Monday, May 28, 2012

Healthier Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev -- butter filled fried breasts of chicken -- deserved its fashionable status in mid-century America based on taste.   But in another sense it deserves its contemporary degraded status as food for hospitals and bad dorm cafeterias.   Tasty the classic recipe may be, but unhealthy is also is.      

Fortunately, Jacques Pepin has a solution.   The lovely and gifted Ms. Garlic purchased his new Essential Pepin for my birthday, and the title ain't lyin'.   Among the book's many virtues is that Pepin has a good instinct for knowing when tweaks to classic dishes can eliminate fat and calories without major sacrifices of flavor.   His updated Chicken Kiev -- baked, not fried, and with a filling from which butter can be reduced to taste -- is a perfect example.

Nor is it difficult.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.    Melt a little butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add one large or two small diced white onions.   Saute for a couple minutes.   Add 2-3 cups of chopped mushrooms.    Add some salt and fresh pepper.   Then add 4-5 cloves of minced garlic and a chopper herb of your choice.  (The recipe calls for cilantro; since I'm a cilantrophobe, I would use tarragon or parsley.)   After the mushrooms have substantially reduced, remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Butterfly boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pound relatively thin.   Set up a breading assembly line, with seasoned bread crumbs and a lightly beaten egg.    Put some filling into the center of the breast, fold over, insert a toothpick if desired, wash with the egg and then cover in bread crumbs.   Place on a baking sheet and repeat as many times as necessary.    Bake for 20-25 minutes.   Reserve any leftover onion and mushroom filling; it makes a nice topping for the chicken and/or your vegetable sides.

We served them with roasted asparagus and potatoes, and it was delicious:

Definitely a keeper; a proof that classics can be made healthier without losing their soul.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homemade Veggie Burgers

I am always on the hunt for lunch ideas to eat at the office. My last idea was wrap sandwiches and that worked out great for a while. On our plane back from D.C. this week, I bought a Martha Stewart publication "Whole Living". It is like "Living" but without the crafts and with more of a focus on health. I read in the magazine about quinoa and kidney beans veggie burgers. I am always looking for ways to use up things in our pantry, and if I can turn things we just have sitting around into healthy and readily available lunches, than my week is all the better. I didn't follow the recipe exactly. After a bit of Googling I found this recipe, and it seemed a bit like making meatballs only with vegetarian ingredients. I cooked up some red quinoa we purchased at the NutBox in Brooklyn (love that place). I cooked up some kidney beans we got way back from our CSA in the fall. I cut off some scallions from my totally awesome scallion plant I got from my friend Jessica at the food swap. I sauteed some garlic, sweet peppers, and the scallions and stirred that into the red quinoa, and beans, and added some eggs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and homemade hot sauce. You want it wet enough to come together but not too, too sticky. If it is too dry or sticky you can add more eggs or bread crumbs. I formed them into balls and crushed them into patties. Then, 400 degrees for about 20 minutes in the oven or until they looked drier, not sticky, and held together. And voila!

I was vegetarian when I was a teenager (so was my sister), and my mother would always complain how expensive veggie burgers were. Well, I am here to tell you that they are not hard to make and can use very cheap ingredients like beans, eggs, and grains. Now I can eat them in sandwiches with a bit of mayo, lettuce and tomato, or I can just heat them up and eat them on their own. I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer, so I'll never have a moment where I don't have anything to eat for lunch at work. A little bit brilliant if I do say so myself!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Owney, the Postal Dog

Did you know that the mascot of the U.S. Postal Service is from Albany, NY? Yep, it is Owney the dog, and he loved the smell of postal bags. You can learn all about him at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

Here I am with a statue of him.


Here is a video. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May Food Swap and South End Tavern

Today I want to the food swap with the From Scratch Club in Troy. It was on Saturday instead of Sunday to be part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day. I juiced 31 lemons to make 6 bottles of lavender lemonade. Check out the recipe on Joy the Baker. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of my bottles of lemonade or my piles of lemons I juiced, but I can say the very cool bottles I got were from Christmas Tree Shops ($1.99). The recipe is incredibly delicious. I juiced about 18 more lemons for my sample jug. I had extra from that batch and sat around drinking that, watching not very good movies (One Day and half of Horrible Bosses), and watching my coworkers Cheasapeake Retrievers last night. It was pure heaven.

Without bragging too much, this item was ridiculously, almost overwhelmingly, popular. Other ideas I had for this time were: fresh pasta, oyster crackers, BBQ sauce, and ice cream. But once I read the lavender lemonade recipe on Joy the Baker a couple weeks ago, it just really spoke to me. The recipe is simple and elegant. Sometimes the best recipes only have a few ingredients. Also, all of my going around town talking about the food swaps has attracted some friends and friends of friends. It is starting to feel more like a party than like me in a room with strangers hoping they like what I made. In the middle of a fascinating cake decorating story, I had to remind myself we were supposed to be looking at the items on display and not just socializing the whole time. I also brought some frozen packages of snow geese breasts my coworker's husband hunted in the wild near Plattsburgh, NY. I wasn't sure how these would go or not with all the vegans at the swaps, but I thought it wouldn't have been a big deal if I took them back with me (they turned out to be popular).

So check out what I got for my refreshing, light, and summery beverage and my wild goose breasts:

I got: vanilla blueberry vodka, a homemade dishtowel, scallions that grow back continually as you cut pieces off of them, tomato relish, baked curry tofu with tahini sauce, rhubarb syrup (seems good for cocktails), lavender soap, a body butter from Joy of the Journey Farm, and delicious lighter than air Italian cookies. The cookies are fabulous. I just now mixed some of the blueberry vodka with some seltzer, and it is very refreshing.

Then, my friend Jessica and I rounded up our men and went to the South End Tavern in order to continue  the Tour de Kitsch that started with the Red Lobster trip.Scott and I have been talking about the fascinating Ladies Entrance ever since he first went to a wine tasting party at Jessica's house a couple years ago.

Here we are in front of the awesome signs:

We had some tasty fish fry sandwiches. Jessica had the "Augie" which had a tasty secret sauce (I think it might have also had roast beef and coleslaw in the sandwich), and her boyfriend had the BLT club sandwich, which was like a regular club sandwich but with more bacon instead of the turkey. Scott had a Sam Adams and the rest of us had Blue Moons (that might tell you how not very exciting the beer list is, but whatever). I liked this place. It was comfortable with a historical feeling. It reminded me of Negri's Italian Dinners that we went to on our honeymoon in Sonoma County. Both places have a bar and dining room in separate rooms and feel like they came out of a different time period entirely. The separate Ladies Entrance creates the opportunity for many jokes based on who walks in there (and because their bathroom signs are easily missed).

All in all, good times!

Albany, NY: Its better than Meadville, PA

It is hard to believe we have almost lived here for three years. Anyone who has seen The Five Year Engagement can appreciate how hard the academic job market can be, and how little choice people in those professions often have as to where they end up (what was stupid about that movie was that I spent half my life thinking Ann Arbor was the coolest city in the world, or at least right up there with Paris, but the movie portrayed it like it was North Dakota so that was weird). Three and a half years ago, my now husband and then boyfriend, who lived in a different borough of NYC and who I went out to dinner with a couple nights a week, had a job interview in Meadville, PA. He flew into Pittsburgh, PA, drove over an hour and a half in a rented car. This wasn't an adorable, idyllic college town like Williamstown, MA, it was a decaying milltown with a college in it. The professors at the school said that it didn't matter there wasn't anything to do there, since everything was so cheap that he could just spend his summers in Paris. We laughed at the housing ads that said you could buy a house with 6 bedrooms and 2 separate guest houses for $60,000. I was just finishing up my Master's in Library Science, and I had had quite a bit of museum internships. The public library was open about 3 hours a day and paid librarians about $9 an hour. I thought maybe I could drive to Pittsburgh (90 miles each way) and work in a museum or get another Master's in French or something. This didn't seem promising.

Then, when Scott came back from his interview in Albany he was actually surprised. Mahar's! Cool architecture! Professors actually live in the city that they work in! A sense of community that never existed when most of his coworkers lived way out in Jersey! It seemed with the government and the proximity of Saratoga and the Berkshires there seemed a chance I could get a job I liked. So we moved up here, and you never know how things are going to work out. I believed a lot had to do with attitude, and I thought that was a problem with the character in The Five Year Engagement. If you are going to do something for somebody else you should either have a good attitude about it or not do it at all. No one made him move to Ann Arbor with her if he really didn't want to. Here is a picture I took from the train the day I left NYC and moved up here, as I rode into the unknown.

I long felt like I grew up in the movie Clueless. Or more seriously, like the movie The Upside of Anger. There was nothing but chain restaurants, a lot of pressure to succeed but not be too fancy, not much diversity at all (I never even met a Latino person until I moved to NYC), racial tension, endless suburban sprawl, and to me, not really a sense of community or a sense of privacy (the suburbs straddle many characteristics of small towns and cities and end up the worse for it). I guess I need to defend my home state a little bit by saying it has beautiful shorelines and lakes, the Tigers, and Bells, and of course I get nostalgic, but the truth is I also chose to leave. For me, the dream of NYC held all the promises of fulfilling wishes for diversity, exposure to the arts, and the sense that you can be anyone you want there. After four and a half years though, it got hard to ignore the crazy guy yelling at you about Jesus on the train when you really just want to get to work at 8am. It got hard to ignore that every place I ever lived there had horrible plumbing despite them all costing a fortune. Add onto that, horrible experiences with dentists, competitive job markets, the lifestyle of going out almost every night of the week - it all added up to complete exhaustion.

I proclaimed that I was going to come up to Albany to bake pies! My friend said that sounded like I was being put out to pasture, that I was coming up here to die. And almost three years later, what do I have to say? It isn't all about attitude, you have to actually like a place. A few weeks ago we were out with some people, and I met a guy in a bar who was also from Michigan. He thought it was the falling down buildings in Albany that reminded him of Detroit and made him feel right at home, which was funny. I know that my experience or the experience anyone has in any place is only based on their specific circumstances. We don't know anyone who lives in Arbor Hill, for example. We are of a certain age group, with certain interests and education levels, and of course it comes down to personality too. But for me - moving here has really turned out well. It feels a lot more real to me than the Michigan suburbs, and I have yet to have any moment of frustration like I constantly felt with NYC trains. You can function here in a low stress way without it feeling boring or stifling. Everyone knows each other in Albany in some one or two degree removed way, but it isn't like Williamstown, MA where literally everyone knows each other and every last little bit of gossip about everyone else. It is a great balance in size, and there is a sense of community that I just didn't feel in other cities I lived in. I also know that perspectives are different for people who live in the place that they grew up. For me, it is lower stress than NYC, but not as materialistic or conformity driven as the Detroit suburbs, but without having those other places to compare it to, people who are from here might have a different point of view.

I write this from North Adams, where I am dogsitting again. I know my experience is unique in the fact that I work in the Berkshires. It is no surprise that this county is a tourist destination for people in NYC and Boston. Sometimes I think it is just as beautiful as the Napa Valley. The culture is so relaxed and artistic. I know that if I ever stopped working out here I would really, really miss it.

So here is to almost three years, to me coming up to Albany to bake pies, but upon arriving actually working at an art museum, being involved with a literary festival at the Mount, attending a book club, going to food swaps, joining a CSA, throwing theme parties, making lots of new friends, visiting interesting sites like the Empire State Plaza Art Collection, and yes, in fact baking lots of things. I don't feel like Cher Horowitz and I don't feel like those characters on Girls. I feel like I can be myself in a place with cool architecture that is near beautiful rural areas, and never short of cool things to do or interesting people to meet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Red Lobster, Wolf Road

We went over to Colonie Center for me to look for an outfit to wear for a presentation I am giving at a conference in Washington, D.C. next week. I don't know what to wear. It is going to be 81 degrees, and I always remember D.C. being humid in the spring when I was younger. But, to complicate things they may have air conditioning on inside the conference. Part of me just thinks I should wear my usual "job interview outfit", like this:

But then I think, I definitely don't want to be wear heels while running around a city and a conference, and I don't want to be hot. Perhaps just black pants and a loose fitting top? Perhaps a comfortable dress and a blazer? I just don't know. I tried on half of New York and Co. and they just seemed to have a lot of what I already have. Any advice? I have pretty much always struggled with the "how to be professional and stay cool in the summer?" question.

Anyways, so our friend was talking about the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster last week, and we had kind of joked how kitschy it would be to go there all week. One problem is there always seems to be a long wait, and it is hard to justify waiting for something you expect to be mediocre when plenty of good independent restaurants have no waiting time at all on a weeknight. But, when they told us 20 minutes we figured it would take a good amount of that time to decide on another place and travel to that other place, so we just waited. There were lots of people waiting, apparently this is a thing people wait long periods of time for. So to start with the highlight: obviously the cheddar biscuits. Those were as good as I remember from the last time I was there which was homecoming dance of 9th grade. We looked through the drink menu - mudslides have 560 calories, while martinis have about 150. Also, they have a little glossary of martini terms for people who may not know too much about them. I have seen worse drink menus at chain restaurants, like ones that say something like "The exotic and new Gin-tini!" - what is a Gin-tini you ask? A martini made with gin. Yeah, they didn't say that, so good for them.

Moving on to the food menu. It was nice the entrees came with salads, but iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value. We would have had the broccoli as our sides if we knew that it wasn't going to be real greens in the salad. The fresh fish options were not very exciting - tilapia and Atlantic salmon. Scott went with a "Create your own feast": garlic-grilled shrimp, steamed snow crab legs, and fried shrimp. He said he thought the garlic grilled shrimp was alright and low calorie. He thought that the fried shrimp was not very good for the level of unhealthiness of the item. He thought the breading was doughy. The crab legs were tasty. I had some and liked them. I had the "Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp". From the menu: "Hand-dipped in our signature batter, then tossed in coconut and fried golden brown. Served with piña colada sauce." I did not like the piña colada sauce. After two bites, I thought you should not have a sweet item dipped in an even sweeter sauce. Also, there is already coconut on the shrimp and with how rich coconut tastes, you don't also need coconut in the sauce. It would have been better just with cocktail sauce or a thin, tangy sauce like maybe a peach or pineapple salsa. Pina colada sauce was awful. However, the shrimps were pretty tasty. I just finished up the rest of my coconut dipped shrimps and Scott's fried shrimp cold for lunch, and they held up well. I wonder at Red Lobster if the things they don't mess with too much are the better items? Who knows. The verdict: Reel Seafood Company is definitely better (and on the same road!), but Red Lobster is cheaper. Driving home, we passed Hooters and thought that might be funny to try next. 

Would I go again? Well, the cheddar biscuits are definitely a selling point, and remembering the awkwardness of high school dances was fun, but not especially - though it was fine. I think it is funny that to millions of people (including me as a teenager), Red Lobster and The Olive Garden are actually considered special occasion places, when you can actually do better with 20 minutes, a few ingredients from Hannaford, and not much effort.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TWD, Baking with Julia: Pecan Sticky Buns

As part of Tuesdays with Dorie, using the book Baking with Julia I made the pecan sticky buns.

My husband is allergic to nuts, and I was either going to leave off the pecans, replace them with sunflower seeds or just skip this one, but he suggested I go make them at someone else's house. It is quite an intimidating recipe. Check out some chatter about it here. You can read the recipe on Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat and Cookies on Friday

I started the brioche the night before. I thought it would be most powerful to use the dough attachment on my food processor, but by putting the ingredients in before the dough blade, some brioche dough got between the bowl and the blade causing my usually all powerful food processor to stop and overheat. I had to finish up the beating of the dough with my hand mixer. After I overheated half the appliances in my house, I couldn't believe how beautiful this dough was looking. I woke up at 6 am and completed the assembling and rolling of the buns. They looked beautiful and made my car smell amazing during my commute into work. I put them in the fridge at work because I didn't want them to get too big. Then, around 2 in the afternoon they totally started to shrink. I started to freak out a little bit and took them out and put them on my desk. I am sure people who walked by thought it was hilarious that I had sticky buns rising on my desk while working on my computer at an art museum. That worked and they started looking abd smalleing beautiful again. Then the end of the day arrived, and I was so excited to get on over to my coworker's house and bake these! I skipped the nuts in the filling so I didn't have to use any pecans in the house of someone who is deathly allergic, and I just slipped the nuts under the buns at the last minute prior to baking. My coworker made dinner, and I showed her what a beautiful book Baking with Julia is. After dinner we unearthed these beauties from the pan and finally got to try them. My coworker's husband said they were great. My coworker is unusually picky about food and said they were ok. I couldn't believe she said they were ok! Brioche! Butter! Brown sugar! Pecans! Almost breaking my amazingly tough food processor!! She said they were sweet, and I said "You drink Coca-cola!" Oh well, you can't win them all.

At that point I got their whole family history including when her husband's grandmother rode a horse to work and how his grandfather was blind but did not have glass eyes. We watched the dogs (the same ones I dogsit every so often).

We looked at their pond where they had like a million tadpoles. They are going to have an insane number of frogs! Then, my coworker's husband gave me a whole big bag of Snow Geese he hunted near Plattsburgh, NY. Here is a video of how to prepare them. All in all it was a very fun time. Made me wish I tried to cook dessert in everyone else's kitchens! My coworker said next time I dogsit I could leave behind some dessert for her husband, and I am thinking about chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies from the Joy the Baker cookbook. I thought she would also be excited about the recipe, but said she does not like peanut butter because Reese's peanut butter cups are too dry. My boss thought this was crazy.

With some leftover dough I made my husband one at home without pecans. He seemed to appreciate it.

The next day at work she brought the leftovers in. Oh the flakiness! The egg flavor in the dough! I pretty much died and went to pastry heaven. These couldn't be more fabulous! Check out the other bakers here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The King of Cocktails

It being Mad Men season and all, Sunday nights now demand a cocktail.   And even if it wasn't so appropriate to the show, a Manhattan would be my cocktail of choice.   While Mahhattans made with bourbon or Canadian whiskey are find, made with real rye they're even better.    As a recent survey of cheap alcohol at The Awl also found, Rittenhouse Rye might be the best value at your local intelligently stocked liquor store, a whiskey that is not merely decent in a mixed drink but actively enjoyable on the rocks that you can sometimes find for less than 20 bucks.   In any case, it makes a perfect Manhattan, and the addition of vermouth makes it an even better deal.    So:

  • Put a martini or old-fashioned glass in the freezer.
  • Combine about 2 - 2 1/2 parts rye (if you can't find Rittenhouse, Sazerac is equally good although a little pricier; Wild Turkey Rye is OK but I'd probably just use bourbon in that case) with about 1 part sweet vermouth over ice in a cocktail shaker.   If you're using bourbon, especially a smoother one like Maker's Mark, use less vermouth.
  • Add a couple dashes of bitters.
  • Shake or stir.   I frankly won't pretend to care about this issue; the phrase "mouth feel" makes my bullshit detector go to 11.  
  • Pour into the frozen glass.   Add a good maraschino cherry if desired. 
Libations don't get better.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Brunch at New World

We have talked about New World Bistro on this blog before, once last year, and when I got them to cater lunch in the bridal suite before our wedding. Well, today we decided to go to the movies to see Damsels in Distress because it is ending on Tuesday. We went back and forth about whether to make egg sandwiches or go out for brunch like it was a normal Sunday. We decided to go out, and when we showed up at New World and saw the buffet, we immediately said to each other - "Ah! It is Mother's Day!" My mom lives in Michigan and my Mother in Law lives in western Canada, a situation like Daniel describes. We did purchase them both cards but failed to send them in time. I definitely notice when Valentine's Day comes around, but last year I didn't notice Father's Day so much that I planned my wedding on that day. What can you do?

Anyways, so obviously there were no tables, but we were able to sit and eat at the bar. They had a buffet for $25 a person, and basically had many, many different things I've definitely thought about trying on the brunch menu and never had before. It made me wish that they did a buffet a few times a year when they launch a new menu so you don't miss awesome things over the course of that season by getting fixated on one thing or just staying obsessed with the jerk chicken or something that is always on the menu. Mom's got one complimentary "Mom-osa" and the bartender was definitely lining those up by the half dozen. It was pretty busy, and a buffet was a brilliant idea. Check out things they had on the buffet. Our favorites were the red snapper creviche and the ropa bennies with guava hollandaise. My husband enjoyed the jambalaya, and I really enjoyed the Mediterranean scramble and the cured salmon pastrami with cornichons and creme fraiche (completely brilliant). This was really useful because now I am more likely to order things in the future off the regular menu that I may not have tried otherwise.

I did feel like a bit of a scammer not being a mother or having a mother with us. Everyone kept saying "Happy Mother's Day!" I guess living hundreds of miles away from your mother and not having a mother to go with you out to brunch on Mother's Day is not as bad as going out to dinner on Valentine's Day by yourself. The thing is, of course you wouldn't go out to eat on Valentine's Day by yourself because not only would it seem pathetic, but there would not be any tables and sometimes the prices are jacked up, but in this case it was actually a good deal.

The brunch made me appreciate New World all over again. The variety of quality foods they put out on a regular basis is very impressive. Sometimes I think there is no one cooler than some of the people who work there, like our food runner who I am fully aware will one day go to college (at which point I will totally miss her).  I was just glad they weren't checking for kids or mothers at the door so that we didn't get turned away from the fabulous brunch buffet!

And thanks to my mother for giving birth to me. Here, we baked a goat cheese and leek quiche 4 years ago.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ravioli Class at Gio Culinary Studio

Tonight I went to a ravioli making class at Gio Culinary Studio in Voorheesville. It was ridiculously fun. We recently got a pasta machine, so my husband signed me up for it.

I guess I just first want to say that my interest in cooking stems from several factors, including that it can create a loving feeling in the home,  and a larger sense of community. Coworkers also seem to like when I bring in cookies. But here is another important thing that cannot be forgotten - learning how to cook is great because with not very much money and not really too much effort you can, on a regular basis, make food for yourself as good as or better than food that is served at any restaurant. This last benefit of my interest in food and cooking was what came into my mind tonight. With common everyday ingredients and a simple sequence of steps your mind can be blown completely.

I went out to Voorheesville to his little storefront that has pictures of wedding cakes in the window. An adorable engaged couple showed up. They were the only other people in the class. We started with the pasta dough. I could immediately tell his was better than mine, and I knew touching it and looking at it that it was going to be amazing in the way I could immediately tell the dough for my Joy the Baker cinnamon rolls was going to be fabulous. Gio was great at explaining everything at the right pace and had all kinds of extra little tidbits about buying herbs, canned tomatoes and where to get amazing butter (Adventures in Food Trading).

We made three fillings for the ravioli: mushroom, four cheese, and lobster. We rolled out the dough with his KitchenAid attachment and cut out the ravioli pieces using cookie cutters in circles and squares. We pressed the dough around the fillings making sure to get rid of air bubbles (this causes ravioli to burst). He went in the back to boil the raviolis, the couple and I chatted about weddings (beware your mother wanting to invite 50 extra people a month before!), and then he came back and showed us how to make the pan sauces. For the mushroom he did a sherry sauce that smelled and looked amazing as he cooked it. I told him about my dream to make baked Alaska, and he said with a minimum of 6 people he could do a custom class about flambéed desserts (do I have 5 takers?). He talked about a trip to Italy he is organizing that will featured cooking classes everyday, and a private dinner club you can join there where there may be seven course tasting menus and wild boar chops. Then, he made a very light and fresh tasting sauce for the cheese ravioli with basil and white wine. The lobster ravioli he cooked in brown butter and added parsley at the end. It is hard to go wrong with brown butter, and that gave the ravioli a crisp texture. Everything looked so beautiful and tasted utterly amazing I had to fight my tendency to want to take a photo of everything and gush over the pan sauces too much. I was listening to a podcast with Joy the Baker the other day, where she mentioned that people who "super love what they do have 'the sparkle' that makes them great at it". This man clearly has "the sparkle" that Joy talks about, and these sauces were beyond words. And I have my notes so I can recreate them anytime from the comfort of my own home!

He told me about his croissant class (another dream of mine - too bad I will be out of town that day!), and we chatted about the percentage of water content in European butter.

I think he won me over when the dough was still raw, and I could tell it was going to be great from the texture and moisture of it. But I think he really won me over with the sauce for the lobster ravioli. To think with simple steps and cheap ingredients something that lovely and amazing can be created right before your eyes! I drove home through traffic circles on 85, my mouth filled with the taste of brown butter, grateful to have met him. On top of that he makes wedding cakes - living the dream!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD, Baking with Julia: Hungarian Shortbread

As part of Tuesdays with Dorie using the book Baking with Julia,  I made the Hungarian shortbread. You can read the recipe on Cher's blog and also on 1smallkitchen. Check out some discussion about the recipe here.

I used strawberry rhubarb jam that I bought at the shop at Indian Ladder Farms.

Check out how my shortbread turned out.

Great paired with coffee or tea.

 I even packed some up to mail to my dad for his birthday.

 Here's what I thought about the recipe:

  • I listened to the bakers who thought we should bake the bottom layer for 10 or 15 minutes before applying the jam. That worked out well.
  • My husband and my coworkers all approve of these cookies. I think you can tell whether people are just saying something is good, or if they really really like something. "Whoa, those are good! Seriously!" as opposed to "Thanks for making them!" One of my coworkers particularly like the crumbly nature of the topping. My husband particularly liked the way that the bitterness of the rhubarb complemented the sweetness of the cookie dough.
  • I really wished I had used my food processor grating disk. My arm was going to fall off, and I kept thinking "What am I doing on a Saturday night grating frozen dough over a pan, really?" The food processor grating disk was dirty, but I think my labors would have been better focused on cleaning that, and that probably would have been less work overall.
Overall, totally a winner! Check out the other bakers here.

April Foodie Pen Pals

Last month I read a post from fellow local blogger, Jen is Green, about a foodie pen pal program. It sounded like fun, and I decided to give it a try. You can read about the specifics of the program here. Now I don't usually like the word "foodie" and what it implies, but in this case I'll get over it.

Check out what I sent to Aly in Wisconsin here. It included croutons I got from the April Food Swap, and the Tuesdays with Dorie lemon loaf cake I made.

Amanda from Albuquerque, New Mexico sent me some great stuff. I have never been there, so it was a taste of an unknown area of the country for me. Check out what I received.

Her theme that she came up with was "picnic". It was a great theme, and I love the Southwest representation with all the spicy foods. Here are little snacks we made out of the spicy summer sausage, jalapeno jack cheese, and savory crackers which had a bit of chili in them.

I think most things were from World Market, which is really cool since I loved wandering around that store in Portland, Oregon on our honeymoon, but we don't have that store here. It is fun to get foods from around the country, but it is even more fun to interact with people from other regions that you would most likely have no other reason to interact with. I think it is also a good way to be exposed to new blogs. Check out what other pen pals got each other here. You should join too! It is really fun.