Tuesday, May 25, 2010

freeform pie & when pigs fly...

I used to despise certain foods.

Now, I love them.

My taste changes truly excite me! The less foods I dislike-- the better.

I like to see myself as open-minded and adventurous with nothing to hold me back from truly tasting cultures, practices and creativity that surround us daily in what we eat.

Raw onions,
briny capers,
spicy treats and mustard
used to be perpetually avoidable for me (sad, but true).

Now I welcome them with open arms.

The next "I hate" tastes to tackle:
hard boiled eggs, salmon, cottage cheese & raw oysters.
Ugh. When pigs fly...

My recent 3-day holiday weekend began with:

sparkling gems,
cosmopolitans &
dancing in my head.

The time had come for Sex and the City 2 and I was thrilled!
My girlfriend and I arrived glam and ready for:
cocktails & classy debauchery
at the newest Movie Tavern on 7th street.

I opted to sip Carrie's Royale complete with Moet champagne, raspberry and fresh mint while my girlfriend settled on the Cosmo-rita.

(yes, cheesy but we loved it!)

After a whirlwind Saturday night, I settled in for an all day cooking frenzy the next morning.

On my radar:
fresh pasta to recipe test &
fruit tarts for an appropriate Memorial Day BBQ

I started with my pasta recipe-- eager to contribute comforting ingredients with flavorful techniques and bright summer herbs.

Pine Nut and Ricotta Raviolo with Roast Cauliflower & Basil Butter

This recipe is an interesting combination of flavors:

sweet ricotta + basil
unctuous fresh rolled pasta + butter
earthy, charred roasted cauliflower

Yields 12 large raviolos.

Roast Cauliflower:

1 cauliflower head, cut into large chunks
2 T olive oil
1 t salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Gently toss cauliflower chunks with oil and salt. Roast approximately 40 minutes, turning often, until dark brown and caramelized.

3/4 c part skim ricotta
1 t lemon zest
1 t lemon juice
1 t minced basil
2 T toasted pine nuts (plus additional for garnish)
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
4 sheets fresh rolled pasta
1 circle cutter approximately 2 inches in diameter

Combine ricotta, lemon, basil, pine nuts, red pepper flakes and black pepper in small bowl. Lay out one sheet of pasta. Arrange 6 dollops of filling (about 1 tablespoon each) evenly on pasta sheet allowing for equal edges around.
Brush around each filling an egg wash in a circular motion the size of your circular cutter. Top with the second pasta sheet and cut out 6 circular raviolos. Repeat procedure with remaining two pasta sheets.

Simmer ravioli in boiling water approximately 3 minutes. Serve beside roasted cauliflower. Drizzle with basil butter and a sprinkling of remaining toasted pine nuts.

Basil butter:

4 T softened butter
1/4 c fresh basil leaves
salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a food processor. Melt and keep warm to serve over warm pasta.
After I tackled my pasta dough, I tackled my free-form pie dough-- one of my favorite sweets to make.

This pie dough is savory and buttery and the fruit boasts an incredible natural sweetness with the slight enhancement of a sugary accompaniment.

The trick to a buttery, flaky crust and ideal crostada is keeping everything as cold as possible until the tart hits the oven.

Nectarine & Blueberry Crostada with a Pineapple Glaze and Shaved Nutmeg

Pate brisee (pie dough):

1.5 c AP flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1 t salt
8 T ice water

Fruit filling:

4 nectarines, sliced uniformly
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 c sugar
1 T lemon zest
2 T turbinado sugar
sprinkling of fresh grated nutmeg
1 egg, whisked and thinned with 1 T water
1/2 c pineapple preserves, heated and thinned with 1 T lemon juice

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. With fingertips,
"cut" in butter to dry mixture until butter is pea shaped.

One tablespoon at a time, add ice water until a homogenous dough forms. Knead dough several times, careful not to overwork, and form into a flat disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss sliced nectarines and blueberries with sugar and lemon zest. Refrigerate to macerate.

Brush flour onto a cool, dry surface. Roll out chilled disk into a larger circle-- about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer dough circle to baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Chill on sheet for 5 minutes to firm up dough.

To assemble crostada, arrange macerated sliced nectarines in a decorative pattern leaving a 1/2 inch outside border to later fold over. Sprinkle with blueberries and turbinado sugar.
Carefully fold over edges to seal crostada around fruit. Add your egg wash-- brush whisked egg mixture atop crust. Finish by sprinkling crust and fruit with grated nutmeg.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes until pastry is golden brown. While crostada is cooling, brush tops of fruit and crust with heated pineapple preserves to add sheen and sweetness. Cut into squares and serve warm.

One bite of this
tangy confection
and you'll be
floating on Cloud 9.

Monday, May 10, 2010

much ado about dumplings

In case you haven't heard...
I'm obsessed with dumplings.

Potstickers, gnocchi, ravioli, spring rolls, spaetzle.
Chopsticks, hand-held, dipping sauces or pan sauces.

You name it. I'll eat them

For my birthday, my parents gave me the perfect reference full of my favorite lovely packaged delights:

The glory of this book is the variety, inventiveness and seasonality that makes you think far beyond the norm pork potsticker.
Dumplings are listed by monthly seasonality-- my favorite aspect of the book. Although I strive to write my own recipes and invent creative flavor combinations-- this is definitely a great source of inspiration!

Speaking of dumplings...some of my favorite dumpling recipes from Linguine and Dirty Martinis have included:

light & bright

creamy & chewy

salty & savory (shown)

spicy & tart

Recently, while brainstorming

Summer cocktail combinations

I concocted a refreshing, tart sangria-- almost too gorgeous to drink!

30 minute Sangria with Fresh Berries & Soaked Hibiscus Flowers

I served this sangria with a rustic flair-- complete with berry seeds, a floating hibiscus and all!
For an elegant twist, strain and combine with ice in a martini shaker to serve in a martini glass or highballs.
Cocktail ratio:
2 parts chilled dry red wine
1 part muddled berries
blueberries, raspberries and blackberries will do!
a sprinkle of sugar
Combine ingredients and chill for 30 minutes. Serve cold.

I recently had a sunny & bright lazy lunch on the patio at Tillman's Roadhouse: an eatery supporting local fish, meat, poultry and produce with housemade touches and whimsical reinventions of childhood favorites.

I sipped on an icy cool brew and thoroughly savored an artisan sirloin burger from Burgundy Pastures with local goats gouda, razor-thin purple onions and housemade pickles with lemon rind. On the side were perfectly seasoned kennebec fries with parmesan and housemade chipotle ketchup. Made-from-scratch garlic ranch was also a pleasant afterthought.

For dessert, we were surprised with a frozen smorgasbord, playfully deemed the "Ice Cream Truck" complete with a homemade raspberry lemon popsicle, lucky charms push pop, German chocolate cone and made-from-scratch ice cream sandwich. Delightful!

For a later joyful occasion, I decorated my apartment with banners, cards, bakery sweets and gifts for my boyfriend's birthday!

We celebrated on a gorgeous Sunday evening with a BBQ complete with his favorite made-from-scratch comfort foods.

I left grilling to the guys while I savored a margarita and quickly prepared this 5 minute side dish-- a perfect addition to grilled meats!

Goat Cheese Cream Corn with Fresh Thyme and Crushed Peppercorns

6 ears fresh corn (about 2 cups)
1/2 c red onion, chopped
2 T fresh thyme
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c crumbled goat cheese
1 T honey
1/2 t cayenne
salt and crushed peppercorns to taste

Saute onions with 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent. Add corn and thyme. Saute for a few minutes to soften and infuse fat.

Add cream, honey and cayenne and let reduce several minutes. Fold in goat cheese and add salt and peppercorns to taste. Serve hot.

Before the party, I spent my morning baking this festive cake to fulfill his favorite dessert: yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I filled the layers with a tangy made-from-scratch curd and added espresso to the chocolate frosting for depth.

Butter Cake
with Fresh Blackberry Curd Filling
& Dark Chocolate Frosting


2 round springform cake pans
(I used 6 and 7 inch pans)
offset spatula
stand mixer

Butter Cake:
(Adapted from The Cake Bible All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake)
6 large egg yolks
1 c whole milk
2 and 1/4 t vanilla
3 c cake flour
1 and 1/2 c sugar
1 T plus 1 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
12 T unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour springform pans. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in stand mixture and mix for 30 seconds to evenly distribute. On a medium setting, beat butter and milk into dry mixture for approximately 1.5 minutes. Scrape down sides. Slowly add eggs and vanilla in three portions, beating 20 seconds after each addition.

Scrape batter into pans and smooth tops-- mixture should be about halfway full. Bake approximately 35 minutes for small cake and 50 minutes for large cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Set cakes on a cooling rack until cooled completely. While cakes are cooling, make the fresh blackberry curd.

Fresh Blackberry Curd:

Yields 2 cups.

8 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c fresh blackberry juice (I used a juicer to remove seeds)
2 T orange zest
12 T unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt

Combine egg yolks, blackberry juice, orange zest and sugar in a saucepan. Over medium high heat, cook mixture, whisking constantly, approximately 8-10 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and slowly add butter and salt, tablespoon by tablespoon, until melted and combined. Strain.

Chill curd with plastic wrap directly on top to prevent a skin from forming. Make frosting.

Dark Chocolate Frosting:

Yields 4 cups.

24 ounces good semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t espresso powder
1/4 c confectioner's sugar
4 and 1/2 sticks butter
pinch salt

Beat butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, combine cocoa powder and espresso powder with boiling water to form a paste. Add melted chocolate and cocoa paste to whipped butter. Beat 1-2 minutes until combined thouroughly.

To Assemble Cake:

Level off cooled cakes with a serrated knife.

Slice each cake horizontally into two equal layers with a serrated knife.

On serving platter or cake stand, assemble parchment paper beneath large cake bottom layer before icing.

Using an offset spatula to distribute filling and frosting, begin layering:

bottom layer of large cake
then blackberry curd,
top layer of large cake,
chocolate frosting to glue the next cake,
bottom layer of small cake,
blackberry curd then
top layer of small cake.

Using offset spatula, add "crumb coat" of frosting to the cake. Chill for 30 minutes.

Ice the cake. Dip spatula into ice water to keep frosting cool and smooth clumps with ease.
Remove parchment paper to display clean edges beneath cake.
Using a piping bag, pipe decorative borders around each layer
Decorate with candles or edible flowers as desired!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

lavender brownies & Cinco de Callie

My sweet tooth has been on a rampage.

I can't finish any savory meal (or snack for that matter) without a bite of something sweet.

my "nice" bites have included:
dried apricots
orange marmalade with local goat cheese
kashi cereal bars
fresh raspberries with Greek yogurt

some "naughty" bites on my mind (and in my stomach):
homemade muffins
peanut butter and honey paninis
curly's vanilla custard with bananas and caramel
anything involving chocolate cake

While browsing the 7th St. area after a lovely lunch with Ms. Fort Worth Cookie, the two of us snuck into j. rae's bakery specializing in cupcakes, cookies & cheesecake for a peek at their sweet confections. Although I was a sucker for their adorable hand-decorated dinosaur cookies, I chose a simple chocolate cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting.

I took one bite and was completely content. The cake was moist and not too chocolately- nice with the tangy frosting (although there was entirely too much of it). I will definitely return to j. rae's-- perfect cookies for a baby shower.

During a recent Central Market raid, I stopped short at the meat market with interest in pristine, garnet-hued bison-- organic, grain-fed and antibiotic free. I settled on a robust striploin with dreams of steak sandwiches in my head.

Along with buttery greens, homemade compound butter, luscious local cheese and earthy mushrooms-- this sandwich was simple yet refined.

Seared Bison Loin with Wilted Mache, Local Chevre, Roasted Clamshell Mushrooms & a Dried Fig Butter

Makes 2 sandwiches.

1 bison striploin
salt and pepper to taste
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup fresh mache leaves
1 c fresh clamshell mushrooms
goat cheese for spreading
(I used local Latte Da Dairy)
4 slices of fresh bread, toasted
(I used whole wheat Millet bread)
2 tablespoons dried fig butter, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil, a sprig of thyme and a drizzle of salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes until browned and crispy. Keep warm.

Season bison with liberal salt and pepper. Sear in a heated saute pan approximately 4 minutes per side to develop a brown crust. Finish in 400 degree oven approximately 6 more minutes to achieve medium rare. Set steak on board to rest while assembling sandwich.

Layer fig butter, mushrooms, sliced, rested steak, mache and goat cheese on remaining bread slice. Serve warm.

Dried Fig Butter:

4 T butter, softened
1/2 c dried figs, minced
1/2 t fresh thyme, minced
dash of salt

Mash together ingredients. Chill until ready to use. This butter would be fabulous on plain toast for breakfast, croissants or poached fruits.

While planning dinner, I decided to raid my pantry and make an impromptu dessert for two:

Bittersweet Lavender Brownies with Pistachios & a Cinnamon Chantilly

1 c unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1 and 1/4 c AP flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla bean extract
1 t dried lavender plus additional to garnish
crushed roasted pistachios for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan then set aside.
Melt butter and chocolate over a double boiler, stirring occasionally until smooth.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and dried lavender in a small bowl.
Whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl then whisk in chocolate mixture until combined well. Whisk in flour mixture then transfer batter to a baking pan.
Bake approximately 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted has a few crumbs clinging. Cool brownies on a rack. Serve warm with chopped pistachios, a sprinkling of dried lavender and a dollop of cinnamon chantilly cream.
Cinnamon Chantilly Cream:
1 pint organic heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 T ground cinnamon
Beat cream in a stand mixer until soft peaks develop. Stir in cinnamon and serve chilled with brownies.
Cinco de Mayo was this week-- an excuse for all to leave work a bit early, sip margaritas and parade around in sombreros. Since high school, my friends and I have also lovingly referred to it as Cinco de Callie-- in my opinion, it's the best day to have a birthday!
I turned 25 this year and had a lovely day beginning with 1 a.m. text messages from high school friends, gorgeous hydrangeas delivered to work and thoughtful gifts, cards and flowers received from both jobs.

For lunch, I snuck away with my boyfriend to the Central Market sandwich bar and patio for diet root beer, thick-cut potato chips and customized sandwiches.

I went with my usual:
whole wheat bread, red pepper hummus, muenster and grilled veggies
toasted and topped with:
fresh avocado slices, arugula and cucumber

while boyfriend settled on a simple:
roasted turkey, ham and pepperjack
toasted on rosemary bread with basil pesto
lovely lunch date.

After being cut early from my restaurant job that evening, I dashed home to shower and go glam in preparation of a surprise 5-course wine pairing dinner at Eddie V's Prime Seafood.

Our meal was sublime. The service was impeccable, the courses were perfectly timed, the wines were pleasantly matched and our dishes were cooked perfectly with gorgeous flavors.

Course 1:

Seafood Gazpacho with Lime Creme Fraiche
Sauvignon Blanc

Course 2:

Sliced Wagyu Beef "Hot Rock" Ishiyaki-- Togarashi Spice and Soy Broth with Wild Mushrooms and Julienned Scallions

Course 3:

Fuji Apple and Golden Beet Salad with Maytag Bleu Cheese, Haricot Verts, Candied Walnuts and an Outrageous Ginger-Orange Vinaigrette (for her)

Sweet Corn and Crab Chowder with Smoked Bacon (for him)

Course 4:

Incredible Jumbo Seared Georges Bank Sea Scallops with a Sherry Cream Sauce, Crispy Potato Strings and a Cilantro Oil (for her)
Pinot Noir

12 ounce Seared Filet of Beef with Boursin (for him)

Course 5:

Tableside Bananas Foster with Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Moscato de Asti

Highlights of the meal were the gorgeously-prepared scallops with the perfect sear and ginger orange vinaigrette bursting with an intense citrus flavor.
After such a
rich, succulent dinner
rest was imminent with
well wishes
for the year to come.