Friday, May 30, 2008

Shrimp Eggrolls

There's a bit of history on this one. Last weekend we dismantled the broken hot tub and hauled it off. And when I say dismantled, I mean with a chainsaw and a sawzall. And when I say hauled it off, I mean two full trips to the dump, 1250 pounds worth. It was hot out too. Started at 11:00 AM. By 1:00 I had invited Bunkers and Pedersens over for dinner - MOSTLY because we enjoy their company and wanted to see them, of course, but partly because it would mean that we HAD to stop at some sort of reasonable hour. I'm a little hazy on what happened next, but at some sweaty, wet, ant-infested point in the day, I had an epiphany - I WANT A DEEP FRYER.

Not exactly sure how that relates to anything, but the dump is only about a mile from the Target store. So, after the second dump run, I got dropped off at Target and ran in - filthy, sweaty, hair sticking up, etc. - and got myself a little fryer! So cute!! And I am such a sucker because I bought the one that said "restaurant style" on the side of the box even though you know that this is nothing at all like what they have in a restaurant. Still, totally happy with being a sucker about these things. Didja see the little fryer basket?? I love it!

Then to the Safeway for, what else, potatoes and cooking oil. The first batch of french fries on Sunday was a little soggy. Monday, employing the double-frying technique from the Joy of Cooking, produced much nicer results. Tuesday and Wednesday were fat-free, but I continued to mull the deep frying possibilities. Yesterday I thought of Shrimp Eggrolls!

So, I just made this recipe up in my head and went and bought the ingredients at the market. Then I called Z and she googled a recipe for me to give me some ideas about seasoning the filling. Finely chopped shrimp, shredded carrots, snap peas and cabbage, minced garlic, ginger, and cilantro. Then I made some dipping sauces out of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and chile sauce.

Deep fry them four at a time (in the way cute basket!) and serve with dipping sauce and cilantro on the side. Do not, under any circumstances, eat 6 of these for dinner, as you will have a bellyache for sure! :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tiramisu Wedding Cake

Last weekend I made a wedding cake for a friend. It was the biggest project I had ever attempted and it went really well. Here is the end result. It was three tiers, the bottom layer was 12" square, the middle was 9", the top was 6". The cake was a white cake, soaked in a marsala and rum syrup. The filling was chocolate-coffee ganache. The frosting was a mascarpone cream cheese - very stressful on a 90 degree day! The hottest it has been here all year. Yipes. But it was great - I had frozen the layers after they were frosted - they thawed out between delivery and cutting (nearly 5 hours), and the cake was still cool! Here is the cake, with fresh flowers as the primary decoration.
Here is the middle layer, all filled and ready to get its crumb coat.
Here is the small top layer, with its crumb coat on and chilling for its second layer of icing.
The mocha filling - this is a 2:1 ratio (by weight) of heavy cream and bittersweet chocolate, with instant espresso powder providing the coffee kick. The coffee and bittersweet chocolate ended up being too bitter, so I did add a little confectioners sugar when I was whipping it.
Many many pounds of cream cheese mascarpone frosting - rum and vanilla flavor in here too.

This is the 12" bottom layer - I used chocolate to fill layers 1 and 3 - the middle layer got all cream cheese frosting, which ended up being a really nice balance. Each layer of cake was soaked with the marsala rum syrup.
The florist left hydrangeas and roses for decoration, and I used flower spikes to hold the flowers in place and keep them fresh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Molto Mario

Wanted to put the food front and center - the story on this little bite of heaven is below. . . .

Last week we got to meet Mario Batali in person! It was so cool - he was funny and articulate and down to earth. He was doing a book signing (Italian Grill) at msft and since we sponsored the room set up, six of us got in for a brief meet and greet before the main event. This is the only picture we had the presence of mind to snap.
We talked to him about where he likes to eat - basically, he likes to eat whatever is local and good where he is, and simple is better. Since his family is here in town, they generally go out to a seafood restaurant and call it good - as he said, any restaurant with 30 kinds of oysters and 9 glasses of Washington and Oregon Pinot Gris by the glass is good. Elliots. Steelhead Diner. Etc. We told him about the 20 buck duck at Campagne in January. Then we all got to walk to the cafeteria together for the talk. Honestly I think we were all a little starstruck, but in a low key way. So, he got up and talked for nearly 30 minutes and took questions - funny funny stories, then big long lines for the book signing, which we were able to avoid because we all got our signed before!

Anyway, there were lots of good questions, but of course I remember mine. "so, Mario, what's your favorite recipe in the book?" Answer - "well, that's a lot like asking me what my favorite Talking Heads song is - I love them all. But, probably I would pick the Mortadella and Robiola" ( see pages 34-35 of the book) - deadpan delivery - "we made it on the Martha Stewart show last week and I think she nearly had an orgasm . . . . "

oh good lord - he brought the house down!

So basically, you take thin slices of mortadella, place a small piece of robiola cheese inside (a soft white cheese - we substituted brie with the rinds cut off) and top with a basil leaf. Then fold it into a packet and grill until the cheese is melted and the mortadella is crispy. Holy cow, absolutely sublime. He serves them as an antipasto, but I loved them on a bed of arugula with vinaigrette - it balanced the richnesss a little bit. We had a big dinner planned the night we made these, but they were so good we just stuffed the steaks back in the fridge and ate these and a bit of pasta and it was perfect!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Spectacular Amount of Chocolate

I'm NOT planning on eating all of this, but it just makes me happy having it in the house! I need some for Shasha's wedding cake, some for the butterfinger bars, and some for general well being. 8 days of sugar-free life has not made me feel materially better, though I have eaten more and probably lost weight. Still doesn't seem worth it ;)

This is 11 pounds (5K) of chocolate, Callebaut, bittersweet. You can get white or semi or bitter at Big John's PFI - less than $6/pound and it's 60% cocoa! And there's Guittard too, in full 10 pound bars, for less than $4/pound. AND, there are 2-pound bags of semi-sweet Guittard pieces (bigger than chips, but small and uniform, great for melting) for $7.50. God there's nothing I love more than a good deal on chocolate! Now to find a chocolate melter/temperer that works and had a decent capacity. And is not $500.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Shrimp and arugula

Well ok - this is clearly not chocolate related, but the "no sugar" thing has seriously enabled me to actually think about other kinds of food. The farmers market in Columbia City last week produced a fabulous bag of arugula and some hand made goat cheese. And Costco (yes, I know) came through with some fantastic shrimp. We have one huge rosemary bush that can easily give up 8 stems - I strip the leaves off and use them as skewers - here, we have only the "before" pictures because the "after" were (a) on fire when the skewers burned in the broiler, (b) so delicious we ate them all up. (c) all of the above. I still have rosemary ashes on the bottom of the oven!

I marinated these in orange juice and olive oil - perfect!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

omg - no sugar!

Testing my will - no sugar for a week! eeep! I feel faint. But, truth is I was feeling pretty comatose after a few pounds of butterfingers and a few cubic feet of cake! So, I thought I'd give it a run - just for a week. And I'm not insane about it - reading labels to look for 2 grams of sugar in the bread or anything. I've just excluded the obvious suspects - cake, candy, cookies, ice cream.
In some ways it leaves me nothing to eat, based on my usual diet. But in some ways it opens up lots of options, like sandwiches for lunch, and real dinners where I haven't spoiled my appetite. Hmmm. This is odd. Three days in a row with breakfast - day 1 = scrambled eggs and cheese; day 2 = oatmeal with almonds and raisins; day 3 = leftover pizza. Can't say I feel better really, not yet anyway. But I don't feel worse either.

My secret weapon is a package of Skinny Cow sugar free ice cream sandwiches - surprisingly good really, though they melt quickly . . . .

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Polka Dots

I apparently have polka dots on the brain. Just finished with the cheesecake pops and it's time to make a prototype of Shasha's wedding cake. I baked the layers over the course of a week - high school math comes in handy, surprisingly, when you are trying to take a recipe that bakes in 2 - 12" round pans and convert it to square pans - so I baked one 7" layer and one 12" layer (square) out of each batch, then baked 2 - 9" square layers out of the third batch.

The final batch should have had a small third pan as the 9" pans were overfull. But hey, at least I did the math and knew what was going on!
Then, 5 cups of rum syrup, 5 pounds of mascarpone cream cheese frosting, and 5 pounds of whipped chocolate ganache
The assembly was pretty easy with the divider plates and the columns to provide support and a little extra lift - the space between the bottom and middle tiers will be filled with fresh flowers in the wedding version of the cake.
On this one, I decided to do the middle layer with chocolate just for fun after I realized that I didn't have enough cream cheese frosting - in the final product I will have to make even more cream cheese frosting because the entire cake will be white. And I had more than enough chocolate ganache.
The decorations are a shameless theft from the cheesecake pops, but hey, it works! Take some lukewarm molten chocolate, spread it on waxed paper, cover with more waxed paper and smooth out to a thin sheet. Then, when it is just cool enough to peel the paper off, but not brittle, cut rounds out with small cookie cutters. That's it - they stick naturally to the cream cheese frosting with no additional help.
All recipes are from the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, modified per my little quirks - for example, she likes really bittersweet chocolate - I usually substitute semi-sweet. And for some reason she likes to make white or yellow cakes with either all egg whites or all egg yolks - I usually use whole eggs but just make sure the weight is the same - so her recipe for 11 whites or 9 yolks ends up being 5 whole eggs. This does not make the cake too yellow, and it has the benefit of using up the whole egg, which I consider a plus. Many of her buttercream recipes call for either yolks or whites, so it might all balance out in the scheme of things, but I generally don't use her buttercream recipes, so it makes sense to use the whole egg.
After it was done - probably 30-35 pounds (!), I emptied out the fridge to store it overnight, then took it apart for transport into work. So, happily, the architectural issues and transportation issues are all resolved since I now know I can build it and move it. Tonight I am going to a cake decorating class so the final product is lovely and level!!