Monthly Archives: September 2008

New Orleans Feast

With a raining weekend and a stormier political race and economy, I really want comfort food. My favorite is anything from New Orleans. Everything is rich and hyper-flavorful. I trekked out into the rain and had to go to 3 different stores before I found everything I needed, but it was worth it. You could add some rice or some mac and cheese to increase the healing powers of carbs, if you like.

Crawfish Etouffee

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ a large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Cajon seasoning
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 pounds frozen crawfish tails, thawed
chopped green onions and parsley, optional

Heat the olive oil in a large stew pot on medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper. Sweat the vegetables until they are soft and transparent. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, seasoning and salt and pepper. Keep cooking so that the tomatoes cook down. Add the Worcestershire and crawfish and cook on medium heat for at least 15 minutes. Garnish with the chopped onions and parsley.

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

4 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
½ a large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bag frozen cut okra, thawed
½ cup water
salt and pepper

Heat the bacon in a saucepan on medium high heat. Once the bacon starts to crisp, add the onions and garlic. Keep stirring over the heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add the okra, and stir occasionally while cooking. Add the water and keep cooking for at least 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Barbara’s Cajon Black-Eyed Peas

¼ cup butter
½ medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound kielbasa, finely chopped
¼ pound ham, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 cans black-eyes peas
1 cup water
salt and pepper
chopped green onions and parsley, optional

Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Stir the aromatics on the heat until they are soft and transparent. Add the kielbasa, ham, bay leaf and basil. Cook the mixture for at least 10 minutes. Add the peas, water and salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook on medium for at least 20 minutes. Garnish with the green onions and parsley.

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Better Than Store Bought

When Victor asked me to make a birthday cake for his best friend Ryan, I figured it would be a chance to show off my professional skills. Victor of course didn’t help me choose the flavor, so I went with my all time favorite, chocolate and raspberry.

Chocolate Raspberry Celebration Cake

Chocolate Cake:
¾ cup cocoa
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup butter flavored shortening
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Grease a 13 by 9 inch rectangle cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the shortening, eggs, milk and vanilla and turn the mixer on low. Once the flour is combined turn the mixer on high and beat for at least 5 minutes so that the batter gets fluffy.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for at least 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Vanilla Cake:
2 3/4 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup butter flavored shortening
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Grease a 13 by 9 inch rectangle cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the shortening, eggs, milk and vanilla and turn the mixer on low. Once the flour is combined turn the mixer on high and beat for at least 5 minutes so that the batter gets fluffy.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for at least 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Filling:
½ cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup thawed frozen raspberries
1 jar of raspberry jam

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl. Beat with a balloon whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a pot filled with water and heat on medium heat. Keep beating the eggs to dissolve the sugar and the mixture will start to thicken and turn white. When the grit is gone from the eggs, about 20 minutes later, transfer the egg whites to a stand mixer and beat on high to form soft peaks.

Fold the room temperature butter into the eggs and continue to beat on high. Add the salt, vanilla and raspberries and beat one last time to combine.

Ganache:
1 16 oz bag semisweet chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
2 pints fresh raspberries

Place the chocolate and cream in a metal bowl over a pot of water on medium high heat. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completed melted.

Take the chocolate off of the pot of water and set aside till the chocolate thickens enough to work with it.

Assembly:
Cut each cake in half to make four pieces, each 6 ½ inches by 9 inches. Cute each of the 4 cake pieces in half vertically so that you have two thinner layers from each piece. You will have 4 pieces of vanilla and 4 pieces of chocolate cake.
On a wire rack, alternate layers of vanilla and chocolate cake with the raspberry butter cream and the raspberry jam. This makes enough for 1 five layer and 1 3 layer cake or 1 giant 8 layer cake.

While still on the wire rack, ice the cake with the chocolate ganache. Gently transfer the cake to a cardboard cake square and finish decorating with the extra ganache and fresh raspberries. Refrigerate the cake overnight to set. Let the cake sit out for at least one hour before serving.

In Tough Times: Forage

Wall Street is in the toilet. Since I work in financial services I’m slightly worried about the long-term health of my career. In tough times we are supposed to cut back and give up on some of life’s luxuries. As I’m sure you have all guessed, food is my favorite thing, and I don’t plan to give up on the finer parts of eating anytime soon. Luckily I don’t need to pay a fortune for exotic wild mushrooms because my dad forages for them in the woods. Two years ago he actually found 80 pounds of Chanterelles. This season wasn’t as fruitful, but I still got a good 3 pounds out of his horde.

Chicken Stuffed with Chanterelles and Goat Cheese

2 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 pound chanterelles, chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon cognac or bourbon
salt and pepper
1 pound boneless chicken breast
4 oz goat cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Sautee the onions and garlic until soft. Add the mushrooms, thyme and salt and pepper and sauté until caramelized. Add the cognac and cook until evaporated. Set the mushrooms aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pound the chicken breast until thin. Season them with salt and pepper on both sides and spread them with goat cheese. Divide the mushrooms between each breast and roll them up. Secure them with a toothpick.

Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken back into the pan and brown on one side. After 5 minutes, and one side is brown, carefully flip the chicken breasts.

Slide the pan in the oven and cook in the oven for 20 minutes or until done.

Squidy Goodness

Squid is one of my favorite foods. However, I try to order it for takeout in my hood and it is always sub par. I ordered this once from the Italian takeout joint around the corner and it was so lack luster that I had to make it better myself.

Sautéed Calamari

5 slices of thick cut bacon, chopped
½ onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1 pound squid, cut into rings
10 black olives, chopped
½ lemon

Heat the bacon in a large skillet on medium high eat. Sautee until its crispy and golden brown. Drain off most of the fat and add the onions and garlic. Keep stirring and cooking until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the tomatoes, seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes turn into a sauce. Add the squid and olives and keep cooking, for about 5 minutes, until the squid looks done. Squeeze the lemon over the squid and serve.

Suburban Farming

I was just in DC to visit my family and excited to raid my mom’s garden. Every summer their suburban yard transforms into a farm. They grow tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions, herbs, strawberries, lettuce and whatever else meats their fancy. I took home a horde of tomatoes and zucchini and had no idea what to do with them. So I made strata. It is very similar to lasagna, but instead of using noodles, you use slices of zucchini.

Italian Zucchini Strata

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 links of fresh sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
4 links of fresh hot Italian sausage, casing removed
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
9 tomatoes
15 ounces ricotta
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Sautee until they are soft and translucent. Add the sausages and Italian seasoning. Break up the sausage with the back of your wooden spoon. Chop 4 of the tomatoes and add to the sausage. Stir and cook to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Using a mandolin or really good knife skills, slice the zucchini lengthwise to make thin flat strips.

To assemble the strata, put down a layer of the tomato sausage mixture. Layer with the zucchini, making sure that the zucchini fits together tight and there is no sausage exposed. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Then spread half of the ricotta over the zucchini and then cover with the sausage and repeat the layering process.

Slice the remaining tomatoes and place them in one layer on top of the last layer of sausage. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with the mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven for an hour until it is cooked through and the cheese is golden brown.

Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Being very careful, tip the lasagna over the sink and drain out all of the excess fat and liquid from the zucchini. Cut into squares and serve.

Summertime Refreshment

I think that lime is one of the best flavors. When you bite into these cookies they are both sweet rich and refreshing. I made them up for a work event. I think that some people where turned off by the combination of lime and white chocolate, but I can assure you that they are amazing.

White Chocolate Lime-wiches

Cookies:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 lime, juice and zest

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the lime juice and zest and beat to combine. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets. 

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Filling:
1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice and zest of 2 limes

Put the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl and, at low speed, gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and limes, until blended. Turn the mixer up to high and beat for 5 minutes more, until fluffy.

Coating:
1 pound white chocolate, chopped or morsels

Place the chocolate into a metal bowl and place over a pot filled with water on medium heat. Mix the chocolate with a rubber spatula every few minutes to help melt. Keep heating the chocolate until it is melted; be careful not to burn it.
Place the same bowl into a larger bowl that contains ice. Keep mixing the chocolate to fold in the cooling parts until the chocolate is well tempered.

Assembly:
Arrange all fo the cookies in pairs, so that each cookie pair is about the same size.

Place about 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the middle of one of the cookies. Add another cookie on top and gently squeeze to evenly distribute the filling. Fill and assemble all of the cookie pairs.

Dip half of the sandwich cookie into the tempered white chocolate and either place on a wire rack, or a large piece of parchment paper to dry completely.