Sunday, January 31, 2010
Laurel and Andrew are like two figures in an Andokides pot: always in motion and always Greek. Laurel darts about the kitchen stirring our bubbling pot of syrup and then bounces back to carefully peel pages of filo apart all while twirling her long swath of hair into a precarious bun on top of her head. Andrew, who Laurel likens to Zeus but his golden locks have more of an Alexander the Great vibe to me, doesn't nimbly move from pot to pot, but instead sits at the kitchen table, hammer in hand, pounding away at a bag of walnuts and almonds. We're making Baklava, and Laurel and Andrew, her brother, are showing me how it's done. I manage to destroy several sheets of the filo before I'm relegated to butter patrol. Layer by layer we construct what eventually looks like a buttery block. It's squat and unimpressive, but with a little heat and a prayer it flourishes into a golden brown flurry of Hellenistic goodness. Incidentally, baklava is a child with many parents. If you ask an Iranian about baklava, they'll give you a recipe scented with rosewater, ask a Turk, and it'll come with chopped pistachios and cream, and whoever you ask around the mediterranean, they each came up with it first and theirs is the best. I, however, like Laurel's. It well spiced and infused with orange, and depending on the kind of honey you use it can be very sweet. I actually dialed down the recipe to reflect my palette, so if you like your desserts sweet, feel free to add a little extra sugar and honey. The beauty of this recipe is while labor intensive, it makes more baklava than you can shake a stick at, and is perfect for a large party or to store in the freezer for another day. Enjoy
3 sticks (24 oz) unsalted butter, melted
1 pound filo dough
1 1/2 pounds almonds
1 pound walnuts
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
For the syrup:
2 cups honey
2 cups water
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 orange peels
6 whole cloves
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Combine all of the syrup ingredients over medium heat. Let it boil, and turn down to a simmer to let it steep. Preheat oven to 400. Finely chop up the almonds and walnuts, and mix with the spices and sugar. Set aside. Grease a large pan (at least 2 inches deep) with a little butter. Add a layer of filo, covering the entire pan (it's ok if it comes up on the sides) and paint with some butter. Cover with another layer of filo, butter, and repeat a dozen times. Lightly cover the filo with about a 1/4 of the nut mixture. Cover with a layer of filo, butter, and repeat until you run out of nuts. Finish with another dozen layers of filo and butter. Butter the final layer and slice the layers into 2 inch diamonds by running the knife diagonally across the pan one way, and diagonally across the other way. Pop in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a deep golden brown. When out of the oven, cover the whole thing with syrup and let it come to room temperature. Enjoy!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
On today's episode of Kitchy TV, Kat Odell, my adorable boss and editor extraordinaire of Eater La, Goodbite.com, and her own blog, Cork and Rind, shows me the super yummy granola recipe that made her famous in high school. It's the perfect balance of crunch, sweet, and healthy goodness, plus it's extraordinarily simple to make. Enjoy!
Kat's Super Yummy Granola
3 cups oats (slow cooking kind)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Hefty pinch of cinnamon
1 egg white (optional)
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the oats, brown sugar, honey and oil together. Fun tip: Pour the honey into the oil for no sticky mess! Add the cinnamon and vanilla, and if you prefer clumpy granola, the egg white. Add the pecans, mix, and pour onto a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil or a silicone mat. Spread over the entire cookie sheet and pop in the oven for ten minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and with a spatula, break up the granola, flipping pieces over to let the sides brown. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the granola cool for 10-15 minutes, then gently break it up using the back of a spoon (see video for Kat's demo). Pop on some yogurt or ice cream, and enjoy!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on menus, I thought I would wander about a little and see the vegan part of the world. Desserts, that is....
The tale that follows is one of monomaniacal desire, a crazed leader taking her followers on a journey toward a singular end. She will succeed or perish...well, at worst she'll get hungry, but like really hungry.
My crazed pursuit for a delicious vegan chocolate pudding recipe has finally ended, and all that remains is an empty cup and well licked spoon. It started when I enjoyed the chocolate pudding at M Cafe de Chaya, a macrobiotic lunch spot I used to frequent. It's vegan and wonderful. Dark and luscious, but without the rich heft of a pot au creme, it was the perfect way to end a meal. Over my trips there I've sussed out the important ingredients: arrowroot, kuzu, and maple syrup. The first two replace what heated eggs and cream do in a true pudding, providing the thick texture. The maple syrup is the sugar replacement, giving the pudding a deeper yet subtler sweetness. After many failed attempts, and many returns to learn the nuances of the recipe, I've figured it out. The best part is it's completely open to tweaking: espresso flavored, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, raspberry and rose, whatever you want. Enjoy!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Callebaut Milk Chocolate
My disdain for milk chocolate lies somewhere between lite butter and decaf espresso. If dark chocolate is the dapper epicure with a sharp jaw line, biting into his very rare steak au poivre, milk chocolate is his doddery uncle, gumming at mashed potatoes, with dusty old candies melting in his hands and pockets. No teeth, no style. The harsh sugar, a vague graininess, and that bizarre waxiness have historically steered me away. Nestle Smarties and Cadbury provided some rare bright spots, but overall the landscape remained dim.
Enter toffee season.
My aunt's toffee recipe requires a mix of milk and dark chocolate in a goldilocks attempt to prevent the jar of a bitter bite or tongue coating sugar, and instead achieve a "just right" balance. This year I carried the toffee torch and the shopping responsibilities with it. I bought the chocolate, not thinking much of it, and set out to make my toffee. As I stood there waiting for the butter and sugar to caramelize, I aimlessly reached out for some dark chocolate. My hand must have slipped because a burst of milk chocolate melted in my mouth and destroyed all of my previous prejudices. Silky, rich, smooth, and flavorful. I reached back for more. And more. And then I made everyone in my family taste what I had discovered: Callebaut Belgian milk chocolate. Otherwise known as milk chocolate crack. Creamy with an edge of butterscotch, it's impossibly addicting, especially when I'm trying to be good this holiday season. If you want to cook with it, it has a luscious liquidity, but I like shaving off pieces and snacking on them. Enjoy!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
This just makes so much sense. Buttermilk is a key ingredient in red velvet cake, so how hard could it be to turn a buttermilk pancake red? No very, apparently. These little guys have been popping up all over town, namely at The Buttermilk Truck and Cici's Cafe in Tarzana. When my cousin Lucy slept over it seemed like a perfect opportunity to resurrect our love of red velvet in the form of an indulgent breakfast. They're delicious with a little mascarpone spread and a touch of maple syrup. Enjoy!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Mascarpone Spread:
4 oz softened mascarpone
2 oz creme fraiche
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and creme fraiche/sour cream,melted butter, red food coloring, and vanilla extract. Add them together and whisk just until combined. A little lumpy is fine. Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium high heat. When hot add butter or oil to grease, followed by a small scoop of the batter. Wait for the pancakes to bubble (2-3 minutes), flip and cook for a minute or two more. Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients in the mascarpone spread together, and use to garnish the pancakes with some maple syrup. Enjoy!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Babycakes LA: A Love Letter in Photos
"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful," is such a loathsome cop out, right? Well, "don't hate me because I'm well fed," okay? Well, not even "well fed." Beautifully fed. My post as photographer for Zagat and Eater bounces me across the boroughs of Los Angeles, and every now and then a kind chef takes pity on me and sends me home with a little, or in some cases a lot of, something to eat. This time around I was sent to what is fast becoming my favorite street in Downtown La: 6th and Main. My "neighborhood bar" (I live about 20 miles away, but it's my "neighborhood bar" in spirit), The Varnish, is next door to the newly opened Babycakes LA. Babycakes is a lower east side institution and the mecca of the vegan, gluten ailed, and cupcake hungry masses of New York City. Erin McKenna, the owner and baker of Babycakes, has appeared all over the media and released her cookbook this year (it found its way into my Christmas stocking, incidentally). She also surprised me by popping out of the kitchen to greet me when I arrived at Babycakes on Monday morning. I'm not easily star struck, but her combination of pink lipstick and abundant friendliness bowled me over. Not to mention the food! By the end of the shoot her and her cadre of quirky-cool bakers sent me home with six cupcakes and two donuts. Hate me yet? I thought so. Enjoy!
Erin Mckenna, the charming and adorable owner...
Erin Mckenna, the charming and adorable owner...
I love the mismatched flatware and mugs they serve their goods in. Organized chaos in the best way.
Even this little boy could not help smudging his nose up against the glass in anticipation.
And then there were the donuts. Oh my goodness. The chocolate covered ones were a triumph of texture. The crunchy yet tender cake, grains of cinnamon sugar, and luxurious chocolate poured over. I know this may be blasphemy but I prefer them to the cupcakes. Yes, they're that good.
Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Erin literally handed them too me immediately after glazing them. I mean, the chocolate is still hot and oozing slightly. It simply cannot get better than that.
The combination of the pale lime frosting with the dollop of rosey pink is charming, right? Wait until you see what it's served on.
Here's the crazy generous box Erin and the girls sent me home with. I know you're jealous, but to quote Sue Sylvester, "Your resentment is delicious."