Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Joy Of Cooking...with a recipe

As I patiently fill the cup-cakeless hours, it occurred to me that it was not at all necessary to rob my beloved baking utensils of a meaningful existence. There was no need to abandon the kitchen just because I decided to give up sugar for a week. Besides, if I was to get through the week, I was going to need something tasty to munch on in-between my impending sugar withdrawal fits.

I thought long and hard and decided to make something I had never made before: quiche. “I used to make quiche every week when you were a little girl…” my mother recalled as I told her about my latest under taking. Apparently quiche was one of my father’s favorite dishes – how 70’s of him. “ After baking, the quiche needs to cools entirely in order for the custard to set. I used to have to guard it from your father to prevent him from eating it straight out of the oven,” something I foresaw myself doing to prevent my roommate from doing the same.

For the project, I consulted my 1973 version of the Joy of Cooking. The use of cookbooks is a novelty to me. In fact I have always prided myself on coming up with my own recipes using my very own blend of cautious competence and fearless intuition - or beginners luck, as some would call it. There was something adventurous and exciting about coming up with an idea, and with little training and no background, trying to approximate my desired result. Sometimes, by some unknown miracle, my inventions would come out just as I had imagined them, but a majority of the time they would end up in the trashcan. It was a precarious and thrilling, not to mention wasteful, way to learn how to cook, but over the years that is what I did, learn.
Currently, it is not the adventure that attracts me to the kitchen, rather the satisfaction that comes along with executing an idea with ease and grace. For this, a cookbook comes in handy. Though I do use recipes, an adventurous streak still runs through my cooking. You see, to me, recipes are nothing more than a set of guidelines, guidelines that I will eventually bend to my own tastes, preferences, and even fetishes. Printed below are the Joy Of Cooking’s guidelines for making quiche, laced with Gourmet Peasant specifications.

Fennel, Asparagus, and Leek Quiche with Artisan Manchego Cheese

Pâte Brisée
one 9-inch pie crust

1/2 cup – butter
2 tbsp – lard (I used extra butter)
2 cups – sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp – salt
5-6 tbsp – water

1.) Blend until mixed, butter, flour, and salt using a pastry cutter or a Cuisinart.

2.) Sprinkle mixture with water a little at a time, incorporating it into the mixture until you can gather dough into a ball (it should not stick to your fingers.)

3.) Squeeze into a disk and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 2-36 hours.

4.) Remove from refrigerator and let stand one hour.

5.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Between two pieces of wax paper, or on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to fit a 9-inch baking pan. It should be one inch larger all around than the baking pan. Always roll from the center out to create an even crust.

6.) Roll crust onto the rolling pin then unroll it over the pie pan. Ease the dough into the pan and pinch around the edge of the pan.

7.) Poke bottom of crust with a fork, or cover with wax paper and fill with dry beans. This prevents bubbling of the crust. Bake in oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown.


The Custard:
2 cups – milk
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
a fresh grating of nutmeg
1/2 cup of grated cheese

Fennel sliced thin and lightly blanched
Asparagus blanched
1 small yellow onion caramelized
One leek cooked with onion
A sprinkling of chopped dill

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place veggie mixture inside the precooked pie crust.

2.) Mix eggs, salt, milk, pepper and nutmeg well and pour over the top of veggies.

3.) Sprinkle with cheese before placing in oven. Bake for 35- 40 minutes or until top is golden Brown.

4.) Guard your pie well as it cools otherwise you roommate might get to it before it has a chance to set.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Peasant Pics

Check out the Gourmet Peasant's sister site, Peasant pics. This blog displays all the photos that don't make it on to the main blog. It is a feast for the eyes that may leave your stomache growling, so make sure you have something tasty handy. Enjoy!

Ode to Cold Tomato Sauce Out of the Jar

I was too sick today to make the tomato sauce I had planned on making, so instead I ate Paul Newmans Tomato sauce from the jar with a spoon (number 1 on my six weird food things about me) and tried my hand at translating one of my favorite Pablo Neruda Poems.

Ode to the Tomato
By: Pablo Neruda

The streets
overflow with Tomatoes
light breaks in two
tomato halves,
the streets
with juice.
In December
the tomato
unleashes itself,
invades kitchens,
occupies lunches,
at rest,
on sideboards,
between glasses,
butter dishes,
and blue salt shakers.
It has
its own brilliance,
a cordial majesty.
A shame that we must assassinate:
the knife
into its living pulp,
it is a red
a sun,
and inexhaustible,
fills the salads
of Chile,
happily married
with the pale onion,
and to celebrate
let the oil,
essential offspring
of the olive tree,
fall over its yawning hemispheres
the pimento
adding its fragrance,
and salt, its magnetism:
it is the wedding of the day
the parsley
its little flags
the potatoe
boil boisterously,
and the roast
beats down doors
with its aroma:
its time!
Lets go!
and on the table
in the belt of summer
the tomato,
star of earth,
and copious,
show us
their convolution,
their canals,
the distinguished plenitude
and abundance
without husk,
without scales nor thorns
offer us
the gift
of fervent color
and the totality of freshness

Ode al Tomate
De: Pablo Neruda

La calle
se llenó de tomates,
la luz
se parte
en dos
de tomate,
por las calles
el jugo.
En diciembre
se desata
el tomate,
las cocinas,
entra por los almuerzos,
se sienta
en los aparadores,
entre los vasos,
las matequilleras,
los saleros azules.
luz propia,
majestad benigna.
Debemos, por desgracia,
se hunde
el cuchillo
en su pulpa viviente,
es una roja
un sol
llena las ensaladas
de Chile,
se casa alegremente
con la clara cebolla,
y para celebrarlo
se deja
esencial del olivo,
sobre sus hemisferios entreabiertos,
la pimienta
su fragancia,
la sal su magnetismo:
son las bodas
del día
el perejil
las papas
hierven vigorosamente,
el asado
con su aroma
en la puerta,
es hora!
y sobre
la mesa, en la cintura
del verano,
el tomate,
aastro de tierra,
y fecunda,
nos muestra
sus circunvoluciones,
sus canales,
la insigne plenitud
y la abundancia
sin hueso,
sin coraza,
sin escamas ni espinas,
nos entrega
el regalo
de su color fogoso
y la totalidad de su frescura.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Six Weird Things...

I was tagged by Marce of Pip in The City a few days ago with this meme of six weird food things about myself. I has taken me a while to complete it, because for days I thought long and hard, and was unable to not come up with a single thing that I thought was weird. I realized last night, after re-reading Marce's entry, that no one believes that any of their habits are strange, when the truth of the matter is, all habits are at least a tad bit strange.

Six weird food things about me

1.) I love tomato sauce which, I know, is not all together that strange, if it were not for the fact that I like to eat it cold, out of the jar, with a spoon.

2.) I don’t like sushi. I realize this is not that strange; there are plenty of people who don’t like sushi. Still, it bothers me severely that I don’t like it. Sushi lovers are fanatical and whenever people are fanatical about something I don’t appreciate, I want to experience for myself the pleasure that is the source of their dogmatic ardor. I’ve tried many times to be a sushi fanatic, but I always come up short, merely appreciating it but never becoming entirely consumed by it. I have not given up, however, and will continue trying.

3.) I love soup so much that I could probably live on it and it alone

4.) I like saltine crackers. I think that alone is fairly strange.

5.) I have a cupcake abuse problem (reference my last few entries and you'll agree.)

6.) I like eating my food with oddly sized utensils, ice cream with an espresso spoon, lentil salad with a mussels fork, and oatmeal with a serving spoon. It delighted me as a child and continues to delight me to this day. I also like eating out of oddly shaped and sized bowls, tiny ones being my favorite.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dismal Den of Misery Focaccia with Mango and Parmesan

It is day three of my cup cake-detox and already I feel as though it has been three months. Every morning I wake up with a wonderful idea for a cup cake then remember, it will have to go unrealized due to my ‘problem.’ My cup cake pans lay discarded on the kitchen shelves, calling to me sorrowfully to put them to good use. My measuring cups hang on the wall dejected and mournful of a once serviceable existence. Unaware of my struggle, my bittersweet Verona, Scharffenberger, and Droste tragically wait in the cloistered darkness of the pantry awaiting release. My hiatus from cup cake making has turned my once cheerful kitchen into a dismal den of misery and grief.

This is how I console myself:

Focaccia with Tomato, Mango, Caramelized Onion, Parmesan, and Lemon Zest

(1 large or 2 small)

The Bread:
1 envelope yeast
1 tsp - sugar
1 tsp - salt
1/2 cup - warm water
1/2 cup - tepid water
1/2 cup - olive oil
2 cups - flour

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix sugar with warm water and sprinkle with envelope of yeast. Wait 10min.
2.) When the yeast is proofing (fizzing) mix in olive oil, tepid water, and salt. Stir.
3.) Add 3/4 of a cup of flour to the yeast mixture and beat with a wooden spoon for three min.
4.) Slowly mix in the remaining flour, kneading with your hands when mixture becomes too thick for spoon. (if the dough feels to dry, add a splash of olive oil, if it fells too wet, add a sprinkle of flour.)
5.) Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and store in a warm spot for 30min.
6.) Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape into one large disc, or two small, pinching and pressing with your fingers.
7.) Place on a oiled pan and bake for 3-8 min or until lightly browned.
8.) Place topping on foccaccia and bake for 3-4 more min.

The Toppings:
1 can tomatoes
1 mango, lightly steamed and cut into slices
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 Vidalia onion, sliced and caramelized with garlic and olive oil
zest from one lemon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The X Rated Cup Cake

I realize that this past month's posts might give the impression that I survive on cup cakes alone, and although I partly wish this were the case, it simply is not. I have always had a fancy for cup cakes, but over the years this childhood fancy has blossomed into a full blown passion which, in my adult years, has swelled into a compulsive enthusiasm. In more recent months this enthusiasm has mutated into a fixation bordering on fetish.

It all began with the Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes . These blameless little cakes were simple and sweet and could inspire nothing less than wholesome delight in the jaws of a virtuous eater. But when I took my first bite of these innocent cakes, all I could think was sinister thoughts. I wanted to rip off their tops, tear out their guts, and fill them with sweet pastry cream. My mother, being as much of a subversive eater as I, agreed and during my visit with her she concocted the very sinister Blissfully Banana Cup Cake. This invention set ablaze my cup cake perversion and has lead me to where I am today, dreadfully trying to get over my reconstruction of Two Little Red Hens, Brooklyn Blackout Cup Cake. These X rated cakes were so nefarious that many of those who partook in them reported having scrumptiously disturbing dreams. "I was drifting on chocolaty waves of butter cream," one participant told me. "I dreamt about them (the cakes) last night," another one told me with a wicked grin "and I was making love to them." Oh no, my cup cake disorder was contagious!

It is hard to say if I will be able to cure my deviant cup cake malady, but now that I am aware of my 'affliction' and the savory, and not so savory, effect it has on the public, I know that I must try. If only being bad, did not taste so good. This will be my last cup cake entry for some time.

These chocolate cream filled chocolate cup cakes with chocolate frosting are intense and almost perverse. Enjoy them if you dare!

STEP 1 - Make the pastry cream first so that it can cool while you make your cup cakes.

STEP 2- Make your buttermilk cup cakes
STEP 3- Once the cup cakes are cooled cut a large hole in the top of the cakes, using a paring
knife and angling toward the center. Remove the top, carve out the center, fill with
pastry cream, and place top back on.

STEP 4 - Ice the cup cake. (With this recipe I used Sharffen Berger 99% Cacao Pure Dark Chocolate, and I used
a 1/2 cup less sugar)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Yes, Another Stupid Internet Survey...

1.) What do you do when a beloved friend desperately needs some reparation after a brutal

Make chocolate cup cakes
2.) What do you do when your roommate has also had a difficult week and is in need of a
serious pick-me-up?

Fill the cupcakes with chocolate and butterscotch pastry cream.

3.) What do you do when you yourself are suffering from the blues because the one you want to
Cook with does not want to cook with you?

You dance and howl like a banshee to Hank Williams while making sinfully decadante frosting with Scharffenberger’s 99% chocolate.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Blissful Secret

I made these cup cakes with my mother (on your left. Isn't she so cute?) and brought the leftovers to work with me the next day. With inquiring eyes, everyone wanted to know, "But how do you get the pudding inside?" I almost didn't want to tell them the very simple and uninteresting truth; I cut the tops off, carve out the middle, spoon in the pudding, and then place the top back on again. To let them in on my little secret would be the equivalent of exposing the reality of Santa Clause to a child. " Magic" I answered with a smile, deciding to let them linger a while longer with their own fantastical explanations. I have posted the recipe below, but if you ever resolve to make these tasty treats, you have to promise to keep my pudding-stuffing-method a secret, okay?

Blissfully Banana Cup Cakes

The Cake
18 cup cakes

2 1/4 cups- sifted cake flour (makes for a lighter cake than regular flour)
5 tbsp - all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
1 cup, 2tbs - buttermilk (room temp)
3/4 cup - mashed bananas (2 very ripe bananas with brown skin)
10 tbsp - (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
6 tbsp - vegetable oil
3/4 cup - lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup - granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs - room temp

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake trays with liners.
2.) Sift both flours, baking soda, and salt, then set aside
3.) In a small bowl stir buttermilk into the mashed bananas and set aside.
4.) Cream butter, oil, both sugars and vanilla with mixer until light and fluffy. About two minutes.
5.) Scrape the sides of the bowl with rubber spatula then add eggs one at a time, mixing ten seconds for each egg.
6.) Starting and ending with the dry mixture, alternately add (in thirds) the flour mixture and then the buttermilk mixture to the creamed butter mixture. (To prevent over mixing your batter, mix the last flour mixture by hand, scraping the side and bottom of the bowl well.)
7.) Using an ice cream scooper with a side lever to release the batter, or a ladle if you don’t, fill trays 3/4 of the way up and place in oven for 15-20 min, or until golden brown, and springs back to the touch.

The Pudding

2 cups - milk
1 cup - sugar
4 tbsp - all purpose flour
2 eggs 1/2 tsp - vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk until it is just about boiling.
2. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla, and salt then slowly add mixture to the hot milk.
3. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until pudding thickens.
4. Add two or three bananas thinly sliced, and press plastic wrap or parchment on top of mixture to prevent skin from developing. Cool on counter before chilling in refrigerator.

The Butter Cream Frosting

2 sticks - sweet butter at room temp
31/2 cups - confectioners sugar (no sifting necessary)
1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp - chilled heavy cream
1.) Place everything into food processor and process for 5 min.
2.) Place mixture into large mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed until butter cream is light and fluffy (15-20 min)


1.) Angling the knife (small sharp paring) toward the center of the cup cake, cut in a circle motion, close to the edge.
2.) Remove the lid and shave off the underside.
3.) With a tiny spoon or a paring knife, carve out center of cake.
4.) Fill center with pudding and place lid back on.
5.) Frost the cake with a cake decorator tip, or with a butter knife.
6.) You can decorate the frosting with remaining cup cake crumbs, or you can toast them in the broiler or a hot oven and, in a small bowl, layer them with the leftover pudding. YUM!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Somebody's Gettin' Lucky!

The second day of my visit, some very serious food was on the itinerary. My mother and I were to attempt Banana cream filled cup cakes. After coffee and breakfast we prepared the pudding and as it chilled in the refrigerator, we set out on a reconnaissance mission in the town of Saugerties. The night before I had sampled a few chocolates from my mother’s Lucky Chocolate stash. The flavors were interesting and innovative, many using powerful fruit purees and even Chimayo chilies, famous for their vibrant red color and deep rich flavor. I was excited about visiting the shop, and picking up some interesting chocolates for my roommate.

When we arrived we were greeted by the bitter sweet sent of cocoa, the wonderful sounds of Ranchero music, and a glass counter brimming with colorful chocolates. By the register there were piles of broken shards of chocolate and cookies for sampling, all of which I took advantage of. After carefully surveying all of the flavors I filled one box with chocolates for my roommate, then filled a slightly smaller box with chocolates for myself. In the car I immediately sampled some of the goods. The dark chocolate covered ginger was rich and had a nice kick, the pomegranate exploded with the bright zest of citrus, then finished with the earthy resonance of brown bark and tannins. A nice hearty glass of Malbec or Zinfandel would make a happy companion for this tiny but complex little delicacy. The Salted Caramels in particular caught my attention. I curiously examined the caramel before taking a small nibble. I have always like the combination of salty and sweet, but the grains of salt seemed awfully coarse and thick for such a bite-sized confection. The coarse grains of salt were the first flavor to hit my tongue. The, almost, overwhelming saltiness was soon proceeded by the melting chocolate coating. As the chocolate and salt began to mingle I bit into the caramel kneading it with my teeth into the chocolate. I did not immediately take another bite, but sat for a while reviewing the experience. “I felt the same way,” my mother told me. “After eating the salted caramel for the first time I couldn’t have told you if I liked it or I hated it. I’ll tell you one thing, I haven’t stopped coming back for more.” I took another bite, a heartier one this time. I think I can say with confidence that, I like it!

When we got home, we made the banana cupcakes, filled them with the custard, and finished them off with vanilla Butter Cream Frosting. I wiped down the counters as my mother washed the dishes and as she dried the last bowl, she turned to me and said, “ So we really need to start thinking about food.” What she meant was dinner. It was already 4:30pm, dessert had been taken care of, what we had neglected to think about was what we were going to cook for dinner.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

La Vida es Dura

I have been so worn out that after arriving at my mother’s house yesterday I nearly turned down a soak in her new outdoor hot tube on account of my foolish belief that I could carry my body no further than the couch. Christmas and New Years has for the most part been a blur. I have been working nearly every day and any time off has been spent playing catch up with menial chores such as laundry, cleaning up after my Blue Christmas Party, and with more essential tasks such as showering and sleeping. The truth of the matter is that I am always overwhelmed when I first arrive at her house weary from the trenches of my hurried urban life. From the instant I close the front door I am bombarded with jars of freshly baked gingerbread, butter cookies, and chocolates from the very near by Lucky Chocolates (more about these wonderful chocolates later). It is a sensory over load that always leaves me bewildered and mystified, besieged and bedazzled and, with the faint crackle of the wood stove and Alma (my mother’s husky) sleeping at my feet it is impossible not to surrender. In my underwear I stumbled with her the hundred yards in chilly winter darkness and plopped gracelessly into the torrid water boisterous with bubbles. Rings of steam swirled around us like rising spirits while gusts of wind assaulted huddles of indelible trees, their only protest, the sound of their naked branches clapping . I gave in, ate the gingerbread, and the chocolates, and that night I slept like a baby.