Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
For the crust:
1 and 1/2 packages of graham crackers
8 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the cheesecake filling:
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
the zest and juice of one lemon
a 3 inch piece of vanilla bean scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the pumpkin filling:
1/2 can of solid pack pumpkin
1/2 can condensed milk
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. Press into the bottom of a 10 inch buttered tart pan with a removable base. Using the bottom of a glass or a measuring cup, press the crust into the pan until it is an even thickness around and tightly packed. Bake the crust for 10 minutes.
Make the each layer in separate bowls by including all ingredients and blending with a hand mixer until combined. Once the crust has baked for 10 minutes, start with the cheesecake layer. Pour half the filling into the crust. Then pour half of the pumpkin in the center of the cheesecake layer. Continue with the remaining halves of the each mixture, creating concentric circles. Then using a knife, swirl the fillings together. Bake for 35 minutes or until the edges of the cake have lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack, then allow the cake to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. Serves 10-12
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The first recipe I tried caught my eye immediately. A raw salad with zucchini ribbons, asparagus, pecorio romano shavings, and a drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. It was totally an ah-ha! moment, I mean all of these ingredients are always in my fridge, but I never use them together, and I rarely use any of them raw! A fantastic combination, totally unfussy and fresh.
Giada's new book definitely does not disappoint. I have about half of the recipes (if not more) flagged to try. The thing I like about it is the focus on all the fresh ingredients. The photography is beautiful, which is always good for inspiration.
Monday, October 27, 2008
First you start by creaming the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Look for bakers sugar the next time you are at the grocery store. It’s recipes like this that really benefit from a smaller sugar crystal. The result is a fluffy, whipped base for your cake, which will keep everything aloft and avoid the cake tasting dry. Also, use the sugar called for by the recipe for a dessert. Even though I am a proponent of reducing sugar, this is a cake, not a breakfast. It isn’t coffee cake or a muffin, so you need the sugar to keep the cake moist. Also, your butter should be room temperature. Bakers call this consistency “plastic”. It should be pliable and soft, but should not be oozing or melting. Best bet is out of the fridge and onto the counter for at least an hour. When you don’t have that kind of time, try your microwave on a reduced power for less than 1 minute. If it’s still too cold, turn it around before microwaving it longer. Once you have these two things down, just beat for a little bit longer than normal to get this beautiful fluffiness. About 3 minutes should do.To the butter add the eggs, orange and lemon zests, and vanilla. Beat until mixed. Then you add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, alternating each starting with and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined, using your rubber spatula to finish if necessary. This is a thick cake batter! Pour the batter into a buttered tube or Bundt pan.
And a half-cup of heavy cream. Heat over barely simmering water whisking to combine the ingredients.
Once melted, pour over the cake slowly, going around the circle a couple times. You could do this over a cooling rack, but then you'd lose some of the ganache. Since it is so yummy, I recommend just doing this on the serving tray, being careful to not let too much flow in one spot and run off the tray. Don't worry about getting too much in the center of the cake. It gets trapped there and is a yummy treat on the slices with a little extra chocolate. Once ganached, place the cake in the fridge so that the chocolate sets. Slice and serve.
Note: I made a couple adaptations to this recipe. I didn't use the chocolate chips in the cake. I liked it this way, but if you think that would be good, by all means use them! Also, I skipped the orange sugar glaze. I made the cake a day before my event, and everyone remarked on how moist it was. I was worried that the glaze might make it gooey or sticky, so I avoided it.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This was a peppery arugula that I made into a pesto last night as well. It was much stronger than the stuff I usually get, and I am not sure it would be great as a salad green, it might be too aggressive.
Finally, I guess this is evidence that my heart is perennially in Summer, no matter what the calendar says. These hot-red/pink gerber daisies just begged not to be left there, and I couldn't resist. I think it summed up to a successful Saturday afternoon at the farmer's market.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
These are probably technically very bad pictures, but honestly, that is what the light looked like that day. It perfectly captured what kind of day it was- being outside in it made you think that you should have something simmering on the stove back home, because pretty soon you were going to want to go inside and warm up. At least that is my Arizona/California girl logic- anything below 65 is COLD. It was probably in the 60s down there. At nights lately it has been getting down into the 50s! Brrr. It's totally sporadic though. I heard on the news tonight that we are having a "Red Flag Warning" tomorrow, which indicates a high fire danger. It's predicted to be in the 80s at the coast. So you never know.This is a color photo, I promise. You practically would not even know.
So the above pictures were all taken looking to the west, and I decided to take just one looking to the east. Funny how the light plays tricks on you, huh? From this one- it's just another day in sunny San Diego.
Monday, October 20, 2008
This is a recipe that was featured on the King Arthur Flour website recently. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2008/10/16/make-your-own-halloween-fun-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies/
You start with the classic cookie ingredients, 1 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar. Cream these together until smooth. Then add 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin, 2 eggs, the zest of 1 orange or lemon (I used lemon) and 1 tsp. vanilla. This mixture doesn't look very appetizing, but once you add the flour, it all comes together.
Add the flour and spices. I usually like things spicier than recipes call for, so I used the following:
2 & 1/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and baking soda, 2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 heaping teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice blend. This is a great addition to your spice drawer if you haven't tried it yet. It has anise, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel. It adds something unexpected to this recipe and it's really tasty. Mix together until smooth, scraping down the sides of your working bowl once in a while. This should come together quickly.
To the batter (which is more like cake batter than cookie dough), add 2 cups chocolate chips.
If you have a cookie scoop, this is a great recipe to use it. If not, drop by rounded teaspoon-fulls onto prepared baking sheets. Parchment paper is very helpful here. The recipe called for a 375 degree oven, but I found that way too hot. 365 made a huge difference for me. Once baked, while still hot out of the oven, place 3 additional chocolate chips in the cookies for eyes and a mouth.
For the icing, which is really worth it, mix 1& 1/2 cups powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream. Since my cookies were small, I didn't do too much decorating, but the little border did make the face stand out a bit more. I am sure that you could make these more interesting than mine, especially given the ideas on the website above. They are yummy however you decide to embellish them!As good as these are, I am not finished in my quest for a perfect fall pumpkin dessert. I think that my ideal choice probably won't include chocolate, but maybe the chocolate part is the Halloween touch rather than the Thanksgiving touch. Luckily it seems that the season has just begun, so I will have ample opportunity to try some of the other ideas- as soon as I can find some more pumpkin! Happy haunting!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Start with 1 roasted chicken breast, cut into medium dice. For those of you playing along at home that don't want to heat up your oven, try a rotisserie chicken. If you are going to use the whole chicken, double the other ingredients. To the chicken add half of a large, sweet onion and 2 ribs of celery, both also diced. I like the onion chopped a little smaller than the chicken dice. To this add a generous grinding of black pepper and salt, about a half teaspoon of each. Also add 2-3 rounded tablespoons of mayonnaise, and 1 heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix to combine.
Finally, a sprinkling of finely chopped flat leaf parsley is the perfect finishing touch. You get the beautiful color and the zing! of the parsley brings all the flavors together.
Serve this over a classic green salad made of green leaf lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrot, tomatoes and a simple dressing. Skip any dressings that are mayo-based, you don't need it with the richness of the chicken salad. Like I said, feel free to mix it up, but always know that you can come back to this simple combination for success every time.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This is from Giada's first (and best, in my opinion) book called Everyday Italian, just like her show. If you don't have it yet, it is a great addition to your collection. I thumbed through her new book at Costco and had to exercise extreme willpower not to buy it, her books are lovely and well written, and they don't include many weird, obscure ingredients that you have to search around for. Also, maybe most importantly, she doesn't waste your time or effort on some step that isn't worth it. So, the next time you reach for the Prego or Ragu, waltz your cart a little further down the aisle and grab two cans of crushed tomatoes and head over to the produce section for the few other things that make this sauce so great. You'll be glad you did!
Start with 2 small onions, chopped into medium dice. I opt for sweet yellow onions these days, but anything would work. I usually blend my sauce at the end, but if you wanted to leave this chunky, purple onions would be awfully pretty.
Into the pot with a little olive oil covering the bottom of the pan. I think she calls for 1/2 cup in the recipe, but I've never used that much. I didn't measure this last time, but I recall 1/3 being plenty. You just don't want your onions getting too brown, this isn't the time for that yummy caramelization that we were going for with the chicken tacos. (As much as I do love that!)While the onions cook, chop 2 carrots and 2 ribs of celery. Once the onions are translucent, add these to the pot.
In they go...While these cook, open up your tomatoes. I really like the San Marzano brand, which are imported from Italy. They seem to just be different than American tomatoes, but your sauce will blow you out of the water either way. Make sure you pick crushed, not diced or whole. 2 28 ounce cans should do it, but always feel free to add more, if you like.
There, once your vegetables have softened, it is time for the tomatoes. Just pour them in and reduce the heat and let it go for an hour.
Soon it will be bubbly and will thicken a bit. You don't really have to stir as long as you keep the heat pretty low for the hour. She recommends including a couple bay leaves during this time, and discarding them afterwards, but I usually skip that step. Once your sauce is cooked, let it cool uncovered on the stove or counter top for a little while before trying to handle it. It keeps beautifully in the freezer, and this is probably double what you need for a good pasta recipe. Use it in lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, or whatever strikes your fancy.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Start by making the cheesecake topping. Soften 8 ounces of cream cheese (I used the reduced fat variety called neufchatel) and add 1 egg yolk at room temperature, a splash of vanilla and 5 tablespoons of sugar.
Blend until mixed. Set aside while you make the brownie batter. Chop 4 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (I used 3 semisweet baking squares and one unsweeted square) and add 6 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces. Melt over low heat, stirring continuously with a silicon spatula.
As the chocolate and the butter melt, they will mix together. Make sure all chunks are fully melted before removing from the heat.
Just like this:
In the same pan, add the sugar and stir to incorporate. Then add the eggs, at room temperature. If you are anxious to make these and don't want to have to wait for your eggs to warm up, place them in a bowl of warm-ish tap water for a few minutes. They should be perfect after a little while. You don't want them to be cold, because as you add them to the warm ingredients, you don't want to cook the eggs. I am pretty sure that scrambled eggs are probably not one of the brownie add ins we want to try!
Bake at 350 degrees in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. Enjoy, another great brownie idea!