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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Smoothest Birthday Ever

Lisa's birthday was a day long meander through Brooklyn's best! Masterminded by the other habitant of the 381, Miss Kelly. We all surprised her at the Botanical Garden and spent a leisurely morning walking barefoot on the grass, smelling the flowers, embarrassing the other patrons and fully enjoying the beautiful spring day.

Then we moved on the Macy's, where we scandalized the genial photographers at the portrait studio. Our dysfunctional family portraits came out, well, nice? We get them tomorrow, so expect to be scandalized as well!

We rounded out a full day with a late lunch at Brooklyn Heights outpost Frannies. Washing down excellent appetizers of Bruscetta with Ramps and Marscapone and an excellent salad of pea shoots and ricotta salada with 2 bottles of a refreshing Lambrusco ($42 and worth the splurge!). The sparkling, dry red had a lush deep garnet color and a lovely lavender froth from the fine bubbles. Served chilled, this is going to be the summer jam! Frannies has flavorful thin crusted pizzas in a variety of tempting flavors. We sampled the Provalone with Red Onions and the Margherita. Both were delicious and a value at $14-$16 a piece. If you are out in that part of Brooklyn, I highly recommend paying a visit to the friendly staff at Frannies.

And the denouement to the day was, or course, the grand fete at 381 complete with Red Velvet Cake. I ended up using the recipe from the Buttercup Bakeshop but I did experiment with frosting. I made several chocolate versions before landing on a classic chocolate butter cream with the twist of almond.

Chocolate Almond Buttercream Frosting

1lb confectioner's sugar
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
5-6 tablespoons milk

Sift powdered sugar, mix in cocoa and salt and sift again.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in about 1/3 of the sugar/cocoa mixture and beat until well combined. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk near the end to wet. Repeat two more times with the rest of the sugar. At the end add milk in little spoonfuls to get the desired consistency.

Frost your cake!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Indian Influenced Brunch

Lazy Sundays are meant for creative kitchen expression. This morning, I decided to make something I hadn't made in a few years, waffles! Though my old roomie and I loved to make whole wheat waffles, since I have live alone, I haven't broken out the waffle iron.

These Indian influenced waffles have ground almonds and orange flower water. Though the y didn't have as much almond taste as I had hoped, they were still very delicious. The recipe below contains almond extract which was not in what I made but I will add next time to help punch up the almond flavor.

Almond and Orange Flower Water Waffles with Cardamom Apricot Spice Syrup

makes 6-8 waffles
1 cup whole wheat flower
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
6 tablespoon butter, melted
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon orange flower water
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup almonds, ground

Sift together all the dry ingredients except for the almonds. In a large mixing bowl beat with an electric mixer egg yolks, melted butter, milk, almond extract, and orange flower water. In a non-reactive bowl, beat the egg whites until very stiff.

Add the flour mixture to the liquid, beating until relatively smooth. Beat in the ground almonds. Fold in the egg whites. Pour on to a waffle iron and enjoy!

For the syrup
1 cup grade A maple syrup
8-10 dried, canned or fresh apricot halves (if using dried, soak for 10-15 minute in water to rehydrate)
3 dark cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
3 cloves
1 star anise pod

Over lower heat, combine all the ingredients and let simmer until the fruit is soft and the syrup is aromatic. Remove all spice pods and serve over the waffles.

Saturday Night In

After a long, hard week Octavio and I really just wanted a chill evening in with some favorite foods. I had gotten some fantastic monkfish from the farmers market this week and had some left over vegetable that came out to surprisingly good new side dishes for us.

Walnut Crusted Monkfish served with Gingered Carrots and Green Pea Puree
Chocolate Flower Pots
Various Sparkling wines

Walnut Crusted Monkfish

for 2
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 lemon juiced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 spring fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees.

Wash, dry and portion the monkfish.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Pull the leaves of the thyme sprig and add to the butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs, parsley, walnuts and lemon juice. Stir with a fork and remove from heat. This should be like a moist coating.

In a baking dish, arrange the fish and press the mixture on the top of the fish, forming a top crust.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the fish is done. Serve with lemon wedges.

Green Pea Puree

simple and easy, this side dish is going to be a staple for the summer in lieu of mashed potatoes, especially because of the beautiful color
1 package frozen green peas
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper

Heat the frozen peas and drain. Blend in a food processor or blender with the salt, pepper and sour cream until smooth. Serve immediately.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Red, Red Research

image from Cake Man Raven

Dearest Lisa's 30th birthday party is coming up soon and the birthday girl requested the classic red velvet cake with the twist of chocolate frosting, inspired by the Sexy Red Velvet Cupcake from Sunshine Sweet Bakeshop on the Lower East Side. I am torn on the myriad of recipes that I have found on the web. Oil verse butter? Red food coloring or fruit/vegetable juice reduction?

I am inclined to use butter since I love butter and the flavor of it in cakes. I am also inclined to use food coloring to keep it more authentic, since no one I know has a food dye allergy and it's no longer toxic (one hopes). Though I did find a very interesting recipe that incorporates less sugar and subs in strawberry syrup rather than red food coloring.

Many of these recipes also call for all purpose flour which I am a little against when baking a large cake. Cake flour is ground finer and it really does improve the texture of cakes, especially ones that are suppose the be lighter and airy. A dense chocolate like my Chocolate Chili Cake can use all purpose flour but any buttermilk or chiffon cake should be made with cake flour.

Here's a list of links to recipes that I have collected. I will post what ever adaptation I come up with after the cake has been properly devoured by revelers celebrating another fantastic year of Lisa!

Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet Cake
Buttercup Bakeshop Red Velvet Cake
New York Times - Adapted from "The Confetti Cakes Cookbook" by Elisa Strauss
Tartlette Red Velvet Cakes
Red Velvet Cake IV from All Recipes

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May Day Dinner

312 square feet boyfriend came over for a May Day dinner of my own Thai influenced innovation on a salad Niçoise. This one had smoked salmon instead of tuna, and a horseradish cream sauce accented with a Thai cucumber salad, served with a starter of ripe yellow tomatoes with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

Thai Cucumber Salad

Serves Two

2 cucumbers, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce, or less
2 dried bird chilies, ground
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice of one lime
dash of salt

In a mortar and pestle, grind the chilies with the brown sugar. Dissolve the sugar and chilies into the vinegar, lime juice and add the fish sauce to taste. Toss the cucumbers, carrot, onion and cilantro with the dressing and dash of salt. Cover and refrigerate for half an hour to an hour before serving to let the flavors set.

Andy D visits 312 Square Feet

My electro-pop band, Macaque, is working on a collaborative track with the excellent Andy D. So he has been visiting 312 square feet to work on the track. I like to make uncomplicated but filling and tasty food for practice days. Things that sate, yet aren't over filling since we want to be awake for music!

Spanish Tortilla

a classic staple of tapas menus, the torilla is like a light version of a quiche
8 eggs
3 medium sized potatoes,thinly sliced. (I like Yukon Gold, but Russet would be good as well.)
1 sweet onion, Vidalla
2 cloves garlic
1/2 package of frozen peas
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large cast iron skillet, or other oven safe deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until they are soft. Add the garlic and heat for a few minutes. Add the sliced potatoes and plenty of salt and pepper. Cook until the potatoes become slightly soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl combine the eggs and salt and pepper and beat well.

Add the peas and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. Move the skillet to the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes until the eggs are completely set and cooked through.

Serve with hot sauce like sriracha or mango chutney and a green salad. This dish keeps well refrigerated for about a week and makes great lunches!