Monday, September 27, 2010

On the town with Freddie

I know. The last one. You're thinking, "A ceiling fan?"

I took Freddie out for an inaugural spin this weekend. Nothing fancy. I was too scared to take him anywhere until I got a camera bag, and once I walked out of the store with him nestled in the carrier I figured now was as good a time as any to get some shots. Mostly just testing the waters. I learn how to use things best by doing vs. reading so I just wandered around for an hour or so snapping shots of whatever caught my eye. Stretching my camera's legs if you will.

But I know, the ceiling fan. I don't know what it is about that shot. It was so off the cuff I don't even remember framing the shot. It was more: point, focus, shoot. But I'm obsessed! I think I just like how the whole shot has a golden hue and the camera caught the motion of the blades without it being completely blurry. Maybe this is my next calling in life? Fan photography? Somewhere out there an interior designer is agony.

Any who-dinger...for those parties interested (is anyone out there interested?) cooking is also back on my itinerary. A fall chill is finally in the air and this calls for a welcome shift in my recipe selection. So as long as work doesn't consume my life - as it threatens to this week - I should have some food posts on the horizon. Two dishes in particular. One is and old favorite of mine, which I consider to be the genesis of my passion for cooking. The second is a recipe I've had tucked away in one of my cookbooks since APRIL! I've been dying to bake this one up and, God willing, I'll have the chance to this week.

Until then..

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Freeze Frame

My oh my oh my I love this camera.
This sweetie, who henceforth will be named Freddie, won my heart over faster than you can say "shutter speed". Any sense of buyers remorse I felt in the wee hours of Sunday night have washed away. Me and this camera will be makin' a lot of sweet shots together.
A week ago I would have blogged about the who, what, where, when and why of how I came to get a camera such as this, but not tonight. No, tonight is like falling in love. You could recap everything that got you to that point of falling in love with your significant other, but frankly, who the hell cares. You're only thinking about the future. Better macro shots with food photography; deeply saturated and crisp fall foliage shoots; sweeping Italian vistas...oh the list can go on! Must go now, though. I feel the urge to do pirouettes around my room.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Edamame and Mango Salad

I got the morning off today. First on the itinerary was sleeping in as much as possible considering my bedroom window overlooks a major street (I just can't NOT have the windows open in the fall) and morning traffic is one thing I can't sleep through. I realized that this doesn't mean you actually have to get out of bed, and since I still can't run on my bum ankle I enjoyed the rainy, fall weather with a book until my stomach lured me down to the kitchen. Now, post-breakfast, I figured this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some blogging. Last time I referred to a bunch of cooking I had done over the labor day weekend, which included this asian-infused salad.
I love making salads like this because of their adaptability to whatever you have in your vegetable bin or whatever flavors you're craving at the moment. This salad, in all honesty, came to fruition because of bit of leftover jalapeño pepper I had in the fridge, which made me crave a spicy-sweet combo, which caused a special 1-ingredient stop at the grocery store for mangos which went well with the edamame I've had lying in wait in my freezer for just such an opportunity as this. About 40 minutes later I had dinner. And lunch for almost a week.

If this combo sounds good to you, I've typed up the recipe below. Take into consideration how you're going to use it, though. I'm a big fan of getting in some green and leafy veggies whenever I can, so I liked this over some spinach or dark romaine leaves and because of this I went heavy on both the flavor and volume of dressing I made. If you're planning on eating it on it's own, or as a topper to toasted slices of chewy french bread then I would dial it back. All in the quantities I listed below are a starting point. Taste, add and mix as you go. The grain you use is also equally variable. I came across a mix of grains that Kashi puts out in the grocery store the week prior so I gave that a spin. Quinoa, barley or simply some brown rice is equally interchangeable.

Also, this salad tastes great warm, but the leftovers are just as tasty served cold. If you want to prepare it ahead of time to eat later I would add a bit of lime juice into the mix, otherwise the mango juices begin to brown the whole salad - and who wants to eat a brown salad?
Edamame and Mango Salad
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 large clove garlic, minced

2 cups cooked grains
10 oz shelled edamame
1 mango, diced
2 small bell peppers, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced very small
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 bunch green onion, chopped

salt to taste

Cook grains in a large pot per their individual cooking times. Usually though, this gives you 30-50 minutes to chop everything else.
While grains are cooking away, thaw frozen edamame in some hot (but not boiling water). I do this by putting the edamame in a small colander, then putting the colander in a large bowl of hot water and letting them soak. You'll want to change out the water once in the beginning because it will cool down quickly with the frozen beans.
Next, add dressing ingredients into a small, airtight container and shake until well mixed.
Finally, combine grains, edamame, mango and veggies (except cilantro) into a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss until everything is thoroughly coated. Taste and add a little of this or a lot of that until it's just right.
Serve over a bed of greens, toasted bread or solo, garnished with some fresh cilantro.

As you can see, I also added some orange zest as an after thought. If I had any on hand, I think freshly grated ginger would have been a good addition, too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Orange Curacau Macaroons

I did a LOT of cooking over the 3 day weekend and now I have SO many recipes I want to write about! So many that I've put it off for days because I simply did not know where to start. Finally I thought, start with the most delicious! And so I give you Orange Curacau Macaroons.
But before the recipe, a bit of backstory. This was actually the third baked good I produced over the Labor Day weekend. The first was a blueberry cake that piqued my interest due to its use of molasses instead of conventional sweeteners like sugar or honey. Now, in the notes of the blog post she (Heidi) mentions that if you don't like molasses you likely won't enjoy this cake. But I had never really cooked with molasses before and my love of trying new ingredients plus a gallon sized bag of frozen blueberries in my freezer overruled any downside to this recipe. So the recipe shot up to the top of my to-make list. It turned out beautiful! But alas, I do not love molasses. (sad face) At least...I do not love molasses that much. I tried really hard to. All weekend I kept cutting little sliver-slices of the cake, taking a bit and then (over the trash can) exclaiming, "I do not like this cake!"

*Sigh* Silver lining: it gave me an idea for another cake using this same concept but with peaches and honey. Hmmmm, I have both right now...we'll see...
Next up was actually a research cake for work. As a diabetes educator and dietitian, it's part of my job to know the inter-workings of Splenda. So when a colleague of mine came to me with a one-step pineapple upside down cake recipe with some nutritional highlights (nuts, fruit and low in saturated fat) and she wanted to know if it would taste just as good to replace the sugar with splenda. Enter Kristy. This was actually great experience for me as I've never baked with splenda before. I'm all for upping the nutritional ante in recipes, but I've never really tried to fake-out sugar. I think it's the lingering Julia Child in me. Anyway, the cake tasted great - diabetics rejoice! But I screwed up this tiny little insignificant ingredient called baking powder.
This is why baking and I haven't gotten along in the past. It's too much of a science vs. an art. You miss an ingredient and your cake will taunt you for it. I imagine the Pillsbury doughboy turning his nose up in disgust, cock his chef's hat back and march out of my kitchen on his nubby, doughy legs only to stop, turn his head back to look at me with the slightest tinge of pity/disdain and then walk out of my life forever. Whatever. Go knead yourself dough boy. Did you SEE my recent lattice work? Not that I completely missed the baking powder. I just didn't have the recipe on me and figured I could do it from memory. If I were cooking, this thought process would have worked I tell you! It would have worked!!!!

Sooooo anyway. I needed a baking boost. A reminder that I knew what the heck I was doing. And these macaroons saved me from the brink, because they are gooooooooooooooooooood. And by good I mean GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! They are a bright, sweet orange flavor, which I keep getting a wiff of every time I open up the container I'm keeping them in. Four out of four taste testers agreed, these cookies are frickin' delectable. They melt in your mouth like pillows of wonderfulness. Mmm! The sweet taste of success!

OK, so the recipe. I got the idea from Heidi's Limoncello Macaroons which she riffed off of Patrick Lemble's Pinched Orange Macaroons. Since I already had a bottle of curacao from a trip to Curacao two years ago sitting in my pantry my batch turned out to be an orange version somewhere between the two of theirs. I had been waiting for a good reason to use the curacao, but since I'm not a huge fan of fruity, umbrella drinks that occasion never seemed to arrive. This, however, seemed like the perfect reason. Side note: did you know that true curacao only can be purchased in Curacao? They don't export the stuff. Everything we buy here in the US is a knock off. Kind of like buying "champagne" made in California. And one final note, if you've never used almond paste before, you can make it from scratch, or find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
Orange Curacao Macaroons

14 oz (or two 8 oz cans if that's what you can find) almond paste
1 large egg white
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 + ~1/4 cup powdered sugar + LOTS more for counter and coating
1 Tbsp curacao
Zest of 1 orange (~ 1 heaping Tbsp)
1/2 tsp fine grain salt (i.e. not kosher)

Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In large bowl use mixer to beat together almond paste, egg, almond extract and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy. Next add in liquor, zest and salt and beat until well combined. Now gauge your dough. You want it to be sticky, but not the completely unworkable sort of sticky. If it's too much of the latter, add a couple of tablespoons of the reserve powdered sugar at a time until the dough is still quite sticky, but not oozing.

Heavily "flour" your counter with some of the reserve powdered sugar and get out a flat, clean knife. You'll use this to cut the rolled dough into 3/4-1" pieces. I used a metal icing spatula, but a bread spatula or even a non-serrated butter knife would work well.

Break your dough into fourths and, one at a time, roll it out on your sugared countertop until the rolls are approximately 1" in diameter. You can do half the dough at once, but considering the tackiness of the dough I feel it's MUCH more manageable in smaller chunks. Keep dusting the countertop with extra powdered sugar as needed. I found I needed much more powdered sugar than I would have expected due to keep the dough from sticking to counter.

Once you have a section of dough rolled out, use your knife to cut it into 3/4-1" pieces with a quick sweeping motion. If your knife starts to stick into your dough, coat it with a bit of sugar as you go, which will help. Transfer all your macaroons to your baking sheets and let rest for 30 minutes.

You'll likely use this time to reclaim your countertop.

After 30 minutes, you can either bake the macaroons as is, or use a light 3-finger pinch to shape the cookies into a rounded pyramid. Let bake for 15 minutes or until a light golden-brown color. Remove from oven and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Makes approximately 4 dozen macaroons.