Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mushrooms & Biscuits & Burgers...Oh My!

Breakfast of Champions~I'm all over a new shopping experience. Taking advantage of wheels beyond my ususal two (one of which is currently flat) AND a day off yesterday, I did what I always do when I got me a car is head on down to Target.
Though this is pretty routine for me to do a big cosmetics run (it's more of an excuse to go to Fresh Choice) , it was the first time I explored the relatively new grocery store. I was all "whatever" until...Baby portabellas!?!?! on sale for 99 CENTS?!? ooh! ooh! ooh! (think Horshack) I actually ran back to the front of the store to get a cart, 'Shrooms are my current obsession if you haven't figured that out so even though I had a fridge full of giant portabellas queued up for the bourguignon, I had to purchase these babies. It was all I could do to limit myself to two, my own limit but also the limitation of the fridge at the house. It was already unusually full but it's been like Jenga in there since moving over my perishables and shopping. Yet I couldn't help but think of Jamies Bacon and Mushroom Cream so I immediately went in search of bacon and heavy cream. The first  (and only)  time I made the recipe I omitted the bacon...just forgot to buy it. I loooove me some bacon but I don't buy it or cook it's one of my trigger foods. The previous attempt was delish without but I hate omissions and substitutions the first time out with a recipe. Since then though I latched onto a great tip from Cooks Illustrateds 834 Kitchen Quick Tips: Freezing bacon. Separate the strips and roll each one up and drop them in a freezer bag. Done.
I made the Bacon and Mushroom Cream for breakfast.
This house has a stovetop with a grill in the middle. I brought over some biscuits I had frozen, bought some ground chuck on sale at Target and grilled up a couple of sliders to top my freshly baked biscuits, heated up some of last nights bourguignon and spooned each 'shroomy sauce on top of its very own slider and voila! a seriously gorgeous take on biscuits and gravy, the smoky crunch of the charred burger puts it right over the top. I'm basking in the afterglow this very minute...aaahhh...oh yeah...channeling my inner Anthony Bourdain now...feeling very hedonistic...indulgent...gluttonous...satiated...what...ever. I almost want a glass of red wine and it's not even noon...and a cigarette....
OK, I'm back
The sun came out and I need to embrace it because though I do enjoy hunkering indoors on a rainy day cooking, drinking, watching movies or tooling around the internet (yay! wifi in da house) watching my favorite Live From Daryls House, I'm goin' a tad stir crazy. Between the holiday and weather related lethargy and using the car I'm getting seriously sluggish. Reminds me I gotta take the bike to get the flat fixed. I need to get pedalin' again especially after a meal like I just had.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mushroom Bourguignon

Mushroom Bourguignon, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Arrrrrggggggggggh! Damn post disappeared before I got a chance to send it.
So. I was going on about my newly discovered love of the 'shroom. I had another epiphany with the same joy/sorrow head smacking episode I had with the whole freezer-cookie dough regret that I was sooooo late to the party.
Mushrooms. I just never knew how good they could be. They've always taken a back seat to the few dishes I ever used them for. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Well thats all changed now.
First it was SK's Mushroom Lasagne, then the Bacon and Mushroom Cream from Jamie Olivers Kitchen Revolution, then it was SK's Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms and then Dorie Greenspans Mushroom and Shallot Quiche  now this. Mushroom Bourguignon, another, need I say, Smitten Kitchen glory. This was my first time with the portabello, a mushroom that well, really, just scared me. So big and uhm, mushroomy. While I'm admitting to my emergence from a culinary wasteland I'll also admit that this is the first time I've cooked with red wine. I've never particularly liked red wine. This goes back to a bad episode in my misspent youth for the same reason tequila was banished into a nearly 20 year exile. Get the picture?
Over the last couple of years or so I've managed to choke down consume a little red wine now and again when on the rare trip to the local vineyards or there was nothing else to drink or as not to appear a total heathen at a social gathering where red wine was served at a dinner table to accompany a red meat dish. Now I understand what all the fuss is about.
On Christmas Eve at Little Sister Kitchen I was educated on the aeration of red wine and the concept of letting the wine breathe. OK, now I get it. Thus I ventured. This recipe surprised me the other day (SK's feature where with a click a random recipe will pop up) I was gung ho to give it a go. I did a little research on buying and cooking with red wine and bought two different bottles to experiment with. I did not go for the Two Buck Chuck as I most certainly would have done a year ago.
Thus I set up my own little taste test: Smart & Final had a Barefoot Cab on sale for $7 and Target had a Yellowtail Shiraz on sale for $5. I opened both up and let them breathe for about an hour, poured a little taster in each glass observing the color: the Cab was a little darker-meaning more rested I think. Tasting, the Barefoot seemed a slightly bitter compared to the shiraz so into the pot went the shiraz as of course everyone knows never to cook with a wine you won't drink. Not that the cab was bad but the shiraz was lovely. Smooth and sweet. Sold! AND bestest yet, it was the least expensive of the two. Hey! it's not Two-Buck Chuck.
The upshot of all of this is that not only did I get a little education and again ventured out of my comfort zone I created another winner... the Mushroom Bourguignon is a triumph! Wooohooo. I topped the gorgeous rich  mahogany stew onto some egg noodles with a little crema fresca and some chopped cilantro and well, just bliss. Mushrooms and red wine. Who knew? Clearly everyone except me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

CookiePalooza Part Deux

I always get a little misty around this time remembering the early days of my baking. The weeks prior to  Christmas, mom would break out the Betty Crocker Cooky Book along with the cookie press then endless trays of overly decorated sugar bombs would come bursting out of the kitchen and assembled onto dozens of plates and wrapped up to be foisted upon good neighbors and any one who walked in our door.
Some things never change. Hundreds of cookies have been baked over the last two weeks which were meticulously arranged onto the plastic christmas tree and santa trays snatched up from Walgreens for pennies on the dollar in the days after Christmas in years gone by when the sad picked over shelves are making way for Valentine hearts 'n flowers.
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Sunday, December 19, 2010


Baking, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I've been hearing the "Hallelujah Chorus" playing in my head since last night whilst baking up the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. There's that amazing feeling you get when you have an epiphany then...
the downside, Why? oh why? did I not think of this sooner? I've spent the last 10 years torturing myself during Christmas week by this crazy need to deliver fresh baked cookies to all my friends and loved ones as close to the 25th as possible. Three different cookies. I thought about freezing the cookies last year but that just seemed so wrong on so many levels but freezing the pre-baked cookies!?! That's just brilliant! I can have fresh baked cookies whenever I want them.
I got all the doughs made up and cookies formed in two short evenings earlier this week. Froze the first two batches and left the thumbprint batch wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer. It was so much easier and less messy to roll the cold dough into balls, they're also a lot firmer and toss around in the egg white and crushed nuts quicker because they're not as delicate and then they're really quick to "thumbprint".
I've still got gougeres and scones in the freezer too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Bread?

Toast, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Breakfast seems to boggle me sometimes. I know I gotta eat it and I'm usually always hungry whilst getting ready to head off to work, but I stare in to the refrigerator and just can't find my breakfast muse.
This week I'm luckily loaded with home made bread that must be used up pretty soon...time for some more kale and toasty tuscan croutons. Anyhoo...yesterday I tossed a couple of slices on the grill pan (no oil or butter), then some shredded cheddar and two eggs scrambled up with some fresh basil and finally salsa!
This is an awesome easy breakfast, unless you're making your own bread. Yet even then, through all the ups and downs of the breadmaking process, I bought more bread flour at Whole Foods last night.
Not that there will be much time for bread this week. Christmas is a week from today and I've not done a damn thing...well that's not entirely true. I'm trying to get a jump on the cookie cookery by making everything up just to the baking point and then freezing.
As usual I've made the chocolate thumbprints, Mexican Wedding Cakes and Chocolate Chip Cookies. The big changeup is the chocolate chip recipe came from Amateur Gourmet/Top Chef this year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dutch Oven Boule!

Bread!, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
For some crazy reason I've been wanting to bake bread...and for the life of me I can't figure out why. Is it the challenge of its complexity? Its various variables and all that can go wrong? Why would I attempt such an arduous task without the aid of a Kitchen Aid and a dough hook?
I picked up Ruhlmans Ratio a few weeks ago and it's pretty much been with me every day. Bread is the first chapter and he makes it sound so easy once you've figured out the ratio. 5 parts flour to 3 parts water, add a little yeast and salt and you've turned glue into bliss.
The key to the kneading is clear. Tear off a small hunk of dough and if you can stretch a small square to translucency you're done. Yeah...well a half hour of kneading later it still hadn't gotten to that point and I just let it go and put it in the pot anyway.
I left it to rise in the dutch oven on the stovetop for the rest of the afternoon as I went out about my business and came back to plump mound of dough in my pot. Perhaps a little too much? I guess the pilot gives it enough heat to double in half that time. It had more than doubled. Rulhman says that if it rises too much it'll be harder to rise the second time. First rise can also happen in the refrigerator if you want to leave it overnight. I punched it down rounded it out again, slashed an X and spread some olive oil over it and topped it with a little salt and let it rise for another hour and a half.
It baked in the dutch oven for 30 with the lid then 30 without. I checked it after 15 minutes and it looked like the dough around the slashes seemed a tad raw, so I left it in until the top was golden and crispy looking. When I dumped it out of the pot the bottom was burnt though 10 minutes too long perhaps? Once it cooled down some I sliced off a hunk and tore into it. The top was a little too salty and the bread was a little more dense than I would have liked but it tasted really good.
Was it worth it? Yeah it was. I made bread! That's no easy feat. Some lessons learned. I made some mistakes but it ended up tasting pretty good for a first go. I want to explore the variables and see if I can get this right. The density of this boule made up a pretty good grilled cheese sandwich yesterday. Last night I buttered some up to have with my butternut squash soup.
I got a good upper body workout too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dreamy Cream Scones

Dreamy Cream Scones, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I bought some heavy cream the other day to make the Mushroom and Shallot Quiche and as usual had leftover. That seems to happen whenever I buy heavy cream. I become really, really sad dumping that money down the drain 'cuz heavy cream ain't cheap. Fresh baked scones anyone?.
I got this recipe a while back from Smitten Kitchen which she got via Americas Test Kitchen. Those are my two favorite foodie sites. ATK is a little more basic and they do have a tendency to complicate the waffle but the results are always worth the effort. I do have a peeve about the whole Cooks Illustrated Country Test Kitchen empire. The two magazines & the three websites must be subscribed to separately and there doesn't seem to be any discounting for cross over or multiple subscriptions. They're each about $25 a pop. Then there are the multiple books and DVD's. There's a lot of repetition but enough individuality to lure in the addict.That's where the foodie friends come in handy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It Starts with the Tart now I'm about six months into my I Heart the Veg cookery ummmn what? lifestyle? awareness? smackdown? I was gonna call it the Veggie Challenge but it's not so much a challenge anymore. It's pretty damn easy actually and I'm actually digging all this cooking and baking. Now I just gotta get my ass back to Weight Watchers and see how well (or not) I'm managing these kitchen forays into my life and health. So far the clothes are still fitting comfortably so I'm not really feeling any urgency...yet. I do sorta miss the meetings. There are some new changes in the program that I'm curious about, but I think it all comes down to The Veg. Zero points for most fruits and veg, but I suspect their adding more points elsewhere. All that managing, worrying and questioning of point values is so tedious and the time it takes up in meetings is punishing. I take a note from Sam the Cooking Guy on the lo-cal aspect of his recipes: if it says it serves 4 it serves 4. Portion. Portion. Portion.
So here's a little goodie from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Before I almost had to have the library come and pry this book outta my hands, I challenged myself to pick 10 recipes to copy and make. I had 30+ marked but in a rare attempt to face reality I knew recipe collection is not the goal.
I started with the tart. I got what I think is the perfect sized tart pan at Kamei last week. It's a 7" pan. The recipe calls for a 9-9 1/2" pan so I was left with some extra tart dough and some extra cream and egg mix when this was done but I got all the shrooms in there. Perhaps I will attempt a note from Ruhlmans Ratio and see if I can mathematically scale this down to fit my pan.
I made the tart shell the night before and froze it though there was really no need to do that as the shell will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Dorie recommends freezing the shaped tart in the pan, thus requiring more pans if one should become a big fan of the tart. Well this one was so good that I may just do this. This pan was $4.
I partially baked the tart while I was cooking up the shrooms and shallots with some thyme. Thyme is also sprinkled on the bottom of the crust before adding the shrooms. Cream and egg mix gets poured on top then scallions and cheese get sprinkled on top then it gets baked for 30-35 mins.
This was really good...welcome another new addition to the Little Kitchen arsenal.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Rainy Day at Home

I'm not sure what's going on with crazy picasa collage blogging thing but I'll just go with it.
A rainy day with nothing to do but tool around in the kitchen and eight episodes of The Amazing Race? How cool is that. I can't remember the last time I stayed in the house ALL day. I usually get a little squirrely around four and need to get to Tia's somehow someway. I thought about it but nothing seemed worth getting all wet over and the kitchen needed me. I started off dusting off the old waffle maker. I think I use this once a year. I had a recipe from ATK for The Best Waffles Ever. As ATK tends to do it complicated the process with the folding in of stiffly beaten egg whites, but since I had nothing but time I did it and got some really fluffy waffles. Nice! One happy accident was after messing the crap outta my waffle iron with oozing batter, then an under calculation the next time I really like the visual effect of lacier misshapen waffles. I still haven't cleaned off the waffle iron yet.
Next up was butternut squash soup. I had a ton of sage to try to save as it was wilting badly. My kitchen smelled great though. This soup recipe contained sage and maybe that's what made this batch the best batch of all? I'm not sure. One little note I lifted from an ATK version was to simmer the seeds and stringy insides into a little stock. I added some rosemary sprigs and thyme sprigs to about two cups of water, had I thought about it in time I would have let it simmer longer to get more flavor out of the herbs.
Next up were the Gougeres from Dorie Greenspans Around My French Table. Omigosh these cheesy little puff pastries were like little bites of heaven. I baked a tray of a dozen then froze the shaped dough drops for another time. I ate all of them. They were perfect for scooping up soup. Awesome!

The kitchen day rocked!
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Little French Cooking

I had to use up the kale I bought at the farmers market on Sunday so I made up the Tuscan Kale Salad again. I took a note from Jamie Oliver and started saving my jam jars to make up salad dressing. Perfect!
I almost tossed some stale bagette and remembered the croutons, fished the foil wrapped heel outta the garbage, chopped and tossed it in some olive oil then onto the grill pan and voila!

I'd been sitting on this recipe from Dorie Greenspans book. Endives, Apples and Grapes. Oh My! I started off at the farmers market on Sunday when I found the grapes for $1.50 a pound. I don't buy grapes a lot but that seemed like a reasonable price. I got some fuji apples for 75 cents a pound another good deal as I've been seeing them at Richmond Produce for 99 cents I think. The only element that was eluding me was the endive. I've only ever bought it one other time and I recall being a little put off by the when I couldn't find it I figured it was a seasonal thing and I almost gave up thinking that it wouldn't be worth a back track to Whole Foods. I gave it one last shot at the little corner market at 25th & Clement and there it was. I think it was $3.49 a pound but two plump endives don't weigh much so I ended up paying about $1.80 for the two.
Got everything home and cooked it all up thinking "This is the weirdest recipe, cooking grapes and endive?" but then I reminded myself of the awesome grape foccacia and the brilliance of Dorie. No worries. It's all good.The result? Not so good. The grapes and apples were nice but the endive? uhmnn...not loving it. I kept eating, trying to identify it's wrongness. Bitter and bland...can those two things happen at the same time? and the texture...just floppy and unappealing. Oh well...moving on. So far 2 outta 3 ain't bad. The carrots and the gougeres were amazing.

So many more recipes to try. Before returning the book, I picked 10 recipes to copy. I want to make a tart. Well first there's a mushroom and shallot quiche that starts in a tart shell. I bought a new tart pan at Kamei the other day. Tart's it is!
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Heart of the City

I love this farmers market. It's called The Heart of the City Farmers Market and it operates on Sunday and Wednesday at the Civic Center or The United Nations Plaza more specifically. It's a lot smaller in Winter of course, but it's such an amazing resource and I'm loving the awareness of seasonal produce. This is a whole new source of inspiration.
Lately I've been drawn to all these recipes I'm seeing using squash and apples. The soups and risottos...oh my. I'm also seeing sage pop up frequently. I've never used sage before so of course off I go...after what was appearing to be a fruitless search I find a basket full of these amazing smelling branches. It didn't look like the sage I'm used to seeing at Whole Foods in those little plastic boxes and though I'm not that familiar with the scent of sage, I was pretty sure that's what it was. White sage as it turns out. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it but for two dollars it filled up my market basket and if I only get a couple of days of a dreamy smelling kitchen it's all good.
I've saved and scratched out a couple of recipes using sage so for the next couple of days I'm All About Sage.
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Turkey Burger Pita

So many recipes, so little time...
I don't have cable so I can't watch the foodie shows. That's probably a good thing because I'd have them on all the time. I used to catch a couple in the morning when I was at work but the new boss put the kibosh on that. Go figure.
I found this amazing turkey burger on Elie Kriegers show. The turkey meat is mixed up with panko breadcrumbs and a bunch of herbs-mint, parsley and some dill I think, then formed into thin patties which are then stuffed by sandwiching a sauteed onion & spinach mix ( with some feta added in after) together to form a big fat turkey burger.
Then I mixed up a little tzatziki and stuffed it all inside a pita with some cucumber, tomato and a bit of basil. It's as awesome as it is messy, but lordy it is bliss.
I wish I'd found something like this when I was in Greece, well I did I's called souvlaki.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I made a big pot of this chili the day before Thanksgiving and even though I gave almost half of it away, I finished off my remainder within a couple of days. Whilst passing by the meat case on my way to the fat-free yogurt at Whole Foods the other day, I noticed they had lean ground beef for $2.99/lb. and I knew that this chili was once again to make an appearance in my near future.
This was another Smitten Kitchen recipe I wrote about last month when I'd made it with her recipe for Cheddar Sour Cream Biscuits. This time I topped it on my first batch of Sweet Corn Spoonbread...the original batch that came out a little leaden firm. Since I won't toss anything, especially anything this tasty and even though I had a fresh batch of moister spoonable spoonbread I gave the heavy stuff a fitting burial-under this pile of chili, cheese and sour cream. Perfect.
This chili is not only delish but it cooks up fairly fast, about an hour all total. I've made chilis in the past that have simmered away for hours and as much as I love the smell of a kitchen with chili cooking away, the friends and family only care about the chow down and the beer.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stranger in my Kitchen

Acorn squash makes it's Little Kitchen debut. It's been posing in a pretty bowl as part of my kitchen still life for about a month now and this morning I finally attacked it with my chefs knife and some butter and brown sugar, you see, I'm trepidacious when there are strangers in my kitchen. After an hour in the oven it became a super sweet warm guest I would welcome back again. I'll try roasting it next time with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
The Sweet Corn Spoonbread was that persistent guest and I discovered it's beautiful be topped with a little butter, heated up and drizzled with a little agave nectar for breakfast. That was absolutely sublime. All that time was worth it!
The surprise guest teamed up with the late guest and that became another lovely breakfast. The surprise was the new approach to the won ton wrapper by baking it into a cracker. The late guest was the herb & goatcheese ball that had been forgotten in the freezer and missed Thanksgiving.
Then there's my special guest...unsweetened applesauce, that which did not make it into the spiced applesauce cake. This is perfect with my favorite Trader Joes fat free yogurt. The bonus with that yogurt is the containers are perfect when the Little Kitchen has to go on the road.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweet Corn Spoonbread Collage

This is how the Little Kitchen works! I'm liking the new camera and this collage feature on Picasa.
Anyhoo, I mentioned how this was a time consuming process for the Little Kitchen. The frozen corn needs to be thawed and drained (I dumped it in a collander lined with a paper towel then squeezed it out a bit. Then it goes into the dutch oven that contains the melted butter where it cooks on a medium heat to brown. That took a real long time...more than 10 minutes. Meanwhile the cornmeal has been stirred into 3/4 c. of milk and left to sit so the cornmeal gets really moist.
Once the corn is browned add the sugar, salt, cayenne and the rest of the milk (2c.). I'd run out of reduced fat milk and ended up using 2 c. of evaporated milk (1c. with 1c. water) and bring it to a boil and to simmer for a while then let it cool off a while (15 mins. instructions say) so it can go in a blender or food processor-an emersion blender is recommended a time saver and a bowl saver but that's one thing I don't have yet. Then this mixture needs to be returned to the pot and the cornmeal mix is added, then it all gets brought to the boil again...then brought down to room temp. in order to add the eggs and fold in the whipped egg white/cream of tartar mixture.
Then it all gets baked for 45 minutes. I was in the kitchen for 2 hours with this...not that there's anything wrong with that. I got much of Jamie Olivers Food Revolution marked up with little orange post-its. The upshot is that I doubt I would make this for any kind of gathering or Thanksgiving with all the other stuff going on there-as the timing needs to be spot on to get it on the table immediately before it starts to deflate. SK said hers had dropped a little in the time it took her to get her camera.
I do like the idea of it for breakfast though. Prepare the batter the night before then add the eggs and bake it in the morning. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
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