Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows Eve

Last weekend we celebrated my youngest sister's 30th birthday. All of us sisters like to help in the food department and brought a dish. I made Robin Sue's Jalapeno Popper Dip. The only change I made was to add 2 finely diced fresh jalapenos to kick it up a notch. It tasted great and is perfect party fair for a good size group. Next time I will add even more jalapenos though. Maybe an extra can of jalapenos and 3 or 4 fresh ones. Most of my family and friends are happy to have it HOT!

Oh and I served it with the very fresh corn chips available at a nearby market.

Oh... did I tell you the theme? Well it is close to a certain time of year....

Costumes were in order! Famous duos was the theme.

My husband vetoed just about every suggestion. But agreed to be Dopey??? Huh???? Chalk that one up to a huge crush on Snow White! I guess he was willing to sacrifice all dignity to have a date with a "real" princess.

The biggest problem was that there is not a Dopey costume to be found ANYWHERE!!! Especially last minute as no decisions were made until two days before. In fact, you cannot find a dwarf costume of any kind.

Luckily??? I say that with hesitation. I found a green table cloth at a thrift store. Mind you, I DON'T know how to sew and haven't a machine!!! That afternoon I created the above. The hat was a baby blanket from Target sewed over a ski hat!! The buttons are the lids to Pringles cans. The boots are just felt wrapped and tied at the ankles. The belt buckle is cardboard with yellow tape and the belt strap is fabric. Whew!!! Looks kinda crazy and sloppy but I got a lot of Kudos for originality! And he for huevos!

Happy Halloween Everyone!
Have fun and be safe!
Don't eat too too much candy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Golden Egg

Do you like eggs? There are A LOT of people who don't seem to like them. My sister doesn't. Well it is the yolk that she mostly doesn't like. Good for her in a diet and health standpoint but ooooohhhh the yolk! I don't think I could eat an egg without it. And then there are those who say they like them but only eat them scrambled or really well done. Well then you miss the best part of the yolk I think.

But the egg is so beautiful, so neatly packaged, so healthy and SO versatile. There are so many things you can make with eggs and so many ways to prepare them. You can have poached, fried, scrambled, over easy, hard boiled and more. You can make omelette, quiches, frittatas, and stratas just to name a few. Eggs are NOT just for breakfast. They make a great lunch or dinner. And don't forget dessert! My chocolate mousse was 90% eggs.

A few weeks ago, Gloria from Canela Kitchen reminded me of a recipe in the August issue of Bon Appetit for poached eggs on brioche. I remember having seen it and then seeing it again on Gloria's blog pushed me to think of it more. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking of it for a few weeks. I thought it would make a great dinner. Then came the night when I had good bread, fresh basil and as always, eggs.

It was simple other than the fact that I had never actually poached an egg before. It is a bit tricky to get it to stay together and look nice. Mine was far from perfect. But the taste? With all that golden yellow yolk oozing out onto the bread and the plate and melding with the parmesan and pistou sauce... Well that and the sips of a clean crisp chardonnay had me in near nirvana! Eggs are worth their weight in gold! So delicious. I am all about the Pistou now too. Step aside pesto, there is a new basil sauce in town!

Bored of the same old things for quick night dinners? Need something new and totally satisfying? Have an egg.

Poached Eggs and Parmesan Cheese over Toasted Brioche with Pistou


1/3 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/2 small garlic clove
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large eggs
2 1/2-inch-thick slices brioche or egg bread, toasted
Parmesan cheese shavings

Puree basil, garlic, and oil in mini processor until very smooth. Season pistou to taste with salt and pepper.

Add enough water to medium skillet to measure 1 1/4 inches. Sprinkle salt generously into water. Bring water to simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs 1 at a time and gently slip into water. Cook until egg whites are just set and egg yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

Place hot toasts on plates. Top each with Parmesan. Using slotted spoon, transfer 2 eggs, well drained, to each piece of brioche. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of pistou and serve.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soup and Salad - Food and Friends for Fall

One of the best things about having friends for dinner is it inspires me to clean the WHOLE house. So for a couple of hours, the house is all clean. Then I tear apart and create happy havoc the kitchen. The kids bring the toys back out. Spills begin to occur. And once again we are back to where we started. Ahhhh well it was fun while it lasted.

The other thing I love about guests is trying out new recipes. I know a lot of people who only make tried and true dishes. Things they know turn out well every time. Not me! Fool that I am, I usually tend to see this as an opportunity to try something new or experiment. Luckily, most of the time, the food turns out pretty well if not very good! (Can you tell I typed that while knocking on my wooden desk and my head?)

The weather was cool again and I was still in the mood for soup. I also wanted to practice that amazing French bread again. That decided, I thought I'd add some green salad. Paul doesn't eat any soup at all so I wanted to do a salad he would like. He loves Caesar salad and I have admit, when it is a good one, it is one of my favorites too.

Caesar salad and I are no strangers. I have made this recipe and that for years. Most of the time the ingredients are all the same or similar. In fact really it has been quite a while since I followed a recipe. I was getting lazy and sloppy and the dressing hadn't been coming out quite as well as in days of old. Hence my decision to find a new recipe again. Where did I go? To whom did I seek advice? A fellow blogger of course. Peter at Kalofagas has never let me down so far. His Caesar had all the ingredients I have been using but the portions were actually laid out. This is where I had been lacking. Peter's recipe was well balanced and creamy. I probably added an extra clove of garlic as I am obsessed with garlic and can never have enough. And let me tell you, I can find nothing wrong with this recipe. It is simple and so delicious.... In fact... I am hungry. It is dinner time. I must retreat to make it again, NOW! I see no reason to really mess with any other set of ingredients. Go for this one! Thanks Peter.

I wanted a soup that just sang fall. As I had never made butternut squash soup, I searched for a good recipe. After a glance at this and that, I came across a very simple recipe that sounded just right at June's site Thyme for Food. It was my first time on June's blog and I am so glad I found it. She has really got some good looking recipes there. I might just try her No-Knead Bread this weekend! The only modification I really did was to add a leek. I have been so into leeks lately and had a bunch here. I also topped it with one of the homemade croutons I made for the salad and some sage fried in butter. I wanted whole sage leaves but the market was out. Go figure! So I had some nice Greek sage that I just sauteed in butter on the stove for a few minutes. Here is June's recipe with my changes.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek chopped
1/2 onion chopped
2 gloves galic chopped
1 3lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into even small chunks
6 cups chicken broth (48 oz)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
pinch or two of fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, chicken broth, dried thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and cover. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the squash is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, or in the stockpot with an immersion blender until smooth.

Return the pureed soup the heat. Stir in the heavy cream. Bring to a brief simmer, then remove from the heat. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with additional broth or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more nutmeg if desired.

Top with fried sage and homemade crouton.

Serves 4 to 6 as a main meal

Did I like the soup? Oh yes! My guests just loved it too. I even served it the following day again to my sister and her husband. They inhaled it! It was smooth and subtle and very festively fall.

Now soup and salad with homemade bread are certainly enough for me. But I like to fatten up my guests and spoil them as best I can. I also need to give Paul something with more substance than just salad. So I marinated some flank steak which he threw on the grill. When I say it was a cool day, I am talking 60's and our grill is just about 5 feet from the kitchen so I grill year round! I thought another earthy vegetable would be nice. And what goes better with some steak than mushrooms. I based my recipe off of a recipe I had done before from Bon Appetit December 1999. It is Creamy Sautéed Mushrooms with Toast. When I made it for my aunts 60th birthday, the crowd inhaled it. Now this recipe is for 30 appetizer servings so for a side to dinner, I simply used one box/carton of button mushrooms and just splashed in the Marsala and heavy cream until it felt right. Any way you do it, you just can't go wrong with mushrooms, marsala and cream! So very very good.

So here's to good friends, good food, good wine and cooking and sharing! Cheers!

The Prize

Look at this beautiful specimen that I picked up last week at the farmer's market. I was a good 4 or 5 inches in diameter and about 3 inches tall. And the colors... red and yellow and orange and peach. It looked like a glorious sunset. I wanted to keep it as a sculptural design element in the kitchen. But we all know it wouldn't last. It wouldn't stay beautiful.

So I took a bunch of pictures. And let it sit there for a day just to look at. Just to gently touch the smooth fiery skin. And then.... I cut it open. I ate it. How did I eat it? With what did I eat this gorgeous heirloom tomato with?

I made a special, out of the way trip to Whole Foods Market to get that Buratta cheese again. I had been dreaming and thinking of it for so long. This was my meal two nights in a row. Pure heaven! So delicious. And if you have not gone out to get that cheese yet, I urge you, do it NOW! You will not regret it.

Oh! I almost forgot. Here are come pictures of the tomatoes at the farmer's market stall and the man who grows them in San Clemente!

He was excited to pose and be on the blog!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Bold and the Beautiful!

No. Don't worry. I am not going to talk about or review or comment on a soap opera or anything. Rather, I am going to praise the Daring Bakers (Breadchick and Sara) and one of their great mentors who has truly inspired so many, Julia Child! These women are bold and beautiful and amazingly talented.

It all started with the desire to make bread. And French bread is my favorite. I have made bread before. I probably started about ??? 15 years ago. I made some here and there. It went from not very good at all to somewhat decent loaves. If I really really had to though, I could maybe count the number of times I made bread. Not too too many. Less than one a year in total and it has been a few years since attempting it again- pizza dough and focaccia not withstanding. Recently, since starting my blog, I have been once again yearning to make bread. So a few weeks back, I made some. It was an easy recipe and a little quicker than some. The bread fell into the "decent" category. So I decided to search for a better if more complicated recipe. So I googled a little and clicked around and decided upon French bread ala "Ze Daring Bakers Conquer French Bread ala Julia." Go check it out! This is not a recipe to be trifled with. It is not one for the timid, rushed or faint of heart. This is a bold and very LONG recipe. After I began reading and scrolling down, I got a little dizzy. I printed it out.

My default in printing things online is usually at about 90% size. Out spit 19 pages of this recipe! Not only does Breadchick provide all of Julia's recipe and suggestions but some of her and Sara's notes as experienced bakers. These Daring Bakers suggest reading the recipe over at least twice before starting. And I HIGHLY suggest you follow their advice. As it was lunchtime already I did not have time to more than skim the whole thing first. And before I even knew which end was up, I simply dove into these new and slightly choppy waters. To compensate for not reading it all over a couple times, I read the first steps VERY thouroughly as I followed them. Rereading from time to time with each couple steps. I did this until the my perfect little ball of dough was ready for the first rise.

*********Big Sigh*********
Can you hear it?
Isn't it lovely up there? All round and smooth and perfect and dough-like. Beautiful. While this little dough baby was resting and happily covered with a bath towel in it's cozy little bowl, I reread the first part. I probably read that first part a total of 10-15 times as I worked through the steps. But you know what? For the first time ever, I have an understanding of what the yeast is supposed to really do (besides make the dough rise). I began to understand the gluten and how it was supposed to work and how it is supposed to feel. It felt GOOD! So good that one of these times I may have to try it all by hand, without the stand mixer.

So far, so good now right? Okay. So I had at least 3 hours to wait for the first rise to finish. I had plenty of time to read and reread the rest of the recipe. I started to. YIKES!! It was just so long. Not that I didn't have the time. It just looked so daunting and hard. So instead I read the steps to the next rise and did NOT look any further for now. I read those steps a few times saving the later portions for later to ease my tired little mind.

Here all these times working with dough and I never knew the sides of my bowl should be as vertical as possible for the rise to work properly. I had always placed the doughs in a wide glass bowl. For shame! Look how big and poofy and blistery my dough got! And in the minimum suggested amount of time! The hints and tips these Daring women provide are great. I love the "marking" of the bowl to know how much larger the nebulous "3 times the size" truly is.

And so I went on through the recipe, reading only the steps that were next on the agenda. I did not want to overwhelm myself. It worked well for me this way. Unfortunately I started a bit late and was at this point counting on the bread as part of dinner. I cut a few corners on the second and third rise and did a little less than I think would be optimum. And so came time to actually cook my creation.

As per the tips, I similated my oven the best I could to be like that of a baker's oven. I made 2 round loaves as I did not think the baguette shape would fit on my pizza stone very well. I let the second loaf rize a little longer while cooking the first so in actuality, this loaf did have the right amount of time for the final rize.

The trickiest part of the whole thing was getting my shape onto the wooden paddle and then onto the stone. It was also hard to cut the top. No knife I found was sharp enough. Even my exacto knife did not make the cut very smooth or easy. Do any of you Daring Bakers have any more tips on this?

The other big "no no" or short cut I made was to cut the bread before letting it cool the recommended 2-3 hours. As it was, dinner was running really really late! My silky, subtle, sexy soup was finished and smelling so so good! The kids were whining. My stomach was too! I DID let the second loaf rest and cool though. Does that count for anything?

The end result? Not the very best bread I have ever had. BUT it was by far and away, THE best bread I have ever made, despite rushing things a bit here and there. This bread was just as good or better than any fresh bread from my regular markets. It simply did not stand up to the best breads I have ever had from really good bakeries, restaurants or of course those lofty gorgeous loaves I carried around in Paris!

I made the bread again the following weekend. I started at 8 am this time. Once again I accomplished it by reading each section as I went and did not try to overthink parts that were to come later. Maybe with a few more attempts, I will not have to read quite as intensly. I did not take short cuts on this second try but only allowed the bread to cool about an hour before eating it. But the results were about the same as the first week. Very good. I would have to say at least a strong B or B+. I do think I need to start earlier. Maybe at 6 am? And the other large pitfall is just getting the perfect little risen shape onto the transfer board. Any advice on this?

If you have some time and patience, do go and read Julia's recipe as posted on The Sour Dough site. It was a challenge! And while I do not feel I have conquered the mountain, I do feel I have made my way pretty far up there and really enjoyed the trek so far. How very Zen of me, right? Well I do want to get pretty close to the top but for now I am enjoying the path and the fruits of that path. Keep tuned in as this is not the end of my attempts for the perfect French bread. I am having some fun now. Won't you come and enjoy a slice with me?

A special thanks to Julia Child for all the inspiration she has provided all of us and to Breadchick and the other Daring Bakers for their recreation.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Silky Subtle Sexy SOUP

Soup is an interesting food. It is often associated with the poor or homeless. It is the primary food at many shelters and "soup kitchens", of course. This is due to its relatively inexpensive cost to produce and the fact that soup can be quite filling. It warms the bones. Soup is often considered peasant food or that for country folk.

But then again, this humble dish is seen grazing menus and the lips of servers spouting the specials at the finest restaurants in the world. It can be classy, sophisticated and elegant but of course must not be slurped! At least not in the western world. If you are from the east, go ahead and slurp away! It will most likely please your host.

Soup can be made with anything. Vegetables, meats or a combination of both can comprise a soup. There are fruit soups, hot soups, cold soups, savory soups, sweet soups, chunky soups, pureed soups and more. Soup can be very versatile. It can pair with a salad or a sandwich. It is also quite easy to prepare and more than forgiving for those who are timid or not very comfortable in the kitchen. You needn't fear it getting overcooked, or deflating or flopping. It comes together simply and easily and has plenty of room for play if you like to experiment.

The first weekend in October proved to actually be a bit cool and felt like fall, putting me really in the mood for soup. My preference with soup is puréed soup. And I often incorporate some cream. It may be fattening but ohhhhhhhhhh, it is so good. As I had my Sterling Performances Cookbook on my mind, I chose a recipe that I had yet to try.

Cream of Leek Soup with Stilton Crust
3 tbls. finely chopped shallots
4 cups chopped leeks
2 tbls. unsalted butter
1 cup diced potatoes
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cream
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste
8 slices of Stilton cheese

In a medium pan, saute shallots and leeks in butter until vegetables are limp. Add potatoes and chicken broth; cook, covered, until potatoes are done, about 30 minutes. Cool and puree. In a saucepan, bring cream to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low; stirring frequently, cook until cream is reduced and slightly thickened, about 45 minutes.

Add cream to the leek and potato mixture, bring to a boil. Add salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice to taste. Serve in bowls and top with a slice of Stilton cheese.

Serves 8

The only modifications I really made were probably a little more than a cup of potatoes. I had 2 russets so I just used all of it. And as I had some Gorgonzola in the refrigerator, I did not bother with buying Stilton. Maybe next time.

I accented my soup with prociutto wrapped pear slices and homemade French bread. It was a perfect pairing. The pear complimented the blue cheese and soup perfectly while the prociutto added that little bit of saltyness and contrast in texture. Listen. This is one of the best soups I have ever had. Rich, creamy, silky, smooth, sexy, sophisticated, savory, subtle, sumptious, serene and so satisfying. This meal is just one of my favorite kinds.

My bread? Well you can be sure that post is coming down the pike very very soon!

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches

Today marks the official launch of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community with over 1,100 feature publishers from around the world and I am one of them! It is all very exciting.

For those of you not familiar with Foodbuzz, in many ways it is rather like the Facebook or MySpace of the foodie world. It is an online community of food bloggers and foodies from across the globe. “Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, Inc. It is a place where foodies can connect, share ideas and make friendships. It is a source of information and a continually evolving and growing wealth of creativity and resources for those who like to cook or just dine out. If you are looking for menu ideas, new recipes or restaurant reviews anywhere in the world, this is THE place to find information from real people who have tried and tested the recipes and rated the restaurants.

Foodbuzz is a fun community filled with interesting and talented individuals. And the perks are fantastic. I August, I was invited to dinner in Newport Beach along with a number of other Foodbuzz publishers and bloggers. What a perfect evening. Dining under the stars and talking food, photos, writing and creative kitchen techniques. Not only that but just a couple of weeks ago I opened my mailbox to a nice little package from Foodbuzz. Inside was a new spatula and this cool Foodbuzz apron. How fun is that? A little surprise in the mail is always special.

For more information on Foodbuzz, the official press release or how to get involved in the community, please check out the website at:

Or contact the Foodbuzz Executives below:

Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz

Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community

or feel free to email me and I can send you the press release. My email is

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thai Chicken Angel Hair Pasta

There is something I have been meaning to share with you for some time. I am really not sure why I haven't yet. I'd like to introduce you to the Sterling Performances cookbook. This book was put together by The Guilds of Orange County Performing Arts Center as a fundraiser. My mother was on one of the committees that helped with the promotion of the book in 1994. The recipes were donated by "members and friends" of the Center's Guilds.

Now I have only made a handful of recipes from this book. But they all have come out so well. The recipes are all pretty simple. The ones I have tried are packed with flavor. This one is especially flavorful and intriguing. One begins by marinating the chicken in vinegars, oil, soy sauce, peanut butter and spices. Later this marinade is reserved and heated to create the sauce for the multitude of flavors packed into the dish. The thing that is so wonderful and tasty in this pasta is that the flavors of the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, cilantro, lime, spices and jalapeno are all present yet none overpowers the other. Each element is perfectly balanced to lend the hint of flavor in each bite in such a subtle and unique way. This was the third or fourth time making this dish and I have yet to be disappointed.

Thai Chicken Angel Hair Pasta

1 tbls. peanut butter
1 cup peanut oil
1 tbls. sesame oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbls. soy sauce
2 tbls. chopped fresh cilantro (I put in a bit more than this)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
3 to 4 green onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I love garlic so much I generally always add an extra clove or two to all recipes)
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, boned and skinned
1 tsp. salt
1 lb. angel hair pasta
1/2 pound fresh snow peas, strings removed
3 medium carrots, julienned, about 1/2 pound
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 tbls. chopped cilantro

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the peanut butter, peanut oil, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, green onions, garlic, lime juice, red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce, and white pepper. Rub the chicken breasts with the salt and slice into thin strips. Add to marinade; set aside for 2 hours. Drain chicken; pat dry and reserve marinade. Grill or pan-fry chicken strips until cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain. In a large saute pan, bring reserved marinade to a boil, add snow peas and carrots; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Combine with the chicken strips and pasta; sprinkle with peanuts. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4-6

The book suggests serving this dish with Vichon Chevrignon.

My only regret this last time was that after serving the kids, we were so hungry that we started eating before I remembered to take any photos! So I had to quickly revamp the serving bowl with peanuts and cilantro and my dish has been eaten from so it isn't quite as fresh and appetizing looking as this meal truly is. But trust me on this one. If you like Thai food, TRY IT!

FYI: The book mentions that for information or phone orders to call 714-556-2122, Ext. 558 I do not know how current this information is or whether or not the book is still in print or if they have done any more since.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Fashion of Food

When was the last time you had chocolate mousse?

I haven't had it in ages. Oh, I mean, I have had the mousse-like filling in cakes and desserts but real chocolate mousse all on its own. Well it must be 10 or more years! And back in high school I decided it was in my top few desserts to order. I thought I was the height of sophistication to have this as my favorite. Maybe because I had been to Paris and tried it there. Maybe because my friend, Terri and I made it as part of a French class presentation/skit. Oh how we slaved over both the mousse and our cooking show lines in French. But we made a mean mousse and got an excellent grade.

Flash forward 20 plus some years and now cooking shows are more ubiquitous than newspapers it seems. Many would do anything to be one of the select few that gets paid to talk about their passion. Cooking and food blogs are more than plentiful. But where is the chocolate mousse? I don't see it on restaurant menus often. Of course with two little ones I am not at restaurants often either. Has it fallen out of fashion? Is it passé? I have really had a craving for it lately.

Food does have it's own trends. Things are in and out. I think mousse is one of them that just isn't that in right now. Or do you disagree? At any rate, you need fear not because there are plenty of recipes for this classic dessert all over the internet both in blogs and major sites like the Food Network and Epicurious. And many of them are very simple too. After making it the other night, I felt so satisfied with just a little bit. I say, let's bring it back in style! At least in our own kitchens.

I chose a recipe from Kim's site at Easy French Food. It was so simple and quick (except for the chill until set or overnight part)!

Mousse Au Chocolat

  • 8 ounces good quality dark cooking choclate
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature*
  • whipped cream (optional)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

Seperate the eggs into two large bowls.

Beat the egg whites until very stiff.

Stir the melted chocolate into the egg yolks, beating vigorously until the mixture is smooth.

Stir one third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and mix until thoroughly blended.

Carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Spoon the mousse into individual parfait glasses, chill and serve with whipped cream and shaved chocolate if you wish.

4 to 6 servings

This version of chocolate mousse was not as fluffy or airy as I remembered it to be. It was dense and rich and I really thought it needed a bit of the whipped cream with every bite. But it was good and did not feel too heavy or as fattening as so many desserts can be. If you have the foresight to prepare dessert a day ahead of time, I say try this! It also makes entertaining easy to just have it all set and ready to serve. Just whip your cream before you serve it. Delish! Thanks Kim, for the inspiration. And my kids loved it. I felt like I gave them protein and dessert in one fell swoop!

Next time I might try Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse Recipe that I found on David Lebovitz site. It looks a bit more involved and tricky but I am up for the challenge!

Hey, how do you like my cute little glasses my parents got for me in Morocco a few years back! They are perfect for this kind of little dessert or for lemoncello!

* One more note. This chocolate mousse recipe and many others uses
raw eggs so make sure they are fresh and do not let the mousse sit out of the refrigerator for very long.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Family Meal for Fall

Sometimes simple family meals are just as delicious and elegant and those with guests. Until yesterday, California was showing no signs of autumn and was hotter than anything. I am sick of the heat but a warm night and grilling is never a bad thing.

On the menu:

Grilled marinated chicken and asparagus with hollandaise sauce.*
*Really the hollandaise came out just perfectly but just as I was finishing to warm it, we had a 4-year old
melt down over clothes and it was on the stove too long and curdled. Darn it! It still tasted very nice.

Mixed green salad with slices of pear, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese
tossed in a light balsamic and lemon vinaigrette.

Fried Pancake of Grated Potatoes
(Pommes Paillasson)

I was searching around for a recipe for potato pancakes after reading Mireille Guiliano's book, French Women Don't Get Fat. What exactly was a potato pancake? And what is the difference between a potato pancake and a latke? Well I still don't know the answer to that one. Maybe there is no difference. Maybe one is just associated with Jewish tradition and then other countries have different names for it. Can you give me the answer?

At any rate, I did find a few different recipes for this fried potato patty. The one I chose was from Epicurious (Gourment Magazine- March 2001). It had a lot of positive comments and seemed very straightforward, simple and versatile. I followed the recipe just as it was except I probably did only about 1/2 the recipe. (I guestimated the quantities).

The potatoes WERE very good indeed. Crispy and tasty and similar to some hash browns. But take note, they need to be eaten right away. After they sat a while it got a little soggier and less crispy. I think they would be well paired with breakfast, eggs, soup, meatier fish, steak and more.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trial and Error?

I love to cook. But I feel there is still a lot to learn! It's the old adage, "the more you learn, you learn how much more there is to learn." And the more I blog, the more I find great ideas and recipes I should try. There are so many things I have yet to try or attempt. One of these is making my own homemade pasta. I do not have a machine which is one reason I never made it. The other is that somehow, somewhere I got the idea that I needed semolina flour. Semolina flour is not easy to find at most markets. So a month or two ago when I saw semolina flour at Claro's Italian Market, I picked it up.

Now it has been just sitting there in my cupboard for a little while and I finally decided to try out a pasta recipe. I found a simple recipe using the semolina on Melissa's blog, bitchincamero. It was my first time on her blog and everything looked just amazing. Melissa's recipe called for either all semolina flour or 1/2 semolina flour and 1/2 cake flour. I chose the latter as she mentioned the pasta would be a bit more delicate.

After combining the ingredients, kneading and coming up with a firm ball of dough, I followed Melissa's instructions and wrapped it "tightly in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour."

Now I followed Melissa's instructions to make the ear-shaped orecchiette but let the kids have their way with some of the dough too. It was very soft and easy to manipulate into shapes just like Playdough! Talk about fun for the kids!

They made little worms and balls and a few little twisted type shapes. If you haven't involved the kids in the kitchen yet, this is a great way to do it. It isn't even that messy like cookies can be. We all had fun and who cares if the pasta in funny shapes. This meal was just for our family.

We were busy having fun and not working really fast so we kept much of the shapes under a cloth to keep them from drying out too too much.

My ear shapes along with some of the kids' funny shapes!

When you are finished with the formations, put into your boiling pot of water for a few minutes. Melissa's directions say 2-5 minutes. I think with the semolina and our possibly bigger or fatter shapes, it was more like 5-10 minutes for al dente.

The finished product was a bit more dense and rugged than I prefer. Maybe it would have been better with Melissa's hearty lamb ragu. All her food and recipes look just amazingly good. I did a light sauce of parsley, garlic, creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon with parmesan. Perhaps it was not a good match for the dense hand formed pasta?

I think the heavy consistency was primarily due to the semolina flour. Afterward I ran across a few articles that mentioned using all purpose flour or "oo" flour for hand made pasta without a machine. Do you know what is best? What is "oo" flour and where do I get that? Does anyone have a good recipe for hand made pasta?

If you do have one or find a good one, let me know straight away and then go into the kitchen with your kids and make it. It is so fun and combines both play time and dinner prep in one fell swoop.