Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

Soda bread

Just a quickie posting today--argh, my brother and I went to the Village Choice Eats festival last night and I don't think I want to eat ever again. I'm soooo full! Pictures/post to come, as soon as I can think about looking at food again. I'm going to have to rethink my food festival the meantime, Totoro wants to know what the fuss is about soda bread, to which I say:

Irish Soda Bread

How could you NOT want to eat this? Mmm, currants and buttermilk. Want to make your own? Try this recipe here!

Ok, back to my current regimen of ginger tea and lots of vegetables...

Monday, March 28, 2011

world peace cookies


I've been on a baking spree lately (well, it FEELS like a spree!)--it's still pretty cold here in NYC (that one 70 degree day was such a tease) so it's nice to have the extra warmth generated by the oven. Fortunately most of the baking I'm doing is for other people, or else I would soon not be able to fit out of my door....


I'm always looking out for new packaging ideas (you should see my enormous collection of ribbons, thanks to my designer-friend) and I spotted these paper baking pans when I was at Daiso in February. They're meant to be single-use bakers, and they work very well for that purpose, but they're also great to use for packaging, and these cookies happened to fit perfectly. I just wrapped them with parchment and tied it off with some hot pink ribbon--prettier than plastic wrap, but still very simple.

melty choco

But enough about the packaging, let's talk about the cookies! This is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking , and according to the note that accompanies the recipe, they were renamed World Peace Cookies because Dorie's neighbor was convinced that these cookies are all you need to ensure peace. Well, I actually disagree--if there was one cookie left and you and I were both staring at it...well, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure things would end badly.

World Peace Cookies

Fortunately, this time there are plenty to go around. Maybe that's the real secret--always keep a supply of cookies on hand.

If you don't have a copy of Baking (gasp! go get one! you need it!), the recipe can also be found here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Leftover Magic: Fried Rice

Sambal on fried rice

I had dinner with some friends last night at RUB BBQ, and even though we didn't order a Baron (which is an obscene amount of food), I still ended up with a whole bunch of leftovers to bring home (brisket, some potato salad, and some awesome baked beans that I ate for breakfast. Weird? Maybe, but damn were they tasty!) I could have just eaten the brisket cold and would probably have done that, but I'm feeling slightly less lazy today than I normally do on a Saturday. Plus, I cleaned my fridge out this morning and found some things that needed to be used up in short order...and there's no better way of dealing with leftovers and fridge odds-and-ends than fried rice.

Brisket leftovers from RUB

Pretty good looking brisket though, right?


And the other ingredients--minced shallots, ginger, diced kabocha squash, and some shredded bok choy. I had half of a squash lurking in the bottom of my produce drawer for ummmmm, probably a month now, and I feel better now that I've used (some of) it. (The rest is going to be steamed, I think.) Oh, it's not in the photo, but obviously I also had some leftover steamed rice--leftover, slightly dried out rice is perfect for fried rice, as freshly cooked rice would be too soft and sticky. I also scrambled up an egg and added that towards the end.

Sneaking up

See, the smell of frying rice brings everyone out of hiding. Oh well, I guess there's enough to go around! I don't really have a recipe, exactly, just a method because quite frankly you can change this up however you want. Use whatever vegetables you have, although leafy greens and firmer vegetables (carrots and things like that) are better to use than veggies that give off a lot of liquid. Use high heat, toss often, and most importantly, add a bit of sesame oil at the end and serve immediately. Sambal is essential, in my book, but you of course can feel free to use some other chili sauce or no chili sauce at all. I won't judge! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: King Arthur Flour Jacques Torres Mudslide Cookie Mix


Phew, the name of this mix is quite a mouthful huh? Well, I suppose I'm lucky enough to have a Jacques Torres location nearby (I try not to pass by too often, the temptation is too great!) so if I really want one of his awesome cookies, I could just walk in to the shop. But if you don't live nearby, then I would say this mix is a pretty handy thing to have on hand. This was one of the items from the gift basket I won at the Girls Club bakeoff back in December. I felt like baking something up over the weekend but discovered to my horror that I was out of sugar! Me! I don't know how on earth this could happen! Anyhow, so, this mix allowed me to indulge in some baking without actually having to go out to buy sugar (yes, yes, I know, extremely lazy of me...)


So this is what actually comes in the box--two 7 oz packs of chocolate discs, and a baggie of the actual cookie mix itself (which has bits of walnuts in it). It's pretty simple to put together, and the only additional ingredients you need are two tablespoons of butter and two large eggs. So here we go!


Step 1, melt the butter and one packet of the chocolate discs together. Appreciate the fantastic smell of butter and chocolate. And the shiny!


Step 2, stir in the cookie mix. This batter stirs up very easily, so I just used a spatula...I don't think you need to break out an electric mixer at all.


Step 3, stir in 2 eggs, one at a time.


Step 4, stir in the other packet of chocolate discs.


Step 5, scoop out 1/4 cup portions of dough (these are big cookies, so give them plenty of space!), let sit for 10 minutes, and then bake in a 350 oven for about 13 minutes. When done, the cookies will be set around the edges, and soft in the center (actually, they'll seem totally under-baked), so you have to let them cool on the pan. This way, they'll be soft and chewy.


Step 6, eat! Oh, you want to see another picture?


If that pool of melted chocolate doesn't convince you, I don't know what will!


Try to make sure you have a glass of milk on hand, because holy cow, these cookies are soooooo rich. Too rich for me, actually, and I only managed half of a cookie. (Don't worry, the other half has been earmarked for breakfast tomorrow...).

The mix retails for $12.95 on the King Arthur website, which is a bit steep for a mix, but the cookies retail for around $2.50 apiece, so actually the mix isn't a bad deal (the pack makes 10 cookies). If I didn't bake regularly, I think I'd keep a box of this on hand for emergencies--and certainly if you don't live in the NYC area and want to taste a Jacques Torres style cookie, this is a pretty good option!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Lincoln Ristorante

beet salad

I met up with my friend for brunch yesterday at Lincoln Ristorante (which you might have guessed is located at Lincoln Center). I think this opened fairly recently (end of 2010ish) and it is in an absolutely beautiful space. We were speculating that perhaps people weren't aware of it, because it was surprisingly unbusy during brunch (getting a table at some brunch places in NYC is practically a contact sport). Then again, it is a bit on the pricey side (although probably consistent with other places in this neighborhood). Anyhow, I am always down for trying new places, and our table immediately put me in a good mood.

Reclining Figure

That's the restaurant behind the sculpture, with the sloping roof. We were sitting by those windows, so you can imagine that our view was rather nice! (Also, natural lighting, woohoo!) I had a roasted beet salad to start (that's the top photo) which was visually beautiful, and also tasty. I love beets, so it was kind of a no-brainer for me, but I thought the pistachios were a nice touch. My friend had a chicken salad which I neglected to take a photo of, but I tasted a bit of the chicken and that was also really good! Oh, actually, that wasn't our first course though--every table also got bowls of panna cotta topped with granola. There was a layer of jam under the panna cotta (which was very yogurty tasting) and would have been great as a dessert!

rigatoni alla salsiccia piccante

We both had pasta for our mains (and here's one quibble--it's a brunch menu, but there's not a whole lot of what I would consider traditional brunch choices on it. That's not necessarily a bad thing for me, because I'd rather have lunch, but then....just call it lunch?) That's JJ's pasta with sausage above.

penne rigate alla carbonara

And my much less photogenic penne ala carbonara. Both pastas were delicious, and we managed to clean our plates pretty thoroughly, which I suppose is all the endorsement I need to give! We thought we were done, but then our server appeared with this:


Oof! This whole tray was also complimentary, and included chocolate filled donuts, brioches filled with pastry cream, pine nut muffins, lemon poppyseed muffins, and buttermilk scones. The scones were my favorite...and maybe it was just a function of being stuffed, but I wasn't too impressed with the other pastries.

Overall, I had a pretty great time, in large part because of the company! We also liked the service, which was formal but friendly (actually, I think they may be employing some ninjas, because one server kept appearing from out of nowhere to refill my water glass and startled me every single time). I'd love to come back for dinner, I bet the view is even prettier....

(I walked the 40ish blocks home afterwards, which helped assuage the feelings of guilt that always come hand in hand with carbonara!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fruit Infusions

Heeeeeeelp!! 2

It just occurred to me that I never really followed up on my previous post about making ichigo-shu (or strawberry liqueur)...well, it has turned out very nicely! The photo above was from when I first started steeping the strawberries, and as you can tell, I was having entirely too much fun with the photo.


That's the strawberry liqueur on the left there--I finally filtered and decanted the liqueur into a bottle for storage, mostly because I need to make some space in the fridge! Don't worry, the strawberries aren't going to waste--they may not look very nice now (hence no photo) but they taste amazing, and I think I may just freeze them for now and combine them with fresh strawberries later this summer to make some boozy jam. Mm, booze jam. Anyway, isn't the color beautiful? It's a nice, warm, orangey red. Of course, it's very strong (and sweet!) so the best way to drink it is over ice with some sparkling water. Or prosecco, if you want to get fancy.

Grape shochu

And here's the new batch I'm making--this time, red grapes. I made it the same way, layering grapes and rock sugar, it's just in a smaller quantity this time (because grapes are freaking expensive right now!). I started this about a week ago, and it's very slowly turning this pretty purple-pink shade. No idea how it's going to taste, and it probably won't be ready for tasting for a few more weeks....


I'll leave you with one more picture! Actually I think I'm going to uh, go do a little taste testing for quality control now...:D

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pi Day

Plum Galette

I must congratulate myself, this is the first year ever (I'm pretty sure) that I remembered Pi Day ahead of time, instead of midway through it. I guess I'm not senile yet. Is it possible for your memory to improve as you get older? I mean, usually it seems to go the other way. Well, I better not get carried away, this is only one thing I've remembered, no doubt I've forgotten at least 5 crucial things...(obviously rambling is still a problem I have!)

Pies for Pi Day

I had conducted a quick poll on Facebook for suggestions of pie, but in the end, took the lazy way out of making do with what I had on hand. (Hey, I was busy cleaning! I didn't feel like putting on actual pants and going to the store!) I had just bought a couple of mangoes the day before, and thought they would go nicely with some candied ginger (which I have a HUGE stash of). So I chopped up a mango, tossed it with chopped candied ginger, cinnamon, and a bit of cornstarch, and then realized that I only had enough for two tiny pies (well, one tiny pie and one tiny tart). Whoops! I could have frozen the rest of the pie crust (I'm still working on my pie crust recipe, but this one was flaky enough--and the real secret to pie crust is laziness. Yes, be lazy, leave chunks of butter in!) but, well, there's no room left in my freezer...

Jam Tart

So I made a simple jam tart, just filled with storebought strawberry preserves, and topped with a disc of pie crust. And why a bunny cutout? Well, why not! It's cute, it lets you see the filling...and well, I had to justify the fact that I bought about 100 cutters at Daiso when I was in Vancouver. The remaining pie dough and scraps got rolled out into a circle and filled with plum slices for a free form, very simple galette (top photo).

Mango Ginger Pie

A closer look at the lattice top; lattice is really easy when you are only using 4 strips of dough. :) Actually, I suppose technically I only made one pie for Pi Day...and 3 tarts. Is a tart a type of pie, or does it belong in its own family? Well, whatever--pies and tarts are both happy things. And I hope that you are going to have some pie on Pi Day too...and when you're done, test yourself and see how many places you can recite pi to. I won't tell you my number, it's too embarrassing....

I'm sure everyone has been watching the coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The images are unbelievable, like something out of a movie, except this is actually happening. I'm thankful that everyone I know in Japan is safe, but there are still thousands missing, the risk of nuclear meltdowns, severe damage to the's going to be a long road. The New York Times has put together a list of ways to help; if you can, please consider donating.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vancouver again!

Olympic Cauldron

Whoops, has it really been two weeks since I posted? Well, I guess I was away for a week, and work has been a bit nuts since then. Actually, I'm supposed to leave tomorrow for a work trip, so I guess things will continue to be hectic for a bit. I think I can muster up enough time to write a quick post though! It was surprisingly sunny during my last trip (nice contrast to my previous trip where it rained every day) although also freaking cold! But we had a nice walk the day I arrived, through Coal Harbor and eventually to Stanley Park. That's the Olympic Cauldron above (it was the one year anniversary of the Vancouver Olympics just before I arrived).


If I lived here, I'd get a boat too.


In Stanley Park, we saw lots of crows, but no raccoons this time. Oh, also a Douglas Fir squirrel, which we initially thought was either a baby squirrel or a chipmunk (fortunately, a knowledgeable passerby corrected us).


We stumbled across Beaver Lake, which according to the display, is slowly disappearing. I haven't been to this part of the park before, but it was beautiful. And, as you can tell, extremely sunny.


But then the sun started to set, and a duck flew into my shot. Can you see it? He was VERY FAST.


We ate a lot of excellent food, but I took very few pictures. However, here is my Caesar (what they call a bloody mary) from our anniversary lunch at Provence (and Py in the background). Yum! We visited our old favorite Plus Alpha and also had an indulgent afternoon tea at the Fairmont Hotel.

Choux Swan

The lighting in there is terrible, and it only just occurred to me that I could probably have used the flashlight on my phone for some additional lighting, but then I would have REALLY looked like a weirdo. Oh well! Anyway, it was yummy, and I really liked the space, although of course, it can't touch the tea at the Peninsula in Hong Kong.

Currywurst from Eli's Serious Sausages

I got to try a currywurst from Eli's Serious Sausage, which was delicious! A few days later, we saw Eli being interviewed on the news on a segment on coping with the cold snap--his strategy? "A sweater...and then another sweater....and then another sweater...and another sweater..."

Banana bread

And I made some banana bread that was pretty good considering I totally winged it!


In a first for me, I tried 5 pin bowling, and I think I'm slightly better at that than regular bowling. Also, I've never been to a bowling alley where you're not allowed to drink beer on the lane--you have to keep your beer on a ledge behind the lane!


Lanterns at the Sun Yat Sen garden. I should've paid and gone into the classical Chinese garden on the other side too, but I was cold and lazy.

Welcome home

And too soon, it was time to go home--this is the terrifying thing that greeted me in the fridge. Yes, it's a carrot. I've never seen a carrot dry out to this degree before in a refrigerator!v