Monday, March 30, 2009


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I've made this dish at least 5 or 6 times. I try to do something slightly different each time. Today, I layer the vegetables and bake them in the oven. Other times I've roasted the vegetables separately before cooking everything on a stove top. I also use herbs de provence instead of basil. The herbs and all the juices from the vegetables make this dish sweet and earthy. The dish is served with a side of bread. Very French country.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Muffin

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I like oatmeal for breakfast as much as the next gal, but sometimes it gets dull. This recipe is a twist on the boring oatmeal.
  • 1 cup (100 grams) of quick oats
  • 1 cup (100 grams) of raisins
  • 3/4 cup (120 grams) of cake flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (120 grams) of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Beat eggs and brown sugar together. Add vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract and beat together until well combined. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Do not over mix. Mix in raisins and quick oats. Fill muffin pan lined with paper cups. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. When the entire place smells like oatmeal with brown sugar, they're probably done. The recipe makes about a dozen.

The muffins are filling and have great texture. They are also excellent with a little salted butter. I'm looking forward to eating these first thing tomorrow morning.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Green Tea Red Bean Marble Cake

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This recipe combines two common elements in Asian desserts -- green tea (matcha) and sweetened red beans. The first time I read this recipe, I knew I had to try it. And eat all of it (cue evil laughter)!
  • 3/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon (110 grams) of bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) of corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (60 grams) of milk
  • 1/3 cup (60 grams) of vegetable oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (30 grams) of honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon of green tea (matcha) powder
  • 4 teaspoons of water
  • 7 (200 grams) egg whites
  • 2/3 cup (110 grams) of sugar
  • 1 cup (120 grams) of sweetened red bean
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Line baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray. Combine green tea powder with water. Set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, corn starch and salt. Set aside. Combine honey, vegetable oil and milk. Set aside. Whisk egg whites using a stand mixer and add sugar slowly until the mixture forms stiff peak.

In two batches, add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients to the egg white foam. Fold in gently. Take 1/3 of the batter and add green tea mixture. Mix well. Add sweetened red bean to the remaining 2/3 batter. Mix well. Combine the two mixtures gently, leaving a marbled texture. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

The cake is light and oh so pretty. The slight bitterness of green tea and the sweetness of the red bean remind me of desserts from home.

Kalamata Olive Bread with Herbs

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This is a variation on Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread. We gobbled that down pretty quickly, so it's time to make another loaf. I take no credit for this one. It's the brainchild of the other chef in the kitchen. He replaced 1 cup of all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and added chopped Kalamata olives and 1/4 teaspoon each of dried thyme, marjoram and oregano.

The resulting bread is denser with nice herb flavors. The savory bites of Kalamata olives are nice and refreshing. We'll probably be making another variation of this bread soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chickpea Leek Soup

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This one is adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe. I know it sort of looks like baby food, but it is surprisingly delicious.
  • 1 16 ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced small
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • salt and white pepper to taste
Sweat leek and garlic over medium low heat in butter until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add vegetable stock, potato, chickpeas and salt. Turn up the heat to high and cook until the potato pieces are soft. Blend all the vegetables together using a blender or an immersion blender. Sprinkle with white pepper to taste.

I think white pepper is the way to go with this dish. It adds a nice finish to the soup, which otherwise can be bland. Thanks to Jen for the recipe!

Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread

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Ever since we got this recipe, we've been wanting to try it. But we didn't have the proper equipment to bake the bread. That is, until now.
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of active yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
Mix ingredients together in a large bowl until combined into a shaggy dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. Scoop the wet dough onto a floured surface. Fold twice and let rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and shape the dough into a saggy ball and let rest for another 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place heavy Dutch oven or other oven safe lidded pot in oven. Heat pot for at least 30 minutes. Tip the dough into the hot pot. Sprinkle with salt or seeds (we used sesame seeds), cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes until browned as desired.

The crust is nice and flaky and the bread itself is chewy and tender. The bread is paired with some homemade kumquat marmalade. Mmm, delicious.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Baked Risotto with Artichoke and Parsley

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Despite cutting back on expenses during the Great Depression 2.0 (a.k.a. Clusterf*ck to the Poor House), I splurged on a couple of food related items. First, I finally broke down and bought a Le Creuset Dutch oven after months of lusting. Second, I bought The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop. I'm happy to say that they were money well spent.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 11 ounce jar of marinated artichokes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup of arborio rice
  • 3 cups of boiling water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion in olive oil using casserole dish or Dutch oven over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add arborio rice and stir until rice is coated with oil. Add water, artichoke, parsley, Pecorino cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover the casserole or Dutch oven and bake in 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Add additional cheese or parsely if desired.

This risotto does not have the gummy sticky texture that most risotto dishes have. I thought it could use some acidity. Maybe a little lemon zest or lemon juice to brighten the flavors next time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich

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Eggplant Parmesan sandwich with soy mozzarella, with a side of snow peas and fries. I'm surprised that I like soy mozzarella. Normally I much prefer the real dairy cheeses. But soy mozzarella isn't bad. We also saw soy blue cheese that looked like a block of purple cream cheese. Ew. I'm sticking with real blue cheese.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Steamed Lemon Sponge Cake

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I made these in my rice cooker! It's weird but true. These are moist and airy. The silky texture is similar to Malay cake (ma lai go). I also like the lemon aroma and flavor without the tartness.
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 5 (250 grams) eggs
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) of sugar
  • 11/12 cup (2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup or 190 grams) of cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Mix eggs with sugar using a electric mixer until the mixture holds a ribbon. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients together and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Fill cake pan lined with parchment paper. Steam for 20-25 minutes. If you don't have a rice cooker or a steamer, I suppose you can bake these in a muffin pan. But the texture may not be as delicate.

I have resolved to do more late night baking (or steaming, as the case is here), so I can always have dessert for breakfast.

Update: Those measurements are way off. My kitchen scale is malfunctioning, so I had to wing it. And my math is no good (hanging head in shame). I made my cake using the cup measurements indicated above. The cake came out really delicious, so I might have stumbled upon something special. One day I have to make this recipe again according to the actual weight measurements and see what difference that makes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Honey Sponge Cupcake

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Since my aunt was so gracious to let me borrow her cookbook, I thought I'd bake some honey sponge cupcakes from the book and bring them over tomorrow.
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of honey
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 grams) of sugar
  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) of cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Mix honey and vegetable oil together and heat over a double boiler until the honey becomes runny. Set aside. Beat eggs and sugar together using an electric mixer until the mixture turns pale yellow and forms a ribbon. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Combine all the ingredients and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Fill muffin pan lined with paper cups. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The recipe makes about 10 cupcakes.

The cake is very light and tender with a hint of honey flavor. And it's not sickly sweet like most desserts. The downside is, I have to resist the urge to eat them all tonight.


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I love gnocchi. If it's on the menu at a restaurant, I'd order it. But I rarely have truly light and fluffy gnocchi. My attempt isn't half bad. The gnocchi is fluffy, not chewy. But it is still a little dense. If I had a potato ricer or a food mill, this probably would come out much better.

The recipe can be found here. It is tossed with some leftover tomato sauce from our pizza making adventure.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Green Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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For whatever reason, I've been reading quite a few mashed potato recipes that call for olive oil instead of butter and cream. The New York Times green mashed potatoes recipe combines potatoes with dandelion leaves and olive oil. The Cooks Illustrated garlic mashed potatoes recipe combines potatoes with garlic and olive oil. I thought I'd make a hybrid of the two recipes and make my version of green garlic mashed potatoes.
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen spinach, thawed, drained and chopped
  • 3 to 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Panko bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook garlic in olive oil over low heat until translucent, about 2-5 minutes. Do not burn the garlic -- it has a bitter taste when burned. Combine chopped spinach with mashed potatoes and garlic oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill ovenproof dish with mashed potatoes and top with bread crumbs. Bake for 15 minutes in 400 degree oven or broil for 3-4 minutes until the top is crispy and golden brown.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Homemade Pizza

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Margherita pizza and mushroom zucchini pizza on homemade whole wheat dough. Mmm. Very good, with room for improvement. Next time, the crust should be thinner and some of the veggies should be pre-cooked to prevent sogginess. Also, the dough should be baked first for a minute or two to get an extra crispy crust.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Golden Orange Zest Cake with Apricot

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I had one orange left and thought I should do something with it. Bake with it, of course!
  • 1/2 stick (80 grams) of butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of corn starch
  • 1/2 cup of cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of almond powder or almond meal
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) of candied orange peel or dried apricot, chopped small
  • a small pinch of salt
Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture turns pale yellow. Add egg, orange juice, and zest. Mix together. Sift flour, baking powder, almond powder, corn starch and salt together. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Add chopped orange peel or dried apricot. Bake in 365 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. The recipe should fill 2 ramekins.

It has a very intense orange flavor. The almond meal (which you can find at Trader Joe's) adds body to an otherwise delicate cake.

German Soft Pretzel

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Pei mentioned Rockenwagner Bakery's pretzels the other day. I forgot how much I loved that bacon cheese pretzel twist. The other one of my many favorites from Rockenwagner was their cheddar pretzel roll, which was essentially a pretzel ball scored open and filled with cheddar cheese. So good.

I attempted to make my own cheddar pretzel roll today and overbaked it. It was still delicious, but not up to Rockenwagner's standard. I also made these giant soft pretzels. I didn't realize how much they would puff up. That's why they looked like pretzels on steroids.

I followed the recipe from here. Next time I would boil these in baking soda solution for a little longer to give them a chewier texture. I would also make 8 instead of 4 pretzels, to account for how much the dough rises.

Update: They taste better (i.e. chewier) when cooled to room temperature, like fried chicken (so I was told).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Creamy Baked Noodles with Eggplant and Cheese

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The pasta smelled so good in the oven that we kept opening the oven door to check on it every 5 minutes. I spent the last 3 minutes standing in front of the oven, ready to chew my arm off from hunger. The taste? The eggplant was meaty and spicy; the cheese sauce was creamy and crispy on top; the tomato provided some freshness. I think we'll be making this one again pretty soon. The recipe is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It's complicated, but well worth the extra time and effort.
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound of eggplant, cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 small pinches of red pepper flakes or Cayenne peppers
  • 2 cups of tomato, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 8 ounces of pasta (I used ziti)
  • 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs (I used Panko)
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of Parmesan, freshly grated
Saute eggplant in olive oil over medium high heat until edges are brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Add more oil to the pan, if needed, and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add cinnamon, cloves, red pepper flakes or Cayenne peppers, and tomato, cook until thickens, about 10 minutes. Return eggplant to the pan and stir. Set aside.

Cook pasta until just barely tender. Drain well and toss together with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Set aside. Use 1 tablespoon of melted butter to grease a small casserole.

Heat milk in microwave until small bubbles appear. Heat the melted butter in a sauce pan over medium low heat. Add flour while whisking until the mixture turns golden. Add milk slowly, whisk constantly and cook until thickens. Stir the sauce into beaten eggs a couple of tablespoons at a time while whisking. Pour the egg back into the sauce and stir. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Layer half of the pasta in the baking dish, top with half the eggplant mixture. Cover with the remaining pasta, then the remaining eggplant and all the cheese sauce. Top with remaining bread crumbs and extra grated Parmesan, if desired. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. To make the top crispy and golden brown, I also put it under a broiler for 3 minutes.

Did I mention this was ridiculously good? I had seconds and thought about more. Alas, my stomach was not big enough. Sigh.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mashed Potato and Cheddar Cheese Muffin

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This is a somewhat oddball recipe. It's savory and sweet. I would classify this as a Tuesday morning breakfast muffin.
  • 1/2 of a medium potato (120 grams), peeled, cooked and mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) of sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons (40 grams) of milk
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) of cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese, grated
Beat egg, vegetable oil and sugar together. Add milk, mashed potato, salt and peppers and mix together. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together and mix with liquid ingredients. Do not over mix. Add grated cheddar cheese and bake in 365 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. As you can see, I also add more cheddar cheese on top with about 3 minutes left in baking time. The recipe makes about 6 muffins.

It tastes just like good mashed potatoes, but in a handy portable container. I would leave the potatoes a little chunkier next time so there's more texture in the muffins. I can't wait to wake up to these muffins tomorrow morning.

Hearty Lentil Soup

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Hearty lentil soup, recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
  • 1 1/2 cups of lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups of onions, diced fine
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of celery stalks, diced fine
  • 1/3 cup of carrots, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed with 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 quarts of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion in olive oil using medium high heat until edges are brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add tomato paste, celery stalks, garlic cloves, carrots, bay leaves and parsley. Cook for 3 minutes. Add lentils and water and cook for 25 minutes, partially covered, until lentils are soft. Add Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

The soup is delicious and very filling. It's a meal by itself. I really like how all the flavors complement each other.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Molten Lava Cake

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Molten lava chocolate cake, topped with berries and vanilla ice cream. I don't like this particular recipe. The cake cannot be unmolded without turning into a goopy mess. Yes, I'm aware that it could be due to the baker's inability to properly follow directions. Clearly, this is not a fool-proof recipe. Anyways, it's chocolaty and melty if you just eat it out of the ramekin like pudding. I have to find a recipe that will produce cakes like Beard Papa's fondant au chocolate. That's a true lava cake.

The recipe is courtesy of the ladies at and can be found here.

Soybean Carrot Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing

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This is a culinary disaster with a happy ending. Since we're having leftover Udon from yesterday, I thought I'd stick with the Japanese theme. I consulted some cookbooks and picked a recipe that would incorporate some of my pantry items (namely soybeans, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweed). I came across one recipe that seemed perfect. Of course, not being detail-oriented, I didn't read all the way through the recipe. By the time I'm ready to make dinner, I realized that it was a recipe for a stew. But we're already having noodle soup for dinner. Um, what to do...?

I remembered a particular ginger sesame dressing that I used to get at Japanese supermarkets. I decided to make a home version of it and turn this stew into a salad.

For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoon of ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each of the soaking liquid for the shiitake mushrooms and seaweed
The salad:
  • 2 cups of soybeans, canned or cooked
  • 3/4 cup of dried seaweed, soaked in cold water
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water and chopped small
  • 1 large carrot, grated
This would be better if I cooked the soybeans more and made more dressing. But otherwise, it's a good way to boost protein in a vegetarian diet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Miso Udon Soup

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We've had a lot of Italian food recently. It's time to switch it up. Tonight, we are having miso udon soup with daikon, tofu, tofu skin, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, sea weed, and baby pea shoots.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Baked Ziti

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Baked ziti with homemade pasta sauce and Pecorino, mozzarella and Parmesan Reggiano cheeses. Pretty self-explanatory. And tasty too.

French Apple Tart

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I have some leftover pastry from last night. I'm certainly not going to toss that. I roll it out and top with some Granny Smith apple slices, sugar and butter. Bake in 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. I drizzle some honey on top and serve warm with vanilla ice cream on the side.

The pastry dough that I made was not meant to become dessert. So I would add a tablespoon of sugar to the dough if I were to make a sweet pastry. Otherwise the tart is wonderful -- crispy, flaky and delicious.

I can't take all the credit for this one. This French apple tart is inspired by Ina Garten's version (I'm too lazy to make an apricot glaze). Her recipe can be found here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tomato Basil Tart

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I accidentally made pizzas today. I thought it might be fun to bake a tomato basil tart, not realizing that tomato and basil on dough equals pizza. Oh well.

The pastry:
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of butter, ice cold and cubed small
  • 1/2 cup of ice cold water
Mix flour, salt and baking powder in food processor. Add butter and pulse until the butter becomes small pea-sized pieces throughout the flour. Add cold water and process until thoroughly mixed. Wrap dough and refrigerate for half an hour. Roll out the dough into a flat sheet of 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut dough into discs 5 inches in diameter.

The "toppings":
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
  • 6 basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese, cubed small
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix tomatoes and basil leaves together, add salt and pepper to taste. Put the mixture in the middle of the dough discs. Drizzle olive oil on top and bake for 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until the edges turn light brown. Remove from the oven and add mozzarella cheese. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and top with chopped parsley and additional cheese.

The pastry is incredibly flaky and buttery. Very good for my first attempt at pastry (if I do say so myself).

The side dish of the day is braised leeks with lemon. Simple and delicious.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Zucchini Lemon Pasta

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This is my favorite pasta recipe of all time. It's so simple. Just a few ingredients, but tons of flavor. It's from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 medium zucchinis, sliced thin
  • 6 basil leaves, julienned
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound of pasta
  • salt and pepper
Saute garlic and sliced zucchinis in olive oil until zucchinis are soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add lemon juice, basil leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Toss together with pasta and Pecorino cheese. That's it!

As a side dish, we had chickpea celery salad. Just a can of chickpeas, tossed together with chopped celery, parsley, red bell pepper, onion, lemon juice, lemon zest, chili powder, olive oil, salt and pepper. I have to remember to leave out the onion next time. I don't want to taste raw onions in my mouth for the next two days.

Caramelized Apple Upside Down Cake

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I've been baking so much that I ran out of flour and sugar. I had to reload before I can bake this awesome deliciousness.

For the caramelized apple:
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled cored and cubed
  • 6 tablespoons (90 grams) of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of water
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Calvados (French apple brandy) or rum (I left it out by accident, oops)
For the cake:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) of butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup (50 grams) of cake flour (I used all-purpose flour, forgot Pei's suggestion)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • a small pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks (50 grams)
  • 4 egg whites (100 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of sugar
For the caramelized apples, first cook sugar in a non-stick pan on low heat until it turns into a dark brown liquid (like molasses). Add water, stir to incorporate. Add butter and stir. Turn the heat up to medium high and add apples and Calvados or rum. Cook until apples pieces are soft. It's done when the kitchen smells like grandma is baking an apple pie. Spray baking molds (a regular cupcake or muffin pan should do) with non-stick spray and place caramelized apples at the bottom.

Mix melted butter with flour until all the lumps are out. Add milk, vanilla extract, salt and egg yolks. Mix until combined. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer, slowly add sugar in thirds until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Gently fold egg white foam into the batter. Do not over mix. Fill the molds with batter and smooth out the top. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. I didn't use a muffin pan for this, so baking time can vary. If the top of the cake turns light brown and puffs up, the cake should be done. Unmold and serve (with ice cream would be even more decadent).

Next time, I would cook the apples a little longer, so the sauce is darker and more concentrated. The cake is light and delicate, perfect with the intense flavor of the caramelized apples. It's divine when fresh out of the oven and paired with ice cream.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Earl Grey Muffin

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I recently borrowed a cookbook. It is full of pretty pictures and various cake recipes. Problem with the cookbook? It's in Chinese and all the measurements are by weight (grams, not ounces). So I got a kitchen scale and started calculating.

Earlier this week, I baked some earl grey cupcakes but was unhappy with the result. I didn't taste the earl grey and my lavender frosting failed miserably. So when I saw the milk tea muffin recipe in the cookbook, I thought I'd give this a try.
  • 4 teabags (I used earl grey, but any black tea will do)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup (120 grams) of sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) of vegetable oil
  • 2 cups (200 grams) of cake flour (I used all-purpose, too lazy to buy cake flour)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
Steep tea bags in warm milk, set aside. Beat sugar and eggs together, then add vegetable oil and steepped milk tea. Mix together. Sift flour and baking powder together. Mix all the ingredients together and fill muffin pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The recipe makes about 10 muffins.

It's airy and I can really taste the earl grey. Maybe next time, I'll add some tea leaves to the batter too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pesto Bread

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I feel lazy today. Instead of making a huge production of dinner, I heat up some homemade marinara sauce, add some tomatoes, basil, leftover red bell pepper and onion. Mix with some bow tie pasta, top with parsley and pecorino cheese, and we've got dinner.

But the star of the dinner is the pesto bread. It's a twist on Mark Bittman's basic olive oil bread from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of pesto
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together in a food processor. While the food processor is running, stream in olive oil, then warm water and pesto. Process until the dough comes together. Grease an 8 inch pan with olive oil. Press the dough into the pan until the dough fills up the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle with coarse salt or some Pecorino cheese. Bake for another 20-25 minutes.

When the bread just comes out of the oven, it is so soft, chewy and delicious. It does not have a strong pesto flavor, but has a nice aroma. I would increase the amount of pesto next time.

A side note on Bittman's book -- I use it frequently and find it helpful when brainstorming new ideas, but it has quite a few errors. For example, this particular olive oil bread recipe omits water from the ingredient list, but instructs cooks to add warm water in the steps. Pretty sloppy, if you ask me. I do like it because it suggests ways to change the recipe, whereas some other cookbooks give you one good recipe but no hints as to how to make variations.

Apple Arugula Salad with Blood Orange Dressing

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It sort of looks like I put Pepto Bismol on some arugula and call it a salad. The color of the dressing is the result of a make-shift blood orange goat cheese dressing that I made.

The dressing:
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of blood orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of herb goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
The salad:
  • 3 cups of arugula
  • 1/2 a Fuji apple, cored and cubed small
  • 1/2 cup of walnut bits
  • several pieces of baby artichoke
It's sweet, tart, and tangy. The blood orange is less acidic than lemon or vinegar, with just enough sweetness to balance out the tangy flavor of goat cheese. It's a simple and delicious way to eat veggies and fruits.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grilled Portabella Mushroom Sandwich

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This one is pretty simple. It's grilled portabella mushrooms on top of some roasted red bell peppers and onions. Arugula, herb goat cheese, and toasted garlic French baguette complete the sandwich. We also had some roasted potatoes with garlic and thyme as a side dish.

Unfortunately, a whole afternoon of baking yielded no pretty pictures or good food. It's always so depressing when that happens.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mushroom Pea Risotto

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Along with the fennel leek soup, we're also having mushroom pea risotto.
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 6 dry shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped small
  • 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas
  • 3 cups (give or take 1/2 cup) of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
Soak saffron in lemon juice and set aside. Saute minced shallots in melted butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and dry white wine. Cook using low heat until wine is absorbed. Add lemon zest, lemon juice with saffron, thyme and 1 cup of vegetable stock. Cook until liquid is absorbed, then add 1 cup of vegetable stock at a time until the rice is cooked through. Stir in mushrooms, peas, salt and pepper to taste.

Fennel Leek Soup with Fennel Greens

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I really like potato leek soup, but the smell of leeks would permeate my apartment for days. This is a variation on the basic potato leek soup, minus the strong leek smell. The recipe is courtesy of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup of fennel greens, chopped (optional)
  • 2 leek roots, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 potato, peeled and sliced thin
  • 6 cups of vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • salt
  • white pepper
The key is the vegetable stock. The recipe calls for a quick vegetable stock that includes the fennel trimmings and greens. I am in no mood to start vegetable stock from scratch. So I heat up my basic vegetable stock and add fennel trimmings, fennel greens, leek greens, and potato skin. Cook the stock for about 30 minutes, strain and set aside.

In a large soup pot, melt butter and add fennel, leek, onion potato, and salt. Add a cup of the stock back into the pot. Close the lid and cook for 20 minutes until the fennel is tender. Then add the residual stock and cook for another 10 minutes. Add white pepper to taste. Puree the mixture and garnish with fennel greens.