Crêpes Are For…

Crêpes with Strawberries and Muscat-Yogurt Sauce

“Crêpes with Strawberries and Muscat-Yogurt Sauce” from Food & Wine

Way, way, back at the turn of the century when I still had brightly colored hair and wore a little too much (all) black, I used to follow my mother around the world dutifully slacking off in my school work and listening to music that we simply will not bring up because it really wasn’t worth all those hours and made a horrifying soundtrack to driving through the Dalmatian coast in the fall…

Back in 200o I was temporarily living in a lovely flat in Baku, Azerbaijan, while my mom was doing work there. My dad had returned to his actual full time job of professoring to students he would still be teaching several years later when I started college and a couple of whom I beat to graduation a few years after that. After our time in Azerbaijan, and many caviar breakfasts later, my mom decided to take me to Paris for a week to get as much art and culture into me as possible. While in Paris we did several things right: Fresh pastries like croissants for breakfast, lunch at a cafe or restaurant somewhere in the city in between our tourist bits, and crepes for dinner.

There was this man who stood in this little box on the corner of some street near our hotel. He probably had a stool in there too but the stand was so small it looked like he just stood there for hours. He had a few shelves with basic ingredients and then a large container with his batter and his round pan in front of him. My mom would always order (in French) and she usually got the classic with a little lemon and powdered sugar.

Basic Crepes

“Basic Crepes” from Leite’s Culinaria

I on the other hand noticed the Nutella jar on his shelf. Sometimes I’d mix it up and get Nutella with strawberries but there was no way anything else could compare to a fresh, hot, crepe slathered in Nutella and eaten on the way to to the Eiffel Tower on a November evening.

Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes from Kwestia Smaku (This picture also happens to be the background on my phone)

The first time I had ever had crepes was a few years earlier when my mom was still having to spend 2 weeks a month in Haiti and I would usually go with her.  Sometimes we would be in a guest house provided by the office or staying in the house of friends who worked there too but occasionally we would end up in a hotel. Now, most of the hotels we stayed at sustained some damage in the last earthquake but they were high-end enough that they have since done some recovering and last time my mom was there they were housing way too many aid workers than is good for any country. Back then, I’d had crepes for brunch or lunch and it was filled with asparagus and a sort of hollandaise-like sauce that I absolutely loved. I have no idea how to recreate that but I’ve just now decided that I really need to be more purposeful in my trying to.

But ever since Haiti I’ve only ever had crepes savory once. It was after some really awkwardly weird production on “Women Beware Women” at a small theater neat U St. at a crepe shop with a lovely menu. I forget everything that was in it but I do remember goat cheese and eggplant because I know that I saw that option on the menu and I know me so I know that I ordered whatever that was. But other than that it’s usually been sweet crepes like these:

Maryam's Chocolate Crepes

“Maryam’s Chocolate Crepes” from Sips and Spoonfuls

Another thing, is that except for every single time I’ve eaten a crepe “out” it’s been for a meal that started at least around noon while at home, I’ve always had it for breakfast. I think that the only explanation is that crepes are good for every meal at any time of day and that they can be sweet or savory which I think is verging on the perfect food… Yeah I think it’s just about perfect. We’re gonna go with perfect.

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Ass-Pear-A-Goose

Linguine with Asparagus and Egg

“Linguine with Asparagus and Egg” from Martha Stewart’s Asparagus Recipes Pinterest Board

Say what you will about Martha Stewart but that woman(‘s people) know her(/their) gastroporn. All the massive piles of pork aside, her recipes are often clean and include ingredients that I often approve of. One of my many resource lists generated her “Asparagus Recipes” Pinterest Board and I really like asparagus. Had some just yesterday for Easter Lunch. Easiest way to prepare Asparagus is to just lay them out on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and bake at 375 F for about 25 minutes with a quick shake/turn somewhere in the middle. I usually add the lemon to the tray (cut side down) and it adds a nice garnish at the end that’s useful for those who like a little extra zest on their asparageese.

Pin Me Down, Tie Me Up, and Eat Me

For the longest time I was fairly out of the loop on the whole social media scene. Not to say I was illiterate in it, simply that I chose to browse the library databases rather than the ramblings of the people with which I would be forced to acknowledge once I got a Facebook page. Yes, I’m aware you can be selective. But, no, I’m not one to blatantly say “I think you’re stupid, THAT’S why.”

Now that the universe has seen fit to give me more time to spend on such things (probably more than should be allotted to any one person) I’ve been working on my virtual presence. Like one grows their credit rating in order to eventually, one day, buy a house.

With the start of this blog I’ve also started a Pinterest account within which I have been keeping a lot of my online findings. This weekend I have reached over 400 pins and am now sharing it with you, my readership. While I eventually plan to further categorize everything I have tried to categorize the images, recipes, and ideas into manageable sections for anyone looking to find specific recipes or ideas.

I think it would be interesting to do a virtually organized set of themed cookbooks using something like Pinterest. I think it should go in courses starting with Welcome Drinks & Appetizers. Here (using my now burgeoning Pinterest collection) are some ideas for that:

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

Sophie Dahl’s Iced Tea

Strawberry Basil Sangria

Asparagus Phyllo Appetizers

Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Rolls

Millefeuille d’Aubergines And Chèvre Frais

You can find me and my boards on Pinterest by following the link below.

http://pinterest.com/ocitl/

The Great Disappointment (of 2012)

Like the Millerites on the morning of October 23rd I realized that something was very very wrong with either my interpretation of my book or with the book itself. And, like the Millerites, I went back and tried again. And, after the second time around of “What the *$^@*#& is going on here!?!” it didn’t take a prophet to tell me that something had to go.

If you’ve been following the posts to far you’ll know that my summer project was supposed to be Chocolate (see “For The Love of Chocolate!“). I’d chosen “Chocolat”, by Stéphan Lagorce, as the book I was going to use as my guide through this vast field of options but I’ve officially changed my mind after this past weekend.

Now, I’m not above admitting that I’ve made mistakes before and that there is a slight possibility that I just messed up on the recipes I tried this weekend. But there are several key features to my failures that alert me to the failure of the recipe and not myself:

(1) Just because it looks bad doesn’t mean it should taste bad.

(2) Just because you mess up on one step doesn’t mean the whole recipe is shot.

(3) If something goes wrong with a recipe I can almost always pinpoint why and how to solve the problem the second time around.

(4) I may not be the  greatest cook but I know I’m not THIS bad.

So here’s what happened this weekend. My brother had a competition (he’s a champion Irish dancer) up in New Jersey this weekend and the whole family was going. Knowing this was going to be one of the last chances I was going to have with an empty house and the kitchen to myself I decided to stay behind and take full advantage of the situation. I love my family but they really do get in the way of gastronomical progress with all their regularly scheduled meal times and a blatant disregard for marked sanitized areas of food preparation.

I intended to make:

  • 2-3 different kinds of truffles
  • a new chocolate cupcake recipe
  • 2 different kinds of mousse
  • an asparagus tart
  • perogies
  • green beans (for me)
  • corn dogs (for a friend that stopped over to lend a hand)
  • baklava (the recipe found in June’s Gastroporn Menu)
  • Blueberry muffins
  • a new blueberry preserve cake
  • cold pressed coffee

I actually made:

  • 2 kinds of truffles and one too-liquid ganache
  • my new favorite chocolate cupcake recipe with icing
  • 1 kind of mousse (also known as Failure # 2)
  • an asparagus tart and an onion tart
  • TLC perogies (as in perogies that NEED a little more TLC)
  • the green beans (with a missing ingredient but still good)
  • corn dogs that turned out nothing like the last time I made them
  • baklava (which turned out fantastic except somehow I missed that the nuts were way past their expiration date)
  • BLUEBERRY muffins (I like them with about 3x the amount of blueberries called for)
  • no cake
  • my new favorite way of making iced coffee

Obviously, not all of these recipes come from “Chocolat”. I also used one of my old journal recipes, a recipe from my mom’s little blue box filled with index cards, the 2000 edition of Food & Wine, and some recipes I’d found online.

These are the two recipes that I tried from “Chocolat” before I decided I was done wasting good chocolate:

Chocolate Truffles – Not using this recipe again.

Whtie Chocolate Mousse – Not worth the work or money spent on ingredients or the space it will take up in your fridge

I managed to salvage the truffles in the end but it was not pretty. It calls for too much butter and the chocolate separated and all the butter came to the top. I had to soak up all the butter off the top of the “ganache” with several paper towels before chilling in the fridge.

The mousse was just a big fat “Never Again”. A similar thing happened with the butter separating during the melting process and when you mix in the heavy cream the whole thing just goes to  *&%@^#. The final product not only has the worst texture ever (even for not mousse) but it tastes oily.

I’m just so disappointed in this book I’m not sure what to do. I used a different truffle recipe which turned out so much better, if a little softer than I would have liked. This recipe makes delicious truffles. I love earl grey tea in dark chocolate. It’s one of the best combinations.

Chocolate Earl Grey Truffles

I tried to use this basic recipe to make a Mango-Ceylon White Chocolate truffle but I forgot how white chocolate reacts with the cream (you need to use a lot less or something) when you try to make a ganache so it’s too soft to be a ganache but it would make a decent sauce or spread.

As for the mousse I also have a better recipe for that from a friend which I will share here:

Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • zest of one lemon
  • 9 oz. of 70% chocolate chopped (60% is easier to find in the grocery stores near me and works just as good)
  • 1 1/3 cups of Mascarpone cheese
  • pinch of nutmeg 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier or orange juice
Steps:
  1. Put 1/2 a cup of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. When the cream is warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  3. Put the Mascarpone, the remaining cream, and the nutmeg into a bowl and whip until the Mascarpone is loose.
  4. Add in the Grand Marnier (or orange juice) and whip of medium until it reaches soft peaks. {Note: Do not over whip!}
  5. Mix about 1/4 of the Mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining Mascarpone.
  6. Can be served immediately or chilled to be a little firmer.

Back in the day I took one of those “fun” courses in college on journaling. Never regretted it. After doing my journal for the class I decided to do one for the DC are which also ended up being partly a recipe journal. I’d just cut and paste (literally) recipes from various places into the journal. This is the age with the recipes for perogies I tried years ago and decided to give another try. Unfortunately I don’t think my hands are talented enough to get this right because mine come out looking rather unappealing, which is too bad because I really like perogies. The best ones I had, however, were in Poland, and that’s a little hard to beat.

Mustardy Perogies (Bonus Recipe: Flaky Pear Pie)

For breakfast on Sunday morning I made these for a friend and I:

Low-fat Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been using the recipe for these for some time now and I love them. They aren’t too sweet and I always put in way too many blueberries so it’s like a big pile of blueberries being held together by fluffy muffin. It comes from this book:

Muffins:
40 Tantalizing Recipes for Tasty Muffins

Here is the recipe:

Low-fat Blueberry Muffins – Recipe

We drank the cold pressed coffee with these while watching “Merlin” on Netflix and it was good. To make the coffee just use a french press with the grounds and cold water and leave it overnight. “Press” it in the morning and viola! I made ice cubes with half of it and we drank the rest with a little cream and sugar.

Making the Baklava was actually one of the easiest recipes on my List. The only thing that I need to change the next time I make it is to use fresh walnuts instead of what I found in the pantry. The recipe and “How To” video can be found on the June Gastroporn menu. I served it with a Moroccan mint tea.

I also made 2 savory tarts and I have to say that in this case it was an interesting result. I had intended to make this recipe:

Asparagus Tart

It took forever to make this between all the chilling of the dough (even though I almost never fully chill doughs according to the recipe and they turn out fine for the most part) and the hour and forty-five minutes of baking time. It turned out absolutely beautiful (just like in the photo) and it’s also pretty when you cut through it and can see the asparagus.

After making the asparagus tart there was some of the egg/milk filling left over so I added a couple more eggs and a bit more milk and used a store-bought pie crust I needed to use that was in the fridge and made an onion tart. All it takes is 4 onions halved and sliced sauteed with some oil, salt, pepper (I put in a good half teaspoon or more to give it a good kick), and a couple teaspoons of sugar to give it some caramelization. Put the onions in the crust, grate some good hard cheese (I have parmigiano reggiano) on top, pour in the egg mixture, and bake at 375 F for about 40 minutes.

I took both tarts over to someone’s house after making them and it was a tie between the asparagus tart that took almost 3 hours to make and the onion tart which took one hour (including baking time).

I served these with green beans which I sauteed with a couple cloves of garlic in oil, add some salt and a little pepper, the juice of a lemon and soy sauce for a couple minutes before adding in some chopped tomatoes and covering. Cook until the beans are just getting tender then stop. If you keep cooking them they’ll be mushy.

Even with all the issues in the kitchen this weekend there was one truly bright spot and it’s the cupcake recipe I tried. The link to this cupcake recipe takes you to a master page with several other cupcake recipes which I am now more interested in trying after the success of these. This recipe is both easier and more chocolaty (thanks to the Guinness) than the recipe I’ve been using.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Ever since Georgetown Cupcakes won the DC Cupcake Wars a few years back I’ve been using a recipe adapted from the winning chocolate cupcake which was printed in the Washington Post. I changed the chocolate ganache icing for a cream cheese icing which I usually flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey’s Icing

Ingredients:

Cupcake:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Icing:

  • 12 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons Bailey’s
  • 5 1/2 powdered sugar

Steps:

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the eggs and continue to beat.
  4. Mix the milk and vanilla in a measuring cup.
  5. Alternate adding the milk mixture and flour mixture into the butter and sugar.
  6. Sift the cocoa powder and add. beat until combined.
  7. Fill cupcake tins and bake at 350 F for 18-20 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. To make the icing, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat until creamy.
  9. Add in half the Bailey’s and continue to beat.
  10. Add in the powdered sugar about a cup at a time and dribble in a little of the remaining Bailey’s into the mix between batches of the sugar. Be sure to end the process with the sugar.
  11. Continue to beat the whole mixture until fluffy.

While this weekend wasn’t as successful as I was hoping for I did end up with quite a few good things. The truffles were a good learning experience but I will stick to dark chocolate from now on I think. Seeing as

Eat Green, Drink Pink

I recently did one of my fairly regularly scheduled  look-through’s of Food & Wine.com when I noticed that i gravitate towards green plated foods and pink hued drinks. I’m assuming that I’ve always done this subconsciously but now I have Pinterest to point it out by putting all the photos together in one place for me.

It might have something to do with the fact that I was looking under seasonal dishes and that my summer veggie preferences tend to fall green on the color spectrum (Except tomatoes but I didn’t see any particularly exciting looking tomato recipes this time). Here are some of the web-harvested highlights in the green department:

Herbed Fazzoletti with Asparagus and Burrata

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Grilled Broccoli with Chipotle-Lime Butter and Queso Fresco

When I was in college I remember a particularly drizzly day while a friend and I were walking across the parking lot talking about the taste of colors. I tried explaining this concept to someone they said I was just doing what I always do, which is apparently making things up. But consider this: what ingredients or flavors would make a drink “pink”? Strawberries; Raspberries; Pink Grapefruit; and in the case of this absolutely fantastic piece of GastroPorn, Hibiscus syrup.

Hibiscus Mimosa

If these images (and their corresponding recipes, which can be reached by clicking said images) aren’t proof enough that eating green can be healthy and fun. And, if Dr. Suess didn’t make Pink Ink sound good enough, I hope that last picture did.