Saturday, April 10, 2010
Nothing can set the mood for a great day off better than a delicious breakfast. This morning I decided to make stuffed french toast. I added a layer of fresh strawberries to lighten things up a bit (and to make a dent in the 5 lb supply I impulsively bought this week). This recipe comes together in a snap but has enough sophistication to be a great choice for Mother's Day brunch. The filling is sweet enough that no syrup is necessary, but a sprinkle of powdered sugar really sets the whole thing off.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Spring was imitating summer this week with temperatures in the 90's. When people started showing up to court and daisy dukes I knew it was officially OK to make my favorite summer fruit pie. Strawberry Rhubarb pie is a perfect blend of sweet and tart. It's nearly criminal not to enjoy your first slice hot, messy, and topped with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream which is exactly what we did last night. It doesn't hurt that the filling is the exact vibrant pink color my inner 7 year old wants to wear every day. The best part of all is that the filling is so darn simple you'll be putting the pie in the oven in no time flat.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
There's nothing quite like a soft yeasty roll straight from the oven to remind you that sometimes the simple pleasures are the best. Our hectic schedules rarely allow most of us to enjoy bread straight from the oven more than a couple times a year. When you do decide the occasion warrants fresh rolls, it'd be a real pity not to give these a chance. These rolls are easy to put together (though it's a bit time consuming to measure out 72 little balls of dough) and freeze wonderfully. They're a perfect complement to any holiday meal or any non-holiday meal you'd like to make feel a little special.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Growing up my family wasn't very religious but we always made sure to celebrate Easter. On the Saturday before Easter my mom and I would decorate what felt like dozens of eggs. A few eggs wound up in our Easter baskets, but most ended up being used for the deviled eggs we would eat at Easter dinner. Though I've (mostly) outgrown any interest in decorating eggs, deviled eggs still haven't lost their luster.
If you do a google search for deviled eggs you'll quickly find out that people have put nearly everything from sweet relish to jalapenos in the filling. While I don't doubt that many of them are quite delicious, they're not what I think of when I think of deviled eggs. These deviled eggs are like the ones my mom (and I have reason to suspect, your mom) made. The filling is a smooth and creamy mix of mustard, vinegar, mayo and yolk.. just the way I like 'em.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Today is the 35th anniversary of the man of the house's birth. In honor of the occasion, his brother and sister-in-law are coming up to the farmhouse from NC for the weekend. In celebration of his birthday and his brother's visit, the man of the house is smoking a pork shoulder for pulled pork tonight. When we were at the store getting supplies for the weekend I, ambitiously, suggested that rather than buying the buns I would make them at home.
Last summer I read this article and saw this post but at the time I had never made a loaf of bread and didn't see myself starting anytime soon. When I got into making bread I avoided brioche doughs fearing their slack, sticky texture and lamenting my lack of stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Now that I've made them I realize what a sissy I was and I can't believe it took me until now to make them. The buns are light, chewy, and perfectly plump unlike the flat, limp burger buns you get so often at the supermarket. Whatever you do, don't make the same mistake I did and wait nearly a year to make these buns.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I had a trial yesterday that ran into the evening and by the time the man of the house and I finally got home and got around to attending to dinner we were both famished. Though we had plenty of staples on hand there wasn't much other than a frozen pizza that could be ready in under half an hour. There also wasn't a whole lot of energy left to come up with a creative dinner. When I looked into the fridge I saw Parmesan cheese, bacon and eggs and finally it dawned on me to prepare a simple and hearty Pasta Carbonara. From idea to the first bite barely 20 minutes elapsed.
I used Emeril's recipe and halved it because there were only two of us for dinner, but this could easily be scaled up or down to feed a few or a crowd. The recipe posted below will serve four (or more) hungry adults.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A couple weeks ago spring fever hit our household hard and the next thing we knew we were buying lawn chairs, firing up the grill, and mixing margaritas for friends who stopped by the farm for the evening. Unfortunately, after a couple margaritas we'd devoured the guacamole and found ourselves out of daylight before the steak came off the grill. Though the tacos were delicious, I wasn't able to get a decent photo. Last night after work we called a do-over. The recipe I used was Bobby Flay's Flank Steak Taco and Guacamole recipe. The only modification I made was to grill up some onions and red peppers to serve with the tacos. The grilled veggies and guacamole perfectly complement the charred flank steak. This is one we'll be making for summers to come.
Monday, March 29, 2010
When I lived in Pittsburgh, PA my favorite breakfast spot was a place called The Bagel Factory which was located in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood called Squirrel Hill. The bagels were chewy and dense without being heavy and dry. The outside was smooth and shiny and the everything bagels had kosher salt and no sunflower seeds (the perfect blend). I graduated from law school in 2006 and moved back home to Virginia to start my career.
Alas, finding a good bagel in rural Virginia is like looking for a needle in a haystack.. a haystack that doesn't have any needles in it. An hour in the car will get you a serviceable bagel from Panera and nothing more. Last weekend I set out to make homemade bagels and found success. These bagels are probably not the same as you'd get in an authentic NY deli but, in my humble opinion, they're pretty darn good. Certainly better than any of the round breads they call bagels at the grocery store.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
It's no secret that I love risotto. The preparation is involving without being challenging and the result is always pure comfort food. This recipe from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express is the slightly more sophisticated cousin of macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed this on a rainy night home alone with a glass of white wine and a Lifetime movie.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
The very first time I used yeast was to make a pizza dough back in 2006. Up to that point I had cooked pretty frequently but had never endeavored to bake anything requiring yeast/kneading/waiting. I didn't know that dough sometimes needed to rest a while to keep the gluten from causing the dough to seize up when you tried to work with it. The first time I made a pizza dough I nearly quit in frustration when the harder I tried to form the dough into a perfect round, the harder it fought to remain in a ball. Though I've certainly gotten back on the horse and made many a yeast dough since that first disastrous pizza dough, I haven't made many pizzas.
Pizza is one of those things that can be made as many different ways as their are people who make it. I tend to like a thin and crispy crust with a moderate amount of spicy tomato sauce, a light layer of fresh mozzarella, and some combination of mushrooms, onions and pepperoni.
A few weeks back the man of the house and I caught an episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" in which the guests described the most delicious pizzas they had ever eaten. Alex Guarnaschelli cited the Yukon Gold Potato Pizza from Five Points as her number one pick. When we decided to have pizza for dinner last night I left the pepperoni and fresh mozzarella in my fridge and decided to put together a potato pizza of my own. I topped my pizza with olive oil, thyme, russet potato slices and garlic. The flavor was very delicate and I could easily see how a drizzle of truffle oil just before serving would be an excellent topper. When I make this again I think I'll add a little goat cheese and Parmesan to the top of the pizza in the last few minutes of baking.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The last time I made a flourless chocolate cake I accidentally forgot to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and the cake stuck like crazy. The two slices I photographed were the only two I was able to pry off of the base of the pan intact. The rest of the cake crumbled into pieces. Though the cake was delicious, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. The cake was dark, moist and heavy. It was like a slab of decadent chocolate mousse. Delicious, but not cakelike. Having had such good results with Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake I looked again to her recipe collection for her take on a flourless chocolate cake. The following recipe is an adaptation of her Chocolate Cloud Cake. This cake is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the flourless chocolate cake I made the last time. The exterior is crater-like and cracked to reveal a moist but light interior. The whipped cream topping is barely sweet and is a perfect counter point to the cocolatey cake. This recipe is going into the keep file.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Though neither the man of the house nor I could be described as rabid environmentalists, we do try to do our part when it comes to using resources wisely. We watch our energy consumption and, most relevant to this blog, do everything we can to avoid wasting a lot of food. Often, since ours is a two person household, I end up halving or even quartering recipes. Other times I prepare a full batch of something and then freeze part of the batch partially-prepared for leftovers (there are raw meatballs and mushroom ravioli tucked into my freezer as we speak) rather than cooking the entire batch and then eating the same thing for days on end.
The last time we grilled out we ended up with some leftover grilled onion and red peppers. Not wanting all of that delicious flavor to go to waste, we cooked up some absolutely delicious skillet home fries and served them with bacon and a fried egg for breakfast. The potatoes would also be really tasty as part of the filling for a breakfast burrito, etc. The potatoes came together easily and they were much tastier than the soggy mess you often get on the side of your plate at a restaurant. Though you could certainly cut up some fresh red peppers and onions and cook them along with the potatoes, using the leftovers made the preparation of the potatoes a little simpler and the smokiness from the grill added wonderful flavor.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I was thumbing through Nigella Lawson's Feast recently and slowed down when I hit the Chocolate Guinness Cake. I figured what better time to try Chocolate Guinness Cake than right before St. Patrick's day. I'm not a beer drinker, I am pretty sure this is the first Guinness that's ever passed my lips. While I can't say I'll change my drinking habits any time soon I can certainly say there's certainly going to be more of this cake in my future. The batter comes together in a snap. Once baked the cake is dense without being heavy and moist without being fudgy. The icing helps add some sweetness that is missing in the cake but is otherwise slightly disappointing. I love cream cheese frosting but I don't think it complements the chocolate cake (the contrast also makes the cake extremely difficult to photograph with my iPhone) beyond adding sweetness which helps balance the slight bitterness of the cocoa in the cake. When I make this again I am going to top the cake with chocolate ganache instead.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
This weekend, though the weather outside wasn't giving any indication of spring's impending arrival, I went through some of my old cookbooks, magazines, etc. looking for ideas for new spring recipes. I was immediately drawn to the Key Lime Bars in the American Classics 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated. In my little look around the internet it appears it has been published in previous, and possibly subsequent, issues of the magazine. The crust employs animal cracker crumbs where many recipes use graham cracker crumbs and the result is surprisingly perfect. The filling is sweet but the lime stands front and center and the toasted coconut is really an excellent counter-point to the tartness of the filling.
I used freshly squeezed Persian (standard) Limes rather than Key Limes. In the past I have juiced and attempted to zest a million tiny limes and, in my hunble (though backed up by the folks who write the Cook's Illustrated magazines and cookbooks) opinion the flavor difference, if not entirely imperceptible, doesn't justify the additional expense and hassle.