Monday, June 21, 2010

A Celebration of All Kinds!

I thought that I'd honor Sophia's birthday with a cake. She may not have been here to share it with the rest of us but I knew she would have liked it a lot. I chose the Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake that she proposed for me to make. I chose to make it on a day on which I could celebrate it with all of my relatives and incidentally the closest holiday turned out to be Father's Day. So Sophia, though you may never get the chance to be a father one day, this cake is for you!

This was attempt number one. I had my 2 year old niece as a helper and by doing so I promptly forgot to add in the whipped eggs to the batter until I had tranferred it to the cake pan. That's just one of the many mishaps in the process of making the first cake. Needless to say it collapsed. The cake itself was dense like a brownie and I opted out a full cup of sugar to give it a bittersweet chocolate flavor.

Day 2
I've been swimming in ganache so I decided to try again on the cake.

The second attempt was done in the proper fashion. I opted out only 1/2 a cup of sugar, when I whipped it in with the butter.

This cake was apparently a bit sweeter than the first but much lighter and fluffier. I'd call this cake a torte myself as it is rich, thick and one piece certainly suffices.

Day 3
Still trying to keep my up above all that ganache.Observe the extra ganache in the bowl.

Solution? Chocolate truffles as suggested by the original recipe. She made the suggestion almost as an afterthought as if making truffles were the most obvious and easiest solution to leftover ganache. I began to research. I found a fairly simplified version for making chocolate truffles here and than I began to get creative. I was inspired by a local chocolatier in Portland, Maine, Sweet Marguerites that have created chocolates with innovative ingredients such as bacon and lambic beer. I began to rummage in the beer fridge and found the perfect ingredient, a beautiful bottle of Unibroue's quelchose. I began to dream about a quelchose ganache dipped in dark chocolate and covered in walnut crumbs.

Then I stumbled upon this site that inspired me to continue to try other cooking with beer.

Alas, for the time being I stuck with making the original truffle recipe that I found. I coated the ganache dipped in dark chocolate with cocoa powder and crushed hazelnuts. Result? Decadent.

Perhaps it all started yesterday when I was dropping off leftover cake at my brother's house where I began flipping through my sister in law's cooking with beer book, but I think this could lead to a whole new territory for me to explore while Sophie dabbles with Dutch traditions.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Herring in Thy Gullet

A few things I've learned about Dutch cooking:

1) It's weird.
2) Every meal is supposedly a delicious balance between meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Vegetarian alternatives will be offered where available. I hope you like asparagus soup.
3) The Dutch REALLY like baking. They also stick almonds in wherever they possibly can.
4) A lot of traditional Dutch cooking was kept secret until after the wars due to Calvinist influence. Before the 1950's it was a "secret cuisine" and is only recorded in handwritten notebooks, which are now very valuable.

The weirdest tradition, I have to say, is that of eating matjes... That's a whole herring fresh from the catch. It's raw, but at least it's gutted.

My father demonstrates the proper method of eating matjes. Full points for form, but I'm pretty sure that herring's pickled.

And when I said I would be refusing challenges, I would like to clarify that I still plan to meet my own secret challenge of a pie for every season. This gruesome thing is strawberry rhubarb pie... soup.

A fairly simple recipe, just taken from the Joy of Cooking. If that book tells you anything, it's how to make a good pie. I don't even have any tips, other than when it says to use a rubber spatula, USE a rubber spatula. I almost didn't because it sounded absurd, but it was actually very helpful.

I used a recipe that uses both butter and shortening, which makes the crust both delicious and easy to work with. I believe it was "flaky pastry dough," which is not to be confused with "deluxe flaky pastry dough."

'Tis all! I'm off to enjoy a picnic on the lawn at the Grand River Baroque Festival. Check it out for next year.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Show Must Go On!

This past week I've had a serious setback as I've been quite ill. I've been put on a strict diet by doctor's orders. I was so distraught that I decided to fulfill my foodie needs by cooking. I wasn't able to enjoy personally in the fruits of my labor but those who did take pleasure in the results were aptly satisfied and full.

I indulged in making an old favorite of mine. Classic Argentine pan relleno or stuffed bread. I love how simple and easy this recipe is. Not only does it require a few inexpensive ingredients that any ol' baker will already have stocked in their kitchen, but it also allows you to get creative with the filling.

This time I chose to use a soft, herb cheese, fleur de verte, with which I created a spread with roasted garlic and olive oil.

I then layered jambon de bayonne on top with Spanish black and green olives with chopped dried chilis.

It was a beautiful combination and would have made a great accompainment to a good red wine.

I also tried my hand at a chickenless curry salad using jasmine rice, sliced apples, celery, red onion, sliced almonds, raisins and red seedless grapes. As you can see, I used almonds as I would not be the one consuming this dish.

I began by sweating some chopped red onions in a pot with some olive oil on medium heat. I then proceeded to add the spices in order for the onions and oil to fully absorb and release flavor to the following ingredients. The spices included, garam masala, anise powder, a bit of clove, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, paprika, and cinnamon. Most often garam masala and coriander are the two that I add the most of, but this time, I went a little heavier on the turmeric as well, which was necessary for this recipe. It was safe to go much lighter on the paprika and cayenne as its not a dish meant to be very spicy. I toasted the two cups of rice in with the spices, onions and oil for a couple of minutes or so. At the same time I added in the chopped celery and raisins. I gradually added water to the pot to allow the rice to continue cooking.

I should have gradually added up to about 4 cups of water. The general rule of thumb for rice is two parts water for one part rice. I feared for when the rice began to stick thus I frantically added more and more water. This resulted in a mushy mass of curry rice ball by the end.

As you add water to rice in any recipe prepared in this way, I suggest to continue to augment your spices accordingly. It's very frequent that flavor is lost and diluted when liquid is added so be cautious of this. One such recipe that comes to mind, is the guiso, something like a basic stew. In Argentina, it's common to do make guiso with a base ingredient such as lentils (guiso de lentejas), pasta such as macaroni or tube pasta(guiso de fideos), or rice (guiso de arroz), and a tomato base liquid. It comes in a carton and is known as puree de tomate. Whatever meat of your liking can be thrown in accordingly too, anything from salchichas (small sausages/hot dogs), chorizo (real Spanish sausage) morcilla (blood sausage) , to carne molida (ground meat) o cortada (cuts of meat). Anyhow... hopefully this somewhat unrelated tangent will lead to another upcoming blog post and complete recipe for some other day.

The dish was served chilled with the sliced apples and red grapes mixed in after the rice was taken off the stove. Although the resulting texture of the rice was unsatisfactory but I trusted in the consumer, that the flavors were spot on.
I also accompanied the summer meal with a ratatouille. This time I added banana peppers which I think will become a permanent part of this recipe for me.

So there! I have been chartering culinary territory in my absence of the blog. And just for the record, I've also made the most delicious lamb burgers with jalapenos, fresh basil and mint as well as blue cheese burgers with a spiced bacon. Yum! Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures. You'll have to trust me on this one. I'm sure they will be made again at some point this summer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let's Betray Some Other Love

I love cooking. I think that's obvious. But I also love books. Other food blogs have been a great way for Katherine and I to swap recipes and find variations, and also to feel part of something bigger than our small kitchen (OH the feeling!).

But to be honest, there hasn't been a whole lot of swapping going on. And I was in the library today and came across the cooking section. Is it EVER a section! I was glad to see it left the fitness section in the dust in terms of size. Ha!

So to start out, I got Janny de Moor's big book on Dutch cooking. The Belgian book looked better, with recipes for mussels, waffles, and steak'n chips. But, thanks to my aunt Magda, those are a bit old hat. And anyway, I'm Dutch, not Belgian.

My grandfather was a baker and apparently I inherited both his knack for pastries and the tendency to sulk for an entire day after the custard curdles. Had we started this blog earlier, you would have seen a tremendous sulk in action after an eggnog mishap.

The POINT is, I'm refusing outside challenges for a while in order to explore my own culinary heritage. Do join me :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

At this point, I know, excuses can't save me from my unforgiveable absence from the blog. Nonetheless I shall plead my case in vain. For starters, working full time and being provided with food on a regular basis really puts a damper on my cooking life.

Have hope yet, dear followers, I have not abandoned the kitchen. While I may no longer be in the Quinn Street kitchen, I'm slowly venturing through culinary exploration in foreign kitchens. Here's just one of the cooking adventures that I've been up to over the course of my journeys. Awhile back I hosted a mini tapas night inspired by some choice leftover ingredients.

I fashioned a salmon dip out of a lovely cedar plank salmon from the night before. I cannot take credit for that beautiful entree but I can take some credit for this dip which was essentially the shredded salmon, cream cheese, dill, milk mixed together and seasoned with salt and pepper. It made for a scrumptious spread on toasted foccacia.

Next course up was a bruschetta recipe that I had had in mind for a while. I wanted to put a new spin on the basic ingredients to bruschetta so I added in some mushrooms and sauteed them with onions in garam masala, cumin, paprika, cayenne, coriander and turmeric.

To bring the bruschetta together, I threw sliced mozzarella onto focaccia, piled on the sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes. After toasting in the oven, I topped it off with some shaved parmesan cheese.

This recipe is definitely going to be filed away to be used again and again. The results came out just how I had wished for, the spices gave the bruschetta a unique spicy flavor that paired superbly with the mushrooms and tomatoes.

The last thing served was a prime rib panini with gouda, roasted red peppers and mushrooms. I shredded the prime rib and topped it off with a little bbq sauce which made it finger lickin good and a bit messy.

The following day I started off with crepes sprinkled with sugar, lemon juice and filled with yogurt and berries. What a sweet start to my day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cake List!

Alright Katherine, you want cake? You'll have cake.
I've got three flavours to choose from, and a recipe for each. And, as an added bonus, I promise that I will make one of them too! I will pick from the two leftovers and the last one... well, we'll forget it ever existed.

So! If you're looking for something classic and, well, chocolate, I found this somewhat-maybe-not-so-simple-looking single pan cake here. Of course, you'd have to leave out the almonds, I think.

Looks a little something like this:
The next possibility would be perfect if summer is proving a tad too warm for a thick chocolate cake! Perhaps you want something fruity, but still heartwarming. Labels to which everything baked with apples can adhere! Something like this!

It looks really good too, but I love anything crumbly:

The last one looks ridiculous. But I'm on strawberry overload over here, and need to find a bunch of ways to use them up instead of just eating them over the sink, which I've been doing nearly every day. I have not found anyone to give me their rhubarb, so I will have to buy a bunch before I make my first pie of the season. Or it could just be a strawberry pie. But there never seem to be enough, no matter how many I buy. We'll see what happens once the pick-your-own starts. Can't wait.

Right! A picture! Don't laugh.

There you go. But just so you know I mean business, let me tell you that my quilting frame is assembled and my sewing machine is oiled. So there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What? I've been busy! It was my birthday!

This is what leftovers look like in this house. Okay the tomatoes and asparagus were freshly bought (not from the super market! Herrle's is open at last). I didn't make any of this.

Nor did I make anything on this table. Or set it, even. Or take the picture. But it was MY birthday brunch, so I can take credit. Of course, if I really think about it, my mother can take credit for that, too.

In other news, we finally got our herbs and vegetables planted. I'm going to try and break the old record for biggest zucchini! There are no pictures, so the old record doesn't technically exist. I'll just tell you if I beat it or not.

I'm going to defer my excuses and leave a warning for Katherine that if she doesn't come back soon I'm taking over and turning this into a quilting blog. So there.