Sunday, 19 August 2012

ROTW, Week 32: Honey Ricotta Tarts with Toasted Pecans

Two weeks in a row with dessert!  This never happens.Except that since I still had the ricotta, it made sense to use it again (and frankly, as we are prepping for vacation next week, there is NOTHING else in there right now.)

So based on the remaining contents of my fridge/freezer:

Ricotta Puff Pastries with Honey and Toasted Pecans
makes 5

1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed (1 sheet)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
handful of pecan halves
honey to drizzle

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Roll out the puff pastry dough until it is 1/8" thick - cut into roughly 4" squares using a pizza cutter.  Lay the squares into the cups of a muffin tin, pressing the dough to the bottom and folding as necessary.  Leave the corners outside the cups.  Using a fork, prick the bottoms of the cups to encourage them to stay flat inside.

Bake the cups for 5-8 minutes, until the corners have begun to puff and the bottom is as cooked as possible without the corners getting too browned.  Meanwhile stir together the ricotta, powdered sugar, and cinnamon until well blended.  When the cups are finished prebaking, remove the tray from the oven and fill the cups with the ricotta mixture.  Return the tray to the oven and bake a further 10 minutes.

While the cups are baking, toast the pecans for 2-3 minutes in a cast iron skillet on the stove, over medium heat.  Be careful not to burn them!  When the pecans are toasted, remove them to a chopping board and roughly chop them.

After 10 minutes remove the ricotta cups from the oven.  Allow the pan to cool and the ricotta to set slightly before attempting to remove the pastries.  Sprinkle with the chopped toasted pecans, and drizzle honey over the whole thing.  Enjoy slightly warm, or at room temperature.

Monday, 13 August 2012

ROTW Week 31: Ricotta Cake with Blackberries

This recipe was made this week partially out of desperation.  A ton of things had gone wrong that day, and I wanted to make a solid effort to have at least one thing go right.  And lo:

Was this ever right!  Blackberries infused with red wine, black pepper, and thyme; beautifully rich ricotta cake with the right hint of sweetness and a touch of lemon.  Worked like a charm to cheer me up.

This is what you get when you search "blackberry ricotta" on Pinterest!

Dani Fischer's Ricotta Cheesecake

Text directly from Design Sponge and Dani Fischer. So when it says "I", its Dani, not me.

Ricotta Cheesecake with Berries and Sauce

For the berries and sauce
2 cartons of blackberries
2 cups of medium- to full-bodied red wine
1 1/2 cups of sugar (1 cup for macerating and 1/2 cup to help thicken the caramel)
couple sprigs of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns

1. To macerate the berries, combine all the ingredients in a bowl (save for 1/2 cup of sugar), toss together with your hands to keep the delicate berries intact, cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Once macerated, carefully remove the blackberries with a spoon or your fingers, taking care to not smash them. Set aside.

3. Strain the wine liquid into a saucepan, making sure to remove all the peppercorns.

4. Add the thyme back into the pot with the 1/2 cup of sugar you set aside. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring in the extra sugar until it dissolves. Then turn down the heat so the mixture is just simmering.

5. Allow to simmer and thicken for 30 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy — it should begin to stick to the back of a metal spoon. Let cool.

For the cake
3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 2 large lemons (Meyer if you can get them)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated, whites beaten until stiff peaks form
1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese (If you can get your hands on fresh ricotta, you will taste the difference.)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
powdered sugar for dusting
dash of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter an 8-inch springform pan.

2. Using a wooden spoon or a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and egg yolks.

3. In a separate bowl, combine and mix the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and combine until well integrated. Then fold in the egg whites.

4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the sides and top of the cake are beginning to turn golden brown. Unmold and let cool.

To assemble the cake

Use a strainer to dust the cake with powdered sugar. (I like to totally cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of sugar.) Then carefully arrange the blackberries on top of the cake. (I like to pile them in the center, leaving a rim of the powdered sugar showing.) Serve with the red wine sauce. (I like to let guests pour their own sauce, 
so it doesn’t soak into and stain the cake before serving.)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

ROTW 29 and 30: Shrimp with Grit Cakes and Raspberry Custard

So I totally dropped the ball on this one.

Truth of the matter is, I still enjoy cooking these new recipes - I just get a lot less joy out of taking the time and effort to post them.  I'm not sure how much longer I am going to be able to do make myself sit down and write these up.

Two weeks ago I made the raspberry custard, and last Tuesday we had the shrimp with grit cakes.  Since I didn't get around to writing up the custard, I'll present the shrimp first as if it were at one meal.  Here you go:

Pan Seared Shrimp with Grit Cakes

1/2 lb uncooked med-large shrimp, cleaned and peeled
1/4 lb cured bacon
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp Cajun seasoning
3/4 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup frozen peas
1tbsp olive oil

2 cups cooked grits, cooled flat at 2" thickness
3 tbsp salted butter

Combine the cleaned shrimp and the Cajun seasoning - refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes.

Cut the cooled grits into bars roughly 2x3" in size.  In a non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the grit cakes and sear until crispy and golden brown - be careful, as the grist will spit!!  Spatter screen highly recommended.  When the grits are finished, place them in the over to keep warm.

In the same saucepan, cook the bacon over medium-low heat, allowing the fat to render.  Drain off the excess fat and leave the bacon in the pan, adding the garlic and shrimp and raising the heat to high.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the frozen peas.  Continue to cook and additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque.  Stir in the diced tomatoes.

Plate the grit cakes and spoon the shrimp over top.  Enjoy!

Raspberry Custard, adapted from this recipe at

This one... I didn't love it.  But maybe that's just me, so here it is regardless.

1 1/3 cups of raspberries
2 large eggs
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar for dusting
baking spray

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly spray 4 5-oz ramekins with baking spray and dust with a little flour. Toss in the cherries.

Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, and flour together until smooth.

Add the milk and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Pour into the baking dish.

Bake for 25-28 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you pull it put of the oven it will wiggle and puff up and will deflate while cooling. Cool on a wire rack.

When cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

ROTW Week 28 - Pork and Cabbage Pie

Busy week this week!  We made some great new recipes though, so it was difficult for me to choose one to be ROTW.  In the end, I went with this delicious pork and cabbage pie because it was the recipe I made up.

We watch a reasonable amount of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives while we're waiting for actual good shows to come on, and I love getting insider tips on ethnic foods from there.  We've seen a number of them featuring Eastern European cooking recently, and as a result I bought a cabbage hoping to make cabbage rolls.

HA.  Do you know how long it takes to make cabbage rolls?  Too long for me.  So we used half the cabbage making warm caraway slaw, and the other half had been languishing in the fridge waiting for me to figure out what on earth I could use it for.

Combined with ground pork I had intended for Thai pork salad (which other needed ingredients I didn't have) and a bit of leftover pie crust from Strawberry Rhubarb fame, and voila:  pork and cabbage pie.

Makes 1 family sized pie and 2 mini pies.

1 pastry recipe of your choice, I used this one.
1lb ground pork
1 onion, diced
half a savoy cabbage, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
1tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a large skillet, brown the pork over medium high heat, 4-5 minutes.  Drain any fat from the pan and return to heat - add onion and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for an additional three minutes before pouring in the chicken stock.  Be sure to scrape any delicious brown bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Add the nutmeg, paprika, and oregano.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, turn the heat down to med-low, and reduce for 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the flour to thicken the sauce.  Remove from heat, and stir in the butter.  Spoon the filling into casserole dishes ready for serving - I used one large round casserole, and two smaller ramekin-sized ones.

Roll out your pastry to about 1/8" thickness.  Cut out circles to fit inside your casserole dish, and brush the top with the egg and water beaten together.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until the tops of your crustare beautifully golden.

Serve with a delicious veg for a tasty meal!

Monday, 16 July 2012

ROTW Week 27, Bar Nuts

This recipe comes from the outstanding cookbook Refined American Cuisine by Patrick OConnell, owner and (self taught) chef at the Inn at Little Washington.

I left out the pineapple that the recipe calls for.  If you insist, toss the finished nuts with 1" cubes of nasty dried pineapple.

Bar Nuts, from Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell

4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp sugar
1lb mixed pecans, cashews, and almonds (whole)
Salt and sugar to taste

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the cayenne, Cajun seasoning, cumin, and sugar, and stir until the butter starts to foam.

Immediately add the mixed nuts, stirring or tossing constantly for about 3 minutes, or until the nuts are nicely toasted and lightly coloured.

Pour the nuts onto a wire rack placed over a baking sheet to drain - let cool to room temperature.  Transfer the cooled nuts to a mixing bowl and toss with salt and sugar to taste.

Store in an airtight container until you're ready to serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

ROTW Week 26, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Well, it took till the halfway point, but I completely missed the boat on posting this one.  Here is is, with no further ado:

Delish looking, yes?  Delish-tasting, too.

I made the pie using a comglomerate of Smitten Kitchen's two recipes on the subject:  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (improved) for the filling and crust recipe and the original Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with lattice crust for tips on the crust shaping (Hers is prettier, my top crust is way too thin.  Do a better job of following instructions than I did please.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, with Lattice Crust from Smitten Kitchen

1 recipe All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough or double-crust pie dough of your choice
3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

For the dough:
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Get out your pastry blender (or two knives).

Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter, roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. 

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over dough. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly.

Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. When fully cool (several hours later) the juices gel. Serve as is, or with ice cream or whipped cream for a really decadent dessert.


Monday, 2 July 2012

ROTW, Week 25: Coffee Braised Beef

Late is better than never, right?

For those of you not in the DC area, you might not know about a doozy of a storm we had on Friday night.  Some people in the area are still without power, and while we got our power back on Saturday late afternoon, it still seriously mucked with my plans for the weekend.

So when the AC has been out for several long hours, what do you feel like eating?


We've been trying to recreate this dish since we had it at Momocho Mod Mex in Cleveland (featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives).  If you're ever in the Cleve, I insist you stop buy and start with a trio of specialty guac, washed down by fresh squeezed fruit margaritas, then try some of their delightful taquitos.  The coffee braised beef was featured on the show, and it. was. to. die. for.

Brandon said I did a good job making the food, but it was only sortof like the restaurant.  That's ok, it was my first try.

Coffee Braised Beef Tacos

For the beef:
1.5-2lbs stewing beef
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, roughly diced
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp garlic powder
1 large dried ancho chili, finely minced (or 1 tbsp chili flakes)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp coriander
1tbsp cumin

4 cups stock (I used chicken, because it was what I had.  Please use beef if you can.)
8 cups of coffee
1/2 cup red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Begin with a large stock pot.  Heat the oil over medium heat and brown the beef on all sides.  Remove the beef from the heat and cook the onion and garlic in the same pot until the onion is translucent.  Return the beef to the pan.  Add all the above spices and stir to coat.

Add the stock, coffee, and red wine.  If your husband hasnt finished his beer and its gotten warm, add that too.  Scrap up all the bits from the bottom.

Simmer until the liquid is reduced or absorbed into the beef, and the beef falls into shredded pieces as you stir.  Serve on corn tortillas with slow-cooked red onion, grated cheese, guac, and shredded lettuce with a hint of chopped basil.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

ROTW, Week 24 - Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt

This one is straight out of Smitten Kitchen.  They were divine, and so easy to make!  Please try these, it will be worth it I promise.

Seriously, I just copied and pasted the whole recipe.  They were so delicious!!  I made a bowl of homemade hummus, and we just had that for dinner.  I might do it again next week :)

Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme, and Sea Salt - from Smitten Kitchen

Crisp Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt
Flatbread base adapted from Gourmet; recipe inspired by Salinas

These crackers fit squarely between dinner and dessert. It goes well with a cheese course — oh, wait, you don’t have cheese courses with each meal at your house? Yeah, us neither, sigh — or at a cocktail party or maybe as a little summer afternoon something-something with a glass of wine or even as a dessert for people who do not throw themselves wholly into sweet things. The crackers play off the nutty cheese which plays off the slick of honey and faint crunch of sea salt with bits of thyme throughout and together they are even more than the sum of their parts. And they take no time to make.

As for the cheese you use, the restaurant uses a Mahon, which I was able to find, but I daresay you could try any other aged nutty cow milk cheese instead, or even a hard salty cheese like Romano or Parmesan instead. Yes, that’s a wide range. Mostly, it’s about a flavor you might enjoy here.
Makes about 16 flatbreads

1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces or 220 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (118 ml) water
1/3 cup (79 ml) olive oil
2/3 to 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces or 85 grams) grated Mahon cheese (see above for replacements)
1/3 to 1/2 cup (79 to 118 ml) honey
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone on a middle rack.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times. It will feel quite oily (but just think of how great your hands will look later!).

Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out 1 piece at on a sheet of parchment paper into a longish irregular rustic shape; mine were about 12″x6″. The dough should be rolled thin and it be crazy oily and you’ll think I’ve lost my mind suggesting that it will make anything but a mess, but you’ll see in a few minutes how perfectly ungreasy it bakes up, promise.

Slide rolled out dough and parchment paper together onto the preheated baking sheet or stone, and bake about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Leaving the oven on, remove tray from oven and quickly sprinkle with 1/4 of grated cheese. Bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until browned at edges and in thinner spots. Remove flatbreads from oven a final time, quickly drizzle each with honey (1 used about a tablespoon per flatbread, but the restaurant used more; they were truly flooded with honey and it was delicious), sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with thyme leaves. Cut each cracker width-wise into 4 sections (about 3″x6″ each) with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Serve warm.

Do ahead: Should you want to prepare these ahead of time for a party, I’d bake them including the cheese about 1 minute less than needed. Shortly before you’re ready to serve them, re-toast them in the oven and then drizzle on the honey/thyme/sea salt.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

ROTW, Week 23 - Crepes with Nutella

This Friday was Brandon's birthday, and though we didn't get to celebrate with proper enthusiasm on Friday night, we did try to do it justice on Saturday.  To finish off a delicious meal, I tried to make something fancy for dessert: crepes.

Crepes are one of those things that seem really hard (case in point, I walked around the rest of the night with a big grin on my face saying, "I made crepes!" every 5 seconds.) but that really?  It wasn't that bad.  I managed to make these 1/2 way into a bottle of champagne. (Or maybe I don't think they were bad because of the champagne?  God only knows.)

As I like to do in the case of food requiring precision, and where helpful tips are the difference between failure and success, I turned to Alton Brown for this recipe. He knows his stuff.

Crepes with Nutella, from Alton Brown.

I made a half-recipe, and even with 2 mistake crepes in the beginning (flipped too early) we had 2 halfsize ones each.  Which seemed just right.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • Butter, for coating the pan

For the crepes:

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.
*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.
*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.

To make the crepes with Nutella, simply spread nutella on the warm crepes, and fold them in half.  I sprinkled with powdered sugar, which was completely gratuitous.


Sunday, 10 June 2012

ROTW Week 22: Spicy Black Bean and Jalapeno Salsa

Its summer time!  That means at least 50% of my cooking for the next 4 months will involve an avocado (and by default therefore not involve much actual cooking.)

This particular salsa was my first try cooking with jalapenos.  I have used cayenne peppers in my cooking in the past, but have never felt the urge to try a jalapeno.  First time for everything!

Black Bean and Jalapeno Salsa with Roasted Sweet Corn and Tomatillos

1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, sliced
2 ears of fresh sweet corn, husk removed
2-3 tomatillos, diced
2-4 radishes, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, cubed
1tsbp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Using a grill pan (or a grill over lower heat), roast the corn over high heat.  It takes a while, and needs a bit of nursing, but hopefully you can get some nice black marks on the corn.

In the meantime, add the olive oil to a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped jalapeno, and cook for 1-2 minutes.  You should be able to smell the pepper releasing its heat.  Add the black beans and cook until the jalapeno is softened.  Add the tomatillos and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the radishes and corn cut from the cob.  When the salsa has cooled slightly, add the cilantro, red wine vinegar, and avocado.  Add salt and pepper to your liking, and serve over polenta (or rice), alongside grilled chicken or seafood.

next week: Nutella Crepes!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

ROTW, Week 21 : Steak-Frites with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Reduction

Ah steak-frites.  In my top 10 meals out there, probably (along with moules-frites - anything with frites is just delicious.  That's french fries for you heathens.)  To celebrate Memorial Day romantically, since no one else wanted to hang out with us, Brandon and I enjoyed this classic, with a steak sauce I had never made before.*

Steak-Frites with Goat Cheese and Red Wine Reduction.
The steak part of this recipe is adapted from

  • 4 beef steaks, such as porterhouse, sirloin, rib eye, shell or filet mignon (1/2 pound each and 3/4 to 1 inch thick), or one 2-pound steak
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp goat's cheese
  • 3 large russet potatoes, washed and cut into french fry-size sticks

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Spread the potatoes out over a large baking dish, endeavoring to keep them on a single layer.  Spray lightly with spray olive oil or regular cooking spray (canola oil) and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Toss to coat, and pop in the oven to cook for 25 minutes minimum (probably closer to 35).  Just keep an eye on them, tossing occasionally, and they'll be done when the steak is done.  If they finish earlier, just turn off the oven and keep em in there, staying nice and hot.  Cold french fries are a waste.

Trim the fat around the outside of each steak, and reserve.

Begin the pan sauce by melting 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat in a saute pan.  Add the steak fat and render over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 3 minutes until they are just turning golden, then add the red wine.  Increase the heat to medium high, and let the wine reduce while you prepare the steaks.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet or sauté pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear for 1 minute on each side. Reduce the heat to medium. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, turning the steaks every other minute, until you see little pearls of blood come to the surface, about 6 to 8 minutes. The steaks should be cooked rare to medium for juicy, tender meat.

With about 1 minute left to cook on the steaks, remove the leftover steak fat bits from the pan, and add the goat's cheese.  Stir until it is completely incorporated, and then turn off the heat.  Ad salt and pepper to the sauce as desired.

Remove the steaks and place them on warmed plates. Serve with a generous helping of oven fries and a large ladle of delicious steak sauce.  Enjoy.

*Steak sauce is a relatively new concept to me.  We ate a lot of steak growing up, because my dad enjoys both grilling it and eating it.  But we rarely had it with sauce of any kind, because he really enjoys it au naturale.  Experimenting with steak sauce/ steak butter has become an enjoyable hobby for me.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

ROTW, Week 20: Corn Bread Salad

This recipe is straight from Smitten Kitchen.  Minus the ingredients I didn't have, of course. And without the dressing it calls for, because I don't do dressing - I used red wine vinegar and a little olive oil.  If you want the dressing recipe, click the link to get it.

I had made the corn bread fresh for breakfast with Mom, and then knew this was a perfect way to use the leftovers.

Corn Bread Salad, from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula or dandelion greens
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings

Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.

If you wish to peel the tomatoes: Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes and chop them. (The Lee Bros. also suggest seeding the tomatoes, but I drew the line there.) Otherwise, just chop the tomatoes with the skin on.

Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.

Do ahead: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — I suggest keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.

Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 tablespoon lard or unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.

While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

ROTW, Week 19: Asian Roasted Pork

Again, I am late posting.  If it makes you feel any better, I actually made this on Tuesday.  From now on, this installment will be published on Sunday afternoon, weekly.  If I give myself a hard deadline, maybe I'll actually do it?

This was pretty good, but pork tends to be kind of meh for me personally.  Brandon loves it though, so that's why I bother.

Roasted Asian Pork with Baby Bok Choy and Herbed Rice

For the pork:
1tbsp canola oil
1 ~2lb pork roast
2 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

For the pan sauce
3 tbsp honey
1/3 cup chicken stock
additional salt and pepper to taste

For the bok choy:
2 bunches baby bok choy, cut into ~ 3" pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp canola oil

For the rice
1 cup rice (jasmine preferred)
2 cups water
1/4 chopped mint

Begin by preheating the oven to 375F.  Rinse the pork loin and pat dry with paper towels.  Combine the spices and sugar, and rub the pork loin liberally with the mixture.

Heat the canola oil an oven-and-stove-safe dutch oven, and sear the pork briefly on all sides to seal it.  Rotate the loin to fat-side up (if you didn't trim it off) in the pan and move to the oven to cook for approximately 25 minutes (use a meat thermometer to make sure it is done to safe cooking temp).

While the pork is cooking, cook the rice.  To cook the rice, add 2 cups water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the dry rice grains and immediately turn down to low, keeping the lid on, to cook for 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and set aside, keeping the lid on to keep the rice warm and fresh.

When the pork is cooked through, pull the dutch oven out of the oven and remove the pork to rest on a cutting board (with foil tent to keep warm.)  Place the dutch oven, with all the pork juices, back onto the stove over high heat (being careful not to burn yourself) and add the chicken stock, honey, and additional salt and pepper if needed.  Reduce until thickened to your liking.

As the sauce is reducing, cook the bok choy.  I prefer to do this in a wok, but any largish pan will do.  Add 1tbsp oil to the wok and heat on high until almost smoking.  Toss in garlic chips, immediately followed by bok choy. (THIS WILL SPIT/HISS.  BE CAREFUL.)  Toss quickly until the bok choy is wilted and the garlic chips are beautifully golden brown.

Stir the mint leaves into the rice and spoon out onto the plate.  Add the wilted bok choy, arrange pork slices over top, and spoon sauce over the slices.

Bok Choy roses

Sunday, 13 May 2012

ROTW, Week 18: Roasted Spicy Cauliflower

I apologize for the relative "brown-ness" of this photo.  It tasted really awesome, I promise.
Simple and easy.  Great for a weeknight dinner when you have no time, and suddenly cauliflower is the only veggie left in your fridge.... tell me it isn't just me.

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower

A great accompaniment for simple proteins, like the grilled shrimp above.

1 head of cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Chop the cauliflower into bitesize pieces, then toss with the spices and olive oil to coat.  Spread cauliflower out onto a roasting pan, and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and squeeze the lemon juice over the cauliflower.  Serve piping hot.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On the blog: Workshopping Part 1

Over on Ribbons & Bluebirds, the first of my two part-er about Christy Tyler Photography's workshop.

See it here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

On Ribbons & Bluebirds: Portrait Week

This week I have some actual things to blog about.  Never mind that they actually happened 3 weeks ago - this is me we're talking about after all.

This week is Portrait Week on the blog, and its about time the action took place where it really belongs - over on the blog for my business.  Check it out here (and if you haven't been over there, or seen it in a while, you'll notice it has undergone a bit of a facelift - a temporary revamp before actually spiffing up the blog for real.)

*yes I promise, it is a stationery business.  But sometimes its easier to post photos that I took during life than it is to post decent photos of my actual stationery work.  I'm working on it, mmkay?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

ROTW, Week 17: Blackberry Lemonade

Special treat today guys.  The title above is misleading: thanks to my delightful coworker Steve, you guys get 2 recipes this week.  They are not even remotely related.  But I was excited to try both of them.

Blackberry Lemonade,  adapted from Gourmet
about 6 lemons
4 cups water (we used 2 cups tap water to make the syrup, and 2 cups sparkling to add to the cooled mixture.)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup picked-over fresh blackberries

With a vegetable peeler remove zest from 4 lemons and squeeze enough juice from these and remaining 2 lemons to measure 1 cup.

In a saucepan boil 2 cups water with sugar, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add zest, lemon juice, and remaining 2 cups water and cool.

In a food processor or blender purée blackberries and stir into lemonade. Pour blackberry lemonade through a sieve into a pitcher or other container and chill. Chill lemonade, covered, at least until cold and up to 2 days.  Serve lemonade over ice in tall glasses, garnished with lemon slices (or blackberries.  Or mint, for that matter.).

special bonus recipe!

Ever thought to yourself, "You know, this steak needs something.  Something even more delish than steak." I hear you.  And now I have the answer for you:  Steak with blue cheese and toasted walnut butter.

You're welcome.  No photos - hubby and I fell on this steak like we were starving.

Steak with Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnut Butter - from Bon Appetit 

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 3/4-inch-thick rib-eye steaks

Mix butter and cheese in medium bowl or your food processor to blend; stir in walnuts. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Add steaks to skillet and sauté until brown and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plates. Top each with generous tablespoonful of blue cheese-walnut butter and serve.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The best boy

It has been 3 months since Boris passed away.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday, and sometimes it feels like so long ago - something about a living breathing ball of fluff who needs you RIGHT NOW will do that to you.

I haven't really talked a lot about what his life meant to me, and my family.  Part of that is because it isn't all my story to tell - we each had our favorite moments with our best-est boy, and he was so much more than just what he meant to me.

A month or so ago when she visited for Easter, my sister was upset when she realized that without thinking each of us had begun to call Ezio "our best boy."  And when she told me, and I thought about it, I realized that we both meant it and didn't mean it.  Boris is not replaceable, but he doesn't need to be worried - Ezio is his own dog, and is also the best boy.  He fills that void in our hearts with his fluffy face, and his goofy smile, and his joy for life.

Boris was with our family for eleven years, 10 of which were absolutely wonderful almost every day.  Even when he was being a brat, he had personality that could not be denied.  When visitors came to our house, despite the fact that Natasha begged and pleaded for their love and affection, it was almost always Boris who they named as "their favorite."  From the way he would lie down on anything you left on the floor (which prompted photos entitled "lord of the rug") to the way he always wanted to be with you (but not so near that you could possible come at him with a brush) to the telltale thump of his nose hitting the underside of the coffee table/kitchen table/door frame (hard), Boris made sure we knew he was there.

I miss him.

Boris had a condition called degenerative myelopathy, most common in German Shepherd dogs.  We have a sneaking suspicion it was brought on by the fact that he had Lyme's disease for too long before we could tell what it was.

Let me get up on my soapbox here for a moment:  If you have a dog, and you walk them in the woods, or near long grass, or anywhere in Northern Virginia since we are crawling with deer, then please consider asking your vet about giving your dog the Lyme Disease vaccine.  

* I am not qualified to give any kind of medical opinion, this is merely based on our vet and our personal experience*

Lyme's Disease is hard to identify if you don't know what you're looking for, and it can cause neurological problems.  Because we had seen Boris with symptoms, when Natasha got sick she was treated after only 2 weeks with the disease, while Boris probably suffered its effects for almost 4 months.  We have no idea if this contributed to his neurological disorder, but we do sometimes feel guilty about not knowing he was sick sooner.

From Wikipedia: Canine degenerative myelopathy (also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy) is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 7 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. As of July 15, 2008 the mutated gene responsible for DM has been found present in 43 breeds including German Shepherds, Boxers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and both breeds of Welsh Corgis.[1][2] The disease is chronic and progressive, and resulting in paralysis.
The myelin is an insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal cord. One proposed cause of degenerative myelopathy is that the immune system attacks this sheath, breaking it down. This results in a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain.

What this means in plain English: for the last year of his life, Boris went from being perfectly healthy to being a little wobbly on his back legs, to being really wobbly on his back legs, to using his back legs as a tripod, to short bursts of walking interspersed with dragging, to only being able to walk if he dragged his back legs, to only being able to walk if we carried his back end for him.
Oh and also? He got cancer.  Because he was so sick, the vet advised us to allow him to live out the rest of his days without treating the cancer, as the two diseases raced him to the finish line.

While he was sick, my father did everything for him.  He took the dogs on extra long walks, as we knew keeping Boris' front legs strong was one of the only things we could do to slow the condition.  He bought him special booties to prevent the dragging from hurting Boris' little feet, and he hung them up to dry every day after Boris would run through the creek.  He arranged for Boris' wheelchair, and then coaxed and bribed to get the cranky old man into it so that he could enjoy his walks again.  He cleaned up when Boris could no longer properly support himself to go to the bathroom, he perfected the wheelbarrow walk Boris used to get from room to room, and he responded to every yip for attention.  He changed bandage after bandage when Boris has dinally had enough of his tumor and decided the time had come to remove it.  He protected all of us when he knew the time had come for Boris to say goodbye, and he shouldered that burden himself so that we could remember the good times.

I have gotten to a point where I am not sure what I want to say, and the tears are coming more quickly now.  I want to thank my dad for doing everything he could.  I want to tell my boy that I miss him, and that the place he occupies in our hearts will always be just for him.  I want to say that though he was a clumsy dog, and though he became ill in such a clumsy way, he carried himself with grace and dignity until his very last day.  And I will never forget that when I came to say goodbye, fighting tears so that my mother wouldn't know that we had made the most difficult decision, he wagged his tail at me for the first time in a long time, to tell me that he understood.

I love you honey.  You will always be here with us. And you are the best boy.

Monday, 30 April 2012

ROTW, Week 16: Crab Cakes with Spicy Black Bean and Corn Relish

I feel like this project is starting to look sad.  The truth is that every week, I am excited to make a new recipe, and then get swamped before I can post it.  Some weeks, I have multiple new recipes to choose from..... and I still don't post.

So!  Here is this week's recipe:  Crab Cakes (WITHOUT MAYO.) and a spicy black bean, corn, and tomato relish to go with. We served it with grilled asparagus too, for extra-fancy.

For the Crab Cakes:

~1 cup crab meat, carefully picked through for shells/cartilage.  We use the Bumblebee tinned fancy crab from Costco, because it's good stuff.
1 shallot, minced
1/2cup panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
salt and pepper, pinch each
1 teaspoon parsley, dried (or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh)
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
juice and zest of half a lemon
1/2 cup flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons butter, for cooking

For the relish
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup roasted corn kernels
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon habenero/Tabasco type sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

To make the crab cakes, combine the ingredients except flour and butter into a bowl, and let mingle for 30 minutes while the bread crumbs soak up the liquid.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Form the mixture into balls, then roll in the flour.  Place the balls in the saucepan, then flatten with a spatula, keeping the crab mixture as contained and cohesive as possible.  Flip after about 4 minutes, when the cake should be nicely held together, and cook each side until golden brown.

For the relish: stir the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly - if you are nervous about spicy, only add half the hot sauce and see how you like the flavor.

To serve, spoon some relish out onto your plate and place the crab cake on top.  Garnish with additional lemon for extra deliciousness. Serve with a side salad or some grilled veggies.

Ezio says Happy Monday.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Chicago Trip: Part 1

This weekend, I was lucky enough to head back to Chicago for a visit.  I planned the trip around attending a photography workshop from the talented and super-nice Christy Tyler (and it definitely did not disappoint.)  More about the workshop soon, because I am still trying to come up with a good way to convey how awesome it was, what it really meant to me, and where I go from here.

A couple of snapshots from the evening of my arrival, and my first morning:

1. Nice sunset on the plane, on my way in.  When am I going to figure out that shots from the window of an airplane never end up looking all that awesome?

2.  The "L" stop where my friend was nice enough to pick me up.  Loved the signage, and wanted to try out the new superfast lens (and test the limits of my ISO on the new body.  I was impressed.)

3.  Mr Wiggles does indeed still travel with me.  Also, look at this beautiful rimlight!  From before I had even been taught about rimlight!

4.  My trusty companion the Starbucks cup.

5.  These awnings were interesting, and kept spinning like pinwheels, each hitting the others and forcing them into motion.

6.  This big guy was just waiting for his owner to come back with a latte....

7. While this guy made me laugh watching his totally indifferent expressions.

8.  Went to a great little place with Kiley for lunch, to meet up with Danielle, Brian, Carrie, and baby Ginny!  Photos of cute-as-a-button Ginny-bug ( as her adoring dad calls her) tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

ROTW, Week 15: Potato Gratin with Fresh Herbs

Ok guys.  Officially a failure on this one.  However, big changes are on the horizon for this space, and I am excited.  If all goes well, I'll be back tomorrow to tell you more about it.

This week (technically  last week now?), you get no photo, because the photo I took was gross and looked like potato salad.  Just trust me on this one, it was good.

Potato Gratin with Fresh Herbs

1 lb red baby potatoes
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2.5 cups milk (if this seems like a weird amount...I will admit I didn't measure.  I'm guessing.)
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (or cheddar works well too.  Gruyere is more subtle.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Carefully slice the potatoes thinly using a mandolin or a good sharp knife.  Arrange in an oven-proof casserole.

On the stove in a medium saucepan, make the roux by melting butter over medium heat, and stirring in the flour.  Cook until the roux is golden, then stir in the milk and whisk to remove any lumps.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened.  At this point, remove from the heat stir in your chopped herbs and grated cheese until the cheese is well blended into the sauce.  Pour over the sliced potatoes, stirring the slices to coat if necessary, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is beautifully golden brown, and the potatoes are tender.

Perfect as a side dish with grilled or roasted meat, or fish.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

ROTW, Week 14: Scallops Provencal

Yeah yeah, I am aware that this is going up at 10:45 on a Sunday.  Still counts as this week.

Scallops Provencal
Recipe from Ina Garten

MADE THIS EXACTLY FOLLOWING THE RECIPE.  For once.  And it was delish.  I mean come on, scallops, butter, shallots, white wine, lemon...what is not to love here?

  • 1 pound fresh bay or sea scallops
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lemon, cut in 1/2

If you're using bay scallops, keep them whole. If you're using sea scallops, cut each 1 in half horizontally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.
In a very large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in 1 layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, total. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic, and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine, cook for 1 minute, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

ROTW, Week 13: Pregnancy (OK Fine, Cobb) Salad

I've got some big news for you guys.

I had a salad the other day that I actually enjoyed, AND it was lettuce based.  No I'm not pregnant, don't be ridiculous (but I thought I'd throw that out there in case anyone had suspicions after reading this ingredients list.)

Makes two salads:
Arugula or other lettuce as salad base
2 chicken breasts, grilled and cut into slices
2-3 inches bacon cut from frozen bacon package
2 cups brussel sprouts, sliced in half lengthwise
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 juice of one lemon
olive oil

Cook the bacon in a saute pan, rendering the fat and getting the bacon nice and crunchy.  Remove the bacon from the pan, and cook your brussel sprouts, cut-face down, in the remaining bacon fat for about 15 minutes with the lid on, or until beautifully browned and steamed through.

Assemble your salad with as many of the above ingredients as you would like.  My only regret is not serving this with toast.

Happy birthday Mom!!  29 years young again today :)

**Completely forgot about the asparagus.  Always top a salad with grilled asparagus, is pretty much my rule of thumb. Grill it up with the chicken, and slice it into bitesize pieces on the bias (diagonally) for some extra fancy appearance.**

*** I have gotten a lot of familial nagging, saying that this salad is a classic California Cobb salad and I am a little crazy for thinking it is at all unusual.  In rebuttal: BRUSSEL SPROUTS.  Also, I voluntarily ate something made primarily of leaves.  I thought it was unusual.  Oh well - you don't like the name, call it something else.  Just make it, because its delicious.***