Wednesday, November 23, 2011

People will bow down ...

To get straight to the point, I am not a baker.

So. Not. A. Baker.

Proof: **I literally freaked out when shopping for this recipe and standing in the butter area I literally had to look five times at my phone because I was completely incredulous (I actually gasped) that these two, teeny, tiny cookie recipes could use that much butter. And the worst part was, as I left it hit me, I needed more butter, I had to double the recipes. It was nuts. And don't even get me started on the glucose and corn syrup ...Oh, and then when I realized I had to wait ... for the temperature butter...**.

Butter people much butter ...

Back to story: I must say that I have always wanted to be a baker, to bake that is, but frankly, it scares me. The sheer preciseness of it all scares me. I naturally lean toward sublime chaos in the kitchen. The kind where you let your inspiration take you wherever it wants to that day. No holds barred. Aprons be donned it's going to get messy! You get the point. I am afraid of a whole cooking world that is so measured. So precise. So linear. So full of calories. Over the years, in attempts to gently nudge myself in the baking direction, I have bought baking related items, been given them as gifts and one by one, their fate awaited them. They were to live a lonely life under the kitchen sink (which I do not have at the moment). After some time went by, as it does, I would inevitably, and guiltily, pry open the door, look at them abandoned under the sink (I mostly, and guiltily, avoided their stares each time I opened the cupboards) and feel bad. For an object. I realize. Said bad feeling caused me to then head immediately for nearest charity to give sad unused baking items away... only to need them exactly one day after I had given them away because that was the day I needed to bake! Naturally.

This time though dear readers, it's really happening. I really need to bake (there's my friend's bazaar you see...) and I just gave away my kitchen aid super baking bowlmixercontraption thingie about two weeks ago and now I need it. I need it because I am baking some scary chocolate cookies and then some really scary chantrelle cookies. But I don't have it so my bare hands it is. And, I am doing it at the perfect time for someone with no baking tools and a baking phobia. The time during which I have no sink, no running water, a half finished countertop and no dishwasher (due to no running water). Because in my world, dear readers, when one is renovating a kitchen and has no sink, no running water, a half finished countertop and no dishwasher (due to no running water), it's time to bake 6 dozen cookies!

Anyhow, I could not make the scary chocolate cookies yet because it was just too much to bake both in said kitchenless kitchen (especially because it's a crazy recipe from Christina and requires advanced techniques perfect for the novice baker such as myself ...yes ...) so I made the ridiculous Chantrelle mushroom cookies I had a recipe for from an artisinal mushroom drier I met at this launch. And to make a flour filled, buttered out, nail-biting long story short, they are awesome. The bomb. I don't want you to be afraid of them because you will miss out on their awesomeness. Make them and people will bow down to your awesome cookie. Okay, too much sugar.

Time to dish.

The Bomb Chantrelle Butter Cookies

Here is what you need:

  • 2 and a half cups of flour
  • 1/2 a cup of gorgeous ground dried Chantrelles (grind in your spice or coffee grinder) they smell like heaven...I'm just saying ...
  • 1 and a quarter cups of butter room temperature, nerve wracking wait ...I'm just saying ...
  • 2/3rds of a cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 a tablespoon of beautiful vanilla extract

Here is what to do:

  1. Sift your flour, grind your mushrooms, then combine.
  2. Wait for the butter to come to room temperature ...wait ...wait ...
  3. Then mix together with the sugar and vanilla extract until a smooth yummy paste. Once you've done that and your arms hurt, mix in the dry mixture and combine until you have a super cool cookie dough. Then form into balls, squash a little and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes. Put a timer on. I learned. Then try not to eat ten of them at the same time. I learned.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Once I looked down ...

Hurray! A free morning! In between things! Yeesh. It's been pretty crazy around here the for last couple of weeks dear readers. An unending rushing stream of meetings, out of town visitors (aka Dad, I know he's singular...but it felt plural), dinner parties (Kosher lamb leg sword fight dinner parties with peer pressure fist pumping chant's of "Do it for the blog!" - excellent excuse for grown people to pick up giant lamb leg, bite into it growling and holding it up in victory...yes, you read right, I'll tell you about it), planning dinner parties, shopping for dinner parties, balancing, being at the market three days a week, property buying adventures, launching dish. private cooking lessons and catering to boutique dinner parties (so. much. fun.), shucking bags of beans, making mini lamb meatball and zucchini leaf soup, stuffing peppers, roasting peppers, drying peppers (see Facebook profile pepper rant), peeling thousands of gooseberries, buying lots of wool things (blankets, skins, socks and other such things) preparing our home for Fall and Winter, picking pumpkins and this awesome event.

Which is what I want to tell you about today. The thing though is this... the evening took a slight...shall we say... twist. Between the location, the people, the food and the event itself, somewhere along the line, my obsessions got the best of me. Quelle surprise right? So there I was, in the middle of it all. With my media badge. The sun, the water, the boats, the cookies, the truffles, the over seven hundred plus (neuroses exposing) people, the chefs preparing for burger battle, the food critics preparing their burger palates and insane badass criteria lists ...I was preparing my strategy for photos, wondering how I was going to eat everything (the burgers were seriously huge), proudly and gleefully admiring the Birri boxes (which I see all day at the market) which were the staple for the chefs burger garnishes and generally scoping out the scene...when I saw this:

It was innocent. I thought nothing of it, (except oh! how cool!) snapped a pic, and went on my merry way, stall to stall, tasting all the awesome concoctions these awesome chefs had, well, concocted, if you will. I had boudin and dark chocolate burger (team GDS! awesome idea, I told you there would be blood...), I snapped a pic. I had a foie gras burger, I snapped a pic. I had a chicken fried chili burger, I snapped a pic. I had a pulled pork and fig burger, I snapped a pic.  But a little secret here ...the pics were all of shoes! Of shoes for heaven's sake. You should have seen me, burger in hand taking a bite, mmm'ing and ammm'ing and oh, these are so good'ing and then eeeever so caaaasually my head would just kind of... turn and look down ... at shoes. I simply couldn't help myself. Once I looked down, that was it. For the rest of the night I walked around snapping peoples shoes, while normal people were snapping burgers. Indeed.

Obsessive shoe snapping:

I also got a bunch of really cool shots (between obsession shots of course) of the "other" stuff, you know, the burgers and the people and the actual relevant stuff... Take a look at dish. on flickr my dear readers until I figure out how to construct a photo page on our little blog here. Yours and mine. Feels cool. In the meantime ...

Time to dish.

The most delicate Mini Lamb Meatball and Zucchini Stem Minestrone

** A little note. Zucchini stems are completely awesome. They have this wonderfully unique flavor and they hold up incredibly well during cooking. They don't disintegrate into nothingness and have a beautiful color to boot even after cooking. You don't see them around often and the zucchini stems that were used for this recipe were brought to the market by a little, old, hunched over Italian lady that picks them from the fields. She brings these goodies often in the Fall. Look out for them at your local market or ask your farmers/vendors where you can get them. It is completely worth the effort. **

Here is what you need for the Mini Lamb Meatballs:

  • Ground lovingly farm raised fatty lamb
  • One beautiful egg
  • Small handful of fennel seeds
  • Sea salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Cayenne pepper, small pinch
  • Olive oil
  • Finely chopped parsley
  • Finely chopped fennel fronds (if you have them)

Here is what you need for the rest of the soup:

  • Two bunches of Zucchini stems, chopped about five inches above the starting point of the stem (below that is not tender)
  • Onions, finely chopped
  • Garlic, smashed
  • Water (no broth required because the flavor of the zucchini stem is so amazing)
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Lemon juice, lots

Here is what to do to make the mini lamb meatballs:

  1. Combine all your beautiful  mini lamb meatball ingredients into a big bowl and then get in there with your hands and mix. That is about it dear readers. Once mixed, roll into mini meatballs. Honestly nothing more to it. As little or as big as you like them. I have to thank loving husband here (thank you Axel) who rolled them for me while I was tending to the chopping. We have been cooking together more often these days and I really like it. He has a lovely touch.
  2. Once rolled, heat grape seed oil in a pan, medium high heat and brown these little suckers. Don't crowd them because you want to get it over with though. You'll steam their beautiful globeness instead of browning them. Once done set aside. 

Here is what to do for the rest of the soup:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil and add your onions, garlic and sautee for about ten minutes. Then add your chopped zucchini stems. Stir and sautee for another five minutes. Add the rest of your ingredients, your meatballs, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until stems are tender and meatballs are happily cooked. About half an hour'ish. Taste to know for sure. Add a little more lemon juice. Super healthy, so delicious and beautiful for fall and winter. That's it dear readers. See you soon. x

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Someone gray, someone fuzzy ...

I am going to tell you about someone special today dear readers. Someone gray. Someone fuzzy. Someone I love with all my heart. You may remember meeting her here a while back. Today, I am going to tell you guys about Napa. It must be today because she does something really special and this morning she did it and I just couldn't take the cuteness by myself anymore. I had to share. So here I am this lovely sunny glittery morning, sitting on my bed paying bills, going through paperwork, creating constant distractions to get myself out of said paperwork, ordering daily planners, calling governments, landing on a special agent and wondering how some people survive (I mean really), and all of a sudden perched right in front of me, is Napa. Holding a little piece of plastic in her mouth and dropping it right under my nose. She then proceeds, with big anxious Napa eyes, to look down at it, then up at me, then down at it, then up at me, then down at it, then up at me, imploring me, saying come on! throw it! let's go! It's the cutest thing ever. She brings me crumpled pieces of paper, elastics, a toy pac pac ball that fits in her mouth (barely, it's awesome ), pens, sticks and once, I kid you not, I spotted  her walking toward me with a duster in her mouth. It was twice her size. I wanted to eat her. We play for hours sometimes. I throw, she brings back. Playing fetch with a cat is awesome. Especially when she instigates it. With this look. It's the best.
This look ...and paw on leg ...
Eyeing the target ...
She is also so smart and notices everything. Neurotic and a bit of a diva. When she gets mad (usually because I pester her) she gets a bit of a crazy look in her eye and then pounces on me (well, my ankle, to be precise) paws spread. I looked for her for a long time. When I got her she didn't purr. I taught her how. She was the runt of her litter and because the other kittens wouldn't play with her, she went and promptly attacked the younger litter. Smaller than her. She is a bit nuts. She was her daddy's favorite. She is always beside us no matter where we are. She runs happily to us when we call her and she has a beautiful voice. I love when she speaks. She is also the same color as our blanket.


Time to dish.

Completely Unrelated to Post Awesome Ambercup and Sweet Mama Squash soup
(Very healthy this one is...oanayoda ...)

Here is what you need:

  • One Ambercup Squash, steamed and sliced, skin on (gives gorgeous color)
  • One Sweet Mama Squash, sliced, steamed and peeled (after steaming)
  • Two garlic cloves, smashed
  • Olive Oil
  • Milk, one percent
  • Chicken Broth
  • Plenty of dried thyme
  • Sea Salt

Here is what to do:

  1. So easy guys. And incredibly delicious, healthy and awesome. So: steam both squash in a bamboo steamer. Set the Sweet Mama aside but roast the Ambercup at 400 degrees until golden brown (this will not take long because squash is already cooked, we are just looking for caramelization here).
  2. In the mean time, heat up extra virgin olive oil, add smashed garlic cloves and sautee until fragrant. Then add your chicken broth, about a liter, dried thyme, about half a tablespoon, and bring to a boil. Then add your milk, about two cups. Add both squash. Cook for about five minutes.Take half the soup (reserving some whole squash pieces for serving) and puree in a blender. Add back to your pot with the non-blended portion, stir, plate, drizzle a little olive oil, enjoy. It's the best. **I serve mine with cheddar crostini and sauteed red long chili peppers as a garnish**