Monday, November 27, 2006

Cupcakes for My Godson

It's was my godson Xavy's fourth birthday and I made some cupcakes for his party. Xavy is a twin, the younger twin born minutes after his brother Alexandro. They are so cute! I don't know why, but I'm one of the very few who can tell them apart. Some say my powers of perceptiveness are exceptional seeing as I only see them once a year. And even then, they we're more interested in the balloon art being created by a very talented balloon artist (I'm thinking of using him myself for one of my parties).

Birthday Cupcakes
from Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess"

I used candies found at the grocery to decorate these cupcakes, for a girls birthday party you could use mini marshmallows and color the icing in pastels. For adults, leave the icing white and decorate with a single sugar flower. The possibilities are endless, but a good rule of thumb would be to use decor with some height for these almost flat tops.

1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk

2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons water or milk
assorted candies

12 cupcake papers

Preheat oven to 200 C.

Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while pouring milk down the chute. Spoon batter evenly into cupcake cases placed in muffin pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Make the icing by stirring the icing sugar and water until smooth. Divide icing and color each with 1-3 drops of your choice of food colorings (I used blue, green and violet). Decorate tops with candy.

Onion Day!

Onion Day takes place every year on the 4th Monday of November in Berne, Switzerland. Zorra, the creator of Bread Day last October, has made today's Onion Day a new blog event! I'm glad to hear the unassuming onion gets a day of recognition, as it is probably the most used vegetable in any kitchen. Onions come in many forms and sizes, you have red, white and green onions, pearl, Vidalia and the shallot. I use the red onion the most often and green onions (scallions) second. This relish recipe was in my collection of recipes to try out. I had some turkey breast in the freezer and all the ingredients for the relish were on hand. I thought this would make a great salad. Red onions can be pretty strong when eaten raw, a trick I learned to lessen its spicy pungency without loosing any of its flavor or crunchiness, is to soak the chopped onions in lemon juice or vinegar before adding it to the dish your making. In this case, vinegar is one of the ingredients in the recipe so I added the whole onion-vinegar mixture to the rest of the ingredients, otherwise the onions should be drained.

Turkey and Onion Relish Salad
Serves 6

Onion-Caper Walnut Relish
adapted from Marc Meyer's recipe

3/4 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup aged sherry-wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in warm water until puffed

2 cups diced turkey breast

Mince garlic in a food processor. Add walnuts and pulse to a rough paste. Place walnut mixture in a bowl and stir in capers, onions, parsley, vinegar, olive oil and drained raisins. Season with salt and pepper.

Saute turkey in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Add relish and toss to combine. Serve on a bed of salad greens.

Onion Day Roundup

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ladies Lunch Menu for 15

Although no one complained or noticed, I had to take the second course off the menu. The problem was the molds I used for the Chicken Liver Timbale, some of the timbales didn't unmold properly. Anyway, it's a good thing these ladies eat like birds and so there was enough food to go around twice.

Sweet Potato Soup

Chicken Liver Timbale with Tomato Bearnaisse

Lapu-lapu (Grouper) Fillet in Saffron Sauce
(from Time-Life Book of Hearty Home Cooking)

Chocolate Pavlova with Mandarin Oranges

Sweet Potato Soup
A velvety-smooth soup accented with Thai seasonings. Delicious!

1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
1 onion—chopped
3 cloves garlic—chopped
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1kg (4 cups) orange sweet potato—peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup red lentils
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

HEAT the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. ADD the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. ADD the garlic and red curry paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. ADD the sweet potato, red lentils, stock, coconut milk, fish sauce and brown sugar and bring to the boil. REDUCE the heat to medium and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. REMOVE from the heat and allow to cool a little. PUREE the soup in two batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. RETURN to the saucepan and stir in the lemon juice. SERVE in bowls garnished with cilantro.

Variations: Replace the sweet potato with butternut squash (pumpkin); substitute the lemon juice with lime juice; and use yellow split peas rather than red lentils (in which case you'll need to cook for around 35 minutes).

Chicken Liver Timbales
I placed this recipe here, despite the minor disaster, because it tasted good and I will add to a future menu. Use non-stick molds!

For 4 servings, you will need:

2 eggs,
2 tbsp. Madeira, sherry, or 1 tsp. lemon juice,

For the roux:
4 tbsp. butter,
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour,
1/2 c. undiluted chicken broth,
1/2 c. milk,
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves,
1/4 tsp. salt.

Butter and bread crumbs for baking dishes (optional, if using non-stick molds)
Tomato Bearnaise (recipe follows)
Chopped chives Parsley and tomato wedges for garnish

Tomato Bearnaise: Into blender or food processor with steel blade, place
3 egg yolks,
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice,
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, and
3 tablespoons tomato paste.

Process until blended. While blender or processor is on, slowly add
3/4 cup hot melted butter.

Sauce will be thin while hot, but it will thicken as it cools.

Clean chicken livers, removing any fat, tendons or discolored portions. Place into blender or food processor with steel blade in place. Process until smooth. Add eggs, Madeira, or lemon juice. Set aside. In saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour. Cook 1 minute. Slowly add chicken broth and milk. Cook until very thick and smooth. Add the thyme and salt. Blend sauce into chicken liver mixture. Press mixture through strainer and divide among 4 custard cups that have been buttered and sprinkled with crumbs.

Place cups into shallow pan with inch boiling water. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or just until a knife inserted in the center of a custard comes out clean. Meanwhile, prepare Tomato Bearnaise. To serve, unmold Timbales onto individual serving dishes. Spoon on the sauce and sprinkle with chopped chives. Garnish with parsley and tomato wedges. Serve hot.

Chocolate Pavlova
The Chocolate Pavlova was very good. I omitted the chopped bittersweet chocolate because I thought it would be too heavy a dessert and I doubled the amount of whipping cream. It turned out good with the orange segments. But, next time I will add bittersweet chocolate chips and Cointreau to the whipping cream. Alternatively, I could add mint to the chocolate meringue and use strawberries for the fruit. Or, sprinkle the whipped cream with banana chips, add some rum and drizzle with caramel sauce. What else...

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Birthday Brunch

My sister, the party girl, celebrated her birthday all weekend long. Friday and Saturday nights lasted till morning, ending with a Sunday brunch I hosted.

Bloody Geisha
Cava Mimosa

(from Gourmet magazine, Dec. 1993)
Orange Sauce
Maple Flavored Syrup
Crisp Bacon

Crustless Potato Quiche
(from the Food Network's The Barefoot Contessa)

Sausages Stewed in Red Wine

Lemon Cupcakes

Bloody Geisha
adapted from Ming Tsai's Bloody Mary
Sake, a Japanese rice wine, is a wonderful alternative to vodka for those who dislike the strong alcoholic component of the usual Bloody Mary's. Choosing a premium sake is of utmost importance and definately worth the price in terms of flavor.

2 11-ounce cans V-8
11 ounces tomato juice
1 1/2 cups Premium Sake
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon naturally brewed soy sauce
2 tablespoons wasabi paste
1 tablespoon horseradish


In a bottle or other container, add V-8, tomato juice, sake, lemon juice, vinegar, soy sauce, wasabi, and horseradish. Shake vigorously and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve in glasses filled with ice.

Cava Mimosa

semi-sec Cava or Champagne, chilled
fresh orange juice, chilled

Fill champagne glasses with half oj and half Cava.

These are the best pancakes ever.

3 large eggs, separated
1 stick butter, plus more for cooking pancakes
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients except egg whites, until mixture is smooth. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into flour mixture.

Heat a griddle or skillet on medium-high heat. Melt about half a teaspoon of butter and, using a small ladle, pour batter into pan and cook pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. A good way to tell when the bottom side is done is when top part is filled with bubbles, it then takes a few seconds for the flipped side to cook.

Serve with 2 kinds of syrup and a side of crisp bacon. Mmmmmmmm!

Crustless Potato Quiche
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's TV show The Barefoot Contessa. It calls for basil leaves which I didn't have in hand so had to omit, it was delicious anyway. I used a 10-inch springform cakepan to mold the quiche. The recipe's original title is Potato Basil Frittata, I titled it differently because it seems more like a quiche than a frittata to me.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
2-3 cups peeled and 1/2-inch diced boiling potatoes
10 large eggs
15 ounces cottage cheese, drained
3/4 pound Gruyere or Emmenthaler cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch ovenproof omelet pan over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and fry them until cooked through, turning often, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place potatoes in the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan and spread evenly. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan or microwave.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, Gruyere, melted butter, salt, pepper, and basil. Sprinkle on the flour and baking powder and stir into the egg mixture.

Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and place the cakepan in the center of the oven. Bake the frittata until it is browned and puffed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. It will be rounded and firm in the middle and a knife inserted in the frittata should come out clean. Serve hot on a round serving platter.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mixology Monday #9: Bitters

It's time to get that shaker and cocktail glasses out of the closet and join Mixology Monday, a monthly blog event that follows a different theme each time. The host for this month is blog A Dash of Bitters and he chose the theme, what else? - Bitters. What a relief for that bottle of Angustura bitters sitting in my kitchen cabinet for more than a year now!

As I was perusing Dale Degroff's The Craft of the Cocktail, I read somewhere in the introduction that the first time the cocktail appeared in print was in 1806 in an American publication written by the editor about a new kind of drink. So this year could well be the 200 year anniversary of the cocktail. Cheers!

Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters. It is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion…
The Balance and Columbian Repository, 1806
(as quoted by The Craft of the Cocktail)

Adonis Cocktail 11
from The Craft of the Cocktail

1 oz dry sherry
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz fresh orange juice
dash of bitters
dash of simple syrup
orange peel, for garnish

Shake with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange peel.

See what others have contributed to this round of Mixology Monday... MxMo9 Roundup