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Archive for October, 2007

Chocolate and Orange Madeleines

Soft, fragrant madeleines, enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea, are a wonderful and cozy little treat (and I’m all about food being “cozy”). After an impulse purchase of a madeliene pan, I decided the time was nigh to try making them myself. And with fall here and Halloween around the corner, I thought it best to use orange and chocolate.

The recipe I used was from the very good blog, 101 Cookbooks.  I adjusted, however, for my own flavor combination. I used the zest from a large orange and chopped finely a few squares of very dark Scharffenberger chocolate. The recipe was pretty easy, though I ran into trouble with the treatment of the butter. I burned my butter on the first try, and then didn’t have enough time to strain and cool the butter the second time so I just tossed it in.

I liked how the cookies turned out and I’m not sure how my hasty butter addition affected the recipe. I’ve seen other madeleine recipes that don’t call for that step (Cook (almost) Anything Once, for example, has a honey madeleine recipe that I’m going to try next). I really like the chocolate orange combination – it’s bright and deep at the same time.

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When my Google Reader popped up the most recent post from Delicious Days, I resisted the urge to run straight from my office building to the Ferry Building Farmer’s market.

Instead, I waited until lunch and then ran through some drippy San Francisco weather to procure my ingredients: chanterelle mushrooms and pancetta.

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Chanterelle mushrooms make me jig with happiness, (Trust me, I jig.) with their pretty yellow color and long necks. With this recipe – it’s parsley-speckled crepes and the combination of meaty chanterelles and crispy pancetta –  jigs were performed.

To remind you all what a cooking novice I am, I’ve never myself cooked with pancetta or with chanterelles. This recipe called for baby chanterelles, but instead I bought the larger adult version. I wouldn’t recommend this.  Like baby shiitake mushrooms, I think they the smaller, “baby” varieties are more tender and flavorful.

The crepes themselves were a bit of a pain to make, but I got the hang of it after a few Warshack-looking failures. The whole meal didn’t take that long to make – a nice change from an ordinary weekday dinner.

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Halloween Candy: An Apology

I’m sorry for doing this. Please, if you like salty and sweet (read: chocolate and salt, or, more specifically, chocolate and pretzels), don’t read on. Because these little concoctions are too easy and quick to make. Seriously, 150 degrees, five minutes, and about 1 minute afterwards. I warned you…

For those of you still reading…I found this recipe on a random preppy blog (which I’ve been known to read on occasion). However, I can’t find the actual blog post (forgive me, Pink and Green preppy blogger).

The recipe is simple: Place pretzels on a baking sheet (mini, circular, or waffle-shaped pretzels will work); place Hershey Kisses on pretzels; bake at 150 degrees for 5 minutes (Note, this depends on your oven. When you place the candy into the Hershey Kiss- the next step – it should smush it, to use a technical term – not make it look like a volcano, meaning no resistance); press candy* into soft Hershey Kiss.

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I know I know. They look a little…jenky. But I assure you, a large bowl of them at your modest Halloween party – they’ll be a hit.

And the *candy* can be anything: the recipe calls for a Reese’s Pieces (if you love the peanut butter/chocolate/salt combo, this is the recipe for you), but you can use fleur de sel, candied fruit, or a gum drop. For Christmas, use red or green M&M’s. For a more interesting look (and if you like white chocolate), use Hershey Hug’s.

Also, in an effort to make this recipe more interesting, I tried half a square of “artisian” chocolate. But no, gentle readers, it didn’t work. The artisan chocolate melted all over the place; in contrast, the Hershey Kiss softened just enough for the Reeses’s Pieces to push it down into a sort of circle.

I know I know. This seems like a half-assed recipe. But SALT and CHOCOLATE. And the cute Halloween possibilities.

I warned you.

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Fall is here! And so I’ve declared it in our house – there are fires, slippers, cozy blankets, and comforting fall food.

First up on the list was a fall vegetable pasta bake, or, butternut squash and parsnip bake. I made this on a Sunday night, in anticipation of Cauli’s mom and grandma coming over. This is a good weekend meal to make because it takes a bit of time and makes enough for leftovers for the week.

True Confession: I’d never before this recipe ever eaten a parsnip.

True Confession follow up: Parsnips are very tasty.

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I used a recipe I found online (here) and adjusted it a little bit, using Montalban cheese, adding chicken (Cauli fears I may turn our house into a Vegetable-only house), and omitting the crushed red peppers.

The bake turned out well, though I went wrong a few places: I added more pasta than the recipe called for and therefore should have upped the white sauce more; the fresh sage I used was a little past fresh and so the flavor of the herb didn’t come through as much (next time I’d use 1/4 tsp of dried ground sage); I would cook the parsnip and butternut squash longer than the 10 minutes called for to soften it up even more.

This is a good dish to have on hand. It can feed a lot of people, it’s interesting (butternut squash and parsnips are, in my opinion,  interesting), it can be made with meat (chicken, turkey, pancetta, or prosciutto would work well), and it’s a great comfort dish.

Note: When slicing away the tough peel of a butternut squash (your first experience with the actual vegetable in your kitchen), using the new Shun knives your dad gave you as a wedding present, mind the fingers. The knives work a little too well.

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Leftovers and New Inventions

Ever since making the dutch babies, I’ve wanted to try making individual babies in a muffin pan. I tried this weekend and they came out well, if not a bit smaller than I’d anticipated. If I tried this again, I’d use larger sized ramekins.

This time I made them savory, layering bacon, eggs, the slow cooked broccoli, and cheese into them. I should have added salt to the batter as they needed salt without the sweetness of, say, a fruit or maple syrup topping. 

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Breakfast before the layering.

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After layering.

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Recently the New York Times did an article on Alice Waters in anticipation of her new cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. The article wasn’t the best, but it piqued my interest. Especially the subtitle: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution. When the book arrived in the mail, I knew it would be an important one to my cooking.

There are no pictures in the cookbook, which is usually something that bothers me. But this book is different. It’s cozy, helpful, and incredibly simple. She focuses on creating good food with a few basic, but quality, ingredients. There is no “green agenda” to her book, just practicality. The best produce will come from your local farmer’s market; experiment with quality oils and spices; eat seasonally. And I love her belief that food can connect families and communities.

The very first recipe I made was slow-cooked broccoli. I recommend this to any broccoli lover (Heather, I’m talking to you!) Though it takes some time, the result is fantastic. The idea is simple: cut up a large bunch of broccoli into small pieces, heat about 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan; chop about 4 cloves of garlic and toss into pan with broccoli and salt. Cook for a couple minutes, then add a cup or so of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer and cover for an hour (i realize an hour doesn’t sound simple, but all you do is stir it once in awhile and it’s over before you know it.)

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The result is almost a puree and very flavorful from the salt (I used fleur de sel, which I swear has transformed my cooking) and garlic. I tossed my broccoli with some pasta, chicken, and a very tasty port cheddar (the the brownish, nut looking stuff on the pasta. It’s pretty strong, but very good. You can get it at Whole Foods and I believe Trader Joes), and a drizzle of olive oil. Simple and very delicious.

Other things to do with slow cooked broccoli: scramble it with eggs for breakfast, spread on crackers, or use as a sauce over meat.

Update 3/07/08: The recipe also calls for a good squeeze of lemon juice after it’s done cooking. I highly reccommend it after trying it. It adds a brightness to the broccoli and compliments the garlic nicely.

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Lemon Squares

Lemon squares are not made, as Cauli likes to put it, “by combining lemons and squares.” They are a bit more complicated than that, but not by much.

I was first introduced to lemon squares by Cauli’s mom. I’d never had them before and was hesitant to try (I have my favorite desserts, and I’m always shy about trying new ones, which is silly because I generally always like them). But I did and they were incredible.

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 I found the recipe at Baking Bites– a great blog for a variety of baked goods. The shortbread crust was easy to make – just butter, flour, sugar, and lemon zest, and a whirl in the food processor. I adjusted this part a bit by adding roughly chopped pistachios. I think this has given the crust a fuller taste, which contrasts well with the lemony filling.

The squares came out really well, and I’d like to make them again, except with lime zest and lime juice. I think it would be an interesting and tasty alternative.

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