October 30, 2007

Retro Recipes Coming Soon...

For those of you waiting for the Retro Recipe Challenge Round Up, hang tight. I'm working on it, but life and work are intervening as they often do. You'll see it late on the 31st or early on the 1st, I promise!

October 29, 2007

Halloween-ie Bostini

As we segue from October to November (just *where* has 2007 gone?!?) it's time again for another installment of my trials and tribulations cursing a blue streak about misadventures with flour, sugar, butter and eggs: the Daring Baker challenge.

October's challenge: the Bostini Cream Pie. A twist on the traditional that pairs a rich vanilla custard with an orange-infused chiffon cake and then covers it in chocolate glaze, Mary of Alpineberry chose her favorite restaurant dessert to challenge and inspire us.

As I gathered the ingredients together -- more than a dozen eggs, close to a quart of heaving whipping cream *plus* a healthy dose of whole milk, a half a pound each of sugar, butter and chocolate -- I was pretty sure this one was going to be rich and opulent. And hey... with 3/4 cup of orange juice, it's healthy too, right? Gotta have that vitamin C!

The chiffon cake batter came together quickly and easily and soon the scent of baked orange permeated my kitchen. Because we're closing in on Halloween and the predominant colors in this dessert fit that theme and I've got a pumpkin shape cupcake pan I rarely get to use, I chose to make Halloweenie Bostini in pumpkin shapes. While I lubricated the pan well with oil and flour, my mini pumpkins still tended to cling to the pan for dear life. I worked with them patiently and ultimately got them all out with minimal damage (to them OR me), but I think this pan lends itself far better to a heavy battered confection. Since the recipe makes *far* more than twelve cakelettes, I used my silicon muffin pan for the remaining batter -- and these I was able to extricate without issue.

While the cakes cooled, I tackled the custard. Again, a fairly straightforward preparation. Over the course of the month several of my fellow Daring Bakers commented that the custard (really a pastry cream) didn't set firmly enough to slice it or pipe it to good effect, so I didn't even try. In hindsight, I think I could have. John's contribution was to stir the cooking custard to coat the bottom of a spoon, and at my instruction he may have gone overboard here - the end product was a firm, velvety voluptuous creamy custard base.

This recipe makes a LOT of rich (and caloric) individual servings. I think there are 14 in my refrigerator. And we have no plans to entertain soon. So I've stored the chocolate glaze in a squeeze bottle, brushed the pumpkin cakes with a bit of Cointreau so that they don't dry out and we're assembling them 'to order'. We tried one last night and these go to eleven -- a good thing, given the caloric content. They make a beautiful presentation, and I'll probably make them again when I need an impressive go-to dessert for a larger group.

For those of you inclined to try it out for yourself, you can find the recipe here. And hundreds of other highly creative interpretations here.

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October 25, 2007

We, the people...


The United States spent the year in bicentennial celebration. Speeches were delivered. Fireworks detonated. Flags waved. The School House Rock team created catchy cartoons designed teach American children their history in a way they understood between episodes of Scooby Doo and Dyno Mutt, Dog Wonder:

Hey, do you know about the U.S.A.?
Do you know about the government?
Can you tell me about the Constitution?
Hey, learn about the U.S.A.

In 1787 I'm told
Our founding fathers did agree
To write a list of principles
For keepin' people free.

The U.S.A. was just startin' out.
A whole brand-new country.
And so our people spelled it out
The things that we should be.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected 39th president of the United States. A first class stamp cost 13 cents. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl. Cincinnati won the World Series. Montreal won the Stanley Cup. Dorothy Hamill captured American hearts on the ice (and inspired teenage hairstyles for years to come). Nadia Comaneci stole the stage with seven perfect tens. Your heroine turned 8 years old.

And on November 3, 1976, the Oakland Tribune published my contribution to this month's Retro Recipe Challenge. I figured a cake studded with apples (and doused in their alcoholic derivative) was the perfect homage to another American hero of sorts: Johnny Appleseed.

Apple Pound Cake
originally published in the Oakland (California) Tribune, Wednesday November 3, 1976

3 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups corn oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely chopped pared apple
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup applejack
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (in a medium bowl). In large bowl of an electric mixer, at medium speed, beat together oil, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture until smooth. Fold in apples, pecans and raisins. Turn into greased and floured 10 inch tube pan (I used a bundt pan).

Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for ten minutes. Remove from pan and cool.

Combine applejack, apple juice, brown sugar and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Prick top of cake with a fork. Carefully spoon the applejack syrup over the cake. When it is cool, store it in an airtight container.

Urp. A couple of days earlier, and this would have been a worthy contribution to Andrew's edition of Sugar High Friday.

Bon appetit!

The full School House Rock version of the preamble to the United States Constitution in all its glory:

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October 22, 2007

Magazine Monday...

Six o'clock already, I was just in the middle of a dream...
I was kissin' Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream...
But I can't be late 'cause then I guess I just won't get paid...
These are the days when you wish your bed was already made...

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
'Cause that's my fun day
My I don't have to run day
It's just another manic Monday

Actually, technically, it *is* Sunday. A lazy, hazy autumn Sunday brunch. But we're celebrating everyone's favorite Creampuff's latest event: Magazine Monday so the song lyrics fit.

The premise here is that a lot of us have food magazines with "to try" recipes piled up around our homes waiting for "someday". Ivonne plans to align these stars a little better in her kitchen by declaring Monday's magazine days -- selecting a recipe from a magazine, preparing it and blogging about it. She's invited her readers along for the ride.

With regular subscriptions to Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, Eating Well, and a handful of others, I'm in the same boat Ivonne is. So Magazine Monday will be a semi-regular feature here as well.

My first contribution comes from the October/November 2005 issue of Eating Well Magazine, and capitalizes on seasonal ingredients occupying my refrigerator this week.

The article is called "All Hail Kale". The author calls kale "spinach on steroids"... flavorful, hearty in texture and full of nutrients. At 36 calories per cup, kale provides a healthy dose of vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese, serving as a good source of the B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, copper, iron, lutein and zeaxanthin. It's easy to prepare: remove the tough ribs, tear, rinse, steam slightly and then follow the recipe's instructions.

Kale and Potato Hash
adapted from Eating Well, October/November 2005

8 cups torn kale leaves (I didn't measure, just used the bunch I received in my CSA box)
2 tablespoons horseradish
1 medium shallot, minced (I used red onion)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked shredded potatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  1. Place kale in a large microwave-safe bowl, cover and microwave until wilted, about 3 minutes. drain, cool slightly, and finely chop.
  2. Meanwhile, mix horseradish, shallot, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add chopped kale and potatoes, stirring well to combine.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet (I used cast iron) over medium heat. Add the kale mixture, spreading into an even layer and cook, stirring every 3-5 minutes (returning mixture to an even layer after each stir) until the potatoes begin to turn golden brown and crisp (12-15 minutes total).
Nutrition per 1/2 cup serving: 240 calories, 12 g. fat (2 g. saturated fat, 8 g. monounsaturated fat), 0 mg. cholesterol, 30 g. carbohydrate, 6 g. protein, 5 g. fiber, 244 mg. sodium.

We enjoyed the hash topped with an egg fried 'sunny-side up'.

Resources Used:
Kale from Farm Fresh to You CSA

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October 13, 2007

Celebrating Sustainable Seafood

October is an activity-packed month.

Pink ribbons appear everywhere in the month of October, promoting Breast Cancer awareness around the world. In the United States we celebrate Columbus Day--Latin American countries call it Dia de la Raza or Dia de las Culturas-- commemorating the discovery of the Americas in 1492. And at the end of the month, many western nations celebrate Halloween in accordance with their own cultural traditions. From a food-loving perspective, October is National Seafood Month in the United States. Jacqueline of Leather District Gourmet is taking a bit of poetic license, calling it Sustainable Seafood Month and hosting a delightful event around it.

Jacqueline explains her event: "Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to fish/cook sustainably and we'll all eat better, longer." She's afraid it's not catchy. I found it compelling.

One fifteen minute session with the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch website and one thirty minute conversation with my local fishmonger later, a healthy fillet of wild-caught Alaskan halibut was on my dinner menu.

According to the aquarium, Pacific halibut are bottom-dwelling groundfish. Primarily found in the coastal North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, they migrate hundreds of miles from shallow coastal waters to the deep, open ocean to spawn in winter. Afterwards, most return, year after year, to their same coastal feeding grounds. In Alaska, fishing for Pacific halibut is strictly limited to the bottom longlining method, which causes little habitat damage and has low bycatch associated with it.

My fishmonger confirmed that the halibut I'd chosen had been caught off the coast of Alaska using the longline method, stored at near freezing temperature for its trip to California and butchered and filleted four or five hours before I walked in the door.

Now the big question...what to do with it? I'd bookmarked this recipe for Sesame-Crusted Yellowtail and hadn't gotten around to trying it yet. I had most of the other ingredients on hand, so I decided to use the halibut as a more sustainable substitute and served it with a simple mixed green salad. It turned out amazing... buttery on the inside, crispy on the outside. It's a long ingredient list, but mostly staples in my kitchen. It's easy to assemble and plates pretty enough for company. It's now on my short list of go-to seafood recipes.

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October 03, 2007

Retro Confectionary Reminder...

Just a friendly reminder that the deadline for this month's sugar-coated Retro Recipe Challenge is quickly approaching.

Details for submitting your contributions can be found on this post.

Then check back on Halloween for some serious cavity-inducing historical confections and the stories behind them.

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October 01, 2007

Great minds think alike

Remember when I mentioned I portioned part of my bun dough off for another project?

Let me step back a bit and explain...

About a week ago, Inge of Vanielje Kitchen posited a variation on the upcoming September challenge: sticky buns made with lavender and apples.

Little did she know she was reading my mind; that's precisely what I had in mind as my contribution to this month's They Go Really Well Together.

It all started in the heat of the summer when I went searching for single serve springform pans. I found them... and $50 US in other kitchen supplies I didn't know I needed when I walked into the store.

Including an adorable bottle of lavender extract. A bottle I've spent three months staring at trying to figure out how to employ.

When I saw the recipe for the cinnamon bun fondant I had a lavender-scented epiphany. Apple horns. Seasoned with vanilla sugar and crushed dried lavender. And drizzled in fondant flavored with my extract.

See... I NEEDED that bottle of extract! REALLY I did!

In the end, my sweet roll test audience was torn. (In an exercise in extreme will power, John and I limited our midnight snacking to the single bun that leads Sunday's late night post and packed the rest for sharing with friends tonight.) Most loved the comfortable warm familiarity the cinnamon buns. But everyone who made the stretch was amazed that the lavender, vanilla and apples really DID play well together. Marce... Inge... thanks to both of you for the inspiration you provided; this one is a winner.

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