Monday, March 31, 2008

I have a crush...

P “Did you see…”

G “…Tartelette’s Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie!”

P “What’d ya think?”

G “Well, you know me, I don’t like fruit desserts that much. I’d rather make the chocolate coffee tartelettes.”

P “mmm…I think I’m going to have to try them.”

P and G (in unison) “I love Tartelette!”

It may be slightly apparent from this small snippet of a probable but fictional (and slightly overdramatized) conversation with my co-worker that we have a bit of a crush on Tartelette. It was the first blog, I started reading regularly and began my path into the foodie blog world. I love the way she presents her delicious and inventive desserts through interesting witty prose and beautiful photography. I soon became hooked on the Daring Bakers, branched out into many other blogs and then ultimately started my own. Thank you Tartelette for your inspiration! and for my new cookbook!

A few weeks ago, I had the luck and honor to win The Sweet Melissa Baking Book from Tartelette’s random drawing. This book is excellent. I have flipped through it a number of times. In fact, it was on my night stand for a little while so I could read it before bed and hope for some sweet dreams... Each time, I discover something new that I am dying to make. Recently, work has been a little rough and everyone is very stressed. So, I decided that a cake would cure everything or at least give everyone a wonderful sugar rush. After some debate, I settled on the Hazelnut Raspberry Layer Cake because I was intrigued by the Hazelnut cake layers. It is true, I always gravitate towards chocolate desserts. If I order a dessert at a restaurant, which is rare because I normally walk away feeling like I could do better, it tends to be chocolate. Lately I have been trying to grow as a cook and a person by branching out of my chocolate comfort zone. I've even made a few lemon cakes and loved me I did not like lemon before at all. I thought a hazelnut cake with fruit would be a wonderful new thing to try. When I saw the gorgeous, fresh, and less expensive strawberries, I decided to substitute them for the raspberries.

The cake is phenomenal. The layers were light and fluffy. The buttercream to die for. Cake decoration is not my strong point...I tend to cover all mistakes with more icing. This cake is very forgiving as the buttercream covers all problems and looks great in the process. I am going to enter this into Mike's Strawberry Seduction event because doesn't it just tempt you..mmm...maybe its time to break into the extra buttercream!

Hazelnut Strawberry Layer Cake
(adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book)

1 2/3 cups hazelnuts, toasted and cooled (See P.S.)
2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 large egg whites, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Butter and flour to 9in cake pans. Line each pan with a 9in round of parchment paper.
3. In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts with 2/3 cup sugar and pulse grind until it is a coarse flour.
4. Transfer hazelnut flour into a large bowl. Add the all-purpose flour, an additional 2/3 cup of the sugar and the baking powder, and whisk to combine.
5. Have ready a fine-meshed strainer (I used a sifter). In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat. When the milk solids have reached a nutty brown color, immediately remove from heat. Using the strainer, strain the butter into the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Discard butter solids. Stir in vanilla.
6. In a clean bowl of an electric mixer with a clean whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks (I used my hand mixer and it worked but took a while). In a slow steady stream, with the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 2/3 cup of the sugar. Increase the speed to high. Beat until they are firm, not dry, glossy peaks of meringue.
7. Using a rubber spatula, briskly fold on-third of the meringue into the batter to lighten it. Add the remaining meringue and gently fold until just combined.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 20 minutes before turning the layers out onto the rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream

2 cups chopped strawberries
2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 water
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cup strawberries sliced for decoration and filling

1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the 2/3 cup of sugar and the water and cook to 240
˚F on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in another bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the 3 tablespoons sugar and beat until there are medium stiff-but not dry-peaks of meringue.
3. When the sugar syrup reaches 240˚F, decrease the speed of the mixer to medium, and immediately but slowly pour the hot liquid sugar in a steady stream down the side of the and into the meringue. Beat together until stiff glossy peaks form.
4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the butter in pieces to meringue. The mixture will break, but just keep beating and it will come together beautifully.
5. Pour the strawberries into buttercream and beat until combined.

Put it together:
1. Spread buttercream over one layer of cake. Cover with chopped strawberries.
2. Place the second layer onto the first layer. Ice the sides and top. Check out this for tips.

P.S. Toasting Hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 350. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 7 minutes. Halfway through stir the hazelnuts.

Click Here for Recipe...

Friday, March 28, 2008

GO HEELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a huge Tar Heel fan!!! I was born under the Carolina blue sky in Chapel Hill. By the way, did you know that God is a Tar Heel? Of course he is because the sky is Carolina blue! Yes, I grew up spouting such lines in constant support of my Heels. In kindergarten, I fell in love with a Duke fan! Shock! It was tragic! I felt like I was betraying my team as I chased him around the playground (but I'm also always a sucker for beautiful eyes, even then). For those of you who are not as into college basketball, the UNC-Duke rivalry is one of the largest ones in sporting history. Many a day, I have defended my Heels against an evil Duke fan! The past two weeks have been fun as I have watched my boys crush their competition. Even though their opponents will be getting tougher, I always believe they can win the tournament! GO HEELS!!!!!

Of course, when watching basketball games you need to have some good food. My sister and I made her Salsa, when I was home last week. We ate it while watching DUKE lose!!! It is really good and very typical of my sister's style of cooking. She just throws it all in and it turns out great! Pretty spicy! She did the photos, too. I am currently housesitting and went on memory for the recipe. I'll double check it when I am home tomorrow and update the post.

Resa's Salsa

2 jalapeno peppers
1 serrano pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 lime, squeezed (other half cut perfectly for coronas)
3 roma tomatoes (roughly diced)
1/2 cartoon chopped Pome tomatoes (liquid reserved)

1. Cut the peppers carefully because of the strong oils (we often do this outside) and remove the seeds.
2. Pulse the peppers in the food processor until roughly chopped.
3. Add the reserved liquid from the chopped tomatoes, the roma tomatoes, cumin, lime juice and garlic.
4. Continue to pulse until chopped to your desired chunkiness.
5. Add in chopped tomatoes and pulse until chopped to how you like it.
6. Put out some chips, grab a beer and enjoy the game!

P.S. My favorite part of going to a Carolina game in Chapel Hill is when the band plays the Alma Mater, "Hark The Sound" at the end of the game, as the fans are leaving. Everyone joins in shouting "N-C-U." Hopefully, I can get the music up here but until then...GO HEELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and true.
Singing Carolina's praises.
Shouting N-C-U.
Hail to the brightest star of all
Clear its radiance shine
Carolina priceless gem.
Receive all praises thine.

Click Here for Recipe...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe e Buona Pasqua!

St. Joseph's Day or La Festa di San Giuseppe is an important day to my family. We come from a small town near Messina in Sicily. I love this day because it is one of the strongest traditions we have in my family. Susan from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso both had beautiful posts recently about their family traditions and the treat Zeppole. I wanted to share my family's tradition. We make Giusppetti, which are fried pieces of dough, stuffed with raisins and rolled in sugar.

Growing up in NC, away from our family, we continued the tradition. St. Joseph's Day turned into a huge party, where friends and neighbors would join us in eating Giusppetti and welcoming Spring. My mother would man the deep fryer, often frying up five batches of dough. It was my job to roll them in sugar and then put them in baskets for my brother and sister to pass out among our guests. We always had a large spread of fruit, cheeses and meats. I loved these days and maybe it is where I first began to cultivate my love of feeding all my friends.

This weekend, my family and I made Giusppetti together on the back porch. Our recipe is something my mother adapted because the original recipe has disappeared or possibly never existed. Many poorer Italians would use leftover scraps of dough when making these, so the exact dough recipe is unknown. Regardless, we try to maintain the intent of the tradition, turning it into a day of celebrating and friendship. This may have been the hardest photo shoot as my family members are not as polite as my roommates and just ate my models. I was trying to pile them on a plate to look nice but everyone kept grabbing them and eating them. They were also quite opinionated about how we should be photographing the few left. Check out my sister's flickr account to see the full series of pictures and our "artist" stylings. Also, my brother decided to eat them over my head so I ended up covered in sugar. It was fun! They are very delicious!

St. Joseph's Day Giuspetti
(adapted by my mother from the Fleishman's yeast book)

3-3 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons margarine
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup raisins
1 cup sugar (for rolling)

1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix 1 1/2 cup flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast.
2. Combine milk, 1/4 cup water and margarine in a saucepan.
3. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120-130 degrees F). Margarine does not have to melt.
4. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally.
5. Add egg and 1/2 cup flour.
6. Beat at high speed, 2 minutes, scraping bowl.
7. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff batter and stir the raisins about 1 cup or to taste.
8. Cover bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about hour.

9. Stir batter down.
10. Drop by rounded soup spoon into hot oil (I use Canola oil and solid Crico in the fryer about half and half).

11. Drain on paper towels.

12. Roll in sugar.

P.S. Happy Easter!!!!

Click Here for Recipe...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm going to Carolina...

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Ain't it just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm gone to Carolina in my mind
-James Taylor

Tomorrow morning, I'm heading down to the good ole' Carolina to spend Easter with my family. After college, I never moved back. Regardless, I am still a Carolina girl. I love my Heels (and they will be winning the tournament)! I crave real southern sweet tea, biscuits and Carolina BBQ! I sometimes slip into a southern accent! My roommate gets a kick out of the way I say, "I am going to be a laaaw-yer", drawling out those last few syllables. I'm looking forward to going home tomorrow, watching the Heels' game with my family and basking in the sunshine!

This recipe has nothing to do with Carolina but I'll get one up here soon. Instead this one hearkens back to my Italian roots. This week I did not do much cooking, as I knew I was going out of town for the weekend and had some dinner plans. I threw these bruschetta together with leftovers from the fridge. My roommate loved them and she even took a bite to show you.

Ginny's Leftover Bruschetta

4 slices French bread
1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

4 teaspoons grated Parmesan
4 tablespoon Mozzarella

1. Toast the slices of bread in the toaster oven (or under the broiler) until slightly brown.
2. Rub the toast with the garlic clove.
3. In a frying pan over medium, heat the olive oil.
4. Add the mushrooms, red pepper and green onions. Cook until softened.
5. Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning and add the tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Cook for a minute or two longer until the vinegar evaporates off.
7. Spread the vegetable mix among the toast and sprinkle with the cheeses.
8. Put back into the toaster oven (or under the broiler) until the cheese is melted.

P.S. The key to making good bruschetta (and I learned this from an Italian friend) is to rub the bread with a garlic clove when it is first toasted. This makes the bruschetta all evenly garlicky and you do not have to worry about chopping the garlic super fine.

Click Here for Recipe...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I saw the sign...

...and I decided where to go to LAW SCHOOL. Ever since I started the law school process of LSATs, personal statements, acceptances (and rejections), I have been very stressed! The decision has been looming, always in the back of my mind, coming out when I would finally start relaxing...frequently, as I was trying to sleep. I have spent a number of nights, restless as my mind raced through all the reasons to go to this school or that...Until last week, I realized that I knew where I should go...

I am moving to CHICAGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am very very very excited!!!!!!!!!!! I love Chicago! Last February, I went to Chicago for the first time and fell in love with the city, even though I had the flu and it was freezing. Of course, I did not base my decision just on my love of Chicago but it is a plus. Last week, I filled out the deposit form, giving them the first installment of what will be a lot of money, and then dropped it into the mail box on the way to the gym. After that I had three signs that reaffirmed my decision:

First, I am one of those crazy multi-taskers when I am at the gym. I must have a book or magazine to flip through (and block the time) while I work out plus I always try to find something to watch. Well, that night the travel channel was doing a segment on Super Dawg in CHICAGO. Second, I was reading an article in Vogue, which mentioned Alinea in CHICAGO. Finally, that night was the season premiere of Top Chef Season 4 in CHICAGO!

If these are not enough, I do not know what is? Isn't it so fitting that my "signs" were all food related?

In honor of my decision and with some inspiration from the season premiere of Top Chef, I made deep dish pizza this past Friday. It is another butternut squash recipe (shock!). Unfortunately, I do not cook for a Bravo TV show and thus my budget is a bit more limited. It turned out really well. Next time, I would make the bottom crust a bit thicker because as soon as we cut into it, it was like opening the flood gates of cheese and butternut squash yumminess. I guess I will just have to make it a goal to first test all the deep dish in the city and then perfect my own recipe. Of course, that is if I have time to cook while working hard at school...

Butternut Squash-Grape Tomatoes-Ricotta Deep Dish Pizza

Pizza Crust
(adapted from Deep-dish Sausage and Tomato Pizza)

1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (110° - 115°F.)
a 1/4-ounce package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl dissolve sugar in water. Sprinkle yeast over water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in 2 1/4 cups flour, cornmeal, salt, and butter and blend until mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
3. Put dough, in a deep oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

(adapted from Ryan Scott's Pizza with Escarole, Butternut Squash & Ricotta Salata)

1Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large yellow onions, julienned
1 large butternut squash, peeled, diced (half-inch)
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 ½ cups chicken stock
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 package grape tomatoes
1/4 lb ricotta
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 lb fresh mozzarella, shredded

1. In sauté pan add butter and 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.
2. Sauté the garlic and crushed red pepper for a minute.
3. Add yellow onions and sweat down until tender.
4. Add butternut squash.
5. Sprinkle with thyme.
6. Cover with chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook until tender (about 20-25 minutes). Once tender remove herbs and season with salt and white pepper.
7. Puree in a food processor, set aside.
8. Add grape tomatoes to sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes; pull and set aside.
9. Mix ricotta and Italian parsley together.

Putting it together:
1. In a 10’ spring form pan, press the dough into the pan and up the side of the pan for at least 1 ½ inches up the side.
2. Spread the mozzarella on the bottom of the crust.
3. Layer with grape tomatoes, butternut squash puree and ricotta mix.
4. Bake in 500 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

P.S. Do you have left over topping? I had a good amount of butternut squash puree left. I am planning on mixing it with pasta and sprinkle it with Parmesan for dinner tonight!

Click Here for Recipe...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Happy Early St. Patty's Day!!!

I keep starting to write this post but I can't seem to figure out what to say...Should I relate my comical trek to the liquor store during my lunch hour? Complain that these are the most expensive cupcakes I've ever made? Admit, albeit embarrassingly, that I have fallen for the cupcake trend? Tell some of my St. Patrick's Day stories, much to my parents' displeasure? Or maybe I should let the cupcakes speak for themselves...

When I saw Charcuterista's post on Guinness Cakelettes, I thought that they would be perfect to turn into car bomb cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day. For a Car Bomb, you layer a shot with Irish Cream and Irish Whiskey, drop it into a pint of Guinness and chug it. You have to do it quickly or the cream will curdle. Along with green beer, Car Bombs are a common drink in many bars across the US on St. Patty's Day. Often it is turned into a contest, as everyone competes to be the first one to finish chugging. Although it sounds very intense (and a bit stupid), the three flavors mix very well together (not that I've ever tried it or anything). So, I made these cupcakes, as a fun take on this American St. Patty's Day tradition. I would take the cupcakes over the drink any day. They were delicious! My roommates liked my creations so much that I think they may have forgiven me for getting chocolate everywhere!

I am entering these into Emiline's St. Paddy's Day Pub Crawl Event in which your dish must use booze in some way. I also wanted to dedicate these in honor of my friend, Ridgie, who would love them.

St. Patty's Day Car Bomb Cupcakes

Guinness Cupcakes
(adapted from
Dave Lieberman's recipe)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine salt
1 bottle Guinness (minus a few sips!)
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at time.
4. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.
5. Lightly grease 24 muffin tins (or 12 muffin tins and one 8 inch cake pan). Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender (the cake took about 35 minutes). Cool before turning out.

Irish Cream Whipped Cream
(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 cup whip cream
4 tablespoon confectioner sugar
2 tablespoon Irish Cream Liquor

1. Put bowl and beaters in the freezer for about an hour before making the whip cream.
2. Pour all the ingredients into a bowl and on low speed, mix the ingredients together.
3. Once the confectioner sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to high until the cream becomes whipped into soft peaks.

Chocolate Whiskey Glaze

(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoon butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoon Irish Whiskey
1/2 cup confectioner sugar

1. On low in a saucepan, melt the chocolate and milk together.
2. Remove from heat, stir in butter.
3. Stir in Irish Whiskey.
4. Whisk in confectioner sugar (add more if you need to thicken the glaze a little bit more).

To put together the cupcakes:

1. Using a knife, cut out a small bit of cupcake out of the center.
2. Fill the hole with a little bit of whipped cream.
3. Cover with the chocolate glaze.
4. Sprinkle with green crystals or decorate as you wish! Enjoy!

P.S. What did I do with that cake? I made a small shamrock! I dyed the leftover Irish Cream Whipped Cream with green food coloring and using a heart cookie cutter made the leaves. I also made a third "dish" with the rest of the leftover pieces of cake, whipped cream and glaze. I layered them in a glass dish to make a tortish kind of thing. Does not look pretty, hence no pictures, but tastes really good! Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

Click Here for Recipe...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Crepes for a Crappy Day...

Yesterday was miserable. The time change did not affect me at first. My problem yesterday was I had no inspiration of what to cook. Nothing? Nada? It was downright depressing. How does one make a grocery list when one has no cravings? ideas? inklings? So I went to Trader Joe's, roamed the aisles- looking, searching and hoping to stumble across something. Later that night, I found myself at home staring at my purchases waiting for the lightbulb moment. I had some bread, goat cheese, cheddar, spinach and pretty red tulips (yes, the stand next to the check out counter got me, but they were just so pretty). So I had a peanut butter-honey sandwich for dinner...boring!

Today, like many others, I spent in a tired haze. I struggled to sleep last night and woke up exhausted. Why does losing one hour always mess me up this badly? I started to think of what I could make for dinner but same ideas? Came home, grouchy and hungry, walked through the apartment building door and...ahhhh!!!! the clouds parted, the sunlight shown through, the angels started singing, the cherubs sounded the trumpets...ok, you get the point...I HAD AN IDEA!!!!

My neighbors were making something that smelled like pancakes and I was hit by a sudden craving for crepes. I made Savory Crepes with a Goat Cheese-Spinach-Ham filling. Then, in another fit of inspiration, I threw together a Cheddar-Broccoli filling. My roommate and I agree that the goat cheese filling was better. When can you ever go wrong with goat cheese? It was a delicious!

(adapted from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoon butter, melted

2 large eggs

1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Beat with hand beater until smooth.

3. Lightly butter a 6 to 8 inch frying pan. Heat over medium heat until bubbly.
4. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into frying pan. Immediately rotate frying pan until thin film covers bottom.
5. Cook until light brown. Run wide spatula around edge to loosen; turn and cook other side until light brown.

6. Stack crepes, keep covered until ready to fill.

Goat Cheese-Spinach-Ham Filling

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 cups chopped spinach
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon whip cream
1 cup chopped ham

1. Heat a tablespoon of butter into another frying pan over medium heat.
2. Sauté garlic in the butter briefly and then add the spinach. Sauté until wilted.
3. Add the goat cheese and whip cream, stir until melted.
4. Add ham and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Fill crepes.

Cheddar-Broccoli Filling

1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
1 tablespoon whip cream

1. Heat whip cream and cheddar over medium heat, until melted.
2. Stir in brocolli and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Fill crepes.

P.S. Have leftover crepes? Fill them with Nutella, jam, fresh fruit, whip cream or anything else yummy for a dessert crepes. If you want to make dessert crepes from the beginning, add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla to the recipe.

Click Here for Recipe...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

And then I found five Euro...

Happy International Women's Day!

Have you ever been half way through retelling a story and realized that your audience is bored? What do you do to redeem yourself? Well, my friends and I went through a phase where we would add "and then I found five dollars" to the end of every dull story we would tell. Whether it was true or not, finding five dollars is quite exciting. Finding five Euro is even better, given it is worth more than five dollars.

I first learned about International Women's Day, when I was living in Rome. Beautiful yellow mimosas were sold on the street to be given to one's wives, daughters, sisters and friends. My friends and I went out to dinner in celebration and then had a few drinks at our local bar. And then I found five Euro...

Wasn't that a dull story? The cool part is I really did find five Euro and I still have it as a little momento in my wallet.

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the political, economic and social achievements of women throughout the world. Regardless of your political leanings, Zorra and Fiordisale made this day fun for all cooks by sponsoring an event to celebrate.
My first dish, the Saffron Buns,
as I have already lamented, did not turn out as well as I would have liked. Thankfully, my cousin and I made Fried Cornmeal Shrimp with Butternut Squash Risotto, which helped me satisfy the requirement of this event. This dish is very yellow and very delicious. The slight garlicky crunchy shrimp complement the creamy butternut squash risotto very well. My cousin and I think that next time we will add ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper when sautéing the shallots to add a little kick. We did not change much of the recipe just a little bit here and there to fit what I already had in the pantry and make it easier to understand. Enjoy!

Fried Cornmeal Shrimp with Butternut Squash Ravioli
(from Bon Appetit through

1 1 3/4- to 2-pound butternut squash (or one 20 ounce pre-cut butternut squash package)

3/4 cup uncooked large shrimp , peeled, deveined
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, smashed

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups chicken broth
2 chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine

Vegetable oil (for frying)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce squash several times. Place on baking sheet; roast until tender, about 1 hour (if using the precut, roast for about 30 minutes until tender). Cool. Cut squash in half; discard seeds. Scoop flesh into processor. Puree until smooth. I prefer it a mix of smooth and still kind of chunky.

Place shrimp, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 smashed garlic cloves in large resealable plastic bag; turn to coat. Chill 2 to 3 hours.

Stir cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Add shrimp; toss. Arrange in single layer on large plate.

Bring broth to simmer in heavy small saucepan; reduce heat to low and keep hot. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and 2 teaspoons thyme; stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add wine; stir until almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 cup hot broth and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding hot broth 1 cup at a time and stirring frequently until rice is almost tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, add enough vegetable oil to heavy large skillet to reach depth of 1/4 inch. Heat oil over high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry shrimp until golden brown and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

Add butternut squash puree to risotto and stir until rice is tender but still firm, about 2 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and remaining 2 teaspoons thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

P.S. Check out the other great yellow dishes here in honor of International Women's Day!

International Women's Day

Click Here for Recipe...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


This is my first official documented disaster. Well, disaster is a strong word, let's use mishap, shall we? In celebration of International Women's Day on Saturday, Zorra and Fiordisale organized an event where one must make a dish with yellow. I immediately thought of saffron.

Saffron is a spice used to flavor and color food with a golden-yellow shade. Also, saffron to me has always had a strong link to women. I remember in my old Latin class writing a paper about Roman weddings where the woman would wear saffron colored clothing. The first time I ate a dish with saffron, I met an interesting Iranian woman, whose experiences give reason for International Women's Day. Saffron even comes from the female part of a certain crocuses plant, the stigmas. Somehow saffron always has an association with women and so seemed like an appropriate spice to use for this event.

After deciding upon saffron as my main spice, I looked for a recipe that I could make from the ingredients in my pantry, ever the thrifty cook. I only have some saffron because my mother gave me a little of hers. Anyway, I stumbled across Saffron Buns at Muffin Top and those seemed like they would work. I mixed and kneaded, watching the saffron bleed into the dough going from red to golden yellow. It was beautiful. Then I waited and waited and waited and waited. The dough would not rise enough! Finally, frustrated, I formed the dough into small buns and set them aside for the second rising. Again, I waited and waited and waited and waited. But, they would not rise enough! I ended up baking them and they turned out fairly well, a little dense. Also, they are not a true yellow- I think I was too stingy with my saffron. Given these mishaps, I decided not to enter these into the International Women's Day event, but stay tuned...on Saturday, I do have something tasty!

Saffron Buns
(From the King Arthur Four Website through the Muffin Top)

1/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 to 3 1/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 egg white beaten lightly with a teaspoon of water

1. Combine the hot water and saffron, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the saffron.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the saffron water, milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour.
3. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
4. Knead the dough (for about 15 minutes by hand, 12 minutes in an electric mixer, 90 seconds in a food processor, or in your bread machine using the dough cycle), then set it aside to rise till puffy (but not necessarily doubled in bulk), about 2 hours (Mine took about 3 hours- see P.S.)
5. Punch the dough down, and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
6. Divide the dough into 16 pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls fairly close together (but not touching) in a greased 9 x 13-inch pan, cover them, and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until they’re puffy (again, it took about 2 ½ hours).
7. Glaze the buns with the beaten egg white, and sprinkle them heavily with sugar (recipe calls for pearl sugar but normal superfine worked well).
8. Bake them in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. (Watch them closely at the end; because of their high sugar content, they tend to brown quickly.)

P.S. Why did it take so long to rise? I misread the recipe and used Active Yeast instead of instant yeast. Instant yeast does not need to be proofed and still rises well. Recently, Allen of Cooking Out Loud explored how one could make the substitution but just increasing the temperature of the liquids. Next time I would either dissolve the saffron in 1/8 cup of hot water and the yeast in 1/8 cup warm water or warm the milk slightly before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. I would probably stick to the first method because by proofing, I would make sure I did not kill the yeast (my greatest fear!). I believe that it will not change the outcome significantly but I have not had a chance to test it yet. Regardless, if you are patient or use the correct kind of yeast, the recipe makes some delicious sweet buns.

International Women's Day

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Two Hot Women and a Quickish Dinner

Yes, this post is about two hot women with a delicious dinner thrown in to keep your interest. The first hot woman is me, as LyB of And then I do the dishes tagged me with a meme and so I must tell you 7 things about myself. I say hot because after cooking I am normally sweltering. Coming up with seven things is alot harder than I would have thought, so here goes (they are very random):

1. I love art! I tend to crave art exhibits almost as badly as I do chocolate. Thankfully, I live in DC and can see many wonderful exhibits downtown. After my JD, I hope to get my Masters in Art History.
2. I hate Ketchup, which makes me feel very un-American. But I love peanut butter on hot dog buns, so that slightly redeems me.
3. I bite my nails. It is a horrible habit that is only stopped if I get regular manicures, which you know my wallet and time allow frequently. haha!
4. I am not very big into reality tv (although, I will watch it occasionally) but I will not miss Project Runway or Top Chef. They are both fabulous. I love the creativity and ideas to come out of them
5. I cartwheel and do handstands often! Cartwheels express my excitement and happiness, while handstands calm me.
6. I am desperately afraid of serving undercooked chicken and so I am very anal when cooking it. Regardless of the meat temperature, I must always slice it open to check it and cover the cut with lots of sauce.
7. I love making souffles, as in, it is quite the obsession. I prefer chocolate ones, which I eat with a glass of champagne...there is something about the bubbles of the champagne and the fluff of the souffle that I just love. (My roommate added this one when I was struggling to come up with more).

“7 Things” Meme How To:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs
5. Have fun!

Laura of Lazy Susin
Kevin of Closet Cooking
Mandy of Fresh from the Oven
Ilva of Lucullian Delights
Deborah of Taste and Tell

And now for that good dinner and the other hot woman. Santa brought me Padma Lakshmi's Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day. In honor of Top Chef starting next week, as she is the host of the show, I decided it was time to tackle a recipe from her. I tried Chicken A La Nueces De La India. It was delicious! I substituted peanuts for cashews and made it for two people. It only took about 45 minutes to make and served with rice and wilted spinach made an excellent meal. The cookbook is beautifully written, the recipes are easy to follow and her cooking philosophy is very similar to my own. She also gives tips, which are helpful (for example, see step 1). I cannot wait to try something else from her cookbook like, Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

Chicken A La Nueces De La India
(adapted from Padma Lakshmi's Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipe for Every Day)

5 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup flour for dusting on a dinner plate
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, pureed into powder
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme (I used dry not fresh)
1 cup chicken stock (we ran out and a chicken bouillon dissolved in water worked well)
1 1/2 tablespoon honey

1. Pound chicken breast flat and thin into cutlets, to about 1 inch thickness. Do this by using plastic wrap to cover the chicken and pound with a mallet or meat tenderizer, even the back of a heavy metal ladle or large serving spoon will work.
2. Lightly sprinkle each side of the cutlets with salt and pepper.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat in a skillet.
4. Lightly dredge each side of all chicken pieces in flour to coat with just a light dusting. Shake off any excess.
5. When oil is hot, sauté chicken single file, don't crowd the pan until lightly browned on both sides and cook through. When chicken is done, transfer to a large platter, and keep warm and covered.
6. Puree peanuts in a blender or processor to form a powder and set aside.
7. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil on medium heat in another skillet. When oil is hot, sauté garlic and shallots for 2 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and thyme and cook for 1-2 more minutes, just until shallots are glassy.
8. Pour in chicken stock. Add honey and stir until this comes to a gentle bubbling boil.
9. Turn heat to a medium low and carefully stir in powdered peanuts, stirring vigorously so no clumps are formed. Now turn heat to low, and let the sauce become a gravy-like consistency. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Keep the sauce warm on low heat, adding a bit more stock if needed so it doesn't become too thick.

10. Return chicken to skillet on medium low just until meat is heated through. Now pour sauce over the chicken and serve hot. The chicken can also be plated and the sauce can be poured over that just before serving.

P.S. This is such a long post, I have nothing more to say. Enjoy!

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