Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dining with Three Bloggers - September 27th.

My apologies. It was my sincerest intention to do a DwB post at least every other week. Then what happened? Well, the boss left on paternity leave and left me with a whole lotta work, hence, no post last week. Yup, always blame it on work. So even though I had done some cooking, I didn't have time to do a write up. But it's here today.

Having done this DwB thing for quite some time now has had me troubling my mind - not so much with how to keep finding new recipes that I want to try to choose from - lord knows there's PLENTY! - but from what to do with the recipes I kept bookmarking from blogs that I've already once featured in a DwB session. I know, it's shameless of them to not stop posting about delicious things once I have acknowledged them - but they do keep doing it, oh yes they do! And I mean, of course you want to know about new blogs, but face it - it's also the food we're all after, isn't it?

So what to do? I could of course just try them out, and not tell anyone. But I'm a bragging sort of person (actually, not really, but in this context I think it would be a shame to not be!) so I found this way of doing it. Every now and again, I'll do a post that spotlights three, already individually posted about blogs, with a new recipe from each of them. It'll be short, sweet and more to the recipe-point than the usual posts, but hey - I will tell you about THREE recipes, not just one! So please enjoy the first of hopefully several to come "Dining with Three Bloggers":

Bouchons au Thon from Orangette

From Molly of Orangette (previous feature here), I FINALLY tried the Bouchons au Thon I've had bookmarked almost ever since I got to know the food blogging world. They're easy to whip up, and served with a salad (in my case one of tomatoes, thinly sliced fennel and black olives) they were great warm for dinner, and maybe even better (cold) for lunch next day (first day of school - I needed a pick-me-up!) I think I could make every single one of the recipes on Molly's blog and not tire of it anytime soon. None of the recipes from her blog I've tried has ever failed me - and I have done quite a few.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Who Wants Seconds?

From the sadly no-longer updated foodblog (or let me know if you're still out there Moira! I miss you!) Who Wants Seconds? (previous feature) I tried my hand at a classic: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I have a friend that loves - loves - loves this combo, and the *perfect* recipe I had, I accidently lost. So I was on the lookout, and naturally, when Moira posted about these, I bookmarked them. I didn't get round to trying them before last week, but I think we have a keeper: soft and dense in the middle, no crunch but the one you need at the edges and well - had I not left them for 30 seconds too long in the oven, I think the texture would have been just perfect. I'll have to experiment with the rest of the batch that is now residing in my freezer. I'm sure my friend won't mind being the taste guinea pig, heh!

Garlicky Braised Cauliflower with Capers from The Wednesday Chef

I was so lucky to meet Luisa from The Wednesday Chef in person when Martin and I was travelling the US this spring. She is one of my favorite bloggers, and well - her recipe archive is one that has me bookmarking like crazy. I mentioned this one, the Garlicky Braised Cauliflower with capers back when I did my first post about her, and this recipe was one of the reasons I had to invent a way of doing re-features! It's just plain wonderful. Savory, garlicky - mmm. No wonder Luisa ate a whole head of cauliflower in one sitting. If it wasn't because I was making dinner for my man, I'd have done the same. As it was, I served it as the vegetable part of a true meat, starch and veggies dinner plate: grilled pork chops with soft polenta and cauliflower. A real treat it was!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dreams of a Mexican Fiesta

Inside Lime

I have a hard time believing that it's been three months since we returned from our roadtrip. Where did all that time go? Where did all the time that we spend ON the trip fly away too? And why, oh WHY will it not come back??

So a couple weeks ago, I took matters into my own hands, and tried to recreate a little piece of time passed by. The Dinner Club girls (as we shall refer to them in the future) are a bunch of girls that started out in med school at the same time. Some have gone off to do other things, and the rest of us are spread out on different semesters, but we try to get together at least once a month, taking turns to be in charge of dinner and doing the dishes. We try to keep it low-key - it really should be things that we'd make for ourselves on a weeknight, without further ado. But it was summer, I had more spare time than I usually do, with school not taking up the big hunk of time it normally does, so of course, I had to throw myself at it like a kid in a candy store.

We were going to check out the pictures from the trip, so the evening already had an American feel to it. I started out thinking great, big, greasy hamburgers and shakes - but then when I, a couple days before the dinner, looked over my photos and found this one:

I reconsidered. Lime Fresh Mexican Grill is a little place in Miami, Florida. When I say little, I mean little - basically, what you see here is the shop - there's a medium-sized terasse to the left of the place, which seats, hmm, a 25-30 people, but mostly, it's a take-out place. How we found it? A hostess at a restaurant in one of the (very touristy places) near South Beach told us about it - we were having a look at her menu and she asked us what we were looking for, and we were all: we really want Mexican food - which they of course didn't have at her place. She then looked over her shoulder to check if her manager was around, and when she saw he wasn't, she leaned close to us and whispered: go to Lime. It's small, it's a 10-15 minute walk from here - but it's dirt cheap, the food is fantastic, you'll love it, and me and all my friends go there all the time. That sold it - she seemed so genuine that we couldn't help ourselves.

And we're glad we went. Not only did we go there that night, we came back the next day for lunch. And had we had the time, we'd have gone there to pick up some food for the flight back - unfortunately, we didn't.

The food was fabulous, but one of the really lovely things about the place was their salsa-buffet. There was about 6 or 7 different salsas to choose from, all made from scratch, and all super fresh. You could take as many or as few as you'd like, and you could refill, and refill, and refill. Hotsauces?

Got 'em, too. In any strength you'd like.

Ah MAN! It was an awesome place! My mouth was watering as I looked over the pictures, and I could almost taste everything again. I lamented the fact that food like this is nowhere to be had around here... Bo-hoo!

But hey Zarah, you're a wiz in the kitchen, aren't you?:-) So why not just make it yourself? The American-themed dinner quickly turned into a sheer Mexican fiesta - 'cause darn it, if I can't buy it, I can make it myself!

So there was salsas:

From top left, clockwise: pico de gallo, guacamole, salsa roja & roasted corn + black bean salsa.

The recipes I tried was a mixture of what I found through Google and via our beloved foodblogs, combined with a dash of memory and a tad of sudden inclinations. The pico de gallo came about from this recipe. Even though I thought the orange peppers was a sort of unfit addition, I used them, and it worked well.
Salsa Roja was courtesy of Saveur, only I got no where near the amount of salsa they'd promised - must have been some giant tomatoes they used! I doubled the amount of tomatoes, but not chilies - I'm still learning to eat super spicy food. Boy was it yummy! I could even do with a bit more heat, so next time...

The Roasted Corn + Black Bean Salsa was inspired by this version. I 'grilled' the corn under the grill-thingy in my oven, and that actually worked out pretty well, if I may say so myself. Easy, and tasty, and disappeared quickly. It's amazing what fresh corn does to people. I'm one of those persons that would never come close to a can of corn, but corn on the cob, or better yet, like here, cut from the cob - yes please, sir!

To go with all these goodies I sauteed some chicken with some bell peppers, garlic, red onion, a dash of smoked paprika and salt and pepper - the salsas were the important part, the chicken more of a protein requirement, so I didn't give that much thought. I will next time - not that it wasn't okay, it was just a bit - boring.

And, oh, lest I forget: homemade tortillas!

- courtesy of Molly and Brandon - except I used butter instead of shortening, 'cause face it, I ain't gonna buy a pound of shortening to use three tablespoons. And yes, homemade - the ones I can get here smell really weird once you open the pack - they're supposed to be all additive- color and everything free, but they smell - funky. And it's dead easy to make your own, I found out - I even left them proofing for way more than I was supposed too, and they didn't mind one bit. They were used for make-your-own-fajitas and:

Quesedillas. Mmmm, melted cheese... (say in Homer Simpson voice)

I tried writing them at Lime, wondering if they might let go of a recipe to poor little, suffering in Denmark far, far away from anything decent Mexican food-me - but unfortunately, I haven't heard from them. So if anyone's got some amazing salsa recipes - I'm especially eager to lay my hands on a smokey, tomatoey, smooth one - or if you know of any must-have Mexican cookbooks, please let me know. I know this is the "popularised" version of Mexican, and not necessarily very authentic - but eh, it tastes fabulous, and that's what matters!

The girls and I had a great time, and some great food. But the part I (almost) loved the most about it was Martin coming back from work, peeking in the fridge, spotting the leftovers and...

transporting himself right back to Miami with a late night snack. How could I not love this guy?

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Dining with the Bloggers - September 6th.

I had promised myself to be a good girl this week. I'd promised myself: no baking. You can't keep doing cakes and muffins and sweet stuff for DwB, Zarah - you're going to end up having to rename the project Baking with the Bloggers! I know, I've only done one DwB-post yet this time around - but trust me, there's a scary amount of chocolatey treats finding their way into my to-do-list. I could claim I was innocent, that they simply jump in there themselves. But we all know that's a lie. And I'm no liar.

So, I went looking for something savory. And you know, as well as I do, that there is PLENTY of opportunities in that respect out there also. It was a windy, cold and dreary Monday, and it was weather for soup. Yes, already that time of the year.

And there it was, jumping out at me from my Bloglines. Smitten Kitchen is a relatively new foodblog written by Deb from New York. I forget how I first stumbled upon her blog - at first I thought it was from Cate mentioning her, but turns out I've bookmarked recipes from Deb before that feature was made. Regardless - she was instantly added to my rss feed. Her pictures are fabulous and her writing is - well, her writing is of the kind I, as a non-native English speaker/writer, can only dream of ever doing anything like. She uses words that, while I may know the meaning of them (some of them, yes I do!), I would never think of using in a sentence, and I love how she keeps everything down-to-earth and honest - and she's quirky in a way I absolutely adore! (and would probably not like me for calling her quirky, heh!) Just check out how she got her tagline! While her foodblog is new, her regular blog is ooooooooold, and can be found here (and it looks like she was bitten by the foodie-bug a good while before she started Smitten Kitchen - in fact, she announced just today that she's going to devote her time solely to the foodblog - I'm sure we're going to love having her!)

But I digress: soup. I had a longing look at the soup made from 44 cloves of garlic, but had to work for the next couple of nights, so I thought I'd better stay clear for now. Cauliflower Soup it was instead - not a bad substitute if you ask me. I made it using less liquids because I had a small head of cauliflower, and because I like my soups thick - real thick. The recipe is supposed to make 4-6 servings - well, it was the only thing I had for dinner, with a couple of slices of toasted sourdough on the side - and I ate ALL of it. And it felt good. Also, check out the amount of pepper in Deb's picture - it needs it. When I first tasted the soup out of the pot, I thought it was a little blah, but the freshly ground pepper somehow livens it all up. Oh yes, and using chicken stock will definitely liven things up too - I was fresh out (Duh! As if you ever have any, Zarah!) so I used white wine and water.

But I wasn't really going to stop there, was I? Noooooo. There were these, too, you see. How could I pass up on those? Three different kinds of cookies, and while I would have gone all out and done all three kinds, it was a school night and I just did the Oreo-type ones. All the ingredients were in the kitchen, so they whipped up in seconds, and baked in nine minutes. I let them cool and then sandwiched them with some leftover cream cheese frosting from my sister's birthday cake from the day before. That would have to do, as there was no recipe for the filling - Deb used her cookies for ice cream sandwiches, which is definitely no bad idea either!

I snapped a couple pictures, then scooped one up and standing over the sink, bit in. Mouth full and all, I moaned an 'Oh. my. gawd.', spontaneously. They're so good, I just couldn't help myself. Chewy and sticky and cocoa-y cookies, mellowed and perfected with the cream cheese frosting. Ah!

I later found out that she had a link to the full Oreo recipe here - I told you, she was just a foodblogger waiting to happen! It's definitely not the last time I'm trying one of her recipes - I've got my eyes on her Salsa Fresca and her BBQ sauce - and if I could find it in myself to kill (ahem, and buy - where would I get those here?!) so many teddybears, I most certainly would try her Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake...

So you see? I tried. I tried being a good girl, and not go sugar-crazy. I guess it's just in me, isn't it? Thinking about it, Baking with the Bloggers might not be such a bad proposition...:-)

Monday, September 4, 2006

La Festa al Fresco: Tomato & Saffron Tart

I'm so close to being late for La Festa al Fresco - tsk, tsk, but I'm telling you, traffic was just HORRIBLE! ;-)

Lis and Ivonne asked us all to bring something fresh and seasonal for the party, so... wait a minute, it's stuck down here in the big brown bag... Yes, of course I brought something! - what kind of guest would I be if I didn't? I'm not so rude as to be both late and empty-handed!

Fresh, seasonal ingredient? You know it, I know it - it's got to be tomatoes. While I haven't succeded in getting the cut-off's I got from my Bonus-Mom's green house tomatoes to produce anything resembling the amount needed for this, tomatoes are now and here and everywhere - and they're the star ingredient in this yellow-like-the-sun Tomato & Saffron Tart from Tamasin Day-Lewis' The Art of the Tart. Great book and a fantastic tart! I kept expecting shellfish every time I took a bite of it, because what I usually associate with saffron is Bouillabaise. There is no shellfish in it, but you can sure taste the saffron! I actually thought the spice was used mostly for it's color, but WOW! It has it's very own personality. This tart is a fantastic way of letting it be a star ingredient, along with the tomatoes of course.

I'm gonna cheat, because I am late (c'mon, I know it!) and just point you here (scroll down, it's the bottom post - this was the nearest a permalink I could find), where someone else has been so good as to print out the recipe. The shortcrust pastry I use is from Martha Stewart, but use whichever one you feel confident about. I might not have gotten the tomatoes from my balcony, but I did get my basil from the balcony - now that's fresh, isn't it? I wouldn't say you have to necesarily follow the recipe for the tomato sauce - just make your standard one, but keep the spices subtle, and let it boil down 'till jammy consistency. Also, I only needed about half of what is stated for the custard - my tart pan is a bit smaller than what was asked for, so that probably explains it. You could easily do both tomato sauce and (of course) the pastry up untill the rolling out and baking stage the day before you need to serve the tart. And, seeing this is a potluck sort of party, why not do little individual tarts?

Now, scoot on, I have to go say hi to everyone - that's the problem (or the fun part?) with being late, you have to shake hands and smile at a million strangers before you get to the food and drinks! Hi! *Waves* Gosh, I know a lot of the people here already! And there's a bunch I've never met before too! Thanks for the invitation, Ivonne and Lis - I'm sure we'll have a blast (and just push me in the back when you want me to go home - I'm sure I'll be able to roll all the way, what with my tummy so full of goodies!;-))

Tagged with

Friday, September 1, 2006

Comfort me with Cake

'Dear Diary,

Yes, I'm here again. I know, I know - it's an unworthy job, being a diary. You almost only ever hear from me when I'm blue. Or stressed. Or thinking too much about something. You thought something was different this time? Think again...

I've started a new job. Yes, I know, it is only two and a half month since I got back and started working somewhere new, but eh. What can you do? New job it is. It actually seems like it's going to be rather exciting - I might get some responsibility here. If I'm woman enough to live up to it. That's always the thing, isn't it? The fear of not being as good as people think you are. Yes, it's their expectations, not yours. Still. The whole not-knowing-where-things are, new people all around, with names you just can't remember, and ways of doing things you're not familiar with. The lack of well-known routines. It's scary and thrilling. And very much - much.

School starts again Monday. That is to say, school this semester is hands-on - I'm going to be walking around in a hospital, white clothes and stethoscope and all. Listening, looking, taking it all in. And feeling like I don't know anything. It's going to be quite marvelous, I'm sure. What if I don't like it? What if I'm not supposed to be a doctor?

The weather's been plain ridiculous the last couple of days. Wait, make that weeks. Sun mixed with a heavy dose of rain. Rain coming and going, coming and going. You can't go anywhere without bringing an umbrella - well, you can, but you'd surely get wet. I'm drinking a lot of tea, and I rediscovered my closet's worth of wollen sweaters. Today, I tried on a pair of long pants from the closet. I just couldn't bring myself to wear them, so I changed them to a skirt. I have to pretend, just a little while longer. Please summer. Stay.

I forgot to paint the hall during my vacation. I never got started on my roadtrip-scrapbook project. I need to buy shampoo. And flour - 'cause the last couple of batches I bought had worms in them - ick. The computer needs a clean-up - too many weird thing lying about. I think I'm this close to a full-blown cold, and I have a headache, ouch. My mp3-player's rechargeable battery is going wacko, I have to get that repaired. I need my boyfriend to kiss me.

I think I need cake...'

Cream Cheese Pound Cake - from Lisa Yockelson's Baking by Flavor

A rich, decadent cake that I'm sure would do very well with some fresh berries. But I had it with a big mug of tea while the rain pounded on my windows and I was feeling sorry for myself. It worked like that also, and very well. Yes, sometimes, things are as simple as a piece of cake.

I used Boyajian lemon oil in place of the lemon extract and you can most definitely taste it. I might even go as far to say you taste the lemon too much. I'll cut it down to about half next time.

Bakeware: plain 10 inch tube pan for making about 20 slices.

2 3/4 c unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c unsifted bleached cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
One 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons shortening (I used same amount butter - I can't convince myself to buy shortening, no matter what it might do for my cakes!)
3 cups superfine sugar (vanilla-scented if you have)
2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
6 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 F/170 C. Grease and flour your cake pan - Lisa instructs you to make a circle of waxed paper to fit the bottom, then grease that too - I couldn't be bothered. Hey, it was an off-day, okay?

Sift the flours, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together.

In a freestanding mixer, cream the butter with the cream cheese and shortening. Do so for 4 minutes, on moderate speed. Add the sugar in three additions, beating for one minute between batches. Blend in vanilla, lemon and almond extract. Beat in the eggs, one at the time. Remember to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, add the sifted ingredients in three additions, blending just until all flour has been absorbed. Spoon into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes - maybe a tad longer. The cake will pull away slightly from the pan when it's done, but check with a wooden skewer also. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, on a rack. Then turn it out, and allow to cool completely. Or eat as soon as you think that NOW! it has cooled enough.

'See? This is how it always goes. I do half an hour therapy with you, and everything looks a little brighter. Maybe it's putting it all in print that sets things straight. That makes me realize that really, if these are the only things I can find to complain about - then I should consider myself a lucky person. Thank you. You helped. Oh, and the cake might have, too.'