Saturday, October 31, 2009

Feeling a bit like Fall

The temperature decided it was time for a change and let us all know by blowing out the badness of the late summer heat and left us with the briskness of Fall. With each degree drop, i thought oh yes it's almost that time again. The time when butternut and pumpkins come out and beg to be roasted, chopped, mixed into tasty treats to fill you right up.

Get ready to make your home smell like the holidays!

14oz butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 1/4 cups light soft brown sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
sea salt
2 1/2 cups plain flour, unsifted
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon - I prefer grinding down a stick in my coffee grinder.
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
A handful of walnuts

zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ a lemon
1/2 cup soured cream
2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out

Get your oven preheated to 350°F. You can either go with pre-lined muffin/cupcake cups or a muffin tin. I also love using mini muffin pans for parties as these bite sized portions are really irresistible.

Pulse the squash in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar, and crack in the eggs. As I don't have an commercial size processor, I transfer this my mixer. It makes things far easier in my opinion. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, walnuts (if you want), cinnamon and olive oil and whiz together until well beaten. You may need to pause the machine at some point to scrape the mix down the sides with a rubber spatula. Try not to overdo it with the mixing – you want to just combine everything and no more.

Fill the paper cases with the cake mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see whether they are cooked properly by sticking a wooden skewer or a knife right into one of the cakes – if it comes out clean, they’re done. If it’s a bit sticky, pop them back into the oven for a little longer. Remove from the oven and leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack.

As soon as the muffins are in the oven, make your runny frosted topping. Place most of the clementine zest, all the lemon zest and the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the soured cream, icing sugar and vanilla seeds and mix well. Remember to taste this mixture and correct the mix accordingly. Set in your fridge to chill until your muffins are ready to bathed in this tastiness.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thai'ing One On

My wealthy and beautiful benefactor wanted something light on the menu and I suggested the nice combination of a hot and spicy Thai soup. She smirked and challenged me to see what I could come up with without heading out to the store for more supplies.

Thankfully I'd already made a run and came back with my trusty weapon against colds -- Tom Yum paste. If you don't have any, you need to head out to your local Asian market and grab some. You'll be hard pressed to find any in the "Asian" section of your local grocer as they tend to stock those "Thai Dinner" blends and well these work for some; I just choose to go with something a bit closer to the core of the dish I'm trying to create.

Just so you know, this sop cooks up in less than ten minutes and actually takes longer to prep than to make.

Once you start making this, you may never get sick nor order it at a restaurant again!


2 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
10 shrimp, de-veined, shelled with tails removed
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced finely
1 large carrot, cut into sticks or grated lengthwise
1 zucchini, cut into sticks
1 cup of broccoli, cut into florets (small pieces)
2 tbsp of Tom Yum paste
3 cups boiling water
1 cup of coconut milk
2 ounces wide rice noodles
2 limes sliced in halves
3/4 cup of bean sprouts (optional)
4 tbsp cilantro (optional)

(Substitute for Tom Yum paste - 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste with 4 cups of vegetable broth.)


Start by cleaning shrimp. Anyone that knows me, already is reaching for that bag of frozen shrimp and setting them in a bowl of room temperature water. For everyone else, you can either clean the little fellas from the grocery store and set them aside.

For the veggies -- I like grating the carrots into long strands as opposed to chopping them into sticks as I've found that they cook faster this way and really this soup doesn't need a firm texture/feeling. This is all about subtle spice and comfort with all of the items being slightly firm but not crunchy. I like using a mandolin to slice the zucchini into ribbons to keep everything small yet uniform. I also rough chop the broccoli to ensure that everything cooks quickly.

I prefer using two woks. I have a smaller one for the majority of my stir frying and a larger one (with a handle) for soups. This may sound excessive but anyone that's been using a wok for awhile can attest to the heat levels being higher when cooking and plays well with these soups and grilling methods.

In the larger wok (or pot) get the three cups of water going to a boil. While this is happening, heat oil and cook the onion and garlic in the other wok for ~ 2-3 minutes.

Once the garlic starts to brown, add the carrot, broccoli and zucchini and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

As the water reaches a boil, stir in 2 tbsp of Tom Yum paste in and combine well. Once the paste has mixed completely, add rice noodles and coconut milk. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

Combine vegetables into broth and shrimp. Cook for another 3 minutes or until done. Be sure to remove from heat just as the shrimp turn pink as prolonged cooking will make the shrimp too tough.

Here you can decide to toss in cilantro and/or bean sprouts just before serving or serve as is.

Provide limes to cut the spice of the soup and enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Everything's Better With Bacon

1 Package of Wheat Angel Hair
1/2 Pound Shrimp
1 Pound Swiss Chard
1/2 cup mushrooms - diced
1/2 Pound Bacon
2 tbls of Unsalted Butter
2 tbls Olive Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Last week, I'd jumped back in the kitchen and whipped up a fresh and easy pasta dish with bok choy and bamboo. It was good, filling and yet I knew that it needed something. It needed extra flavors to take it to where it really needed to be. Enter my two favorite things in the refrigerator - bacon and shrimp.

Normally all that's needed is one of these heavyweights, but when you bring them both to the party, it's like well bacon and shrimp. No need to get all pretty with language. It's frigging shrimp and bacon. Since i was dressing this up, I also decided to swap out the bok choy's delicate flavors for something that wanted to take part in this forbidden dance -- Swiss Chard. I know, I know the Swiss are known for not wanting to get involved in disputes, but should not forget that what they do, they do well. Chocolate, banking, watch making and chard.

The bitterness of the chard is a welcome compliment to the rich flavors of the shrimp, bacon and butter and we also need some foliage to assist in digestion so it's a win win!

So off we go.

Boil pasta to package specifications.

Clean and shell shrimp. I often grab big bags of frozen shrimp from the mega mart. They are flash frozen and really who has the time to run off to the store all the time? So run these under cool water to defrost. Shell them, cover and set aside.

I admit that this sounds strange but when I saw my idol, Alton Brown, do this the other day I couldn't do anything but laugh and shake my head. If you happen to have a waffle maker, you'll get a kick out of this -- cook your bacon in it. That's right. You take that half pound of bacon, slice those long strips in half and place them in the waffle maker. It's just like using a panini press except smaller. Turn it on medium, toss those bad boys on and wait for the sizzle. It should really only take three to four minutes to cook.

Once done set on a paper covered plate to drain. One great thing to appreciate about this method is the lack of grease flying everywhere and the easier clean up. Roughly chop once all of the pieces are cooked and dry. Set aside.

Now grab your chard, lay the leaves on top of each other, cut off the stems at the base of the leaf, roll into a cigar and then slice thinly (chiffonade) and throw into your salad spinner to clean. It could take a few whirls to get all of the dirt out so be patient. Pre-heat a wok or large skillet and insert butter, olive oil, mushroom, greens and garlic powder.

Toss together until greens wilt and soften, roughly four minutes. Remove from heat and place in a bowl for later. using the same wok/skillet, cook shrimp with a bit of salt and pepper. There should still be reside of butter and olive oil in the pan to help with the browning process. Throw in bacon pieces and toss again and then add greens and thoroughly combine.

By this time the pasta should be ready to go. Again, plating is up to you but I prefer to have the majority of the creation atop and in the middle of the pasta.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Keeping It Simple

It seems like it's been forever since the kitchen's been open. We've had a lot going on with the loss of one the inspirations for the restaurant on the whole. We are almost back to getting the place open everyday again but it'll take some time. Tonight thought, I wanted to keep things even more simple than i normally do and also wanted to cook something I know that she'd love.

1 Package of Wheat Angel Hair - any thin or small, ribbon pasta would work
1 Pound Bok Choy
1/2 cup Bamboo Shoots - Normally found canned in the Asian section of your grocery store
3 Cloves of Garlic - diced
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Baguette - Sliced on a angle and roughly an inch wide
2 tbls of Unsalted Butter
2 tbls Olive Oil
1 Cup of Freshly grated Parmesean cheese.

Boil pasta to package specifications.

Melt 1 tablespoon on unsalted butter. I use a microwave but you can just as easily use a small pot. Dice one garlic clove and mix into melted butter. Slice your baguette and drizzle the melted butter and garlic mixture. One teaspoon is more than enough. Cover each piece with Parmesan and set on either your broiler pan or on your toaster oven pan. Broil for 10 - 12 minutes. Be watchful as it only takes a second to go from tasty goodness to charcoal.

I love using bok choy as it's as versatile as spinach and basil put together. Instead of steaming or grilling it, I decided to pull the individual stalks from the base, lay them on top of each other and then roll just the leafy portions together and slice them into ribbons. If you want to use the white stems feel free, but I prefer to get the crunch from the thin bamboo shoots.

Doing this allows for more freedom to use this vegetable going forward but I just tossed these into my salad spinner and set aside. Dice two of the the garlic cloves and saute them lightly in a wok (or large non stick pan) with a tablespoons of butter and the olive oil. Just as the garlic begins to brown, carefully introduce the bamboo and freshly washed and dried bok choy. Toss together until greens wilt and reduce to a third of original size.

By now your pasta should be just about done. Drain it and decided what you'd like to next. You have two real options from here -- toss the mixture and pasta together or go for presentation by placing a serving in the middle of the plated pasta.

Either path you choose, it'll be loved by your patrons.