Genève’s Kitchen

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Sunday Supper: Moroccan tagine

December 17th, 2007 · 5 Comments

tagine.jpgIt was a cold and stormy Sunday so made for a perfect night to invite friends over to the orphanage for family supper.  I'm staying with my friend Rachel and Mara is in town as well so we've taken to calling the cozy apartment the orphanage as it's offering us refuge from various things.  We decided on going with a Moroccan theme.  Rachel had gotten a beautiful orange Le Creuset pot and ever since she bought it had the idea of making tagine – tonight was the perfect occasion.  This was a great meal for entertaining because it was easy to make ahead and produced the most incredible aromas that warmed the apartment.  The recipe called for some exotic spice mixes that were easier to come across than I'd expected and added depth and complexity to the dish.  This is definitely a crowd pleaser and only gets better the longer it cooks.

Chicken and Chickpea Tagine with Apricots and Harissa Sauce 

This recipe is an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe

Olive oil 8 chicken thighs (I used 4 drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs) Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ras al-hanut (a mix of Moroccan spices that you should be able to find at specialty/gourmet markets)
Large pinch saffron, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water
1 cinnamon stick
15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup dried apricots, sliced into half moons
1 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
Harissa (paste of chilies, garlic, and spices – available at specialty/gourmet markets)
Creme fraiche
Couscous

Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1) Make the harissa sauce that will serve as a condiment by mixing together 1/2 cup creme fraiche with 1 tablespoon harissa.  Refrigerate until ready to eat.

2) In a Le Creuset dutch oven or tagine heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot skin side down cooking for about 2 minutes on each side just to brown them and then remove to a plate and set aside.  You might need to work in batches here – best not to crowd the pot.

3) If necessary remove or add some of the oil from the pot – you want about 2 tablespoons.  Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the ras al-hanut and cook for 30 seconds.  (The aromas will be released by the heat – so amazing!)  Add the saffron and liquid, cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chickpeas, and apricots.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the cup of water, honey, and add salt to taste.

4) Nestle the chicken into the mixture and place the lid on the pot and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes without removing the lid.

5) Make the couscous according to the directions on the box.  

To serve add a heap of couscous to the plate topping with the chicken and dollop with the harissa sauce (the harissa sauce is spicy so add according to your taste).  Garnish with the parsley and cilantro.

The perfect accompaniment to this lightly spicy dish is Mara's cool cucumber salad with pita.

Enjoy! 


→ 5 CommentsTags: Chicken · Comfort Food · Entertaining · Entree

Harvest Celebration

October 14th, 2007 · 4 Comments

sliders.jpgI'm staying with my friend Rachel in the West Village in NYC and we decided to host a little party – fall being our inspiration.  Over the summer when I had been in NY Rachel had taken me to an amazing restaurant in the neighborhood called, The Little Owl.  We had the most incredible meal and so I was very excited when I came across last month's issue of Bon Appetit which not only featured the restaurant but shared their recipe for the meatball sliders that I'd enjoyed.  These sliders were going to be the main attraction at our 'harvest celebration' party.

We started the day by visiting the farmer's market and picked up crunchy macoun and macintosh apples, sweet potatoes, zucchinis, and basil.  We then found the most amazing gourds to decorate the table and a little festive pumpkin to sit on the window sill.

Our shopping expedition took us to the butcher, several grocery stores, and then on a quest to find the little buns for our mini sliders.  We stopped by The Little Owl to find out where they got the perfect little buns and it turned out they made them themselves.  So we continued on our way to find a bakery that might have something we could use (passing Harold from last season's Top Chef along the way!).  We stopped in at the sister restaurant to The Little Owl called Market Table and met Mike who was the chef there and to our extreme delight he offered us some of the dough that he'd already prepared for the buns.  We were so excited to be able to feature the 'real deal' along with our sliders.  

The spread we made included the sliders, roasted vegetables, cheese plate with a fig cake, olives stuffed with almonds, and to finish – apples dunked in caramel sauce with a light sprinkling of sea salt.  

Here is the recipe for the mini sliders as featured in the September issue of Bon Appetit:  

Meatball Sliders 

Makes 18 little meatballs

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese style breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup water
8 Tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspooon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 14.5-oz can whole peeled tomatoes

Arugula leaves (optional)

18 small soft rolls, split horizontally (toasted lightly if desired)

1) Make the meatballs by mixing all of the meats, panko breadcrumbs, water, 6 tablespoons of cheese, egg, egg yolk, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl.  Mix together with your hands just until combined and form into 18 2 inch meatballs.

2) Heat vegetable oil over med-high heat in a large skillet.  Working in batches fry the meatballs until brown all over.  Transfer to a plate.  Meanwhile pour off the excess oil from the pan and reduce heat to medium.  Add the olive oil and then the onion, garlic, basil, and fennel seeds.  Saute the onion until the onion begins to brown – approx. 5 minutes.  Add all the tomatoes with juices and bring to a boil scaping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Reduce heat to low, cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. 

3) Puree the sauce in a food processor until almost smooth and return to the skillet.  Add the meatballs and cover the lid lightly and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through – about 30 minutes.  

(Because I only had a really small food processor to work with I instead opted for already crushed tomatoes rather than the whole ones and then skipped the step of pureeing.)

4) Take a bun, slice it open horizontally and layer a few leaves of arugula on the bottom, top each with a meatball, drizzle meatballs with some sauce and sprinkle with remaining parsely and cheese.  Cover with the top of the bun. (You can use a toothpick here to hold them together if necessary).

Enjoy! 

→ 4 CommentsTags: Appetizers · Entertaining · Entree

Tea for Two

September 20th, 2007 · 4 Comments

scones.jpgI like tea but I love the food that usually accompanies tea even more.  Scones have always been a favorite of mine and from a very young age poppy seed scones were the flavor of choice.  I discovered my absolute favorite poppy seed scone at the Rockenwagner bakery stand at the Wednesday Farmer's Market in Santa Monica.  This bakery stand became a regular stop along my market tour and I also indulged in their amazing pretzel bread rolls that tasted exactly like the ones I'd find at bakeries in Switzerland.  One day I visited the stand and the person working there informed me that they no longer had poppy seed scones.  What!?!  As soon as I got home I phoned the bakery and was told that they were no longer going to be making those scones but kindly offered to send me the recipe.  I waited with bated breath.  After a few days there was an email waiting for me with the version of the recipe pared down for the home cook since their version was massive.  The scones are slightly different from how I remember them but absolutely delicious nonetheless.  They are fantastic with tea or without…

Lemon Poppyseed Scones
 
(Yields about 8 scones)
 
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 
1 large egg
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup (or more) whole milk
 
1)  Preheat oven to 375°F. Position rack in top third of oven.
 
2)  Mix flour, 1 cup sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, lemon peel, and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal.  If you don't have a processor or it's not large enough to accommodate this you can instead add the ingredients to a bowl and add the chopped pieces of butter.  Using your fingers and hands mix the dry ingredients with the butter to produce fine crumbs that are evenly combined – keep working the butter and dry mixture until it's evenly mixed.
 
3)  Whisk egg and lemon juice in medium bowl to blend. Add to flour mixture. Using on/off turns, process until moist clumps form. (Or just stir here if you don't have a processor).  Add 1/3 cup milk. Using on/off turns, process just until dough comes together, adding more milk if dough seems dry. Using floured hands, gather dough into ball. Flatten into 8-inch round. Cut round into 8 wedges. Transfer scones to large baking sheet; brush with milk. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar (optional).

Bake until scones are golden brown – about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. 

Enjoy! 

→ 4 CommentsTags: Breakfast · Treats

Booya-baisse

September 19th, 2007 · 8 Comments

booya baisse.jpgI wrote this post back in May when I was in the midst of cooking classes, the stage at a restaurant, and working at sweetriot .  Things haven’t really slowed down but I’m finally getting back to blogging and have finished this post!  (Only took a few months!)

Booya-baisse

My busy schedule has precluded me from cooking lately but my recent trip back to LA gave me a chance to play around in my own kitchen with my own toys again.   The inspiration came from the May issue of Gourmet magazine (a generous gift from my friend Dan that keeps on giving!).  I’ve often ordered bouillabaisse at restaurants but never tried making it before.  Reading through the recipe I noticed a few opportunities to try some new techniques that I’d learned in my cooking class.

This recipe, while it requires setting aside a little time, makes a delicious meal that is perfect for entertaining.  In retrospect there’s also a lot of room for experimenting with different combinations of seafood.  The recipe called for one whole lobster but I could only get frozen lobster tails and they ended up saving me a lot of time too!

This recipe is adapted from the May 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine

For croutons:

1/2 baguette cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 garlic clove

For bouillabaisse:

1 (1 to 1 1/4 lb.) lobster
2 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped fennel fronds (I also chopped and added the fennel to the stew as well – optional)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
9 cups fish stock (I didn’t have fish stock so I used vegetable stock and it was great!)
3 lbs. white fish fillets (such as monkfish, cod, red snapper, turbot, striped bass) cut into 2 inch pieces – I used 3 fillets of red snapper
1/2 lb.  small clams, scrubbed (I used little neck clams)
1/2 lb. Mussels, scrubbed and beards removed – the beard is just that part on some mussels that looks like a little bit of seaweed or something and it’s what the shells use to stick to rocks (I used 1 lb. mussels)
1/2 lb. Shrimp (recipe calls for shells on but I used frozen shrimp that had shells removed but still had tails on)

For the croutons:

To make the croutons, put the slices of baguette on a baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil bake at 250 F for about 30 minutes or until golden.  Rub each side with fresh garlic (to do this slice a clove of garlic cross-wise and rub the cut part along the hot crusty bread – it adds such amazing flavor.)

To make the soup:

1) Put the lobster tail into a sized pot that will adequately hold the tail you have.  Place the uncooked lobster into the boiling water and then cook covered for 3-7 minutes depending on the size of the tail.  Transfer lobster to a colander and allow to cool.  (Because I used lobster tails it made the process of extracting the meat a less intensive process).  Extract the lobster meat and set aside.
2) Cook the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in oil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is softened, 5-7 minutes.
3) Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  Stir the potatoes into the tomatoes with the fennel fronds (and fennel if you choose to add), bay leaf, saffron, sea salt, and pepper.  Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered until potatoes are tender – about 10 minutes.
4) Add the thicker pieces of fish first (have a longer cooking time) – cover and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the mussels, shrimp, lobster, and any other fish – cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
5) Stir a few tablespoons of the broth into the rouille (recipe below).
6) Arrange a crouton in each soup bowl and ladle in the bouillabaisse being sure that each bowl gets an assortment of the bountiful fish.
7) Top each bowl with a spoonful of rouille (it’s spicy so be aware!).

For the rouille:

This is a bread mixture that will be added to the stew to thicken it and add a little spicy heat.

3 Tablespoons broth from the bouillabaisse
3/4 cups bread crumbs (I recommend panko which are Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons olive oil

1) Pour the broth from the bouillabaisse over bread crumbs in a bowl.
2) Mash up garlic and sea salt and cayenne in a mortar and pestle*.
3) Add moist bread crumbs w/ garlic paste – add oil in a slow stream, mashing and stirring until well combined.

*If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can just use a large knife to mince and mash.  Mashing garlic is achieved using the side of the blade on the finely minced garlic.  

Enjoy!

→ 8 CommentsTags: Entertaining · Entree · Fish · Soup

Stage One

April 26th, 2007 · 16 Comments

carrots.jpgLast week was my first day at the restaurant where I'm doing a stage (pronounced 'stahj'). I arrived at the restaurant that is arguably one of the city's finest dining experiences with butterflies in my stomach and a naive sense of what a full 11am-11pm day would entail. I should also add that I was petrified of losing a finger after a chef friend of mine told me about the frequent occurence of these type of kitchen injuries. 

My first task was to change into chef whites that were provided to me and as I began to change in the locker room I felt grateful that I'd already had a few culinary classes under my belt. While getting changed sounds basic enough there is actually a particular way things are done. For example, I was given two dish cloths with my chef whites and had I not already learned from class that one is tucked into the apron at your back as a back-up and the other hangs off your apron at your right side I wouldn't have had a clue! As I buttoned up my crisp white jacket with the restaurant's name embroidered on it I looked in the mirror and couldn't erase the huge smile that sprung upon my face. I was so excited to be there, and so proud. I couldn't wait to see what was waiting for me in the kitchens.

I was guided upstairs to the beautiful restaurant kitchen: pristine, orderly, and serious. Despite everyone's focus at preparing their stations for the evening service there was a relaxed atmosphere and I could hear a low radio playing some Biggie in the background. I was shown my work area and was again pleased to find that what I was learning in class was relevant to other restaurant kitchens. I was asked to set up my workspace which means getting a cutting board and placing wet paper towels underneath it to avoid it from sliding around. I also took out the knives and tools I'd be needing.

My first task was almost exactly what I'd expected. I thought I'd be peeling potatoes but it turned out to be carrots. After peeling a deep tray filled with colorful carrots I sliced olives, then grapes, then segmented lemons, then shaped more carrots, then soaked morel mushrooms, then shelled fava beans. It doesn't sound that exciting when I write it all out like this but all the while I was standing at my little station I was absorbed by what was happening around me: the French that was being spoken, the techniques others were using, the smells emanating, the sounds of blenders whirring, and the people passing through the kitchen.

As the day progressed it was amazing to watch the transformation of the energy in the kitchen. Approaching service there was a slight increase in people's speed, a greater sense of urgency. Silver was being polished, work stations were being cleaned up to make room for plating, there was no more music on the radio and the sound was replaced with the chatter and clatter of people getting their stations ready for the imminent onslaught of orders. Once it became time for service I went downstairs to the prep kitchen. There was someone waiting for me with new tasks: I had to place perfectly cut square pieces of cooked meat into plastic bags and then place them into a big machine to be air-sealed. As soon as that was done I had another job waiting: chicken.

A HUGE tub of chicken.

It's pretty amazing how much work there is to do in a kitchen. I never had to worry about running out of things to do. I was instructed on how to cut the large chicken legs which I later learned were actually "from the cock." I had to cut them in half right through the bone and then remove part of the excess chicken to reveal the bone so it could be eaten like a drumstick. Then with the other half I had to butterfly it and remove the middle bone. I had to be shown this a few times before I got the hang of it. Even then I saved my cuts to the side to be inspected before adding them to the giant plastic tub in which they were placed. Scraps, as always, were kept to be used for stocks. This task took me several hours – I'd never seen so much chicken before, let alone handle so much! By the end I was a pro at finding exactly where you could cut through the chicken bone at the joint easily.

I looked at the clock when I finished and it was 9:30pm. Somehow I'd managed to miss the family meal and I was starving! My back was killing me too. I was expecting my feet or lower back to hurt but not my upper back. It was as if the muscles were all cramping up – I guess my posture of leaning over a cutting board was the culprit. I was still using the knife of the person who'd shown me how to cut the chicken so I ran upstairs to The Kitchen to return it to him. I'd left my knife kit up there too. It was amazing how much the kitchen had transformed from earlier in the day. It was not a large space considering all the people and things being done – everyone had a place and my being there felt totally out of order. I felt like I was in everyone's way and so took the back-route toward the station where my knives were kept to avoid bumping into more people. I went via the dishwashers but still found myself hopelessly in everyone's way! Finally I located my knife kit, returned the knife I'd used to cut all the chicken, and made my way back downstairs to the prep kitchen where things were way less intense. The heat, the energy, and the precision with which everything came together upstairs during service was such a sight to see and I was glad that I'd been able to sneak a peak.

Things seemed to be slowing down in the prep kitchen, only a few people remained diligently working on various tasks. I figured that soon enough we'd all be going home. Well, it turned out to be a little longer than I'd anticipated. I started helping someone who was preparing all the pastas. He was blanching tomatoes to be peeled. He'd sliced an "X" mark on the bottom of each tomato and working in batches dropped them into boiling water. He then plunged them into an ice bath after about 30 seconds. I then started peeling them and placing them on parchment lined hotel pans. (If tomatoes are placed directly on metal or aluminum they develop a metallic taste.) After all the tomatoes had been peeled, they needed to be sliced into quarters. Once they were sliced into quarters, they needed to be seeded. At this point it was 11pm and I was staring at the hundreds of tomato slices ahead of me and wearily figured out that I wouldn't be home until well after midnight before these were all done.

Fortunately, a few minutes later the guy who'd given me the chicken task came downstairs. He was finished with service and went into the walk-in to inspect all the chicken I'd cut. "It is perfect" he said. (Thank goodness!) He told all of us to stop – we were done for the day. Music to my tired aching back! After cleaning up my station I went to the locker room to change and then went through the service doors out into the crisp night air to hail a taxi. As I cruised down Park Avenue I couldn't hold back the big smile on my face, I'd had a great first day and I still had all my fingers.

→ 16 CommentsTags: Announcements

Recipe for Happiness

April 24th, 2007 · 5 Comments

I apologize for being M.I.A. for so long but I think I have a sufficiently good reason to explain my prolonged absence from blogging. It involves several major life changes: quitting my job, traveling to Thailand, moving to New York City to pursue a career in food, and getting engaged.

Phew, 2007 has indeed been off to a busy start!

My three month stay in New York involves a part-time position with a fun start-up chocolate company called sweetriot, a ‘stage’ (pronounced, ‘stahj’) at one of New York’s most reputable restaurants, and a culinary course where I hope to hone and perfect my kitchen skills.

I have to admit, I couldn’t be happier with the new direction my life has taken and I plan to blog about it all!

→ 5 CommentsTags: Announcements

Beholden by a Molten

February 3rd, 2007 · 13 Comments

Time for another video! If you’re reading this in email or RSS, please click through to view it!

If there is one dessert that I make when I need or want something from my boyfriend it's probably a chocolate molten cake.  There is something about the decadent nature of this dessert that causes the recipient to feel beholden to anyone who takes the time and effort to prepare it.  The best kept secret about this dessert is the fact that despite being an impressive and seemingly complicated thing to make, it is fact a breeze to whip up.  But please don't tell anyone else about this.  For if you want someone to feel indebted to you, make them a molten! 

This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's, How to be a Domestic Goddess

Molten Chocolate Cakes 

  • 1/2 Stick unsalted butter at room temperature 
  • 1/2 Cup sugar 
  • 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1/3 Cup flour 
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 6 ramekins (ceramic molds) approx. 6-ounces in size, lined with parchment paper 

1)  Prepare the ramekins that you'll bake the moltens in:  butter them and line the bottom with parchment.  This step will insure that the moltens will ease out of the ramekin molds after baking.

2)  To start melt the chocolate because it needs a chance to cool before you add it to the rest of the ingredients.  To melt the chocolate start by boiling a pot that has about 3-4 inches of water in it – you want there to be enough water so that it won't evaporate quickly but you also want to be able to rest a glass or metal bowl over the pot without the bottom of the bowl coming in direct contact with the water.  The idea is to melt the chocolate with indirect heat, i.e. the steam from the water.  Once the water comes to a boil turn down the heat to medium and place a glass or metal bowl over it and add the chocolate to the bowl.  If using bars of chocolate break them into small pieces so that they will melt faster.  Once the chocolate melts take off the heat and and allow to cool.  I find Ghirardelli's bittersweet chocolate works well in this recipe and their bars come in 4 oz. size so you need exactly 3 of them.

3)  Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl while the chocolate cools.   The butter must be at room temperature so that it's softened and easier to work with.  This just means using a spoon to stir them together until totally incorporated.  Then add one egg at a time and beat into the mixture.  Once you've added all 4 eggs add a pinch of salt (I use sea salt) and the vanilla extract.  The next step is adding the flour.  And finally, mix in the melted chocolate.

4)  Fill the ramekins with the batter evenly.  You can either cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to bake them or you can bake them immediately.  If you cook them immediately bake for 10-12 minutes at 400F.  If refrigerating them bake for 12-14 minutes at 400F.   I recommend serving with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Note:  To more easily remove the moltens from their ramekins after they've baked, gently slide a knife around them to loosen and flip onto a plate.

Enjoy! 

→ 13 CommentsTags: Dessert · Entertaining · Videos

Gingerbread Beach Babes

December 24th, 2006 · 8 Comments

cookies500.jpg

I've written in the past about strong food-associated memories and none are as strong for me as those that surround family holidays – especially Christmas.  The mere smell of clementines remind me of Christmas time along with the smell of cloves and cinnamon.  Since Kareem and I usually head home for the holidays I've tried to capture some of the festivity in our apartment by making gingerbread cookies.  These cookies fill the house with the aromas of spices and the plateful of decorated cookies serve as a reminder of the upcoming holidays.  Since it's also the season of giving I love to have a treat to bring friends.  The recipe that I use is from Martha Stewart and the only alteration I've made is to roll out the dough a little bit thinner than she recommends and I cook them for less time.  The result is a more crisp cookie but if you prefer softer gingerbread feel free to disregard my notes.  I love the spiciness of these cookies – the black pepper offers a hidden zing that is unexpected and definitely unorthodox but the fact that these cookies aren't overly sweet is what makes them ideal for decorating in sugary sweet royal icing.  

Happy Holidays to all!!!
 
Basic Gingerbread Cookies from Martha Stewart

Makes about 24 six-inch gingerbread people
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses

1)  In a large bowl sift: flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

2)  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture; combine on low speed. Divide dough in thirds, and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour.

3)  Heat oven to 350°.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough 1/8-inch thick.* Cut into gingerbread people shapes. Transfer to prepared baking sheets. 

4.  Cut out desired decorations and place on cookies. Bake until crisp, but not darkened for about 20 minutes. Let cookies cool on wire racks.

*Note:  I rolled the dough out a little bit thinner than Martha recommends and baked them for about 8-10 minutes – until crisp.  

Once the cookies have cooled they can be decorated using royal icing.  I've used the icing that comes packaged in a tubes from the grocery store but find that they don't harden and cause the cookies to stick to one another.  Royal icing is super easy to make and any crafts store or cooking store will sell frosting coloring.  

Royal Icing

(This recipe makes a lot of icing)

  • 4 Cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons meringue powder (or dried egg whites as I found them labeled in my super market – in the baking section)
  • 6 Tablespoons of warm water (might need a little more than this to achieve smooth frosting that is easy to pipe from a piping bag – it should fall from a spoon in ribbons)

1)  Mix all of the above ingredients together and if desired divide into bowls and add colorings of your choice.

2)  Using a piping bag or plastic bag fitted with a pastry tip you can begin decorating the cookies.  

 

 

→ 8 CommentsTags: Cookies · Dessert

Having a Ball

December 12th, 2006 · 4 Comments

arancini.jpgSome of my favorite dishes are those that were inspired by leftovers.  This may be in part to the satisfaction that comes with being able to inventively transform one dish into another thus saving time and eliminating waste, both virtuous by-products of this transformation.  But perhaps another reason is that this process is sort of like alchemy – turning the unfinished remains from one night into the star of the following night's meal. 

Well, after the delicious risotto that Kareem and I enjoyed I already had in mind what I would do with the leftovers.  I'd seen Giada De Laurentiis do it once on her show and I had the luxury of enjoying them in Italy too: arancini.  These are crispy golden orbs that are filled with the creamy risotto of your choice (in this case mushroom) and nestled in the center a gooey surprise of fresh mozzarella.  The Italian name for these, 'arancini' means little oranges – something that these treats loosely resemble in appearance.  These are incredibly easy to prepare and they make for a delicious snack or appetizer.

Enjoy!

Arancini
 

  • Leftover risotto (you can make as many or as few as your leftovers will allow)
  • 1 egg (This was enough for 5 balls that fit into the palm of my hand – about the size of a small clementine)
  • 1 Tablespoon of water
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I used plain panko bread crumbs – panko are the Japanese-style crumbs and they are available at most grocery stores now)
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, cubed into small 1cm sized pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

1)  Take some of the risotto and form a small ball in the palm of your hand – roughly the size of a clementine.  Insert a piece of the fresh mozzarella into the center of the ball and roll the ball so that it's uniform in shape and the mozzarella is hidden in the center.  Make as many of these balls as your leftovers allow.

2)  Crack the egg in a dish and whisk well – add a tablespoon of water.  Prepare another dish with the bread crumbs.  Now taking each ball one at a time dip them into the egg mixture – allow the excess to drip off and then roll into the bread crumb mixture so they are evenly coated.

3)  Heat a sautee pan over medium to high heat and add the olive oil.  When the pan is hot add the balls and rotate them once each side turns golden brown.  Once they are done let them rest for a few minutes on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. 

→ 4 CommentsTags: Appetizers · Sides · Snack

Make Room For Mushrooms

December 8th, 2006 · 2 Comments

risotto.jpgSeveral months ago I brought home some packages of dried Italian mushrooms from Trader Joe's with the intention of making something with them.  Well, the day finally arrived that I put them to good use and restored them to their fragrant splendor.  These assorted mushrooms had been dormant for at least a month in my cabinet (and who knows how long before that) but as soon as they had just a few minutes to bask in some warm water they were reconstituted to their original plump aromatic state.  It was magical.

I decided to make a mushroom risotto – I thought it would be the perfect dish to showcase this delicious import.   I turned to one of my reliable cookbooks to guide me on this quest: Jamie Oliver's first book, The Naked Chef.  He had a recipe for mushroom risotto that I loosely followed – adding a few of my own little changes here and there.  What resulted was a melt-in-your-mouth fragrant risotto that was the perfect host to the medley of mushrooms. 

Since I made a lot of this risotto I was excited to experiment with the leftovers.  Stay tuned…

Mushroom Risotto with Vermouth and Thyme

  • Arborio rice – I used about 2 cups (recipe called for 14 oz)
  • 1 quart of vegetable stock (use your favorite kind)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (one clove to cook with the mushrooms, 2 cloves with the rice)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (I used a red onion because that's what I had)
  • 3 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup of dry white vermouth (I used Martini's 'Bianco' because that's what I had in my cupboard – you can use white wine too)
  • A few tablespoons of butter cut into small cubes
  • Parmesan cheese to grate over the risotto
  • 9 oz of fresh mushrooms – I used two packages of mixed wild mushrooms from Trader Joe's – place in a bowl of warm water to let them reconstitute
  • One handful of fresh thyme (remove the leaves from the stems and chop)
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

1) To start heat the stock in a pot – use the element on the stove directly behind the one that you'll be using to make the risotto because as you cook the rice you'll be adding ladle fulls of stock into it and this will minimize spillage and make it easier on you.

2)  After the mushrooms have had a chance to soak in the water take them out (save the water – you can add it to the stock as it has lots of great mushroom flavor) and add them to a heated pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Cook for about a minute then add the garlic and a pinch of salt.  Cook for a few minutes – add a few squeezes of lemon juice and the thyme.  Taste the mushrooms to make sure they are nicely seasoned.  Chop 2/3 of the cooked mushrooms and set aside – the other 1/3 will be added at the end to give more texture to the risotto.

3)  In a separate pan heat the olive oil and add the finely chopped onion – you want to cook the onion slowly here (medium to lower heat) be careful not to brown the onions rather "sweat" them until they become translucent.  After about 3 minutes of cooking add the minced garlic (2 cloves) and cook for about 2 minutes.  Once the onions are soft and translucent add the rice – this is the point at which you have to start constantly stirring.  No walking away from the stove!  Constantly stir the rice (again you don't want to add any color to the rice) – you might need to turn down the heat a little.  After a few minutes it will start to look shiny and translucent.  It may make crackling noises.  Add the vermouth or white wine – continue to stir.  Once the liquid is almost completely absorbed into the rice add a ladle full of the broth.  The heat on the pan should be medium at this point – you want the liquid to simmer.  Add the chopped mushrooms.  Now continue to add one ladle full at a time while stirring constantly – as soon as the rice has absorbed most of the liquid add more stock.  Continue to do this for about 15 minutes.  Add a pinch of salt here and there but do so sparingly – you can always add more later after you've given it a taste – add the pepper to taste too.  After the 15 minutes of stirring and ladling, taste the rice – you are trying to achieve soft rice that still has a slight bite to it – think al dente.  Once you get to that point add the butter and let in melt into the risotto along with the rest of the mushrooms and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!
 

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