Sunday, August 15, 2010

Say ... cheese !

Say who? me? yesssss ... as I just discovered this new (for me) cheese: Toscano with black pepper at my favorite store :-)  It's a hard cheese like Manchego, a bit creamier and coated with black pepper which IMHO is what gives it that very special 'kicky' taste :-)

 Serve it with some Cassis (black currant) Jam and Multi-Grain and Flaxeed Crackers and Prosecco ... AAAHHH !!!  Life is good you will find :-)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Watermelon Granita With A Twist

Here is one of the great recipes learned from Anh My (thanks Anh My !) - stay tuned there will be more- that is perfect for summer time. So, a vos baguettes ou plutot Ninja (my beloved blender from Truong - thanks Truong !)

So, what's the twist? the twist is a secret ingredient added at the last minute that gives the granita a very special sweet chewy texture here and there ... this secret has just been 'imported back from Provence' by my sister and now we are going to share it with you. Add a bit of jam to the frozen granita and you will get these tiny chewy pearls that will add colour and sweetness and surprise texture to your granita. For the watermelon granita, I added some strawberry jam (1/2 Tbsp), or melon granita Kim said they added some peach jam, basically find a jam that complements the colour and taste of your granita and voila`...

Take a close look at the photo above, and you will see a 'strawberry jam pearl' right on the middle top.

The little green speckles are actually chopped mint.

So here is what you need for this wonderful summer concoction.

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 meyer lemon
  • Optional:  1 tbsp chopped mint leaves, 1 tbsp Grand Marnier, 1/2 tbps strawberry jam

1. Combine all non-optional ingredients in your Ninja blender (if you don't have one --- hurry out and get one :-))
2. Puree until smooth.  Add Grand Marnier.
3. Strain into a shallow, wide pan, add chopped mint leaves and freeze for 1 hour.

4. Rake mixture with fork and freeze for another hour. Repeat once more then add the strawberry jam, mix it in then rake and serve.

Here is a photo of the granita before the addition of strawberry jam.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

1-2- 3 Fig Chocolate Chip Crumble

Why 1-2-3? because it is that simple to make :-)

1-2 servings

- 8-10 figs quartered
- Equal parts flour, almond meal and butter (cold) - 30 g
- For sweet-toothers use equal part of sugar as well - 30 g (  I used  20g)
- A dozen chocolate chip morsels ( I just chopped 20 g  of Valrhona Noir Amer 71% cacao chocolate into little pieces)

Varation: use brown sugar instead and replace the chocolate with 1 tsp of cinnamon


1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
2. Wash and quarter your figs (good thing there are only 8 to 10 :-))
3. Butter your baking dish or ramequins and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil as the fruits tend to  release their juice when hot, causing a spill. Set them aside while your prepare the topping.
4. In a medium bowl, toss together the sugar,  flour and almond meal (and cinnamon if you use it). Add the butter cut in small pieces and mix with your fingertips until you get a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs. (This is a great exercise for your fingers and fun too, kind of like playing with sand :-)
5. Place the quartered figs into the baking dish, cut side up.  Divide the topping evenly on top of the dishes. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is light brown. Sprinkle the chocolate chips among the crumbles and leave for another 5 minutes until the topping is medium brown. (If the topping is already brown, just turn
off the oven and leave the crumble in there a couple of minutes so the chocolate chips have a chance to melt)

Serve hot with some vanilla ice cream OR let it cool off then refrigerate and serve the next day.  I like it cold better, it reminds me of a fig newton but with an almond and chocolate chip crust ... quite a delightful combination, trust me :-)

Where to buy:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Goosefoot With A touch of Chili Garlic Sauce

Ok, it's not really a goose's foot :-) but quinoa and according to Wiki  :"Quinoa (pronounced /ˈkiːnoʊ.ə/ or /kwɨˈnoʊ.ə/, Spanish quinua, from Quechua kinwa), a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds. Its leaves are also eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is currently limited." 

My sister Kim introduced the family to quinoa a few weeks ago and as usual I added a touch of viet taste to it :-)

Above, a picture of the quinoa salad with the Chili Garlic Sauce and onion and cilantro and below, all well mixed and ready to serve:

(serve 2-4 more if used as side dish)

- 1 cup of quinoa well rinsed (quinoa is bitter) - cook according to instructions on package or use 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water,. Use a medium deep pot, these little quinoa grains like to jump out of the hot water and get away :-) . Bring water to a rapid boil, add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, add rinsed quinoa and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally till you see volcano-crater-Ike holes :-), water evaporating.  Turn off at this point and cover the pot, let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes (they are tired after all the jumping after all), then stir to fluff up with a fork or whatever you use.  Set aside and cool some. 

And for the vinaigrette, mix well:

- 1 oz of olive oil, 1 oz apple cider vinegar, 1 oz. fresh lemom juice, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin and salt to taste.

Other ingredients:
- 1 Red bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro chopped
- 2-3 green onions sliced
- 1 can organic black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 can whole corn kernels drained and rinsed  (I liked fresh corn at this time of the year - yum - I zapped 1 ear of corn in the microwave for 4 minutes than stand them on a chopping board and just cut straight down the side of the cob to get the kennels)
- hot sauce (3 con ga)

- Combine the bell pepper, black bean and corn with the quinoa in a salad bowl, then mix in the vinaigrette.  Add the cilantro, onions and hot sauce to taste right before serving.
- You can serve right away or keep it in the fridge and serve it cold. I like it cold as it tastes very refreshing .. until you hit the hot sauce and get a 'kick' from it :-) but then you bite on a sweet little piece of corn and what a YUM surprise :-)

Where to buy:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Twice Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes

 One of the 'snacks' I love most from my childhood in Vietnam is "khoai lang nuong" - sweet potatoes baked over charcoal and sometimes burried in the hot ashes until the redolent air announced their perfect doneness. We kids would impatiently 'vua thoi vua an' -- eat while blowing on the potatoes in an attempt to cool them off quick (not recommended :))

 This dish gives a new 'twist' on the khoai lang nuong with the addition of cream and, twice baked the sweet potatoes are sooooo good they are to be eaten skin and all.

 Once again, I'll like to dedicate this to Delicious Vietnam hosted by Anh of A food lovers’ journey and Hong and Kim the Ravenous Couple.

- 4-5 small Japanese sweet potatoes (satsuma imo)
- 4 Tbsp cream
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1 egg yolk for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Scrub and wash the potatoes then dry with paper towel. Bake potatoes for 35' or so (until you can pierce it easily with a fork and the house starts to smell oh... heavenly :))
3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh out into a bowl.
4. Add cream and butter and mix and mash well
5. Scoop the mixture back into the potato shells, smooth out the surface and cover with a thin layer of egg wash
6. Put them back into the oven for 7-10' before serving, turn on the broiler for the last couple of minutes to get the 'brulee' look :) I over did it a bit in the pic above but ... everyone liked it that way skin and all, so there you have it :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shiso Apple Granita

Japanese Shiso also known as Perilla is a herb of the mint family. Its cousin Tia To (with a purple-garnet underside) is often used in Vietnamese cuisine as garnish in grilled meat or egg roll and noodle dishes. Both offer fragrant hints of cinnamon, mint and lemon.

Inspired by Jerry Traunfeld 's "The herbal kitchen" I made this granita with Granny Smith Apple and shiso leaves and some Meyer lemon juice and sugar - quite a 'twist' ;-) and a perfect fit I think for the  Weekend Herb Blogging # 236 hosted by Briciole 

4 servings
- 2 Granny Smith apples, about 1 lb, unpeeled, cored and diced, plus another half for garnish/topping
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 6 large green shiso leaves, plus one cut into thin strands for garnish

1. Put the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir constantly until the syrup starts to boil. Let it cool completely.
2. Core the apple and dice (unpeeled). Cut up the shiso pleaves.
3. Puree the diced apple, shiso leaves and syrup in a blender (not a food processor) on high speed until they are liquefied.
4. Pour the puree into a a fne sive set over ablowl, and press the liquid through with the back of a rubber spatula, squeezing the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. Immediately freeze the liquid in an ice cream maker. When slushy firm, scoop it into a container and store it in the freezer until serving time, This will give more of a sorbet texture.
5. Alternatively, just pour the liquid into a flat container and  freeze. Every hour or so take it out and mush it  up with a fork for a granita texture.Do so a couple of times or more if you are more patient. :-)
6. Scoop the sorbet or granita into glasses and top with thin strips of raw crisp apple and a few strands of shiso and serve immediately.

The topping of crunchy apple and fragrant shiso leaves is definitely a must for this tasty granita.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Let's do the macaron

I finally jumped on the macaron bandwagon. Last Thursday my friend Kim and I took a macaron class with Thip whose blog Bombini I have been drooling over for her beautiful photos and recipes. Then on Saturday, Kim and I baked up some 80 macarons with just a few mishaps as you will see.

But first, if you are in the Bay Area and wanted to learn how to make macarons I highly recommend you give Thip a call. She's a professional pastry chef, a talented photographer and windsurfer to boot. Now, how can you not be impressed with such breadth of talents? Her class is hands on and very thorough and Thip is very helpful and patient (trust me we asked lots of silly questions like how in the world do you pipe those macarons uniformly and in neat and nice rows? not me, as I have hardly used a pastry bag ... ever :))

Here is a picture of the macarons we made chez Thip with accompanying recipe and notes.

Basic Macaron (recipe from Thip)
makes 80 shells

Ingredients for the shell:

- 150 g almond flour (Weigh the almond flour and leave it to dry out overnight.)
- 200 g powdered sugar (Use sucre glace' if you can get it from france, US powdered sugar all have cornstarch mixed in and alter the taste of macarons a bit)
- 45 g egg whites, aged at room temperature (i.e. leave them out uncovered for 24hrs -- allowing the water evaporation and concentration of protein to get shinier product)

French meringue:
- 30 g sugar
- 55 g egg whites, aged
- food colour powder if used

Note: recommend to measure in grams -- time to invest in a digital scale with grams -- there is no way around it :-)

Preparations for the shell:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Sift almond flour, powdered sugar together in a big bowl, discard the solid balls that won't go through the sieve.
3. Create “Mass” by folding almond flour, powdered sugar and 45 g of egg whites together with a big spoon. Mix fast until all ingredients come together. It will look lumpy -- don't worry about it (note: sifting the almond flour once first helps. If the batter is too stiff, adjust it with more egg whites about 3-5 grams. If ti's too runny, forget about it ... you need to start all over again :-()
4. To make French meringue: whip egg whites in a mixer on medium until foamy. Gradually add sugar in additions (start with 1/3, then add the rest in 3-4 portions) while continuing to whip to medium peaks. (if using color, add it to meringue at the end).
5. Mix 1/3 of meringue into “Mass” to lighten the mixture. Do not overmix.
6.. Fold in the rest of meringue. Do not overfold. (note: gather batter at bottom of mixing bowl, fold gently, once in while split in the middle and fold out. Batter is ready when slightly spreading like molted lava ... ha ha I have never seen molted lava have you? :-)

7. Place into a pastry bag with Alteco plain tip# 3 or Wilson #12, pipe 1" diameter circles on a baking sheet line with a silpat. (Note: Hold the tip at 90 degree from the silpat, don't swirl, just lift it up once you get enough batter piped. Don't worry about the little peak, it will flatten out. Drop/bang the baking sheet straight down on a hard surface helps get the air bubbles out of the piped macarons. I got really good at this, dropping the tray about three feet down once :-))
7. Rest for an hour to form skins. (Note: very important -- and keep all pets away :-))
8. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
9. Bake for 9-10 minutes, rotating half way through. (Note: bake on top shelf, use two aluminium sheet pans to keep the heat away from the bottom of the macaron longer and allow the 'foot' to develop up right and preventing the top of the macarons from cracking. As a matter of fact add another empty sheet pan on the bottom shelf in the oven to diffuse the heat further. The bigger your macarons the longer you have to bake them)
10. Let them cool on the silpat, then remove and sandwich them with the filling. (Note: remove the silpat from the hot sheet pan to a colling rack to 'stop' the baking)

Preparations for the filling:

Pistachio ganache (heavenly :))
- 80 g heavy bream
- 80 g pistachio paste
- 130 g white chocolate (35%)
- 20 g unsalted butter, softened

1. Bring cream and pistachio paste to a boil
2. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and butter
3. Stir until smooth.

Cream cheese and cassis filling (Yum):

- 226 g (8 oz) cream cheese
- 50 g powdered sugar
- 50 g cassis preserve/jam
- 100 g unsalted butter, softened

1. Cream butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar together in a mixer.
2. Add preserve, mix well.

And finally here is a pic of the macarons made chez moi a couple of days later.

And a pic of the work in progress ...

And some other lessons learned:
- What's at Trader J's are 'italian' not french macarons. Italian macarons tend to have a more rounded dome but sometimes they get hollow inside the shell.
- With the exception of the almond taste, most if not all the flavouring from the macaron comes from the filling. The pretty colours are ... in most cases from food colouring :-)
- Overbaked macarons (the brown ones in the photos) are a bit like crunchy vanilla wafers... don't toss them out :-)
- Macarons definitely tasted better after a day or so in the fridge, the flavours are more intense

Watch this space for more macarons ... who knows maybe even one with banana and crab? ;-)

Where to buy:


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