I heart film. - A little over a year ago I bought a Canon Ae-1 and last week I found the first roll of film I shot on it and finally had it processed (Its been a crazy year ...
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Its easy to get stuck in a rut when you grill almost every day. Its easy just to do the same thing over and over - so I always welcome new fresh ways to marinate or serve what would otherwise be a mundane chicken breast. For my birthday my mom sent me Cooking Light's Fresh Food Fast cookbook. It has great photos for every single recipe and almost every recipe has another with it for serving suggestions for a meal. Its one of those books you could pull out right when you need to make dinner and probably find something that fits the bill. The problem comes with some of the suggestions they give for saving time in the ingredients - like buying pre-cut vegetables (why? it doesn't take long to dice an onion!) and pre-made seasonings and salad dressings, or processed and pre-seasoned minute rice. These suggestions often can make the recipe cost three or four times as much - not to mention be less healthy (and I really don't think they save that much time). Since a lot of the ingredients it suggests are processed items from the US its a moot point for me anyway - they simply don't have them here.
This simple little idea for grilled chicken has become one of our new favorites from the book however, and with just a little adaption has become one of our very favorite meals. Since I have rosemary growing in my garden the recipe ends up being really cheap, and despite the small amount needed for the marinade it is full of flavor. Grilled boneless and skinless chicken breasts can often be dry and rubbery - but this certainly does not need to be the case. Start by placing the breast over the hottest coals, searing both sides for 2 or 3 minutes - then move them to the outer parts of the grill where its not as hot and cover and cook it the rest of the way nice and slow. You should end up with a perfectly juicy, tender and smoky piece of chicken. We have one of our many favorite quick salads on the side (look for some of those recipes soon) and it is the perfect little meal to enjoy on a summer evening.
(PS - I use this mustard sauce all the time on all kinds of stuff. Its sooo basic but adds so much flavor.)
Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light's Fresh Food Fast
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp whole-grain dijon mustard, divided (I always use the brand Maille, its fantastic and can be bought practically worldwide)
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs chopped fresh Rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbs Mayonnaise
1 Tbs water
Trim, clean and pat dry your chicken breasts. Whisk together the 1 tsp mustard, Tbs Olive oil, chopped rosemary, and salt and pepper. Pour over chicken breasts taking care to coat them completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24. Remove chicken from the fridge an hour before you are ready to cook it and let it come to room temperature (it cooks much more evenly this way).
Prepare the grill. Place chicken on center (hottest part) of grill and sear on both sides for 2 minutes or so - then place on outer (low heat) part of grill. Cover and let cook and smoke slowly (turning occasionally) until its about 1 minute away from being done. Remove from grill and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes (perfect amount of time to make the very simple sauce).
Combine 1 Tbs mustard, the mayonnaise and the water in a small bowl. Serve over chicken breasts (hint: when this sauce mixes with the juices from the chicken it becomes quite delicious).
TIP: make sure your grill is very clean and very hot before placing the chicken on it and its much less likely to stick and then pull all the yummy outside bits off when you turn it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
I always want to make pretty cakes that inspire oohs and ahhs when you serve them. Except that I'm really not much of a baker, and I especially am not good at making anything I cook 'pretty'. Usually I don't mind too much, because we all know that what really matters is how it tastes right? Half the time those gorgeous cakes are dry and flavorless anyway (see: my wedding cake.).
But then there was Angel Food Cake. I'm not sure there is anything prettier, fluffier, or sweeter. I absolutely love the stuff. I think everyone has a favorite kind of cake (no? just me? really?) and my favorite has always been Angel Food.
I was a bit surprised when I moved to Germany and realized (by doing an informal poll of my international group of friends) that Angel Food cake is pretty much an American thing. I knew I had to make some for my friends so they experience the sweet fluffy goodness , but - there being no angel food cake here and all - an angel food cake pan was impossible to find.
Luckily my mom was awesome enough to send me one for my birthday and I promptly got to separating eggs, whipping eggs whites and sifting flour and sugar. I had made this before in the states, and I found this recipe to produce a far superior Angel Food cake to anything I had tried before. The first cake I made was a complete disaster though. See - I forgot the very important step of inverting the cake to cool and the cake lovingly became known as "crater cake." Sure it tasted good...but it wasn't pretty.
Luckily eggs aren't too expensive (even organic, free range ones 'round here) and I didn't give up. And in the meantime I found myself with a very large number of egg yolks to put to good use in what has become my very favoritist frosting ever - Lemon Whipped Cream.
Its really simple: take 500g Whipped Cream (Schlag Sahne) and a scant amount of sugar and beat it with an electric mixer until its very stiff (careful....you go too long it will turn to butter). Then fold in a half cup to a cup of Lemon Curd (just to taste). I got this fantastic idea from Alice Waters in the Art of Simple Food, and this tart and not-too-sweet frosting just pairs magically with Angel Food Cake.
I had never iced an Angel Food Cake before - I had always eaten it fairly plain, maybe with some berries or fruit compote and some whipped cream at the most. Iced, with some fresh raspberries and blueberries in the center for decoration, it was just amazing. The lemon and berries together with the sweet but low-fat cake seemed so summer-y - it was the ultimate dessert to enjoy after a backyard BBQ and I think would make an adorable take-along to a Fourth of July celebration.
Angel Food Cake
with Lemon Whipped Cream Frosting
recipe from Gourmet November 2001
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites (11 to 12 large eggs)
- 1 1/2 cups (150 g) sifted confectioners sugar (sift before measuring)
- 1 cup (100 g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)(type 405 in Germany)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (about 4 inches deep) with a removable bottom
Let egg whites stand in large wide bowl at room temperature about 1 hour before making cake. (They should be about 60°F, slightly below room temperature.)
Set oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350°F (180 C)
Sift together confectioners sugar, flour, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper using a fine sieve (I just sifted into a bowl).
Beat whites in mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until they form soft peaks. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating, and continue beating just until whites are thickened and form soft, droopy peaks. Beat in vanilla.
Sprinkle one fourth of sifted dry ingredients over whites and fold in with a rubber spatula gently but thoroughly. Fold in remaining dry ingredients, one third at a time.
Gently pour batter evenly into ungreased tube pan and bake until top is light golden, cake retracts a bit from pan and springs back when touched lightly, and a tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Invert pan onto neck of an empty wine bottle or a large metal funnel and cool cake completely (mine didn't fit on either of those and I just set it inverted on a baking rack and that worked just fine).
To remove cake from pan, run tip of a long, narrow knife between outer edge of cake and pan. Tilt cake pan on its side and gently tap bottom edge against counter. Rotate pan, tapping and turning a few more times, until cake appears free. Cover pan with a metal rack or cardboard round (or dinner plate as I did) and invert, tapping pan firmly to loosen cake. Lift pan from cake. (It should come out beautifully, like a pillow taken out of a slipcover.)
To frost, simply gently spread the icing in large heaping spoonfuls with a rubber spatula. Since I used a thick coating of frosting I didn't see any need to do a crumb coat and the whole bit. Frost around the whole cake including in the center hole. I think this cake looks cute with the frosting kind of fluffy and 'rustic looking' but feel free to make yours all smooth and pretty with a cake spreader if that is your thing. Keep the cake in the fridge until serving. Fill the center with fresh berries - I used raspberries and blueberries - but I can't think of a single berry that wouldn't taste great with this. Strawberries are especially awesome.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Maybe you are like me and had never heard of this little delight before. Simply put its eggs (and a few extra yolks) whipped up with fresh lemon and cooked until nice and thick (almost pudding like). Then you can do with it what you will - its delicious spread on toast, biscuits, or scones for breakfast or a tea time snack. You can also use it as a base for other desserts - like a tart as suggested by Alice Waters in her book. I envision it between layers of cake, as a filling for cupcakes or donuts and somehow incorporated with Cheesecake (with raspberries!). Mix it with whipped cream (again as suggested by Ms. Waters) and it makes an absolutely amazing icing (look for a recipe soon). Basically this is super tart and super-lemony with just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess and couldn't be easier to whip up. I think I am in love.
recipe from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
4 lemons (or 2 really large lemons)
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs. milk
100 g sugar (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
75g (1/3cup) butter, cut into small pieces
Grate the zest of the lemons on the small holes of a grater (I used a microplane). Juice the lemons - there should be about 100ml juice.
Beat the eggs, yolks, milk, sugar and salt until mixed well. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and add the butter. Cook this mixture in a nonreactive heavy pan, stirring constantly, over medium heat until its thick enough to coat a spoon. Do not allow to boil or the eggs will curdle. When thick, pour into a glass jar or bowl to cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Friday, June 4, 2010
I think most people who know me know that I really really love spicy food. I love chili peppers in all their forms and many flavors - I love preparing food with them and I love eating them. In fact, my amazing friends got together for my birthday and gave me a gift basket full of jalapenos, habanero peppers and an awesome variety of hot sauces and spice rubs. Awesome friends right? Well the whole thing got me hankerin' to cook some really spicy food- and for some reason I have been especially craving Posole like we used to get at the little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant behind our apartment in Phoenix, Arizona.
Hominy is a key ingredient in Posole though, and since that is not readily available I substituted white beans and I thought it turned out positively fantastic (though definitely not Posole). The cilantro, lime, cumin and chili pepper are pretty much a win-win-win-win combo every time no matter how you prepare them. I was a little worried this would even be too spicy - especially as I sat and watched the bright red chili collecting in the little pools of oil on top of the soup as simmered. My fears were unfounded though - it ended up being just right for us and we easily polished off a whole big bowl each (with 2 servings left to keep in the freezer for later - score).
This soup could not be easier or faster - especially if you already have pulled chicken in your fridge or freezer. Simply throw some chicken, stock, beans and seasonings together and in about 15 minutes you have an amazingly flavorful soup. Its also really, really cheap - again, especially if you are using homemade stock and are savvy about buying your spices (buy in bulk, and often Mexican or Asian food stores have them for much cheaper). You can dress it up with garnishes like sour cream, avocado and tortillas but even without all that this soup packs a serious punch. Fast, healthy and cheap and full of flavor - I think this just became one of my new favorite standbys.
Spicy Chicken & White Bean Soup
2 cups cooked pulled chicken (roughly 1 chicken breast)*
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water - if necessary
1 tsp ground california chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (you can increase to 1/2 if you didn't already cook the chicken in cayenne like I did)
2 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (you can of course use any oregano if needed)
juice from 1 lime (like 1/4 cup juice at least)
2 cans (400g or 16oz) white beans, drained
1/2 cup salsa verde (Mexican tomatillo salsa) (buy the little cans in the mexican foods section, they are really cheap, or if you have your own even better)
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves to garnish
optional: sour cream, crema, or yogurt for garnish
Combine chili powder, cayenne, cumin, sea salt and oregano (hey this is basically my go-to 'taco seasoning'). Toss pulled chicken in the spices until its well coated. Lightly mash half of the beans with a large spoon or potato masher.
Heat olive oil in the bottom of a heavy stock pot over med-high heat. Add chicken and lightly brown (takes about 2 minutes). Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Add the beans and salsa verde and lime juice and stir to combine. Taste and season if needed or add water if it seems it needs more broth or if the spice is too intense for your tastes. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the starch from the beans makes it thicken slightly and all the flavors have had a chance to combine. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Garnish with sour cream, crema or yogurt and a few fresh cilantro leaves. Would also be amazingly fantastic with some corn tortillas torn up and tossed in, or even with some polenta or brown rice (if you find the spiciness too intense for your tastes - these are also good options to help you mellow it out). Sliced up avocado would be amazing in this as well.
*I often have pulled chicken in my freezer from when I make chicken stock (I roast the chicken, pull the meat off and pull it apart - easier to do if you slow cook it but not hard either way) then I make broth with the carcass. Obviously I don't always have this, and you probably don't either. In that case: take one boneless, skinless chicken breast and place it in a small sauce pan of boiling water (you can season/substitute with wine, beer, cayenne pepper, salt or just about anything you can think of...for this I added some cayenne pepper to the water). The water should not entirely cover the breast. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer for just about 5 minutes (10 max) maybe turning once or twice. Let rest and cool a bit, then holding the breast down lengthwise with one fork, pull at it with another so the chicken strings off. The whole process should only take like 10-12 minutes or so tops :)