Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Will I ever learn?

One problem constantly creeps up on me when I'm cooking.  It's ridiculously simple to avoid, but I can't seem to learn my lesson!  
Tonight I decided to play around with phyllo.  I wanted to put flakey strips of phyllo in a muffin tin and place layers of spinach, mushrooms, and roasted garlic between the sheets.  I planned on gathering the phyllo at the top and giving it a fancy little twist so I would have a b'steeya-like mini-muffin (except instead of rabbit it would be full of veggies).  Mmmmm...sounds yummy still.
After work I dashed to Publix, fought the crowd of post-work zombies like myself, and hurried home so I would have plenty of time to put together my dish and tweak as necessary.  Boy, it was going to be so good....too bad I forgot the phyllo dough!  Instead I had sauteed mushrooms and spinach, roasted zucchini with feta, couscous with pine nuts, and a salad comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, and dill.  Not a bad dinner UNLESS you were planning on something ELSE!
Grrrr....I need to be more conscientious!  I am the queen of forgetting to purchase (or make sure I have at home) a crucial ingredient.  I suppose the stress of the last week and a little sleep deprivation aren't helping.  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Preserved lemons


A few years ago I became obsessed with Moroccan food and decided I was going to master that cuisine as soon as I got a tagine.  Well, I still don't have a tagine.  I just never found one that spoke to me so I'm still waiting for the perfect fit.  I still adore the savory-sweet tastes found in Moroccan food, and I hope some day to rededicate myself to cooking it.  For now I satisfy that craving by making preserved lemons and keeping them on hand to salt and brighten a variety of dishes.  Preserved lemons are a traditional Moroccan condiment, and they are used in a wide variety of dishes including pastries, tagines, salads, and stews.  You can find them in specialty shops, but they are often quite expensive.  Bedsides, they're so simple to make at home that it seems like a real shame to purchase them.  

Preserved Lemons

You will need:
a large bag of unwaxed lemons (meyer lemons are best if you can find them)
kosher salt
a wide-mouth medium-sized jar (sterilized) 

Scrub the lemons with water and a cloth to remove any dirt then pat them dry.  Set a lemon on one end and make a vertical cut 3/4 of the way through the lemon.  Do not cut it in half.  Turn the lemon upside down and make a second vertical cut at a 90 degree angle to the first cut, again not cutting all the way through the lemon.  Pack each cut with as much salt as it will hold.  Carefully place the lemon in the jar.
Proceed in this manner with several more lemons until the jar is tightly packed with lemons.  Push the lemons tightly together, fitting as many as possible in the jar.  Squeeze fresh lemon juice from the remaining lemons and add it to the jar, completely covering the salt-stuffed lemons.  

In a few days time the lemon rinds will begin to soften, and it may be necessary to add more fresh lemon juice.  Any piece of lemon that is not covered in juice may mold.  If this happens, simply cut off the mold and discard.  
The lemons are ready to use when the rinds are tender, in four to six weeks.

To use, remove the lemon from the juice and slice off a bit of rind.  Rinse any remaining salt and add to soups, stews, tagines, salads, or pastas for a bright, salty accent.  The pulp may be incorporated into sauces and salad dressings.  Enjoy!


This is my super-cute lemon juicer. My Mom gave it to me several years ago, and it's the only juicer I own. Isn't it funky and cool?!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Could you please pass the....lamb butter?

Has anyone else seen the lamb-shaped butter for sale at the grocery store?  It kind of creeps me out.  
I looked it up, and it turns out that lamb-shaped butter is sold by a company named Keller during March and April, turkey-shaped butter is sold in October and November, and Christmas tree-shaped butter is sold in December.  I also found out that this making lamb-shaped butter is a tradition for many people celebrating Easter.  I have never heard of this!  Am I alone in thinking this is odd?  Have I somehow just missed the boat on this one?

Check it out for yourselves, and let me know what you think!  

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Secret Ingredient

Chicken salad has never really been my thing, but Charlie loves it.  So, I've been making a point to make it for him.   I usually make a very traditional version with pickles, eggs, onion, mayo, and mustard, but last week I thought I'd try a curried chicken salad.  (It seems that I'm on a real curry kick right now.  Maybe it's the weather?)  I pulled out a recipe from an old magazine and checked the fridge.  I had most of the ingredients so I decided to go ahead and cook it, making some omissions and substitutions.  Here is the recipe with my modifications.

Curried Chicken Salad

1 whole chicken
6 Tablespoons vanilla yogurt
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons thinly sliced scallions
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
freshly ground pepper

Put the chicken in a medium stock pot and add enough water to cover the chicken.  Bring the water to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool.  (Save your stock for something else!)  When the chicken is cool enough to handle shred it into bite-sized pieces.
Stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, scallions, cilantro, apple and salt.  Season with pepper.  Add the chicken and stir to fully coat.  

Did you spot the secret ingredient?  It's the vanilla yogurt.  The original recipe called for plain Greek yogurt, which would be very good I'm sure, but I didn't have that in my refrigerator.  I did have vanilla yogurt on hand so I substituted that and ended up with a lovely and unexpected flavor.  I think it's great, and I'm going to make it that way from now on!

It's not the most beautiful thing I've ever made, but here's a photo anyway.


Friday, March 27, 2009

What a week...

Boy, this has been a lousy week (understatement). My family has had a very tough time of it the last few days due to a medical situation involving my brother. It has been an emotionally up-and-down time, and I am humbled and inexpressibly grateful for the outpouring of love we have received from friends and family. My family and I are so lucky to have such caring, good people in our lives.
During this time I've continued blogging, and it's really helped me keep my sanity. It gives me something to do that is unrelated to my troubles and gives me a measure of peace. Also, I've really turned to food and cooking as a way of comforting myself and others. There isn't anything I can do to change the situation we are facing, but damn it, I can cook dinner! Having something productive to do that also nourishes those around me has been...i don't know. Helpful is the only thing I can think of, but that doesn't seem to encompass all that I feel or mean.
So, this post isn't really about food or cooking, but I am reminded of how food can bring people together when times are tough, and I'm grateful to have something to hold on to.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Throwing it all together


It's always great to have a couple of super simple salad recipes in your pocket. One of my favorites is a chickpea, bell pepper, and cucumber salad. It's quick, delicious, and healthy.
There isn't really a recipe, and it can be tweaked a zillion different ways. I like to use a can of chickpeas, 1 bell pepper, and 1 cucumber. Dice the bell pepper and the cucumber then toss them all together in a medium-sized salad bowl. After that it's up to you -- I usually make a quick vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, honey, a squeeze of lemon, mustard, and olive oil. The sweetness of the honey pairs nicely with the little bit of bite the pepper provides. While red bell peppers are the prettiest I usually opt for green, simply because they're much cheaper.
That's a great little salad on its own, but it's even better on top of bitter greens. I love dandelion greens tossed in a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Bibb lettuce is also good if you want something a little sweeter. (The photos show bibb lettuce.)


In the future I want to soak and boil dried chickpeas. Of course, that takes away some of the quick-and-easy of this yummy little salad.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A very tasty curry


I recently purchased a cookbook called Curry Cuisine: Fragrant dishes from India, Thailand, Vietmnam, and Indonesia. It's a collection of curries from a number of contributors, and I've been itching to try a few of them. I started with Green Shrimp Curry with Fresh Dill (Gang Keo Goung), but I modified it considerably. The results were terrific, and I changed it up enough that I feel I can call it my own.

This is a wonderful spring dish, and the curry tastes surprisingly complex considering how simple it is. If you try it out yourself, please let me know what you think!

Shrimp Curry with Fresh Dill

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 Tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 Tbsp sugar
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 - 2 Tbsps fish sauce, or to taste
2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 lb raw tiger shrimp, peeled
1 bunch dill
basmati rice, as an accompaniment

Heat the oil in a pan over moderately high heat and stir-fry the curry paste for about 2 minutes or until just golden and fragrant. Add the sugar and stir fry for 1 minutes or until fragrant. Reduce the heat and add the coconut milk, chicken stock, lime zest, and fish sauce. Add the potatoes, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.


Add the shrimp and stir well, then cover again and cook for about 5 minutes or until they turn pink. Serve hot, garnished with fresh dill.
This is best served over basmati rice.


If you've never tried a curry, this is a good place to start. It's simple, and the results are very satisfying. I can hardly wait to try out a few other recipes from the cookbook. I may have a lot of curry dishes ahead of me this spring!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Roasted Cauliflower


I just love cauliflower. It has such a nice texture, and it isn't fussy. However, until recently I had no idea it was so yummy when roasted. Roasting cauliflower is super easy, and it brings out a more complex flavor. The sugars caramelize, and the vegetable becomes nutty and very creamy. It really is just fabulous and so easy to do that you don't need a recipe, but here's one anyway.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
kosher or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Break the cauliflower into large florets and season generously with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil then use your hands to rub the oil and coat the cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower for 30 - 35 minutes or until the edges have browned and begun to caramelize. Serve immediately.



For a nice variation on this recipe use lemon-infused olive oil and toss the roasted cauliflower with pitted calamata olives and capers. The saltiness of the olives and capers paired with the sharpness of the lemon is really nice.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coming Home to Chicken Thighs


Last night I returned from my trip to Florida, happy but tired. My wonderful husband, Charlie, was on top of things and picked up groceries before I arrived so he could make me dinner. He's the absolute best.
And make dinner he did. Not just any dinner either but my favorite thing that he cooks. While we were dating he decided to come up with a recipe to call his own. The result of those efforts is a fabulous dish called Chicken Thighs with Orange Juice and Cilantro.  I just love it.  Here's the recipe:

Chicken Thighs with Orange Juice and Cilantro

2 cups orange juice
2 cups white wine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1 pound bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl combine the orange juice, white wine, garlic, and cilantro.  Add the chicken thighs and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and season with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a sauce pan on medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and sear, approximately 4 minutes on each side or until the skin is nicely browned.


Add the orange juice mixture and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 6 - 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  


Serve the chicken over basmati rice with a large spoonful of the sauce.


You may notice the absence of fresh cilantro in the photos.  Charlie forgot to pick it up at the grocery store (he blames the chaos of rush hour) so he substituted a Tablespoon or so of ground coriander.   Coriander is the dried, ground seed of the cilantro plant.  It doesn't have the minty flavor of fresh cilantro leaves and is much milder.  Coriander is not generally interchangeable with cilantro, but in the case of this marinade it worked beautifully.  I prefer fresh cilantro, but the dish was still delicious with the substitution.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Serious Comfort Food


Last Saturday was so rainy and cold, and I really needed some comfort food to warm me from the inside. I decided to try out the Red Lentil and Rice Soup from Arabesque. It gave me exactly what I was looking for -- creamy, homey, filling soup. It's what I imagine the three bears' porridge tasting like.
This isn't a glamorous soup. It's a muddy brown color, and it isn't beautiful. BUT, it's delicious. Try it on a cold, rainy day. You won't be sorry.


(I've tweaked the recipe a little.)

Red Lentil and Rice Soup

2 large onions, diced
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
7 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade tastes best)
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup arborio rice
black pepper
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp lemon juice

Fry the onions in the oil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occassionally until they soften. Then cook over high heat, stirring often, until they are very brown and caramelized. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Bring the stock to a boil then add the lentils and rice. Season with balck pepper, and add the coriander. Simmer for 35 - 45 minutes, or until the lentils and rice fall apart and the soup has a creamy texture. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.
Just before serving add the cumin and lemon juice. Top each bowl with the fried onions, an extra sprinkle of cumin, and a lemon wedge.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The promised recipe

Here is the promised compound butter recipe. It's really quiet delicious on bread and pasta.

Shallot-Parsley Butter

8 Tablespoons plus 1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large shallot, minced to yield 3 Tablespoons
1 Tablespoon dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the 1/2 Tablespoon butter over medium heat in a small skillet. Add the shallots and cook until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Cool completely.
Placed the remaining 8 Tablespoons of the butter in a medium bowl. Add the shallot mixture and the parsley. Smash with the back of a fork or wooden spoon until well combined.
Transfer the butter mixture to a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Roll into a 1-inch log and refrigerate until ready to use.

Charlie made this last week, and it was just wonderful. It could certainly be changed up by adding different herbs and spices.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More on the muffins


Peanut Butter Muffins

2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter (I use Trader Joe's all-natural peanut butter)
1 1/3 cups mik
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Greaste muffin pans to make 16 muffins.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the peanut butter and a few spoonfuls of the milk until smooth then beat in the remaining milk. Beat in the melted butter and eggs. Stir in the peanuts. Add to the combined dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about three-fourths full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 3 - 5 minutes, then remove.

**These are great with fresh butter, honey butter, and jams of all kind.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tale of the Traveling Peanut Butter Muffins


Right now I'm on a five-day trip to Captiva Island, Florida with three young children (two 6-year-olds and a 4-year-old) so I decided to bake a snack for the trip before I left. I chose peanut butter muffins because they travel well, they're kid-friendly, and they are somewhat filling. Oh, yum! I made a good choice.
I'll post the recipe soon, but for now here are a few photos.

The batter was super good. I couldn't stop eating it!

I discovered that if I served a little blueberry jam on the side I ended up with a grown-up version of a PB&J. It was super tasty.

One thing I really like about the peanut butter muffins (aside from how easy they are to make) is their versatility. They aren't super sweet so they lend themselves to savory dishes as well as sweet spreads or toppings. They would be really good served alongside a curry dish or noodles with a peanut sauce. As a surprise element I might even throw them in a basked of mixed bread to serve at a dinner party.
They aren't flashy, but they're definitely good to have on hand. The kids loved them too!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This Week's Bread

This weekend I chose to bake Honey and Bran Bread and German Pumpernickel Bread, both from William Sonoma's Baking cookbook.  Both recipes called for wheat bran, but I substituted oat bran since I was unable to find what was called for (see previous post).  Here are the recipes with photos.

Honey and Bran Bread

2 1/4 teaspoons quick-rise yeast
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 - 2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups wheat bran 
1/4 cup honey
1 Tablespoon corn oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water and let stand until bubbles start to rise, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the whole-wheat flour, 1 cup of the bread flour, and the bran.  Stir in the remaining 3 cups lukewarm water, honey, oil, salt, and yeast mixture.  Gradually stir in enough of the remaining bread flour to make a soft dough that holds its shape.

Knead by hand or with a dough hook, adding bread flour as kneaded.  Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes; knead by hook until the dough pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, 6 - 7 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl, turning the dough to coat all sides.  
IMG_2375.JPGCover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45 - 60 minutes.

Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press flat.  Cut in half.   Using a rolling pin, roll out each half into a 12 by 7 inch rectangle.  
IMG_2406.JPGStarting at a long side, roll up tightly and pinch the seams to seal.  Place in the prepared pans, seam sides down.
 Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 - 60 minutes.   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush the loaves with the egg-yolk mixture.  Bake until well browned and a thin wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 30 - 35 minutes.  Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool.


The honey and bran bread has a very subtle nutty flavor that I just love!  I think the oat bran tastes just fine, but I still want to try wheat bran and see what difference that makes.  The dough was very dense and heavy, which surprised me, and the finished loaves are quite dense.  I'm interested in seeing how it lends itself to making sandwiches, but for now it's just great with a little fresh butter smeared on a slice.

German Pumpernickel Bread

3 cups rye flour
1 cup wheat bran
2 1/2 - 3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons quick-rise yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons dark or light molasses
3 Tablespoons corn oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt, warmed to 110 degrees F
cornmeal for sprinkling

In a bowl, whisk together the rye flour, bran, and 2 cups of the bread flour.  In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the yeast, 1/2 cup of the flour mixture, and the lukewarm water; let stand until bubbles start to rise, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the molasses, oil, salt, and yogurt.  Gradually stir in 4 cups of the remaining flour mixture to make a stiff but workable dough.  The dough will be sticky.
Knead by hand or with a dough hook, adding the remaining flour mixture and more bread flour as needed.  Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes; knead by dough hook until the dough is not sticky and pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, about 10 minutes.  The dough will be slightly heavy.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl, turning to coat on all sides.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 60 - 75 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press flat.  Cut in half, knead briefly, and form each half into a ball, stretching the sides down and under.  
Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaves on it.  Cover with a clean kitchen town and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45 - 60 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Uncover and bake until browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottoms, about 1 hour.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.


This is the first time I've ever attempted pumpernickel, and I really enjoyed it!  The dough is just gorgeous and handles very well after enough flour has been added (up until that point it's very sticky).  The photos don't really do the finished loaves justice.  They're beautiful in a very rustic way.  I tried a slice last night with a little butter, and it had the same dense, moist texture as the honey and bran bread.  I wonder if that's because of the oat bran (?).  Does anyone know?
I have a feeling that as it sits the flavors will deepen and it will have a more traditional pumpernickel flavor.  I certainly hope so because I just love a good, deep pumpernickel flavor!

Searching for wheat bran

Two of the bread recipes I plan on trying out today call for wheat bran which sounds like a simple enough thing to find.  I usually make the hike to the Dekalb Farmers Market on Saturdays,  but today it's rainy and I don't really feel like getting out and doing much so I decided to just go across the street to Publix instead.  It turns out that it is super difficult, if not impossible, to find wheat bran at Publix.  I'm not sure if they carry it, but I was unable to find it if they do.  However, I did find the following similar-sounding things:
  • Oat bran
  • Raisin bran
  • All-Bran cereal
  • Wheat germ
  • Cream of wheat
I really debated over just scratching the recipes I'd chosen.  Ordinarily I would just throw up my hands and go to either Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, or the farmers market, but I just didn't feel like it today!  Instead, I decided to choose one of the other things I found and make a substitution.  I have no idea if this will work, as I haven't even started baking yet, but I'm going to give it a go.
I first looked at the oat bran.  It's a hot cereal made by Quaker, and the only thing listed in the ingredient list is oat bran.  This pleases me because it suggests that it is a whole food with no additives.
Next I checked out the raisin bran.  I knew I wouldn't go this route, but I wanted to read the ingredient list and hopefully learn a little something.  Well, raisin bran contains all sorts of things I try to avoid, including high-fructose corn syrup, niacinamide, and a collection of vitamins.  I know it sounds great that Kellogg's adds vitamins, but I prefer to get them naturally through fruits and vegetables.  
All-bran cereal sounded promising so I checked the label.  The first ingredient listed was wheat bran (!).  So far, so good!  Unfortunately, seventeen other ingredients followed.  Again, a highly processed food containing high-fructose corn syrup.  
Wheat germ is all wrong, so I quickly marked it off my list along with cream of wheat.  I was left with nothing else to examine so I decided to go with the oat bran.  I know this will change the texture and taste of my bread, but I'm going to give it a shot!  With the oat bran I know what I'm substituting is a whole food with no preservatives or other additives.  
Since I had so much trouble finding wheat bran I decided to do a tiny bit of research and find out just what I was looking for.  I learned that a bran (such as wheat bran or oat bran) is the hard outer layer of a grain that becomes a byproduct when the grain is processed.  Good to know!  I'll keep looking for it when I'm out and about, but for now I'm going with the oat bran!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yakitori Jinbei

Tonight my girl friend, Stacey, and I headed out of the city to try out Yakitori Jinbei in Smyrna (Georgia). Stacey had heard tales of the delicious ramen dishes available there, and we were not disappointed! We ordered two ramen dishes and shared, but I think the Tonkotsu Ramen was the winner! It was creamy, complex, and warmed me up from head to toe! If you live in the Atlanta area and are looking for delicious Japanese food, take the time to drive out to Smyrna. It's definitely worth the trip!

Here's the restaurant info:

Yakitori Jinbei
2421 Cobb Parkway
Smyrna, Georgia 30080

We also split a Cherry Blossom Salmon roll that was delightful. The fish was fresh, and it was pleasantly spicy. Oooh...I wish I had some right now!

Homemade tortillas

homemade tortillas
Last night I had some friends over for margaritas and Mexican food. Since I'm making a point to use my grill pan I decided to make fajitas! I love making fajitas mostly because it gives me an opportunity to make fresh tortillas. Also, I can dictate exactly what goes into my fajita while giving other people additional options. I'm not a huge fan of Mexican food so I leave out tons of things when I roll my own fajita and basically make myself a tasty wrap with chicken and veggies.
Charlie first suggested that we make our own tortillas after watching a You Tube video called 10 Minute Cooking School: Sin City Breakfast Tacos. Robert Rodriguez, the director of the movie Sin City, enjoys cooking so he began filming his own little cooking shows in between takes. This one is a lot of fun to watch, and he does a nice job of explaining how to make his grandmother's tortillas. Here's the link:


About a year ago we made the breakfast tacos as described in the video, and they were really good. I highly recommend giving them a shot. However, the best part of that video is the info on making your own tortillas. I've written out a basic recipe below with photos.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup butter (or lard) cut into small pieces
3/4 cup warm water

1. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the butter and mix with your hands until the butter is worked into the flour and evenly distributed. Add the warm water and stir until combined.

tortilla dough

2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead by hand until the dough it is smooth and elastic.

IMG_2352.JPGtortilla dough

3. Cut the dough into 8 to 10 golfball-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball. You may need to add a little more flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface or your hands. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

tortilla dough
tortilla dough

4.Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Take one ball of dough and stretch it into a 6 inch disk, pulling from the inside. Place the disk on a well-floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll it into a 10-inch tortilla. It should be approximately 1/8 inch thick.

tortilla dough

5. Cook the tortilla on the hot griddle, flipping it after 20 seconds. Cook until the tortilla stiffens and small brown spots begin to appear. Some of the tortillas may develop air pockets as they cook (this is fine).


6. Place warm tortillas in a cloth-lined basket and cover to keep warm while cooking the remaining tortillas.

homemade tortillas

Homemade tortillas are surprisingly easy to make, and they taste so much better than the kind you buy in the grocery store. They can be filled with any number of fresh ingredients to make fajitas, tacos, wraps, or quesadillas.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kugelhopf pan

The cake I just baked called for either a kugelhopf or a bundt pan. I wasn't sure what a kugelhopf pan looked liked, so I looked it up and found these photos. I thought I would share my findings!

It's basically a really pretty bundt pan. It would certainly make a simple cake look a little fancier!

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake


I am addicted to food magazines. I currently subscribe to Bon Appetite and Martha Stewart Living, and I regularly purchase Gourmet, Food and Wine, and Saveur. It's absolutely ridiculous how much time and money I spend on this magazines, but I just love perusing the recipes! Every now and then I feel a little guilty about this indulgence, and I make a point to cook several things from a recent publication. This week I decided to try out the Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake featured in the March 2009 edition of Gourmet. Here's the recipe with photos and some commentary along the way.

Cardamom Vanilla Pound Cake
*Use a 12-cup kugelhopf or bundt pan

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 whole vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 1/2 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 F with rack in middle. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

2. Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and granulated sugar in mixer at medium speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with tip of paring knife into butter mixture, reserving pods for another use, and beat until combined well, about 1 minute.

A split vanilla bean -- gorgeous!

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in lemon juice until combined well. At low speed, add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

3. Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top. Gently rap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.

I love the flecks of vanilla bean in the batter.


4. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 1 hour, then invert onto a rack and cool completely, about 1 hour more.

It puffed up a lot after baking, but after resting for about an hour it became more dense.

5. For whipping cream: Beat cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla extract using whisk attachment of mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve cake with whipped vanilla cream.


I found the cake to be very subtle and satisfying. It was very moist, and the flavors intensified the longer it sat. The fresh vanilla bean really made all the difference between this cake and one flavored with vanilla extract. [I was quite shocked by the price of the cardamom ($8.99 for a small bottle) and the 2 vanilla beans ($9.99) at Publix. Because of that, I think this will have to be a special occassion cake from now on!]
The whipped cream was a perfect accompaniment. A fruity ice cream would also be delicious served alongside the cake.
This is definitely a cake I will make again. It filled the house with such a wonderful smell as it baked, and a small slice with a little cream was incredibly satisfying.