Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Trader Joe's Song

If you haven't yet seen this brilliant musical tribute, you may want to do so soon before any corporate honchos put the ol' kibosh on it. Here it is:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What goes with Gołąbki?

My sister’s birthday is this weekend and she has asked our mother to make Gołąbki – cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, onions, and rice served with a spicy tomato sauce.

I have been charged with the first course, but need some inspiration to find something that compliments the main. Any ideas???

Ideally, I’d like to do an amuse bouche and first course.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One more for Mardi Gras - Pączki

One more posting on Mardi Gras...this time I'm going strictly commercial, though I am sure there are great recipes out there for these delectable treats.

All behold the Pączki! (pronouced ponch-key) This is one of those treats from my childhood that bring back vivid and strong memories. It is essentially a bismarck or jelly doughnut. Rich and delicious, they are traditionally filled with plum, prune or rose petal jam...these days you can find them filled with lemon, strawberry, blueberry or custard.

My memories of these are not associated with Mardi Gras, though that is what they are most closely tied to traditionally. My recollection goes back to when I was 5 or 6 on a trip to Poland. As my family waited for our relatives in Warsaw, we found a cafe and had black current juice and paczki. Delicious!

I had to post this because I saw these in the grocery store earlier this week and had a rush of nostalgia. I'm glad some company is marketing these to the general public for Mardi Gras celebrations. It is great to see a bit of my Polish heritage get some attention.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mardi Gras Week - Beignets

After watching Top Chef last night, I am certain that everyone is clamoring for a good beignet recipe. I know I am. The producers of the show definitely got the timing right for a New Orleans finals. Lots of great Creole and Cajun dishes for us to feast our eyes on and get inspired for Mardi Gras.

Here's one that I thought looked great: Brandied Apricot Beignets with Chocolate Dipping Sauce

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Powdered sugar
For sauce:

Bring first 3 ingredients just to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth. do ahead Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover; chill.

For beignets:

Bring apricots, 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons sugar, and brandy to boil in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Steep, covered, 30 minutes. Drain; reserve apricots and syrup.

Bring 1/2 cup water, milk, butter, and salt to boil in large saucepan over high heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat. Add flour; stir briskly until dough gathers into ball. Place pan over medium heat; stir constantly until film forms on pan bottom, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in apricots. DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Pour oil into large deep saucepan to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pan; heat oil to 330°F to 340°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6, drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into hot oil. Cook beignets until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature and turning after 2 or 3 minutes, about 5 minutes Total. Using slotted spoon, transfer beignets to sheet. Place in oven to keep warm.

Rewarm chocolate sauce over low heat. Mix in reserved apricot syrup.

Sift powdered sugar over beignets. Divide among plates. Serve with warm chocolate sauce.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mardi Gras Week - Gumbo

Now that we got the essential King Cake in the bag, it is now time to look at other Creole or Cajun inspired a good gumbo. Besides being fun to say, gumbo is a delicious stew. So what's the difference between a Creole and Cajun gumbo? From what I understand about gumbos, Creole gumbos generally use a lighter (but still medium-brown) roux and include tomatoes, while Cajun gumbos are made with a darker roux and never contain tomatoes.

Cajun Style Gumbo
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp (51 to 60 count), shelled, deveined, shells reserved
1 cup clam juice (one 8-ounce bottle)
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup AP flour
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 medium rib celery, chopped fine
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
4 medium scallions , white and green parts sliced thin
Ground black pepper


Bring reserved shrimp shells and 4 1/2 cups water to boil in stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain stock and add clam juice and ice water (you should have about 2 quarts of stock); discard shells. Set stock mixture aside.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour gradually with wooden spoon, working out any small lumps. Continue stirring constantly, reaching into corners of pan, until mixture has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown, about the color of an old copper penny or between the colors of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, about 20 minutes. (The roux will thin as it cooks; if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir constantly to cool slightly.)

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme, salt, and cayenne; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 quart reserved stock mixture in slow, steady stream, stirring vigorously. Stir in remaining quart stock mixture. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, skim off foam on surface, add bay leaves, and simmer uncovered, skimming foam as it rises to the surface, about 30 minutes.

Stir in sausage; continue simmering to blend flavors, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in shrimp; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in parsley and scallions, adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Countdown to Mardi Gras

There is one week left until Mardi Gras...which means we all have one week to live it up before we give up all of our vices in the name of Lent. Yeah right...I might give up ONE vice, but certainly not the whole lot. There really is no reason to be miserable is there?

In any case, right on the heels of Salt and Pepper's Dessert Week, we're going to take a look at sinful eats and treats in celebration of Mardi Gras. Oh and if you want some beads, you know what to do!

King Cake

Serving a King's Cake during Mardi Gras celebrations is a tradition that honors the Magi who visited the Christ child on the twelfth night or Epiphany (January 6). The cake is shaped in a ring with a pecan, bean or plastic baby placed inside the dough, before baking, to represent the baby Jesus...though I believe there is a pagan tradition of a similar kind that preceded this representation. The cake is then decorated with the purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras, and divided among guests. Whoever finds the baby doll will be honored as King for the day and host the next King's Cake celebration.

Dough Ingredients:

4 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (110-115 degrees F)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cold milk
1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 stick butter
5-6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients:
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 dried bean, shelled pecans, or naked plastic babies

Icing Ingredients:
3 tablespoons soft butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
4-6 tablespoons milk

Combine the yeast, 1/2 of the sugar, and the lukewarm water in a very large bowl, stir well and set aside for a few minutes until the mixture swells slightly and small bubbles appear on the surface. Stir in the remaining sugar, milk, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Add egg yolks and mix again.

In another bowl, work the butter into 5 cups of the flour.

Add the flour-butter mixture to the yeast mixture a cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Begin to knead in the bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make a smooth, elastic dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is still sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl which has been buttered or sprayed with a no-stick spray. Cover and let stand in a warm place until dough doubles in size.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 8 x 14 inches. Brush each rectangle with 1/2 stick of melted butter. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture over each rectangle. Roll up from the wide end, as you would a jelly roll, inserting one of the dried beans, pecans, or naked babies along the way. Press the ends of the dough together and stretch the roll into an oval about 14 inches long. Place on a greased/sprayed cookie sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with the fingers. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes.

Beat the butter until softened. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla and continue to beat, gradually adding milk until a glaze consistency is achieved. Use half of the icing on each cake.

Spread the icing evenly over each cake and decorate immediately with granulated sugar that has been rendered purple, green and gold with food coloring, making alternating bands of color.

Other decorating options:
Divide the icing into three portions and use food coloring to make purple, green and gold icing. Spread in alternating bands along the length of the cakes.

Use purple, green and gold gumdrops, jelly beans, or other candy to decorate the white icing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

OM NOMs 1.4 - Dessert Week

It should come as no surprise that this week's OM NOM Nominations are all desserts. We've been loving looking at all sorts of delicious desserts that we are considering extending Dessert Week into Dessert Month. But that just may be gilding the lily, as my grandmother used to say.

First up is 5 Star Foodie who attended a glorious celebration of chocolate (Chocolate Festival) and took some amazing photos.

My Gourmet Love Affair posted these "most fudgey, rich, chocolately, peanut-buttery brownies on the face of the planet". Just looking at them, I might have to agree...Smorgasmic Fudge Brownies.

In my opinion, you can't have a list of chocolate desserts without at least one molten chocolate cake. What's Gaby Cooking offered up this recipe for a valentine's day special: Molten Chocolate Lave Cakes.

Anyone up for some cheesecake? An Edible Symphony shared this delicious looking Luxe Red Velvet Cheesecake.

This isn't fair...why can't we live near all these cooks making these beautiful desserts???

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dessert Week - pastry cream

Today's dessert: PASTRY CREAM!
It is a rich custard...basically a vanilla pudding, and is the essential component for many classic French desserts including eclairs and other puff pastries, Napoleons, fruit tarts, etc.

Cook's note: The pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance, but do not fill your tart shells until just before serving. Once filled, the tart can be topped with fruit, glazed, and served within half an hour or so.

2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks (with the cordlike strands of egg white protein removed)
3 T. cornstarch
4 T. unsalted butter
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.

We used the pastry cream to fill individual tart shells like the one pictured for grandma and grandpa's anniversary party last year. Topped with some fresh fruit, these little tarts were a big hit!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dessert Week - chocolate cups

Homemade chocolate cups

Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds of chocolate (It doesn't matter if it is white, dark, or milk...use whatever you like.)

You will also need some small balloons for this particular method.

In double boiler over hot water, melt 3/4 pound of chocolate. Cool about 5 minutes. Inflate balloons to 4-inch diameter; knot. Holding balloons by knot, dip into chocolate, tipping to cover balloon halfway up with chocolate. Place balloon, knotted side up, on wax paper-lined baking sheet, holding balloon in place until it starts to set. Repeat with remaining balloons to make 8 cups. Place in freezer 5 minutes. Melt remaining 3/4 pound chocolate and repeat dipping procedure; place in freezer 10 minutes. Snip hole in each balloon to deflate; carefully peel away from chocolate. Refrigerate until needed. Use the same day.

(Source: Ghiradelli web site)

Fill the cups with mousse, pudding, fruit, ice cream, or anything you desire. We like a good chocolate mousse topped with raspberries.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dessert Week - bread pudding

With Valentine's Day coming up, it is only fitting that we highlight some of our favorite desserts this week. This one is an incredibly rich bread pudding with just a touch of bourbon to give it some kick.

One may notice that we love using booze in our recipes. In fact, several years ago we came up with the concept of a TV show called "Cooking with Booze" or "Cooking with Spirit" or something along those lines. But alas, a web site and book was created by a couple of Canadian guys called Cooking with Booze, so I guess there goes that idea. But that will never stop us from actually cooking with booze! So there!

Without further ado...Rich Bread Pudding with raisins

Cinnamon Sugar
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

Bread pudding
1/3 cup bourbon
3/4 cup raisins
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T. vanilla extract
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
12 ounces white bread (about a half a loaf) cut into 1 1/2 inch squares
1 cup walnuts (completely optional...I do not care for walnuts so I omit them)
1 1/2 melted butter (unsalted)

For the Cinnamon Sugar: Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside.

For the Pudding: Soak raisins in bourbon until moistened and plumped, 20 to 25 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Whisk eggs, yolk, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk in milk, cream, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in 6 cups prepared bread; mix thoroughly to moisten. Let stand 20 minutes.

Stir plumped raisins, any remaining bourbon, and walnuts (if using) into soaked bread mixture. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Scatter remaining 2 cups bread pieces on top, pushing down gently to partially submerge. Brush exposed bread with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until pudding is deep golden brown, is beginning to rise up sides of baking dish, and jiggles very slightly at the center when shaken, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool until set but still warm, about 45 minutes.

A nice sauce to go on top is this orange sauce...
1 cup orange juice
2 t. orange zest
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch

Combine these ingredients in a saucepan and cook until thickened and bubbly. Add a dash of bourbon if you want to stay consistent with the booze theme.

And adding a dollop of whipping cream on top doesn't hurt either.

Friday, February 6, 2009

OM NOMs 1.3

In this week's OM NOM Nominations, we highlight three recipes with the other white meat: pork!

The first one goes to For the Love of Cooking and the scrumptious looking Shredded Pork Taquitos. Here they use up some leftover pork roast...which everyone always is looking for ways to spruce up their leftovers. And there are cilantro and lime sour cream, guacamole, and salsa recipes to complete the dish.

The second nomination of the week goes to Sea Salt with Food and the delectable Braised Pork Belly recipe. Despite sharing their dislike for the fat part of the pork belly, I'm giving the post a nod for what looks to be an excellent pork experience. How can you not like the fat??? MMM...delicious pork fat...droooool.......

And finally, I had to nominate this one in the name of the bacon lovers of the world. SoCal Pastry Chef posted a recipe for Pork Candy. Inspired by an Emeril show, she shows how easy it is to take something that is good and make it better.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nutella Ravioli

We saw Giada De Laurentiis making this on her show and had to try it ourselves...were we so glad we did. They are delicious! How can you go wrong with deep fried Nutella?
In honor of Nutella day 2009, here it is. Thanks to Giada for this simple and tasty treat...

Nutella Ravioli

16 wonton wrappers
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Nutella
vegetable oil for frying
granulated sugar
powdered sugar

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Place 1 wonton wrapper on the work surface. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with egg. Spoon 1 tablespoon of chocolate-hazelnut spread into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally in half over the filling and press the edges of the wrapper to seal. Place the ravioli on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers, egg, and chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Add enough oil to a heavy large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees F.

Working in batches, carefully add the ravioli to the hot oil and cook until they are golden brown, about 45 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Then, transfer the cooked ravioli to another baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while frying the remaining ravioli. (The fried ravioli can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool them completely, then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, place them on a baking sheet and rewarm in a preheated 375 degrees F oven just until they are heated through, about 7 minutes.)

Spray the top side of the mint leaves very lightly with nonstick spray. Working with 1 leaf at a time, dredge the coated side of the leaves in sugar to coat lightly.

Arrange 2 fried ravioli on each plate. Dust the ravioli with powdered sugar. Garnish with the sugared mint leaves and serve.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Nearly no-knead bread

Posted by Pepper

I'm not sure if it is a nesting reaction to the cold weather or what, but I am really in the mood to make some homemade bread. I would have done this over the past weekend, but I hurt my wrist playing racquetball and could not fathom kneading bread dough...unless Salt wanted to see me cry like a little girl from the pain it would have caused. And nobody wants to see that, right?

But I just came across a recipe for a nearly no-knead bread that I am going to have to try this in a few days. Why wait until this weekend? It has to sit for 8 to 18 hours before baking it...but for someone who is craving homemade bread and has wrist pains, a no-knead bread sounds like just the ticket!

3 cups unbleached AP flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 T. water, at room temp.
1/4 cup plus 2 T. mild flavored lager
1 tablespoon white vinegar


1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

(Source: Cooks Illustrated)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy Recollections - Mutton Pie

It is snowing...again. OK weather, I get it. No need to drive the point home.

Anywho, I just came across a posting for a New England Clam Chowder served in a bread bowl and it made me think about one of my favorite spots in Bloomington, IN where I went to school:
The Irish Lion.

A bunch of us used to go there on days like this (or when we wanted to line our bellies with hearty food before a night of bar hopping) to get their wonderful Mutton Pies of Abbeyfeale - freshly baked bread bowl filled with their famous house Celtic Lamb Stew and a half yard of our favorite libation. I ususally went with a know, for authenticity sake.

Ah, those were the days.