Monday, July 4, 2011

Los Gustos Oscuros

To my non-hispanohablantes out there, los gustos oscuros is parlance for  "dark pleasures." And while I think some of our minds are drifting in many different directions when we hear that term, I assure you my intentions are sincere and far from anything lewd or ignorant--you'll see why soon enough.

I've always had an obsession with Wholesome Sweetener's Organic Dark Brown Sugar, and they didn't pay me to say so. It's simply one of the darkest brown sugars out there, so far removed from the blonde "dark brown sugars" you might ordinarily find at your supermarket. If you can get your hands on some, GRAB GRAB GRAB a bag. (Or two) Your baker's pantry surely won't ever be the same! I should also mention that India Tree also has a dark muscovado sugar that's produced out of Mauritius that has a similar and still fantastic flavor profile.

The darker a sugar is, the less refined it is. Consider a sugar spectrum, where high-fructose corn syrup is  at the refined end and sugar cane at the other. The darker the sugar is, the more molasses-forward it is in its flavor profile. As bakers know, we need to strike a happy medium when it comes to natural sugars, and sometimes our best bet is the granulated white sugar if we don't have any room to tamper with tastes in a recipe.

If you've got some leeway, or are thinking about giving new life to a recipe, turning up the volume on your brown sugar is a great place to start. They're conducive to richer sugar profiles and they're less-refined process almost tricks you into thinking you're eating something healthful. (It is, gram for gram, a few calories less than granulated white) You can even tamper with the proportions of brown sugar, assuming a by-weight measurement, of course. Say for example, if a recipe calls for two cups of brown sugar, add one cup of light and one of dark. That, however, is quite an amount of sugar. I sincerely trust you're caramelizing bacon for a banquet if you're using that much.

If you thought sugar was sugar was sugar, well I suppose you're right if you want to go all chemistry on my fanny. But I happen to think there's a very happy consumer choice thing going for sugar right now, and experimenting with other forms of sugars is always a sweet experience. When and if you do take a plunge into the more molasses-y sort, a formidable, airtight jar is always a good thing and will leave you with less of those pesky sugar bullets that develop in an unsealed environment.

I think I'll save my thoughts for high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, stevia, dextrose, and saccharin for another day.

Here's to wishing you a sugary new energy in your kitchen!

Keep it classy,
<3 David

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Creamsicle Cake For Mother

I am on a blogging roll! My latest creation is a creamsicle cake for my mother's birthday (Alexis Stewart [Martha's daughter] had it on her WhateverGirls blog [and she made it for Martha's birthday]). Here's the recipe adapted from The Cake Book:

The Cake:
1 c. sifted pastry flour
1/8 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sift together the pastry flour and salt into a small bowl. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar and heat over a pan of simmering water (be sure water level is below the bottom of the bowl) until 'warm' (I'd say about hand-hot...the recipe wasn't very specific). In an electric mixer (with the whisk attachment), whip on high until tripled in volume. Then, with the mixer on low, stir in the vanilla and orange zest. By hand, sift in 1/3 the flour mixture into egg yolk mixture and fold; add the rest in two more additions. Put the butter in a small bowl and stir in 3/4 c. of the batter. Fold this mixture back into the rest of the batter. Pour into a buttered and floured 9-inch spring form baking pan (the recipe wasn't too specific about pan-type, but later on you need the spring form, so why not use the same one? If you do decide to venture out and use a regular cake pan, be sure to line the bottom with buttered, floured parchment because you don't want it to get stuck!). Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes until it springs back to the touch and tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then unmold and let cool on a rack (with the spring form, even when buttered and floured, I had to loosen the bottom with my offset spatula...just fyi..)

The Syrup:
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. orange juice (freshly squeezed)
2 tbs. Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

In a small saucepan, simmer sugar, water and orange juice until sugar is dissolved. Stir in liqueur, if using, and set aside to cool.

1/4 c. water
2 tsp gelatin
1 1/2 tbs. orange zest
3/4 c. orange juice
1/3 c. lemon juice
3/4 c. granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 tbs. Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, stir water and gelatin together and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, add orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar and yolks and heat over medium heat, whisking continuously until slightly thickened and at 180F. Take off heat, and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl set over ice water. Stir in liqueur and vanilla and stir the mixture occasionally until cool (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, whip up the heavy cream to stiff peaks. When the cake is all cool and everything else is ready, fold the orange juice mixture into the whipped cream until well blended. (it might seem like the liquidy orange juice mixture won't mix with the cream, but it will...just keep folding! And use immediately!)

With a long, serrated knife, slice the cake in half. Center one piece, cut side up, on the bottom of your 9-inch spring form pan (there will only be about half a centimeter of space around the cake, but it should be all good for the mousse to get down and around the sides of the cake).

Soak this half with half of the syrup and then pour half of the mousse over the cake. Use a spatula (small and offset, if you have it) to spread the mousse around and down into that gap on the sides. Then center the other cake half into the pan and soak with syrup (stupid me, I forgot to soak my second half...oh well...). Then pour the rest of the mousse over the cake and spread as you did before. Smooth the top and put into the refrigerator for 3 hours, until set.

(this is a looonnng recipe....)

To unmold, dip a thin flexible knife in a container of hot water, wipe and run around the edge of the pan, re-dipping and wiping as needed. If not serving immediately, return cake to the refrigerator (it melts rather quickly because of the cream).

(Clearly, I didn't spread/push the mouse down far enough...alas, mine isn't as perfect as Alexis's)

the original recipe makes candied orange peel for garnish when serving, but I didn't feel like making it.
Other notes:
-my unsoaked layer didn't seem to miss the syrup, so no harm was done.
-I went to Daiso and bought a cake box for storage within my refrigerator--only 1.50! Or go to your local Sur La Table or bakery and get one

The cake was perfect for a hot summer day, and surprisingly didn't take as long as I expected (and no need for a piping bag!).

Happy birthday, Mother!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Farmers' Market and Grandma's Garden

Friday morning = Cupertino farmer's market = me (Patty) buying a lot of food = me cooking a lot of food

My finds: little summer squash, heirloom tomatoes (how can I resist?), plums, english peas and figs. English peas, if you can buy them fresh, are a rare find (in my opinion). So, if I ever find them, I have to buy them. I just love the act of taking them out of their pods, and eating a couple of them raw while I'm at it.

So, some things I cooked with my farmers' market finds: peas with shallots and ham, boiled summer squash, panzanella and (with some stuff from Grandma's garden) a fig crisp.

The peas were simmered with a thinly sliced shallot, thick cut ham salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The squash was just boiled with a little olive oil and salt on top. I like my vegetables simple (and in large quantities).

The thing I'm most proud about, though, is my panzanella (bread salad). I saw this recipe a few years ago in Martha Stewart (circa summer 2004) and have always been meaning to make it, and I must say, it's pretty darn good. Here's my version adapted from Martha:

9 tbs olive oil
1/2 lb. Italian country bread, in 1/2 inch slices
5 garlic cloves (2 minced, three peeled and halved)
2 large heirloom tomatoes, in half inch dice
1 pint mozzarella balls (any size), in half inch dice
5 slices speck (or proscuitto. I buy speck because it's cheaper)
15 leaves basil, thinly sliced
2 tbs vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Use 3 tbs olive oil to brush on both sides of the bread and then broil in the oven until brown and crusty. Flip until the other side is brown and crusty (I also did some on a skillet, but I think my toaster oven broiler produced faster and more even browning). Rub both sides with the halved garlic, tear into bite sized pieces and throw in your [large] serving bowl.
Tear your speck into bite sized pieces and remove the fat, if you wish (I don't much care for biting into flabby matter, so I cut it off). Toss that into your bowl along with your diced tomatoes, mozz and basil.

Whisk together your remaining 6 tbs olive oil with the vinegar and minced garlic until emulsified and pour over your bread mix. Toss, season with salt and pepper and let stand for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. If you feel so inclined, you may garnish with some whole basil leaves.

Bring a bunch of people over to eat this because it makes a lot and is no good the next day. The bread gets soggier the longer you keep it and the mozzarella also loses moisture, so..just eat it all. p.s. garlic breath is an unfortunate consequence of eating this dish. bring gum
These are my pickings from grandmother's house. Her peaches are especially fuzzy (and there's some unidentified crusty matter on them..), but the skin's easy to peel off, and I used these little peaches for my fruit crisp (a bounty of summer fruit always means fruit crisps or cobblers for me) with the figs I got from the market. Unfortunately, I had to throw many of by beautiful figs away because I waited until the next day to cook them off, so they got a lil bit moldy.. But in any case, I still had enough to make my crisp. Here's the recipe (adapted from Martha):

1/2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. flour
pinch of salt
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tbs granulated sugar
4 tbs butter (oops.. In all my Martha searching, I got two recipes mixed up and used 6tbs...oh still tastes good)

Mix the dry ingredients together and then, using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to form moist clumps. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

2 pints of figs, trimmed and halved
2-3 small plums, sliced
1-2 peaches, sliced (I used 3-4 of my grandma's small white peaches, skinned)
2-3 tbs sugar
pinch of constarch
pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon
2 leaves of basil, torn (optional, for an herbaceous touch)

Whipped cream for serving [Put 1 qt. of whipped cream in a large bowl, add 2 tbs sugar and 1 tsp vanilla and whip with a whisk until soft peaks form]

Put half the figs into one bowl with the plums and the other half into the bowl with peaches. Add about a tablespoon of sugar to each, depending on the sweetness of the fruit and your taste, and add a pinch of cornstarch, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon to each. If desired, add torn basil leaves to the peach-fig mix. Toss and evenly distribute your fruit among 4 ramekins (two for each flavor) and sprinkle evenly with your topping. Bake at 375 until fruit is bubbling and topping is browned. Serve with softly whipped cream warm or at room temperature. Cobblers may be reheated at 325 for 10 minutes.

I love summer...


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cupertino Eats

At the House of Falafel (Stevens Creek and E. Estates) you will find kanafeh: a stetchy cheese dessert fried between two disks of vermicelli pastry, soaked in sugar syrup and sprinkled with ground pistachios. On the sweet side, but sooo gooood... and only 4 dollah!
Tempted much?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cocktail Time Again!

Dearest readers,

Today marks our first dually-written posting! And it's a cocktail!

So, Patty, here. I went out one evening in the East Village to this bar called 'The Blind Barber.' (One actually did enter the bar through a barbershop) After having one Hendricks and tonic, I longed for something more exotic and inventive. I then asked the bartender to shake me up something on the fly. 'What were you having before?' he inquired. 'Gin and tonic,' I replied. So he proceeded to mix up a concoction of Tanqueray, Aperol, St. Germain, lemon juice and simple syrup, pouring it into a chilled martini glass. 'So, what do you call this libation?' '.....'Uh...the Firecracker?' At any rate, we've taken the inspiration and we've spun it into what we're calling Le Marais: a nod to the infamously swishy area in Paris' 3rd arrondissement.

The gin provides a solid, botanical body while the St. Germain lends the unmistakable elderflower flavor it's famous for. The lemon juice adds a tang and cuts the sweetness, while Aperol melds everything together in its aperitify sort-of way. And the pink color is enough to make even Ina Garten blush.

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So here's how to shake up your own:

Le Marais

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2 shots Tanqueray, or your favorite gin
1 shot St. Germain
scant shot fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 shot Aperol
1/2 shot simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with some crushed ice, shake, and pour into a highball glass over ice. Serve without a garnish and sip slowly. Enjoy. Serves two.

Keep it classy, y'all!

-Davey & Patty <3

(enjoy responsibly)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Salsa Verde

Dear Blog,
It's been a while. This 4th of July 3-day weekend I made some of Alice Water's Salsa Verde (from her book "The Art Of Simple Food"). After seeing it on Chez Panisse's menu (on their website, where I gawk sometimes) so many times, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (I also had a huge bunch of parsley sitting in my refrigerator) and I must say, it is quite wonderful.
At first I thought it was just pesto made with parsley, but it's not. It's fresher and lighter in flavor and goes with pretty much anything. I suppose it's kind of like a chimichurri, but without the spices and without vinegar. Anyways, here's the recipe:

1/3 c. finely chopped parsley (leaves and small stems only)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
A few grinds of pepper
1 finely minced garlic clove
1/2 c. olive oil

Mix and taste for salt. Let sit for 1hr (or more) to let the flavors meld.
--The recipe also says 1tbs. capers, rinsed, but I didn't have any on hand, so I ommitted them. I didn't miss them, quite honestly. I also may have used more parsley and less olive oil--I wasn't too exact about the measurments and you needn't be either.

Last night I served my salsa verde with some baked flounder with lemon squeezed on top. (Adding lemon juice to the salsa verde is very good, but should be done right before serving to prevent discoloration)

Today I served my salsa verde with some angel hair pasta and two mashed poached eggs. These eggs were also sitting in my fridge and were about to expire, so I used both. It was rather rich, so I'm sure one egg would be fine. It could have also benefited from a squeeze of lemon, but, alas, I used all my lemon yesterday.

I still have 2/3 of a bunch of parsely left, so I'll probably be making more, and as should you.

Stay cool,

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Hi folks,
I made pierogis today and I was cooking from 1pm to 6pm, so...I won't be making these again--too labor intensive--but in any case, here's what I did:
(this is a Martha Stewart recipe from her April 2010 issue--her mother's recipe)
Whisk together 1 egg and 2 tbs sour cream until smooth.
Whisk in 1 c water and 1 c whole milk.
Stir in 5 c flour, one cup at a time
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough comes together. The dough will be quite sticky...try not to over-flour, though..
Let dough rest underneath an overturned bowl for 1 hour while you make your fillings:

Peel and quarter 2.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes and put into a pot of cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes until fork tender. Pass the potatoes through a ricer (or do what I did and mash with a fork) and add 4oz cream cheese and 2tbs butter, salt & pepper to taste.

Core and quarter a 3lb head of green cabbage and steam in an inch or so of water until very tender, 30-40 minutes. Let cool and pass through a meat grinder. If you don't have a meat grinder like most people, do what I did and just chop finely with a knife. Add 4oz cream cheese and 2tbs butter and salt & pepper to taste.

Roll out your dough to 1/8inch thick and cut out with a 3-inch biscuit cutter or cup. Fill with about 1tbs of filling and pinch to seal. It often looks like you have too much filling to put in such a small amount of dough, but it stretches and holes can be easily patched up with scraps. Put your finished pierogis on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a kitchen towel dusted with corn meal and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Be sure to cover your unrolled dough with plastic wrap too so it doesn't dry out.

Martha says that her mother never reused scraps, but I can't stand throwing away food, so if you haven't used up all your filling and have "run out" of unrolled dough, by all means just re-use.

I like the potato most and now I have a week's worth of lunch and dinner pierogi.. Serve with sour cream. Martha says to serve the cabbage pierogi with brown butter, but I was too exhausted and had enough dishes to clean for the night (including the table I rolled on), so I used sour cream and as far as I'm concerned, sour cream goes with anything.

In conclusion, the pierogi were delicious, but too time consuming for a student like me to make.. especially since finals are just around the corner. Also, I'm not too sure I'm a huge fan of pierogi..I like the things they're filled with, but the dough is always just too stodgy for my taste. This could be attributed to the fact that I grew up on the thin dough of Chinese dumplings and won tons..Maybe they'd taste better wrapped up in pre-made dumpling wrappers (and less time consuming too)...not sure, but I think I'm set with pierogi for the next few months..

much love,

P.S. David is in Deutschland, and appears to be MIA from the blogosphere. Here's to hoping he gets internet soon.