Creativity

December 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

These weeks dividing Christmas and Thanksgiving may be my most creative time of the year.  Between card making, recipe experimenting, and gift searching I have come across some beautiful and resourceful ideas for sharing with loved ones.  Take a look.

Chocolate Sausages?  I think, yes.  
Homemade Mustard.  I would not mind finding this in my stocking. 
A beautiful tree.  We have a live tree.  This may just have to go in my bedroom. 
Handmade Everything.   
The Gift of Scents.  I made these last year.  Simple.   

Advertisements

Snow Day Crêpe Day: Buckwheat Galettes, Fig Butter, Onion Jam.

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Snow Day Crepe

There are some things in life which never change.  Like snow days. Who doesn’t get a cozy nostalgic feeling with the thought of a day off from the real world?  As a kid, this meant an escape from sitting at a desk all day listening to someone talk to at you from the front of a packed room (for many adults this may still be the case).  For me, a snow day means that my kitchen gets my full attention.

Onion Jam Crepe

These past few weeks I have been slightly obsessed with the mere thought of a delicate crêpe wrapped pleasantly around a oozy gooey filling of nirvana.  Oddly, in these past weeks I have had more opportunities to indulge in a simple fruit filled crêpe since living in France.  But I found myself resisting, unconsiously holding out for what would be the perfect crêpe day.

Crepes, Fig Butter, Onion Jam

By noon on this exceptionally wintery day I had a table full of steaming buckwheat crêpes, warm fig butter, lustrous onion jam and a perfect way to spend my snow day.  I made two batches of batter, one made from solely buckwheat flour, which is completely nontraditional.  But I had no warning, and authentic batter should really rest over night and I unwilling to compromise.  I want to have my crêpes and eat them too.  Consequentially we will be finding all sorts of fillers for the endless stacks of toasty savory galettes which will be gracing our plates for the next couple of days as I could not resist the urge to mix up some more traditional batter, courtesy of David Lebovitz and fry them up tomorrow for dinner.

The filling for my crêpes today are from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, and are unbelievable delicious.  She has this ingenious section of her book dedicated to fruit and vegetable jams and spreads to accompany all of her treats.  My favorite: fig butter.  I was first introduced to the idea of her fig butter when Heidi Swanson unveiled Kim’s Figgy Buckwheat scones on 101cookbooks.  Since then have been looking for the perfect time to bring the heavenly butter into my life.  I must confess my disappointment; the time which I let pass without consuming this butter is completely unacceptable.  I could, no lie, eat this everyday.  Possibly at every meal.  It has a velvety, rich, deep flavor from the figs, wine, and butter but doesn’t leave a feeling of piggishness behind.  It requires little hands on work aside from chopping off stems, boiling sugar, and getting out the food processor, and yields a sufficient amount to last (an insatiable girl) just about two weeks.

Almost Fig Butter

Perfection.  The second filling was even more simple and just as ingenious.  Onion jam will be finding its way into nearly all of my sandwiches from here on out.  When onions cook down they turn into a heap of savory caramelized luxury ready to make any meal a feast.  There is a reason that they make you cry, and it is happiness for what is about to come.  It is as if they are forcing us to pay for the magnificence which if hidden behind their bite.

Slicing Onions

(Nontraditional) Buckwheat Crêpe
This recipe is actually gluten free as buckwheat has no relation to wheat.   It also requires only a 15 minute rest which was the appeal for me.  These are also a bit thicker than I am used to but delicious nonetheless.  I used a 7 inch cast iron pan for the crêpe cooking, if you desire larger crêpes simply use a larger pan.  I found the recipe here and followed it pretty precisely but I used salted (Baily’s Dairy!) butter  and less salt.

1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot (a thickening agent)
dash of salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 3/4 cups water

Almost Ready to Flip

To make the batter simply sift the dry ingredients together into a medium sized bowl.  Now whisk the eggs with the water and add the butter.  When the wet ingredients are well mixed pour half into the buckwheat flour and stir until incorporated and smooth.  Then pour the rest of the egg mixture and finish stirring.  The mixture will be a pretty dark purple color and quite runny.  Let it sit for 15 minutes.  Just enough time to prepare the pan and finish up the fillings.   Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and coat it with butter.  Add just under 1/4 cup of the batter to the hot pan and swirl it around so that it fills the entire bottom.  When the crêpe batter has started to dry out on top, after 2 or 3 minutes, flip it over to briefly cook the other side.  I used my fingers to do this.  A spatula is safer but less effective.   The first crêpe is always, always, always, a disaster.  Keep the crêpes warm in a 200 degree oven.  This recipe will make 10-12 crêpes.  I am planning on freezing some leftovers by wrapping them individually in plastic wrap then sealing in a freezer bag.

A perfect day for crepes

Kim Boyce’s Fig Butter
These recipes are not published on the internet and I technically have no right to publish them. Consequentially I am going to HIGHLY recommend you make the decision to own your own copy of Good to the Grain if this looks good to you.  I will leave a basic description of the recipe.

A little bit of sugar and water are boiled with cloves and star anise for about 10 minutes.  Then lots of red wine and port and black mission figs and cinnamon are added to to the syrup.  This mixture simmers for about 3o minutes and becomes a beautiful viscous maroon liquid.  The concoction needs to come to room temperature for another 30 minutes or so before removing the cloves and star anise.  Then the figs and their syrup are pureed with some soft butter.  It is possibly the most indecent thing I have ever eaten.

Fig Butter

Almost Onion Jam

Kim Boyce’s Onion Jam
See the notes above regarding Kim’s book.  You can figure this one out on your own without a recipe.  This onion jam with some sauteed mushrooms, horseradish, and hearty slices of bread could hardly make me happier.  Although slathered inside a hot crêpe with butter I was quite delighted all day.

Slice a lot of onions.  I think I used about 10 yellow cooking onions from Barnard’s Orchards.  In a medium dutch oven heat some olive oil on medium high heat for a minute or two.  Add the sliced onions and salt and coat them in the oil.  Cook them on high until they just begin to brown.  Turn down the heat and cover until they get a nice consistent golden.  Remove the lid and let them look until they break down into a mass of jam like consistency.   This all take about two hours and makes about a cup of savory jam.

Eat Happily

Recent Attacks

February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

As the cold weather has left me unmotivated to fix this pesky USB situation which has been hindering my ability to share all of the glorious things recently gracing my plate I will instead share some of the sites which have been gracing my browser’s tabs.  There are so many amazing people on this Earth with so many different talents and insights and tastes, I can spend hours simply gawking at beautiful creations.

I have always wondered how to convert traditional baked goods into vegan goodies. Now I know. Because there are simply times when I want to feel really good when I eat things which are really good.

The Chinese New Year is quickly approaching, and I have been busy conjuring dreaming up plates full of these things:
Lucky Sushi
Nutty Dumplings
Pickles

Similarly, the dreadfully anticipated Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so my mind has been stuck on heart shaped scones made with browned butter, hazelnuts, and teff flour (USB, please work in time!).

David Lebovitz made something for World Nutella Day, and I happily altered it to my liking.

My newest fascination is here with insanely beautiful pictures of culinary and cloth creations.

So please don’t be fooled into thinking that I have only been sipping tea for the past couple of weeks (although that is exactly what I have been doing; on top of stuffing my face).   I simply don’t have the images I would like to share uploaded yet.   Shortly you will know all about the crepes, fig butter, onion jam, chocolate spread, hazelnut soup and much much more which has been filling my tummy.

A Perfect Cup of Tea

January 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

There may be nothing like a cup of something warm after a trek through the snow.  And if you spend more than an hour with me you will surely discover my affection for hot drinks.  Namely the species of steeped bliss we call tea.  A luxurious cup of Earl Grey is my current love as it is silky and rich while still leaving a refreshingly caffeinated murmur.  Although I have had a little affair and just reveled in a lovely cup of white vanilla grapefruit.  I would like to share some secrets of infusing a simple cup of hot water with some dried out ground up powder into a ritual of bringing a daily dose of delight into your life.

For starters, it is best to get out of the habit of relying on supermarket ‘Lipton’ teas shake.  These are the lowest grade tea possible and are hardly passable as a blissful tea.  Once you expose yourself to the glory of a real cup of tea, steeped with whole leaves, you may find yourself wondering how so many people are able to drink their stale, flat, and bland daily spot of tea.

There are many, quite convenient ways to find real tea.  Most shopping malls will have a tea shop; Teavana for example has a nice collection and their staff is always helpful.  Another option is Wegmans.  They actually have a large stash hidden between the cheese counter and the organic bulk nuts.  Although, surprise, surprise, I choose to acquire my blends from local vendors.  Pure Blend shows up at my farmers markets doling out their hand blended teas and spices.  I was quite infatuated with the pumpkin chai for a while, and the homemade komucha, a fermented tea containing everything which is good for you, is something sent straight from the Gods.  Similarly, Mrs. Robinsons Tea Shop in Kennett Square has an immense collection of teas; herbal, caffeinated, decaffeinated, fruity blends, and all the tea paraphernalia you could desire.  I could spend entirely too long sticking my nose into cups of the samples.  Enough about the vendors.

 

Making tea is an ancient art form.  I have discovered that the process should not be rushed.  If you are going to rush through the procedure as you would making a cup of coffee, you might as well drink Lipton, or coffee (clearly I am biased).  Take the 10 minutes and enjoy the simplicity of rewarding yourself with a cup of ecstasy.

Fun Fact:  All true tea leaves comes from the same plant.  True teas are black, oolong, green and white.  The difference is when the tea leaves are harvested.  As the tea is harvested younger it brews lighter i.e. black vs white.  Consequentially black tea is rich and heavily caffeinated, while white tea is airy and contains almost no caffeine.  In the morning I like to wake up to a cup of something bright and radient so I opt for lighter white or green teas. When afternoon rolls around and my mind is beginning to lag I steep some gorgeous and awakening Earl Grey spiked with notes of bergamot and citrus.

A Perfect Cup of Tea.
This will steep enough for two small cups of tea, enough for one to linger with a book or two friends to share over laughs.

Warm up a 16 oz teapot simply by filling it with hot water from the tap and allow to sit while you prepare everything else.  This ensure that the pot is hot and won’t cool the water off when you steep the tea.

Heat 16 oz (2 cups) of water.  Different teas require different water temperatures:

Green Tea 160 degrees F 1 – 3 minutes
White Tea 180 degrees F 4 – 8 minutes
Oolong Tea 190 degrees F 1 – 8 minutes
Black Tea Rolling Boil 3 – 5 minutes
Herbal (tisanes) Rolling Boil 5 – 8 minutes

Add 2 teaspoons of beautiful tea leaves to the filter or diffuser.  Similarly, you can use a loose tea bag found at any well stocked tea shop, with 1 teaspoon of loose leaves.

When the water is at the right temperature pour it over the leaves.

Cover the teapot and allow it to steep for the correct time.  Refer to the chart above.

While the tea is steeping add a sweetener or cream or nut milk (for black teas only) of your choice to your tea cup(s).  I always choose honey.  Nothing else.

After 1- 8 minutes remove the filter but save the leaves.  They can be steeped again, up to 3 times.

Pour your gorgeous brew into the prepared cup.

Sit. Sip. And enjoy.

Drink Happily.

Retox and Detox: 10 Favorite Holiday Indulgences

January 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Exhale.  Its all over.  The glorious gluttony.  The constant consumption.  The indulgent imbibing.  In place of the cream and sugar which has been dominating every nook and cranny of my kitchen I am happily welcoming my old friends, kale and quinoa back into my life.

Perhaps my  body may have an unnatural affection for greens and vegetables, but for the past six days I have been yearning for the super nutritious whole foods which usually grace my plate.  The future of my meals will look something like this: squash stuffed with quinoa and beans; kale and white bean casserole; sauteed greens loaded with nuts; garlic soup studded with brussel sprouts, onions and everything else cleansing.

Although, before I happily begin my post holiday purge, I would like to share some of my favorite indulgences of the past couple weeks.  After all, extravagance may be my favorite aspect of detoxification.

10. Biz’s Cookie Party.  Buckwheat and Quinoa Fig cookies, Mexican Wedding cookies, Peanut Butter chocolate chip, Basic Sugary bliss.  Need I say more?
9. Every Excuse for Champagne.  From Christmas morning mimosas, to raspberry champagne cocktails with dinner, to champagne shots at the stroke of midnight, this beverage has made an appearance too frequently in the past week.  My body always knows when I drank champagne the previous night.
8. Mallory’s Whiskey and Cider.  If there is anything better to warm you from the inside out than a piping hot thermos of Barnard’s apple cider mulled with cinnamon, cloves, a little vanilla, and a large glug of whiskey topped with some fresh whipped cream (spiked of course) please let me know.
7. Morning After Whiskey and Champagne Breakfasts.  Plates smothered with creamed chipped beef, cups filled with v-8 (and vodka?), ovens filled with stratta.  Any of the above are (almost) proven to expunge most nausea.
6.  Desert after every meal.  Leftover cookies, cakes, and meringues, make this mandatory.  Breakfast and that fourth meal between lunch and dinner included.
5.  Phyllo Dough.  What?  Yes.  Not the typical indulgence, phyllo dough has proven to be the perfect companion to everything oozy and gooy: baked brie au bleu, apple and brie quiche, feta and sundried tomato pizza, and endless cheese combinations (see below).
4.  Cheese.  Most of my cheese plates this year were compiled thanks to Talula’s Table.  Favorites included:  Sharp aged gouda, pungent and slaty shroppshire blue, lovely humboldt fog, smooth and delicate rosemary goat.  Similar h’ordeuvres were compiled from layers of phyllo dough brimming with  heavenly marriages of cream cheese and onion pepper jelly, brie with pears and brown sugar, fresh goat with cranberry and pistachio crumble, and gruyere with caramelized onions.
3.  Bacon.  It occurred to me that even as a see myself as a kind of closet vegetarian I somehow omit bacon from the realm of carnivorous consumption.  My new favorite party trick is to fabricate bite sized bowls from a slice of bacon and load them with everything good * instructions below.  Sliced mushrooms melted together with a gorgonzola cream somehow found their way into my cups of salted heaven.
2. My First Roast Duck + Duck Fat Fried Potatoes Everything. A Classic Christmas feast, duck is actually quite easy to make and produces a ungodly amount of animal fat suitable for making the ordinary roasted potatoes exceptional.  My duck was lucky enough to be smothered in honey and rubbed down with a blend of lavender and peppercorns leaving the skin insanely crisp and the meat dark and juicy.
1.  The people and parties which provide the opportunities for extravagance.  Maybe this is a cop-out or cliche but its true.  Eating bacon, cheese, and dessert three times a day may be enough to make one sick, but somehow the wonderful company of friends and family keeps me feeling healthy.  I supposed it could be the additional laughing and smiling around this time of year.  

Bacon Cups:

I used 2 packages of bacon but was not keeping track of how the yield or the actual number of slices needed.  The thinner, leaner cut bacon works best.  Fattier cuts will shrink more.  I also used a very small muffin tin which makes the cups bite sized as opposed to awkward two bite sized.

Cut a slice of bacon into 3 pieces:  first in half and then one of the halves in half.
Make a cross with the two quarters on the bottom of the muffin tin.
Use the long half piece of bacon to wrap around the circumference of  the muffin tin and secure by pressing the ends together.
Experiment with what you have.  This is simply what worked for me.
With all the cups wrapped, place the tin into a casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes or so at 500 degrees until the bacon is quite crispy but not burned.
Let the cups cool and then simply pop  them off, possibly with the assistance of  a spatula.
Load the cups with anything you heart desires.   

Simple Surprise Squash Soup

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Basically, this soup is perfect.  The grounds for this statement are just as simple as the preparations:

One: the ingredient list is minimal.
Two: the recipe is (almost) idiot proof.
Three: the flavor does not reveal statement one or two.

I like to make this soup with a wide range of flavors.  Sometimes it is gingerly sweet, sometimes it is savory and herbed.  This last batch revealed warm curry notes in the silky coconut broth.  But what ever flavor the bubbling pot may unveil, the backbone of the soup is, for the most part, unwavering.  

Squash Soup
One squash will generally make four servings, so increase the number of squashes and other ingredients accordingly.   Many times I use two varieties of winter squash for a more interesting flavor.

1 kabocha squash split in half length wise 
1 apple chopped
2 onions chopped (or 4 shallots)
1 cup coconut milk (or vegetable broth)
3 tablespoons red curry paste (or seasonings of your choice)
olive oil
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Rub down the orange flesh of the squash halves with olive oil and sea salt and place on a baking sheet.  Roast until the skin feels like butter upon being pierced, usually 30 minutes.  This is just enough time to caramelize the apple and onions.  In a medium/large pot heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil on medium low heat, you don’t want the oil to smoke.   Now add the chopped apple and onion and some salt.  If you are making a herby soup add some of the herbs.  Cover the pot.  Check on the onions periodically and give them a stir.  After about 20 minutes remove the lid and let the steam escape for the last 10 minutes.  At this point everything in the pot should be a lovely golden color and have a silken glow, the squash should be emitting a deeply honeyed aroma and may even be sitting in a puddle of juice.  When the above criteria have been satisfied, remove the squash from the oven and let it cool for a moment.  (I would now remove some of the caramelized mix and reserve as a topping).  Then remove the skin by either peeling it off or scooping out the flesh and adding it to the pot of apple and onion with a pinch of salt.  Give everything a stir and add the coconut milk/broth and curry/herbs.  Add more water or broth to bring the consistency to your liking.  Top with caramelized onions or toasted nuts or maybe croutons for some texture.

Eat Happily.

 

Hello world!

September 21, 2010 § 1 Comment

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Uncategorized category at PepperAttacks.