Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I know how popular cupcake posts seem to be, but as much as everyone seems to enjoy reading them, I can't just make cupcakes every weekend. I did make some cupcakes recently that I haven't posted yet, that I'd like to share with readers.  Gingerbread cupcakes is really a fall recipe, but when I saw the recipe in one of my cookbooks, Dishing Up Vermont, I knew I had to try it anyhow. I did some research for gingerbread cupcake recipes out there and this one seemed like the best one to try. I liked how the recipe made the gingerbread the genuine way, using a combination of spices and unsulfured molasses. Just be forewarned: unsulfured molasses has an unpleasant oder, but that all goes away when you mix it with the other ingredients.

I'm not making any more cupcakes until next weekend, when I'll be doing coconut cupcakes. This weekend, I plan to make cheesecake and a seasonal strawberry rhubarb crumble.  I should add that only the cupcake recipe is from the cookbook - I developed my own orange frosting recipe that is a bit simpler and plenty fresh orange.  So what happened to these cupcakes? Well they look like normal cupcakes in these pictures, quite a few of them (I made a double catch) got turned into my signature Alice in Wonderland Cupcakes.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Cream Frosting (recipe adapted from Dishing Up Vermont)
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground salt
4T butter
1/2 granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water

Sasha's Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
2 T orange zest, freshly grated
1 8 oz package of cream cheese
1/2 stick of butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
drop of orange food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. Mix the dry ingredients together (the flour, spices and salt). Then, in the basin of your mixer, beat the 4 tablespoons of butter with the granulated sugar.  Add the molasses and the egg, continuing to beat until smooth. Be warned that the mixture may appear to curdle slightly and this really isn't a problem at this point in the recipe. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda with 1/2 cup of boiling water. Combine into the main mixture, whisking until combined.

Divide among the cupcake holders, filling each until about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch and lightly browned.  Like I have said before, you can use a toothpick to test the inside of the cupcake - it comes out clean when they are ready to come out of the oven.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before you frost them.  To make the frosting, zest the orange and beat the confectioner's sugar, butter, cream cheese and butter for several minutes on high speed until the frosting has the right consistency.  Add a drop of orange food coloring to get the color. 

And yes, these tasted as good as they look.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos With Mango Salsa

One of my best culinary related memories from our honeymoon in Hawaii was the sensational fresh Hawaiian fish - from the Mahi-Mahi to the baked opakapaka to the ahi poke, all of the fish was fresh catches of the day and some of the catches were fish that you can't find back on the mainland. Mahi-Mahi is one of the few fish that I ate in Hawaii that I am sometimes available to buy quality filets of locally.  So, this dish perhaps takes be back just a tiny bit to those meals at Mama's Fish House and the other great places we ate on that trip. Just an aside, I would love to make fresh ahi poke, but without the local Hawaiian fish quality, I don't think I could do it justice. That might not stop me from trying at some point anyhow though.

Mahi-Mahi makes an excellet soft taco, even though the fish is quite good, because it is a bit tougher than say salmon of chilean sea bass.  I did an asian inspired marinade, very similar to the marinade that I use in my signature Chilean Sea Bass dish.  It came out really well and my husband, who generally prefers the softer, flaky fishes, was pleasantly surprised.

Sasha's Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos With Mango Salsa

1/3 cup mirin (or sake)
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup low sodium soy sayce
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 tsp dried lemongrass
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 oz of Mahi-Mahi, skinned

1 mango diced
2 T lime juice
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 to 2 T of diced cilantro

To prepare the fish, I allowed the marinade to soak for about two hours. Then, I grilled the fish, after cutting into small pieces, on my grill pan. You could, of course, grill the fish as one large piece and cut it up afterwards.  To prepare the salsa simply dice and combine the ingredients.  Allow the salsa to chill for about an hour before serving so that the flavors have a chance to mix appropriately. Serve in flour tortillas with a bit of sour cream.  Yum!

Mahi-Mahi on FoodistaMahi-Mahi

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto - Spicy Shitake, Bamboo Shoot and Cucumber Stir fry

I was rummaging around in my fridge for a low-fat snack and noticed the shitake mushrooms I had bought in Chinatown and some leftover ingredients from the great Dan Dan Noodles recipe I made from Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty". I decided creating a new veggie dish was in order! I know most of you have never had cucumbers cooked, but when I lived in China, this was one of the ways they might be prepared so I decided to experiment. I also didn't wash the mushrooms. I simply brushed them off with a damp paper towel after removing the stems.

Spicy Shitake, Bamboo Shoot and Cucumber Stir fry

1 tsp vegetable oil (not olive)
2 tsp Tianjin pickled vegetable (I put three in the end because I like things spicier)
2 cups cleaned and chopped shitake mushrooms; stems removed
1 cup slivered bamboo shoots (I used canned)
1 cup English cucumber, cut into batonets
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee)
1 cup chicken broth
salt to taste

Heat the oil in the pan/wok. Add the Tianjin vegetable and stir fry for 20-30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and a little salt to draw out the moisture. Add the chili garlic sauce, bamboo shoots and cucumber. Stir fry until the mushrooms are cooked; about 4-5 minutes. Add the stock and allow to reduce on medium heat. Add salt if needed (I didn't as the broth was salty enough).

Serves 4 (with rice or noodles)

Even when cooked, cucumbers stay crunchy and add a great textural element to this dish, but you could leave them out if you prefer and only use the mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Blueberry Ice Cream

Summer is just around the corner, which means that it's berry time.  It's so easy to make your own ice cream at home, using a conventional ice cream maker.  Making ice cream at home is much easier that it sounds and simply requires some freezing time and a very limited amount of prep work.  I have made a variety of flavors but this time, decided to try something that was perfect for the early summer - blueberry ice cream.  It came out great - nice and creamy with a perfect blueberry flavor.  I love the color purple, so the best part about this ice cream was the fabulous deep purple color!  This recipe is totally my own original recipe.  You will find that most blueberry ice cream recipes out there may use even more yolks than I did, but it really isn't needed.  This was creamy, delicious and oh so very blueberry.  I should add that I live next to a gourmet ice cream store, but I still like to make my own ice cream.  Next up will be peach in June (with fresh organic peaches of course).

Sasha's Blueberry Ice Cream
2 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
7 egg yolks

First, combine 1/2 a cup of the sugar with the blueberrries and cook over medium heat for about five minutes.  In the meantime, heat the milk and heavy cream with the remaining sugar for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved.  Beat the egg yolks separately and add to one cup of the warm milk mixture. Then combine in full and continue heating for about 10 minutes until nice and thick, until the custard coats the back of a spoon.  Add the blueberry mixture and then freeze according the the manufacturer's instructions for your ice cream maker.

Blueberry Ice Cream on FoodistaBlueberry Ice Cream

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Veal With Shallots, White Wine, Blood Orange and Tomatoes

I love veal – it is definitely my favorite white meat, as I am not huge chicken fan, with a few notable exceptions. I love preparing dishes with veal scaloppini and veal cutlets.  To date, most of my veal dishes are fairly traditional, like the veal marsala that Brad and I prepared a few months ago.

This dish is a traditional veal dish in that it incorporates some of the usual suspects – white wine, tomatoes and shallots. However, it also incorporates one of my favorite innovative ingredients to cool with – blood orange juice.  I simply love the flavor of blood orange juice in so many dishes, from my scallops in a blood orange vinaigrette to my summer citrus salad.  In preparing this dish, I also used my favorite olive oil – blood orange olive oil from Round Pond Estate in Napa Valley.

Sasha’s Veal with Blood Orange, White Wine, Tomatoes and Shallots
¾ cup blood orange juice
½ cup Riesling or white cooking wine
¼ cup minced shallots
¼ cup of heavy cream
3 T butter
sprig of thyme
2 large fresh plum tomatoes
¼ cup diced fresh basil
veal cutlets or scaloppini (enough for two people)

Prepare the veal (season with salt and pepper first) by sautéing in a pan with Round Pond Estate’s Blood Orange Olive Oil.  In a small saucepan, combine the blood orange juice, white wine, thyme and shallots and reduce to about half a cup.  Add the heavy cream and heat for a few minutes until slightly thickened.  Coat the veal in the sauce and add the fresh tomatoes and basil.  This was delicious and I really liked the way that the blood orange flavors turned a traditional veal dish upside down – in the best way possible!

I’m back now blogging every day, after five days of no internet connection, which seemed like forever.  So stay tuned for more great recipes.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto - Easy Salmon and Pea Pasta Shells

Hullo fellow foodies!

Ever have a work night when you need something quick and delicious but have nothing much in your pantry? I got home one night after a rough day at work craving a quick pasta dish but had forgotten to grocery shop on my way home. Staring into my cupboards and fridge, I came up with this quick and delicious dish!

Easy Salmon and Pea Pasta Shells

1 c dried mini pasta shells
1/2 cup canned peas, drained
1 tsp butter
2 tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp light smoked salmon cream cheese
1 triangle Laughing Cow cheese light (you could use a tablespoon of regular cream cheese or sour cream)
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Cook the pasta according to the package instruction to al dente. Melt butter in a pan on medium heat. Put the cooked pasta in the pan with the peas. Add the broth, cheeses and garlic powder until the sauce melts but make sure the heat is not too high. You may not need any salt as the cheese may be enough. As an added treat, some grated romano or parmesan cheese might be nice on this to finish.

I love it when I find delicious recipes that help me clean my pantry as well!
Makes 2 servings as a main or 4 as a side

Sasha's Kitchen: Spaghetti All' Arrabiata

Spaghetti All' Arrabiata is a pretty classic Italian dish. There are a million ways to make this dish, all of which are very similar. Below is my take on this classic.  I have made arrabiata before, but I have always used tomato puree.  However, Jamie Oliver suggests using canned plum tomatoes in his arrabiata, in Melanie Dunea's cookbook, the Last Supper.  Jamie Oliver is one of my favorite chefs, so I decided to follow this suggestion in doing my own arrabiata recipe.  It was a great idea - the texture of the whole tomatoes and the flavor was very different - much lighter and more enjoyable.  This recipe is extremely easy to make on a bust night, and was a big hit with my husband.  The leftovers were gobbled up for lunch the next day.

Sasha's Spaghetti All' Arrabiata
2T of red hot chile paste
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic
one onion, diced
3 cans of plum tomatoes
1 box of thin spaghetti
several sprigs fresh thyme
pepper to taste
canola oil

To prepare this dish, I sauteed the onions and garlic in three tablespoons of canola oil, over medium heat, for about three minutes until softened.  Then I added the chile paste and cooked for another minute or two.  Then I added the tomatoes and cooked for another 20 minutes until the sauce thickened.  At this point, I seasoned with the salt, pepper and thyme.  If it's not spicy enough for your taste, add a bit of cayenne pepper. In the meantime, I combined the pasta with the sauce (after cooking the spaghetti, of course). I noticed that Jamie Oliver also incorporates a small amount of bread crumbs.  I don't do that in my recipe, but it might be an interesting variation for next time.
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