Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

I apologize that this is a little late this year. I just returned from 2 weeks in Ecuador (recipes and stories to follow).  Merry Christmas and Happy Gifting!

Handmade: Page Pottery's Large Pitcher would be a beautiful addition to any kitchen.

Stocking Stuffer: Bright and sharp Pure Komachi paring knives slip easy into any stocking.

For the Bar: This set of copper Mugs will keep your Moscow Mules traditional.

Timeless: This All Clad Stainless Steel Fry Pan is hands down the most used item in my kitchen, along with my 8 inch chef's knife.  It is a workhorse: tough and versatile.  A great gift for new cooks or for those in need of an upgrade.

Reading: For those with a logical brain, The Science of Good Cooking written by our friends over at Cook's Illustrated will explain away many common errors, and enlighten on the science behind the intuition.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

White Bean Salad with Grilled Shrimp, and an Anniversary

2 months ago Steven and I celebrated 2 years of marriage with a trip to Nantucket, Cape Cod and Boston. We had a wonderful trip, filled with delicious seafood and wonderful Italian in Boston's North End.  We biked, and swam, and ate and wandered all over Eastern Massachusetts.  Part of my gift to Steven (along with a copper mug for his prized Moscow Mules) was this book with beautiful photos of Turkey, and lovely recipes.  Of all of our travels, Turkish food is probably my favorite.  The flavors are fresh and
Mediterranean, with a distinctive hint of spice.

I recently made (and adjusted) this recipe from the book.  Pictures of the Eastern Seaboard below.
Looking across Nantucket Harbor

White Bean Salad with Grilled Shrimp

Adapted from Turkey
  • 2 cups dried white beans or 1 can unsalted white beans
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
Served with Whole Wheat Flatbread
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • dash of chili powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large pinch dried chili flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into thin half moon slices
  1. Soak dried beans overnight and drain.
  2. Put beans in saucepan and add just enough water to cover, bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat 50-60 minutes or until very tender.  Drain well.
  3. Soak 4 wooden skewers in water for ~30 minutes.
  4. Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  5. For the dressing, combine garlic, tahini, chili flakes, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl.  Allow to sit 10 minutes.  
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet, add beans and saute over low heat for 5 minutes.  Add wine and continue to cook until liquid has evaporated. Salt to taste, then remove from heat and set aside. 
  7. Heat grill to medium.
  8. Re-whisk dressing, then slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking. 
  9. Combine beans and dressing in a large bowl and toss to coat.
  10. Add olives, onion, parsley and tomato and gently combine.
  11. Thread shrimp on skewers and grill for 2 minutes each side.  
  12. Divide salad and serve topped with shrimp

Provincetown, Cape Cod

Boston, MA 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Make a Wedding Cake: Lemon Chiffon Wedding Cake

Steven's Instagram of the girls
Thanks to Val for all the cake pics...I of course didn't take any
When one of my best friends called me in March asking if I would make her a cake for her August wedding in Seattle, I quickly agreed. I then ignored the obligation for the next four months.  Around mid-July as I was preparing to celebrate her bachelorette party I realized I needed to put some thought into this cake, and I made a couple "tester" lemon cakes, in Aspen, at 8000 feet.  About a week before the wedding my mom, who had graciously offered/ been bullied to help, asked me for a grocery list so that she could pick up what we needed.  I panicked. At the time I was running around as a bridesmaid in another friend's wedding and trying to mentally calculate how much flour/sugar/eggs/etc we would need.  I came up with rough estimates and hoped for the best.  I landed in Seattle on Tuesday night 4 hours later than my planned arrival time.  My sister very kindly picked me up from the airport and drove the 2 hours to my parents house arriving at the door just after 3:00am.  Wednesday morning we woke up and started baking.  We baked for about 6 hours on Wednesday and 5 more on Thursday. Friday we spent about 2 hours putting the cakes together with filling and crumb coat, and Saturday we did the final frosting and assembly, which took about 1 hour.

What I learned:

1. Making a cake in a city where you don't live is difficult because of timing.
2. If you can pre-bake the cakes 1-3 weeks ahead and freeze (process described below).  This will reduce your stress and eliminate much of the chaos.
3. If you do not have a professional kitchen, expect to take many hours to make enough batter and bake enough cakes.
4. Expect to have some failures, and buy extra ingredients.
5. Following a recipe already made for wedding cakes is probably a lot easier than using a birthday cake recipe and recklessly multiplying.
6. Keep the decorations simple.
7. Enlist help!!!

I decided on making a tiered lemon cake that I thought would serve about 100, and then 3 chocolate cakes for the remaining 50 people.  We had a small piece of chocolate left over and a full tier of lemon, so I would say I overestimated by about 50 servings. 

Lemon Chiffon Wedding Cake (serves ~120-150 guests depending on size of pieces)
adapted from Love and Olive Oil

  • Stand mixer (extra bowl is very helpful)
  • 2 inch deep cake pans: 12 inch, 10 inch, 8 inch, 6 inch (optional)
  • Spatulas
  • Large mixing bowls
  • 1 box sturdy straws
  • 3 cardboard rounds: 12 inch, 10 inch, 8 inch.  Covered with foil.
  • Flowers or greenery for decoration
For the whole Cake

  • 64 eggs, fresh and local if possible
  • 4 cups olive oil
  • 6-8 lemons depending on size
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 12 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
This is equivalent to six batches of cake.  I used one batch for each 12 inch layer, two batches for one 8 inch and one 10 inch layer.  The 8 and 10 inch combinations left me enough batter to make a small six inch cake that I gave to the bride and groom.

Baking order: first 12 inch layer, first 10 inch layer and first 8 inch layer, second 12 inch layer, second 10 inch and second 8 inch layer along with small 6 inch layer for bride and groom (did not go on top of cake).

To make one batch:
I made chocolate cakes too...
  • 8 large eggs, separated 
  • 2/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 2 cups cake flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Line the bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper. 
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. 
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until light and frothy, add cream of tarter and whip a little more. 
  5. Slowly add 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. 
  6. Sift the flour, remaining sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk gently to combine. 
  7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg yolk mixture and mix to create a smooth paste. 
  8. Add one-fourth of the egg whites and beat in to lighten the batter. 
  9. Fold in the remaining egg whites until evenly incorporated. Divide among perpared pans. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks. Once cool, run a knife around the cakes to release, then invert onto wire racks. Cakes should come out cleanly. At this point the cake layers can be frozen, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and bagged, for up to a month. Freezing the cakes also makes them easier to work with later.
Lemon Curd Filling (with optional poppy seeds)
From the Food Network
  • 6 lemons 
  • 3 cups sugar 
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 8 extra-large eggs 
  • 1 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons) 
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds (optional)

1.  Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
2. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.
4. Stir in poppy seeds when cool.

Vanilla Butter Cream

you will probably want to make this in 3 batches, 1 for day one and 2 for the wedding day.
  • 3 pounds butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk (more or less depending on consistency)
for the crumb coat
  1. Combine 1 stick butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon milk and blend on  low until mixture becomes to come together.  
  3. Drizzle in more milk until a fairly thin frosting forms (almost like a glaze)
  4. Use this to coat each layer the night before the wedding.
for the decorative frosting
  1. Combine vanilla, powdered sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until beginning to look like small pebbles. 
  2. Drizzle in milk until a thick frosting forms.
  3. Beat 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy

Day before the wedding
  1. 5-6 hours before assembly, remove cakes from freezer and thaw at room temperature. Slice off any domed tops so you have 6 even layers.
  2. Slice each layer horizontally and fill with lemon curd.  Replace top and set aside.  
  3. Place one 12 inch layer on the foil-covered cardboard.  Coat top of layer with butter cream and then gently place other 12 inch layer on top.  Insert ~8 straws all the way through the layers in a circle and trim until flush with top of cake. Repeat with 10 and 8 inch layers.  
  4. Coat the outside of each layer with a crumb coat and refrigerate overnight.
Wedding Day
  1. Coat each cake with a thick layer of butter cream and smooth the edges with an offset spatula.
  2. Ideally, transport the cakes to the venue now, and bring along some "touch up" icing.
  3. Place the 12 inch layer on your serving plate.
  4. Gently place the 10 inch layer in the middle of the 12 inch.
  5. Repeat with the 8 inch.
  6. Using a small knife or spatula, touch up any areas of frosting that are imperfect.
  7. Decorate with greens, fruit, or flowers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala and a Mid-Summer Update

photo from Bon Appetit, because I forgot
The lack of posting here is a testimony to my summer that has been bursting with sunshine and playing outside.  We have been cooking on the grill to keep the loft cool, drinking chilled wine in the grass, and playing on mountain and road bikes, mountainsides, running rivers, and rock walls.  The summer has been full of people: girls weekend, group camping, mountain adventures, house guests, and a visit home for me. The next half of summer promises more of the same with plans for many adventures. I will hopefully be better with providing you with kitchen inspiration.

This is a recipe I have been tweaking, and find to be an excellent combo of grilling and cooking.  Enjoy!

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Bon Appetit and The Pioneer Woman
  • 2-3 large chicken breasts
  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch by 3 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 small serrano chili, small dice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28 ounce can of diced or whole peeled tomatoes.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
1. Combine yogurt, 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon coriander, and 1 teaspoon paprika in a medium sized bowl.  Salt chicken and then place in bowl turning to coat with marinade.  Cover and marinade in refrigerator for 2-6 hours.
2. Mince remaining garlic and ginger together to form a very small mince (almost turning into a paste).  Set aside.
3. Heat butter over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed skillet.  Add 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 teaspoon coriander, and 1 teaspoon paprika to the butter and stir until spices are fragrant (1-2 minutes).
4. Add onion and a little oil to make sure spices are not burning. Cook 5 minutes or until onion is beginning to soften.  Reduce heat to medium low and add 1/2 of the garlic/ginger mixture and diced chili cook 1-2 minutes.
5. Push onion mixture to one side of the pan and add about 1 tablespoon of oil in the other side.  Add the tomato paste and heat stirring constantly until paste begins to caramelize.  Stir to combine with onion mixture.
6. Pre-heat the grill to high
7. When the spices begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add tomatoes with juice.  If using whole tomatoes, smash them with your spoon.
8. Add the bay leaf.
9. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  Then stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons garam masala, heavy cream and rest of garlic/ginger mixture.
10. Transfer chicken to grill and cook 5-7 minutes per side until interior temperature reaches 165.
11.  Allow tomato mixture to simmer while chicken is cooking, salt to taste.
12. Remove chicken from grill and cut into 1 inch cubes.  Stir into tomato mixture and serve over rice or with a side of flat bread (or both).

In Pictures: Mid-Summer Update

Sedona Girls Weekend

Teaching the girls to bike: Parris, me, Val, Catherine

Moab Camping:

Memorial Day Rafting

Mtn Biking in Aspen:

Food and Wine Classic in Aspen:

Climbing Mt. Sopris:

4th of July Climbing and Backpacking:

Mom and Dad in Town (trip to Crested Butte):