June 26, 2007

A Week Excising Lefotvers...

As we prepare for next week's summer get-away in Salt Lake City, I sigh every time I open the refrigerator. The abundance of summer fruits and vegetables. The cheese, eggs and other dairy products. As much as I'm looking forward to our week away, I don't want to come back to new pets growing in my refrigerator... How will we use everything up before we leave?

Leftovers, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How appropriate that I'm hosting installment #6 of Leftover Tuesdays -- I've got plenty from which to choose my contribution. Banana-yogurt smoothies, french toast with cherry compote and sliced strawberries, curried chicken salad, roasted root vegetables, cream of broccoli soup, an Asian green bean salad, sausage sandwiches with leftover homemade mustard have all graced my menu over the last several days.

But for my contribution to Leftover Tuesdays #6, I turned to the humble potato for inspiration.

Taking inspiration from Sher at What Did you Eat, I adapted her Poblano-Stuffed Portobellos to use a baked potato left from Saturday's visit to Izzy's Steaks & Chops' new (and apparently still somewhat secret) San Ramon location. I looked at her ingredient list and compared it to the contents of my refrigerator.

Onion? Check.
Baby Spinach? Check.
Rice? Substitute baked potato guts.
Cheddar? Check.
Oh... and some mushrooms... And some roasted corn and zucchini...

So for a 79c additional investment in a poblano pepper, I have Tuesday night's dinner. In addition to the environmental and ethical benefits, this leftover thing is great for my personal economy.

Bottom line, how'd it turn out?

Eons better than that other 79c staple from my college days!

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June 10, 2007

Choco-leche Cupcakes Parfaits - Where did I fail?

Okay my foodie friends -- especially those of you with baking backgrounds -- help me out here...

Where did I go wrong?

I started with Shawnda's sinful celebration of refined sugar.

I planned to take it to work. One my colleagues is moving on, and we intended to commemorate the event as we always do... with obscene amounts of food. What's a few thousand calories among friends?

Since the cake as Shawnda created it looks a bit fragile and I have forty-five minute morning commute, I thought cupcakes might make a more portable option.

I followed the cake recipe as Shawnda published it, baking my cupcakes for about 20 minutes. I used this recipe for my dulce la leche.

The problem?

My little cakes didn't soak up much of the dulce la leche. It ran down the sides and coated my kitchen counter -- until I quickly transferred the cakes-in-progress to a cookie sheet.

But I wasn't going to be defeated by chocolate cake and scalded sugar milk. I broke out the box of dessert dishes I'd recently discovered in the last of my father's kitchen supplies, de-papered my cupcakes, breaking them in bits in the little bowls. As I spooned the dulce la leche over 34 individual little cakes I found myself grateful that Mo believed that more is better... To finish them off, I topped each cake with a spoonful of whipped cream and a sprinkle of toffee bits.

In the end my adaptation of Shawnda's confection was a hit with my tasters... regardless of how they looked, they *taste* phenomenal. And the individual servings actually worked to some people's advantage; an enforced portion control for those who wanted to indulge -- within limits. The biggest challenge was finding space in the refrigerator for 30-some desserts!

But I'm curious what you think... where did this fail? Did I bake my cupcakes too long? Not long enough? (They seemed neither dry nor overly moist) Were cupcakes themselves the error, with perhaps not enough surface area to absorb the caramelized milk goodness? Or should I have stuck with the sweetened condensed milk rather than adventuring on my own with the dulce la leche?

Inquiring minds want your input...

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June 09, 2007

Coming Soon -- Leftover Tuesday!

Originally launched by David over at Cooking Chat back in January, Leftover Tuesdays celebrate creative reinterpretation of ingredients lingering in refrigerators around the world: leftovers. I'm honored that David's offered me the opportunity to host the 6th edition on Tuesday June 26.

The rules are fairly simple:

  • First, the easy part: have a leftover item on hand as a result of your cooking (or other dining) between Wednesday June 19 and Monday, June 25
  • Second, make something new and spectacular with those leftover items and blog about this new creation by Tuesday June 26.
  • Third, let me know about it. Send an email with a link to your post, the name of your new creation (and a 100x100 photo if you'd like that included in the roundup). Send your entries to dolores(dot)ferrero(at)gmail(dot)com by Thursday June 28.
I will post a round up on or about Sunday July 1. Then we'll vote. Pick a couple of winners in categories to be announced soon.

Looking for ideas or inspiration to get you started? Check out the previous editions:

David's inaugural roundup in January.
Rachel hosts in February.
Megan offers options for every meal in March.
Ceres and Bacchus (what a *great* blog name) reminds us of the financial benefit of toting leftovers to work for lunch during the 4th edition roundup in April.
And Pam of Project Foodie continues the tradition of geographic and culinary diversity in May.

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June 04, 2007

Market Fresh Meal - Salmon

It's 7:30 PM on a typical Monday night. Your heroine's followed eight and a half hours of meetings, test plan reviews, performance evaluations and budget analysis with 45 minutes at 25 MPH crawling up the grade toward home.

The mission: a healthy, nutritious, balanced dinner... before the sun set *completely* in the west.

Fortunately my refrigerator's well-stocked with goodies from a weekend of market field trips.

I started with fresh Pacific salmon caught three days earlier off California's coast, one of a tempting variety of seafood offerings available from North Bay Quality Seafood of Cotati at my local farmer's market.

After a bit of recipe research on the web, I took my inspiration from Bron's Baked Fillet of Salmon with Sweet Chili Sauce, and while the salmon baked I created a salad base from a handful of farm-fresh romaine, onions, and avocado from my CSA box tossed with a vinaigrette made with the chili sauce.

By 8:15, I was sitting down to a delicious dinner composed almost entirely of local ingredients assembled quickly in my own kitchen, glad I hadn't given in to the lure of take-out. It wouldn't have been *nearly* as satisfying -- to eat or to blog about!

Special thanks to Alanna of A Veggie Venture, Jeanette of Matchbox Creative and Kickpleat from Everybody Likes Sandwiches for this adorable icon. "Blush" the Sweet Tomato will appear on blog posts around this world this summer when a blogger highlights the delights of the local farmers' market.

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June 02, 2007

It's Pretzel Time!

When I joined the ranks of the Daring Bakers a proud member of April's Epsilon class, I was excited about the challenges ahead of me, and the skills I'd develop as I approached each of them. I'd watched the previous months with a combination of awe and envy; I wanted to play along but knew my schedule wouldn't allow it at the time.

Enter one of our newest Daring Bakers, Tara of Should you Eat That, who has ambitiously agreed to go back and complete the coursework she's missed. Anxious to try some of the challenges I missed out on, I've decided to join her.

Our first course: Pretzels 101.

Back in November, our founders Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice) and Lisa (La Mia Cucina) decided venture together into territory neither of them had explored on their own. They pledged to take a single recipe for pretzels, each attempt it in her own kitchen, and post the results on the same day. Their pursuit of pretzels turned out to be a food-blogging tipping point... eight months later there are close to 70 of us communicating via email, text and instant message about the latest challenge.

Sorry... June's challenge is a story for another day. This morning I stepped back in time, pulling up the pretzel recipe that started it all and plunging in head-first.

I've never made soft pretzels before. I'd never *eaten* soft pretzels before. So I wasn't quite sure what to expect. In the end, with one exception easily attributed to user error I'm quite pleased with the result. I love how easily the dough came together. I elected to knead it by hand, and the process princess/efficiency empress in me loved coming away from that experience feeling refreshed both physically and emotionally. Who needs a personal trainer or a therapist when you're surrounded by flour, yeast, sugar, salt and water?!?

The human error? I failed to look at the pictures. My pretzels looked like hangman's nooses. Oddly macabre, but quite tasty. Fortunately John stepped in and showed me how to properly twist a pretzel.

To accompany the pretzels, I also made Golden Yellow Mustard, as published in this month's issue of Food and Wine magazine. French's, step aside. This is tasty (far less chemical in taste), inexpensive, and easy to make.

Curious how the others fared? Want the recipe to try them for yourself? Check out Ivonne's story, Lisa's and Tara's.

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June 01, 2007

Hail, Caesar!

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones...

When Katie from Other People's Food announced Caesar Salad as the theme for HHDD, I chose this recipe for Caesar Salad with Skewered Shellfish. Unfortunately, life intervened and I missed the deadline. (Checkout the roundup for some of the most mouth-watering interpretations of lettuce I've ever seen).

Fortunately for me, fellow Daring Bakers Kelly and Lis realized swimsuit season looms ahead. In response, they've temporarily abandoned flour, sugar, butter and eggs, embracing the ultimate diet staple: the salad. Their call for contributions to Salad 'Stravaganza gave me a second chance with Caesar.

We prepared the salad pretty much as-published, and although I suspect under nutritional analysis the dressing wouldn't qualify as light it was quite tasty and will probably become our go-to recipe for homemade Caesar dressing. Leftover salad dressing would make a great topping for grilled chicken or baked potatoes.

For the diet-minded, it could pretty easily be lightened without sacrificing much; the garlic, anchovies and Parmesan would more than make up for light mayo. One caveat on that note: this is probably *not* the salad for a first date...the garlic and anchovies aren't generally conducive to first kisses.

On the positive side this salad goes together quickly and plates beautifully. It would make a great light summer meal; grilling the seafood keeps the heat out of the kitchen.

Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods...

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