Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oatmeal Almond Cherry White Chocolate Cookies

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 bags (12 oz each)white chocolate chips
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cherries (unsweetened), cut into raisin-size pieces

Preheat oven to 375 F

Wisk flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, blend sugars and butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add the flour in three batches, mixing until incorporated, but being careful not to overmix.

Remove bowl from standing mixer and stir in chocolate chips, almonds, cherries, and oats by hand.

Bake 8-9 minutes and cool on a rack.

If you prefer cookies with a more "bready" texture, leave the dough in the fridge overnight before baking.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mache with Pomegranite Seeds, Oranges, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Manchego Cheese in a Persimmon-Cinnamon dressing

Salad Ingredients:
1/4 c Toasted Hazelnuts with skin removed, roughly chopped
1 Naval Orange, Segmented
1/2 Pomegranite, De-Seeded
4T manchego cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
9 oz mache (usually one bag)

2 Fuyu Persimmons - peeled, seeded, and pureed
3T white wine vinegar
3T extra virgin olive oil (a mild one)
pinch cinnamon
salt, pepper, honey to taste (only if needed)

Place all salad ingredients save manchego cheese and hazelnuts in a bowl. Toss with some of the dressing (to taste) and garnish with cheese and nuts.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Venison Stew with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms

1 cup dry red wine
1 ounce dried black trumpet mushrooms
6 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 pounds venison stew meat
Black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 leek, white only, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 12 ounce bottle Newcastle Brown Ale or similar
1 1/2 quart veal stock or beef broth
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 lb wild mushrooms such as king trumpet, chanterelles, and shitakes.
3 tablespoons butter, divided.
1 pound cooked egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Bring the red wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the black trumpet mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are very soft, then remove the mushrooms, finely chop them and set them aside. Strain the wine to remove any grit from the mushrooms. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot cook the bacon over high heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Season the venison with salt and pepper, and then lightly dust with flour. Add the oil to the bacon grease remaining in the pot and sear the venison in batches on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the pot and add the remaining flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Deglaze the pot with the red wine, scraping with a wooden spoon.

Add the onions and cook over medium high heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and parsnips and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the leeks, black trumpet mushrooms, and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the beer and scrape to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add the beef broth, potatoes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, allspice, bay leaves and tomato paste.

Place the stew in the insert of the slow cooker set on high for at least 5 hours. (Can cook as long as 7 hours)

1/2 to 1 hour before serving, sauté the wild mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter for around 5-7 minutes, or until they begin to release their juices. Add to the slow cooker.

Season to taste and serve with egg noodles tossed with the remaining butter. Garnish with a generous helping of the reserved bacon and a teaspoon of chopped parsley.

Thank you, Kurt, for sharing Bambi with me!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

A take on the Magnolia Bakery Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 ½ cups gingersnap cookies, crushed into crumbs
½ cup toasted pecans or hazelnuts, chopped into crumbs
¼ cup melted butter

Cheesecake filling
3 sticks (8 oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp bourbon
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Maple Whipped Cream
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix gingersnap crumbs, nuts, and melted butter. Press into the bottom and about 1” up the sides of a 9” springform pan. Set aside in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the cheesecake.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and bourbon in a standing mixer until cream cheese mixture is smooth. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides between each addition. Remove 1 cup of the batter and set aside. Add pumpkin puree and spices into remaining batter and mix until smooth on low speed. Pour pumpkin mixture into gingersnap crust. Dollop reserved plain cheesecake mixture onto the top of the pumpkin filling and swirl through the two several times with a long butter knife to create the marbled effect. Place prepared cheesecake on a rimmed cookie sheet.

Bake until cheesecake is firm on the outsides and not quite set in the middle, around 45 minutes. The cake must cool completely before it can be eaten. Let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the refrigerator at least 3 hours or, preferably, overnight.

When ready to eat, beat the heavy cream with the maple syrup. Serve each slice with a spoonful of cream.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I made this panzanella for a wedding, but the recipe I developed was for 77 people. When one of the guests requested a copy, I had to modify (and test) it for a smaller group. Happily, I had an opportunity on Sunday to do just that! Another guest at the wedding requested the panzanella on the menu for her 70th birthday party and I was happy to oblige.

As with all things, but especially with simple things like panzanella, the quality of the dish is directly proportional to the quality of the ingredients. I think people like this dish so much because I used real (wild yeast) sourdough bread from a local bakery, a mix of fresh organic heirloom tomatoes, and Cabernet vinegar that I made from lovely Napa cabs. I would encourage you to seek out the best ingredients you can find.

4 cups sourdough bread cut into 3/4" cubes
4 cups mixed heirloom tomatoes cut into 3/4"cubes
2 cups arugula, washed and shredded
1/4 c reggiano parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler

1 c basil, shredded
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

At least one night before you make the dish, cut your sourdough bread into cubes and leave it out on the counter in a paper bag to get stale. Using stale bread will keep it from breaking down and melting into the salad. If your bread is very stale, you can mix this salad up to an hour before serving. If your bread is closer to fresh, you'll want to drain your tomatoes in a colander prior to tossing and serve immediately.

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil into the vinegar slowly. Add the onion, half the basil, and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the salad, mix the bread and tomatoes and arugula in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining basil and garnish with reggiano parmesan shavings.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pappardelle with Hot Italian Sausage, Butternut Squash, Sage, and Taleggio Cheese

1 package hot Italian sausage (around 5 sausages), removed from casings
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
5 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
1 lb pappardelle pasta
4 oz taleggio cheese
Salt and pepper

Start a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, usually around 10 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse. Add pasta back to its cooking pot with around 1/4 cup of the water it was cooked in.

Crumble and brown the sausage in a pan. Set aside. Add the butternut squash and stock and cook over medium high heat until the squash is soft and the broth is bright orange. Add the sausage back to the pan with the soft squash and sage. Season to taste. Toss the mixture in with the pasta. Split the pasta and sauce evenly into four pasta bowls and top with 1 oz of taleggio cheese each.

Serves 4

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dinner with Darren and the Scots

Dinner tonight was a trip. We had three meat eaters, one vegetarian, and one vegan. The meat eaters were not willing to go veg, so I cooked both ways!

I found the most amazing produce at the farmers' market, so the menu features some of those exciting finds.

Sourdough Crostini with Muhamara (vegan)
Figs wrapped in Prosciutto

Vegan tartlets of Roasted Beet and Rye Groats in a Merlot Reduction Sauce served with Salad of Wild Arugula and Jujubees

Prime Rib au Jus, Fingerling Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts
Pappardelle Noodles with Oyster and Lobster Mushrooms, Foraged Red Spinach, and Sea Beans in a Saffron Cashew Cream (vegan)

Vegan Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wild Mushrooms with Bacon and Orecchiette Pasta

This dish was created to show off some beautiful mushrooms I got at the farmer's market. I used Yellowfoot and Lobster mushrooms, but other wild mushrooms could be substitued. I wouldn't use button mushrooms from the supermaket for this dish though, the flavor will not be intense enough to carry the dish.

2 1/2 cups wild mushrooms brushed clean of dirt and ripped into uniform pieces
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2c)
4 slices bacon cut into small pieces
3 ounces cream cheese
1 lb orecchiette pasta (farfalle will do if orecchiette cannot be found)
salt and pepper
8T chives, chopped

Set a large pot of water on to boil and boil the pasta for the recommended time on the package (until al dente). Strain (do not rinse) and reserve 1/4c of the pasta water. Place the hot pasta back into the pot with the reserved pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, fry the bacon until mostly crisp in a medium sautee pan. Set the bacon aside, pouring off all but 2T of the grease. Sautee the onion in the bacon grease. Once the onion becomes translucent, add the mushrooms and sautee until soft. Add the crisp bacon and set aside

Add the cream cheese to the hot, strained pasta and stir until melted. Add the mushroom and bacon mixture and stir until combined. Season to taste, pour into four bowls and garnish with 2T of chives per bowl.

Serves 4

Bridal Shower Cake

This is an 11"x15" chocolate cake layered with whipped ganache, coated with buttercream, and topped with chocolate covered strawberries.

Vegan Cupcakes

Several years ago, I worked as the pastry chef for a well-known vegan restaurant in San Francisco. Imagine my surprise at how far vegan baking has come since then! There are countless products and resources for you now - it's just fantastic!

I tried this recipe that I got off It's from the book "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World."

Of course the buttercream is not as good as real butter (I mean, come on, is anything?) but if you're a vegan craving a old fashioned cupcake, look no further!

Late Summer Dinner Party

Papaya and Avocado salad with Baby Spinach, Pickled Onions, and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds in Lime Dressing

Masa Cakes with Refried Beans, Chorizo and Potatoes, Cotija Cheese, Casa Crema, and Cilantro

Salmon Sashimi with Cilantro Pesto and Brunoise of Salsa Fresca

Mole Poblano with Green Rice and Refried Beans (no photo)

Homemade Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream with Cinnamon Cookies (no photo)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

1 pint frozen whole, hulled strawberries
1/4 c sugar
zest of one lime
2c cake flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 18-20 muffin tins lined with cupcake papers (yield is dependent upon the amount you put in each cup).

Place the strawberries, 1/4c sugar, and lime zest in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved, the mixture is somewhat soupy, and you can break the strawberries into pieces with a spoon. Pour the mixture into a food processor and pulse until the consistency is mostly smooth but with many small lumps of strawberry floating around. The mixture should still be cool or room temperature. If it's not, put it in the freezer until it cools down some.

Meanwhile, measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until smooth. Add vanilla.

Slowly add buttermilk and flour in alternating thirds until incorporated.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and swirl in the strawberry mixture with a spoon. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, around 18 minutes.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting.

3T strawberry jelly
2 drops red food coloring
1 box powdered sugar
1 stick salted butter (room temperature)
1/4 c milk
1 t vanilla

Put ingredients in the clean bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until smooth, scraping down the sides frequently.

Garnish the cupcakes at the last moment with halved fresh strawberries (Note: if you leave the strawberries on the cupcakes for any longer than an hour or two, the sugar in the frosting will begin to macerate the strawberries and your cupcakes will get wet from all the strawberry juice!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Homard a l'Amoricaine

This recipe came to me from Chef Herve during French Regional Cooking class during my time at the California Culinary Academy in 1994 (I graduated in '95). This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, though it may be a little advanced for some.

4# Live Main Lobster
3/4 c olive oil
2 c onion finely chopped
1 c carrot, finely chopped
1c leek, white part only, finely chopped
1/2 c celery, finely chopped
1/3 c shallot, finely chopped
1/3 c garlic, finely chopped
3/4 c brandy
1 c white wine
2 c tomato concasse
3/4 cup tomato puree
1 c demi glace (if you don't have this at home, just don't add.)
1 c white stock
1 c heavy cream
2 T chopped parsley
2 T chopped tarragon
pinch cayenne
salt and pepper

Kill lobster by cutting them in half and then into four pieces. Throw away the tip of the claw and the pincher of the claw. The tails and pinchr pieces are good to eat. The rest becomes the sauce. Set aside the tommaly in a bowl.

Saute the mirepoix. Add shallots, garlic, parsley, tarragon, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add lobster and flambe with the brandy. Add white wine and reduce by 80%. Add tomato concassee and tomato puree. Add lobster juice (lobster blood and sea water). Add white stock, demi (if using), and cream. Cover and let simmer 10 minutes. Remove meat from sauce (tail and claws) and set aside. Puree the rest with a bazooka (huge immersion blender). Strain sauce, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and finish with tomally and butter (50% tomally, 50% butter). Once tomally has been added, do not boil b/c the sauce will break. Strain again and finish with parsley, cayenne, and tarragon.

Pour sauce over meat and serve.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Smart Things Other Folks Have Said About Food

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.
~Elizabeth Berry

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
~George Bernard Shaw

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.
~Henry David Thoreau

Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can't taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie.
~Astrid Alauda

After dinner sit a while, and after supper walk a mile.
~English Saying

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
~Mark Twain

There is nothing better on a cold wintry day than a properly made pot pie.
~Craig Claiborne

Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.
~Julia Child

"You find yourself refreshed by the presence of cheerful people. Why not make an honest effort to confer that pleasure on others? Half the battle is gained if you never allow yourself to say anything gloomy."
~Julia Child
(OK, so this is not really about food. But it's *Julia* and we *love* her.)

Fervet olla, vivit amicitia: While the pot boils, friendship endures. (Meaning the man who gives good dinners has plenty of friends).
~Latin Proverb

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sushi Sunday

I love making sushi.

I am especially crazy for handrolls.

Ice Cream Cake (the princess goat)

My son really wanted a "princess cake" for his "goat themed" birthday party. Why he'd want either a princess cake or a goat themed party is another story for another day. This is about the cake.

Putting the ice cream on the bottom layer

Smoothing the sides

The princess goat

A slice of ice cream cake.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Yellow Gazpacho

1-1/2 c chopped yellow heirloom tomatoes (only the best, ripest, sweetest ones!)
3/4 c chopped yellow bell peppers
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
1 c chopped English cucumbers (peeled and seeded)
1/2 c french bread (white part only) cut into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
4 T white wine vinegar
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig of fresh thyme
Salt and Pepper

1/4 c chardonnay (frozen)
2 t red tomato, seeded and cut into brunoise
1t chives, finely minced
1/2 t jalapeno, seeded and cut into brunoise
Hawaiian alaea sea salt

1. Pour chardonnay into a bowl and place in the freezer to make ice.
2. Place all soup ingredients except thyme, salt, and pepper into a food processer and blend until liquified. Pour mixture into a non-reactive bowl, add thyme, then salt and pepper(You'll want to undersalt it a little because you'll be garnishing with sea salt later. If you skip the sea salt, then season to taste).
3. Cover and place in refrigerator for a few hours or until cold.
4. While the mixture is cooling and macerating, prepare garnish by chopping tomato, jalapeno, and chives and mixing them together.
5. When ready to serve, force mixture through a fine-meshed seive
6. Garnish with 1t chardonnay ice, 1/8 t Alaea pink sea salt, and 1 t of the brunoise "salsa." Serve cold.

Makes four 1/2 cup servings

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Apricot Orange Scones

My friend Darren really loves the scones I make. They are basically the classic, super-simple recipe from the Joy of Cooking. He came over and I taught him how to make them.

Darren making scones

Apricot Orange Scones
2c AP Flour
1/3c sugar
1T baking powder
1/2t salt
6 T (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c dried Turkish Apricots, cut into raisin-sized pieces
1 egg
1/2 + 3T heavy cream
1t orange zest
3T cinnamon sugar (mix cinnamon and sugar together to your own taste. My ratio is usually around 1:4 cinnamon: sugar)

Preheat oven to 425F
Place dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor
Drop the cold butter in and pulse until mixture resembles brown sugar or bread crumbs. Do not over mix!
Add wet ingredients, apricots, and orange zest all at once (except that extra 3T of cream - reserve that for later) and pulse until dry ingredients are just moistened. Again, do not over mix!
Dump mixture into large metal bowl and knead a few times to incorporate all the crumbs together and form a nice ball of dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and pat into a disc about 8" wide and 3/4" thick. Cut into 8 or 12 wedges and place about 1/2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Brush the tops with the reserved 3T of cream and dust with cinnamon sugar.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cabernet Spice Rub

I have been messing around trying to make some spice rubs and chocolates to go with specific varietals so that the company my husband works for can include them with larger wine orders. It's too hot to deal with chocolate today, so I gave a spice rub a try.

I decided to focus on the smoky, leathery, spicy flavors you find in a Cab and to let the Cab itself take care of the fruit part.

2T Roasted Chili Powder
2T Smoked Sea Salt
1T Freshly cracked Black Pepper
2T Freshly ground, toasted Fennel Seed
2t Freeze-Dried Roasted Garlic, ground
1T Toasted, minced Dried Onion, ground
5pc Freeze-Dried Tomato, Frozen again, then ground in the spice grinder
1T Bamboo-Smoked Black Sesame Seeds, ground

I rubbed 1T olive oil over a tri-tip, then rubbed the spices over the entire surface. I put it on a broiling rack in a 375F oven until the meat reached 125F, around 20 minutes. I rested it for 10 minutes, then sliced it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Previously, I promised I'd figure out how to fix the broken hi-hat recipe that is all over the internet. Tonight, I came much further toward accomplishing my goal. I was able to fix two of the three fundamental problems and came up with some creative improvements to implement on my next attempt.

The first problem with the recipe was that the marshmallow filling turns out gritty. The recipe requires that you put a ridiculous amount of sugar into three egg whites and a scant 1/4c of water and whip them continuously over a rolling double boiler until the mixture achieves 160F. The issue seems to be that it is impossible to get to 160F, so the sugar never melts, resulting in a gritty, heavy, sticky, nasty, mess.

My solution was to take the sugar and water and create a simple syrup which I then incorporated into the partially whipped whites prior to putting them over the double boiler. I never got to 160F, but my filling was perfect.

The second issue with the recipe is that the chocolate glaze is too thick and melts the marshmallow topping and often pulls it right off the cupcake.

This one was more of a challenge and I lost a few cupcakes to trial and error. First, you need to have very cold cupcakes. I cooled mine in the refrigerator, but I think they were still not quite cold enough. In the future, I may try partially freezing a batch in the freezer prior to dipping in the chocolate glaze. Secondly, the glaze is too thick and heavy for the delicate marshmallow filling. My solution was to increase the ratio of oil to chips until I acheived the desired consistency. The third issue seems to be the method of dipping. I found I was more successful tilting the cupcakes over the glaze bowl and pouring the glaze over with a spoon than dipping them into the glaze head-first.

Additionally, I don't know that I need to mention this, but you can make pretty much any chocolate cupcake recipe you like. The original recipe has you making a sour cream cake, which would be a nice foil to the intense sweetness of the topping, but tonight I made the classic Hershey's recipe and it was just fine.

Here are the cupcakes, waiting for the goods:

The topping:

The glazing process:

Freshly glazed and into the fridge:

Cooled and complete, they look like this:


12 chocolate cupcakes, unfrosted (use your favorite recipe)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups chopped (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil


Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is incorporated, then leave on the heat until the sugar is melted and the mixture is transparent.

In a large heatproof bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Continue beating and pour the sugar mixture into the egg whites 1/8c at a time until completely incorporated. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Beat on high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and almond extracts, and beat for 2 minutes more.

Transfer frosting to a large disposable pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain pastry tip. Leaving a 1/8-inch border on each cupcake, pipe a spiral of frosting into a 2-inch-high cone shape, using about 1/2 cup of frosting per cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while preparing the chocolate coating (or longer, if needed).


Combine chocolate chips and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl and microwave until until melted and smooth, stopping every 30 seconds to stir. Do not overheat. Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool about 15 minutes. If the glaze is too thick, add more vegetable oil, 1T at a time until the appropriate consistency is obtained.


Remove cooled cupcakes from refrigerator and one at a time and while holding them at an angle over the glaze bowl, carfully spoon the glaze over the topping, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Do this until the entire marshmallow topping is coated. Place the glazed cupcakes on a sheet pan in the refrigerator to cool and harden.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Angry Wine.

(By way of introduction, my MUCH better half has been characteristically altruistic enough to yield a little space in this blog for the rantings of her wine-deranged husband. OK. Let's proceed...)

It probably says a lot about me that my first post in this blog has a title like 'angry wine.'

Let me explain.

Have you ever thought all day about what you're going to have for dinner (you think to yourself: "Mmm, bacon-wrapped pork chops with rosemary, brussels sprouts, etc etc") and then been stopped in your tracks by one of the following?:

A) OH NO! I have nothing in my cellar that fits my mood OR this meal!

B) After spending all this money on food, I don't really want to invest in some fancy bottle of wine.

Thus, angry wine. It's what you end up with in these two scenarios most of the time. That bottle that's 'pretty good' but just doesn't live up to the idealistic imaginings you've been experiencing all day.

I must admit, being in the trade this doesn't happen to me as much as it used to. However, there are nights where the bottle just misses the target. This is usually when, out of nothing but spite, I reach for the fanciest bottle I can find downstairs as if purging from myself (and my home) some unholy spirit that has befouled us all by finding its place at our table.

In these moments, despite your wife's 'reasoned thinking', I implore you to consider that $10 or $15 extra is nothing to mourn when put toward a bottle that helps you to avoid such catastrophes. The Cabernet lovers among you must surely be nodding your heads and silently mouthing your 'amens' at this point for that bastard grape will SO RARELY put out for anything less than $35.

So, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, I now trudge down to the cellar to find something to help my palate forget the atrocities I have just subjected it to (yes Chateau Souverain Cabernet, I'm talking about you - you fruitless bastard).


Saturday, May 12, 2007


Tonight, my family and I went to this fantastic local candy store. In the case at the counter, they had these really lovely s'mores (a sandwhich of graham cracker and marshmallow dipped in chocolate) for which they were charging $4 each. I looked at them closely and could tell that they were using coating chocolate, which means that the whole process is pathetcially easy. I decided to make my own instead.

On the way home, I stopped off at the local baking supply shop (which happens to be on the way to my house) and picked up a bag of milk and dark guittard a'peels. The two bags together came to $4.50. Then I grabbed a bag of marshmallows at the corner store, which cost $1, on sale. We already had Honey Maid Graham Crackers.

I threw my chocolate in a bowl and tossed it in the microwave, stopping it to stir every 45 seconds or so until it was entirely melted.

Then I broke a bunch of graham crackers in half and put them on a plate. I topped each one with a marshmallow and put it in the mircorwave for around 15 seconds, until it was soft and puffy.

I then smushed the other half of a graham cracker on top and made little sandwhiches.

I dunked each sandwhich in chocolate and then put it on foil to cool and dry.

The end result was delicious and my kids freaked. My husband was beside himself with glee. The quality of my end product was exactly equivalent to those in the candy store and I made 8 (plus some chocololate covered grahams) for a little more than the price of one. And yes, it really was as easy as I made it sound.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Grilled vegetables and dried apricots in a garlic, fennel vinaigrette

I had some leftover grilled vegetables (Fennel bulb, red onion, zucchini, and shitake mushrooms) from BBQing last night. I chopped them up, threw them on some fresh arugula, whipped up a dressing, and was surprised at how wonderful the resulting salad was.

Serves 2

2c grilled vegetables, medium dice
2c fresh arugula, washed and dried (if using pre-washed, a half bag will do)
1/4 c dried apricots, medium dice
1 large clove garlic, sliced thin
1t fennel seeds
1T extra virgin olive oil
2T olive oil
3T white balsamic vinegar

Place the grilled vegetables, arugula, and apricots in a medium salad bowl.

Toast fennel seeds in a sautee pan over medium heat until they darken slighty and release their aroma. Remove the toasted seeds from the pan and grind them.

In the same pan, add your 2T olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add your sliced garlic and fry until golden brown and crispy (beware the hot spots on your pan! Don't let any garlic burn!)

Add your hot garlic and garlic oil to the white balsamic. Add the ground fennel, and the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Monday, May 7, 2007

First Corn of the Season!

Tonight, my produce guy hooked me up with the first corn of the season, sweet white corn. I whipped up a quick batch of cilantro lime butter, smeared it all over, and threw those babies on the grill. The result is, of course, resplendent.

4-5 ears corn, husked and cleaned
1 lime
1 bu cilantro
1/2 stick butter
3 cloves garlic
1t ground cumin
1/2t ground coriander
1/2 jalapeno, seeded

Wash the cilantro and place with the butter, garlic, cumin, coriander, and jalapeno into the bowl of your food processer. Zest the lime into the bowl and then squeeze the juice in after. Pulse until uniform in texture, but stop before it is a puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spread over the corn liberally and wrap in aluminium foil. Place on a medium grill and turn every few minutes until the corn has roasted brown in places and cooked through.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Saturday Night's Menu - Darren's Birthday

Oysters Mignonette
Pierre Morlet Grande Reserve Premier Cru Champagne

Apricot and Casera Tamales, Mache, Apricot Cumin Dressing
2005 Lewis Cellars Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Roast Turkey or Beet on Sweet Potato with Blackberry Sauce
Adrian Fog Two Sisters Vineyard 2005
Kosta Browne Russian River Valley 2005

Roast Leg of Lamb in Sauce Marchant du Vin,
Buckwheat Polenta, Wild Spring Vegetables (Morrell Mushrooms, Fiddlehead Ferns, Fava Beans)
Farfallone, Mushroom Sauce, Wild Spring Vegetables
2001 Larkmead Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Torbreck 'The Struie', the Barossa, Australia

Classic Creme Brulee, Assorted Shortbread Cookies
2000 Royal Tokaji - 5 Puttonyos

Darren posted photos and a lovely write-up of the evening!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Baby Artichokes

1 container (~1lb) fresh baby artichokes, cut in quarters
1T capers
1T caper brine
2T olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 c red and yellow cherry tomatoes, cleaned and halved.
3 cloves garlic, minced
1c chicken stocks
salt and pepper

In large sautee pan, over medium heat, add the garlic, artichokes, tomatoes, salt and pepper, capers, and caper brine. Sautee until aroma is released from garlic and artichokes begin to look a little brown and cooked around the edges. Season with salt and pepper and add the stock. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 12 minutes, or until broth is evaporated. Taste and fix seasoning, serve.

Note on cleaning artichokes: after rinsing them under cold water, cut the tail off, about 1/2" before it starts (into the bulb). Next, cut off 2/3" off the spiky end so no leaf tips are left on the artichoke. Finally, remove outer leaves, so that only the heart remains.

Alternative version: add pesto or romesco with the capers in the beginning.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hi-Hat Trials and Tribulations

Ryan and I bought some hi-hat cupcakes from Dean & Delucca which were magnificent. I decided I'd learn how to make them. I remembered that I had a recipe in a book Ryan had bought me last Christmas and I set about preaparing the delicious treats exactly according to the instructions.

The sour cream cake base turned out well. It has a nice indentation in the middle for some of the marshmallow cream to nestle in, creating a nice, stable base for greater height. Normally, I don't like cakes that dent in, but it matched the photo exactly, so I knew it was intentional.

Sadly, the "marshmallow cream" didn't share such a sunny fate. The recipe was a modification of a 7-minute icing, with more sugar and no water. The trick (apparently) is to get the mixture above 160F while beating continuously over a double boiler in order to melt the sugar and make a creamier consistency. Sadly, this is seemingly impossible. The whole process was supposed to take 12 mintues. By 15 mintues, I'd lost all volume, had formed a crust on the bottom of the bowl, and had a thick, crystalized mess.

I tried again, this time, I stopped when the volume looked right, at around 12 minutes. I still had not acheived 160F and I still had a grainy mess.

I dipped a few in chocolate and ate them anyway. The flavors are there, but the texture is wrong, wrong, wrong. I did some research on the internet and discovered that
a) there seems to be only one hi-hat recipe on the internet and it is identical to the one in my book (see here and here)
b) this recipe is flawed
c) people are PISSED about it

I have decided to come up with a version of the recipe that always works. My next experiment will use white mountain frosting, which is basically the same as this modified 7-minute frosting all over the internet, but which utilizes simple syrup instead of raw sugar.

Wish me luck. I'll post my updates here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Moroccan-spiced tamales

Moroccan-spiced tamales
Serves 6

Tamale Filling and Sauce
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans (14oz ea) plain tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon
1 small onion, cut in half then sliced into half-circles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c golden raisins
1 c Thompson seedless raisins
1t chili powder
3t ground cinnamon
3t sweet Hungarian paprika
1t ground cumin
½ t ground cloves
1 ½ t unsweetened cocoa powder
½ t cayenne pepper
1c shredded Monterey jack
sour cream
1/2c spicy pumpkin seeds
2t corn oil
salt, pepper

Low-fat Masa
12 large corn husks
6c masa harina
1t kosher salt
1t freshly ground black pepper
1t baking powder
4c chicken broth (low sodium canned is fine)
2t white wine vinegar
2t olive oil
corn oil for brushing


Briefly rinse the corn husks under running water, then place in a large bowl and cover with water to soak.

Place the chicken and tomato sauce in a medium pot over medium heat.

In a separate, small sauté pan, toast the cinnamon, chili powder, paprika, and cumin, until their aroma is released and their color has darkened slightly. Remove immediately from heat and stir into the pot with the chicken. Add cayenne, chocolate, and lemon juice to the pot, season with salt and pepper. Add ½ c golden raisins and ½ c Thompson seedless raisins and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and flavors are well blended.

While chicken is simmering, prepare the masa. Combine masa harina, salt, pepper, and baking powder in the bowl of a large mixer. Combine chicken broth, vinegar, and olive oil in another bowl. Using the paddle attachment on the lowest setting, mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being very careful not to overmix. The resulting batter should be the consistency of thick peanut butter. You may need to adjust the masa by adding more masa harina or water until the appropriate consistency is achieved.

Set aside until chicken mixture is finished.

When chicken is well cooked, you will want to separate the chicken from the sauce by straining the chicken mixture in a medium colander over a bowl. Return the sauce to a pot to keep warm. Shred the chicken into small, stringy pieces with two forks. Taste chicken and adjust seasoning as needed.

Place a large steamer pot on the stove to boil. Remove a large corn husk from the water. Hold it in your open palm so that the tapered end hangs over your fingers and the bottom edge hangs over the bottom of your palm. Brush the husk with just a touch of corn oil. Place ½ - 2/3 cup of masa on the husk and spread with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon. You will want to only cover the areas of the husk that are sitting on your palm. The tapered end and the dangling edge should be left bare. Spoon ¼-1/3 c of the chicken mixture onto the masa, along the top edge of the tamale. Place the tamale on the counter and roll edge to edge, top to bottom. Then fold the dangling tapered end up. Repeat until you have made 12 tamales. Place the tamales, folded end down, vertically into the steamer and cover. Cook over slowly boiling water for a half hour, checking frequently and adding more water as needed. Once the tamales are cooked, let them sit for approximately ten minutes in the pot with the water off.

While the tamales are cooking, prepare the sauce. Place 2t oil into a small sauté pan and cook onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent. Add to sauce with reserved 1/2c golden and 1/2 c Thompson seedless raisins. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Keep warm until tamales are finished.

To serve, place two tamales on each plate, top with sauce and cheese (for an extra touch, melt the cheese in the broiler). Garnish with sour cream and spicy pumpkin seeds

Note on Masa: You know what is fantastic? Prepared Masa. You go to the Mexican market, it's usually in one of the big fridges in the back of the store. You grab a giant bag, tell them how many pounds you want, and they scoop it out for you. Make sure that you confirm you're getting the masa for tamales and not torillas. This stuff is great!!!! Sure, it's not lowfat, but neither are we, n'est pas?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Fun with chocolate

For each guest at my husband's and my 10 year anniversary party, we made little boxes with a CD stuck to the inside of the lid and then three chocolates in the bottom of the box.

Ryan and I picked out the paper and recorded the song. Evan gave us the boxes and the CD-in-a-box idea.

Juliet and I made lots and lots of chocolate. Included were an Earl Grey truffle (the molded one) a Lavendar "explosion" (the rolled one), and a chocolate covered homemade marshmallow.

I think they turned out very well though tempering chocolate is contrary to my basic nature.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wine Video Podcast

My husband just finished his first video podcast! It turned out really well. If you are into wine, you might be interested.

This first one is an interview with the winemaker of Goldeneye, Zach Rasmussen, who makes awesome Pinot Noir.

My husband is not the guy *in* the podcast. He was behind the camera.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Homemade "Moose Munch"

My husband is a huge fan of Harry and David's Moose Munch. I'll admit, it's pretty great.

For tomorrow's Oscar party, I decided that one thing I wanted to try was making my own version of that delectable treat.

For the base (caramel popcorn) I followed this recipe from Karen DeMasco as published in Fine Cooking. (Wow, online they even have a video!)

Then I made a "salad" with equal parts of mini-marshmallows, broken bits of graham crackers, roasted almonds, and caramel popcorn. I melted some coating chocolate and dipped clumps of the goodies randomly, cooled them on aluminium foil, and mixed the clumps in with the corn.

The result is so good it might break some local laws.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Brunch and Petits Fours

This morning, I made brunch for seven people.

Cherry muffins
Currant scones
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict with Dill Hollandaise over Crumpets
Roasted Potatoes
Tea, Orange Juice, Mimosas
Petits Fours

Since the petits fours were so pretty (and sadly, the only things I had a moment to photograph), I'll focus this post on those:

Pouring on the glaze:

Completed product:

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lemon Bundt Pound Cake

Tonight, I decided to make a basic butter cake recipe as I hear these are great beginner cakes. At Ryan's request, I selected a lemon poppyseed bundt cake from the Joy of Cooking, specifically, Rose Levy Beranbaum's Lemon Poppyseed Pound Cake on page 940 of the 1997 edition. I wanted to do something that I knew would turn out so that I can practice my technique without pressure. I think this cake was a good choice.

Last night, I was reading Flo Braker's book, "The Art of Perfect Baking," where she emphasized that the #1 reason recipes fail is inaccurate measurement. I've always known that weighing is the most accurate way of measuring ingredients, but I never really was "sold" on the idea. In her book, Flo describes the difficulty of accurately weighing brown sugar without a scale. There can be up to 1/4 cup of difference between two different people measuring the same sugar!

I decided to test out weighing to see how far off my measurement has been. I took three large eggs from the same package and put each on the scale. A large egg is supposed to weigh 2oz in its shell. Mine were each a different weight. I determined that the shell weighed .25 oz and once I measured out my three eggs, I found that I had a little more than a tablespoon of egg left over! I imagine that would really make a difference in a delicate cake!

My ingredients were all assembled and room temperature (70F). My oven was on, my bundt pan was greased and floured. I triple sifted my flour and carefully weighed all my ingredients into mixing bowls.

The next step was to put the dry ingredients in the bottom of my mixer with butter and 1/2 the liquid ingredients and beat until everything was moist. This was where I made my first mistake! Excited about my new mixer, I was like a 55 year old man in his new red Porche. I slammed that thing straight into medium and made a giant mess.

So much for all my careful weighing!

Orwell helps me "clean up"

Undeterred, I proceeded at a more reasonable speed until the flour was incorporated. Then, I moved her into high gear (per recipe instructions) and incorporated the remaining liquid in two batches, scraping down in between.

My next step was pouring the thick batter into the pan. I smoothed it out and put it in the oven. While it was baking, I made the glaze


At 35 minutes (again, per recipe directions) I started checking the cake for "bounce-back" and for crumbs on the skewer. I gave it an extra three minutes and at 38 minutes, it was done. I took it out and poked holes into the top of the cake and coated it with half of the lemon glaze while it was still in the pan. I let it sit 10 minutes and then un-molded it onto a rack covered with parchment and did the same to the bottom of the cake - poked holes and coated with glaze.



Here is where I made my second mistake! It turns out you're supposed to wrap this cake and keep it at room temperature for 24 hours before eating it! I planned on serving it tonight! Oops. Total rookie mistake: I didn't read the ENTIRE recipe before starting.

So, after snacking on it, I can say that it needs that 24 hours. There was a lot of butter in this cake and it needs to set up and solidify. Also, the glaze will probably crystallize a little overnight. OK, I like butter as much as the next guy (maybe more) but this was even a little much for me. I'll try again tomorrow (that's the spirit!)

I said I'd share the good, the bad, and the ugly! It turned out well, but I learned a few lessons along the way.