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Archive for February, 2010

This is the dish that made me fall in love with my food processor. My food processor, incidentally, is a genuine antique. It is a Cuisinart, but it is so old, it doesn’t have any buttons or switches. You have to line up all the contact points to get it to process. I think its from about 1980. (The Resident Frenchman has the mid 80s button version). My mom lugged all 30 pounds of it (the thing is seriously heavy) down to New Orleans for me in her carry on luggage after buying it in a church sale for a dollar. It is a powerful food processor and is far superior to what is available these days. Moral of the story here, unless you are willing to drop a ton of money on a high end food processor, buy a vintage if you can find one. And then make this dish. It is a a great perfect processor dish. Just throw everything in, pulse to combine and that’s it!

The first time I made this, I was really doubtful that it would be good. Frankly, this isn’t the best looking dish out there. Everything combines into a, well, paste? It is sort of like a bizarro pesto. It looks really strange looking. But not everything is going to look Martha Stewart perfect. At least, that is what I keep telling myself.

A final note about the peppers. I used dried Mexican chilies because I usually cannot find jalapenos. I am not a peppers person at all, so I have little knowledge here. Use what spicy chilies you like, as long as you are aware of how spicy they are. This is a dish with a kick, but the peppers shouldn’t be the overwhelming flavor. I recommend removing the seeds if you are unsure of the strength of the peppers. And if things are too spicy, toss in some more cilantro and cashews to balance things out.

P.S. If you are one of those weird people who don’t like the taste of cilantro, I think parsley would work well here.

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Lemon Thyme Savory Cakes

I saw this recipe and was immediately intrigued. Lemon and thyme, with a sugar icing? How on earth would these taste? The answer is amazing – lemon and thyme obviously work well together and in cake form, they are delicious. And what on earth should these be called? These aren’t quite cupcakes and they aren’t quite muffins. I went with savory cakes, really for lack of a better term. The savory/sweet combination makes these the perfect brunch food. One day, I am going to wake up really early and make brunch and these are going to be on the menu. The cakes are very fluffy and airy and the icing is sweet, yet zesty. Mmmm…I wish the recipe had made more than 12. Probably for the best though.

The original recipe calls for making this in the blender. I do not have a blender. We hardly have any storage or counter space and I don’t drink too many frosty drinks, so I never really saw the point of the blender. So I used the appliance I do have, the Kitchen Aid, and it worked out just fine. My cakes were more muffin-y looking, with domed tops, compared to more flat topped cakes. I also don’t have a muffin tray (no storage space!), so I used silicon muffin cups on a baking sheet. Worked out fine, just lengthened the baking time. If I’ve learned anything from keeping this blog so far, it is that cooking, and even baking, is very adaptable and that you don’t need every gadget under the sun to make quality food.

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Besides my new love of puff pastry, I am also in love with wonton wrappers. Oh, I still dream of making my own pasta using the Kitchen Aid attachment, but until that day comes, wonton wrappers are an excellent compromise. They are easy to work with and they make wonderful ravioli. So when I saw this delicious looking recipe (the original includes a recipe for homemade ravioli), I thought, wonton wrappers!

The original recipe is vegetarian and does not include lamb. I was going to make it that way too after convincing the Resident Frenchman that we could eat vegetarian for the night and probably survive, but then! Then I fell into a Ziploc commercial. A few weeks ago, I bought some ground lamb and froze a half pound of it. Instead of just tossing it into the freezer, I carefully labeled the bag with the date and that it was a half pound of lamb. So when I opened the freezer, I saw the bag staring at me, saying use me because I am perfectly labeled! I think I remember a Ziploc commercial like this. I was powerless to resist the labeled bag and so lamb went into the ravioli. It was a great addition – it went really well with the artichokes and added a lot of flavor to the dish.

The original recipe also called for frozen artichokes, which I could not find at neither Pathmark nor Whole Foods. Which made me wonder, where exactly are these sold? I substituted two jars of artichokes, which worked well, but I imagine the frozen ones are probably cheaper. So I am going to keep looking, maybe Trader Joe’s has them? Either way, artichokes are delicious and I really need to incorporate them more into my cooking.

The dish tasted absolutely delicious and is long gone as of this posting. Which is really sad because now I am dying for some more after writing all this!

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Pasta Carbonara

There is a lot of discussion as to what is a true carbonara. Personally, I do not have a strong opinion on this, but the Internets tell me there are plenty of people who do. I am not committing the cardinal sin of using cream but I’m sure my use of bacon instead of pancetta will bother purists. But this is not a classic Italian food blog, it is a good food blog and this is good. Fantastic really. If you like bacon, then this is the recipe for you. The onions taste like bacon, the pasta tastes like bacon and oh, there is a pound of bacon mixed in. If you are going to go this far with bacon, you might as well as go really far. The alternate name for this recipe is Bacon Pasta. So if you are a vegetarian or are kosher, I’m sorry.

A few notes:

  • This is not a low calorie recipe.  Do not purchase center cut bacon or a similarly low fat bacon.  You need the bacon to render a good amount here and center cut is not going to cut it (heh).
  • I used homemade chicken stock for this once.  It was out of this world.  It adds a tremendous depth and richness.  So beware, once you go homemade, it is hard to go back.
  • Make sure you shred the Parmesan or purchase shredded Parmesan. Do not grate.  Shredded melts and melds better.
  • This uses raw eggs. They are cooked by the warm pasta and onion/bacon mixture and they are safe for eating. But if you are squeamish about this, then this is not the recipe for you.

I know I say this all the time, but this is so good. Ridiculously good. Bacon+pasta+Parmesan=delicious. Make it!

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Okay, I promise this is the last puff pastry recipe for awhile. But I’ve saved the best for last, as this was beyond delicious. All this started because CristaBear requested a very specific dessert for her birthday party: layers of phyllo with strawberries, whipped cream and powdered sugar. Of course, me being me, I had to deviate slightly. I knew that whipped cream wouldn’t hold up for very long and would separate. So I made a whipped mascarpone cream, which is absolutely delicious. It tastes like a thicker, more flavorful whipped cream. Winter strawberries are a little sad, so they are doctored up with some sugar and lemon. Finally, I substituted puff pastry for phyllo because I knew it would be easier to work with.

I made two variations on this. For Crista’s birthday, I made strawberry Napoleons. Sadly, I only have one photo of them because my camera punked out and it is from my camera phone. They don’t look too great, but they were delicious and very pretty looking.

Because had I had tons of leftover cream and strawberries, I made a flat tart version which was just as delicious, if not as impressive looking. The recipe for the flat tart is below, as I have to admit it is much much easier than putting together Napoleons that constantly were trying to tip over (I was a little overambitious and made them slightly too tall). Either way, strawberries on cream on puff pastry is irresistible.

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I mentioned I was obsessed with puff pastry these days right? Well this recipe should bring you over to the puff pastry world if you aren’t already there. I made this as a Superbowl appetizer and it was delicious. Really delicious. I am looking for an excuse to make it again, so can someone please throw a party and invite me?

There isn’t too much cooking going on here, just some stirring, rolling and wrapping. Simple stuff. If you can’t find a big enough brie, check out Costco or your nearest wholesale food store. I got mine there in a weak cheese moment (along with the biggest bag of Baby Bell cheeses I had ever seen).

Best of all, this is a highly variable recipe. Don’t have rosemary? Use thyme. Or candied ginger. Don’t have raspberries? Use frozen mixed berries. Or fresh blackberries. Or figs! Skip the fruit and top with pecans and brown sugar. Experiment! With a base of brie and puff pastry, you really can’t go wrong. As Barefoot Contessa says, how bad can that be?

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King Cake


There is all kinds of Mardi Gras awesomeness going on in New Orleans right now and I really miss it! And I really really really miss King Cake! Mmmm…king cake. If you haven’t had King Cake, then you need to make this recipe immediately. King Cake a sweet bread cake, with (usually) a sweet cream cheese filling, topped off with icing and plenty of sparkling sugar in green yellow and purple (green for faith, yellow for power and purple for justice). Inside the cake is a plastic baby and whoever get the slice with the baby has to purchase the next cake. It is delicious and completely addicting.

I’ve always wanted to make a King Cake, but the recipes always looked a tad complicated (injecting the filling?!) and really, who needs to make a King Cake when you live in New Orleans surrounded by bakeries competing to be known as having best King Cake (winner: Randazzos). But then I moved up north, had a snow day with lots of free time and the King Arthur Blog posted King Cupcakes, and while those sounded tasty, I wanted King Cake. As an aside, I love that Saints mania has permeated Norwich, Vermont!

So I made the King Arthur King Cake. And it is very close to being awesome. I think it needs a few tweaks and I definitely would like to try it with a cake mold to achieve a more aesthetically appealing cake. A few suggestions/comments:

  • Go light with or possibly eliminate the egg white wash. The cake shouldn’t be brown and the wash encourages browning.
  • Tent well to eliminate further browning.
  • Use a stand mixer if you have one, as the dough is very sticky and would be hard to knead otherwise.
  • I took the word “stretch” very literally in the recipe and ended up with a dough that had some holes because I overstretched. A rolling pin can be helpful here.
  • The rolling pin will also distribute the dough better – I ended up with one end more dough-y than the other and consequently the cake was a little uneven looking.
  • If you like a lot of filling, consider increasing the filling proportions by half (I think doubling would push it too far), some of the filling absorbed into the bread.
  • My icing ended up being more buttercream frosting and less pourable icing. So I just spread it on like I would for a cupcake and it was still delicious, if not pourable
  • Sadly, I did not import any plastic babies from NOLA when I moved up here, so I used a pecan instead of a baby

But don’t let that list deter you – this is a surprisingly easy recipe and the smell was heavenly. Perfect King Cake smell – cinnamon sweet. Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les-bons temps roulez!

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