Saturday, July 28, 2007

Every year exactly this time of year....

I have such a hard time with my birthday. I like getting friends and family together. I like eating good food. I don't like going to bars. I don't want people to spend more money than they are comfortable with eating dinner at a fabulous restaurant like this, this, or this. I don't want people to be immobile and talk to only those around them. Conundrum....

I decided last minute to do a dinner at my tiny apartment and invite everyone over for fish taco's a sangria. Mmmmm.

Here's a rendition:

We started with Sangria and Peppers:

Summer Sangria

1/2 cup orange flavored vodka
2 peaches slices
1/2 pint raspberries
2 oranges juiced
1 bottle dry red wine, like Rioja
Ice cubes, for serving

In a large pitcher, combine orange juice, vodka and fruit; let sit for 30 minutes. Add wine, stir to combine and chill. Fill glasses with ice before serving. Tip: I use frozen fruit to help keep the sangria cold.

Pan Fried Peppers and Goat Cheese

2 logs of fresh goat cheese, 4 ounces each
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
6 anaheim peppers
12 peppadew peppers
4 poblano chiles
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

In a bowl, mix together goat cheese and cilantro. Split peppers lengthwise and stuff with cheese mixture. Press to close.

Combine flour, cornmeal, and salt on a large plate. Dip peppers in egg wash and then dredge through dry ingredients turning to coat all sides.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the peppers, turning with a spatula as they become golden brown, adding more oil, if needed, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve hot.

Tacos et. al.

Grilled Fish Tacos

1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp coarse salt
4 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro
2 lb fillet tillapia, skin intact
lime wedges, for garnishing

Stir together spices and salt. Mix in olive oil and cilantro. Rub both sides of the fish with spice mixture.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Preheat a clean, lightly oiled grill to high heat. Place fish, flesh-side down, on hot grill. Do not move for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fish is opaque. Flip using two spatulas. Cook until fish flakes slightly when pressed, about 5 to 7 minutes more.

Serve with, corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, crema (or, 1 cup sour cream w/ juice from one lime), avocado, lime wedges, pickled veggies (see below) and hot sauces.

Pickled Vegetables

2 1/2 cups apple-cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp coarse salt
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut diagonally
1/4 inch thick
2 small red onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into 3/4-inch wedges
4 jalapeno peppers, cut lengthwise into quarters

Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan with 3 cups cold water; bring to a boil over high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Add carrots, onions, and jalapenos and reduce to medium-high heat. Simmer until carrots are just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour into a medium bowl; set aside 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.

Grilled Corn

4 ears shucked corn
1/2 lime
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
Grill corn over high heat, turning until lightly blackened in places and kernels are just tender when pressed, about 12 minutes.
Cut each ear into 4 pieces. Transfer to a sturdy, medium-size paper bag and squeeze lime over corn. Sprinkle with chili powder and coarse salt. Close bag and shake to coat. Serve immediately from the bag or in a bowl.

Finish with Dessert:

Tequilla Soaked Fruit Skewers

1/4 watermelon (2 pounds)
1 mango, peeled
3 oranges
1/2 cup tequila
1 tbsp lime zest

Cut watermelon and mango into 1-inch cubes. Slice off rind and pith from oranges; cut in half lengthwise, place flat sides down, and cut into semicircles. Place all fruit in a large dish and sprinkle with tequila. Set aside for up to an hour. Grate lime zest over fruit. Skewer and serve.

I gave myself a birthday present and it helped to perfect this dish.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Soup in Summer?

Yes kids, soup in the summer.

Somewhere along the way somebody decided that since I hadn't been sick all year...I should be now. I mean a serious cold. Stuffy nose, chest congestion, aches, cough, you name it.

I say "serious colds call for serious comfort food," and this my friends is the coziest of all.

Cauliflower Stilton Soup.

1- head cauliflower cut into florets
1- onion chopped
2 tbsp olive or grape seed oil
3- bay leaves
1- bunch of fresh thyme
4 cups of stock (i choose chicken)
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup crumbled stilton
salt and lots o' fresh ground pepper

Saute the onion in oil until soft in a soup pot. Add the cauliflower and saute for five more minutes. Place the fresh thyme, bay leaves and stock into the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes until all the cauliflower is super tender.

Let soup cool a little so you don't burn your hands in the next few steps, like me.

Remove the thyme stems and all the bay leaves. If you have an immersion blender (otherwise known as the coolest thing ever!) use that to puree the soup. If not, use a blender or food processor and work in batches. After all the soup is smooth, stir in the heavy cream, stilton and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mmmmm. It is making me feel better just thinking about it.

My $50 Cake

Every once in awhile I am inspired by an image (like this one) and decide to embark on a ridiculous adventure. This past weekend was one of those times.

Enter my 3-day, $50 cake.

It took:

*Two Sauvie Island adventures for berry picking
*$24 of white my own fault as i seized the first batch
*One late night of baking two batches of cake for the double layer
*Three trips to unfamiliar markets where I endured inconceivably long conversations with seasoned store clerks as to the pros and cons of buying bulk sugar, salt and flour.
*Spending so much time making this cake when the time came to eat it i was so uninterested in sugar or chocolate or berries.

It was worth it though. The cake turned out to be delicious and I don't regret one second of the effort.

Oh and....Happy (almost) Golden Birthday to me!

$50 Cake

Orange Poppy Seed Cake

(Adapted from a Donna Hay recipe)

¼ cup poppy seeds
¾ cup milk
7oz. butter
2 tbsp orange zest
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites beat to stiff peaks
2 cups cake flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place poppy seeds and milk in a bowl and set aside.
With an electric beater, cream egg yolks, sugar and zest until they are a pale yellow. Beat in each egg individually. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Sift in a third of the flour, third of juice and third of poppy seed mixture and combine. Continue until all flour, juice and poppy seed mixtures are gone. Fold in the beaten egg whites and distribute between 2 pans or all in one. I use a spring form for my cakes because the resulting shape is more consistent and easier to remove from the pan. Bake for 60 minutes (less if splitting among two pans). Set aside to cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ cup powdered sugar

Mix lemon juice and cream cheese together with an electric mixer and gradually sift in powdered sugar.

Ice cake and layers as sloppily as you want too. All sides will be covered by the white chocolate tiles and berries.

Smart she is....

Chocolate Tiles

6oz white chocolate
1 tbsp heavy cream (optional, this makes the chocolate more pliable but also more self destructive)

Melt ingredients together in a double boiler careful not to overheat and scorch or to add even the slightest bit of moisture. Either will ruin the chocolate. Patience is key when working with this delicate beast.

Layer a cookie sheet with parchment and spread the chocolate thinly and evenly over the surface. Place in fridge until set.

When set measure out and score the chocolate in the desired tile size. It should come up over the top of the cake by and 1 ½ - 2 inches. That way you can pile the berries on top with out them spilling over the sides. I cut my tiles approximately 4" x 1".

Last part...whew!


Line up a perimeter of berries and then slap the tiles on the side so they overlap like roofing tiles. (This is the fun part.)

Then fill the inside part with as many berries as it can hold and invite every friend you have to come over and help you devour this monster. I think it weighs like ten pounds.