Friday, August 12, 2011

Moved on over to A Stack of Dishes

For reasons to dopey to explain, I've moved this blog to

Please come visit me there, and sooooo sorry for the trouble!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Power to the power bar

I am proud to say that I've been pretty good about going to the gym lately. It's about time I dropped the 10 pounds I gained sampling my way through Thailand (NO regrets!)

It is my usual practice to snack on a Balance Bar post workout. Sort of a treat but in a healthy way. I am also a fan of post work out refueling, it definitely helps my physical recovery and my mental attitude. So a snack that has quality carbs, protein, tastes good and can be dropped into my gym bag wins.

I have my favorites and I don't mind schlepping to Trader Joe's to stock up, but the last time my little pile cost me some coin for, well, such a little pile. 

I certainly have all the stuff to make my own, and so, there you have it- the kernal, the spark, the moment of genesis. I love it when my kitchen becomes laboratory.

I like crunch and I don't like too sweet and I prefer a jolt of protein for good measure, so that was the challenge.

I went hunting around online for some ideas and didn't really like anything I saw, but I liked some concepts and discovered what I didn't like. Not too cakey, not too nutty or granola-y either.

I settled upon a sortof kindof rice crispy treat thing. I have a bag of chia seeds in the fridge and this seemed like a perfect vehicle. I also had some dried goji berries from my trip to Thailand and a jolt of chocolate is my idea of healthy antioxidants.

The entire batch cost me approx $5, much less than the 16 bars would have cost me. I am pleased with the combination but have some more ideas for the next time. Gotta sneak in some more protein and more fiber. The nutritional breakdown is pretty good though, so no complaints really. (see attached to printable recipe).

I wrapped them in wax paper and stored them in plastic bags. Easy to grab either coming or going to the gym.

Rice Crispy Power Bar

3/4 c agave syrup
3/4 c fresh ground peanut butter
1 T gelatin softened in 3 T of water
3 C rice crispies
1/4 t salt
2T Chia Seeds
1/2 C Dried Goji Berries
1/2 C chopped semi sweet chocolate

In saucepan combine agave syrup and peanut butter. Warm over medium heat, stirring smooth, until bubbly. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir thoroughly until completely incorporated. Stir in salt.

In separate larger bowl combine the rice crispies, chia seeds, goji berries and stir to combine. 

Pour peanut butter mixture over dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. When cooled a little bit add chocolate and quickly and gently combine.

In baking pan sprayed with cooking spray, dump mixture in and pat evenly with hands. Allow to cool completely.

Remove from pan and cut into 16 equal pieces.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce

I succumbed, I fell into the "making your own ice cream trap". Blame it on the summer, blame it on the hankering, blame it on the caramel sauce leftover in the fridge that needed something to be paired with it. I don't really blame anything- I just wanted it, plain and simple.

I've made frozen things before. Earlier this season I had some mangoes that were over ripening and decided to whip them into a sorbet for a dinner party I was having later that week. The result was delish and Oh so easy. I've got some watermelon juice that's also calling my name that may get whizzed up into something soon.

When it comes to ice cream I've made them several times, but never using a custard base. This time I decided not to be lazy and give it a try. I've made creme anglaise many many times before, so I was not afraid to make the delicious delicate custard, I'm just so much more into instant gratification.

But it's an easy summer and there is no excuse not to give it a go.

As a kid I used to love Jamocha Almond Fudge ice cream and some part of me was needing to have that little kid in me satisfied. Not feeling the nuts though, and instead of fudge I chopped up some Cuizel semi sweet chocolate-72% and made it a stracciatella version. I like the little crunchy texture of chocolate with the creamy coffee ice cream, and this chocolate has enough heft to hold it's own.

The caramel sauce was left over from a cake job last weekend. Such beautiful gooey stuff. Is there anything more divine that creamy sweet burnt sugar?? This batch was particularly luscious and could not, would not go to waste (waist?). A little sprinkling of Maldon salt on top is just perfection. Sweet, burnt sugar, coffee, chocolate and salty creamy goodness.

Onward to the recipes, but not without first saying that photographing ice cream in a warm loft is not advisable. The close up is a little soft as the shot was hand held- sorry about that- but I wanted you to get a good look at this divinity.

Cappuccino Ice Cream:

4 egg yolks
1 c whole milk
1c heavy cream
4oz sugar (100g)
1/4 t salt
instant espresso powder to taste
2oz finely chopped semi sweet chocolate

makes ~ 2.5 cups

In sauce pan combine all but the espresso and whisk together. Over gentle heat slowly warm the sauce while continuing to stir with a wooden spoon.

After a few minutes the sauce with thicken. The time honored test to see if it's done is to draw your finger through the sauce on the back of the wooden spoon. When it is viscous to your liking it will leave a clean track and creaminess on the spoon. Don't be tempted to over cook- the sauce may break and be ruined.

Have a bowl with sieve atop at the ready. As soon as the sauce is thickened immediately remove the pan from the stove and pour the sauce through the sieve. 

Teaspoon by teaspoon stir in the espresso powder until it reaches the desired depth of mocha you prefer. Be sure to mix well as more comes out the more you stir.

Place bowl in fridge and chill until cold. I mean it, the colder the base the better the ice cream. In fact I recommend putting the bowl once it's cool into the freezer for little while. The faster ice cream freezes the smaller the ice crystals. The smaller the crystals the more refined the ice cream.

Once chilled pour cream sauce into your ice cream maker and follow directions. At the end simply add the chocolate and allow it to churn to an even consistency.

Take ice cream out of the mixer unit and place in freezer until ready to eat. The ice cream needs to set.

Some recommend a small amount of liquor, such as vodka, stirred in to allow it to be easier to scoop. I've not done this, but feel free if you would like. Or add Kahlua or some other complimentary liqueur.

Caramel Sauce:

1/2 c water
1.5 c sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
pinch of salt

In a heavy medium sized sauce pan combine sugar and water. Boil until golden in color. Take care as the color will darken once the cream is added, so don't over do this.

During the boiling process use a clean pastry brush dipped in cool water and wash down sides to avoid sugar crystals forming in the sauce. If this happens the sauce, though delicious, will be grainy.

Once the sugar has reached the preferred level of amber- REMOVE from the heat and stir in the cream. Take care and stand back as this will steam and bubble and can be dangerous. Stir down with a wooden spoon until the sauce is emulsified, which will take just a minute or two. Add a pinch of salt.

At this point you can leave in the pan to cool, or pour into a bowl. Do not pour into plastic containers just yet, that sugar is hot hot hot- and DO NOT be tempted to dip a finger in- it will burn you silly. So don't do it- promise?

Once cool and poured into containers it may be stored in the fridge for up to one month. Gently warm before serving.

Makes ~1.5 cups

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quinoa you can sink your teeth into

My version of Heidi Swanson's Quinoa Patties

Who can help not being a Heidi Swanson fan? Such a cool person who makes cool food and takes cool pictures of them. And the food is vegetarian!

Along with her other drooling fans I bought her latest book, Super Natural Every Day. There are many things in there that I tagged for later consumption, but the thing that really caught my eye were these quinoa patties.

As an educated nutrition person I know the value of those power packed quinoa grains, but I've never been really able to get my mouth around them. When making a salad akin to cous cous, it always seems too dry, to fluffy, too difficult to get a hearty bite. Do you know what I mean? I just... can't... get to them.

So naturally I have several bags of them in my cupboard. I look at them from time to time and their mere presence allows me attitude of self righteous healthiness, but actually cook with them? hmm... not so much. Needless to say they remained smooshed into the corner wall.

But these are a completely different story. In fact, they are even better than I imagined!

While making dinner the night before I cooked off the quinoa and then stored it in the fridge over night. The next morning for breakfast I made these. Yep, breakfast. I adapted the recipe a bit to accommodate some odds and ends in my fridge and they are deeeeeelish! Even better is the fact that the batch made 12 of these babies. Two I ate right away- the crusted grains all crunchy, a bit nutty, yielded to softer aromatic flavorful centers. (Now this I could sink my teeth into). Then 4 went into the fridge for near future consumption and the rest into the freezer.

I can see breaking these up and tossing into a salad or just reaching in and grabbing one for a snack.

Lots of protein, lots of fiber and tons of deliciousness.

Below is my version- For the original it's best to buy the book. It's worth having it on your shelf.

Quinoa, feta and red scallion patties

2 1/2 c cooked and cooled quinoa (1:2 grain to water-rinse before adding water and simmer until tender ~ 10 mins- the gains fluff and release white curlicues)
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 small yellow onion minced
3 stalks of red scallions minced with greens
a generous handful of crumbled feta (about 2 oz)
1 c bread crumbs
4 whole eggs, beaten
oil to saute them in (about 2T)

Heidi talks about managing the moisture content by adding/subtracting bread crumbs or water, but I didn't have an issue with this at all.

Place all ingredients into a good size bowl and stir thoroughly to combine. With hands grab a small handful and press into a tight ball. Then pat and coerce into a patty shape.

In frying pan add just a small amount of oil, no need to drown them in oil- On medium heat fry one side until they are crisp and golden and then flip. It's important to heat them thoroughly to cook all that egg, so keep that flame reasonable.

An then try and keep your hands off of them.

You can that see I didn't add any salt, but that was due to the feta. Heidi's recipe calls for grated Parmesan, which is also salty- so take a taste and season accordingly. BTW, I didn't use salt in my quinoa preparation either.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Art of the Summer Sandwich

Summertime and easy living. Sure. But not for me. Summer is a busy time in the wedding biz, but it's intense and beautiful and I love sipping a white wine at the end of the day when the sun is still in the sky.

Finding time to cook and eat well poses it's challenges, and this week it's even harder. I am alone in the kitchen as everyone is off on holiday and my fiance is away for the summer.

So the fall back is sandwiches or a staple of cold premade plain pasta that I'll toss into something fun. Loving the high protein pastas from Barilla. I love pasta like most, but the high carbs give me the heebee jeebees. More on pasta salads and such later- I digress.

So ok, Sandwiches are not exactly a huge deal culinarily. But it's more about taking some of this and that and making a lunch better than just meat on bread. I truly believe this is in response to the D(uh)ry sandwiches my mother put into my lunch box when I was a kid (that is when she in fact did such things). Two slices of Arnold Farm White (for those who don't know, a dense white bread- nothing, I mean NOTHING, like the fluffy bread my pals were eating), upon this bread a thin layer of mayo or butter and then a flat piece of ham, maybe two. Bleh.

Once when I was in about 4th grade I asked my mother to make me tomato sandwiches. Oh how I love toasted thick bread with a serious slab of mayo and then thick juicy ripe red tomatoes with salt. The next day was a soggy, gooey mess of a lunch that had leaked all over my vanilla wafer cookies (ugh, even dessert was bland and d(uh)ry).

 In order to execute this properly, the next day I had her put the different ingredients in my lunch box separately, each wrapped in it's own plastic cocoon,  and I composed it on the spot. It was heaven.... but the point is an 8 year old had to guide mom on how to make a meaningful  sandwich- and trust me, I knew the difference.

So now, when I make a sandwich it must have balance and grace or it sends me into shudders.

Ripening tomatoes on my counter got tossed into left over lemony salad dressing with thin slices of red onion and put in the fridge to marinate for a day.

Then a layer of chevre was spread on the grilled chiabata bread before the tomatoes.  Thin layers of proscuitto were fluffed and draped and the whole thing topped with fresh baby arugula.

The whole thing is a wonderful creamy, crunchy, spicey, salty, vinegary delight.

Ok, I was wrong- a well put together sandwich IS a culinarily important thing.

Enjoy my doves!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Food as Love and Doilies

My Auntie Jo's rice pudding and whipped cream, standard fare for her dessert tables.

Over the past several months I have been gearing up to begin a food and photography blog for myself. My love of food and image would have a place to spill out to, to encircle others, to give love and share love.

I had many names that I came up with, all appealing to the different aspects of my personality and attitudes toward food {the healthy, the honoring of traditions, the "hey, let's not get too serious and just enjoy"...} but I found myself circling back to one thought. What is the most profound thing about food? What is it that just makes me feel so compelled the need to send it out, to share?

And the same two answers just kept coming back to me.

I was in NYC during September 11th. I was working at a photo shoot in a penthouse space on the Westside of Manhattan. I had seen the gaping, smoldering hole of the first attack and my first thought was, "we will never be the same". Even without knowing that it was an attack I had felt it's magnitude. As the morning wore on someone had turned on a radio. From it bleated the mind bending updates on the scene from downtown and the news that there was an attack in DC and another plane down in PA. The voices on the radio were strained and adrenaline spiked and it made me think of WWII and people huddled around radios for the latest. We all walked around dazed and in shock.

That shock continued through the week and I was right, we were not going to be the same.

Some dear friends of mine invited me that Friday to their Shabbat table. I am not Jewish, but to be amongst friends was the solace that I needed. Their apartment is in Greenwich Village is on the top floor of a beautiful old building which had a balcony that through French doors we could see the glow from the lights and smoke of ground zero. This was our backdrop and it was staggering.

Later as we gathered around the table, holding hands, and the prayers were sung and the candles lit, that I realized that the warm reflection that was created by loving faces gathered around a table was what life was all about and where our best moments often happen-Around A Table, Shared. That joining together created a warm and safe place and kept out that smoldering glow outside the window, it was bigger and more powerful than anything someone else could do to you, and it was precious and invaluable.

And that leads me to my Auntie Jo, or Fofi as she is known in the family.

Joesphine was my Mother's elder sister, and by far the most amazing woman I have ever known. She had an incredible grace and beauty in the way she handled everything. She was a remarkable smart woman, the sort of woman who had she been born in my day would have been a force in the workplace. Instead she was a force within the family. She was the quintessential homemaker, a gracious hostess, and fierce cook and insistent upon using doilies.

Sadly we lost her this week to a long struggle with cancer, which cruelly landed in her colin, making it unable to eat for the last months of her life. I tell you this because for us around her it was more than frustrating. Fofi and taught us all to equate food with love and giving love, and here, the dearest person in the world to us could not receive our love, we could not nurture her back to health, we could not give her pleasure or solace.

Josephine always had an amazing ability to make everyone feel special. Jo comes from the Spanish side of my family, which is was always a warm and glowing sharp contrast to my chillier Irish side. She spoke a fluent Spanish and I have a memory of being with her once at a restaurant. She was always curious and always wanted to learn more, especially about food. I recall her speaking to a busboy in Spanish and making him blush with shyness. On the way out she touched him on the arm and said one more thing to him and then cupped his cheek. He smiled and nodded brightly to her, and I could see on his face how she had blown away that shyness and he gravitated toward her. She was like that.

But let me also be clear, she was a strong and often stubborn woman. She had her standards, she didn't put up with whining or feeling sorry for yourself and then there were those doilies.

At her funeral I recanted a story about her. It's one of those snapshot moments that were really of no real significance but just encapsulated her. It was Thanksgiving at her house and a few of us were in the kitchen putting together the dessert table. We are a family of great cooks and chefs and there are always just as many desserts served as there were dishes for dinner- needless to say we take our food and sweets seriously. There was always some of the same things year after year and Jo always, ALWAYS had a bowl of freshly whipped cream. 

Now imagine a kitchen full of fantastic cooks all hustling to get coffee service and desserts out onto the table. My Mother grabbed the whipped cream bowl and saucer and headed out the door. Jo stopped her- "May! where's the doily?!" to which my mother answered, "oh come on Jo..." To that Jo whisked across the kitchen and with pinky finger out gently but sternly made it clear that a doily was to go under the plate and just so, as she peeled the paper doilies apart and carefully arranged them under the bowl. That was Jo- in the midst of chaos, there would be beauty.

Later, at the post burial luncheon, photo books were passed around of her. And sure enough, one picture was of a holiday dessert table, and right in front was that bowl of whipped cream- and nestled underneath was a doily.

In honor of Josephine I begin this journey of creating my own voice and song of food. I owe Fofi much, oh so much.... and especially my love and curiosity of food and cooking and sharing tables. My greatest wish is you share this table with me as well as those gathered around yours.