Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday CRUNCH!!/Robot Love

It's been a week since my last blog post and there is a valid reason -- two valid reasons, actually. Number one is: I have a family! We have been spending time together celebrating the holidays and have a few more days of celebration left to go before we fall into our usual routines which involve fewer carbs, more vegetables and considerably less festive beverages. The second reason is just as exciting as the first: one of my cakes will be featured in an online magazine very soon. The photo shoot is just four days away and I am, of course, not entirely prepared. My partner who is a party-throwing goddess is probably going to kill me when she reads this. Nope, I haven't even bought flour yet. So I will return to regular blog-posting in another week, but for now I beg you for patience.

In other news, I would like to announce the opening of a super-rad new bakery in the Portland area. Joi Smith, owner of the previously home-based "Robots Love Cupcakes" is opening her first store-front in North Portland next week. If you like delicious, well made, but not frou-frou treats (and open late!), this is the bakery for you. Joi and her partner Amanda are innovative and talented. I can't wait to go enjoy some of their cupcakes and hand-made marshmallows.

They are located at 3954 N Williams.
 Open on the 5th at 11. All days after that 12-9.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dude Abides

A friend of mine had a Big Lebowski themed birthday party last year -- complete with bowling, white russians, bathrobes, a rug that tied the room together and this cake:

a delicious flourless chocolate torte with almond and orange essence. It didn't tie in too closely with the theme, aside from bowling-lane like cocoa stripe garnish, but I think the Dude would totally dig this rich chocolately treat. It's even dark enough that the nihilists might enjoy it too.

8 oz bittersweet chocolate
8 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp
6 large eggs separated
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 cups almond meal
3 drops orange oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9" spring form and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Melt your chocolate in a double boiler or bain marie. Cream your butter, salt, orange oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add egg yolks and whip until very light and thick. Gently fold in your chocolate mixture -- be careful not to deflate your egg yolks too much. Air is the only leavening in this cake. In another bowl whisk egg whites and 2 tbsp sugar to form stiff peaks. Gently fold almond meal into your chocolate mixture. Now fold the egg whites into the rest. Bake immediately for 40 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack and remove the side of the pan. Decorate with a dusting of cocoa powder.

Make yourself a white russian (don't forget the cremora). Enjoy a slice of cake that really ties the day together.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


If you've ever made home-made salsa, you know it's worth the time. It's also very easy -- much more so than I thought it would be. The hardest part is deciding what kind of salsa you want to make.

In my blog posts I often mention my friends because that's who I eat with. My friend Joan and I have an agreement: I cook for her and she pays me with wine. It seems fair. Joan and I had a Mexican food night recently and I had to take her sensitivity to spicy foods into account. Crazy girl, she doesn't like her mouth to feel on fire. Since I know many people's spice-tolerance is in the mild-to-medium range, I will share the salsa recipe that I made for her.

Que quiere?:

2 tbsp canola oil
4 Anaheim peppers
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 red onion small diced
2 tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 handful chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F. Roast your peppers in the canola oil until the skin begins to brown and bubble. Let cool, then remove the stems and rinse the seeds from inside the pepper. Skin and de-seed your tomatoes, and tomato paste. In a food processor, puree your peppers, tomatoes and raw garlic until you reach your preferred consistency. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add your cilantro, onion and salt. Cover and chill in your refrigerator overnight. You can eat it the day you make it, but it's so much better if you let the flavors marry for a day.

Watch for more posts on our Mexican feast later this week!  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mango Salad

Portland is cold and wet 10 months out of the year -- it's a bit like London without the charming(ly annoying) accents.  I love it. But sometimes I need a little bit of sunshine and when the atmosphere can't provide that, I make sunny food. This is a very quick and simple recipe that most of you will greatly enjoy. I have family members who don't like mangoes, but they liked this salad. 
You need:
2 ripe mangoes
1 large english cucumber
1/2 red onion
a handful of chopped cilantro
juice from 2 limes
2 tbsp mirin (rice wine)

Thinly slice your mango and cucumber. I like to leave the skins on, but feel free to peel them if that's what you prefer. Finely dice your red onion. Toss your mango, onion, and cucumber together in a large bowl with your lime juice, cilantro, and mirin. Serve immediately. This salad won't keep long because the lime juice and vinegar will macerate the mango and cucumber, so invite plenty of friends over to help you eat it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Alliteration soup (French onion)

I am more-than fairly fond of this fabulous figuline-fettered, fromages-festooned French onion froth.


Joan doesn't like onions. I've known my share of picky eaters and she kind of tops the list -- not because she has a lot of restrictions, but because she doesn't like some of my favorite foods. I'm still not sure how I convinced her that she would love french onion soup, but I did.

Your mission: Open a bottle of red wine -- whatever you like, probably a pinot noir. Next: Make onion haters change their mind.

You will need:

4 tbsp olive oil
4 sweet onions finely julienned
1 cup whatever red wine you are drinking.
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 quart beef broth
1 cup animal stock (chicken, pork or beef -- all that matters is that it is gelatinous.)
LOTS of thyme (and time)
salt to taste
1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper or more, if you prefer
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 lb gruyere grated -- if you have a husband/boyfriend/children/roommate you can make them do the grating. And the dishes.

Caramelize your onions in the olive oil. The real trick to making this soup is getting your onions as dark as you can without burning them. You want them to look almost mahogany -- nearly the color of molasses. There will be some very dark caramelized gunk on the bottom of your pan. Don't worry, you want that. Use your red wine, Worcestershire and balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan of those dark tasty bits -- scraping the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook the wine mixture until it is significantly reduced. Use some cooking twine to tie up several sprigs of thyme leaving a couple sprigs out to use as garnish. It's okay if the leaves come off in the soup, but you don't want to end up biting down on one of the stems later. Add your broth, stock, thyme, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15 minutes uncovered. Now is a great time to make your croutons.

1 baguette sliced into 1" high rounds
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Brush your baguette slices with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Bake until golden brown. That was easy.

Turn your oven on to broil. Remove the thyme sprigs from your soup. Ladle soup into oven safe bowls and float croutons on the top -- you want to fill as much of the surface area as possible making a shelf for your cheese to sit on. Add a liberal layer of gruyere to the top and immediately put the bowls under the broiler. You should put them on a cookie sheet for convenient and safe removal. When the cheese is browning and bubbly you can remove the soup and let cool for just a minute or two. Pull some of your thyme leaves from the remaining sprigs and garnish.

Mission accomplished. Quit salivating -- sit back and satisfy your hunger. Sweet.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's okay to eat paste (pizza concluded)

I usually cannot stress the importance of eating fresh, local, organic ingredients enough, but when making pizza sauce, tomato paste and canned roasted whole tomatoes are absolutely the way to go.  
These are the best:
San Marzano Cento Italian Peeled Tomatoes, DOP Certified Case of 5 /28 oz

For your sauce you will want:

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion finely diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine (whatever you have in your refrigerator)
2-3tbsp balsamic vinegar
16 oz canned peeled tomato
6-7 large fresh basil leaves finely chopped
a pinch (or more) cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper to taste
salt to taste

Sweat onions on medium heat in your olive oil. Add garlic -- don't let it burn! pour in your white wine and balsamic vinegar and reduce to almost dry. Add canned tomato, basil leaves and seasonings. Bring your sauce to a boil then reduce to a simmer and wait.You may want to invest in a splatter screen. They look like this:
Lodge 13-Inch Splatter ScreenTrust me, you will be glad you used it. Unless you are throwing a Halloween party tonight and want your kitchen looking like Dexter Morgan's latest kill-room.

You will know when the sauce is ready when it's thick and delicious. Very simple.

In the previous post I gave you my favorite pizza dough recipe and here I have given a delicious and simple sauce. Now it's time to assemble.

Your dough should rest 20 minutes after you toss it or roll it out. Be sure to use a liberal sprinkle of semolina flour on the bottom of your dough to keep it from sticking to your counter/pizza paddle/pizza tile and any other surface it may and will try to adhere to (I have made the mistake in the past of not doing so and my dough clung to the wooden paddle like a toddler to it's mother on the first day of pre-school. It was a disgrace). Lightly brush the top of your dough with olive oil and spread a thin (or liberal if you like messy pie) layer of sauce in the center of the dough. Leave about an inch around the edge free of sauce to ensure proper rise and to give you sauce-free grip while eating. Add your toppings. Let me rephrase: add few toppings. I find that the best pizzas have 1-2 toppings; don't over-complicate it. And please use fresh mozzarella. Bake in a 450 degree (Fahrenheit) oven until the cheese is browning and the smell is driving you mad with hunger. Your nose can usually tell you when a pizza is ready. It's like a sixth sense.

Last, but not least. EAT IT! But maybe let it cool a bit first. I don't want to pay the bogus emergency room fee when you get third degree burns in your mouth.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pizza makes the world go 'round

Q. How do you fix a broken pizza?
A. With tomato paste

I love cheesy jokes -- they encourage raucous laughter and always amuse the teller. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and family, as is food, and one of the best foods to share with a group of loved ones is PIZZA.

I know you're tempted to lick the screen, but please don't; your coworkers will think you've gone insane and the only taste you will have in your mouth is of static and dust. But don't worry, I will gladly share my recipes with you and get you on your way to making amazingly satisfying pizza-pie.


Have you ever had a pizza with the most amazing sauce and carefully selected toppings but completely uninspired, tough and dry dough? I have. It ruins the whole experience! I made this recipe and have kept it a secret -- dear to my heart -- and I think it may be time to share it. The secret ingredient is not love, it's beer.

In some of my pastry recipes I will use the metric system because it is much more precise, but this dough is very forgiving and I don't want you all to have to break out the scales.

1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm beer of choice (lighter beers make lighter, fluffier dough and dark beers make dense sweeter dough. Both are quite tasty.)
2 oz dry active yeast
1 tbsp honey
1tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 cups bread flour (Bread flour is more glutenous than all purpose flour and will give the dough more structure. Very important!)

Combine water and beer into a bowl and add the yeast, half of the olive oil (the other half will be used to oil the mixing bowl later) and honey. Let sit for about five minutes, until the yeast is fizzy and rises to the top. Combine the salt and flour in a large bowl. Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients and form a vague ball-like shape. It will seem dry (very much so) at first -- we bakers refer to this as the "shaggy mass" stage. Leave the dough on the counter and invert your mixing bowl over the dough for about 10 minutes. When you return to it, it will less resemble a muppet and feel more like food.

 Now knead your dough until it feels like it may start to tear -- this is just gluten development and is, as stated above, VERY IMPORTANT! Oil your large mixing bowl with the remaining olive oil and place your dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size and feels pliable.Your dough should look like this:

Now pull the dough from the bowl and gently deflate and reform a ball. It's called punching the dough, but you don't need to be so violent. What did the dough ever do to you?

Place the dough back in the oiled bowl and re-cover for a second rising. Again, you want it to double in size.

Wow! your dough is done! You will want to portion your dough and give it a last gentle kneading and shaping -- this recipe can make two small to medium sized pizzas.

At this point you have two options: you can fling your dough by hand like a champ, or you can roll it out. either way works.

Thank you for reading my dough tutorial. Enjoy the recipe and check back later this week for home-made pizza sauce.

Some photos courtesy of: