January 11, 2011

I've Moved

Thanks for checking out my blog.

I'm blogging at a new address, check out my SoCal adventures at www.GirlGetsSoCal.com.

February 24, 2007

Nana's "Very Good and Easy" Cinnamon Rolls

So, this might sound snobby but I don't like Cinnabon. The rolls they sell are way too sweet, and I always feel sick afterwards. And coffee shop cinnamon rolls? To me they are dried out, having spent too much time in those glass cases. Like Nana always says, "they're only good when they're fresh."

Homemade cinnamon rolls do take a bit of work. You know, a little kneading, some time spent waiting while they rise, taking out the pastry blender to mix together the spices and butter. But so, so worth it. Next Saturday pull out your pantry staples --flour, butter, and sugar--mix them together and delight in a warm and gooey roll with your coffee on Sunday morning. You might want seconds. After all, they're only good when they're fresh.

Nana's Cinnamon Rolls

--All-purpose flour, 41/2 -5 cups
--Active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon or 1 package
--Milk, 1 cup
--Butter, 1/3 cup
--Sugar, 1/3 cup
--Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
--Eggs, 3
--Brown sugar, 3/4 cup packed
--All-purpose flour, 1/4 cup
--Cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground
--Allspice, 1 teaspoon ground
--Nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground
--Butter, 1/2 cup
--Light raisins, 1/2 cup
--Cream, 3 tablespoons

1) Combine 2-1/4 cups of flour with the yeast in a medium bowl.

2) Heat the milk, 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly. Add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Beat with mixer on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and mix for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 cups of flour.

3) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in remaining flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, place into a greased bowl, and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm area for 1 hour (until doubled).

4) For the cinnamon filling, mix together spices and 1/4 cup flour. Cut in remaining butter, making a crumbly mixture.

5) Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into a 1 foot square. Sprinkle the cinnamon filling and raisins over the dough. Roll the dough and pinch the edges to close. Slice into 7 or 8, 1-1/2 inch, pieces. Place the rolled up dough into a greased baking pan, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover losely with plastic and let the rolls rise for 2-24 hours in the refridgerator. When you are ready to bake, bring the rolls to room temperature for 30 minutes.

6) Brush the dough with cream. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until light brown. To prevent overbrowning, cover with foil for the last 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush again with cream. Invert onto a wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert onto a serving platter. Drizzle with glaze.

Powdered Sugar Glaze


--Powdered sugar, 11/4 cups
--Vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon
--Cream, 4 tablespoons


Stir together powdered sugar, vanilla and cream. Add enough cream to make the glaze of drizzling consistency.

February 18, 2007

Golden Tomato Soup

Sometimes things don't turn out as planned. This is one of those things. I should have read the recipe closer. Not that this was a disaster, it just wasn't what I had been imagining. Let me describe. A creamy rich yellow soup with hints of red. A cream of tomato...only yellow. Despite my best intentions the recipe had other ideas.

If there is such a thing as a light winter soup, this would be it. Flecks of basil, parsley, and chunks of tomatoes stand out against a muted backdrop of white wine and chicken stock. It may not look like much in the bowl, but it will surprise your tastebuds with a tangy flavor. I am going to serve this for my friends with thick hunks of crusty sourdough, wedges of unsalted European style butter, and grated parmigiano reggiano.

Golden Tomato Soup
Serves 4
Inspired by Lynne Rosetto Kasper

--3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
-- 3 medium yellow or white onions, minced
--1/3 cup packed parsley leaves, minced
--1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
--3 large garlic cloves, minced
--1/2 cup packed basil leaves, minced
--1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme leaves, ground allspice, Chinese five spice, and ground coriander
--Pinch cayenne pepper
--1/2 cup dry white wine
--2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, I used yellow beefsteak tomatoes I had canned from the farmer's market in the fall
--8 cups chicken broth

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pot that can hold 8 or more quarts of liquid. I found it a tight squeeze with my 8 quart sauce pan. Add minced onions, beans, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
2. Add garlic, fresh herbs and spices to the soup pot. Stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add the wine. Add tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes to thicken.
3. Add broth and simmer until the soup reaches desired consistency, about one hour.

February 11, 2007

Suddenly, inspiration strikes!

This salad was the most fun I have had in a really long time. I don't think I have ever said that when it comes to food. I love cooking sure, I enjoy it, but I actually experienced glee and jumping-up-and-down excited-ness while prepping the salad, taking photos of the salad, and the best part...eating the salad. In fact, it is almost five days later and I am still enamoured with this dish.

While sitting in my overstuffed green reading chair and drinking coffee, I was imaging the how I was going to plate this dish and what ingredients I was going to use. I had some ideas and was writing down a few notes when suddenly I couldn't sit any longer. I couldn't just think about what I was going to do, I had to do it. And I had to do it now.

This is a record of what I came up with:

Blood Orange and Grapefruit Salad
with Rocket and Candied Blood Orange Peel
If you have the winter doldrums and your tastebuds need a major boost, this is the answer. Light, juicy, spicy, tangy, and sweet. I almost fell off my chair with the first bite. The crunch of the almond gives way to the sweet pockets of juice in the fruit, while the rocket, or arugula, ends a good bite with a kick of its trademark spicy flavors.

Serves 2

1 blood orange peel
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 grapefruit
2 blood oranges
15-20 crisp rocket (arugula) leaves
2 almonds, blanched with skins removed

To candy the blood orange peel:

1) Heat honey, sugar, and water in a heavy saucepan.

2) Zest the peel of the blood orange.

3) When the temperature of the sugar mixture reaches 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer, drop in the peels of zest. Reduce heat to low and let slowly simmer for 30 minutes.

4)Remove peels from saucepan with a slotted spoon and let them cool on a silpat or wax paper.

To prepare the salad:

1)Remove peel from grapefruit and slice. Remove peel from blood oranges and cube.

(I also roasted a few grapefruit slices in a 400 degree F oven. This added a wonderful mellow sweetness to a very perky dish. Sprinkle the slices with sugar and place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they begin to brown slightly. The roasted grapefruit slices are in the picture below on the right. Be warned: your fire alarm may go off!)

2) Plate the dish:

**I also sprinkled the dish with California Grapefruit Vinegar and pepper. It would also be good with a drizzle of oil such as grapeseed.

February 05, 2007

Fridge free for all

Sometimes, yes, it happens. I was tired. I was planning on making Deborah Madison's Lasagne with Chard, Ricotta, and Walnuts from her book Local Flavors. But I didn't have a chance to make it to the farmer's market and the grocery store I was at didn't have chard or lasagne. So I improvised. And you know? It turned out pretty good. Not bad for a Sunday night dinner.

But, I have another confession. One that discriminating palates might shudder in horror at. So we all know that tomatoes are only good in the heat of the August and September sun and the grocery store tomatoes are tasteless and bland. But I couldn't resist. I had to buy that pack of golden red cherry tomatoes waiting on the shelf. Perhaps it was the winter months getting to me, perhaps I was a bit tired. But I broke down and bought a pint. And they weren't bad. Not the best I have had by any stretch of the imagination, but not the worst either.

Since I couldn't get all of the ingredients, I improvised a bit, raided my fridge and came up with good alternatives involving pappardelle pasta, the aforementioned tomatoes, button mushrooms, and hazelnuts.

(click to enlarge)

Pappardelle with Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes, and Hazelnuts
(a lasagne if you will)
Serves 4-6
Adapted from the wonderful Deborah Madison

-Hazelnuts, 1 cup
-Sea salt
-Pepper--freshly ground is always best!
-Olive oil
-Garlic cloves, 3 large
-White wine, 1/3 Cup
-Whole-milk ricotta, 1 Cup
-Parmesan, 1 Cup freshly grated
-Mozzarella, 2 - 4oz balls of fresh, coarsely grated
-Milk, 1 Cup
-Pappardelle, 8 oz package
-Mushrooms, 8 buttons
-Cherry tomatoes, 10

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Toast hazelnuts in a skillet until fragrant, remove from heat. Chop and set aside.
3) Heat olive oil in the skillet used for hazelnuts over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms, tomatoes, and garlic and cook for about one minute until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the wine and cook the wine down by half. Take off of the heat.
4) Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
5)Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and the remaining garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
6) Oil a medium to large baking dish. Add 1/4 cup of milk to the dish and set aside.
7) When the water is boiling drop in a handful, perhaps 8 pappardelle. Let boil for 4 minutes. Remove. Place the pieces of pasta on the bottom of the baking sheet. Spread cheese mixture on top of pasta. Add a handful of vegetables and hazelnuts. Add a bit of milk to the dish. Repeat this process until you have used up all of your ingredients and have layers of pasta, cheese, veggies, nuts, and enough milk to keep the dish moist. On the final layer add the remaining pasta, mozzarella and a handful of hazelnuts.
8) Place tooth picks in each corner of the dish and cover with foil.
9) Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes to create a golden brown top. Take out of the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool.
10) Serve and enjoy!

January 21, 2007

Tangerine Meringue Napoleon

I consider the tiny golden globes of clementines and tangerines the perfect late winter dessert, their bright color and generous flavor are a promise of sunny days to come. They are an unabashed reminder from nature to those of us still living in the gray winter of the north that summer will come.

However, the number of bright orange tangerines and clementines that explode out of grocery stores this time of year will be a bit bleaker. 95% of the nation's supply of citrus comes from the San Joaquin Valley in California. The farming region just withstood freezing temperatures that will cost farmers more than $1 billion. The weather has not been kind to the California farmer and will be affect breakfast tables around the U.S.

Not wanting to waste, I had to find a use for my tangerines. This normally isn't a problem, right? Peel. Eat. What's so hard about that? The tangerines I had purchased posed a problem though. What could be wrong with a fruit whose skin comes off in one peel, and when bit into sends a bright burst of sunshine to your taste buds? No, they weren't sour. They had seeds. Now, normally seeds aren't a problem for me. Grapefruit, oranges, I just pick out the seeds--not a big deal. The small fruits though? Especially the really sweet ones that make you wonder why candy was ever invented? I don't want seeds. I want a perfect snack, sans seeds. But who among us could, gasp, throw away a beautiful fruit just because it has seeds? Not I. So I needed a solution. And that came in the form of my hand juicer mixed with the idea of a lemon meringue pie only made with the juice of the tangerines. I turned to the golden standard, Julia Child. The answer, a play on lemon meringue pie, was found in Baking with Julia. Even better? I get to use my blow torch with the recipe. Life couldn't get better than this.

Tangerine Meringue Napoleon

Serves 6, adapted from Baking with Julia

The Tangerine Curd

Eggs - 4 large
Sugar - 1 Cup
Fresh tangerine juice - 2/3 Cup
Zest - 1 tangerine
Unsalted butter - 1/2 stick (2 oz), at room temperature, cut into small pieces Juice from 1/2 lemon

To make the curd you will need to set-up a double boiler.

1) Bring the water in the saucepan to a simmer while you prepare the tangerine curd.

2) Whip the eggs and sugar at high speed with a whisk attachment until very light and fluffy. With the mixer still running, add the zest and the tangerine and lemon juice.

3) To set the eggs and create a custard, place the mixing bowl over the simmering saucepan and whisk the mixture by hand. If the water in the saucepan touches the bottom of the mixing bowl the eggs could begin to cook, so remove some water if it touches the bottom of the bowl. This will take awhile, but you really want to continue whisking, especially towards the end when the mixture really heats up from the steam and the eggs could congeal. It is done cooking when the consistency is like custard- thick and smooth.

4) Remove from the heat and whisk butter into the custard, piece by piece. 5) Refrigerate until completely chilled and press plastic wrap against the top of the custard.

It can be kept for a week in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. If you need the custard right away, whisk the custard over ice to chill it quickly and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Don't stir it once the curd has set.

The Puff Pastry

Puff pastry - 2 sheets, thawed
Sugar - 6 Tablespoons
Nutmeg -Pinch

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Line 2 baking sheets with parchment, place each sheet of puff pastry on each pan. With a dinner knife cut the puff pastry dough into thirds crosswise. Then, in each third, cut three triangles. Sprinkle with the sugar and nutmeg. Place a piece of parchment over each puff pastry and place a heavy baking sheet on top of the parchment to weigh down the pastry and prevent it from poofing too much.

3) Bake for 10 minutes covered. Take the top baking sheet and the top parchment off of the pastry and bake for 4 more minutes to develop a golden brown color. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

The Meringue
Egg whites - 8 large, at room temperature
Light brown sugar - 3/4 cup (packed), pressed through a sieve

This should be made right before you are ready to serve the dessert. You will need a clean dry mixing bowl and the whisk attachment.

1) Place the egg whites in the mixing bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Once they have, add the sugar, continuing to mix with the mixer. Whisk the egg whites until shiny, firm peaks form. It should be rather stiff.

Assembling the Napoleons

You will need: Powdered sugar - for dusting, Mint sprigs - for garnish, pastry bag

Spoon the meringue into a pastry bag with a 1/4 inch plain tip and follow the plating pictures and directions below.

1) Place a dollop of curd on the plate to hold the napoleon in place

2) Place pastry on top

3) Spoon curd on top of pastry

4) Pipe meringue in a back and forth motion on top of curd. Brown with torch.

5) Place another pastry on top of meringue and spoon on more tangerine curd.

6) Pipe another layer of meringue on pastry and torch to a golden brown.

7) Place the last piece of pastry on the meringue, sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.


**Work fast, your dinner guests will be drooling and it takes a bit of planning to plate these quickly.

**Be ready to have everyone wanting seconds.

January 10, 2007

More White Stuff, or What is this? Minnesnowta?

I must apologize. I have been away and my blog has been suffering from lack of posts. But I have a few good reasons...ok, Dad, yes they are just excuses. 1) Week long suffering without power. 2) The holidays (doesn't everyone use this one?). 3)Visiting family in Minnesota. 4) Left digital camera in Minnesota. 5) Looking for/finding new job in an editing department. 6) Engaged! To Mitch. 7)And, thus, Wedding Planning!

So, here I am, back in Seattle and it is snowing again. And quite considerably. Who ever thought that Seattle could be a winter wonderland so many times in one year? Tonight, as I don't have my camera, I thought would be a good time to look over my parents pictures from Italy and dream of balconies overlooking the Mediterranean...

Mountains to climb in my daily jaunt...

The local shopping mall...

And, being a "locavore"-- a word first brought to my attention by the Feb 2007 issue of Food and Wine and, I believe, coined by the San Fransisco group Locavores.
As a side note, what do you think about the term locavore (a person who only eats food that comes from a 100 mile radius of where it was produced)? I wonder if it will cause stress to the hostess and host whose discriminating dinner guest may be a "locavore"? Eating closer to home is a fabulous way to discover regional foods, reduce pollution created in transporting foods, and support communities. But I can't help but think about how privileged we are to be able to eat this way, when so many struggle to have enough food. What would it take to enable all people, regardless of income, to eat healthy, delicious food, while promoting the ideals of the locavore?
One of my favorite things my mom told me about Italy was the way people grocery shop. Every day they walk to the produce stand, the small grocer. They buy a carrot, a stick of celery, a half of a cabbage and go home to make dinner. What a wonderful way to cook and keep a clean refrigerator! If only we had that lifestyle here...