Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tea Party Bridal Shower

Last Saturday was (hopefully) the final bridal shower of the year. If I could do it again, I would have changed a thing or two, but the food was a resounding success. It got eaten, every crumb (even though I thought I had way over-planned), and praised so much I felt awkward.

The menu was the flourless chocolate cake and lemon curd pavlova I've made before, plus two kinds of tea sandwich and some gluten free financiers. (The bride does not eat gluten; some of the tea sandwiches were even made on gluten-free bread). I will post the recipes for the tea sandwiches, as they might be useful in the future, but not the financiers. I knew the financiers were a bit of a risk. The brown rice flour I used was gritty and made for a gritty pastry, and I messed up and only used half the amount of egg whites. The were terribly ugly and had to be redeemed with spots of jam in their middles. But the funny thing is: they were the favorite thing there. They are what people are still mentioning. Why, world, why? I suppose I should learn to make a proper financier... it could be the new cupcake/macaron/whoopie pie trend in New York!

This menu, of course, was selected to be tea-partyish: the 'main event,' I suppose, was the selection of herbal teas and fancy flavored honeys. Or was it the decoration scheme, with flower arrangements in tea pots, doilies, cake stands, and tiered dessert trays?

A note about the tea sandwich recipes: recipes for sandwiches are funny things, aren't they? The proportions did not come out the way they said they would in the recipe. I made fewer sandwiches, which I suppose means that I filled them more fully (in the case of the chicken salad); on the other hand, I had tons of smoked turkey left over.

Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches with Smoked Almonds

3 c chicken broth or water
2 boneless chicken breasts, halved, about 1 1/2 lbs
1 c mayonnaise, plus extra
1/3 c minced shallot
1 t minced fresh tarragon
24 very thin slices of white bread
1/2 c finely chopped smoked almonds (I used much more than 1/2 c)

Poach chicken 10 minutes (Boiling meat gives me the heebie-jeebies, and I told my helper, Amy, to feel free to cook it in a different manner. But boiling doesn't give her the heebie-jeebies, so this is how she did it. I suppose it does give it a good shredding texture). Cool in liquid 20 minutes.

Discard skin, if present, and shred chicken well. Stir together chicken, mayonnaise (perhaps not the whole cup-- as little as 1/2 c), shallot, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Do not make it as salty as you might otherwise; the sandwiches will have smoky, salty almonds on them. Of course, the chicken salad should still taste good.

Make sandwiches, and press the bread together gently. Trim off crusts and cut into triangles. (The recipe says to cut out rounds with cookie cutters, which creates more waste. This is probably why I used way more almonds.) Spread the edges of the sandwiches with mayonnaise and coat the edges with chopped smoked almonds.

Smoked Turkey Tea Sandwiches with Arugula Mayonnaise

1/2 c mayonnaise
1/3 c packed coarsely chopped arugula, plus whole arugula leaves
1 T (or a little more) minced shallot
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 t fresh grated lemon peel
12 slices thinly sliced white bread
10 oz thinly sliced smoked turkey

Mix mayonnaise, chopped arugula, shallot, parsley, and lemon peel; season with salt and pepper. You can fridge it a while to blend the flavors. Make sandwiches with both sides spread with the arugula mayonnaise, smoked turkey, and arugula leaves. Trim crusts and cut diagonally into quarters.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Simplex Food: Orange Julius

This past Saturday we celebrated Reija's upcoming wedding with a shower at The Simplex. The party was fun (we made Bob puppets!), the company was delightful (they made really funny Bob puppets!) and of course it was great to celebrate Reija (the Reija puppet was the best!). I also think that the food fulfilled the measure of its creation.

The idea was to do a springy, pleasant brunch. The menu included French Toast casserole (I found the recipe in a Cook's Illustrated), a Boursin/Potato frittata (epicurious), bacon, milk, huge marshmallows, fruit from the market, and what has become something of a Simplex tradition: orange julius. All the food got eaten and enjoyed and complimented, so I feel great about that, but I personally didn't love the recipes enough to post them. The french toast casserole had a yummy praline topping, but that didn't really overcome the essentially weird concept for me. The frittata was pretty yummy, but I could invent one I liked better. Probably sans potatoes.

Anyway, that leaves the orange julius, which I always manage to enjoy. I'll post the recipe as given to me, but note that I always find it too sweet and would use the least amount of sugar called for or even less.

Orange Julius

6 oz frozen OJ concentrate
1 c milk
1 c water
1/3-1/2 c powdered sugar (granulated ok)
1 t vanilla extract
8-9 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients except ice cubes in blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes, adding ice cubes one at a time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hot Cross Buns

Mom started making hot cross buns for Easter a long time ago. She had read an idea to put a marshmallow in the center of a bun (the marshmallow is first dipped in butter and then cinnamon sugar). The marshmallow leaves a sticky hollow in the center of the bun, representing, I believe, the empty tomb. She decided she could improve upon this candy center, and made several iterations, including almond paste. This is what she likes best, and I'm inclined to agree that it is perfectly wonderful (although I also liked those marshmallow ones, back in the day).

I think traditional hot cross buns have raisins and such-like in them. That's only because those people haven't discovered this yet.

Hot Cross Buns

1 recipe cardamom rolls (search on the blog)
you can replace some of the flour with some potato flour, perhaps 4T, ish. Put it in early.
mini semisweet chocolate chips
toffee bits
chopped pecans

Put 1 t each of chocolate chips, toffee, and pecans in the center of each roll.
When they are cool, pipe crosses on the buns with a simple frosting.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Charoset 2 (dried fruit-based)

I found this recipe on epicurious, and really liked it. I think its flavors went well with the rest of my meal. It was delicious as leftovers with tortillas.

2/3 c dried mission figs (6 oz)
2/3 c dried apricots (6 oz)
1/3 c pitted dates (4 oz)
1 1/3 c chopped, toasted walnuts (4 oz)
1/4 c purple grape juice (of course it really calls for wine)
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne
1/8 t ginger

Pulse together fruits in a food processor till finely chopped (we actually chopped by hand). Stir in walnuts. Dissolve the spices in the juice and stir until well combined.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This classic, which can be prepared quickly, was well-loved. Hooray for chocolate. This is from a 1997 issue of Gourmet.

Yes, I know it calls for butter and that butter is forbidden. Well la-di-da.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

4 oz good bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c unsalted butter-- I did make some with margarine for a friend with a milk allergy
3/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
(1 t vanilla-- the recipe does not call for this but comments on epicurious recommend it)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line bottom with a round of wax paper; butter paper. In a double-boiler-type setup, melt chocolate with butter, stirring till smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs, whisk well. Sift in cocoa and whisk till just combined. Pour batter in pan and bake in the middle of the oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Orange-Flavored Rice

This year I served Seder to 36 people. Just call me caterer.

I'm pretty proud of my menu. Responses were positive, and the work was largely done in advance. I made a spice-rubbed chicken from a Jean-Georges Vongeritchen recipe (but I haven't actually eaten any yet so I won't post the recipe yet), this orange-flavored rice from one of Mom's books, some roasted root vegetables (many: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, celery root, leek, and onion) with rosemary, spiced almonds, brown eggs, charoset, whole-wheat tortillas, grape juice, and flourless chocolate cake for dessert.

Shereen Polo II
Orange-flavored Rice

1/2 c. dried orange peel slivers (I use about 1 t. orange oil)
2 T. cooking oil
1/4 c. blanched almond slivers
1/4 c. pistachio nuts, shelled
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. whole saffron, dissolved in 1/4 c. hot water
2 c. raw rice, well rinsed

Bring 1 c. water to a boil, add the orange peel, and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet, add the almonds and pistachios, and stir fry over low heat until the almonds become light brown, about 3 minutes. Add the drained orange peel and stir fry for 1 minute more. Mix in the sugar and saffron liquid, cover the skillet, and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside.

To prepare the rice, cover it with cold water and salt; let soak for 1/2 hour. Pour off nearly all the lightly salted water, leaving about 1/2 c. Bring the 4 c. water to a boil over moderate heat, and add the rice and remaining liquid. Cook for 8 minutes, drain, and rinse under cold water. Set aside briefly.
Put 3 T. oil in a large enough pan with 1/4 t. turmeric. Shake the pan briskly to mix. Spread about 1 c. of the partially cooked rice on the bottom of the pan. Cover with half the nut mixture, then more rice, then more nuts, ending with rice. Shape the top into a pyramid. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with 2 T. oil and 2 T. water. Cover the pan with a cloth kitchen towel and the pan cover. Cook over very low heat for 1/2 hour to allow the rice crisp, tadiq, to form. Some cooks let the tadiq form by cooking for 1 hour but the lesser time seems to work. Serve warm by mixing all the layers together.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Years Cheeses

Every December 31st we have a savory respite from the sweet with crackers and cheeses. Here is this year's cheese plate (clockwise from the twelve-o-clock position): blue, queso fresco, sharp cheddar, brie, goat milk feta, myzzithra, camembert, babybels, camembert.

Also in the spread are nuts, fruitcake, chocolates, cookies, and smokies in puff pastry.


Mom's lovely homemade pizza.

To make 2 14-inch pizzas:
Make a nice simple dough from:
3 c flour
1 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 T yeast
There is an earlier post about basic bread; the directions are like that.
Let the dough raise once, and after it has done so, divide it in two and pat it out into greased 14-inch pizza pans. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle them with parmesan cheese.

Turn the oven on to 400. When it has heated up, put the pizzas in it. Bake them for 10 minutes, switching their positions halfway through. During that time, mix:

8 oz can tomato sauce
herbs of your choice: Mom uses thyme, oregano (sometimes marjoram instead), basil, and sometimes parsley.

When the crusts are out, spread the sauce evenly over the two of them. Sprinkle on grated cheese (1 pound of mozzerella, 1/4 pound cheddar, mixed). Put on pepperonis or peppers and onions or whatnot.

Put them back in the oven for about 15 minutes (depending on how you like your cheese on the merely melted --> cooked spectrum; this is for cheese that's cooked on the edges). Switch their positions halfway through.

Three Kings Day Feast

This year our Three Kings Day feast was inspired by medieval recipes. Mom has created medieval feasts in the past, the past being when I was one year old. That feast involved mummers, colored chargers, and wassailing the trees; this version was simpler but also exciting and delicious. We began with an appetizer of beef stew, which was spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and the like, but included only onions as vegetable. The menu also included baked chicken, carrots, spinach with bacon, and my favorite: whole wheat/rye pita! A side dish of macaroni and cheese comes from source recipes of the time called "makerouns." This word is the source of macaroni, but perhaps also macaroon?