Sunday, August 31, 2008


This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. The challenge was to create éclairs using chocolate in either the pastry cream or glaze. I felt like using some orange flavoring in this and made orange and vanilla filled éclairs (sort of like creamsicles), topped with bittersweet chocolate glaze.

The recipe takes a bit of work and time, but it's great to do if you have a weekend where you just feel like relaxing in the kitchen and making something different. You can easily mess around with different creams and glazes, making any sort of flavor combination you want.

Recipe -
Pâte à choux:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375ºF. In a medium sized pot over high heat, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil. Once a rolling boil is obtained, reduce heat to medium and add all the flour at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes, or until dry (a thin film will remain on the bottom of the pot - that's what you're looking for). Move to a stand mixer with paddle attachment and stir on medium-low speed. Add eggs one at a time, waiting for each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next. The choux should now be shiny and ribbony. While still warm, place into piping bag (I removed all tips to get a thick diameter, but you could use any round tips about 1 inch in diameter), and shape the éclairs onto parchment paper placed over a baking sheet. At this point the éclairs can be frozen until ready to use, or place directly into the oven. After 7 minutes have passed, open the door just a crack and wedge your wooden spoon's handle in to keep it ajar. Keep heating it for an additional 5 minutes, then quickly turn the baking sheet front to back. Bake 8 more minutes or until golden brown and firm.

Orange cream:
1 cup whole milk
Juice of half a large orange
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
Food coloring (optional)

In a small heavy pot over medium heat, combine milk, juice, and sugar. Heat until lightly steaming. Temper in the egg yolks, and then add the cornstarch. Turn heat up to high and whisk vigorously until thickened. Move pot into a bowl containing ice water to stop the cooking - continue whisking vigorously to keep the cream smooth. When cooled to about 140ºF, remove pot from ice bath and add butter one piece at a time, waiting until the previous piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add food coloring until a nice orange color is obtained. Wrap with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Vanilla cream:
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine the ingredients and mix over medium-high speed until whipped cream forms. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Chocolate glaze:
4 1/2 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (like Valrhona), chopped finely
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small heavy pot over medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until boil is reached. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until thickened, 10-15 minutes or until nappe.

Place the éclairs onto a cooling rack, and set an empty one next to it. Cut each of the éclairs in half, leaving the bottom where it is and transferring the top to the corresponding spot on the next rack - this helps keep track of which top goes to the corresponding bottom. Remove creams from refrigerator and pipe onto the bottom halves of each éclair, half orange and half vanilla. Dip the tops into the chocolate glaze, and place on top of the matching éclair bottom. Allow the glaze to set, about 5 minutes, before serving. Yields about 18 éclairs, more or less depending on the size.

As mentioned before, the choux can be frozen ahead of time, so long as the éclair shapes are already made. Take out of the freezer and place directly into the preheated oven, and just add a couple minutes to the baking time (before rotating). The creams can also be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, so this recipe can be spaced out over the course of a week or so if you don't have enough time to do it all at once. The glaze, however, needs to be made right before the tops are dipped into it to ensure a nice shine.


Orange and vanilla filled éclairs

See Creamséclairs on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chocolate and Raspberry Banded Ice Cream Torte

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte, selected by Food, Family, and Fun. I stuck with the original idea of the torte, using raspberries to flavor vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between layers of chocolate. I usually don't post recipes I've adapted from this book, but this dessert was so wonderful that I felt compelled.

The original recipe uses raw eggs in the chocolate, and normally I wouldn't have a problem eating this myself or serving it to others - the cases of salmonella are just too rare for it to be a serious threat as long as the eggs are kept refrigerated and used while fresh. However, I was bringing it over to my brother's house as a dessert, and my sister-in-law is pregnant, so I tried to find some whole pasteurized eggs. Three markets later, I still couldn't find any, so I ended up buying a carton of pasteurized egg whites. I was a little worried it might affect the way the chocolate was held together or tasted, but seeing how well the dessert came out, I wouldn't change it back. I also avoided the Chambord (after I bought the bottle), just in case. I know, a bit extreme, but I'm playing it safe.

Recipe - Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
14 tablespoons butter, each tablespoon cut into four pieces
9 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate (like Valrhona), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups pasteurized egg whites
1 (12-ounce) package frozen black raspberries, thawed
1 tablespoon Chambord or other raspberry liqueur (optional)
1 quart high-quality vanilla ice cream (like Häagen-Dazs)

8 ounces fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Grease a 8-inch springform pan. In a double boiler over medium heat, add the butter and chocolate. Mix together with a whisk until melted thoroughly - don't overheat or the chocolate will separate from the butter. Once it is combined, remove the bowl from heat and add the sugar. Cool the mixture for at least 5 minutes, and then slowly pour in the pasteurized eggs while whisking. Once it is homogenous, hit the bowl hard on the counter a few times so the bubbles come to the surface and pop.

Pour a third of this chocolate mixture into the springform pan and swirl until it is evenly distributed. Place into the freezer for 30 minutes, or until solid. Once it is solid, place the ice cream into a large food processor and add the black raspberries. Process until all the raspberries are broken up and distributed through the ice cream evenly. Spread half of the ice cream evenly on top of the chocolate, then place into the freezer for 15 minutes or until hard. Store the remaining ice cream in the freezer. Once the torte layer is solid, pour on another third of the chocolate mixture and swirl until evenly distributed. Freeze 30 minutes, then add the remaining chocolate and freeze an additional 15. Finally, add the remaining chocolate on top and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Before serving, pour hot water into a towel and surround the springform pan for 30 seconds. Pop open the springform and remove the torte. Place back into the oven so the melted sides can set up again before it's served. While waiting for it to cool down again, take 6 ounces of the fresh raspberries (leaving the rest for decoration) and place into a small saucepan with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place over medium heat and stir with a spoon until the raspberries have broken up releasing the syrup. Pour into a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds and skin. Cool in the refrigerator before serving. Remove the torte from the freezer 15 minutes before cutting to let it warm up a bit. Using a knife warmed by running under hot water, cut the slices of torte and serve with a spoonful of syrup and a few raspberries on the side.

This is absolutely one of my favorite recipes so far. My mom complimented me on it, saying you could easily find it in a nice restaurant for $9 a slice. This was my first time actually splurging by getting the best quality chocolate and ice cream I could, and it absolutely made all the difference in the final taste.

Chocolate and Raspberry Banded Ice Cream Torte

A very rich ending to a good meal. This recipe ...

See Chocolate and Raspberry Banded Ice Cream Torte on Key Ingredient.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Picadillo Tacos

I was planning on making a meal at my brother's house and really wanted to try to make something cultural I've never tried before. I started scanning epicurious and looked through the different recipes under the international browsing, but nothing really got me excited. Then I remembered Elle had a post where she made a Cuban inspired dish by making faux picadillo. I grabbed that recipe and adapted it to what I had on hand, then threw some tortillas in the mix to make some delicious picadillo tacos. Note - I'm aware it's not authentic.

Recipe - Adapted from Elle's New England Kitchen: Cuban Style Picadillo

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound chorizo, removed from casing
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 c. green olives with pimentos, chopped
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

24 small tortillas
Shredded lettuce
2 limes, sliced
Sour cream
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 avacados, skinned and sliced

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the meats and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper to the meats, and periodically stir for another 10 minutes. Add the garlic and all the spices, saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, and sugar. Stir until combined, then cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and add the raisins, olives, and apple cider vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then add the eggs, almonds, hazelnuts, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Warm the tortillas and set out the sides. Scoop some picadillo onto each tortilla, then add the toppings of choice.

Yields 24 soft tacos, which will probably serve 8 people if not more when accompanied by side dishes. This only took about 45 minutes from start to finish, and is wonderfully delicious. The olives and nuts in the mix give it some texture and good flavor without you really noticing it. You can easily make the picadillo and then stuff it into enchiladas, omelettes, et cetera.

Picadillo Tacos

A hearty meal that takes only 45 minutes to prepare ...

See Picadillo Tacos on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Strawberry Swedish Visiting Cake

A friend of mine was helping me make the lasagna I posted earlier, and she really wanted some cake for dessert. I hadn't thought of a dessert ahead of time, so I threw Baking: From My Home to Yours at her and let her go through the book to pick something out that looked quick and simple. She came across the Swedish Visiting Cake, and I had bought some strawberries and strawberry jam, so I mixed it all together.

It's a very simple recipe and makes a delicious cake using a cast iron skillet. There's definitely room to play around with this recipe and make variations like I did. I also used orange flavoring instead of lemon, and I absolutely noticed great flavors because of it.

Recipe - adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
Zest of 1 orange
2 eggs, room temperature
1 heavy pinch, salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
10 large strawberries, sliced lengthwise, divided
4 tablespoons strawberry preserves
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1/2 an orange

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and move a rack into the middle. Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet or brush lightly with oil. The more seasoned the skillet, the better.

Remove a stand mixer bowl from its assembly and add together 1 cup of sugar and orange zest. Pinch the ingredients together until fragrant. Place back into the stand mixer and add a paddle attachment. On medium speed, add in the eggs one at a time. Once the eggs are in, add the salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and almond extract. Turn off the stand mixer and add the flour. Using a spatula, fold the flour in until just combined. Add the melted butter and fold again until combined. Pour half the batter into the skillet, then add the slices of 5 strawberries plus the preserves. You won't be able to spread the preserves, so use a small spoon and plop preserves into empty spots. Cover with the remaining batter and top with the remaining strawberries.

Place into the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. The inside remains slightly damp as it's taken out of the oven, but will set as it sits in the cast iron. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Loosen the cake with a knife (be careful not to scratch the cast iron - you don't want to ruin your seasoning).

Add the cream to a stand mixer and add a whisk attachment. Pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whisk on high speed. Once it begins to thicken, add the orange juice. Continue whisking until whipped cream forms.

Slice the cake into 10 pieces and top each serving with a dollop of orange whipped cream.

Because it goes together so easily and bakes up fast, using ingredients many people will have around the house, this cake is perfect for a last-minute dessert.

Strawberry Swedish Visiting Cake

A simple cake that can be put together in a ...

See Strawberry Swedish Visiting Cake on Key Ingredient.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spinach Lasagna

I was trying to think of something new to make with a friend of mine, but nothing was coming to mind. While at work, moowie suggested I try making a lasagna, and fortunately I took her up on that idea. This lasagna came out wonderfully, and will definitely be made again next time I'm in need of a large dish to serve.

Recipe - Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian, Episode EI1A10 "All About Lasagna"

Mixed Sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
Salt and pepper

1/2 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 pound ground turkey, browned and drained
salt and pepper
22.5 ounces ricotta cheese (1 1/2 [15-ounce] containers)
3 large eggs
1 pound lasagna sheets, al dente
20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Melt 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small pot over medium-high heat. Once completely melted, add the flour and whisk to make the roux. Cook this a few minutes to remove the flour flavor. Slowly add the milk while whisking and turn down the heat to medium. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and continue stirring over medium heat until nappe. Add salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat and set aside while you assemble the rest of the lasagna.

Place the ricotta cheese into a stand mixer with paddle attachment, add the eggs and stir until combined. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Pour 2 cups of the mixed sauce into a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish, move it around to coat the bottom evenly. Place a layer of the lasagna sheets on top of the sauce, then cover with the ricotta mixture. Spread out evenly, then add the chopped spinach evenly on top. Cover with another layer of lasagna sheets, then spread the meats on top of this. Top the meats with 1 1/2 cups of mozarella, then pour another 2 cups of the mixed sauce on top. Cover with the final layer of lasagna sheets, top with the remaining mixed sauce. Mix the remaining mozzarella with the Paremesan and add this on top. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in microwave with 1 tablespoon water. Brush this along the edges of the baking dish, concentrating on the corners, to make sure it doesn't dry out while baking. Tent with foil and place into the oven with a baking sheet underneath. Bake 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbling, remove foil, and then bake for
another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes to let everything set up. Serve warm, yields 12 servings when accompanied by side dishes.

This keeps in the refrigerator, covered, for about a week. I've always found that pasta tends to be better the next day after all the flavors have been absorbed.

Spinach Lasagna

A large hearty dish to please a crowd. Total time ...

See Spinach Lasagna on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Granola Grabbers

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was a granola cookie, selected by Bad Girl Baking. I've never worked with granola or wheat germ, both being in this recipe. In fact, it took me 3 stores and a phone call (thanks, mom!) to find out where I'd be able to get it. I was expecting it to be with the baking supplies - I just thought that would make sense?

I'm very happy with how these came out. I used chopped toasted hazelnuts instead of peanuts because that's what I had on hand. I also didn't really pay much attention to the amount of raisins I put in - I just emptied what I had leftover in a bag. I don't particularly like coconut, but went ahead and added it into the cookies, but I can't really taste it. I'm going to be donating a huge batch of these to work tomorrow to stop them from eating them all myself. I'm sure I won't be bringing many back.

If you don't already have the Dorie Greenspan book the Tuesdays with Dorie group uses, and you bake a lot, I suggest you go out and get it. It has so many great recipes in it, and I've been pleased with almost all I've tried so far. PLUS you can join this little baking squad. It's great motivation to actually go through the book and try things you wouldn't normally attempt. Well, it's almost midnight now (cut this one close) and I need to submit this. Short post!

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 82

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cottage Pie

This is an easy dinner to make, and packed with a ton of protein. Lots of veggies, too. The only unhealthy part would probably be the pie crust, but you can make that however healthy you choose.

1 pie crust (up to you)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 sticks of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground turkey
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-bake the pie crust according to directions. You want it to be lightly browned, but not completely done as it will be returning to the oven later. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature to 350ºF. In a heavy skillet, combine the carrots, celery, onion, meats, and salt/pepper. Add a little olive oil and cook it all together until browned. Spoon off this mixture and allow to drain to avoid having excess grease before putting into the pie crust.

You can make the mashed potatoes however you please. I was in a hurry, so I just boiled the two potatoes, drained them, threw in the sour cream and mashed them. No need to be specific with following this recipe. Bake until the top develops a thin crust, about 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving. Serves 6.

Very simple to throw together, and you can easily vary the recipe as you choose to fit what you might have lying around the house. Mine actually fell apart as soon as I started slicing them - I think if I had added some tomato paste into the mix or something to hold it all together, it would have turned out much neater. Don't be afraid of using a lot of salt and pepper - it's easy to make this pie too bland.

Cottage Pie

A simple but satisfying dinner using only a handful of ...

See Cottage Pie on Key Ingredient.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lemon Bars

Lemon bars were always a favorite of mine growing up. I can remember elementary school bake sales when my mom would make lemon bars, and they'd be the first thing to sell out. They definitely stand out from the masses of brownies, cookies, and cupcakes, and bring a strong bittersweet flavor to the table. On a recent trip, my mom surprised me by baking the old favorite using a new recipe. My friend, Annie, and myself were instantly drawn. I got the recipe from my mom and we set out on making a batch to have of our own.

When my mom made the batch, her lemon topping was glossy and smooth. Mine ended up looking a bit more like a meringue on top, but hidden underneath was the gooey glossy good stuff. I think I overmixed the filling and ended up whipping in a bit of air, so make sure you don't stir the filling too fast.

2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
3 c. AP flour, divided
heavy pinch of salt
6 eggs, room temperature
2 T. lemon zest
1 c. lemon juice (about 6 medium lemons), strained

Center a rack in the oven and heat to 350ºF. In a stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth, then add 1/2 c. sugar and mix on high speed until light in color and soft. On low speed, add 2 c. flour and the salt. Mix this until it's just come together, you don't want to overmix it. Place the dough into a 9x13-inch buttered baking pan (I like using glass) and spread evenly. Bake this for about 15 minutes, or until it's barely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. In a stand mixer bowl, add the remaining 3 c. sugar and lemon zest and pinch together until fragrant. Add the eggs and whisk together. Add the lemon juice, then slowly add the remaining 1 c. flour. Whisk until the mixture comes together (be sure there are no clumps of flour left), and then pour on top of the baked crust. Place back into the oven and bake 30-40 minutes, until the filling has thickened. Cool to room temperature before cutting so the filling has a chance to set. Yield depends on the size of bars you want - I got about 20, but those could have easily been halved to yield 40.

These are always a great treat, and they were devoured quickly enough at work. If you want to decorate them a bit more, you can easily dust some powdered sugar on top. Good luck in pharm. school, Annie!

Lemon Bars

Simple dessert – total time is about 1 hour and 15 ...

See Lemon Bars on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

I was pretty iffy about putting a good amount of sour cream into ice cream. I've heard of sour cream being served on apple pie, or going into other desserts, but I'd never tried it. Sour cream just doesn't scream "dessert!" to me. However, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a sour cream and blueberry ice cream.

First of, look at that color. The blueberries really turned...whatever that color is. The flavor is definitely unique. It almost has a taste similar to cream cheese with blueberries, but that's probably just all the different creams getting mixed together. This isn't one of my favorite Dorie recipes, but it's not terrible.

Having made blueberry ice cream not too long ago, I can compare the two and definitely say that I prefer the other recipe. It's simpler - I think the sour cream just overdoes it. Also the color doesn't remind me of freaky alien gunk. I really have no clue what could have been wrong with my blueberries for this batch.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 434

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Leek Ring Salad

With the leftover leeks on my Mammoth trip, I decided to make a simple salad with some pan-fried leek rings on top.


Leek rings -
2 leek whites, sliced to form rings and washed
1 c. milk
1 egg
2 c. flour, divided
2 t. salt, divided
olive oil

Mix the milk and egg together to form an egg wash, then mix in two separate bowls 1 c. flour and 1 t. salt. Pat the leek rings dry, then put into the first bowl containing flour and roll around until lightly dusted. Place the rings into the egg wash until moderately soaked, and then into the second bowl containing flour. Move directly into a pan containing a layer of olive oil over medium-high heat. Pan fry until lightly browned, then let cool on a paper towel to wick away excess oil.

The rest of the salad was easy to put together. I took 1 head of romaine lettuce, cleaned and torn. Added to that was chopped pecans, raisins, and some swiss cheese. It was all topped lightly with poppy seed salad dressing, then tossed. The cooled rings were placed on top when served.

The crispy rings add great texture to the salad, and all the flavors come together nicely. With a prep time of about 20 minutes, this is a quick starter course to make, and it serves about 4 people.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leek Pasties

While in Mammoth, I wanted to have a relatively heavy dish to accompany the vichyssoise, and I knew that I was making the mushroom appetizers and therefore would have plenty of pastry dough. I decided to make something like a calzone using pastry dough, and soon found out that these are actually called Cornish Pasties (though the filling is completely nontraditional)

1/2 Puff Pastry recipe
2 leek whites, halved, cleaned, and sliced
goat cheese
balsamic vinegar

Cut large rounds out of the pastry dough. The size is really up to you, but mine were about 5 inches in diameter. In a pan over medium-high heat, add some olive oil, the leeks, and a little salt. Cook the leeks until lightly browned, then spoon into the center of each circle. Splash balsamic vinegar on top of each pile of leeks, then top generously with crumbled goat cheese. I never really measured the amount that I used, but you should be able to get close with the pictures.

Carefully fold over the dough. Mine were stuffed pretty densely, so I had to fight back escaping filling using a fork. With the tines of a fork, crimp the edge of the dough to seal it. There is no need to cut holes in the dough to let steam escape, as you would if you were using pie or pizza dough. Bake at 350ºF for 25 minutes, then allow to cool 10 minutes or so before serving. Yielded 5 pasties for me, but depending on how you cut the dough you can probably get 6.

The crust comes out nice and crispy, and the filling is full of flavor. If made in a smaller size, these would make great appetizers, or they could be a main course if a bit bigger. There are many various fillings you could use, but I don't think anything greasy would work well with it (i.e. a lot of cheeses).

I nearly forgot - I got my first award, thanks to Elle at Elle's New England Kitchen. Thanks, Elle!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Black-and-White Banana Loaf

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a banana bread loaf with a twist - adding some chocolate to half the dough and marbelizing it.

The recipe calls for 4 eggs and 1 1/2 bananas. Since I know you can use half a banana as a substitution for an egg, I just threw in 2 bananas and 3 eggs. I've mentioned it before, but whenever I bake anything using bananas, I prefer to freeze them ahead of time and then thaw them out in time for the cooking. The ice crystals that form inside the banana help break down all the cell walls and release all the flavorful juices.

Making the marble design was easier than I had anticipated. I alternatively ladled in some of the white and black batters, making sure I wasn't too even while pouring them. Some spots got too much black, some too much white, and that was just right. I then did a quick zig-zag through the mixture once all the batters were added, and the simple marble look came through.

I accidentally fell asleep while baking this. The loaf itself didn't burn, but I didn't get foil on top of it in time so the crust turned out a bit darker than I had wanted. This didn't affect the flavor at all, and the bread is great to munch on.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 232

Sunday, August 3, 2008


This was the main dish that I made while on a trip up to Mammoth. It didn't take much effort, and it's great to make in advance since it can be stored in the refrigerator right until it's served. For those who haven't had it before, it's a leek and potato soup that is traditionally served cold.

I turned to a recipe by Julia Child for this soup, but the end result was pretty bland. I'm going to blame myself on this one - I eyeballed the amount of leeks and potatoes to use, and it could have used more leeky flavor. I'm sure if you actually follow the recipe, it'll have the right amount of bite to it.

4 c. leek whites, sliced
4 c. diced baking potatoes
6 c. water
2 t. salt
1/2 c. cream
Parsley to top

Prepare the leeks by slicing off the root and the leafy greens. If you look at the bottom where the root was, you'll see a diamond shape. Cut into this, slicing the diamond at the furthest tips, and cut the leeks lengthwise. Leeks are one of the dirtiest vegetables to work with, so make sure you've halved them and let them float in some standing water. Give them a few shakes to make sure all the dirt falls out.

(Yes, that's a cup where the drain stopper should be. I couldn't find the stopper anywhere). Slice these leeks and add them with the diced potatoes into a stock pot. Add water and bring the mixture to a boil. Once a boil is obtained, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt. Puree with a stick blender until it is a smooth consistency. Store in the refrigerator to cool until ready to serve. Right before serving, add the cream and mix it in. Ladle into bowls and top with a bit of parsley.

Simple as that. Be sure you add enough leeks to it, and maybe taste it beforehand...unlike me. I'm sure it'll turn out fine if enough leeks are used.