Sunday, July 13, 2014

Brownie Baked Alaska

For our 14th anniversary, I wanted something fancy that didn't take very much time.  I made brownie baked Alaska and it was delicious.

It's more of a concept than a recipe, although I consulted a bunch of recipes in putting it together.

In the end, this is mostly storebought stuff, ha!  I think the best brownies are the Ghiradelli double chocolate, but you could use any brownie.  I cut the 9x9 pan into four squares, and then used biscuit cutters roughly the same width.  I split those in half to have thin layers.  I built the layers in a similarly sized ramekin to add structure to the sides while preparing, but you could use rings, cans, anything.  I bought two kinds of icecream and used one on each, since there were three layers of half brownies.

The cylinders of brownies and icecream were wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen four hours. When we got home from dinner, I whipped up a meringue and spread it generously around the cylinders (without the plastic wrap), making sure no ice cream was showing.  I baked them at 500 F for about 4 minutes, but should have gone for 5 and browned it a bit more.  If you do it right, the ice cream shouldn't melt. 

Highly recommended, fancy preparation of what is really simple ingredients inside.

Oh heck, might as well count this for my Around the USA challenge although I have yet to read a book set in Alaska. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pönnukökur: Icelandic Pancakes

I was up early this morning with the dog and read about how another member of my World's Literature group had made some Icelandic dishes.  I haven't done much of that this year, so I started poking around the internet.  When I stumbled across pönnukökur, I decided to make a quarter recipe to try it out.  Icelandic pancakes are similar to crepes, with a slightly spongier texture due to the addition of both baking soda and baking powder.  Traditionally they are not served in the mornings, but for afternoon tea or dessert.  I broke tradition for time of day but did prepare them the two traditional ways - rolled up with sugar sprinkled on one side, or folded in quarters with jam and whipped cream.



I learned how to make them from Grandma Margrét as shown in this video, although I had to make do with a normal saute pan.  This pan is cool and I'm going to try to find one - heavy base, completely flat surface - perfect for making pönnukökur.  While pönnukökur is not as tell-your-friends amazing as pannukakku, I think I need to make every pancake from every cold northern country. Don't you?
(Recipe below.)



How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

Icelandic pönnukökur

2 cups flour (scant)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs
2-3 cups milk, as needed for consistency
4 tbsp butter

Mix dry ingredients, beat in eggs and milk.  You want enough milk to make a rather thin, soupy batter.  Melt butter in pan on medium-high heat and pour it into the batter before it browns!  Cook like crepes, and if you can find a special pönnukökur pan, all the better.

Serve by sprinkling one side with granulated sugar and rolling up, or spread jam thinly, globbing on whipped cream on one quarter, and folding pönnukökur around it.   

I divided this recipe by 4 and that made 4 smaller pönnukökur.  

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Eating Asheville High Roller Tour

This may come across as a paid advertisement post but isn't!  We went on the "high roller" tour from Eating Asheville on Saturday and had a great time.  We go up to Asheville a lot but don't always try new restaurants because we have some favorite places.  The tour took us inside six restaurants, none of which we had eaten at before.  They were very accommodating for dietary needs - we asked for no meat, another woman asked for no alcohol (although I'm pretty sure that's the higher cost for the 'high roller'), and one person didn't want shellfish.  Letting them know in advance allows them to fully prepare for these specific situations.

The first stop was Battery Park Book Exchange and Wine Bar.  I had been here before, but only to look at books, not to eat.  We were served a rosé wine and mini toasts with goat pimento cheese from Sunburst Trout Farms (no trout included) and spinach hummus from the wine bar.  The others had smoked trout paste instead of hummus, which is on the menus of several Asheville restaurants. 



The second stop was Cucina 24, a restaurant I must have walked past on many occasions and never really noticed.  This was my favorite stop on the tour. It made me feel nostalgic for the restaurant I worked at years ago, with a similar sized kitchen and crew (and even more creative food!).  The menu changes daily.  Vegetarians got farmer cheese topped with service berries, lemon olive oil, saba, basil, and a little flatbread.  We had short glasses of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo alongside.



Third on our tour was Zambra Tapas, Asheville's "original" tapas place.  We have eaten at Cúrate on multiple occasions but hadn't tried this one.  Funny because it's on the way to Malaprop's, one of my favorite bookstores.

The veggies got grilled tofu with preserved lemon, harissa, and hummus (SO good and from the current menu), and everyone got spiced sangria.  This place was a close second and we'll be back for sure.

 I loved the kitchen and decor for Zambra.  The kitchen is bulb shaped, wider where all the food gets its final preparation and to allow for a pizza/flatbread oven (I think?).  They would not stand still for their picture! There is a lot of space inside and I bet it gets very busy and loud on a good night.







Up fourth was another restaurant I hadn't noticed - Strada Italiano.  They have a full-throttle bake house in their basement that makes all their bread and desserts, and bread for other restaurants in town.  Since we were there post-brunch, it seemed like they decided to serve us food that used up leftovers - french toast out of chocolate cherry bread with basil and berry coulis.  It was fine, but didn't seem to really represent their cuisine and I still have no idea what eating there is like!  They do a cool family supper on Sundays where everything is served family style, meant for people on a budget.  They served us what they call "marinara wine" but I don't think I wrote it down right - cabriaggiano is what my note says but it doesn't seem to exist.



The last time I went to a concert in Asheville, it was at the legendary Orange Peel.  Right up the road is Chestnut Restaurant, known for it's craft food and craft cocktails (we were to hear the phrase "craft cocktail" many times on the tour, as it's the newest trendy trend.)  We had an energetic speech by the executive chef who was as excited about the food as the space, which they've only been in for 18 months.  He also owns The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village, another place I don't remember seeing but probably should try.  After all, the Obamas ate there!

I love this black and white version of the photo because you can see the 19 people on the food tour, the tour guide Stewart on the end with his NY Yankees hat, and the beautiful beautiful window along the back of the dining hall.  The chef said they do 500 people on a normal busy day, which must be a feat of organization indeed.

We were served a golden and red beet salad with orange reduction, pistachios, and a very thin crostini.  It had a dab of goat cheese in there too.  I love goat cheese with beets but it is something I've had often at various restaurants.  I'd like to take them up on their challenge to make anything with what they have on hand!  Meat eaters got a smoked brisket hash with hollandaise, clearly a remnant of the Saturday brunch.  Oh well, I'm glad they're not wasting food, and everyone completely cleaned their plates.  I'd go back here for lunch, on a day where I could also get one of their marvelous sounding craft cocktails.  But I'd rather come when it was not as busy as it gets at night, personally.  I just don't like crowded noisy places, and I think Chestnut must really get there.  It's to their credit. A noisy restaurant is likely a successful restaurant.  But I want my rhubarb cocktail.

After Chestnut we went to Chocolate Gems, a chocolate shop I had not yet graced with my presence.  I say that somewhat sarcastically because I love the chocolate shops of Western North Carolina, from Black Mountain Chocolate to French Broad Chocolate Lounge to The Chocolate Fetish.  There's also a random place I've encountered in the mountains around a bend but it might have been a mirage.  We were served baby scoops of blueberry lavender sorbetto and vanilla bean gelato, and sent on our way with a pink peppercorn truffle to enjoy at the end of the meal.  I loved the sorbetto, but thought the gelato tasted too much of vanilla alcohol, probably extract.  I really loved the owners/chocolatiers.  Every time he asked if we had questions, I only wanted mine to be, "Please may I work here?" I restrained.  I also came back and bought a cardamom ganache chocolate, which had cardamom infused into the truffley chocolate as well as a cardamom brittle broken up on the inside.  SO good.  Not enough people work with cardamom.  I would have liked to get more of a sampler but we had more walking in the hot sun to do, and I didn't suspect the chocolate would hold up.



We went back to Strada and headed to their rooftop social lounge to end the day. We had samplers of their Mediterranean plate and a craft cocktail that was like a hybrid of a Manhattan and sangria. What a great time!  And even though we were tired, I made Nathaniel pose in the beard corner.



They don't go to the same restaurants every time, so it would be fun to do this in a different season and see where we ended up.  I love Asheville.  It's a great food town with a very walkable downtown, and I'm happy to live just an hour from there.

More fun with rhubarb jam

One of the downsides to making a batch of jam without canning it is needing to use it faster than one person can consume it!  There is a recipe I've been making since I found it in Vegetarian Times in 2008 - [Insert fruit name] Oatmeal Bars.  It's an easy bar cookie that has the additional merit of using up a cup of jam, preserves, marmalade, you name it!

Since I had about two cups of rhubarb-vanilla-earl grey jam, I doubled the recipe and brought it in to work!  Here's what they looked like:


The worst part about using up homemade jam is that you don't have any more.  Who knows what interesting concoction I'll make next!

By the way, I posted this to Instagram almost two weeks ago.  If you want to see my food pictures earlier, including places I go to eat, you can follow me there - sh1mm3r.  I also post a lot of book and beagle pictures.  That's my life!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Food in Jars and Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam

I received a copy of this a year or two ago in exchange for an honest review. I'm sorry it has taken so long, but I've thumbed through it with longing on multiple occasions. I declared 2014 to be the year of food in jars!

Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-RoundFood in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Marisa McClellan wanted to consider another profession, I think she would take easily to perfumer. Her flavor combination ideas just in this book alone make me want to try every recipe and stock my pantry with little batches of goodness.

The recipes catching my eye the first time through:
-Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam with Earl Grey
-Chunky Fig Jam
-Apple Pumpkin Butter
-Orange Vanilla Curd

You get the idea. I've had some of these recipes marked for a year and finally had a chance to make the Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam, and instead of Earl Grey I used my Reading Envy tea which is part Earl Grey, part coconut. This is a lovely light but intricately flavored jam! I've been putting it on toast this week but will bring it to work in the form of oatmeal jam bars.



The recipes in this book include directions for small batch canning, but the recipes aren't in great quantities, so it is just as easy to consume what is made. The idea behind small-batch preserving is to eat some, save some. Many of the recipes could also be frozen. If canning intimidates you, you could either simply not do those steps or allow McClellan to instruct you in your first attempts.

She also has a fabulous blog, Food in Jars, with additional instructions (I went to it to find out how to substitute powdered pectin for liquid in the recipe I was trying, to great success.)

Just a personal note: Marisa McClellan is the sister of Raina Rose, a singer-songwriter from Portland who I first encountered on the streets of Memphis (during an art walk) and lives in Texas. It's a small world out there in internet land, and I had followed both before knowing they were connected.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Low-Carb Biscuits (also gluten free)

This is just a non-sweet version of the shortcakes I posted yesterday, since they were a great success.  They don't exactly taste like biscuits but still pretty close, more biscuit-like than English muffin-like. 

These are flatter; I used the same recipe and baked it in four 6-oz ramekins with vertical sides.  It was pretty hard to get them out without breaking; perhaps next time I'll just draw some circles on some parchment paper and do it that way.  And there will be a next time.  The insides of breakfast sandwiches are already so easily low-carb, we were only missing the outsides!

Low Carb Biscuits

3 tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sifted coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Combine dry ingredients, and mix in the wet ingredients.  Scrape batter into greased muffin cups, ramekins, or spread in small circles on parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Makes 4-6 biscuits depending on your container and size.  Gently split in half to use for a breakfast sandwich.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Low-carb Shortcake (also gluten-free)


Strawberry season is almost a month late in South Carolina, but as soon as Swamp Rabbit Cafe started selling strawberries from Beechwood Farms, we were there buying a gallon. 

People who are diabetic may not indulge in the number of strawberries that we do in the Colvin household, but the shortcakes themselves are indeed low-carb, so your mileage may vary.  I adapted a recipe I found online, so I guess at this point it's all mine.  I made them in silicon muffin tins because the batter wasn't stiff enough to roll out, but I think next time I'll just make drop biscuit versions to allow them to be a little larger (this picture has three!)

Low-Carb Shortcakes

3 tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs
3 tbsp brown-sugar Splenda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sifted coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Combine coconut flour with baking powder, salt, and Splenda. Make a well, and pour in melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Pour batter into greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Makes 6 cakes.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Low-Carb Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

Nathaniel brought home Bob's Red Mill Low-Carb Baking Mix, so I made one of the recipes off the back to give it a try.  It wasn't free, so this isn't a plug or a review.

I couldn't bear to have "just muffins," without a flavor other than "muffin."  So I added cinnamon to the dry ingredients and made a low-carb streusel with brown sugar Splenda and cinnamon for the tops.  These were decent as low-carb baked goods go, I just wish I had a better sense of what else I can do with the mix.  I'm not sure exactly what it can substitute for.  The texture of these muffins weren't any better/worse than some of the paleo banana bread I have made in the last year.  Which means you can use the mix instead of starting from scratch, but I'm not sure it is as cost effective.