and I agreed that I would try to make a revised version over the weekend that combined and improved our respective versions. To boost the cheesecake, I settled on the idea of using half marscapone and half cream cheese, thinking that maybe the cream cheese would help with the consistency and add some tang. Originally I had only added half an egg yolk, but this time I would add one egg yolk plus a whole egg. Finally, I would make a quick chocolate sauce to drizzle over the top, which would add a boost of chocolate flavor and help mask any imperfections in the cheesecake layer. This second recipe was much more successful, so I have included it below.

Finally, as you may have guessed, I am happy to announce that we won 2nd prize for our efforts. There were 21 contestants, so the competition was pretty fierce. Most importantly, our brownies were swept clean before any of the other entries during the post-judging "public consumption." This is the first cooking competition I have ever entered, and while admittedly not "Iron Chef," I am exceedingly happy it went well. Hope you enjoy the recipe -

Cheesecake Brownies

For the chocolate layer:

10 tbsp. butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or dutch processed)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake layer:

4 oz. marscapone cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1 egg plus one egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla

For the chocolate sauce:

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 cup water

Preheat the oven to 325, and line an 8x8 pan with tin foil, leaving edges sufficient to lift the cooked brownies out later.

For the chocolate layer: Using a double boiler or a mixing bowl standing in a pan of simmering water, melt the butter gently and slowly add the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Don't worry if it looks grainy, it will smooth out eventually. Take the mixture off the heat and let cool slightly, then add the vanilla. Stir in one egg at a time, stirring to incorporate completely, then stir in the flour. The mixture should be smooth now - put it into the lined pan and level it off if necessary.

For the cheesecake layer: Add the marscapone and the cream cheese to a mixing bowl and add the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Stir until the mixture is smooth and liquid. Pour it over the chocolate mixture.

Bake the brownie batter for around 30-35 minutes, until the cheesecake is set and a cake tester comes out with a just a small amount of batter on it from the chocolate layer. Remove from the oven and let cool. In the meantime, make the chocolate sauce:

For the chocolate sauce: Chop the chocolate and heat it with the butter in the double boiler or in a small saucepan sitting in a larger pan full of simmering water. Add the sugar and vanilla and stir. Add the water very gradually, getting it to the consistency you want - it should be pourable but slightly thick, not too watery. When the brownies have cooled, use the sauce to create designs on the top, or just splatter it Jackson Pollack-style if you want.

Finally, put the brownies in the freezer until they are cold and on the verge of freezing (don't forget about them!) , then remove them, lift out the tin foil and slice the brownies however you like. They will be much easier to slice cleanly once they have chilled down (however, they are best when served at or near room temperature).

Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Blackened catfish tacos

This is another 'healthier' dish that I really like. You can make it with almost any mild white fish but we chose catfish this time since it looked fresh at the store and it wasn't too expensive. The first time I had fish tacos was out in L.A. and I've loved them ever since. The first ones I had had breaded and crispy fish, shredded cabbage and a tangy, creamy sauce. I decided to try and replicate this sauce by making a tomato, cucumber slaw with lime juice, fresh cilantro and mayo. I was pretty happy with the results. I have no idea how close I actually was to what I originally tasted out west.

Ingredients: (Should serve about 4)
1 lb. fresh fish
half a cucumber, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 small limes
2 tbsp light mayo
whole wheat flour tortillas
Some shredded red cabbage

I usually bread my fish fillets in breadcrumbs and chef prudhomme's blackened redfish magic and saute them until they are crispy but this time I decided to avoid the breadcrumbs, flour and egg whites and just use the redfish magic spices and saute it in sesame oil and lime juice. I find that sesame oil is perfect for cooking fish in terms of the flavor it imparts and it takes high heat very well for blackening.

For the sauce I simply mix up the tomato, cucumber a lime's worth of lime juice and some light mayo and black pepper. In the end you have a filling and satisfying meal that really isn't too bad for you. You could probably even cut out the mayo to make it healthier but I think it gives the sauce a nice consistency.

Sasha's Kitchen: Honey Cornflake Chicken With Tropical Mango-Pineapple Salsa

I really need to take a vacation.  There are times (especially during the winter) that I feel as though I need and deserve a tropical escape, but just don't get the chance to take one.  Unfortunately, this has been one of those winters of discontent in this respect.  I hope to make it to a tropical place or at least a warm beach in the coming months.  But, until then, I can at least incorporate some tropical flavors into my culinary creations.  I created a crunchy honey crust for tonight's chicken entree, but instead of using breadcrumbs, I decided to crunch up cornflakes, and adhere them to the chicken with a bit of egg and honey.  Crunching up the cornflakes (rather than leaving them whole) is preferable because it increases the surface area of the flakes and allow them to adhere better to the chicken.

I also decided to bake the chicken, which makes this dish much healthier than if it were sauteed in butter, or even in Canola Oil.  This does not take away from the honey crunch flavor of the chicken.  The honey adds a bit of sweetness as well.  Finally, I prepared a simple salsa using mango and pineapple to add that tropical flavor to bring me back to my last well-earned vacation.

Sasha's Honey Cornflake Chicken With Mango-Pineapple Salsa
1 lb skinless, boneless Empire Chicken Breasts
2 eggs
2 T honey
crushed cornflakes (crushed with your hands)
1 diced mango
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 T lime juice
1 T cilantro

Beat the eggs and honey with a whisk until well combined in a medium sized bowl.  Dip the chicken filets into the egg-honey mixture to coat the chicken, before dipping the coated chicken into the crushed cornflakes.  Bake until the chicken is cooked through at 350 F.

To prepare the salsa, combine the mango, pineapple cilantro and lime juice.  Top the chicken with the salsa.  Close your eyes and transport yourself to a tropical paradise.  This easy dish was quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Homemade Tomato, Rosemary, Basil Focaccia Bread

Over the weekend, I decided to try making another type of bread.  I have somewhat of a fascination with breadmaking these days, between challah, brioche and beer bread, in part because I love making things fresh from scratch, like a true Brooklyn girl.  Heck, I've even made my own bagels - and I live in New York after all, home of the world's best bagel!

I recently decided to try making homemade focaccia.  Focaccia baking is a bit of an art form, as there is quite a bit of room for variation.  However, in the end, it basically requires a quality homemade pizza dough.  The possibilities for preparing your own focaccia are endless, so the recipe I devised below is really just a primer.  To make focaccia bread, most people will press the ingredients of their choice into the bread dough.  This can include fruit, dried fruit, herbs, nuts, tomatoes, garlic, and an assortment of vegetables.  Thus, your focaccia can be a basic sandwich bread, or it can be a dessert focaccia if you tend towards dried fruits and nuts that are on the sweet side.  This was actually quite easy to make, and provided me with a great delight because I love making just about anything from bread to cordials to cheese from scratch.  It also good if pressed with meats and spreads into a sandwich in a panini machine.

Sasha's Homemade Tomato, Rosemary & Basil Focaccia Bread

1 packet dry active yeast
1 T sugar
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
3/4 cup warm water
4 small organic tomatoes, off the vine
fresh rosemary
fresh basil leaves
1 T butter or canola oil

To prepare homemade focaccia, activate or proof the dry active yeast in the warm water (with the sugar) for 10 minutes until bubbly and foamy.  Mix the yeast/water/sugar mixture in a Kitchenaid mixer or bread making machine with the olive oil, salt and flour until it forms a dough.  You can do this by hand if you do not have a mixer or bread machine.  Allow the dough to rise (in a bowl covered with a damp towel) for 45 minutes.  Then, press the dough out flat on a baking sheet and press the sliced tomatoes (seeds removed), rosemary and basil into the dough.  Cover with a well oiled piece of plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.  Next, use your finger to poke little dots that look like dimples into the focaccia bread.

Before baking the focaccia, brush with olive oil, canola oil or butter.  If you prefer a sweet focaccia, you can brush with jam or jelly.  Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.   This was my first attempt at focaccia and the bread was just the right texture.  I loved the tomato and rosemary combination - it was just the way I had hoped it would turn out for the first time.  Next time, I will try some more unusual variations.

Want to make more bread?  Check out my recipes for Challah and Cinnamon Raisin Challah.  Also, click here for some of Emily's pizza dough variations or here for one of my pizza variations.  Next up in my world of bread will be some Chocolate Chip Dessert Challah (after Passover).  I have a few other things up my sleeve in the coming week or two, including some recipes from Thomas Keller (Ad Hoc At Home), a new tropical chicken recipe, a new goat cheese salad, S'mores Cupcakes and some creative fondant cupcake creations.  Stay tuned!

Focaccia on FoodistaFocaccia

Monday, March 15, 2010

Emily's Kitchen in Seattle: Beer, Pizza and Meditations on Yeast

While living in Jerusalem I got into pizza making because there is not a good pizza to be found in that city. Now that a pizza stone has been introduced to my cookware family, I have been in a bit of a pizza frenzy. That, combined with an inherited bread machine, means I could make the stuff every night. Next project: making my own mozzarella. Stay tuned.

I have two pizza crust recipes that, so far, bring down the house. The first one is a winner because it doesn't need kneading or rising time - perfect for instant pizza gratification. The second one is my new favorite because it calls for beer. I swear, I am going to market it as a dating tool for women looking for husbands. What is closer to a man's heart than pizza and beer? And the two combined into one dish, topped with inches of melty cheese? Before you know it we'll all be saying, "E Harmony who...?" Top that baby with some fresh garlic and, voila, insta-aphrodisiac.

For another very delicious-looking version, check out Sasha's pizza and pizza commentary.

Instant Gratification Pizza Dough
Makes one thick crust or two thin crust pizzas

1 cup warm water, about 110 degrees
1 package yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tsp. sugar/honey/agave

2 1/2 cups flour (I mix white and wheat, but do not use all wheat)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. of any or all of the following: garlic powder, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes...use your imaginative taste buds

Preheat the oven to 450.

Add yeast and sugar to the warm water, stir and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

If you get nervous, like I do, about getting your yeast water to be the perfect lukewarm temperature, mix 1/2 cup cold water with 1/2 cup boiled water. The yeast should proof, meaning that you should see the top layer of the mixture turning foamy and rising. If the mixture does not do this in 10 minutes, start over. It is important, when dealing with yeast, to maintain a positive attitude. I tell you, yeast knows when you're not in a mood to cook and it won't rise just to spite you. It's like a teenager: tend to it, care for it, and let it go its own way. When you turn back to it it will have met all your expectations and your heart will be warmed. If not, well, there was nothing you could have done anyway.

While ignoring the yeast, mix the flour, salt, olive oil and spices.
Add the proofed yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add more flour if the dough is too wet.
For best results, let the dough sit for about 10 minutes. But if you have no patience at all, just go ahead and roll it out. Divide it into two for a thin crust result. Top with desired toppings. I like to make an improv sauce of tomato paste, crushed garlic, red wine, sugar, salt and spices and mozzarella rounds, or a white pizza topped with crushed garlic, spinach and feta.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and the cheese is starting to brown.


Beer-and-Pizza-Lovers' Beer Pizza Dough
Also known in my house as "What am I going to do with this case of Miller High Life? Pizza Dough"

This recipe is made for bread machines, but I propose directions for a manually made crust below. However, I have not made it yet, so please, someone try it and let me know. Based on this recipe on recipezaar.

1 cup flat beer (room temperature)
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 3/4 cup flour (all purpose or a white-wheat blend) + about a 1/4 cup
1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 tbs.)
Spices, as desired

Enter the ingredients into the bread machine mixing bowl according to the manufacturer's instructions (with the paddle already inserted - not like the time I thought I made a whole round of dough without remembering to put it in).
Set the machine to the pizza dough cycle and go on with your day.
When dough cycle is complete, set the oven to 450. The dough may be sticky, so knead a little flour into it until it is nice and flexible. Roll it out onto the pan, top with desired toppings and make for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is crispy and cheese is starting to brown.

Alternatively, mix instant dry yeast in with the flour, sugar, salt and spices. Add the beer and oil, stir to combine. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for, say, 7 minutes or until the dough is pliable and not sticky. Add enough flour to sticky dough to make it smooth. Place dough in a bowl, cover and let rise for an hour in a warm, draft-free place. After an hour, or after dough has doubled in size, turn out onto the pan, top and bake. **Note: I have only tried the breadmaker version, not the manual version. Make pizza at your own risk.**

Sasha's Kitchen: Apricot Almond Couscous Sidedish Paired With Rooster Hill Riesling

We had a wonderful home-prepared dinner on Saturday night.  Tomorrow, I will be doing my post of another wonderful New York State Riesling wine & food pairing with the main course of that meal.  However, I wanted to first introduce a sweet sidedish that also complemented the fruit-forward scents of the Rooster Hill 2007 Estate Semi Dry Riesling that I just received in the mail to review from the lovely Keuka Lake Winery, Rooster Hill Vineyards.

This side dish is very simple to prepare, and contains apricots.  I decided to prepare the couscous with apricot and almond to complement the fragrant apricot and white peach aromas in the wine, and its smooth, lovely honey finish), as well as cinnamon, almond and a bit of lemon.   The wine was a true bouquet of fresh summer fruits, the way a good Riesling ought to be.  I will give full detail on the pairing of the wine in tomorrow's post, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, here is the recipe for the super side dish that (like the lamb main course) was a wonderful complement with Rooster Hill's aromatic white wine.

Sasha's Sweet Apricot Almond Couscous
1 cup plain couscous
1 1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup dried apricot (cut into small pieces)
1/4 cup almond slivers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

To prepare the couscous, I placed the couscous in the pineapple juice in a small pot (instead of using water, like one normally does with couscous).  Then, I brought it to a boil and simmered until the juices were mostly gone.  This infused the couscous with the flavors of the pineapple.  Then, I mixed the couscous with the almond, cinnamon and apricot and sauteed for a couple of minutes in a small amount of canola oil (just enough so the couscous would not stick to the pan).  Finally, I added a small amount of lemon juice to add some tartness to balance out the flavors.  This couscous is a sweet and delicious side dish that can be served with either lamb or chicken dishes.  Don't be afraid of this dish even if you don't have a sweet tooth - even my husband (not normally a fan of overly sweet foods) enjoyed it.

I am pleased to enter this dish in the multi-blog sidedish showdown!


Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Warm Pear Arugula Salad

So I'm trying to post a couple of 'healthier' recipes since I've noticed most of my posts tend to not be very health conscious. Jenn and I try to eat salads as often as possible but I only have a few different ones that we eat often so I'll have to start experimenting a little to find some new options to post. I love my Trader Joe's spicy pecans and Gorgonzola cheese so those tend to be in most of my salads. I also try to include some sort of fruit or berries. This one uses baby arugula greens, the nuts and cheese and warm pears sauteed in a little butter and brown sugar. I love arugula but it's pretty bitter so I like to have something sweet to balance it out. I serve it with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and people seem to like it so far!

Baby Arugula
Trader Joe's Sweet and Spicy pecans
Crumbled Gorgonzola
Ripe Pear, Sliced and sauteed in butter, sprinkled with brown sugar
Homemade balsamic vinaigrette:
-1 part good quality balsamic vinegar
-2 parts good extra virgin olive oil
-salt, ground black pepper and minced garlic to taste

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Green Tea Tiramisu

Tiramisu has long been one of my husband's favorite desserts.  I enjoy it as well.  However, all too often, I am turned off to restaurant tiramisu desserts that are simply drenched and cloaked in the taste of alcohol.  I like a little bit of a Kahlua, Grand Marnier or  similar liqueur flavor to my tiramisu as well, but I don't want the final tiramisu simply to taste like it was drowned in alcohol.  In my mind, a bit of subtleness is key here to achieve the consistency and flavor.  I decided to do a bit of a twist on a traditional tiramisu tonight and use my leftover matcha powder from the green tea ice cream I made last weekend, in creating an Japanese-inspired green tea tiramisu.  I had a similar tiramisu dessert in the past at the Manhattan sushi restaurant, Geisha, and it was fabulous.  Today, however, I created my own green tea teamisu!

To create the tiramisu, I did a bit of research.  I looked at a lot of traditional tiramisu recipes, as well as at a green tea tiramisu recipe from Nobu, and another recipe I encountered in my research here.  In the end, I adapted all of these recipes and wrote my own inspired recipe for green tea tiramisu, using a relatively small and mild flavored alcohol so that the end result was that the mascarpone dessert would be lovely and pillowy, and would have green tea as the primary flavor (rather than coffee or alcohol).  This dessert was lovely - it has a beautiful natural green color (I elected not to  use food coloring to make it bright green) from the matcha, and is light, airy and fluffy.  Don't let it float away though - the recipe is actually not too hard to make, and is a wonderful, light treat.

Sasha's Green Tea Tiramisu
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
16 oz mascarpone cheese
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 package ladyfinger cookies
2 cups green tea
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T tiramisu liqueur or Kahlua
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
4 tsp matcha green tea powder, plus extra for sprinkling on top (I bought mine locally at Park Slope Tea N Coffee N Spice)

To prepare the green tea tiramisu (or should I be calling it "Teamisu):

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, or in a small bowl placed in a pot of simmering water.  Continue beating for about five minutes until pale yellow in color.  Next, beat the mascarpone until smooth and beat in the matcha powder.  Use a handheld mixer, or my favorite kitchen tool - you guessed it - a KitchenAid artisan stand mixer.  Mix the egg mixture into the mascarpone mixture.  Transfer to a bowl.

In the basin of your mixer (or using a handheld mixer) beat the heavy whipping cream with the cream of tartar, using the whisk attachment.  Beat on high until the cream is pillowy and has formed stiff peaks.  Add the vanilla and liqueur.

Using a spatula, fold the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream mixture. Layer the tiramisu and the ladyfinger cookies in a cake dish, like you would with a typical tiramisu.  I suggest using a three inch deep cake pan.  Make sure to quickly dip each cookie in freshly brewed green tea (rather than the typical coffee) so that the cookies don't fall apart and layer the cookies with the tiramisu.  Sprinkle some excess matcha powder on top, and allow to chill for at least four hours before eating.  I was extremely happy with the end result of this experimental kitchen project.

Tiramisu on FoodistaTiramisu

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto - Hearts of Palm and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Feta

As spring - and all the gorgeous produce that starts to emerge with it - begins to unfurl, I'm starting to find some of my favorite ingredients at my local mega mart again. I had two joyous discoveries last year; the first was the amazing heirloom tomatoes at the Granville Island Farmer's Market in Vancouver and the other was a product I had heard of, but never sampled myself - hearts of palm; which are derived from the inner core of the growing bud from some palm trees and has a vaguely asparagus or artichoke heart-like taste to it.

Hearts of Palm and Heirloom Tomato Salad

1/2 - 1 can hearts of palm sliced into rounds
2-3 cups sliced heirloom tomatoes (or the freshest tomatoes you can find)
1/3 cup Light Feta Cheese, crumbled (I used shredded store-bought)
1/4 - 1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
salt to taste

Put hearts of palm and tomatoes on your serving platter. Drizzle over the oil and vinegar and sprinkle with feta and salt.

Yields 4-6 servings

I had a version of this wonderful salad at a family dinner once, so I was inspired by some beautiful heirloom tomatoes I found at the market and the can of hearts of palm I was saving for just such an experiment. I left the proportions fairly loose in case you like more of one thing and not the other or if you are not as big on vinegar as I am!

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