Saturday, May 26, 2012

lyonnaise garlic and herb cheese - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I read a few posts from other people who made this to get some tips because I really didn't know if I'd like this or not. I love Boursin and when I was younger I would eat tubs of it. Some of the other posts said the longer it sat, the better so I let it sit all day and it tasted ok, but I wouldn't call it Boursin. First, there wasn't enough garlic. I put in a frozen cube of garlic (Dorot). They're very convenient but also very potent. I also had fresh chives from the CSA (Langwater Farms) so I skipped the shallot and added some extra chives. I also had fennel fronds which I substituted for the chervil and parsley. I sound like those reviews on recipe sites that trash the recipe though they altered it completely. It really wasn't so far from the recipe. The rest of it was very true - I used whole milk ricotta, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. I strained the cheese overnight, but no water came out. The texture was actually good but it could have used maybe cream cheese? Something to make it stickier, if that makes sense.

To serve the spread, since this wasn't going to be for a party with cheese and crackers I thought it may be interesting to put a dollop on the pizza we had for dinner. I made two pizzas - one with sauce and one without. Both had prosciutto, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. We had a bag of arugula from the CSA that I mixed with some wonderful strawberry balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. I don't think the pizza was enhanced by the cheese spread but I wouldn't call it bad. We'll see how it tastes tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cupcake Camp Boston 2012

I really need to get my act together. I was fortunate enough to attend a wonderful event like Cupcake Camp and I haven't even written about it yet - shame on me! My daughter (assistant) and I arrived late due to the weather and traffic not cooperating with our plans, so we hurried in as the party was in full swing and the organizers said that we were on the wall way in the back. Then one of them asked if I'd mind being with the professional bakers instead. I said that would be fine but I don't have very many cupcakes. It didn't seem to matter, and they just wanted to fill in the spaces. So until I ran out, I stayed with the pros. You may notice I keep saying, "I" and this is because little assistant ran off to be with her big cousin shortly after the VIP session ended. That was fine because I ended up having a nice chat with Erin from The Chocolate Truffle. They recently started a cupcake business - Boston Cupcake Girl. Erin had Cannoli and salted caramel. Both were wonderful and looked gorgeous. The Cannoli was the better of the two - if only because the salt was a bit heavy for me in the caramel. But that seemed common - people really wanted the flavors to come out and as far as salt, they didn't have to worry it would be missed.

I also wanted the flavors to pop in my chocolate banana cupcakes. Mine weren't a complete success, but I do think they were just as good as many of the other cupcakes at the event. I asked someone to really give me a good critique, because she was doing a good job analyzing many of the other cakes, and I got good feedback. I use Hershey's special dark cocoa and she thought from the color the cake would be even more chocolaty. I can understand that. I made these as a trial for an anniversary party we went to a couple of weeks ago and put coffee into the batter and didn't do it this time. It was actually something this person suggested. I'm not sure it made that much of a difference, but I normally do add coffee to bring out the chocolate a little more. Topping the cake was a shmear of Nutella. As I experienced from the first time I made these, the flavor just didn't show up. I am so surprised by this because Nutella has such a strong flavor on its own. Another suggestion was to add in some hazelnut flour to bring out the flavor more. I like that idea and will have to play around with it. Or I could always switch to almond, but something about the hazelnut is really appealing to me. I think it started with the Nutella Tartine from French Fridays and playing with Nutella has been the flavor theme of the year. The frosting I thought was great; banana buttercream. I put the leftovers in the freezer for my daughters upcoming birthday party. Topping it all off was a leathery, caramelized banana. I'll just leave that part out next time. I don't want to go with a hard chip and like the idea of somehow making a candied banana, but I'm not sure how it would work on a little cupcake. Again, I'll have to play. Next year I will bring even smaller cupcakes. I made mine in nut cups. I found the idea years ago at Cupcake Bakeshop. They're great because you can do a whole cookie sheet in one batch. They stand up on their own, look nice, and aren't too hard to pop the cakes out.

Pictures and my nieces recap of Cupcake Camp on her blog, Easting Places, will come soon. She wrote about many other foodie events she's been going to. Have to say that I'm a bit envious of her freedom and connections that allow her to go to these. I'm also really happy for her!

Friday, May 18, 2012

double chocolate and banana tart - French Fridays w/ Dorie

Interesting that this week's choice just happens to be the same flavor combinations I'm using for cupcakes I'm bringing to Cupcake Camp Boston this coming week. Maybe not so interesting - because I keep wondering if I read the recipe first, then got the brilliant idea for the chocolate nutella cupcakes w/ banana buttercream or if the nutella tartine was the inspiration. Either way, the tart -

I made a chocolate crust and put it in a springform pan, since I didn't have a tart pan. The rest of the recipe seemed like it was going to be very complex but I was happily surprised that it was pretty simple. As usual, I didn't want to use heavy cream so went in search of a new substitute. This time I tried Almond Milk. It turned out to be a wonderful compromise. It added no sweetness and it was thicker than regular milk. As for the taste, I have to confess I forgot to try some, but my daughter did and she remarked it was like ice cream. Hmm, I'll have to give it a try soon. I also used up some semisweet chocolate chips I had around along with the 60% cocoa chips. Again, it was not very sweet at all, which is good when adding in the caramelized bananas. I was hoping the bananas would stay crispy, but they didn't. Maybe I didn't put in enough sugar? I'll have to see what happened with other FFWD people.

In the morning I finished the tart with the sliced bananas and apricot jam. I didn't bother straining the jam because it looked so nice and I love the taste of apricot, so more for me is better. I also didn't use lemon juice for the bananas. I found that a sprinkle of citric acid (sour salt) works just great and doesn't add any moisture. The nutella flavor didn't hold up though. I experienced this last weekend with my experimental cupcakes - I had added about 3/4 cup of nutella to the chocolate batter and the flavor disappeared. I thought this would be more pronounced since it was sitting right there, but it didn't. I'll have to try it again. What a hardship!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chocolate Crust

Thought making the double chocolate banana tart in a springform pan would be appropriate today. Most of the time I use a springform is to make my dad's favorite cheesecake. He passed away today, so this is in his honor. Too bad he probably wouldn't be very fond of this tart though. Certainly not if I add the nutella layer.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

provencal olive fougasse - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I love olives and oranges. I used to make a swordfish in a tomato, Kalamata olive and orange sauce that I loved. Needless to say, we chose oranges over lemons. Shara and I set out to make the dough early Monday morning. I had a conference and wouldn't be home Wednesday or Thursday, so had to plan this one out. Again I'm reminded how important it is to read the whole recipe!

I set Shara up with the big chef's knife and the olives. We first had to figure out which had she held the knife in because she goes back and forth still. She seemed more comfortable holding it right handed but it worked out best for us to do it together. Later she commented that if you're just starting out learning to use a knife, it would be easier if the things you're cutting aren't round. Agreed. But they got chopped just fine. Next was zesting the orange. She did a great job but zesting isn't the easiest job either and everything takes practice so she did about 1/2 and I finished up.
The next big decision was whether to use white, whole wheat, or white wheat flour. I went with all white. I had a feeling this bread would not be best with even more flavors added to it and didn't want to take away or change the flavors created with the combination of the olives, orange, olive oil, and rosemary.

Making the dough was fairly straightforward. It needed to be kneaded (ha ha) for 10 minutes, even using the Kitchen Aid. The dough was soft and silky and very similar to a pizza dough. In fact, other than the flavors, I'm not sure of the real difference. I have to look at my pizza dough recipe and really compare. We were supposed to let the dough rise at room temperature for at least two hours. I was on my way to the bus stop, so I put it in the refrigerator and did the rising backward. First you should rise at room temp, then put it in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours and even up to three days. I did the cold rest first, then had it out at room temp for about an hour or so. When I got home from work, I took 1/2 the dough and shaped it, let it rise for about 15 min. then baked it in a high oven. It smelled and tasted wonderful. It was like a flat bread - crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It wasn't very thick, much more like a pizza or flat bread.

The next evening I shaped and baked the 2nd half. This one was much thicker, though I tried to stretch it out to be just as flat as the night before. The difference is that this time it rose much higher. The flavor was slightly more developed, but not very noticeable. I like to find a way to have the dough available for using multiple days, but still keep that original texture.

I can't wait to see what other French Fridays people have done with their versions. I can imagine a lot of playing with flavors, just as one would other types of bread. Come summer, adding in fresh roasted peppers may be nice. The flavors that come to mind are Mediterranean, so maybe a little saffron too? I'm not sure, but again, it's a great building block!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The new conference lunch

Hope this is the way all conference food will be. Heavy on the veggies, not too huge a portion. To be honest, the chicken was too tough for me to choose, however the Pistachio Mascarpone Cheesecake more than made up for it (though probably not so healthy).

chicken w/ mashed potatoes, sauteed zucchini, asparagus and shallot/bacon topping

Friday, May 04, 2012

Just Breath

So I strange phenomena happened today. I had to give a presentation at 8:15 AM and I wasn't nervous. I wasn't sure why, other than the fact that I was very familiar with what I was presenting. So I looked over my slides and notes last night at 2 AM (which would really be this morning) and went to sleep. Didn't realize my alarm wasn't on and woke up on my own at 6:40. Made coffee and almost had a flood because I filled right up to that line, reacted by sipping some quick and didn't get burned, then drank my coffee, showered, etc. I found I was a bit shaky - lack of sleep? too much to drink the night before? I don't know, but I stopped, took a few deep breaths and settled down.

I was out the door in perfect time to get to the conference room early enough to get prepared. The AV person set things up, we found my Powerpoint, all was well. I started looking over the slides and heard an alarm coming from the laptop. I didn't realize that meant the power would shut off in a few minutes, but when it did, I was able to find the power and plug it in. I did need to confirm the plug I was using was ok because it looked fairly industrial and I didn't want to short anything out. I got powered up, rebooted, brought up the show and people started coming in. It went really well, I thought. People asked questions and I had time to answer them all and show some things live.

Through it all, I was relaxed. I moved on through the day, not worrying about where I would sit at lunch, if I would make it to the next session on time, what I was going to say at a meeting, and all was fine. My dinner date cancelled but I had already planned on going back to the room to call home and put away my laptop. Not knowing what the plan was, I headed out the door and took a look at who was around. Found someone and was going to join him and others at Wolfgang Puck's but then ran into another group who were on their way to Cat Cora's Kousina. This was the one of two places I wanted to go at Disney so I asked if I could join them. They said they were just going to ask me because their fourth person on the reservation cancelled. Checked back with 1st person and they said, "no problem" and off we went. We waited 2 minutes to get the cab, walked into the restaurant 40 min. early, yet 5 min. later our buzzer was lighting up and we were being seated.

The waitress was great. She wanted to explain the common questions about the menu because it would save time later. I love efficiency. We ordered drinks - I was going to get the Ouzo-tini and she asked if I liked Ouzo and I asked how strong of a flavor it had and she said it was heavy licorice. That's the only flavor I really don't like but I wanted to try something different so I gave it a go. By the time she finished describing all the items on the menu I chickened out and decided to go with the anti-oxidant sangria. It was very good. Fruity but not at all sweet. For dinner we split the "spread". Kouzzina Spreads – Greek Olive Tapenade, Chickpea Hummus, Eggplant Spread, Taramosalata, Whipped Feta with Peppers, and Tzatziki, served with Pita. I took the picture a little late, but all of it was wonderful - she's not afraid of flavor!
For my entree I couldn't resist the Fisherman’s Stew – Scallops, Seasonal Fish, Shellfish, Fennel, Grilled Bread, and Ouzo Butter. It was rather rich, but I managed to eat most of it. There were mussels, clams and  shrimp, The waitress said there was a bit of heat and there was. The fennel wasn't very pronounced, but all of it together was tasty. The fish was the standout, being cooked perfectly.
The company was fun, the food was great, and after we walked around in the warm breeze, watching the lovely sunset on the Boardwalk and chit-chatting. Without any preconceptions for the evening, it turned out to be a fantastic, serendipitous time. 

almond flounder meuniere - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I actually made this last Monday because I'm at a conference and knew I wouldn't get to post it on time. What I didn't realize was I wouldn't be able to get it posted even with making it early! So better late than never!

This was wonderful and we each (even my almost eight year old) had a huge fillet of Tilapia encrusted with the lovely ground almond crust, sauteed in lots (it seemed to me) butter. I had made a hollandaise earlier in the week and thought it would be interesting to use that as the "glue" for the crumbs, rather than the egg yolk. I think this worked fine, but didn't try it so have nothing to compare it with. The fish was rather thick and we needed to put it back in the pan to cook more thoroughly - covered worked well. I think the fish was so thick it didn't lend itself well to sauteing. The flavor was so good though and was even better with some sliced almonds sauteed in the pan with the leftover butter. I don't know if anyone else had this happen, but when I squeezed on some lemon juice, it made a great sizzle. It was quite exciting. I may excite easily though!

happy fillets, slathered with hollandaise

sizzling away!