Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raspberry Scones

I've been having fun experimenting with flours recently. Having always enjoyed spelt bread, I thought it might be worth a try to try baking with it. This recipe comes from Erin McKenna of BabyCakes NYC featured in Food and Wine Magazine. It's nice also to move away from supremely refined sugars - after the overindulgences of the season. They are nutty, sweet but not-too-sweet, and a delicious paired with a homemade latte to start the day.

Raspberry Spelt Scones

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup hot water
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 cups spelt flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, whisk the spelt with the baking powder and salt. Stir in the oil, agave nectar and vanilla. Stir in the hot water, then the raspberries.
  2. Scoop 12 mounds of batter 1/3 cup each onto the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with oil. Bake the scones for 20 minutes, or until golden. Let the baking sheet cool completely on top of a rack.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Buckwheat Banana Pankcakes

After those intensely sweet sugar cookies, I was more than happy to take the healthy quotient back up today. Another GOOP recipe, this one called out to me because buckwheat is one of my favorite grains. In kasha form, it's a fabulous nutty addition to stews, under curries, or meat or fish. You see this as the grain of choice in Russia as if not more often than rice. Although in Russia kasha can be translated as both grain and oatmeal - it all depends on the preparation. Yes, you can prepare a grain meal much like oatmeal of buckwheat (along with wheat, rice, corn, and just about any other grain you can think of) and Russian's often do. In this instance however, I'm just relying on the flour. It was deliciously nutty and satisfying, without the cloying sweetness your basic buttermilk pancake can give you with syrup. Don't get me wrong, I love a good buttermilk pancake, but it's nice to have something heartier sometimes. While this preparation was delicious, in the future, I'd probably mash the banana and fold it into the batter. The slices got a bit messy, although they did carmelize nicely. I used regular milk with delicious results - but as written, it is entirely vegan (and can also be gluten free).

SERVES: 3 or 4 (makes about a dozen pancakes) TIME: 15 minutes

  • 1 1/4 cups soy or rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or white spelt flour (substitute rice flour to make pancakes completely gluten-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bananas, thinly sliced
Mix all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a slightly bigger bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough to combine – be careful not to over-mix (that’s how you get tough pancakes).

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat (I love Jamie Oliver’s nonstick cookware – it’s so slippery that I don’t need to use any oil or butter). Ladle as many pancakes as possible onto your griddle. Place a few slices of banana on top of each pancake. Cook for about a minute and a half on the first side or until the surface is covered with small bubbles and the underside is nicely browned. Flip and cook for about a minute on the second side. Repeat the process until you run out of batter. Serve stacked high with plenty of maple syrup.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Cookies!

I've mentioned it already, but now I've finally done it! Sugar Christmas Cookies! Frosted! Of course, not terribly good for you, but a delicious indulgence of the season. Not a bad way to spend a chilly, winter-weather-advisory evening after completing your Christmas shopping, finally putting up your Christmas tree, and kicking back by the fire. These definitely fall into the soft, buttery crumble category of Christmas cookie - my personal favorite. It comes from my new mother-in-law. 2 c sugar
1 1/2 c butter
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

5 c flour

1 tsp baking soda in hot water (about a Tbs of hot water)

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately, gently mixing in the wet to the dry.

To frost:
1 c powdered sugar

2-3 Tbs milk
1 tsp melted butter

1/4 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

food coloring as desired

beat ingredients together, adding milk last - one Tbs at
a time until you reach your desired consistencey. Add food coloring and play!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Menu for Hope

It's a time of year when many of us choose to open our hearts, homes and wallets in the spirit of giving and sharing our joy in the season. As you peruse this and perhaps other food blogs, you may come across a food-blogger UN World Food Program (WFP) fundraiser, called Menu for Hope. I have had the great honor of working with WFP in some of the work I do, and they truly are a remarkable organization staffed with incredible people. While any UN agency has it's share of bureaucracy, they are still able to do work that no one else can do in their scale and proficiency. Buy a $10 raffle ticket for a chance to win a number of goodies donated by food bloggers, proceeds to benefit WFP's school-based program in Lesotho:

This year Menu for Hope 5 again raises funds for the WFP's school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. This is the second year we are supporting this program, which assist the WFP's efforts to supply the program by buying directly from local farmers who practice conservation farming methods. With this program, we help feed the kids (which keep them in school) and support their parents and community farming. This sustainable approach to aid is something we believe in and strongly support.

For more details, visit the Menu for Hope website.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

I came across what many have likely already discovered in GOOP - Gwyneth Paltrow's new lifestyle blog. While I loved Emma, Shakespeare in Love, and others as much as the next angsty adolescent of the 90s, I have no strong feelings either way about the actress. Some are rather affronted by her penchant for privacy and using big words, but really, if she's become as successful and happy as Ms. Paltrow appears to be, is it such a bad thing to take some of her advice? When fashion magazines clamber for crumbs of detail about stars' diets, hair, make-up, and exercise habits, what makes us so reluctant to take their lifestyle advice as well? There seem to be some threshold where we draw the line when it comes to someone telling us how to live. It seems to be different for everyone, but it's interesting to see how it plays out.

All that aside, I've been happily exploring her newsletters on food. One dish she highlighted from Food and Wine magazine particularly appealed to me. It goes sweet, if that is your preference (it was not Mr. Pleasant's) but you can reduce the amount of brown sugar if you like it a little more savory. Serve it over, or throw in steamed veggies - along with jasmine or brown rice.

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken
from Food and Wine Magazine, via GOOP

SERVES: 4 generously
TIME: 10 minutes

  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar (unrefined)
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 or 2 fresh Thai chilis (to your taste!), halved
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (1/2”)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, ginger, pepper and chili and reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the shallots until softened and a bit brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and stir-fry, browning it all over, about a minute. Add the sugar mixture and simmer over high heat until the chicken is totally cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The First Food

While purusing the Washington Post's top cookbook picks this year , I came across Anne Mendelson's Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk through the ages.Having explored one facet of dairy yesterday, I couldn't help but share what sounds to be a facinating read. Not only does it explore the relationship between humans and dairy through the ages, it includes delicious sounding recipes. We American's really are limited in our understanding and use of, as Mendelson puts it, the first food.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Butter, Butter everywhere...

'Tis the season for cookies galore. I've had great cookies, cookies that made my teeth hurt, cookies I couldn't get past my gums and cookies I don't feel I could live without. I have many memories attached to cookies in the holiday season - warm memories of midnight cookie-snacks in grandma's kitchen, and 'painting' on cookie frosting at my aunt and uncles house.

When I roll up my sleeves and get into the baking holiday spirit, I have my short list of favorites. My absolute favorite cookie of the season however, will always be the simple, scrumptious frosted sugar cookie. I've always had the inkling that butter was the key to a successful cookie - especially when you're talking about a cookie that get's all of its flavor from butter and sugar. Today's NYT food section article puts science behind that belief.

It really is remarkable just how many butters are out there - and how little I, and many I believe, know about them. Like any dairy product, there are so many variables that affect the over all taste, quality and usability. European butters, with an emphasis on terroir and higher percentage of butterfat, an increasing production of non-factory farmed butters from American producers and with slightly lower percent milkfat of it's European counterparts.

I can't wait to try out some of the recipes they offer here, especially to try out some butter's I've never tried. this one is at the top of my list.


Adapted from “Field Guide to Cookies” by Anita Chu (Quirk Books, 2008)

Time: 45 minutes

3/4 cup blanched almonds or hazelnuts, lightly toasted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt (if using fine or table salt, use 3/8
1 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
1. Position 2 oven racks in top third and bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, grind nuts, sugar and salt to a fine meal. In a mixer, beat flour and butter together on low speed until texture is sandy. Add nut mixture and mix on low until dough starts to form small lumps; keep mixing until dough just holds together when pinched between fingers. Do not use wet fingers: the
cookies will collapse.
3. Pinch off about a teaspoon of dough and place in palm of your hand. With tips of fingers, pinch and press dough together until cookie has a flat bottom and pointed top, like a rough pyramid. Cookies need not be perfectly smooth or equal size. Place on parchment about 1 inch apart.
4. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through. Cookies should be turning golden brown on edges. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely before storing in airtight containers up to 1 week.
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Portland Eats

I just returned from a fabulous trip to the left coast to visit Ms. T of eatingisart. What a blast! Though I'd been to Portland before, it was when I was 12 and I remember little else than lots of bridges and kiwis growing on a churchyard fence. This was a much more memorable visit - not JUST because of the fabulous food, or the remarkably sunny weather, or the amazing sauna experience. There's nothing like getting two childhood friends together - who both love to cook, bake, eat, and laugh. It's like no time has passed at all.

Here's a tour of some of our culinary adventures. Though there was much more than this, these are some of the highlights (and when I was patient enough to haul out my camera. Some food just didn't make it to print, only because it was too delicious to not eat as soon as it reached my plate).

Crema cafe and bakery. DELICIOUS. And great coffee and cocoa plus one sexy red velvet cupcake

Perhaps one of the most surprising and delicious meals was the Bosnian street cart not far from Pioneer Square. Bosnian food? From a street cart? In downtown Portland? I suppose stranger things have happened, but it was delicious. A surprising combination of Mediterranean and Slavic cuisine, with a flaky "pita" that reminded me of Georgian Khatchipouri. Deeeelicious. We pretty much ate our way through Portland, and it was awesome.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pumpkin Hazlenut Pie

Dear readers, I believe I've already hit you over the head with my love of this season, and two of it's fabulous bounties: pumpkin and nuts. Enter the hazelnut. Oh, how tasty you can be. Especially wrapped in fabulous European chocolate. I tried this recipe last thanksgiving with pecan, but thought I would try hazelnut this year. I like both versions, but where the pecan fades to a sweet nuttiness, the hazlenut stands out but sings in harmony with the rich pumpkin custard. While adulterating classic pumpkin pie may not be for everyone (Mr. Pleasant is a staunch traditionalist in this particular instance) it's a tasty variation sure to gratify your tastebuds.

Pumpkin Hazlenut Pie
from FWDGF by Mirelle Gulliano

2/3 c flour
pinch of salt
1 Tbs sugar
6 Tbs chilled butter
1 1/2 Tbs ice cold water

1/3 cup ground hazlenuts (a coffee grinder works great for this - make sure the nuts are fresh!)
1/4 c granulated brown sugar
2 Tbs softened butter
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 c unsweetened canned pumpkin
1 Tbs flour
2/3 c granulated brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 c heavy cream

  1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor. Pulse to combine. Cut chilled butter into small pieces and add t obowl. Add water and process for 15 seconds. Add more water by droplets if too dry. The dough should just hold together. Do not overmix.
  2. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight. Can also be chilled in freezer for the express version - at least 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out or press the dough into a 9" pie plate. prick with fork and line with aluminum foil. Add pie weights or dried beans to weigh down. Bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Increase the oven temp to 450 F and prepare filling by combining nuts, 1/4 c brown sugar and butter. Work into a paste and spread into partially cooked pastry shell. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn oven down to 325 F. Mix together the eggs, egg yolk, pumpkin, flour 2/3 c brown sugar, spices, salt and heavy cream. Pour into pastry shell. Bake for 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chestnut Soup

Each season has it's special qualities, but autumn calls to me in a way the other seasons don't. Cooler air, sense of the old passing away and new endeavors to take on - though I've been out of school for years the smell of sharpened #2 pencils in the fall still remind me of the excitement of starting a fresh school year (before the homework fatigue sank in;).

Chestnuts are one of my favorite heralds of late fall, promising the holiday season to come. I love them roasted, but I also discovered that they made a lovely soup - I had chestnut soup for the first time with my mom at a lovely French restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. They
combined Jerusalem artichokes and chestnut, but as the former are not around just yet, I thought I would try my luck with just the chestnuts.

Browsing through my cookbooks, I found a recipe th
at looked just perfect. French Women for All Seasons has some of my favorite, simple dishes that really celebrate the true flavor of the ingredients. This worked beautifully with the chestnuts, although admittedly, not as well with the farmers market endive that's true flavor was a little too bitter for my taste. Still, this is my favorite way to cook - bringing out the flavors of good, local and organic if possible ingredients.

Chestnut Soup
adapted from French Women for All Seasons
1 lb chestnuts

2-3 C vegetable or organic chicken stock

1/2 c milk

1 tbs butter

salt and pepper to taste

If you can manage to find pre-peeled chestnuts, this soup will be a breeze. If you're not afraid of rolling up your sleeves a bit, by the whole, fresh chestnuts and peel them yourself. To peel, chop the knobbly end off of the nut (you don't need to cut much of it off) and boil in water for 10-12 minutes. Wait for them to cool slightly, then peel of the outer shell and skin. This is easier to do the warmer the nut is.

Once you have peeled the chestnuts, place them and 2 cups of stock in a pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Keep simmering, uncovered for 40-50 minutes, until the nuts are soft and mushy. At this point, it should be blended, but if you still have some remaining skin in the mix, put through a sieve or a food mill once you've blended it. Our new immersion blender was perfect for this, but a food processor or blender will also do the job nicely.

Once blended, add the milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm. It's quite rich, so a little goes a long way. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pumpkin Cake with Honey Frosting

Have I mentioned just how much I love this season? Reason # 452, my friend, the pumpkin. Ms. Adams Morgan likes to joke about my orange food habit. There is some truth to her reflection though. Pumpkin? Love it. Squash? Love it. Sweet Potatoes? Gimme more! Curries? Yup. Especially with slightly-orange-ish garbanzos. So how to best purpose this season of orange food cornucopia? Ms. T of eating is art and I stumbled on this little jewel from Martha Stewart. For once, no complicated steps, just mix, bake, frost and eat. Simple, delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice and cloves)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin puree

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 bar (8 ounces) regular (or reduced-fat) cream cheese, very soft
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth.
  3. Turn batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.
  4. Make Honey Frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk butter, cream cheese, and honey until smooth.
  5. Spread top of cooled cake with honey frosting. Cut cake into squares to serve.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homemade Pasta

One of my favorite gifts from Mr. Pleasant and my wedding was our pasta maker. Considering the last time I actively used a pasta maker was my Sculpy ceramics class, it took a little while to get readjusted to the right technique, but once you've got it down it's a breeze. Whipped this up with a fabulous red sauce from orangette - it truly is a voluptuous sauce as she claims. It's become my go-to basic tomato sauce.

Basic Egg Pasta
from The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook
1 1/2 c flour
2 egg

Put the flour in a food processor and add the eggs. Start the food processor and run 45 seconds or until dough forms a tight ball. If it doesn't form the ball, add a 1 tbs. of water, and run for another 45 seconds. Add more if necessary, but be frugal. A little goes a long way.

Once a ball is formed, split in half and put 1 half through the well-floured machine. Can make linguine, spaghetti, angel hair or lasagna noodles. We used linguine.

Voluptuous Red Sauce
from orangette

2 cups whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices (about one 28-oz. can)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt, to taste

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

Yield: Enough sauce for about 1 pound of pasta, or 4 servings

Shave Ice

Shave ice - a truly Hawaiian treat ! Don't confuse these babies with snowcones, it's a whole different ballgame. To start, they don't use crushed ice. The ice is litterally shaved with very sharp blades to produce a lovely consistency. Flavored syrups are poured over it - and it can be - as it is here- served over ice cream (macadamia nut to be precise :) It turned my whole mouth blue, but oh boy, was it delicious. While I am sadly without the tools to recreate this little gem of a sweet, I shall remember it very fondly and return for it when I can! Anniversary trip sound good, Mr. Pleasant? :)

Honeymoon Eats

Of course, the location is half of the deliciousness. Hello, Hawaii. Ms. Pleasant is now Mrs. Pleasant - Mr. Pleasant and I tied the knot last month and greatly enjoyed a Hawaiian honeymoon shortly thereafter, first to Kauai then to Maui. Fresh, seasonal tropical fruits - who knew starfruit actually has a taste? Pineapple, mango, papaya, apple bananas... so delicious. After our first and fabulous day at the Four Seasons - with a delicious breakfast served on our Lanai - we stayed in condos where we could do our own cooking. But check out that Four Seasons spread. Oh, five-star resorts, how I wish I could afford to take advantage of you all the time. Fresh pineapple juice?! Mixed with the complimentary French champagne room service brought us? Ohyesplease.

When left to our own devises, we didn't too too shabbily either though. What to do with limited kitchen supplies, but a bounty of fresh farmers market fruit? Apple banana pancakes! No syrup, use deliciously juicy mango!

Apple Banana Pancakes with Fiberless Mango

2 Apple (or regular) bananas
1 pocket of single serving pancake mix
1 fiberless mango

Mash the bananas, add to the mix along with water, according to packet directions. Cook and serve according to packet instructions. Slice mango on top of pancakes and enjoy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Market Turkey Chops

I love going to the market. I shake off slumber early on Saturday mornings, eager to take off to investigate breadline's francophone vendor's baguette and croissant selection, see if the Italian plumbs are in, and if the yellow watermelons are as good as the orange ones. It's like Christmas. Every week from April-November, and in between if I get myself down to Dupont or Eastern Market. Mr. Pleasant can attest (grumpily no doubt) to my shaking him awake and skipping out of the apartment, baggu in hand, eagerly anticipating what delicious surprises await us this week.

This past week, there were some glorious golden plumbs available. I loved to hear the exclamations the French fellow next to me was making, how he had never seen these beauties outside of France. They seduced me with their sweet, tangy scent, their plump, juicy flesh seeming to glow in the morning sun. Seductive beauties indeed!

In the bag and on the counter (only a few lost to sampling in the process), they begged to be made into dinner. But how? Another market find comes to the rescue - chops! Of turkey! Who knew? Another market surprise find. A little inspiration from Rosso and Lukin's Silver Palate Cook Book, and we were good to go.

Turkey Chops with Golden Plums

1/2 c chopped plums
1 1/2 Tbs dijion mustard
2 Turkey Chops
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbs butter
1/2 Tbs olive oil

Mix the plums and mustard together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat with about a 1/2 Tbs olive oil and 1/2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the chops and brown lightly on both sides. Season with salt and pepper and spoon the currant mixture evenly over them.

Cover the chops, reduce heat and cook until the chops are done or about 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Deglaze pan with vinegar. When reduced by about 1/3, pour over chops and serve immediately.

PS- there is a good amount of plum mixture left over. It's great reused braised with red wine and chicken breasts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cardamom Cookies, Part Deux

The Pleasant kitchen is currently in a state of upheaval to become more pleasant (heh, heh...) so I couldn't find Deborah Madison's cookbook for the cardamom cookie recipe posted a few weeks back. Here, finally is the recipie, thanks too my dear friend miz T of Eating is Art. Can I plug her more? :)

Cardamom Cookies (by Deborah!)

1/4 pound (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for tops
2 tblsp granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp ground cardamom
3/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups flour

cream to butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk. stir in the cardamom, salt and flour. divide the dough in two, roughly shape each piece into a log about 1 inch thick, then roll in plastic or wax paper. pull each log through your thumb and first finger to make it even and, if you prefer, longer and narrower. refrigerate until firm or freeze until ready to use.

preheat oven to 375 degreees. cut the dough into 1/4 inch rounds or diagonals and set them on cookie sheets at least 1 inch apart. bake until pale golden on top and lightly browned around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. cool. serve plain or dusted with confectioners sugar.


If you haven't already discovered the awesomeness that is
Pietopia, check it out! Tricia poses the question,

"What does it taste like to be unemployed, starting a new job, just married, divorced, a new homeowner or desperately searching for housing? What kind of pie would describe the way you are feeling right now? Could you imagine your thoughts, concerns or joys transformed into the All-American Pie? If so, take part in the Pietopia Pie Contest!"

See the inspired entries and more at the Pietopia blog, and also on Tricia's food blog, Eating is Art. Believe me, you'll be glad you did :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mr. Pleasant's Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Mr. Pleasant has been on a roll with the ice creams this summer. Just last week he made a fabulously rich and creamy coffee ice cream, along with a pina colada sherbet. Mmmm. One of my favorites so far this season was his cookies and cream, though. Based off of the basic vanilla ice cream from David Liebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop" , and added in some zing! a la Mr. Pleasant, the people at the party we took this too couldn't get enough!

Mr. Pleasant's Cookie and Cream Ice Cream
adapted from
The Perfect Scoop

1 c whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean split in half lengthwise (or about 2 tsp. of extract - not quite the same but does fine)
6 large egg yolks
3/4 tsp. almond extract
12 chocolate sandwich cookies, hand crumbled

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover, remove from heat and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes. (or without bean, move to the next step).

Pour the remaining 1 c of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the sauce pan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla and almond extract and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving it for another use, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. As the mixture is churning, add half of the cookies. They will be pulverized in the process. when done churning, add the remaining cookies and stir in, reserving a few for the top for garnish if desired.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Poulet Mijote a la Moutarde - Chicken Stew with Mustard

The French name just sounds so much more interesting, doesn't it? This is a simple and delicious dish and served over rice, it's a fabulous and feasible midweek meal.

adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier's "Chocolate and Zucchini"

1 whole head garlic
extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
one 3-31/2 lb. whole free-range chicken cut into 8 pieces thawed if frozen
4 medium red onions
one 28 to 32 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
a good pinch of ground chili powder
1/3 c dry white wine
3 Tbs dijon mustard with whole mustard seeds (I used Meaux mustard).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
Peel the outer layers of skin from the head of garlic until you reach the individual cloves. Slice off the top of the head so the flesh of each clove is exposed. Put the head of garlic on a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and close the foil into a pouch. bake for 45 minutes, until the flesh of each clove is light brown and very soft when tested with teh tip of a knife.
Once you've slipped the garlic into the oven, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot or dutsaston with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes on each side until golden.
while the chicken is browning peel and quarter the onions. Set aside on a plate and pour out the excess chicken fat. Put the onions in teh pot and cook for 5 minutes, until softened stirring regularly.
Add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, and ground chile powder, and arrange the chicken over the vegetables. Pour in the wind and bring to a simmer. cover and cook over medium-low heat for 40 minutes stirring from time to time.
Remove the garlic from the oven, open the pouch and let cool. Squeeze the garlic out of each clove into a small bowl and mash with a fork to form a paste. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
When the chicken is cooked, spoon the mustard in the pot and stir to blend into teh sauce. turn the heat up to medium high and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Cover and keep over low heat until ready to serve. Serve over rice or pasta.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Memories and Cardamom Cookies

It's very hard to loose someone you care a lot about. Even harder when you are faced with days you should be celebrating with them, but find yourself without them. I find one of the best ways to feel connected to them is doing something we both shared and enjoyed. For me, that is very often cooking. I treasure my grandmother's handwritten recipes, remembering the smell of fresh strawberries and the feel of her aged but deft hands teaching me to roll out pie crust. It feels like I'm celebrating her each time I make those recipes - and a bit of her is with me. The same goes for my dear friend Em, who left this world over a year and a half ago. We went to college together, were roommates then, and when both of our fledgling careers brought us to DC, we shared an apartment that we loved to fill with great food and laughter. We both went moon-eyed over cardamom and had a favorite cardamom cookie recipe from Deborah Madison's "Everything Vegetarian". In honor of what would have been her 26th Birthday, I baked a batch of these melt-in-your mouth beauties, remembering how much fun we had cooking together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I love coffee. As a beverage, as a flavor, as an ingredient. I didn't always though. I have very vivid memories of my sister and I recoiling in horror as my parents refilled their insulated travel mug of coffee on long road trips. We would wail on and on about how it made the car stinky. Funny how things change. I can thank my mother - who innocently enough- introduced me to starbuck's frappicinos and then it was all downhill from there. I wouldn't say I'm addicted, but there's nothing quite like savoring a tasty cup of joe or a homemade latte.

That said, the area has increasingly interesting and just plain good coffee.Considering the wealth of Ethiopian cuisine in Our Nation's Capital, you'd think I'd have tried more of it's coffee. Adventures to report on for another post. Speaking of coffee and cuisine though, the recently opened Co Co Sala restaurant on F street really is fabulous. Their menu focuses on 5 different dessert courses featuring two of my very favorite ingredients: chocolate and coffee. While they do have meze style "real food" available, go for the dessets. It's sooo worth it.

Today's article in the Washington Post's Food Section got me waxing on about this topic. They also had a recipie for an espresso spritzer that I'm eager to try out. The recipie was published in the post, but hails originally from Susan Zimmer's "I love Coffee!". I think it's a cookbook I might just need to check out :)

Espresso Spritzer
The Washington Post, July 23, 2008
To sweeten this drink, you can add 1 to 2 ounces each of light cream and chocolate syrup.

1 serving

6 ounces crushed ice
1 cup cold espresso or cold strong coffee
Carbonated mineral water or soda water

Fill a tall, chilled glass with the crushed ice. Pour the espresso or strong, cold coffee over the ice, then fill to the top with the carbonated mineral water or soda water.
Recipe Source:

From "I Love Coffee!" by Susan Zimmer (Andrews McMeel, 2007).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tarte Aux Pêches- Peach Tart

The farmer's market was over flowing with luscious peaches this weekend. The only question was what to do with them.

The answer came from Julia Child.
It starts with a sweet short paste...

Pâte Brisée Sucrée
adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2/3 c flour (scooped and leveled)
1 Tbs granulated sugar

1/8 tsp salt

5 1/2 Tbs butter
2 1/2 to 3 Tbs cold water
Mix all ingredients together except the water in the food processor till combined. Fill tart pan and bake at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes or until just begining to turn golden brown.

Tarte Aux Pêches
adapted again from Julia Child
3 to 4 peaches
2/3 c granulated Sugar
1 Tbs butter cut into pea sized dots

Drop the fruit into boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Peel, halve, and remove pits. Slice the fruit if you wish. Preheat oven to 350 F. Sprinkle 3 Tbs of sugar in the bottom of the pastry shell. If the fruit is sliced, arrange it over the sugar in a closely overlapping layer of concentric circles. If it is halved, place the halves, domed side up, closely together in the shell. Spread on teh rest of the sugar (although if fruit is very ripe, you don't need all of it). Bake in the middle level of preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fruit has colored lightly and the juices have become syrupy. You can add a fruit glaze, or enjoy it as it is (which is what I did).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Morning French Toast

There's no treat quite like a delicious Sunday brunch. When I spotted the remaining baguette from the farmers market yesterday, I knew it was a morning for French toast. Paired with a mamosa and fruit salad, it was a fabulous way to start the day.

French Toast
from William Sonoma's Bride and Groom Cookbook

1 day old baguette
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 Tbs orange juice
4 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Slice the baguette on a slight bias into 20 slices about 3/4 inch thick.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, yolk, milk, vanilla, orange juice, zest, sugar and salt, blending well. Submerge the slices of bread and prick their surfaces with a fork so that they better absorb the egg mixture, If the bread is fairly dry, turn over a few times and press the bread into the egg mixture, massaging it into the bread. let the bread sit in the egg mixture for at least 15 minutes, turning once; this ensures a custard like interior when the bread is cooked.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Melt some of the butter in a cast-iron frying pan or on a seasoned griddle over the medium heat. Place the bread slices, in batches, into the foaming butter and reduce the heat to low. Cook each slice just until the surface is golden brown and the inside has the texture of pudding, 3-4 minutes on each side. Add more butter to the frying pan if necessary. As the slices are cooked keep warm in the oven spread in a single layer on baking sheets; do not stack.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies to the Next Level

Read this article in the NY Times and am thrilled to give it a try this weekend. Mr. Pleasant has always insisted that refrigerating the dough improves cookie flavor, but my impatience has always won out :) Now, we'll see if he get's to do his best "i told you so" ever.

To try for the weekend (from the NYT):

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Published: July 9, 2008
Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Oatmeal with Grated Apple

so delicious, not a drop left. Look at my adorable Marimekko mug though. It's love.

Waking up to one of the coldest, brightest mornings this Month, oatmeal seemed like the perfect way to start the day. Plus, I can attest to it still sticking satisfyingly to my ribs as we speak :) While we do resort to the instant oatmeal on weekdays, the weekend offers a perfect chance to really savor the real stuff. This recipe comes from Mirelle Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat, memoir/cookbook. Though I've always appreciated French cuisine, I never found it accessible until I read this book. I've since gone on to explore more French cooking to my great delight. This cookbook still has my favorite recipes for poached pears, pumpkin pie, French bread and a whole host of other things. Including oatmeal. I reduced the recipe so it makes enough for two and also sweetened it a bit.

Oatmeal with Grated Apple

adapted from French Women Don't Get Fat

1 c old fashioned oatmeal

1 3/4 c water

pinch of salt

1 medium apple, coarsely grated

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/3 c milk

1/2 tsp butter
2 Tbs brown sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Combine the oatmeal, water and salt in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil. Add the grated apple and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the milk, sugar and butter and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately. Add cinnamon if desired.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Caramelized Onion Chicken

When trying to decide what do do with the chicken in the fridge, I came across this recipe from Cooking Light. I was a little wary of any dinner that called for jam, but this turned out scrumptiously! It's rather red, but totally delicious. Paired with green beans with a drizzle of walnut oil and shallots and roasted Yukon golds, it made for a delicious meal!

Caramelized Onion Chicken

1 pound chicken breast tenders
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 2 minutes. Add chicken to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove onion and chicken from pan.

Add jam and remaining ingredients to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return chicken mixture to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces chicken and 1 tablespoon sauce)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Red Shrimp and Mango Curry

I've been running a low on cooking inspiration lately, so I thought I'd seek out some new cookbooks. I picked up Nigella Lawson's new Nigella Express cookbook and have been very happy with it. It's perfect for tasty, healthy, quick meals you don't mind making even when it's been a long day, your hungry, exhausted and desperate for dinner. Now. Tonight's experiment was red shrimp and mango curry - I didn't have Thai red curry on hand, but had another curry paste and plenty of red curry powder and it turned out fairly well. It's probably better with the real deal but this was fun and tasty.

one day, the kitchen lighting will be as good as the food made in it...

Red Shrimp and Mango Curry

adapted from Nigella Express

1 scallion, finely sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs curry paste
1 13.5 oz Lite coconut milk
1 c organic chicken stock
2 tsp fish sauce
2 1/2 c sweet potato, cubed
7 oz shrimp
1 c mango
1 tsp lime juice
3-4 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro

Fry the scallion in the oil for a minute then add teh curry paste
Whisk in the coconut milk, stock and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Tip in the sweet potato and simmer partially covered for about 15 minutes until tender. Tumble shrimp into pot and let the sauce come to a boil. Add mango and lime juice and cook for another minute or so until the shrimp are cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve over plain rice.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Grocery and Green-ing

Mr. Pleasant and I love to cook. We love to cook delicious, wholesome food and we love to try new things. For us, that frequently means trips to multiple grocery stores and our local farmers market. As the recent USDA beef recall has reminded me, I think it's important to buy (generally, but especially) meat that has been raised humanely, locally, sustainably and organically. Which, unfortunately, frequently comes with a higher price tag - which, for us, generally means fewer meat dishes. However, we are lucky enough to be part of a group that orders meat, dairy and some baked goods directly from a local Amish farm. The price is quite reasonable and the products are AMAZING. There are many similar programs for both meat and dairy as well as more commonly known "Community Supported Agriculture" or CSA's that allow you by a share in the farm and you are provided with farm fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season, and they are becoming more and more popular as people are becoming more and more aware of food security issues.

That said, we don't always get our order in time in which case we call on one of our local grocery stores. While our closest store has an okay general selection, they carry no organic meats. Whole foods (known to some as 'whole paycheck') is frequently where we end up buying much of our meat and produce. Whole Foods happens to be going the Ikea route and as of Earth Day 2008 are no longer providing disposable grocery bags. One of my new year's resolutions this year was to reduce my use of plastic and paper disposable bags. Enter Baggu (although there are a whole host of options out there)- sturdy little reusable grocery bags that hold more (and more securely) than your average double-bagged plastic bags and stuff down into tiny bags that fit easily in my purse.

I bought six, along with reusable produce bags , and haven't looked back! I augment them with a rag-tag collection of canvas and conference bags I've collected over the years, and they do marvelously! In fact, I probably could've done with just the old rag-tag troupe, but the small size of the baggu bags wooed me. I've gotten some admiration and no dark looks or angry bag-stuffing from any of the cashiers I've presented with my bags. It felt silly the first time I did it, but now I really feel good about using them :)

They are small changes that really add up to big changes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Winter Pear Tart Frangipane

This recipie comes from one of my most dog-eared cookbooks - Sundays at Moosewood. Even if you're not vegetarian (although some of the recipies include fish) it is a fabulous resource for regional cuisine. Each region has it's own section - and the regions are as diverse as Sub-Saharan Africa, Finland, Japan, and the US South. Although tonights stuffed peppers and Gateau de Pommes de Terre did not go over so well with Mr. Pleasant (good thing to know over 4 years into a relationship that one's future husband does not care for stuffed peppers), the dessert was more of a hit. The Pate Brisee is inspired - it's melt-in-your mouth with just a hint of lemon that compliments the pear and almond beautifully. I wasn't sure what to expect - most pate brisee does not call for egg. I thought it might be heavy, but no! Beautifully buttery, crumbles delectably. I might try this a la Julia to compare the versions, but this was a delightful end to a cold, blustery January day.

Winter Pear Tart Frangipane
adapted from the Provence Section by Kip Wilcox of
Sundays at Moosewood

Pate Brisee
1 1/2 C unbleached white flour
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 C chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbs cold water

Stir flour and sugar together (I used a food processor for maximum mixing in minimum time - you do NOT want to overbeat this) in a mixing bowl. Add butter and mix until mixture becomes crumbly. Whisk together egg yolk, lemon juice and 1 Tbs of water. sprinkle the liquid over the butter-flour mixture and continue to mix until a ball forms. If the mixture is crumbly, add the remaining 1 Tbs water. Roll out into 9 or 10 " pie plate or tart pan. Flute and chill.

Carmelized Pears

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 c water
5 pears, washed cored and sliced

Heat butter and brown sugar in heavy skillet. Add the water (carefully! if too hot will splatter!) and stir briefly. Add the pear, and saute them for 10 minutes, covering the pan when not stirring. Remove from heat and set aside.

7 oz almond paste, softened
1/2 c butter, softened
2-3 drops pure almond extract
2 eggs
2 tsp flour

beat together the almond paste and butter. Add the almond extract. In another bowl whisk together the eggs and flour and then blend them into the butter mixture.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Smooth the custard into the pie shell. Arrange pears on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the custard is firm. If the crust browns too quickly, cover with foil.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No-Knead Bread!

Finally! I've managed to try out the famous no-knead bread recipe that took the food blog world by storm! First (I believe, and please correct me if I'm wrong) published in the NY Times in November of 06', this little (and it is a little, simple recipe) recipe is a breeze to make and has remarkable results. It's even fairly flexible - I definitely let the dough sit longer than 18 hours in a room less than 70 degrees and still had great results. I'm eager to try the Washington Post's food sections variations with this technique!

No-Knead Bread

from the NY Times

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

¼ teaspoon instant yeast

1¼ teaspoons salt

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.