Saturday, January 31, 2009

Crock Pot Winning Prize

Bethany's chili was the winner since I didn't know how to contact Pam, but then Pam checked in...just after the deadline :( I decided to send Pam a slightly smaller prize, and Bethany still gets the grand prize:

Bethany will receive:
Croxetti hand-stamped Pasta from Ritrovo
Matcha Green Tea
New Mexico Piñon CoffeeSalsa Patria salsa (the best salsa anywhere)
Mano y Metate hand-made molè from Tucson
Athena Dolmades
Our new favorite jarred tuna - Tonnino from Costa Rica
Ginger Pumpkin soup from Nueva Cocina
My own lemon curd
and Kookaburra Red Licorice

Pam, for being a day late and a dollar short will receive:
Salsa Patria
Mano & Metate Molè
New Mexico Piñon Coffee
and my lemon curd and jasmine orange marmalade

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My first sphere

Like this trick is so, you know, like totally four years ago! But I had never done a reverse sodium alginate sphere before. It was really easy...really easy.

And now that I've done one, I can work on removing the air bubbles, and seeing how thin, yet stable, I can make the skin. My plan is to make a piñon horchata sphere with cinnamon orange ice for an amuse this weekend for a dinner I'm catering. Nothing like waiting til the last second.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crock Pot Technical Difficulties

Okay, so here's the deal, I liked Pam's the best, BUT she doesn't allow people to see her profile which means I have no way of contacting her. So, I'll see if she reads this before the end of tomorrow (Thurs). If she doesn't contact me, I'll let my 2nd choice be the winner - and I know that I can contact them....Pam...where are you?

Crock Pot Recipe #9: Vegetation's French Onion Lamb Chop Casserole

And last but not final crock pot recipe in the contest! Vegetation sent me this relatively easy recipe that was fast and tasty. She did push my limits by calling for a soup packet but I sucked it up and bought some. Here we go:

French Onion Lamb Chop Casserole
Cooking Oil Spray
8 (1kg) lean Lamb Chump Chops
6 baby Onions, halved (you can also just throw in a handful of that pre-chopped frozen onion and it's loads quicker!)
2 cloves Garlic, minced or crushed
2 small (400g) leeks, sliced
40g packet French Onion Soup Mix
1 1/2 cups (375ml) Water
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Parsley

Coat the slow cooker insert with cooking oil spray. Put in your chops, onions, garlic and leeks. Mix the soup mix and water together and pour over the lamb and onion mixture. Set on low and cook.

How 'bout those for short instructions. I used our locally raised 4-H lamb chomps which we've enjoyed in the past. We added the leeks halfway through because I forgot to buy them, but that didn't seem to matter. Overall it fit the bill for ease of preparation and flavor. So now I'm off for the judging (pending any last second entries). You'll note that I skipped Duncan's non-recipe since that would take effort to find create a recipe, and I skipped a couple of your 2nd entries to be fair and practical. I will contact the winner Friday night so they can collect their prize - which I'll show on Saturday (if I can reach the winner in time). Thanks again to everyone who offered recipes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy New Year 新年好! Pineapple Tart

Welcome to the Year of the Ox! Not quite sure what to make of that. Its not quite as fun as a monkey or a rat.

But maybe its more appropriate than we might think. It seems as if our world is in need of some non-flashy hard work, like an ox plowing a field. Its time for us as individuals to do the same. Ironically, if you remember my culinary goals for this year, my focus is on many of the basics, sort of like plowing my own culinary field. Maybe we'll even see life slow down a bit more so we can enjoy each others company. We can make those choices.

I always want our local Chinese restaurants to do something special for new years but they never do. This year, I saw many of my favorite Chinese food bloggers making pineapple tarts and cookies, so I jumped on the rickshaw and made my own. My inspiration came from one of my all time favorite blog pics - Jumanggy's Tempatation Tower. My version started with a recipe from Ong's Sweet Spot.

Maybe someone can fill me in on the symbolism of the pineapple for this celebration, but it fit the bill as I welcomed Tyler back home. Both the low-key sweetness of the tart and the symbolic hospitality of the pineapple made for the perfect dessert.

1 Pineapple, cut into smallish pieces
1/3 C. Palm Sugar
Zest and Juice of 1 Lime
2 T. Rum
2 T. Butter

Put pineapple, sugar and lime zest and juice in skillet on medium. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes or until things start to seem dry. Add the rum and butter and turn to low, cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring as you think of it. Cool to room temp then put 3/4 of mixture in food processor leaving the remaining as larger chunks.

250g (one small container) of Mascarapone
2 T. Rum
1 C. Cream
2 T. Sugar

Whisk rum and mascarapone together. Beat the cream and sugar until medium peaks form. Fold pineapple mixture into the mascarapone mixture, then gently fold in the cream. Pour/scrape into your pie or tart shell, or into cocktail glasses. Fast and simple!

Monday, January 26, 2009


What an odd gift! A case of nasty old, browning bananas! The nerve of some people thinking I would want their rotting fruit! Hee hee hee...boy did I!

Every now and again our local food co-op will ask if I want their browning bananas. I always take them to make sure they don't just go in the trash. At the very least, I'll compost them with a local chicken raiser who feeds my cafè scraps to her chicks, then composts the rest into her garden. But before I have to give in to that extreme I typically will make a slew of banana desserts.

I always crank out the Banana Bread Plus that flies off the shelf. This time I also made a great banana cream pie - oh man was that good! And I made a new recipe that I called the Hungry Monk - a riff on some internet recipe. This fat bald boy is a base of dulce de leche, topped with bananas, topped with butterscotch pudding and finally butterscotch whipped cream. Oh yeah baby! Pies like that will make any monk rip off his brown sack cloth and run naked through the nunnery!

But I don't want to leave you with that sanctimonious image. Rather, this case of bananas was a wrap up of a month of folks who have fed me, cared for our pooches, watched our house, and generally made sure I was surviving...oh, and gave us a Dodge Truck.

In the immortal words of the Pet Shop Boys, "What have I, What have I, What have I done to deserve this?" Our friends have families, have their own jobs, household duties, pets, mortgages, crying babies, yet they're willing to reach out and give even more of themselves. Even the simple act of sharing a crock pot recipe is an act of love and caring - it takes time, time which is all too precious to all of us.

One of the friends who is always the first to step up and help lost one of their babies a week ago. Tyrone (Roni to me and much of the world) was Mr. Pug surrounded be a bunch of female pugs - if you haven't been around large groups of pugs, you're missing one life's greater pleasures. Roni and I spent many hours at our old store location while he guarded the premises and I unloaded boxes of food. Never a complaint, just an occasional howl/wine/bark sound. Yet, Roni's moms found time to bring me a great dinner as they were preparing to head across the border for a short vacation.

They, of course, weren't the only ones. My blogfamous down-the-street-up-the-street neighbors kept me plump on fresh tortillas. Store customer/friends brought me soups and salads. Note that no one brought me dessert...cowards! :)

Tyler and I once read (or maybe it was an Oprah episode) some book that suggested keeping a gratitude journal. I filed that idea away in the same file where I put New Year's resolutions - I am simply not committed to long-term projects like that. I prefer a more immediate and heartfelt action. And so to channel that great thespian Haley Joel Osment, I'll pay it forward. My mom installed the value of a good thank you card (an art clearly lost in today's society), but I'll share the gifts to others around me. Thanks to all!

Crock Pot Recipe #8: Manggy's Kalbi Jim

I made a few modifications to Manggy's Kalbi Jim recipe to account for time and ingredients, but this was a very good recipe and not mushy at all.

2.5 lbs (1kg) beef short ribs, cut into about 2-inch lengths
1 cup soy sauce - (I foolishly used Black because I like the flavor but I should have used a lighter sauce since it was going to cook all day.)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
a handful of dried mushrooms (I used a mix of oyster and shiitake)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
3 stalks green onions, chopped

Place the short ribs in the crock pot and add enough water to cover. Bring heat to high, then decrease to low until lunch time. At lunch I tossed in the remaining ingredients and left it on low until I came home at night. When I got home, I removed the lid and let the liquid boil off for 15 minutes on high (the time it took to cook rice.

I can definitely see how this would be outstanding if cooked according to his original recipe, but even with my modifications
this hit the spot. Low effort, high taste, good texture.

And pending any more submissions, next up is our final recipe sent via email: Vegetation's French Onion Lamb Chop Casserole.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

TGRWT #14: Malt & Soy Sauce

As host of this month's event announced here, and launched by, I was responsible for picking the ingredients. I wanted something not too out there since we're all a bit fatigued coming out of the holidays, but also something that would be comfort food. My choices were malt and soy.

I was intrigued by both ingredients since there are so many options to choose from., malt powder, the grain, malt balls. Soy...sweet, dark, regular, Japanese, Chinese. I sat on this challenge for a while trying to come up with something that wasn't just a gimmick, but rather something I would want to make again. As usual I leaned toward a dessert.

What you see in the picture is a malt cake topped with soy creme, a soy sugar tube filled with savory granola. Every element stood on its own, and combined I thought they were outstanding. In particular the granola was perfect - just a bit sweet and a bit salty, accentuated by the use of French Sel Gris (grey salt). The combination of soy and malt works very well together and could be used in a myriad of dishes. I call this dessert....

Taiwan's One Night Stand

Malt Cake
2 Eggs
225g (1 C. + 2 T.) Sugar
2g (1 t.) Vanilla
160g (3/4 C.) Mayonnaise
187g (1.5 C.) AP Flour
50g (1/2 C.) Malt Powder (found near ice cream toppings)
4g (3/4 t.) Baking Soda
1g (1/4 t.) Baking Powder
2g (1/2 t.) Salt
180g (3/4 C.) Water

Oven to 375F. Whisk dry ingredients. Beat eggs with mixer, add sugar in three additions until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mayo and beat until combined.

Use a good malt powder, not a super sugary one. I used one from ctl colfax which I've found to be the best on the market. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture in three additions, interspersed with the water in two additions. Scrape into your pan and bake about 10 minutes or until done.

Soy Creme
1 C. Cream
2 T. Powdered sugar
2 T. Dark Soy Sauce (like Kwong Hung - a dark will be richer and sweeter)

Combine all and whip until stiff

Savory Granola
3/4 C. Oats
1 C. Mixed nuts of your choice.
1/4 C. Honey
1 T. Soy Sauce
1 t. Malt vinegar
1 T. Sel Gris
2 T. Malt Powder

Combine oats and nuts and toast in oven until the oats brown shaking pan occasionally. Heat honey in microwave. Remove oats from oven and while still warm add honey, soy and malt powder. Once combined add vinegar and salt and lightly toss. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until it starts to harden. Remove and cool

I served my granola on a soy sugar halfpipe which was 1/4 C. sugar combined with enough soy to moisten it, placed on the silpat and in a 400F oven until melted. Shaped as it cooled.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #7: Helene's Curried Island Chicken

I'm in the home stretch with crock pot recipes and tonight was Helene's turn. Maybe she has an advantage since I took a break from the brown glop spree, or maybe she has an advantage because the meal wasn't...well, brown glop. But regardless, it was good. Unfortunately I left the camera at the store (not that the dish was particularly photo worthy).

Here's the recipe:
Curried Island Chicken

3 lb broiler or fryer chicken -- cut up
8 oz pineapple chunks in juice
4 t curry powder
1 whole clove garlic -- crushed
1 t chicken bouillon granules
1 T onion -- grated
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
2 T cornstarch
2 T water

Place chicken in a slow cooker. Drain pineapple and reserve juice and chunks separately. In a small bowl, combine reserved juice with curry powder, garlic, bouillon granules, onion, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on LOW 4 1/2 hours to 5 hours or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken from pot and keep warm. Turn control to HIGH.

In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water; stir cornstarch mixture and reserved pineapple chunks into slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 15 to 20 min.

Serve chicken and sauce over cooked rice and your favorite chutney. Sprinkle with shredded coconut, dates, raisins and/or chopped banana or papaya (optional).
I skipped the rice and chutney and opted for eGullet's famed roasted cauliflower (I've been hankering for this dish for a while now). My only comment about the recipe is that I would back off on the cornstarch and go a bit more natural with the sauce. Other than that, this was a good recipe - thanks Helene!

Next up...last but not least...Jumanggy's Kalbi Jim. And for those of you following along at home, I'll announce a winner some time next week unless I get more recipes submitted.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Recipe: Matcha Green Tea Cookies

Here's something that I lifted from another site, modified and sold to my customers right before taking off for San Fran. An easy recipe which was nice as I was trying to get out of town.

87g (3/4 C.) Powdered sugar
145g (5 oz) Chilled, cubed butter
1 3/4 C. AP Flour
3 Yolks
7 g (2 T.) Matcha
Sugar for dusting

Whisk sugar and tea together. Add the butter to the sugar mixture and combine in a mixer until creamed. Add flour and mix until just combined. Add the yolks until a ball forms. Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a 1/2" thick rectangle on a silpat or parchment. Cut into your desired shape, sprinkle with sugar and freeze for at least 2 hours.

Oven to 350F. Separate your cookies onto the baking sheet and bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the bottom. Enjoy!

*If this is your recipe, let me know and I'll cite it. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fancy Food Show Pt 4: My Favorite People

This year I really experienced the power of the relationships we have built over the past 4-5 years with our vendors. Maybe its the economy. Maybe its the level of trust. Maybe its them handing their "baby" over to me and allowing me to care for it. Whatever the reason, this was a lot of fun this year to find out old friends and catch up on them and their businesses.

First, let me introduce you to our favorite olive oil - Esther and the Taste of Crete. We met Esther at our first show, and it was just after both of us had started our businesses within a month of each other. She has always taken care of us and has grown to know our customers well enough that she can recommend (or turn us away from) her various products. She has great cookies, spreads and honeys but the oil is what keeps us loyal.

I remember when Crete had those terrible fires a couple of years ago, and we called to make sure her family and friends were okay. When the economy notably slowed, she was the first vendor to give us a call and make sure we were doing okay. A true class act who knows her business.

Then there's Ron & Ilyse at Ritrovo. I didn't see them on the vendor list for the show and was a bit worried. But we accidentally ran into her on the floor and talked as if we had been away for only hours. She's another one who gets what we're trying to do at the Kumquat, and knows our customers. I don't think there is a more selective vendor anywhere! She's also always full of goodies for us to try. At the show it was a great walnut grape spread which we ordered (we know our customer Peter R will love it!) and this amazing salt blend.

Is this not gorgeous!? This is also where we get our truffle salt which is on its way to the store as I type.

And while not at the show, Ming of Vital Tea Leaf is the ultimate showman. He and his shop were the inspiration for our tasting room and now the source of our loose teas. This guy's knowledge of teas is beyond comparison. Name any tea you like and he'll list a dozen more that you will also like - and he'll be right.

He likes sending us new fun stuff, and at his shop in Chinatown he gave us three samples to play with. The first was $800/lb (we'll enjoy but probably pass on that one), and this cool puerh. We already have two of his puerhs but this one is aged in a tangerine. Nice presentation. A bit more subtle than the others that we have. And the price is right. Guess what? As soon as we re-open our tasting room, we'll have them.

I might add a bit more about the show later, but I have other fish to fry, like the crockpot contest! Also coming up is a green tea cookie recipe that was really good so hang tight.

Fancy Food Show Pt 3: My Favorite Finds

Screw the raindrops and cream colored ponies! We're talking about food here! And while my "work" at the show is to find products for the store, my game is to find the best products out there. Two stand above the others.

First we have the salt from Japan collection. I'll be honest, I didn't mind flirting a bit with their staff. But I had also recently read about one particular Japanese salt being the best there is and nearly impossible to find in the US. So when I saw this booth, I took my rusty memory to task hoping to find that holy salt grail.

A little bit of flirting goes a long way and my request for A (translation = one) sample resulted in this collection of salts and a whole bunch of bowing.
There is no English on these packages so I have no idea what I have, but I'll sure have fun testing them out. I'll do a follow-up post as I use them and learn what the heck I have. This one was particularly beautiful.

Then my show favorite:

A chilled lemongrass infused vinegar from a Korean company. The vinegar is actually a product of Taiwan. The first visit to their booth I was told it was good for my overall health and in particular my lungs. The second time they said it was best for my memory. The final time was my blood pressure, but they warned me not to drink so much. This is intended to be diluted 5:1 with cold water. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this drink. It will find its way into the next tasting menu.

Fancy Food Show Pt 2: Hits & Trends

Chocolate and teas, chocolate and teas...and sometimes chocolate with teas! That describes a huge chunk of the Fancy Food Show. If you don't like those two items then you should just go find a cheese booth and hunker down. We were on the lookout for a couple more chocolates to add to our store collection. One which was good, but not our style was this:

This company is trying to jump on the chocolate and wine pairing bandwagon. Their chocolate was pretty good, but we would prefer to be a bit more sophisticated in the pairings department with our customers so we passed on this, but thanked them for the samples.

Then we found TCHO Chocolates. Not to lazily shlep their work, here's a tidbit from their site, "TCHO is direct, transparent connection between the farmers and the consumers, from the pod to the palate, from high concept to sensual experience." We found the chocolate pure and tasty and the packaging and price appealing. With those characteristics we can take it from there and sell it to our picky customers.

And then we found the chocolate Ferrari! Claudio Corallo chocolates. This is Rob's type of chocolate. No bullshit. No foo foo. No marketing blah blah blah. Just perfect flavor, texture and experience. If I had to rate my top chocolates right now they would be in order:

1. Patric
2. Corallo
3. Cluizel Mangaro Noir
4. Askinosie (although its unfair to include them since I mostly like their nib bars)

A cool, unexpected feature is that a friend of ours, Kevin Knox, apparently worked with them on this bar. Kevin is a founding leader at Starbucks back in the day. Kevin has never led us astray and didn't here either.

Another little surprise was meeting eG chocolateer, Chocolate/Ruth Kendrick. She shared a bit of her creations with us (ahem, I mean me since I scarfed the whole box). The sheen she gets on her chocolates is intimidating! Great stuff and well worth a purchase. Not to mention great packaging.

And switching gears slightly, we were on the hunt for the best peanut butter at the show. After mouth smacking our way down the aisles, we ended up with this great company. Its one of the few orders that we placed at the show because it was so good and purely flavored. That will be on our shelves within days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fancy Food Show Pt 1: A miss and random thoughts

After a short haitus to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, I'm back and way backlogged with great posts! I hope you all missed me ;)

I'm going to share some random thoughts from the trip and one product "miss" just because it kind of set me off, and as I mentally process the rest of the fantastic and tiring trip, I'll get some more comments out there.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, the Fancy Food Show is the premier gathering of shops like ours where distributors and producers hawk their goods to folks like us. We like to think of it as the weeding out process so our customers don't have to waste their time. The reality is that every product at the show is the "right" product for some store. Our standards tend to be very high, and so 90% of the show is not relevant, but we enjoy the freebies!

What you see at these shows will start hitting local store shelves within weeks (sometimes much longer), and a poorly displayed product could mean death to a business. Please realize that we wish every company the best, but each year there is one or two items that really repel me. Welcome to this year's unfortunate product:

Again, I don't want to be cruel, but the water industry is already in trouble due to its environmental impact. Then consider that if you aren't improving on the current field of products, why are you doing this. I found this water to be comparable to your every-store brand, and not at the level of a Tynant or other high end water. And then there's the bottle. Why?! I don't get it. Why the deco look? Sure it gives me a more stable base to stand the water on, but that hasn't really been a problem for me. What is a problem is that water gets trapped in the base when you try and drink it, making for increased waste. I'm sorry, but this is not an improvement, and is actually a step back for bottled waters. I hope the company finds ways to improve on its product so it can survive.

And speaking of surviving...I had my first mooncake! I have my own mooncake molds, and in fact, have made mooncake-like pastries (its my icon when I comment in this blog), but this is the first time I had the real deal.

These were a gift from our tea supplier. The first was a red bean single yolk, and the second a lotus paste.

Truth be told there were three (I'm such a pig!). I didn't expect to like them as much as I did. And, now that I have a reference point for the texture I'll be playing around more with these.

While we were in Chinatown we had dinner at this restaurant. It was a recommendation of our supplier after we insisted on "cheap" to which he kept saying, "affordable."

We were so bloated on samples from the show, tea samples and mooncake that the meal wasn't fully appreciated, but what we did eat we really enjoyed. And talk about a line out the door on a Monday night!

We did have one meal miss (the things I do for my jumanggy!). We ate at a place called Jollibee. The only reason that bee is jolly is because of suckers like us giving our hard earned money. This Filipino fast food joint has found its way across the ocean to San Fran, and set roots right across from the Moscone Center. We had breakfast of beef and sweet pork tapa on garlic rice. What got to me most was the constantly running video of bouncy gelatinous food - really guys, this isn't making me like your food more. Hamburgers don't really they?

And finally, right before we flew to San Fran, I received a little box from San Fran!

For anyone who has shared a drink with me you know I always recommend Keller Wines in San Fran if you need good wine at a great price. I have been buying from them for about 7 or 8 years. I always start my shopping in their clearance bin and go from there. And I have yet to have a wine that I didn't think was well worth the price paid. This batch ranged from $1.99 to $5.99 a bottle on clearance. With the shipping my average cost for 12 bottles was $6.25. Try to find four good $6 wines at your local store!

So stay tuned because I have an amazing post coming up on Japanese salts, Korean vinegars and all of the products that I enjoyed (most of which we ordered!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

What's on my Bookshelf

There was a time when I didn't really care to have cookbooks, and in actuality, that hasn't changed much. But two key moments exist that have nudged me toward celebrating cookbooks.

The first was when I discovered the Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme thread at eG. What an inspirational thread - so many great creations. Most people stayed true to the book, but why not when you have such an amazing body of knowledge. This was also the first time I had heard of PH.

The second was when the Chocolate Doctor, Kerry Beal sent me a box of books that she picked up at a discount book store. It was a mishmosh of forgotten books including some that I used on a daily basis now (Dessert Circus).

Feel free to click the pics above to see the titles better, but these are the books that I grab for every day. In the bottom pic, you'll see a spine with a knife on it (an Edge in the Kitchen) from there to the right all books I received for Christmas, and Edge is what I am currently ready as I try to hone my knife skills.

Most important book on the shelf: Baking with Julia
Most used: Art of the Dessert, Amernick (because I am so familiar with it)
Most disappointing: Desserts by the Yard (not in my whole collection, just on this shelf)
Most inspirational: Alinea (if only I had a few more hours and a few more dollars)

A Quick Programming Note

First, I still have a few crock pot recipes to make, but I had friends feed me over the weekend. Today jumped into crock pot leftovers which is a good indicator as to which recipes are in the running for the prize.

Second, I'm heading to San Fran for the Fancy Food Show this weekend. I'll be speaking on Saturday morning, so if anyone else is around, feel free to send me a message. I'll be reporting from the floor as I'm able. I'll also be doing my typical tour of the pastry shops around town.

Lastly, a minor correction/clarification. A couple of months ago I mentioned my test for knowing if I was doing what the universe would have me do, and I mentioned standing on my toes in the shower to see if I was in balance. I neglected to mention that your toes need to be together. Sorry to all of you screwed up people who thought you were in balance when you really weren't. Try it again and see if you need to quit your job tomorrow :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Playing with Chocolate

This afternoon I offered a "Playing with Chocolate" workshop at our store. Especially coming out of the holiday baking spree, I feel very in tune with chocolate - an almost zenlike relationship with cacao so to speak. And so this workshop was my chance to infodump on six gracious participants.

We covered everything from basic ganache to miroire.

I promised the participants I would post the recipes and ratios here on the blog, so here they are...

First we did a traditional cream ganache. I take one part cream (by weight, although volume gets you close enough that you can adjust from there) and heat it in a microwave for about 90 seconds. I take it to just a simmer or scald, but not further. If 90 seconds is not long enough, give it another 30 seconds and repeat until you get there. Add 2 parts chocolate. In the session I did 100g cream and 200g chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for about 30 seconds, then start stirring with a spatula until the chips are gone. Then pick up the pace and emulsify. Before the chocolate cools too much, add a few dollops of butter if you want the extra sheen. This ganache is ideal for tarts (like the pic above), cake glazes or fillings, or brownie topping. It remains fairly soft unless you chill it, but at room temp it remains cuttable. You can play with ratios for different purposes. 1:3 will make a stiffer chocolate ganache. 1:1 will make thinner. Its chocolate - it will still taste good no matter what you do with it.

Next we played with water based ganaches. First we did just water, then tried a red wine, and finally lychee black tea. Put your chips in a bowl and then add boiling water to almost, but not quite, cover the chocolate. Work toward emulsification just like the cream based ganache. If the chips don't melt, as is often the case, toss in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. This should be enough to do the trick. Once you've achieved the sheen, let it rest until its the desired consistency. If you are using it as a cake filling, pour while it still fluid. If you want to make truffles, then let it thicken. This ganache is a bit tougher to form into truffles, but knead it in the palm of your hand until it holds together. Remember that the key benefits to this are 1) vegan friendly, and 2) is true to the chocolate flavor. We all agreed that the wine and lychee black ganaches were outstanding. This is the ganache that we piped into the candied kumquats.

We took a slight divergence to chocolate soil. The soil recipe is:

250g (8oz) Sugar
250g (8oz) Almond flour
150g (5oz) All-purpose flour
100g (3.5oz) Unsweetened cocoa powder
5g (pinch) Salt
125g (4oz) Melted butter

Oven to 300F
Whisk dry ingredients together, add the melted butter, spread the mixture on silpat or parchment paper. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool, crumble, serve with meat, caramel based desserts, sprinkle on ice it by the handful.

Here's the final plating: Caramel Panna Cotta with Chocolate Soil and Bacon Powder.

Finally we did a poured mirror (miroir) glaze. Because of time we did the odd combination of rootbeer white chocolate miroir over pistachio cheesecake, but the more traditional recipe to keep is this:

120g (4.25oz) Heavy cream
145g (5oz) Water
160g (5.5oz) Sugar
60g (2oz) Cocoa powder
12g Gelatin sheet (6t. powdered gelatin)

Put gelatin in bowl with 1/4 C. water. Heat cream on stove top with water, sugar and cocoa. Stir until fully combined and cook on medium until steam starts to rise out of the pot. Add the gelatin blob and whisk until it is fully melted. If gel chunks remain, return the pot to the stove and heat on low, whisking until fully melted. Let sit until just tepid and pour on any frozen item. You can pour on a non-frozen item, but the effect is not as dramatic. For an example of my use of mirror glaze click HERE, HERE, HERE, and ,HERE'S an example of a white mirror that I marbled.

For my regular readers, one cool thing that happened here was regarding the kumquats. It is very hard to candy kumquat and not have them implode. You can read a fantastic tutorial on this process HERE on eGullet. But, we used the cream puff injector tip on our pastry bag and filled the collapsed kumquat with dark ganache, which in turn re-puffed the kumquat and made it beautiful and extra tasty. Good stuff.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #6: Tri2Cook's Little Strange Tapioca

I love tapioca...and sir, this was no tapioca!

Day six of the great crock pot marathon.

I've started thinking about that movie Super Size Me. These certainly aren't unhealthy meals necessarily, but I feel like a shell full of slimy brown glop. It feels as if I were to cut my finger, that mush would ooze out and it would taste like gravy. Good thing I'm not going for a year, just a few weeks.

Tonight was Tri2Cook's turn at the old crock pot roulette wheel. He didn't name it just as He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named was not spoken of in the Harry Potter books. And so the magical meal materialized as quickly as you could utter Expeliramus! (I'm tossing some bones to the Potter geeks in the audience).

2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1 Celery, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
1" Nub of fresh ginger
3 T. Quick cook tapioca
1 lb Stew Meat
16 oz. Diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 C. Malt vinegar
1/4 C. Molasses
1 t. Salt
1/2 t. Pepper
1/2 C. Currants

Place carrots, parsnips, onion, celery and garlic in crock pot. Add the ginger and then sprinkle tapioca over the top. Add the meat (T2C browns his first, I didn't have time). Add the tomatoes and juice, the vinegar, molasses, salt, pepper and currants.

Cook on low forever.

Okay, so what did I think? Well, as you may have noticed I'm seriously craving texture and fiber. And so its like riding the roller coaster for the 10th consecutive time... But, I will say that because crock pots tend to meld flavors into homogeneous flavor hell, this recipe does stand out for flavor. The molasses and vinegar held their own. Oddly enough I don't know where the tapioca went. I swear I put it in, but I couldn't discern it as I was eating, nor was the sauce thickened enough that I would say they dissolved.

So just like Harry Potter would say...Aparecium!

Next up: Helene's Curried Island Chicken (oh joy - chicken!)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #5: Bridget's Pulled Pork

I'm much too mature to comment on this post's title (snicker), so here it is:

While not a full meal in itself, this was a surprising complex dish.

I expected a basic shredded meat slathered in sauce, but the rub made it interesting, complex and not overly sweet as bbq sauce can tend to do. Here is Bridget's recipe:

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
(spice rub from Cooks Illustrated)
Spice Rub:
1 T. ground black pepper
1-2 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. chili powder (I used Ancho because I care)
2 T. ground cumin (I toasted, then ground)
2 T. dark brown sugar
1 T. dried oregano
4 T. paprika (Too general since I have five different paprikas at home. I used Hungarian sweet.)
2 T. salt (I used a Spanish sea salt)

1 T. sugar
1 T. ground white pepper

1 (6-8 pound) bone-in pork shoulder (From our 4-H pig)
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional) (I didn't have this, so I didn't use it)
2 cups barbecue sauce (Ginger People Hickory is what I had)

1. Mix all spice rub ingredients in small bowl.
2. Massage spice rub into meat. Wrap tightly in double layer of plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (I didn't have time for this step.)

3. Unwrap roast and place it in slow cooker liner. Add liquid smoke, if using, and ¼ cup water. Turn slow cooker to low and cook for 12-14 hours, until meat is fork-tender.
4. Transfer roast to cutting board; discard liquid in liner. “Pull” by tearing meat into thin shreds with two forks or your fingers. Discard fat.
5. Place shredded meat back in slow cooker liner; toss with 1 cup barbecue sauce, and heat on low for 30-60 minutes, until hot. Serve with additional barbecue sauce.

I served this on our fresh Greek pita, warmed until soft in a skillet, and had a little side salad because my bowels are revolting against all of this over-cooked meat and veggie glop (I use that term affectionately). Very good dinner - thanks Bridget. Next up - Tri2Cook's "This may be strange" ginger meat dish. (I would kill for something crisp right now!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #4: Beth's Inauguration Chicken

Unfortunately no pic - although really, its all brown glop coming out, no matter what it looks like going in. Have I mentioned that I am so craving anything that's not mushy right now! But back to Beth's recipe. I passed on her Fall recipe since...well...its not Fall and I'm a stickler for those kind of things. I may go back to it after I finish giving everyone their first chance. I also passed on Duncan's recipe idea since he doesn't want a prize (I mean like really, who doesn't want a prize...must be a nutjob!). I'll go back to his idea at the end also. Which brings me to Beth's inauguration chicken.

You can find her blog writeup about it HERE. Another fast and simple recipe. Mix 2 T. soy sauce, 1 T. maple syrup, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 garlic clove and 3 oz of tomato sauce. Pour that over chicken and a couple of chopped up carrots. Cook on low forever. What an odd little meal. But it was very good - you can never go wrong by putting sugar in my meals.

Just as I was about to eat this over leftover rice from work, a knock at the door led to fresh tortillas, soup and fixin's. So I ate half of the fixins and all of the inauguration chicken inside of the tortillas. I'm a full and happy boy.

Next up: Bridget's pulled pork (OMG, I have to pull it...sounds like a lot of work)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #3: Bethany Joy's White Chili

Talk about fast and simple! Bethany Joy said to put a chicken breast, a can of great northern beans, and a jar of salsa (I used Salsa ever). Put the lid on and walk away. When its time to eat, shred the chicken with a couple of forks.

Prep time (less than 2 minutes). Burn risk rating: zero (thank goodness). And it was really good - I have to admit that I was surprised. I would top it with fresh avocado if I did it again.

Thanks sis!

Recipe: Rootbeer Float...My Way

This dessert was literally years in the making.

I began playing with this concept in later 2006. My original thought was a hot or warm rootbeer dessert, but at that time I didn't have the skills, techniques or tools. But I do now...

My original desire to make a from scratch rootbeer remained throughout the project. Here is the base recipe I used (you can get almost all of this from your local herb shop):

1 oz Sassafras root
.5 oz Dandelion root
1 oz Wintergreen
.5 oz Hops
1 oz Juniper berries

16 oz Sugar
8 oz Brown sugar
4 oz Palm sugar
4 oz Honey

2 gallons, water

Rinse sassafras and dandelion in cold water. Crush juniper berries and add along with hops and wintergreen. Boil water and pour half over the herbs. Simmer for a half hour.

Strain to get out everything you can. [I had to use sassafras powder since root is not easily accessible due to FDA warnings, so the powder is hard to get out. I tried paper coffee filters, gold tone filters, chinois and ultimately did a gelatin filtration. You may not need to be as picky as I was.] Add the sweeteners and the rest of the water. Let stand until just warm. Strain again.

Now that you've got this thick syrup that is intensely rootbeer-ish. You can use this for all sorts of things (which I'll be doing this weekend). Most importantly, take the opportunity to mix some into a glass of club soda and enjoy a fresh herbal soda.

But, let's get back to the dessert!

First I used my smallest half sphere silicone mold and made a simple geleè. I believe I did 1 sheet of gelatin to 1 C. Slovakian sour cherry syrup - just warm the syrup and add the softened gelatin. If you only have powdered gelatin, I believe the conversion is 1 t. I let this set up and threw it in the freezer for a futile freezing session (too high in sugar to actually freeze).

Next I made an intense vanilla bavaroise for my "ice cream."

150 g Milk
30 g Sugar
2 Egg yolks
1 T. Vanilla paste (or seeds from 2 beans)
5 Sheets gelatin (or 5 t. if my conversion is correct)
200 g Whipped cream

Bring milk just to a boil. In separate bowl, combine yolks, sugar and vanilla. Add a half cup of the hot milk whisking to temper the mixture. Pour mixture back into remaining hot milk and continue whisking. Whisk/stir until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin. Let cool and fold in the whipped cream. Continue cooling until it starts to get thick enough to support weight. Pour into the next smallest half sphere silicone mold and fill almost to the top. Press the geleè into the center of the bavaroise. Freeze. The bavaroise will freeze but the geleè still won't.

Finally the rootbeer cremeux.

30 g Rootbeer syrup
180 g Heavy cream
3 Egg yolks
1 Sheet gelatin

Heat heavy cream until hot. Add syrup and combine. In separate bowl, whisk yolks. Pour a bit of the hot cream into the yolks and whisk, returning yolk mixture to remaining cream. Whisk in the softened gelatin. Cool until thick enough to support the weight of the bavaroise. Fill the largest half sphere silicone mold with cremeux about half way. Set the frozen bavaroise into the cremeux and level the tops. Freeze until hard.

Because of the way I devised this dish, you now need something to serve the float in, so let's spray a dish on! (any chance to pull out my Wagner power painter!) I simply melted cocoa butter, let it rest until room temp, then sprayed a few coats on to the bottom of the spheres. I was concerned that this might cause an awkward/slimy mouth feel, but it didn't. It was just "shell" enough to hold it all together, but crumbled instantly with any pressure (see pic below where I'm holding it).

Now, how about some garnish.

Roll out these barrels into a food processor and powderize them. Form them into a shape on your silpat. 400F and watch them until they melt

Once melted pull the sheet out and shape the strips. I used a half round of a PVC but you could drape them around a glass, make them wavy, whatever. I was attempted to elude to the shape on the side of a rootbeer float mug...didn't quite achieve what I was going for.

Drizzle a bit (sparingly because it is so intense) of the syrup and voila!

And finally...munch!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #2: Rachel's Spanish Rice

Rachel at The Crispy Cook offered this Spanish Rice recipe.

And then I went ahead and burned it!

Okay, so let's be real for a second. In the world of crock pots, I'm a crack pot. I have rarely used them and don't know much about the damn things. So yes, I burned rice. Are you happy now - I fessed up!

Fortunately I could look past the burnt taste and also had some tamales delivered to me today from up the street. It ended up being a really good meal. I think my crock pot is more powerful than most, or maybe our altitude has something to do with me overcooking things in the pot. Either way, I appreciate everyone's recipes and keep them coming!

Rachel's Spanish Crock pot Rice

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced

2 cups brown rice
1 (28 oz.) can crushed or diced tomatoes and water to make 4 cups liquid

Couple of glugs of hot sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in frying pan. Add onions, garlic, pepper and celery. Saute until softened.

Dump into large crock pot. Add remaining ingredients.

Cook on high heat for 4 hours, then turn to low for at least another 3 hours, until rice is done. Stir every once in a while. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

My rice received none of the stirring that Rachel called for since I couldn't get to the pot. Anyway, thank you Rachel for the great recipe!

Recipe: Flourless Almond Orange Cake w/Kalamata Olives

Don't stick your tongue out at the idea of olives in your cake just yet mister!

Look. If you haven't discovered how great the sweet and salty thing is yet, you need to get on the bus! I use it in my Brownies, my Peanut Butter Shortbread, and a slew of caramel based desserts. In proper proportions it is a can't miss combination.

So here I took it in a slightly different direction.

8 oz. Blanched almonds
1/2 C. Sugar, divided
4 Eggs, separated
Zest of two oranges
2 T. Sherry (Amontillado is preferred)
1 T. Orange blossom water
1/2 C. Kalamata olives, pitted

Oven to 375F; Butter a 9" springform and line with parchment

Process the almonds and 2 T. sugar until finely ground. Whip the yolks and 2 more T. of sugar until combined, then add the zest and salt and beat for a good two minutes on highest speed. Mix the sherry and blossom water into the almond mixture and then add the almonds to the yolks. Combine well.

Beat the whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and whip until firm peaks. Take a third of the whites and incorporate them into the almond/yolk mixture. The idea here is to loosen up the glop and make it easier to fold into the whites, so work at it until things loosen. If you need to add a bit more of the whites. Add the chopped kalamata. Finally fold this into the remaining whites until thoroughly incorporated. Pour into pan and bake around 30 minutes until you get a clean toothpick.

This is a wonderful nighttime dessert to be enjoyed with a dessert wine or cappuccino. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Crock Pot Recipe #1: Pam's Pork Ribs

I've said it a zillion times and I'll say it again - Pork is the most unphotogenic food there is!

My first crock pot recipe came from Pam. To repeat what she posted in the comments of the contest post...

Sprinkle boneless (I used bone-in) country style pork ribs with your favorite seasoning. I used Cape Herb Co. Crystal Pools grinder. On the other side of the pot she calls for good sauerkraut. Since our town apparently doesn't believe in good sauerkraut, I bought Claussens jarred "Crisp" kraut. As Pam suggested I added two apples, some brown sugar (can't go wrong with that!) and a few ounces of apple cider. She called for it to cook 6-8 hours. I didn't have that luxury, so it cooked from 6 am until 7:30 pm. When I went home at 2 to walk the dogs the moisture had all dried up so I added a couple more cups of cider. I served it with a baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar.

This fit the bill for sure - very fast to prepare (less than 10 minutes), and it was very tasty. I would definitely make this again. The meat was super! Thanks Pam.

Cuteness Pause

Take a break from food and check out how cute our little girls are! We don't get snow too often so when we do the pups have lots of fun.

And is this not the cutest thing ever!