12.26.2009

Christmas Brunch



Green Chili Strata
  • about 15 oz canned chopped green chilies
  • half a loaf of good bread--about 2 and a half cups--cubed and toasted (I used sweet onion ciabatta)
  • six eggs
  • 4 cups low fat milk
  • 3/4 lb pepperjack cheese
  • six or seven strips of bacon
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • white pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste
  • half a cup of chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. lace bread in a 9 x 17 inch casserole dish and cover with the chilies, bacon, parsley, and most of the cheese. Mix eggs, onions, milk, and seasonings, then pour over bread mixture. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Turn the heat up in the last few minutes to brown the top, then serve with enchilada sauce or pico de gallo.



We also had quiche lorraine, with gruyere, chives, and bacon.




It was an ooey gooey Christmas!

Spotted: nothing to do with food

One side of the road, sunny skies:



You know you're in Sacramento when there are rain clouds on the other side:



Well, that, and this:


12.25.2009

Merry Christmas!


 
I'm hungry--brunch isn't done yet! Mom made quiche, like she always does, and I contributed a green chili bread pudding with sinful amounts of cheese and bacon. I am so HUNGRY!!!

At our house we don't have Christmas dinners any more--although Mom has tried to convince us they used to do them, I have only dim recollections of cherry-pineapple ham and whole cloves--and instead we have a big brunch after opening presents. And now that we're all older, the presents aren't really the main event. (Except for D.) S bragged to all her friends about our "traditional" quiche lorraine and how it was so much better than any Christmas dinner. I am wont to agree, as you will be when I upload pictures tomorrow.

For now, here are pictures of our annual gingerbread house! We buy a ready-made kit and a bunch of our favorite candy from Long's--now CVS, darn! Enjoy the pictures; I'm going to go nurse my growling stomach with a big glass of water.




 The pez were my idea but S tried to take the credit. Typical.



 She did a great job on the icicles, though!

12.20.2009

Florentine Biscotti



I'm studying up on delicious Florentine treats "to improve my Italian" (yeah, right) and occupy my time. In the US, biscotti, literally "twice-baked," is often served for breakfast or with after-dinner coffee--but Italians don't drink coffee after ten AM. So what do the Italians dunk their biscotti in? Vino, of course!

From my favorite Florentine chef, the Divina Cucina.

Traditional Biscotti

2 and 1/3 cups flour
2 and 1/3 cups sugar
1 tbs baking powder
4 eggs + 1 egg yolk

The "goodies," in my case cranberry almond and peppermint chocolate dipped, respectively, can be whatever you what! Hazelnuts are most traditional, especially for the holidays.

The first step, as in most baking recipes, is to preheat the oven. (You fail if you forget to turn it on, but this dough is so freaking delicious you might be tempted to "forget" to cook a little bit.) Anyway, 350 degrees worked pretty well for me.

I like to beat the eggs (and yolk) before adding them slowly to the dry ingredients. It was a step I made up after struggling to properly mix the first batch, and I'm not sure if it was "correct--but damn it's not like I'm actually Italian, so whatever. It made it easier to incorporate, in small bits, into the rest of the batter.

Form the dough into three loaves and bake for--well, for as long as it takes. This is the only tricky part. I wish I could give a real time for this but it was different for every loaf, but a rough estimate would be 25 to 30 minutes. It will look like a giant almost done cookie (my picture: what NOT to do). Let it rest a bit, say ten minutes, and cut into into 1/2 to 1 inch wedges, just however you like it.


Then bake again, for a total of about 20 minutes, turning them once in the oven so that all the cookies are evenly browned.


12.19.2009

What I've been up to...






...the last six months.

I got back from Baltimore yesterday and the first thing I did, of course, was check my parents' fridge--driven not by hunger or craving but mere curiosity. What would I have to work with? What new inspirations would I find?

You and I will find out! Let's just say I've already done some damage...

7.16.2009

Squash Pizza and Garlic Brussels Sprouts, from the Lamb post

As I mentioned, I used smitten kitchen for inspiration for my pizza, but Dad's brussels sprouts were all his idea.

I don't feel like typing out the whole recipe for pizza, although I will say that I tweaked Deb's recipe quite a bit. I used whole wheat flour (half wheat and half AP, as she suggested), fresh tomatoes instead of goat cheese; I also a bit of white vinegar as well as lemon juice over the pizza, and adding fresh basil and oregano from my garden. The whole wheat makes it very nutty, dense, and rich--be sure to add enough salt and pepper at the end.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, either sap up some extra moisture with paper or clean kitchen towels and a sprinkling of salt*, or pre-cook them a little bit. Extra moisture will make your pizza soggy. Gross.

The most important change I made was to do a slow rise with the dough. This is my favorite technique for creating simple, rich tasting breads. Make the dough up in the morning, then seven or eight hours later (about forty minutes before dinner) press it down and roll it out thin. Let it rise a second time, and add the toppings right before you put it in a very hot oven.

*The salt trick I learned post-pizza, so I can't vouch, but it seems like it would work.

Garlic Brussels Sprouts
  • A bunch of brussels sprouts
  • A few (chopped) cloves of garlic
  • A little extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Blanch slash boil brussels sprouts till almost done cooking. You can also microwave them, which I prefer to do, since the boiled water is full of nutrients but not very tasty. I hate throwing it out, but it doesn't make a good stock because, well, it holds onto the pervasive taste of brussels sprouts no matter what you add to it.

When they are almost done, shock the brussels sprouts in an ice bath to stop them cooking. Halve them.

Drop the olive oil into a cold skillet and add the chopped garlic. Heat on low to cook for just a little bit, until it's just getting golden. Add the brussels sprouts and sautee on medium heat until cooked, stirring only when necessary, preferably achieving a nice brown on the flat edges.

Obsessions, Pt. 3: Oysters

Skipped the market today, but it was so, so worth it. I met my dad for lunch, and while we had originally planned to go to Ella Dining Room, we ended up at McCormic and Schmick, because Ella had NO OYSTERS!

I'm pretty ignorant. (Ok, lamb and brussels sprouts in July was pretty bad.) I know that summer is the worst time of the year for fresh, raw oysters. But my dad and I had this strange empathetic craving for the bivalves.

On my end, it was brought on by watching the Food Network show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," or something to that effect. I generally don't enjoy Food Network shows (except that diners show and also "Unwrapped"), though I am a self-professed "Top Chef" junkie. One of my prized possessions is the Top Chef Cookbook, which one of my siblings gave me for my birthday last year.

Anyway, one of the celeb chefs said his obsession was raw oysters, which brings me, appropriately, to my first obsession: raw oysters.

I am by no shade of the word an aficionado. I am too young, for one thing (20 years old!!), and my palate is too undeveloped. I have also only had one variety: Marin oysters. Fitting, I know, since I have only eaten them in California and I'm trying to eat local, but still. When I read about Hama Hamas in the NY Times, my mouth starts to water at just the thought of something so exotic. To be honest, I think that's what appeals to me about oysters cultivated from distant lands: Puget Sound, the Gulf of Mexico, Japan...

Uncultured as I am, give me a bucket of oysters, a lemon, some horseradish, and Tabasco--and I promise I won't stop eating 'till I puke. For realsies.

7.14.2009

Coffee

I love it. Love it, love it, love it. But I have quirks about my coffee.
  1. I drink it with milk (more often than not it's of the soy persuasion) or with sugar, but seldom both--if only because I'm lazy.
  2. Lattes are delicious; sugar-free sweeteners make them even better.
  3. Black coffee is always best at just above room temperature, for maximum caffeine absorption.
  4. Whipped cream should never go on coffee, because when it melts you can see the little oily globules floating on the surface. EW. However, with espresso, con panne, it makes a fine dessert.
  5. Coffee ice cream with espresso poured over it is even better.
And every time I take a sip of coffee, I think about Jearlyn Steele, a long-time singer on the radio show "Prairie Home Companion." My grandfather has followed Garrison Keiller in all his mediums for most of his life, having grown up in Minnesota. (However, the recent movie based around the show was a bit too racy for him. Call it: the Lohan effect.)

Anyway, Jearlyn sings a lovely, silken hymn to Java on one of Grandpa's CDs--I think she does it in the movie, too, but I can't remember--and unfortunately I was not able to track it down. I won't leave you emptyhanded, though. Please enjoy this charming piece of Americana advertising, right out of a Time-Life commercial:
Jearlyn Steele has captivated fans of A Prairie Home Companion with her
uncanny ability to sing any song—pop, rock, R&B, jazz or folk. Now her
unique versatility is showcased in this collection of 12 songs — 10 of which
have been performed live on A Prairie Home Companion.

Favorites include the gospels "Peace on Earth" and "Saved", pop standards
"Something's Gotta Hold on Me" and "Natural Woman," and even the country classic
"Crazy." There's something for everyone!

See for yourself at Pretty Good Goods, a website that symbiotically supports public radio (since 1992!).

7.12.2009

The Lamb


If I may say so myself (honestly, I don't care if I may: I will say), it was as good as it looks.

I adapted from recipes from BBC, Amuses Bouche and allconsuming. I used some of everything: the cut of lamb (shoulder) and the proportions of veggies suggested by the french recipe, the
reduction for the sauce from BBC, and the marinade from the brilliant Aussie writer at
allconsuming.

But OMG. After going through the trouble of tracking down a local shoulder of lamb (in July, it's difficult, apparently), I can still say it was worth it. However, upon seeing the six pounds of meat I came home with, I started to doubt myself.


I will only say this once: I am not a butcher. I did my best to respect this beautiful (and overwhleming!) piece of meat, without ruining the nutritional value of our meal! Overall, I think I did an okay job.

Also, I do not drink $4 wine on a regular basis--not that I have anything against it based on price, per se, since at school I buy one liter bottles of Woodbridge on a regular basis. As my dad says, "You get what you pay for." That said, the Poppy wine made a rich and subtle broth to pour over the lamb during the meal (and was reduced to add to leftover stew later).

My favorite part (noooooot) was converting Celsius to Fahrenheit. I looked up my Kelvin/Celsius/Fahrenheit formula from ecology and tried it a couple times before realizing I had the internet at my fingertips. Thanks, Google. (Just in case you were wondering, 120 C = 248 F.)

Along side it I served a pizza adapted from smitten kitchen and garlicky brussel sprouts. The pizza seemed the perfect solution to our bread and veggies requirement.


For the 7-Hour Lamb

  • One lamb shoulder or leg (personal preference, I used shoulder)
  • One bottle dry white wine
  • Thyme
  • One or two bay leaves
  • Some yellow onions
  • A lot of fingerling potatoes
  • Some carrots
  • Extra stock, any kind

I poured the wine over the lamb Friday night, to marinate, coating the meat with peper each time I turned it (which happened whenever I remembered). The next morning, I poured it onto my chopped veggies while I browned the lamb on all sides in a roast pan over high heat, then tossed everything into the roast pan, made sure the meat was covered halfway with the extra stock, and tossed the whole thing (meat, veggies, wine, stock, herbs) into a pre-heated 250 degree oven.

I basted when I remembered too, which to be honest was every half hour, because I am anxious and OCD--I wanted to pull it out and eat it about four hours in.

To serve, pull apart with two forks. It actually fell away from the bone when I moved it out of the roast pan onto my serving dish.

7.10.2009

Sacra-tomato

L came over and brought me a birthday cake today!!! It is seriously the cutest thing ever. Everybody loves Sacramento jokes...


This girl can make a cake out of anything, i swear. In fact, admissions people were saying it's how she got into college. Her photo essay (all pictures of cakes she had made, including a calculator and a rubix cube) was so inspiring that she was known as "Cake Girl." Hopkins was actually obsessed with her.*


*But not as much as my family was obsessed with her cake, as you can see by the enormous chunk my brother took out of it.

Is DIY worth it for sushi?

We'll know by next weekend! My brother and sister got me a wonderful sushi making kit for my twentieth, which I can't wait to use! See how pretty?


The kit includes a bamboo rolling mat, nori, sushi rice, chopsticks, and a sushi "cookbook" with insanely detailed, beautiful, and complex instructions. I think I can handle nigiri, but don't expect any "Four Seas" or plum blossom shaped rolls.

7.09.2009

the Cake

I've been sitting on this post for a week now. It is the Cake post. I made this for our dinner party with Laura and Tony to celebrate the fourth of July and my little bro's birthday--but secretly it was for me a little bit too, because I knew I would be too lazy to bake myself a cake.

The Cake. The four layers of heaven that almost killed me. Saveur calls it the "Heaven and Hell cake," and this is not far from the truth. Devil's food, angel food. Fluffy cake, dense ganache. Heaven to eat, hell to digest.

The Cake, in its birthday suit

This Cake is a monster. It is without question a temperamental, supremely decadent, Paris Hilton of a cake--but so much fatter and so, so delicious.

Find the recipe here. Bake if you dare: It is so worth it. And I had the last piece for breakfast on my birthday! That is the breakfast of champions. Or it would have been, with a tall mimosa to wash it down with. (Fresca is just not the same.)

I did make one change to the recipe. Instead of the peanut butter mousse, at my brother's request I made a chocolate cream cheese frosting for the filling. Everything else was pretty much the same as the Saveur recipe, although I used 8" cake rounds rather than the larger version the magazine recommends. I fit all the devil's food into one round, but there was just so much fluffy angel food batter that I ended up with two healthy sized angel food cakes. I could have made six layers but I didn't feel motivated to slice unnecessarily, so the angel food layers were extra thick. I would actually do it like that again, because every other layer was unbelievably rich and dense.


Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz Neufchatel or Cream Cheese (room temp.)
  • 1/2 sitck sweet cream butter (softened)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 + cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Add sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. I wanted it to be thick so that it would stand up to the ganache coating and the rich cakes. Finally, add cocoa powder by tablespoons until desired chocolatiness is reached. This is prime sampling opportunity.

7.06.2009

Pot Luck

It's my birthday on Thursday! Last week my coworkers threw me a "taco bar" pot luck (and grandma's jam was totally out of place in a totally awesome and typical KMO way). But the real star of the party was a vegetarian taco meat that my friend Catherine made.

Oh. My. God.

It is silky, creamy, spicy and everything you want next to a pile of steamy cheese and cripsy, salty chips. Of course on my plate, it was more the topping of a taco salad--with more avocado than lettuce, again, typical.

Anyway, everybody begged her for the recipe and I am proud to present Catherine's Taco Veggie "Meat" with black beans and cumin. Even the carnivores wolfed it down.
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Cumin, to taste (I would guess at least one tbs, but start with a little if you aren't sure)
  • 1 package "Smart Ground" Taco/Burrito Meatless Veggie Protein Crumbles
  • 1 can whole black beans
  • Taco sauce or Cholula, to taste (at least 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Optional: 1 can of corn for color and sweetness

Chop onion and sautee with cumin in olive oil until slightly caramelized. Add garlic and sautee a few minutes before adding Smart Ground and beans (and corn). Allow to cook for 6-7, or longer if needed. Add sauce near the end of cooking. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Here is a link to the Light Life website, if you are curious about the Smart Ground. The chili is delicious!

7.05.2009

More birthdays...

Over the weekend we celebrated two more birthdays--the United States of America's and my little brother! Daniel turned sixteen the same day our country turned...like, three hundred and something? I can write and I can cook but apparently I can't count. I have a headache just trying to do that subtraction.

And we had another dinner party with Laura and Tony! Too much food, per usual, but it was all so gooood. I indulged in more of that delicious Amsterdam (I found out what it's called!) cheese, which I discovered was an aged gouda and not related to swiss or comte, like I'd thought.

Daniel ate an entire triangle of brie and probably half his body weight in ribs. I loved the sweet and spicy corn Laura made, and I have to say that my dad did a pretty great job on his ceviche. I also brought along a cold green bean salad.

Green Bean Salad with Walnuts and Cherry Tomatoes
  • One or two pounds yellow and green beans, french or wax (I like to mix)
  • One small red onion
  • 1 basket cherry tomatoes (or more, if you prefer)
  • For dressing: 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard, olive oil and red vinegar to taste, minced oregano and basil to taste, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mince onion and combine with dressing ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Clean and halve cherry tomatoes, and toss with dressing to coat. Set aside.

Clean, chop, and steam green beans. Add salt and pepper before cooking to get extra seasoning. I cheated and used the microwave. They turned out perfect.

The salad should be served warm or at room temperature. The important thing is to wait to add the dressing until just before serving, or the vinegar in the dressing will cause the beans to discolor. Add walnuts and enjoy!

7.01.2009

Cesar Chavez Farmer's Market

This is one of my favorite places in Sacramento on a Wednesday afternoon. In high school, I would come here with my best friend during the summer. We'd go shopping at Downtown Plaza, then drift down K street, sipping iced coffee and craving something sweet.

Cesar Chavez Plaza is a park in the
middle of downtown Sacramento, on the corner of J and 10th streets. It is lively, crowded, and colorful; it's noisy and it smells like the muffins and loaves of bread sold by Grateful Bread and Sacramento Baking Co., hemorrhaging steam in the hot weather.

As you can see, there is a reason some people call Sacramento by another name: Sacra-tomato. (And by some people, I obviously mean people who are not from here, who are probably the same people not from New York who call it the "Big Apple," or who call San Francisco "Frisco.")

Yes, those zucchini squash and yams are actually bigger than the watermelons.

Today it was actually a pretty cool afternoon (about 95 degrees F, HA!) so I spent my lunch wandering around, trying to sneak pictures with my blackberry. I brought a lunch, of course, some squash and rice with BBQ sauce leftover from Sunday, but when I passed the Italian Ice truck, it was like I was back in high school with S. I almost wanted to buy some white peaches and stuff them into a Forever 21 bag--but of course I didn't have one, and my tastes have turned toward less sweet fruits.

So I settled for dairy-free chocolate Italian Ice. It was a good compromise.

I didn't get a good picture of them, but today they had a sick band playing. It had a different vibe from the group that's usually at my Carmichael market (they play a lot of Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel). These guys play guitar and trumpet a la Cake and they are so great. Also, their lead singer is a woman, which makes the lyrics pretty funny.

All in all, it was a good lunch. Just don't tell my mom I was there; she'll be mad I'm not bringing home any Satsuma plums.

How KMO ate five chicken thighs in one sitting

In my defense, they were itty-bitty organic, free-range chickens. And I hadn't had chicken for a month and a half, and it's probably one of my things. And my mom brined them and then made this amazing barbeque sauce for my dad and I to spread on the meat when we were grilling it...


It didn't matter that I also marinated and grilled eggplant and summer squash. Or that we half-steamed, seasoned, and then cooked corn over the chicken on the bun warmers of our barbeque.

It was goooooood. And I am not ashamed.

Mostly my body was craving protein. I really try to get it, in soy milk, beans, etc. but on a daily basis I don't do as well as I should for how active I am.

So there you have it: How KMO ate five chicken thighs in one sitting and lived to tell the tale.

**Recipe to follow for my mom's super-amazing BBQ sauce, adapted from some magazine we gotsomewhere. Like I said, more details later.

6.30.2009

Veggie Update

It's growing!!!