Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 23rd

Today is Dining with the Bloggers day. Today is Wednesday, also - so who better to cook with than The Wednesday Chef?

Luisa started her blog just a couple of months ago. She had this great idea of wanting to tell people how the recipes in the papers REALLY come out - when do they suck and when do they shine? Where do you have to watch your steps, and when is it as easy as pie? I don't get the newspapers she does, but I know exactly what it's like not having anyone to ask about a certain recipe - and I know about having too many clippings laying around too - so I love this approach to food blogging. She's focusing on LA and NY Times, but dashes of to other recipes every now and again. Some I'd love to try would be Regan Daley's Poached Quinces or Marcella Hassan's Sicilian Pesto - or, turning back to LA times, the I-can-almost-smell-it-from-here Garlicky Braised Cauliflower with Capers - this I GOTTA try!

This time though, because lately ALL of my DwB posts has been featuring something sweet, and because I like sweet things so much, I found this: Marian Burros' Plum Torte was what I'd noticed and what I was going to make. Luisa hadn't been totally convinced about the torte, and I can understand, seeing what she's grown up with (yeah, you'll have to check her post for that one!) but she wanted to know if anyone else had better experience with it. A lot of her commenters sure did, her friends loved it, and well - I'm a convert too!

Juicy plums on top of a simple butter-sugar-eggs-flour batter, that ends up with a texture (and to me taste too) somewhat like marzipan. I'd be tempted to substitute a bit of the flour with almond flour or ground almonds next time. Oh yes, and I might try making it with the plums underneath the batter - that was suggested in the comments. I really liked the simplicity of this cake, as well as how easy it was to do. Served with a bit of thick creme fraiche on the side - or just as a nice big slab standing over the sink, as I did - it is all bliss...

Now what HAVE Cathy been up to??

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Confessions from a Kitchen

I am no art connoisseur. I wouldn't be able to tell my Gauguin from my van Gogh, or my Picasso from my Miró. Okay, maybe Picasso. People that can spend hour after hour in a museum, walking up and down aisles, standing still in front of a painting for ages, slightly tilting their head to get the best lighting on the object in front of them amaze me. How do they do it? How do they keep seeing new things, new angles, new colors and brush strokes? And why oh why wont it jump out at me?

Is it a patience thing? Or is it maybe just because my family, or someone else for that matter, never taught me? Is it something you have to learn, or is it naturally there? I don't know, but whatever it is, it's not something I posses.

Or maybe... maybe I'm just not looking at it the right way.

I know a couple of chefs. A couple of them are women, but let's admit, most of them are men, at least in my neck of the woods. They're craftsmen, but some might call them artists. They have big, butchy man hands, they throw around pots the size of a baby's bathtub and wrestle stock bones and boxes of produce. They cook and bake and stand there in awful heat, day in and day out, sweating, clenching teeth and plating - and they make teeny tiny works of art. A kind of art I can actually understand.

You see, food. There's something I understand. I mean, it's there, everyday, all the time. It's just a matter of opening your eyes. You can dress it up, or dress it down, but it's still just - food. It is colors, textures, tastes - it's temperamental, it's alive. It's - pretty.

I love that. That is where I see the beauty, that is where my kind of art is defined. I like food at it's best when it's simple, when it's played down, served on a big, white plate, no frills, not too many distracting objects. The art starts with the produce itself, and then goes on from there. But when the vegetable, fruit, dairy, meat and fish hit the counter - that's when I tilt my head and look really close... And reach for the camera.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 16th

Short and sweet is this week's Dining with the Bloggers - just as sweet as the featured blog, Bunny Pie. Kept by Debbie from Chicago, boasting pictures that are out of this world - and of course - recipes, of which she has yet to post one I don't want to try. And then she writes great sentences, like "don't fear the sticky dough" and "when you bite into a bittersweet chocolate chunk, it is like a slap on the butt (the sexy kind)" - heh!;-)

Actually, her latest post, on Alsatian Potato Pie was what had me drooling this week, but time is precious these days, and lo and behold, of course there was a recipe to fit my tight schedule (but I actually think the potato pie isn't too time consuming...)

Apple scones. I've become a sucker for scones, and Debbie's are nice, moist, and reminds me of apple pie. Mmm, apple pie. Halved the recipe, worked great, and as I'm the kind of girl that always does as she's told, I had it with a cup of earl grey and - okay, a lot of butter! Lovely!

Is it Christmas that's taking all our time already? Might be, still, Cathy managed to try out a recipe this week too!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Entertain MeMe - All Those Sparkles...

Sometimes, I don't feel like sharing my food. I mean, I'm all for unpretentious serving on big platters and putting pots straight on the table, here, serve yourselves. But. Sometimes, I want something that's mine, and noone elses. My bowl, my plate, my jar - Mine, and mine alone.

Maybe it's all those years in the restaurant business. Maybe it's seeing all of those individually plated dishes going out from the kitchen, and explaining every little detail on the plate to customer after customer. Maybe I like it when there's attention to detail. Or maybe, just maybe - I just like a little showing off.

I have a lot of glasses. Lots. In all sorts af shapes and sizes and designs. And they're not your regular drinking glasses. Well, some of them are, but that's not what they're used for - drinking. I use mine for serving - for entertaining. For making sure that every person, at least at some point in the meal have something that is his or hers - and ONLY his or hers. 'Cause that's how I like it myself!

So naturally, when Jennifer from Taste Everything Once asked us all to join her "Entertain MeMe" this week, there was no doubt in my mind - it had to be a highlighting of the mighty glass!

Of course, your little cups and ramekins doesn't necessarily
have to be made of glass - believe me, I have quite a bunch of porcelain ones too - but glasses are often cheaper, they're seethrough (I like knowing what's on the bottom of what I'm going to eat!) and well - I like the sparkles.

I like how everything shimmers when you put down a tray of shot glasses in the candle light, or when you serve a trifle on a hot summer day, the sunlight flickers off of the rim of the glass.
Martini glasses aren't meant for martinis only - serve a piped out chocolate mousse in a glass like that and you have a perfect dessert that needs little less for decoration. Use them as little bowls for individual condiments, sitting by each persons plate, so everyone can double dip the spring roll into the sweet chili sauce without feeling bad about it - or use glasses for dips and spreads with a larger glass for cruditées for a pre-dinner snack. You can play it up with tall, streamlined glasses, or go for bulky tumblers for that rustic chic look.

I bought mine in all sorts of weird places: dollar shops - the supermarket - the cute shop with way too many things I'd like to own - gift shops - so I'm pretty sure you'd be able to get something like 'em at Williams-Sonoma too!

And I have to say, the shot glasses come in handy for a boozy night too!;-)

Tagged with

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 9th.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been bombarded with cupcakes. No, not like that, silly - I wasn't covered in them, they were just all over Santos' blog. New color, new style - cupcakes, cupcakes, CUPCAKES! I was going MAD! I needed cupcakes, and I needed cupcakes NOW! Dining with the Bloggers? Dining with a cupcake!

But. I've already dined with Santos. Luckily, in one of her posts, Santos linked to a Cupcake-themed blog, Cupcake Bakery, written by Chockylit. If you check out Chockylit's other site, you'll find that her real name is Cheryl, and that she actually sells the delicacies she bakes - but on her blog, you'll get absolutely GORGEOUS looking cupcakes, complete with recipes. There are all sorts of interesting flavor combinations and, for lack of a better word, "themed" cupcakes. Churros and Chocolate Cupcake anyone? Thai Ice Tea Cupcake? Or do you just want plain and decadent Melt in your mouth Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Cream? Chockylit's the way to go!

Me? I chose to go down the Red Velvet Cupcake with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting lane. Why? When Chockylit actually warned that the thing that was most exciting about this cupcake was the frosting, and the novelty of the color? Ummm - any excuse to eat cream cheese frosting perhaps? The fact that red and white are the colors of the Danish Flag?The fact that both Nic and Lori had tempted me about these? Probably. I just knew I had to try them.

I must agree with Cheryl. They do look stunning, and they're okay tastewise - and the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting is good, as suspected - but they're not something I think I'd make again. Just not interesting enough, particularly not when the rest of her blog is FULL of recipes that are just crying out to you, wanting to be made! And, another thing I love: Cheryl's a bit of a geek - check out her experimenting with different mixes of baking powder/baking soda/cream of tartar in the Red Velvet post - I love that kind of thing! Yup, I'm a geek too!

Btw, I made 2/3 of the recipe, and substituted one tablespoon of the flour and the cocoa with 1/4 cup of cocoa in total - and used baking powder and baking soda. The Cake Club Girls agreed the cupcakes were magnificent, so maybe it's just me... And I mean - look at them - would you pass up on one of these?

Cathy's been busy busy this week, but of course knocked something up for DwB!

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Dining with the Bloggers - November 2nd.

One treat leads to another - I just HAD to do one more thing with yeast for Dining with the Bloggers this week!

Who would become my victim? There are so many accomplished bakers out there, that really, it's only a matter of picking one. But if you find someone who does MAGNIFICENT cakes and muffins and cupcakes in just the category you like (that would be homey and comfy and lovely looking!) which is also the category in which you would like to classify your own baking - you just KNOW you found the right person and the right blog. That is: Lori from dessertfirst.

Lori is a food writer from Manila, Philipines. Not just a food-blogger, but a food writer. Scared yet? No, and really, you shouldn't be. Not even though she just ran her first 10 kilometer run. I mean, she's human - she bakes! And each and every one of her homebaked entries I could just lick off the screen. Seriously. Lori has a seperate page on her blog for recipes, and a word of warning: if you're just remotely sweet treat-hungry, do NOT check it out. Your keyboard will be ruined before you have a chance of catching the saliva.

So why go for the little, somewhat anonymous recipe for Pretzels. Because I'd never tried eating Pretzels before. I've heard of them, but I never tried them. And Lori's just looked SO good. Her suggestion of dipping them in melted butter and cinnamon-sugar made it clear to me that they really had to be tasted and tested. Butter? Sugar? I'm there.

Pretzels themselves are simple to do, except of course for the assembly - Lori's instructions are actually pretty clear, but I'd just scribbled the recipe down, with instructions somewhat like: shape into pretzels. There's a little more technique to it than that, but really, as long as the taste is good, who cares about their appearence?

As always, I substituted the dry yeast for fresh (about 12 grams) and well - my kitchen isn't exactly as hot as Lori's, so the dough rested and rose for a little longer - that's just how it is with those yeast-beasts. Fortunately, they were all done and ready for when my Mom arrived for tea, and with the little bowls of melted butter and cinnamon sugar set out, there was no stopping us. Bready and salty, combined with a dip (and a double-dip!) of butter and sugar. Yummo!

Cathy's done the most awesome looking thing this week - go have a look!