Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back from the beach, Zabaglione cheesecake, and Indulge summer edition

Today I got back from the beach, it's always good to walk in to my own home.  It's really home sweet home.  My family loved the time we spent at the beach, the location of where we stayed was perfect.  Siletz Bay is a quiet place to have a weekend getaway that my husband said that we should go back more often to the area to explore it.  I'm all for it!  My husband had a great birthday celebration, it's the way he'd like it, just us and his best friends.  My son also had a blast, I let him stayed up late for two nights, way up late, but he amazingly could sleep with the noises the other two boys made.  After two nights of late night sleep, too much laughs, food, and walking around the beaches, I'm ready for a quiet week.  Unfortunately, this week till the third week of June, mine would be busy.  I'm ready to spill an introduction of what my life would be in the next few months.

Early on this year, I was approached by the editor of Indulge magazine.  Indulge is an online publication from Zupan's grocery store, which is a locally owned in Oregon.  To my surprise, she liked what she saw and read in my old blog.  I was asked if I wanted to write for them for the summer edition, recipes and photos, the whole work.  I could hardly believe my ears, me?  I was starting to know my way around photographing food, to make it the way I wanted it to represent my style.   But I'm still making mistake and thus, still learning with each photo I make for my blog.  Of course, I then said yes :)  Why would I want to pass this opportunity?  If I screw up, then the worst thing that'd happen was that she'd say no.  My first assignment was making pizza, complete with the dough and basic tomato sauce recipes, along with three pizza recipes and an introduction.  This week the magazine is up and running, looking at the recipes and my name on them make me feel so proud of myself, so relieve that finally someone pays notice, so happy that I could cry any time I see my name in it.  Ever to correct myself though, I still think that I could do better with the photos, which I would do it on the next issue :)  The link for the magazine could be accessed here by clicking on the image.

So, what's next for me?  I'm going to do some other shoots they asked me to do and also a few recipes to make and photos to shoot; all has to be done before I'm going for my vacation towards the end of June.  I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, no surprise there.  Not since I graduated from college that I have to do something that has dateline, this is one of the thing that I have to get used to.  I'm pretty good at pacing myself and I hate to procrastinate so finishing early is no problem for me.  It's the execution and photo shoots that still get me doubting myself.  Plus, imagine finding fresh produce many months ahead before the intended season arrives, it's not easy to find.  I'm praying that one thing that I need to make will be available within the next two weeks, or I'll be toast!

Leaving that thinking for a while, I will share a cheesecake recipe that I tried a while back.  No, this was not something I made for my wedding anniversary; I didn't have time to make one myself but my friend bought us a cake to beach for us to enjoy.  I just need to write it down right now before time is running out for me.  This cheesecake was so good with cherry kirsch sauce or chocolate fudge buttercream.  To make cherry kirsch sauce, simply simmer 1 cup of cherry juice from jarred sour cherries along with 2 cups of the cherries.  Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of kirsch, cook until the syrup becomes thick and reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Voilà, you'll have cherry-kirsch sauce good enough to eat with every slice of cheesecake.  The other thing that was good paired with the cheesecake was truffle fudge topping which I will share here too.

Zabaglione Cheesecake

Makes 12 to 16 bars

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups almond biscotti crumbs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

1 lb mascarpone cheese

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup Marsala wine

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the crust: Line a 13- x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil with butter.  In a bowl, combine biscotti crumbs and butter.  Press into bottom of prepared pan and freeze.

To make the filling: In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, sugar and flour until very smooth, for 3 minutes.  Add whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Mix in wine and vanilla.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pour over the frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan.  Bake in a preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours.  cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before cutting into bars.  Serve with cherry-kirsch sauce or truffle fudge frosting with lots of chocolate shavings.

Truffle Fudge Frosting

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

12 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

In top of double boiler over simmering water, melt milk and bittersweet chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Let cool until no longer warm to the touch.

In a mixer bowl fitted with whip attachment, beat butter and melted chocolate on medium speed until uniform in color, about 3 minutes.  Place bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm the frosting.  Return to the mixer and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Decorate the cheesecake any way you want it with the frosting!

Source:  adapted from The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

I can't believe it's Wednesday already, the whole week has gone by quickly.  The month of May has almost ended, before we know it summer is here.  I definitely am happier with more light during the day, it's just so much easier to take photos for my blog.  The flowers are also in bloom in my garden though I haven't had time to tidy up my yard after some rain that came during these two days.  I have several Globe allium that are blooming in front of my living room window, their color is unbelievably beautiful.  I'm glad I planted those bulbs a long time ago, they propagated slowly but surely they're coming up more by numbers each year.

The weekend of Memorial Day is fast approaching and my family and I are looking forward to it.  My husband and I are going to celebrate our 15th anniversary and we are planning to go to Lincoln City beach for the weekend with my son and also our friend and his family.  They are coming for Seattle and we will see them at the beach on Friday.  We are renting a condo by the beach not far from Moe's restaurant which has a trail near it.  We will surely have a good time, I'm hoping the weather will also behave that weekend.  My other friend from church will also be staying at the beach that weekend, maybe I could see her and her family.

My husband is planning what to bring, in terms of food, to the beach and he is actively discussing it with his friend.  I know we are going to bring our rice cooker and some rice, for we love our rice so much that a rice cooker goes on a vacation too :)  Hubby is also suggesting making certain food to bring to the beach, my reaction is to go along with his plan.  I know I will be busy the days before Friday but I don't mind at all.

For breakfast, hubby is suggesting that I make black glutinous rice and mung bean porridge, both are traditional breakfast/snack dishes for Indonesian.  These are very fulfilling and comfort food, not terrible healthy if using lots of palm sugar and/or granulated sugar, but still they are a favorite.  Speaking of breakfast, I'm ready to share a comforting breakfast dish that is a bit familiar to American people.  It is French toast though this is not regular French toast.  The way this is cooked is almost the same as bread pudding, very moist with milk, butter, and eggs.  What is the difference between French toast and bread pudding anyway, come breakfast time, you will not mind eating one or the other.  The end result will remind you of sticky bun flavor, with toasted pecans and fragrantly infused with brown sugar and nutmeg.

Baked Butter-Pecan French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

Serves 6

For French toast:

1 (24-inch-long) baguette

6 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla exract

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

For syrup:

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the French toast: Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.  Cut twenty 1-inch-thick slices from baguette and arrange in one layer in baking dish.

Whisk together eggs, milk, 3/4 cup brown sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined and pour evenly over bread.  Let bread soak for 10 minutes.  Turn slices over and cover surface with a large sheet of plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on each end of baking dish.  If necessary, place a smaller baking dish on top to keep bread submerged.  Refrigerate mixture until all liquid is absorbed, at least 8 hours.

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine butter, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, and cream in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in pecans.

Spoon pecan mixture evenly over bread.  Bake until bread is puffed, edges are slightly browned, and liquid is absorbed, 40 to 45 minutes.

Make the syrup: Combine blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat until berries burst, about 3 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice.

Serve French toast with syrup.

Source:  Gourmet Today

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Coconut and Pineapple Sundaes

Why is it that when people think of coconut and pineapple, they'll think of tropical island? I guess because coconut trees grow along the beach on tropical islands, and the closest tropical island to mainland US is Hawaii where there's a lot of pineapple grown so people put that two together constantly.  Personally, when I am looking for tropical flavor I will look in rambutan, guava, star fruit, and papaya among many others.  But sadly, finding those fruits in the US are hard and when they're available the prices are exorbitant.  So, I make do with coconut and pineapple to chase away my tropical blues.

The idea of making this sundaes came from two sources, one was my ice cream making book and the second one was from Sunset magazine.  I modified some ingredients and a refreshing concoction was made.  The coconut ice here is lighter than coconut ice cream since there's no custard base to make.  By sauteing pineapples in butter, I was able to bring out the sweet, mellow taste of them; they're then doused with a bit of rum to heighten the flavor.  In the end I included toasted shredded coconuts and lime zest to make this duo come together.

Coconut Ice

Serves 4 to 6

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1-14 oz. can coconut milk

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks

1/4 cup rum

Zest of 1 lime

Toasted shredded coconut

Put the water in a medium saucepan.  Add sugar and coconut milk and bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Remove the pan from the heat and leave the mixture to cool, then chill well.

If using ice cream maker, churn the mixture until firm enough to scoop.

Melt butter in a medium frying pan over high heat.  Add pineapple chunks and cook until caramelized slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add rum and cook until it resembles a syrup.

To serve:  scoop coconut ice into dishes, spoon warm pineapple chunks on top and decorate with lime zest and toasted shredded coconut.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Grilled London Broil with Rum Molasses Sauce

How's your Mother's day today?  Mine was wonderfully full of children and good music throughout the afternoon.  My son had his first recital since we switched him to a new teacher last summer.  His teacher has a studio which holds recital in springtime.  The recital was held at Sherman Clay Piano store in downtown Portland, a beautiful store that has old and new pianos, grand and no grand alike.  This year's recital has a theme of Chopin and Schumann's 200th birthday, so students have to pick their music from the Romantic Period.

My son was quite nervous the day before and the morning before the recital; he wished that he could just not go to the event.  The feeling in the room was actually very relaxed and familiar; his teacher didn't want the students to feel pressured to not making mistakes.  Of course, some children were naturally flawless performers :)  Nevertheless, I really had the best Mother's day's gift today since I got to see my son braved himself to play in front of a crowd.

The weather seems to be getting better each week, sunny days are ahead and even with some rains, I couldn't be more happier to finally see some changes in the weather.  But, there's a catch with that, my allergy also seems to worsen.  I went out jogging again last Thursday and immediately my throat hurt and  I can't stop sneezing.   I have to wait until my nasal spray is refilled by Tuesday.

This recipe that I'm sharing today is a grilled London broil with rum molasses sauce.  Grilling time can be resumed in my household because nobody likes to grill under the rain and in the cold weather.  London broil is a perfect meat for grilling but the meat can be tough unless it's marinated for several hours.  When it's ready to be eaten, it's best to slice it thinly and across the grain.   Rum, allspice,  and molasses make a good marinade for the meat; the flavors penetrate it fully and gives out mouth watering aroma when the meat is being grilled.  By using lime juice, the meat is guaranteed to be tender and it lends some acidic taste to balance out the sweetness of molasses.

The accompaniments for the grilled meat were Green Beans with Balsamic Butter and Scalloped Potatoes with Crème Fraîche and Gruyère.  Meat and potatoes, my favorite duo :)

Grilled London Broil with Rum Molasses Sauce

Serves 6

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup dark rum

2 tablespoons molasses (not robust)

1 tablespoon habanero pepper sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 1/2 pounds top round London broil (1 1/4 inches thick)

Whisk together lime juice, oil, rum, molasses, habanero sauce, salt, pepper, and allspice in a bowl until well combined.  Put steak in a large sealable plastic bag, pour in marinade, and seal bag, pressing out excess air.  Put steak in a shallow pan (in case of leaks) and marinate in refrigerator, turning several times for 12 hours.

Prepare the gas grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat.

Meanwhile, lift steak from marinade, letting excess drip back into bag, and transfer to a tray.  Pour marinade into a small saucepan, bring to a boil over moderately high heat, and boil, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Reserve 1/4 cup marinade for basting and set remaining marinade aside for serving with steak.

Oil grill rack.  Pat steak dry and sear, covered, turning once, until grill marks appears on both sides, about 2 minutes total.  Reduce heat to medium and grill steak, covered, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes more.  Baste steak on both sides with reserved 1/4 cup marinade and grill until thermometer inserted horizontally 2 incehs into meat registers 120 degrees F, about 5 minutes more.

Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, for 5 mintues.  Holding knife at a 45-degree angle, thinly slice steak.  Serve with reserved sauce.

Source:  Gourmet Today

Scalloped Potatoes with Crème Fraîche and Gruyère

Easy and tasty scalloped potatoes, served with Grilled London Broil with Rum Molasses Sauce.

Scalloped Potatoes with Crème Fraîche and Gruyère

Serves 6

Butter for greasing baking dish

2 pounds baking potatoes such as russet


Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup crème fraîche

4 ounces Gruyère or sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded

Arrange an oven rack at center position and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Spread half the slices over the bottom of prepared dish.  Salt and pepper slices generously.  Using a rubber spatula, spread half the crème fraîche over the potatoes, then sprinkle half the cheese over the crème fraîche.  Make a second layer in the same way using the remaining ingredients.

Bake gratin for 10 minutes.  Lower heat to 350 degrees F.  Continue to cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife and a golden brown crust has formed on top, 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve hot.

Source:  The Big Book of Backyard Cooking

Green Beans with Balsamic Butter

A side dish that's good with grilled meats.  This is a accompaniment to the Grilled London Broil with Rum Molasses Sauce.

Green Beans with Balsamic Butter

Serves 8

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

6 tablespoons minced shallots (2 large shallots)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

2 pounds green beans, trimmed

Kosher salt

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, optional

Combine balsamic vinegar and shallots in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Stir mixture constantly, and reduec until only a little syrup remains and balsamic vinegar is mostly absorbed into the shallots.  Watch carefully to make certain mixture doesn't burn.  This should take 4 to 5 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a small bowl and cool completely.

Using a for or rubber spatula, add softened butter to shallots in a bowl, and mix until shallots are evenly distributed throughout butter.  (The butter can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using.)

Bring a large pot of water to full boil, and add green beans and 1 tablespoon salt.  Cook beans until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain beans well and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.  Toss beans in a large bowl with balsamic butter; mix well to coat all beans with butter.  Salt beans to taste.

Source:  The Big Book of Backyard Cooking

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Red Leaf Lettuce with Citrus Dressing and Toasted Pine Nuts

I like eating salad with my meal, when it's done rightly, it provides contrasting texture and flavor to the meal.  In fact salad could become my main meal during the day especially on weekdays when I don't eat lunch at home.  Sometimes my salad is lavishly garnished with plenty of other things especially when it's a meal by itself.  A plate of salad with protein will satisfy me just fine as with any other type of meal.  Other times, salad could be a side dish that's simple and yet refreshing.  The dressing in this salad is just lemon and orange juices, the zests, a good quality of extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper; toasted pine nuts and cut radishes are added for some crunch.  It is easy and it compliments well with rich dishes, or eat this to end a meal.

Red Leaf Lettuce with Citrus Dressing and Toasted Pine Nuts

Serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

Rounded 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

6 radishes, cut lengthwise into wedges

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Whisk together oil, zests, juices, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until salt is dissolved.  Add lettuce and radishes and toss until well coated, then sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Source:  Gourmet Today