This was the first meal we ate in our new apartment, about one month ago:
And the very first thing I baked in our new place?
SCONES. Of course. Whole wheat raspberry ricotta scones.
I hadn’t even unpacked all the dishes into the cabinets, but managed to find my flours, pastry cutter, and baking sheet.
I only let myself bake off a few because I have been known to devour a whole batch of scones (equivalent to a stick of butter) entirely by myself. And even though we DID move an entire apartment worth of possessions and furniture from a 5th floor walk-up with just a subaru outback and our own hands, during which I most DFINITELY burned off more than a stick of butter’s worth of calories (yes, this is how my mind works), I convinced myself to exercise some restraint and freezed half the batch. The promise of freshly baked scones in the near future (without the prep time and clean-up!) somehow outweighed the desire to eat 9 scones.
But now that berry season has sadly passed (unless you want to shell out $5 for a tiny box of raspberries), I am even more glad that I decided not to eat the entire stick of butter that day, but rather, allowed myself the chance to enjoy a raspberry scone when raspberries cannot be found in any grocery store for ANY amount of money. Which is rapidly approaching faster than I’d like.
These scones are terrific, and whether you decide for yourself that you’d like to eat them all or save a few for later is really up to you. Whole wheat lends a certain heartiness that makes just one scone feel filling. The combination of the ricotta, butter, and heavy cream lends to a wonderfully moist crumb, almost calling into question the validity of calling this a “scone.” Unique to this particular recipe, the raspberries are cut in, like butter, which delivers various sizes of jammy berry pockets and streaks throughout the scone.
I’m still working on getting the hang of the lighting in the kitchen; the sunlight is significantly obstructed compared to the previous apartment. I brought my breakfast to the living room for some more natural light- and here’s a look at how our living room looked that first week. Unfortunately, not too much has changed in the last month in that corner of the living room!
I’ve spent the better part of the summer months tackling a thesis and a defense, figuring out the next step post-PhD (a.k.a. finding a job), moving out of a 5th floor apartment (sans elevator service) into our first property without the aid of movers or even a moving truck, and discovering the joys of speeding in our new (to us) german driving machine. It has been an incredibly exhausting and stressful time, but, there were many celebrations, and I finally feel, for the first time maybe ever, that I am finally LIVING. Unfortunately, all the hubbub didn’t leave much time for cooking and blogging. oops.
The summer months are already behind us, and I feel a bit cheated in having missed out on trying new recipes with my favorite summer produce (farm-fresh tomatoes, zucchini blossoms, corn, stone fruits, and berries). However, after 6 years of living in New England, I FINALLY managed to organize a blueberry picking trip in late July! Although we arrived with the summer berries on the brain, it was a pleasant surprise to see that even though it wasn’t apple-picking season yet, there were still home-made, fresh, apple-cider donuts available!
A historical looking donut-making machine… I only had one question: where could I get one!?!?
And this is the hero who tossed freshly fried apple cider donuts into a bath of cinnamon and sugar… what an amazing job. Do they hire recent PhD graduates?
It was a lovely summer day for berry picking.
Although for Andreas, there were probably more blueberries that went straight into his mouth than into our picking containers. He defended his blueberry-picking technique, claiming it as a quality control measure.
We left the farm happy, with donuts and a few pounds of fresh plump blueberries in hand (and in our tummies!). You would think that with this bounty, I’d have a slew of blueberry recipes bookmarked away for just this opportunity… and I DID.. except by the time I had gotten around to picking a recipe, the blueberries were long gone!
Kind of like the summer….
So before the rest of 2011 slips away without new recipes, I am jumping back into it and vow to be back with new recipes soon!
My thesis defense (a talk about the last 6 years of my life) date has shown up in the 10-day forecast. Does anyone else measure their life by the 10-day forecast?
Upon this realization, the first thought that jumped into my mind was, “what am I going to WEAR?!”. And the second thought: “I guess I should start on my talk soon.”
But before I start, I wanted to tell you about the only new recipe I tried while I was writing my thesis. I hadn’t been doing very much cooking, but after glimpsing Giada make this during a “writing break,” I immediately went out and bought ingredients!
It starts with a spread, made from toasted hazelnuts and dried figs, thick and slightly sweet, and you will just want to smear this on everything.
Thin slices of prosciutto are baked to a crisp (the original recipe calls for pancetta), and soft, creamy brie completes this delectable sandwich. I have a good feeling goat cheese would work just as well.
Got my fancy schmancy panini press and grilled the panini until the cheese gets nice and oozey.
Giada may have called this a breakfast panini, but this is really an ANYTIME panini.
I feel like I have been running at break-neck speed non-stop for the last two and a half weeks, and only a few days ago did I finally get to stop and take a breath. After pouring all my energy and waking moments into making some sense of the last 6 years of research and trying to organize it into words and pictures to resemble a cohesive thesis, AND closing on our first property and taking a gazillion trips to home depot to ready it for its debut on craigslist, I spent the last few days post-thesis-turn-in recovering either breaking personal sleeping records or couch potato-ing it. After all THAT, it feels weird to wake up in the morning and not have to write 10 pages in the next few hours before going to our house to paint the living room. It feels weird to feel like I have the time to go to the grocery store and to think of what I want to eat, and even more strange to have the luxury of the time to cook whatever I want. It’s like I have to relearn how to be NOTat DEFCON 1 all the time. But, I have to admit, it feels AWESOME going to bed, knowing I am one day closer to getting the
Well, so long as nothing goes horribly wrong during the public defense and they don’t absolutely hate my thesis (knock on wood). For the first time, in a very very long time, I am totally excited about what the next few months will bring, even though there will be a lot of change, a lot of new things, and a lot of unknowns (like a J.O.B.), but that’s OK, I’m just beyond glad to see an end to the graduate school chapter of my life.
For now, I’m focusing on remembering that it’s SUMMER (before we slip into fall and then into the season who shall not be named). You would think that last week’s FIERCE heat would have been sufficient to remind me, but you would be surprised what you can ignore when all your faculties are focused on the computer screen(s) in front of you for 18 hours/day. Anyway, this means eating all the fresh summer fruit that I can, walking everywhere instead of taking the T, grilling, evening walks to get fresh peach ice cream, and hopefully, a trip to a pick-your-own-fruit farm this upcoming weekend!
My dad has taught me a lot over the years. He taught me how to drive stick and made me drive from a full stop up a hill, over and over until I didn’t stall. He educated me in the rules of NFL football, quizzed me about team names, coaches, and quarterbacks, and taught me to love the Niners (in good times and bad). And, he taught me how to be resourceful in the kitchen.
In my dad’s kitchen, nothing is wasted. Food ingredient OR time. Leftover odds and ends of onions, peppers, and last night’s pork chops go into Sunday morning omelettes. Prep dishes are washed as the meal is being cooked or dessert is being baked, so that after you’ve finished eating or baking, all that is left are the dishes you ate off of. These are practices that I’ve happily brought into my own kitchen, and just one of the infinite ways that my dad has shaped and influenced my life. Thanks Dad, I hope you had a fantastic day!
So remember that lemon curd? We didn’t come close to finishing it off with the pavlovas, but I used the rest in this tasty breakfast “brastry” (bread pastry? no??)! A soft sweet dough is filled with a cream cheese and lemon curd filling, and when baked, will fill your kitchen with the most lovely smell; you’ll be able to close your eyes and imagine that you’ve opened that little coffee pastry shop you’ve always dreamed of.
It seems that the warm summery weather we experienced two weeks ago was just a cruel, cruel joke. Not funny Boston. Not at all.
Over a month ago, when the weather was much like it has been the last week (dark… gloomy… wet… depressing…), I was using happy meyer lemons to substitute for the absent SUN, and I made these pavlovas and a meyer lemon curd. They were fun, light and bright, and rather uncharacteristic for me since they weren’t a cookie and didn’t have a crust! Pavlovas are meringues that are crispy on the outside, but fluffy and marshmallow-y inside, a textural dream. The tart lemon curd is rich and lemony; a little goes a long way because the pavlovas and whipped cream are just ever so lightly sweetened. Now that the berries are really coming into season and I’ve taken a peek at the 10 day forecast (more un-summer-like weather), I think I should make these again SOON!
For those that hate wasting anything in the kitchen like me (it’s my asian-ness), you’ll be happy to see that the number of egg WHITES in the pavlovas corresponds exactly to the number of egg YOLKS needed for the lemon curd… serendipity! I was left with quite a bit of lemon curd left over- which would seem to pose another kitchen conundrum- but stay tuned for how my resourcefulness prevailed!
I’ve started and stopped and erased posts at least 5 times since we last spoke about absurdly excessive cookies, which was 2 whole months ago!!! And as more and more days passed, the more I felt that I had to present a worthy post to compensate for the length of silence… which at this point, would have required something made with several pounds of butter, deep-fried, covered in dark chocolate and gold leaf, with unicorns and rainbows shooting out of it.
But I didn’t want you all to think I was giving you the cold shoulder or that my kitchen had burned down, it’s just that as I’ve ramped up productivity and increased hours in the lab in hopes of being able to schedule a thesis defense date (WHICH I NOW HAVE!!!!), the rest of my life has suffered as a result. It’s not all Lab’s fault. I also have been attempting to plan a wedding of some sort. And have been house-hunting. And have been looking at cute puppy pictures. And trying to figure out what to do with my life post-Ph.D. (read: find a JOB). Which pretty much has left my kitchen devoid of ingredients for dinner and cookies, or even PIECES OF FRUIT!
I also reached that time of the year, as I do every year, when I get tired (so very very tired) of the painful elusiveness of spring/summer and consecutive days over 70 degrees F. Apparently it wasn’t enough that we suffered through record amounts of snow in all of January, we were also tortured by snow on April Fool’s and had to endure a soul-sucking, rainy, gloomy, gray May, which in addition to extended hours in lab, only succeeded in making me more cranky and restless, unable to focus on updating tumblrs with non-depressing posts.
But now we’ve FINALLY had a week of consecutive days of over 70 degree weather and sunshine (well, except that freak tornado-induced thunderstorm on Wednesday, what WAS that?!), and my mood has lifted considerably. I want to spend every minute I can outside, thawing out, ridding my body of any memory of the last 6 months, and soaking up the sun’s Vitamin D-filled rays to replenish the severe deficit from winter. And warmer weather means spring/summer produce- some of my favorites: berries berries berries, peaches, apricots, rhubarb, and barbeque. Yes, I know that barbeque is not a produce, but I just want to grill everything in sight and eat it IN or WITH a salad.. which kind of makes it produce, right?
Anyway, because the weather has changed and my demanding stomach no longer craves heavily sauced pastas, braised meats and mashed potatoes, we have been slowly transitioning to lighter dinner fare, such as this lemon olive oil spaghetti with shrimp. It’s still satisfyingly carby and just creamy enough, but made lighter from an ample amount of fresh lemon zest and juice.
I went on a real lemon kick, as you’ll see in the next few lemon-centric posts as I work my way from a backlog of April and May recipes, since the bright zing of lemon citrus can really brighten any uncharacteristically gloomy and cold in-between-winter-and-spring/summer day!
Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to take a much needed break in warm hot, sunny, Southern California. I napped frolicked on the beach…
and fervently prayed that my pasty skin (which has had practically NO exposure to the sun’s rays in over 6 months) would NOT burn.
I relaxed and did some yoga (combined with weights and cardio) that left my abs and butt screaming for days…
ate “Tijuana” tacos with endless tortilla chips and salsa, and Korean fusion tacos from a truck…
indulged in egg bennys (with braised pork belly and crabcake- don’t worry, it was two separate meals) and those obsession-inducing warm raspberry millet muffins…
hung out with wonderfully dear old friends, caught up with cousins, celebrated the union between two deeply in love, and bonded with a new (canine) friend (cutie!).
I was having SUCH a good time driving around with the windows down (at 80 mph! which was often JUST ENOUGH to keep up with the cars around me, making it very easy to rack up 800 miles on my rental) and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible that I was a bit reluctant to return. When I arrived, I was greeted by a Boston “spring” day: gloomy skies, occasional downpour, and a 30-degree drop in temperature compared to California. This, in addition to the reality and responsibilities that I had blissfully pushed out of my mind while in California rushing to the forefront of my consciousness, suddenly put me in a post-vacation funk of intense homesickness.
Andreas, the ever wonderful mediator of my less-than-jovial moods, decided to cheer me up by presenting an early 5th anniversary gift…
for which… I had no words..
just high-pitched squeals of excitement!
I am loving the unique vintage pistachio color and am already envisioning a color-coordinated future kitchen!
April Fools’ Day is not quite over. I present to you these humongous chocolate chip cookies…
that are not quite exactly what they seem because…
there are OREOS inside of them!!!
If only all April Fools’ jokes could be this… sweet.
These cookies were not originally baked with the intention of fooling anybody. They were actually baked for a lab function where the theme was “Tastes From Around the World.” Everyone brought something from their home or adopted countries/states, like ice wine from Canada and home-made plum schnapps for Romania. Funny enough, out of a lab of 13 members, I am actually the only uni-lingual American-born citizen. To represent my home state and country, I brought wine from California and cookies that embody American excess (and propensity for obesity)- Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies!
They’re truly gigantic, but SO fun to make and eat. They are truly at their best when still slightly warm… dunked in a refreshing glass of milk!
I baked these Guinness brownies at the end of 2010, and in the midst of the holiday craziness, visiting families on opposite coasts, getting engaged, and turning 29, I somehow forgot to post about these stout-y chocolate-y chocolate brownies.
But what better day to tell you about a dessert infused with Guinness than the day where we all celebrate as the Irish do and lift a (few) pint(s) to good ole Saint Paddy??
So last week when it was all chilly and brrrrrrr, I saw this vegan mushroom soup and knew I would be making mushroom soup to warm my bones. And it seemed perfect because having a new labmate who is vegan made me realize that my blog is not vegan friendly. In fact, I struggled to recall a single recipe admist all the POUNDS of butter, dairy, eggs, and cheese that is vegan. My tumblr is actually vegan-hostile. What better way to remedy this than by making something deliciously vegan?
Except then, of course due to my perfectionist nature, I had to hunt around for other mushroom soup recipes to see how the ingredients and ratios compare, which of course led me to this cream of mushroom soup which is decidedly not so vegan friendly. Well, this soup, with its hefty 2 (TWO!!!!) pounds of fungi, won me over and all thoughts of my first vegan tumblr recipe went flying out the window.
I know I could have made the vegan cashew cream to be the “cream” in my mushroom soup but…. I figured if I am going to try Balthazar’s Cream of Mushroom soup, I have to try it as written. And of course, it was delicious. Creamy and so very earthy, really the only way 2 pounds of mushed up cooked mushrooms can be earthy. Next time can be cashew cream vegan time.
There is this fantastic little place in La Jolla. With an extensive brunch menu that I still have all-too-vivid-and-drool-inducing dreams about. Delicious lattes in cups the size of small bowls. Six (6!!!!!!!!) different kinds of eggs benedict. Free coffee and homemade coffee cake while you wait for your table. And… some amazing jumbo sized freshly baked raspberry millet muffins.
So when I saw this recipe for honey-kissed millet muffins, I jumped at the chance to bake these at home in the hopes of recreating The Cottage muffins!
These muffins are not those muffins. Actually, they were completely different, except for the fact that they both contain millet, a happy round little grain, which added (literally) POP to the muffins. But I found that I loved these muffins too! They are substantial (from the whole wheat) without being heavy and are sweetened with honey instead of sugar, which alleviated any guilt about eating three two for breakfast and prevented mid-morning crashes which can often occur from sugar-laden muffins. The best part about these muffins was that honey was in fact the paramount flavor (albeit, a subtle one), and I enjoyed the delicate floral sweetness and realized that I do not appreciate or celebrate honey as much as I should! I had added berries to half the muffins (in attempt to recreate The Cottage muffins) but then found that I actually preferred the plain ones because I could better enjoy the honey flavor.
Until I return to La Jolla for those raspberry millet muffins (57 days and counting!), these muffins will easily fill the void.
This recipe was advertised by Bon Appetit as “A Pasta for Lovers”, and with Valentine’s Day not so long ago (my flowers are miraculously still in bloom) and its development by the brilliant Smitten Kitchen (who captures my heart weekly with her deliciously stunning and witty posts), you would think that this recipe was destined for an ultra-romantic candlelit dinner for two. But since Andreas has an aversion to artichokes and was out of town this weekend (with his magic camera that makes my food look tasty), this “Pasta for Lovers” became pasta for ONE instead. But love was still in the air, as I fell madly for this pasta before I even tasted it, and if you had been in my kitchen smelling the butter as it browned, the onions as they caramelized and melded with a glass of white wine, and the indulgent amount of dairy products as they melted and oozed, you would most certainly be in love too.
The filling is relatively light, but made complex through the little details of browned butter, caramelized onions, parmesan and pecorino, and the texture of artichokes, and the flavors only got better the second day. Each shell is nestled and smothered with a light bechamel sauce strengthened by creamy ricotta and a lemony finish for the most delightful and romantic meal I’ve ever cooked for myself.
I’ve been a bit obsessed with blood oranges this winter: I’ve been buying them by the bagful, I’ve made marmalade, and from the moment I saw this olive oil cake, I have kept at least 3 blood oranges ready and waiting in my fruit bowl so that I would be ready to make this at a moment’s notice.
Unfortunately, it took 2 weeks for that moment to finally arrive.
But arrive it did, and it brought a stunning cake with it. Like previous olive oil cakes, this cake is beautifully mild with a delicious fruity finish due to a high content of extra virgin olive oil. The oil also happened to impart a darker greenish hue to my cake which may not look so attractive, but I can assure you, it did not detract one iota from its delicate flavor and luscious texture.
The blood oranges add a bright citrus flavor, though milder than regular oranges, which just gently perfumes the entire cake. Zest is rubbed into the sugar, a technique I’ve tried before with results that I loved. Freshly squeezed blood orange juice is added as well as juicy jewel-toned pulp silvers, which are obtained through “supreme”-ing an orange- which ended up being quite a challenge for me. It seems so simple in theory: cut away all the peel and pith by following the curve of the sides of the orange, and then cut out each segment from the stingy connective membranes. And I’m sure I’ve seen it done many times on Iron Chef, and maybe a Top Chef quickfire challenge? But when faced with the challenge in my OWN kitchen… well, let’s just say I managed to extract enough segments from orange innards for the recipe, but not without a lot of lost juice and a big bloody mess.
But the cake was well worth the mess!
The cake is stunning in its simplicity with a mild citrus flavor, a slightly crispy “crust” on the first day, and a luxuriously rich texture (without feeling heavy, like other butter-laden cakes) that only improves the longer you can keep yourself from devouring the entire loaf… not that I would know. I liked mine with freshly whipped cream at the start and end of my day, and next time I will be sure to save extra blood oranges make the honey blood orange compote!
It’s the weekend. And that means breakfast at home.
This weekend? A favorite… pancakes.
My parents often made pancakes on the weekends when I was growing up and it was always felt like such a treat. The pancakes came from a quick mix in a yellow box, and until I left for college, I thought that was the way everyone made pancakes. In fact, they are still the pancake that I compare all other pancakes to!
These buttermilk pancakes are my current from-scratch favorite. I like to add fruit to the inside (and outside) of my pancakes to help alleviate the guilt of eating cake (smothered in real maple syrup) for breakfast. But the cakes are light, fluffy, and oh-so-addictive. The hardest part about making pancakes is not eating all of them as I cook them (two at a time on a medium-sized saucepan is not quite efficient enough for my empty stomach in the morning)!
Today I added a few fresh blueberries and lemon zest. It was a perfect way start to my Sunday.
Though Andreas and I don’t really make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, we do try to do a little something special, whether it’s dinner together at our favorite sushi spot or bacon lettuce tomato sandwiches on a lunch date. This year I somehow managed to make Andreas’ ULTIMATE IDEAL COOKIE, almost completely by accident!
His ideal cookie is thin and shatteringly crispy, sweet with a hint of salty. This cookie is IT. I have to give a shout out to my cousin Emily, for bringing to my attention some lacey and florentine cookie recipes two weeks ago (Emily, I’m still not certain about the difference of the two, but I’m thinking a lacey cookie is any flat and crunchy cookie with high butter to low flour ratio, whereas a florentine is a type of lacey cookie that includes ground nuts). Because of the thin crispyness of these cookies, they seemed a perfect candidate to satisfy Andreas’ cookie wishes, so I found a recipe that incorporated a few more of Andreas’ other favorite ingredients: shredded coconut and oatmeal.
The cookies are light and so crispy on their own, slightly caramelly (that’s what happens when a good amount of butter melts into a good amount of sugar), with a bit of chew from the coconut and oatmeal. With melted chocolate chips spread between two cookies, they made excellent crispy cookie sandwiches!
Now that I’ve found the cookie that Andreas would DO ANYTHING FOR, I am having a hard time suppressing thoughts of all the ways I can use this to bribe him to do what I want and buy me lots of presents the next time I will reward him with his favorite cookie!
Oatmeal Sandwich Bread and Meyer Lemon Blood Orange Marmalade
I finally had the opportunity to slooooooowww down this weekend and so I was happy to take advantage: I caught up on trashy reality tv, filled the apartment with the warmth and aroma of freshly baked whole wheat oatmeal bread (I wish I could bottle it!), and attempted to make jam for the very first time.
This bread is so good that I have actually been looking forward to waking up every morning for a toasted slice! It’s perfect with just a pat of butter, and even better with a bit of jam. It is earthy from the whole wheat and oatmeal, sweet from a touch of molasses, with a soft and tender crumb.
I’ve been eating this bread with a generous helping of home-made meyer lemon and blood orange marmalade. I was intrigued by the unique combination of Meyer lemon (a lemon-tangerine hybrid) and blood oranges and it certainly did not disappoint. It is a perfect balance of tart and sweet, like a little jolt of sunshine to break me out of my winter blues. Because both Meyer lemons and blood oranges are sweeter and less acidic than their lemon and orange relatives, the jam is not as mouth-puckering as one might expect from a fresh marmalade- the citrus is still a bit tart, but subtly so.
Making the jam was actually very easy, especially because I did not bother with canning the jam (trusting that I would succeed in eating the jam within a month, which, at the rate I am going through this jam, will not pose a problem!). Slices of fruit are cooked down until the pith and peel are soft and tender, then white sugar (for sweet) and raw demerara sugar (for slightly carmamelized flavor) are added until the mixture cooks down and sets into a sweet jammy goop. For next time, I would cut the slices into smaller segments, because although the cooking process renders the pith and peel into soft citrus candy, it is a bit difficult to spread these long tendrils on toast. I also think adding a bit of crystallized ginger might be heavenly. And I would love to learn to can, so I could make huge batches and enjoy all year round!
Tomorrow is the Super Bowl and you know what that means.
Beer, overdosing on snack foods, hanging out with friends, entertaining commercials, and (hopefully) an action-packed game!
I always look forward to the Super Bowl, but it is a little bittersweet as it not only signifies the end of football season and but also my excuse for vegging (and sometimes napping) on the couch for 6 hours straight every sunday from September until end of January! I am a rather uncontrollable snack-er, I can’t resist tasty crunchy bites, handful after handful, while I veg out during games. This snack mix is perfect for munching- it is crunchy, sweet AND salty, and could be considered rather healthy as it is primarily made of nuts and low-in-fat pretzels. Thanks to my good friend for bringing this recipe to my attention long ago and giving me the best snack mix.
I know I’m a day late, but pulling together a 35 slide powerpoint lab meeting presentation prevented me from posting this yesterday. But don’t let the passing of New Year’s day prevent you from enjoying these buttery little cookies- they are quick to pull together and are perfect on non-New Year’s days, particularly with tea.
These cookies remind me of the favorites we would get from Chinese bakeries in San Francisco when I was little- buttery and a bit crumbly, just slightly sweet, with a lovely subtle almond flavor. And happily crinkled tops.
Here’s to the new year, may you have the best health, love, and happiness in this year!
There is a spectacular amount of snow piled up on the streets of Boston, thanks to weekly snowstorms over the last 4 weeks. But I’m tired of waking to the beeping and racket of snow plows thundering up and down the roads before its even light out. I’m tired of the unsolicited workout I’ve been getting from stomping through the snow in heavy snow boots to get to lab and back home. I’m tired of staring out my window at lab, desperately wishing “snow day” applied to me and that I could hang out in my pajamas and watch the snow fall from inside my apartment (or better yet, from my bed!).
To snap me out of my little snow-funk, I decided to channel some California in the form of a cheese-y, crispy, spicy quesadilla! For a little winter twist, the filling is a combination of monterey pepperjack cheese, caramelized red onions, and sweet roasted acorn squash.
Adding brightly flavored (and colored!) fresh tomatilla salsa verde and sour cream to these quesadillas brought back fond memories of enviable warm winters in California. Like that one year we wore flip flops and tank tops on my birthday because it was 70 degrees and sunny in San Diego. Man, I miss those days.
Tomorrow’s forecast includes freezing rain and sleet after another 6-10 inches of snow overnight. I guess I’ll just have to look forward to frying up more of these (with extra cheese! extra salsa! extra butter! extra crispy!) for dinner tomorrow!
Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato
My parents are both amazing cooks and much of my love and respect for cooking and eating comes from growing up in a household where most of our meals were cooked from (mostly) scratch. But what ignited my insatiable curiosity about new recipes, unfamiliar ingredients, and different flavor combinations was actually the Food Network. Cooking shows brought recipes into my home and through powerful visual persuasion (mouth-watering closeups of fresh ingredients and sizzling sautée pans), encouraged me to try these recipes at home. One of my favorite shows is the incredible and magnanimous Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa, with her to-die-for luxurious Hampton kitchen, effortless parties and luncheons, charmingly goofy Jeffrey, and fabulous table-decorating friends. Her recipes are simple, classic, and rich with quality ingredients that produce seemingly extravagant dishes.
This recipe is representative of Ina’s recipes: simple ingredients, but the end result feels luxurious and completely disguises its humble beginnings. A weekday chicken dish can be transformed into extravagance befitting a weekend dinner party by baking herbed goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and fresh basil underneath the skin until oozy, crispy, and totally delicious.
3 boneless chicken breasts, skin-on 4 to 5 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (Ina recommends Montrachet) 3 sun-dried tomatoes, julienned Fresh basil leaves (optional) Good olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan. (I prepped mine on a cutting board, then moved them to a cast iron skillet for baking.)
Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving 1 side attached.
Cut the goat cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place 1 or 2 slices plus 1/3 of the julienned sun-dried tomatoes under the skin of each chicken breast (and, if using, 1-2 fresh basil leaves).
Pull the skin over as much of the meat as possible so the chicken won’t dry out.
With your fingers, rub each piece with olive oil, and sprinkle them very generously with salt and pepper.
Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes (in the cast iron skillet, mine cooked in about 25 minutes), until the skin is lightly browned and the chicken is just cooked through.
For some unknown reason, my face has decided to relive my youthful teenage years this week, which is a nice way of saying pimples of gargantuous proportions and intense redness have unapologetically assumed residence on my face. Not quite sure why my face has decided to punish me; it could be the stress, it could be the junk food, or it could be that my face is now predicting snow storms in the Northeast (by size and intensity of color)- in which case the one right between my eyebrows represents the 12 inches last week, the one to the right of my nose was the 6 inches this week… and the one next to that predicts a few inches next week!
The pimples have nothing to do with this quickbread, though “pimples” and “pumpkin” both start with the same letter, so I could say that this post is brought to you by the Letter P. I could also remark how the fresh red cranberries that stud each slice of bread are very reminiscent of the recent unwanted topological additions to my face. But seriously, enough about my face already- let’s talk pumpkin, cranberries, and walnuts with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg! This bread is very moist and flavorful, from to the pumpkin goodness and spices and unexpected addition of orange zest. I really enjoyed the tart cranberries, and from another cranberry quickbread, learned the benefits of using both fresh cranberries and sweeter dried cranberries. The flavors are deliciously Fall, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it for breakfast almost every day of this very wintery week- toasted, with a little pat of butter, and a smile on my face.
In the last few days, we’ve been experiencing the type of weather that I didn’t know existed until I moved to Boston- weather that I am beginning to think of as “Hell Freezing Over” because it’s certainly cold, and most definitely hellish!
On Monday, it was the kind of cold that freezes any moisture in your nose into instant boogers that impair your breathing. Not that you really want to suck in 15 degree air and freeze your body from the inside out, however, NOT breathing is, unfortunately, not a viable survival option.On Tuesday we were rewarded with a 10 degree rise in temperature, but what came with it was more snow (big fluffy flakes the size of golf balls- fun!) that later turned to rain. When I lived in California and didn’t know better, I thought snow was the worst weather: it’s cold and inconvenient. Having experienced half a dozen winters in Boston, I’ve learned that I would much rather have snow over the dreaded WINTRY MIX (freezing rain, sleet, rain rain, snow, and cold air in any possible combination or ALL AT ONCE). It is just miserable to be get wet when it’s so cold, crossing the street becomes treacherous as the melted snow re-freezes into slippery slides on the sidewalks, and street corners are unavoidably huge lakes of slush and dirty melted snow. AND tonight and tomorrow we’re in for even MORE snow, and all I can say is… I’m tired of Winter, please bring Spring now.
One of my ways to combat serious winter weather is to warm your home and your body with braised meats and stews. It’s hearty and filling to warm your body, and slowly cooks for a couple hours on your stove, warming your home. I braised lamb shanks and lamb stew meat in beer and chicken stock until the meat fell apart when prodded with a fork, and added lots of vegetables and lentils at the end for a most satisfying stew.
I’m not sure I would call these cookies (instead of pastries), but I will not hesitate to call them AMAZING.
The flaky pastry dough is very reminiscent of (if not identical to) another favorite “cookie” of mine, rugelach. I don’t know what chemical reactions occur between the cheese and butter at 400 degrees, but they just happen and give you wonderfully light and flakey croissant-like layers (but without all the intensive work). WIN.
These “cookies” are infinitely adaptable to your taste preferences because you can fill them with any sweet or savory ingredient(s) that strikes your fancy. My fancy this time? Nutella. And raspberry preserves.
The raspberry preserves were a little messy… it didn’t want to stay in the dough. Or perhaps I (as usual) was a tad bit over-generous with the portion of filling.
And this has been a familiar scene lately with all the snow that fell this week, though I can happily say that I love the results of a dusting of powdered sugar in my kitchen so much more than the consequences of a snowstorm in Boston (brown slush and ice until April).
Oh, hello delectable flakey layers. Thank you for being so addictive.
Recently I’ve been having some trouble sleeping. I have no problem falling asleep, in fact, often I’m ready to drop my head into my dinner, but I have been waking up in the middle of the night, but despite feeling exhausted, I am unable to fall back asleep. I’ve ramped up work in lab and also re-established some routine of physical exercise (so much for not making resolutions for the New Year?), and then battled a mild cold, but it hasn’t left much time or energy to clean the apartment or run some much needed errands (I only have one elastic hair tie left in my possession and am running dangerously low on clean underwear), or post about recent deliciousness on my Tumblr! This has contributed to my inability to fall back asleep when I wake in the middle of the night/ungodly early in the morning because I can’t stop worrying about all the things left undone at lab and at home… and an unplanned wedding (eek).
So here I am… it’s 3 am, I have failed for the last hour to fall back asleep, and since I don’t think my neighbors (or Andreas) would appreciate me vacuuming the apartment (even though it is in desperate need) at this hour, instead, I will take advantage of the extra time to share these fabulous lamb chops and catch up on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills!
I didn’t always like lamb chops, but have slowly acquired a love for them (as I have for coffee and tofu), though this love has certainly been accelerated by living with and loving a lamb-loving Greek. Some may complain that lamb is too “game-y”- to which I would argue makes it almost tastier than beef (I say “almost” because I could never choose between lamb and beef if I could only bring one meat to eat for the rest of my life on a desert island) because it’s distinct and tastes like.. well, an animal. But even if you think that lamb is not your favorite type of meat, this recipe is not just for lamb but also for a tasty pistachio and olive tapenade. Roasted pistachios, briney green olives, capers, fresh parsley and oregano, and lemon makes a unique, fresh-tasting and light tapenade. The lamb chops are seared first to get nice and caramelized, then finished in the oven topped with the briney and nutty mixture to make a truly mouth-watering combination. Man, I think I just made myself hungry.
The recipe makes more than enough tapenade for more than one rack of lamb, which you can then enjoy the next day in a toasted sandwich! Or on a second rack of lamb…
How is everyone doing with their New Year’s resolutions?
I am a horrible person because I am posting a recipe that makes about 80 homemade caramels a mere 4 days after some of you have resolved to cut down on sugar and unnecessary sweets in 2011. But I just know that if you made these, you’d forgive me immediately because these are just simply divine.
The idea of making candy has always scared me just a little bit… all that boiling (for who-knows-how-long!), all that sugar, I just have no idea what I’m doing, oh and I don’t own a candy thermometer. But, as luck would have it, during a quick trip to the grocery store that afternoon I had reserved for baking cookies for Christmas, there was a huge display with candy thermometers in the deli/frozen meats section (why, I have no clue)… and they were on sale. SALE, people! So, of course, I bought one. And I immediately knew what I wanted to make with my shiny new $3 candy thermometer. Salted caramels.
I haven’t made caramels before, though I’ve come close (here and here), but it was time to take the training wheels off!! And it really wasn’t so bad… once I realized that all I had to do was figure out how to boil sugar and corn syrup to freakishly high 3-digit temperatures, add cream and not freak out too badly when the mixture bubbled and hissed, and then (patiently) wait till my new ever-so-handy candy thermometer read either 260ºF (a.k.a. hard ball, for softer chewy caramels) or 265ºF (for firmer caramels). Because I was a little bit wary of the bubbling sugar at boiling temperatures, I wasn’t quite sure how high to set my stove and started out conservatively at a low setting. After 30 min of smallish bubbles, my sugar and cream mixture was nowhere near 260º, and I realized I had to crank it up if I ever wanted to eat these caramels before the new year. Once the temperature started rising, it was pretty straightforward- I knew I wanted a consistency firmer than salt-water taffy, so I went for 265ºF and the firmer texture.
Once the caramel cools to room temperature, they are sprinkled with additional salt to contrast the lovely sweet buttery flavor of caramelized sugar, and can be cut and wrapped into individual servings. The recipe also includes variations for vanilla or other spiced caramels that I would love to try… except that these fleur de sel caramels are pretty much perfect and just like how I tend to order the same thing at favorite restaurants: I probably will just continue to make these forever.
For New Year’s Eve, I thought it would be fun to have a champagne dessert to drink with our champagne toast! This champagne-flavored panna cotta is super easy peasy-if you can warm cream on the stove, you can make this. The champagne flavor is quite bold so be sure to use a champagne that you love to drink! The booziness does mellow out over time, in fact, I found the panna cotta more to my liking 2 days after I made it. To accompany the panna cotta, I poached pears with a vanilla bean until they were tender and reduced the poaching liquid until it was syrupy. The pears and vanilla syrup were enjoyed the morning after with yogurt and granola, and I can’t wait to put them in my oatmeal and eat them with ice cream!
I hope you all had a nice weekend ringing in the New Year, perhaps over-indulging in the last hours of 2010 before those resolutions of 2011 kick in!
I don’t like to make New Year’s resolutions because it seems a bit disingenuous making grand promises about flossing everyday or working out 5 times a week, when I KNOW fully well that I will be breaking them before the month is out. Now that I’m thinking about it, I suppose it’s not actually the resolving part that I’m against- it’s the guilt and disappointment in myself that I feel when I break my resolutions that I would like to avoid! So though I have not explicitly made any resolutions (and therefore, you cannot fault me when I inevitably break them!), I am very proud of my first 2 days of 2011: I slept in (until 9:30 and 10), cleaned (part of) my room, was efficient in lab, tried a few recipes I’d tagged way back in 2010, and went to a yoga class. I hope this streak of motivation and improved attitude and time management continues into 2011, and most importantly, I look forward to all the new recipes and random ramblings I will share here in 2011!
I always find that visiting Andreas’ family in Virginia is very much like being on vacation. They have a beautiful house on the water, we enjoy home-cooked meals, and there really is nothing more to do than relax, catch up on recreational reading, get to the next level of Angry Birds (hello my name is Crystal and I am an addict), and play with this guy, who never (EVER) tires of his aerobie:
However, this Christmas, we got more fun than we bargained for. A huge blizzard hit the East Coast (supposedly, the very same storm that almost drowned California earlier last week), and dumped an impressive amount of snow in Virginia. We hung out inside all day (not entirely by choice, the roads remained unplowed for a day and a half) and watched the snow blow horizontally. Eventually we ventured outside to regain our sanity help shovel the driveway, and Andreas’ enterprising brother committed himself to constructing THE BEST IGLOO EVER.
This igloo was totally state of the art: it completely insulated one from the chilly wind yet let in enough sunlight to bounce around the snow-white walls to brightly illuminate the entire space, had 2 custom-made seats with headrests molded into the snow walls, it comfortably housed 3 people (or 2 humans and 1 canine), AND had a fire-pit, Wi-Fi, and home theater system!!! OK, it didn’t have the last 3 amenities, but maybe in next year’s model!
Chez Panisse Gingersnaps and Thomas Keller's Oreos
Well, how quickly time flies (I guess I was having too much fun this month), I can’t believe it’s already Christmas Eve.
I’m in Virginia (which is as cold as Boston, boo) for Christmas, and since no holiday is complete without an EXCESSIVE amount of BUTTER, I brought an army of cookies with me: Chez Panisse Gingersnaps and Thomas Keller’s Oreos. It’s like bringing a bit of California to Virginia, wouldn’t you say?
This was my first time ever baking gingersnaps. I’ve never really been a fan of ginger-flavored cookies, even with all the gingerbread men and gingerbread house hype during the holidays; unlike others who perhaps have difficulties refraining from sampling the gingerbread men or houses they were supposed to be decorating, I’ve never had a problem.
These cookies are fantasticly tasty- warmly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and molasses, and topped with crunchy raw sugar. The cooking time is customizable to your cookie texture preference- if you’re into less snappy gingersnaps, bake with a little less time, and if you’re into high snap factor, bake with more time. If you’re into the crispy sides and chewy middle.. well, I don’t think I managed to get that perfect balance THIS time (sorry Andreas), but I don’t doubt that you guys can figure it out.
Added bonus to a yummy spicy cookie? They make your kitchen smell like the HOLIDAYS.
Now these guys are less holiday-themed and more because I had been dying for an opportunity to bake them. Cookies that require rolling out, cutting, chilling, baking, cooling, AND filling are not baked on any random day in my kitchen- I’m gonna be honest, that’s quite a bit of work for a cookie just for myself. But given how well-received the chocolate-y chocolate World Peace Cookies have been with Andreas’ family the last two Christmases, I felt that they might enjoy Thomas Keller’s Homemade Oreos.
The secret to their awesomeness is in the white chocolate cream filling. You heard me. WHITE. CHOCOLATE. CREAM. FILLING. You will NEVER look at store-bought oreo filling the same. Believe me.
Sometimes “homemade” versions of store-bought goods sometimes lack the essence of the commercial counterpart (perhaps because we taste that first and forever define that food with the commercial flavor), I have to say, Thomas Keller’s Oreos pretty much TKO (technical knock out.. HAHA, get it??) store oreos’ butts! Although this isn’t the best chocolate cookie recipe I’ve had (for that, see here), but the combination of the crispy and slightly bitter chocolate cookie with the creamy and buttery white chocolate filling is the epitome of the old adage “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Looks like there may be quite a White Christmas in Boston this year! I have seen snowflakes in the forecast for over a week now, but as the days passed, the real snowflakes never really manifested (minus the few that fluttered about on my birthday).
Inbound, Red Line, Longfellow Bridge.
Charles River. freezing.
Until today. The snow has been lightly, but steadily falling since late this morning, and there was already an inch or so accumulated by the time I slip-and-slided walked home! It’s kind of exciting- the first snow of the winter- I almost can’t wait to see what kind of white wonderland we will wake up to tomorrow!
Speaking of Christmas, this will be the first year (out of 29!!) where I will not be home with my parents for Christmas. There was that one year, when I was visiting with my uber-adventurous cousin Emily in Peru, but I still flew back on Christmas Day, just in time to be picked up from the airport on the way to annual Christmas Lunch with Emily’s family and friends (minus Emily, as she was still traipsing around the islands of Lake Titicaca- and no, I’m totally not making that name up, even I am not THAT good). It’s a strange feeling… and though I was just home less than a month ago, it feels… just weird.. to not be preparing to see family and friends and having to send cards and presents via the good old-fashioned way instead of just packing them in my luggage.
*p.s. To those dear friends and family members… the gifts will be late, as I have never had to send them before, I procrastinated as usual and still don’t have all my Xmas shopping done totally did not factor in the time it would take for the post office to get things from this side of the country to that side.
Instead of Christmas in California, it will be my first Christmas in Virginia (which has ALREADY experienced snow last week!) with Andreas and his family. I am looking forward to being around a close-knit family for Christmas and experiencing their Christmas traditions-especially for the tradition started last year, where Andreas, his brother, and his father (and some extremely helpful hunting dogs) hunt game birds. Andreas assured me that with his expert marksmanship, we could expect an impressive bounty this year to prepare for dinner.. so of course, we test-drove a new recipe to find a suitably Christmas-worthy (read: TASTY) preparation for quail.
Last year for Thanksgiving we fried quails to crispy perfection. This year I found this recipe, which includes a cognac-based sauce that is very similar (almost identical) to the one we frequently make to glamorize our steaks (and believe me, it DOES). But it also interestingly included green grapes and roasted chestnuts, and since this IS the "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" time of the year, it seemed quite serendipitous.
The little birds are pan-roasted and then finished in the oven, though we found that if the birds are small (and de-boned), they could probably be cooked entirely in the pan and this would also increase the crispyness of the final product. And we all know crispy skin = good to eat. The sauce is flavored with thyme and cognac, made smooth and lustrous with cream, and reduced until it is rich and syrupy. Roasted chestnuts and sweet green grapes are cooked briefly with the sauce and though their flavors don’t seem to infuse the sauce too much, the grapes are sweet and provide interesting contrast with the very savory sauce and bird. Looking forward to Christmas (and quails!) in Virginia!
It began deceivingly leisurely: I was enjoying the warmer-than-usual Boston November weather and lab had slowed to a more bearable pace as we prepared for and moved our entire lab to a brand spanking new building. Then suddenly I was on a California-bound plane to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving where I stuffed my face for a week straight (which is quite amazing considering I didn’t cook/bake ONE THING that I ate that week). We also managed to squeeze in a beautiful day in Napa, enjoying the crisp fall air and the colors, sampling wines, and AMAZING food.
last grapes in Napa…
Dear oversized pistachio macaron from Bouchon Bakery… will you marry me?
And now I feel as if I’ve been hurtled into the heart of December: bitingly cold weather that makes your eyes tear (it may be in part because I’m mourning the loss of the ability to wear tank tops and flats without socks for the next 6 months) and forecasts of snow (though have yet to see a snowflake), the unrelenting barrage of Christmas-mania (Christmas songs on the radio, the onslaught of online and in-store sales which only tempt me to buy more for myself instead of gifts for others, and Christmas decorations ad nauseum- which, I actually kind of love), and the inter-holiday slump where you are still slightly food comatose from Thanksgiving and can’t get yourself motivated to be productive at work because your brain is already on vacation, celebrating a birthday and Christmas. WHEW.
It’s no Rockefeller Center, but I am sort of proud of this slightly ghetto yet extremely fitting demonstration of Central Square Christmas spirit.
Christmas spirit is alive and well in lab as well. And that’s not a reflection of the tree, WE HAVE TWO. Heck yeah.
I am still a bit sad about how quickly November passed; it is one of my favorite months, mostly because it seems (to me anyway) that the whole point of the month is the anticipation of and preparation for the greatest holiday ever- a holiday who’s singular objective is to EAT. Where the quantity ingested is directly proportional to the amount of THANKS given. And I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the hardships endured by the Pilgrims and Native Americans, so yes, I will have some more turkey and pie! I LOVE spending the first weeks of November poring over delectable recipes for appetizers, turkeys, stuffing, and pumpkin-based desserts in magazines and online, while watching Thanksgiving-themed episodes on the Food Network, and finally picking a handful of recipes to test in the kitchen to share with friends in Boston who are also avoiding the hectic holiday travel, or, like last year, an intimate dinner for two. But because this year we spent Thanksgiving in California, eating TWO amazing Thanksgiving meals (late lunch and dinner), and because I didn’t have the wherewithal to prepare a pre-Thanksgiving meal for ourselves here in Boston before we left, I feel like I missed out a special part of November!
Another momentous occasion that passed without much fanfare here was my tumblr’s first-versary! I started this little space to document my triumphs (and failures) in the kitchen so I could easily go back to recipes that worked and that we loved. It enabled me to learn how to (kind of) use a SLR camera, gave me an outlet to express myself and my randomness, and, most importantly, has provided a constant reminder that I DO have a life outside of graduate school that I love and enjoy, and no matter what goes on in lab, I will always have this.
I had always envisioned baking up something complicated and decadent to celebrate my first year in keeping up a blog, something that required a few pounds of expensive chocolate or a multi-step endeavor like home-made croissants or macarons. However, seeing as November was on fast forward and the tumblrversary date was almost 2 weeks and counting ago, I decided to just make something simple, something that I love to eat, and in a flavor that epitomizes the November and Thanksgiving that had passed me by all too quickly.