Entries from December 30th, 2009

Bresaola Bruschetta

2

30.12.09

Being able to share dinner with someone is what makes winters on the East Coast even remotely bearable.  I spent most of last night shivering my goosebumps off at the Eagle Bank Bowl, watching my alma mater kick Temple University’s ass.  The downside?  It was 25 degrees, and that doesn’t take account for the wind chill.
You see, on the east coast, there’s this thing called wind chill.  In California, the only wind I ever experienced came from Santa Ana when the fall clocked in at about 95 degrees.  Everyone in California told me I was crazy for moving to Washington–that I would literally die because of the cold.  That’s absurd.  Most of the world lives through non-LA winters.  As a Californian who has made the move, I’ve discovered that the cold is very livable when 1) it’s not raining and 2) it’s not windy.  I came home, took a hot shower, and sat wrapped up in blankets next to the furnace vent in my bedroom.  Hours later, my bones still felt frozen.  On days when the cold is livable (i.e., not wet or windy), I’ve found that the cold is actually very pleasant, and I enjoy it very much!
I’m never going to a football game in the winter again.  At least UCLA won–I can’t imagine how much my body would hate me if I spent multiple hours in 25 degree wind chill weather, only to watch UCLA lose a football game (as if I haven’t seen that before).  Last night was a special treat.
Anyway, I didn’t make this bruschetta last night.  I actually made it a couple of weeks ago, with a friend of mine who arrived home Hawaii at the exact time I happened to be suffering through wind chill at the Eagle Bank Bowl.  We served this with my stuffed chicken, fresh ravioli he brought back from Little Italy in New York City, and a nice cabernet.  It was by far the best dinner I’ve had in a long time.  We’re planning for another, even though this one will be hard to beat.

WHAT YOU NEED:
Bresaola (the beef version of proscuitto)
2 whole tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup green olives
1/2 cup basil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
fresh mozzarella for garnish
1 baguette
WHAT TO DO:
Slice the baguette into 1/2- to 1-inch angled discs. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet, and let the bread soak up the olive oil as you make the bruschetta. Slice the bresaola into bite-sized pieces, and arrange on top of the baguettes.
Combine the basil, garlic, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Pulse-grind until choppy, then stir in the tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange about 2 tablespoons of the bruschetta on each baguette slice, and broil for 5 to 7 minutes. Then pull out, garnish with the fresh mozzarella, and broil for 2 to 4 more minutes.

Citrus Cayenne Carrots

3

26.12.09

My stepmom put me in charge of carrots for Christmas dinner this year. Thank god, because I normally hate cooked carrots. This was their chance, I thought. Carrots might just be able to redeem themselves this year…
They totally did.
When I was going to school in Santa Barbara, California, one of my close friends had a job at Blenders, a local smoothie chain. She’d always swing by with smoothies after a shift, of various experiments she’d concoct in her down time. Once, I had been deathly ill, and she made a fabulous smoothie composed of mostly orange and carrot juice. From that day on, I was hooked. It was my personal form of crack. I’ve never been able to resist an orange-carrot based smoothie ever since. It became the inspiration for this spicy version of half-cooked carrots (honestly, who likes mushy carrots?).
I wanted to pair something savory with the roast that was planned for dinner. Warning: the carrots definitely have a sharp bite to them! But you can alter the amount of cayenne to your particular tastes to adjust that.

WHAT YOU NEED:
1 pound carrots, washed and peeled
1-1/2 cups orange juice
1 orange or lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
mandarin oranges for garnish

WHAT TO DO:
For the glaze, juice the orange or the lemon into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then mix the remaining ingredients with a whisk. Cover and let sit while you prepare the carrots.
Slice the carrots diagonally into quarter-inch discs. Pile them into a large saucepan with the orange juice, and add just enough water to cover all of the carrots. Let simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, until the carrots are slightly tender (but not soft). Remove the carrots and strain over the sink. Toss the carrots in the dressing, and serve in a large bowl. Garnish with mandarin oranges. The oranges add a nice contrast to offset the spicy glaze.

Christmas in Los Angeles

4

26.12.09

Orange-Clove Cupcakes with Vanilla Spice Buttercream

5

21.12.09

I’ve never been a big fan of cupcakes–or cake, in general. But using certain spices in cakes can throw my sweet tooth into bliss. Cinnamon happens to be my favorite, but since it was snowing outside, I thought I’d put a little citrus twist on my normal recipe.
I had decided to make cupcakes because of a lunch break I took with co-workers on Friday, to the Chinatown Holiday Market down the street from the office. It was terribly cold and we had a bit of a windchill, but braved the walk. Red Velvet, a specialty cupcake shop in the area, had sent a poor employee out to the fair to hand out mini cupcakes and hot chocolate to everyone enjoying the craft fair. The poor thing was wearing a sweater and trekking around giving away food and drinks.
… We swarmed her. There were red velvet cupcakes, vanilla bean cupcakes, maple syrup cupcakes, lime cupcakes–the list could go on. I’ve never had such delicious mini cupcakes in my life. And the vanilla frosting actually tasted like vanilla beans. We had died and gone to cupcake heaven. We asked her about them, and if she was getting frostbite in the cold. Her response was “No, I’m running back and forth with this tray, I’m fine.” So naturally, we hid in the fair until we saw her coming back. And we swarmed her again. And again.
The next day, my best friend from elementary school and I were snowed in. Literally–the porch was covered in two feet of snow. So we baked. Rather, I baked, and I invited her and one of my roommates to decorate. I try to make everything relatively presentable and pretty in terms of decorations, and I have a knack for that. Harry and Adriana, on the other hand, enjoyed making abstract cupcakes and giving them inappropriate names. Like “Kama Sutra.” And “Auschwitz,” in memorial of the sign that was recently stolen from the death camp. Then there were the humorous names, like “Zipper,” (featured below) and “Chinese Take-Out Boxes.” You’d think the snow day had driven them mad. I’d beg to differ.

WHAT YOU NEED:
preheated oven to 350 degrees
electric hand mixer
cupcake or cake pan
Cupcakes:
2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup frest orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup orange juice
Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5-6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
sprinkle of ginger, sprinkle of nutmeg
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

WHAT TO DO:
First combine the sugars and the orange zest, and mix thoroughly. The natural oils of the orange zest will release the orange flavor into the sugars. Using the hand mixer, add the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat with the electric mixer for about five minutes. Gradually add the milk and orange juice. Then, in a separate bowl, combine the sifted flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and spices. Stir dry ingredients until evenly mixed. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the others with the mixer on, until the batter is smooth and lump-less.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan.
For the frosting, combine softened butter and a few cups of sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on low until smooth and creamy, then add the vanilla extract and spices, and gradually, the remaining sugar. The frosting should be sweet and fluffy.
Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cooled, and decorate with remaining orange zest or sliced almonds, as shown.

Artichoke Tomato Pesto

0

21.12.09

This weekend, I experienced Washington’s first “blizzard.” The office reeked of anticipation for what you would expect to be a wind-chilling, biting, frozen-cold type of storm. When I think blizzard, I think of Christmas movie blizzards, where the storm is so bad that Santa can’t cut through it with his magical sleigh. Right?
Wrong. In Washington, this blizzard was just a full day of pleasant snowfall. I kid you not–there was absolutely no wind, and it wasn’t so cold that my eyelashes felt like they were freezing off. It was actually, really nice. Oh, except for the fact that the roads were barely even salted at 4 PM when I trekked out in the snow because we were out of wine.
How were all the liquor stores open until 10, but the grocery stores were all closed by 2 PM on account of the blizzard? I don’t know. DC in the snow reminded me of Los Angeles in the rain. Everything had completely shut down… it was pathetic.
My best friend scheduled a stopover in Washington on her way to Miami and Bolivia. I had stocked up the kitchen in anticipation of cooking with her, but only regarding the baking realm. So we had to scrap up the remainders of my kitchen, two weeks removed from the grocery store, in order to make a blizzard lunch. This is what we came up with.

WHAT YOU NEED:
2 cups basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup artichoke hearts
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
oregano, salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup tomato sauce
As much broccoli as your heart desires (we used about 3/4 lb.)
~1 lb. fusilli
handful of feta cheese and pine nuts to garnish
WHAT TO DO:
First, chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts together in a food processor. Then, add the artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. With the processor on, add the olive oil slowly through the hole in the top. Transfer to a sauce pan and heat on low, adding olive oil as necessary.
Begin boiling water in order to cook the pasta. Since we were snowed in, we had to use frozen broccoli, which we heated in a saucepan to defrost, using a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and ground peppercorns. When the broccoli was finished cooking, we added it to the pesto sauce, along with the tomato sauce. Let that simmer on very low heat for 5-10 minutes. I added a bit of oregano, salt, and pepper until the sauce had the flavor I was going for.
Finally, add in the cream, stir evenly, and then mix in the cooked pasta. Garnish each dish with a sprinkle of feta cheese, pine nuts, and oregano for aesthetic presentation.

Since It’s Snowing…

0

19.12.09


I thought I’d post the penguins. For fun, of course. Michael and I got together during one of our “funemployment” days and created a penguin army.

Feta Artichoke SDT Stuffed Chicken

2

18.12.09

It’s true, I’m infatuated with the combination of home made pesto and feta cheese. Considering this is my second savory post has both those ingredients, you’ll probably see this combination come up again relatively soon (I can assure you of this, since I already have my next non-dessert recipe planned).
Maybe I’m just on a pesto-feta kick. Maybe not. The “kick” has lasted at least four years. Anyway, normally I include sun-dried tomatoes in the chicken, but a friend came over for dinner, so I thought I’d mix it up and relocate the sun-dried tomatoes into couscous as a side dish. Note to self: experiment when you are not cooking for anyone else… especially friends donating their photography skills, like the one that joined me for dinner that night.
Not that the couscous wasn’t enjoyable… it was okay. I’ve adjusted the recipe to include almonds, pine nuts, basil, and oregano. Will post later. These pictures really focus on the couscous, but the meal was all about the chicken. Use your imagination to understand how awesome the stuffed chicken is–It blew my photographer’s mind (in his words, anyway).
WHAT YOU NEED:
Preheated oven to 350 degrees
Appox. 8-inch baking dish
2 breasts of chicken
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3-4 artichoke hearts (either soaked in water or oil, both work well)
2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine of choice
salt and pepper to taste
WHAT TO DO:
First, chop the artichoke hearts into small chunks, maybe a quarter of an inch big. Then, dice the sun-dried tomatoes into similar pieces. Combine the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, pesto, feta, mozzarella, and olive oil in a regular-sized serving bowl, and toss thoroughly. I prefer to just use my hands to mix this–it’s easier. Just make sure your hands are clean.
Then, carefully make an incision into the side of the chicken breasts, parallel to the cutting board, and slice open a pocket as large as you can without piercing the other sides of the meat. Fill each breast with as much of the stuffing as you can, and press down to seal. Place both in your baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, pesto, salt, and pepper, and then baste in the white wine for flavor and moisture. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until the juices run clear. For decoration, pull the dish out 5-10 minutes before it is ready, and sprinkle some leftover artichoke-pesto-feta mix on top of each, and let it bake for the remaining time.

Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers

1

17.12.09

Stuffed vegetables are something I have been wanting to do for a long time. It’s something that we always had at home, and my family’s recipe was good, but not akin to my particular tastes. It took me years to even so much as appreciate the taste of bell peppers. A friend called me one day to arrange a Saturday night of cooking and reality TV–I can work with that.

These stuffed peppers are awesome, and not too difficult.






WHAT YOU NEED

Preheated oven to 350 degrees
1 large pot
1 baking dish

4 large bell peppers
1 pound ground turkey
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
1 medium sized zucchini, also diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
~24 oz. pasta sauce of choice (I prefer homemade)
Italian spices to taste (oregano, basil, thyme, etc.)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste


WHAT TO DO:

First, wash the peppers and, cut the tops off, and clean out the seeds. Set them aside for now.

Then, heat the olive oil, garlic, and onion over medium heat, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the ground turkey, and brown the meat. Then add the mushrooms, zucchini, only half of the tomato sauce, and spices to taste (including the salt and pepper). Cover and let simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Then, remove from heat and add most of the mozzarella cheese (leave some for garnishing).

Using a large spoon, fill each of the peppers as much as you can, and arrange them in a baking dish. Decorate with mozzarella cheese, and drizzle olive oil over the peppers. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Walnut Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

1

14.12.09

It’s Christmas cookie season again. Which means I’m pretty much baking non-stop. Honestly, I’m not going to want to even look at cookies for the next two months… so enjoy this while it lasts.

This is a personally altered twist on Dorie Greenspans’s best chocolate chip cookies. I have little to say, other than they make amazing Christmas presents.

WHAT YOU NEED:
Preheated oven to 350 degrees
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
4-8 ounces chopped walnuts
WHAT TO DO:
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, sugars, cinnamon, and cloves in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk until fluffy and evenly mixed, then add butter and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer for two minutes until smooth. Then, fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Place round tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet, about two inches apart from each other. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, then remove from the oven, and let cool.
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