Monday, September 27, 2010

Chicken Chorizo Empanadas

I've made empanadas before and mom used to make them once in a while when I was a kid, but I've never had them quite like this. It's been a long time since I've made them but I keep telling myself I should make some so I found this empanada recipe in the Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook the perfect opportunity.

The only ingredient I didn't use from the recipe was the raisins. I'm just not a very big raisin fan. There were quite a few differences in this recipe than what I'm used to, from the filling to the crust. The beer in the crust added an interesting flavor and the filling had a lot of interesting ingredients I would never think of using.

There was one thing about the recipe that confused me. The ingredients listed chopped chorizo. I'm not sure how you can chop chorizo, it's like asking for chopped ground beef. I haven't used chorizo a whole lot, despite being half Mexican, but the times I have used it, it's the consistence of squishy ground beef and when cooked it turns to complete mush. I know there are many brands and maybe there are some that you can chop, but not the ones I've used.

I spent a lot of time helping my mom make tortillas when growing up so I think I am pretty good with a rolling pin. So, instead of rolling the dough out one sheet of dough and cutting out circles, I cut the dough in half and put the other half in the fridge. I separated the half into 8 balls and rolled each one out into a small tortilla shape and filled and baked that half. While those were baking, I got the other half of dough out of the fridge and rolled those out the same way, filled, and deep fried that batch. Rolling out individual circles eliminates wasting any dough. I was able to fill and fry the 8 empanadas just as the other 8 were finished baking. The empanadas my mom and I made were always fried so I wanted to see which tasted better since the recipe gave the option. I wasn't surprised to find that the fried turned out crispier and flakier, but I was surprised the baked turned out as good as they did. If you don't want to deal with all the oil and babysitting them, baking them is a perfectly good alternative and it's also healthier.

Since we didn't eat them all for dinner I put the leftovers in the freezer and will just bake them.

Cooking with Beer Empanada Filling
Filling Empanadas
Baked vs Fried Empanada Insides

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Zucchini Fritters and Tangy Yogurt Sauce

Newlywed Kitchen CookbookLast weekend I began a new cookbook project. After finishing several recipes from the Herbfarm Cookbook, I decided to start another one. Lorna Yee and Ali Basye's Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook is the next cookbook that jumped out at me. The plan is to make 2 recipes from each section. Lorna has given me a nice list of her favorites to help me decide which ones to try. Mark is also going to help me out. There's 7 categories so I should have 14 recipes done by the end of the project and will post a summary and review of the cookbook when I'm finished.

The first section is titled "Carry Me Over the Threshold" and consists of starters and snacks. Since I still have a crap ton of zucchini from my garden, I thought the zucchini fritters would be a good choice and were even one of the recipes Lorna said was a fav of hers. I already had all the ingredients to make the fritters and only had to pick up some yogurt and parsley for the sauce.

The fritter recipe was very simple and easy to follow, just dump everything into a bowl and and stir. The recipe calls for 3 cups of shredded (2 large) zucchini. Well I accidentally let some of my zucchinis get gigantuan and ended up only using half of one zucchini to get 3 cups. It was really insanely huge. Since it was so big the seeds were getting to the rather large point so I scooped out the insides.

The sauce was also just as easy to make and it went well with the fritters. It was even better topped with some of Secret Stash Salt's Vanilla Sea Salt. I wasn't sure how it would taste but I always like to experiment with sprinkling some sea salt on things and it was an amazing combination.

I am looking forward to trying more of the recipes in this cookbook.

Shredded Zucchini Fritter Batter
Zucchini Fritters and Tangy Yogurt Sauce
Zucchini Fritter with Tangy Yogurt Sauce

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Zucchini Pie

If you ever grow zucchini in your garden you are probably like me and have so much of it you don't know what to do. I'm always keeping my eye out for zucchini recipes and I came across a tweet from Adrienne aka @aBigMouthful for a zucchini pie recipe by @Real_Simple. I faved it instantly and added the ingredients I didn't have to my shopping list. A week or two later I finally got the ingredients for it and when I got home I couldn't think of what recipe the ingredients were for. I knew I had to have saved the recipe somewhere. So I went through my bookmarks, emails, and twitter. Sure enough, I found it in my twitter favs. Whew!

I made a few minor modifications to the recipe which may or may not have been a good idea. I added a couple of chopped jalapenos which I think was a good idea but I also used an extra egg and a little more zucchini. This resulted in it taking longer to cook. It also stuck to the bottom of my glass pie plate. I'm not sure if that was because of the extra egg and zucchini or maybe I didn't let it cool long enough, but it still tasted great. Below is my variation.

Ingredients:
- 3 1/2 Cups grated zucchini
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 jalapenos, chopped
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Cup grated porovolone cheese
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 Cup vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp grated parmesan
- 2 tsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Spoon the zucchini mixture into a 10-inch round glass or metal pie pan coated with vegetable cooking spray.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Zucchini Pie Uncooked Zucchini Pie Cooked
Slice of Zucchini Pie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

HerbFarm Cookbook Review

Herbfarm CookbookI've been making recipes every week from the Herbfarm Cookbook over the past 3 months. I enjoy doing photography projects, especially those that include food. My first food photography project was Food A-Z. It was challenging at times as well as fun and also provided me with several photos to submit to my Getty Images Collection and gave me something to blog about. One of those photos has turned out to be one of my best sellers. So far, I have 4 of my images from this cookbook project available for licensing and will hopefully have more soon during the next review.

I have decided to make my cookbook project a series of projects. I have completed my Herbfarm project and plan on starting a new project soon using recipes from The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook by Lorna Yee and Ali Basye. I plan to have Mark help pick out some recipes to try, but before I start on that I want to conclude my Herbfarm Project by posting my review and giving my thoughts on the cookbook and my experiences with it.

Pros:
- wonderfully tasty recipes
- well written instructions
- herb variations sometimes provided
- opened eyes to new herbs and vegetables
I don't think there was a single recipe I made that didn't turn out tasting good and there were a few recipes that I made more than once because they were so good. My favs were the balsamic potato salad and the lavender shortbread. I also loved the tarragon butter sauce that went with the poached halibut. There were a few recipes I ran into that gave alternative herb combinations to try, not because they were hard to find herbs, but just for different flavor combinations. There were a lot of herbs and vegetables I used for some of the recipes that I had never had before. Because of this cookbook, tarragon has become my new favorite herb and was encouraged to plant some in my herb garden this year, along with chervil and lovage. I cooked with fennel and lavender for the first time and made homemade pasta and a souffle for the first time. I had a lot of fun trying new things.

Cons:
- few pictures (only pics of herbs)
- a lot of hard to find ingredients (herbs mainly)
- more desserts
Many of of the herbs that were in the recipes are impossible to find unless you have them growing in your own yard or know someone who does. ie. lemon verbena, chervil, lovage, black pansies... I couldn't find any of these anywhere so I either ended up not making that recipe or used an alternative that might come close to what the herb tastes like. For hard to find herbs, an alternative herb or combination of herbs should be provided. I was a little disappointed with the dessert section. It was mostly ice creams and there was a whole section dedicated to sorbets which seemed a little unusual. I would have liked to see more baked desserts. This is probably the first cookbook I've ever bought that doesn't have pictures with the recipes. The recipes need to be very well written if pictures aren't included, which they were, but including photos would just make the cookbook all that much better. There have been times I've bought cookbooks just because the photos looked so good. The recipes in this book are so good they really deserve to be photographed.

Below is the list of sections included in the cookbook and links to my blog posts with additional photos of those I tried. I had originally planned on doing one recipe per category but I couldn't resist doing a few more. If you're turned off by cookbooks with no photos like I usually am, maybe this will encourage you to challenge yourself with this photo lacking cookbook.

Soups
Unami Carrot Soup with Mint
Chicken Stock

Salads
Balsamic Potato Salad

Little Bites, First Courses, and Egg Dishes
Individual Crab and Lemon Thyme Soufflés with Chervil Sauce

Pasta and Risotto
Tarragon and Chive Ravioli

Vegetables (can you tell I like potatoes?)
Braised Fennel Bulb
Potatoes with Lavender and Rosemary
Potatoes in Herbed Cream
Coriander Mashed Potatoes

Fish and Shellfish
Poached Halibut with Tarragon Sauce

Poultry and Meat
Chicken Breasts in Tarragon Cream
Maple and Herb Brined Pork Roast

Desserts
Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream
Lavender Shortbread

Sorbets
Grape and Rosemary Sorbet

Condiments and Candies
Plum and Lavender Chutney

Sauces and other Basic Recipes
Blended Herb and Butter Sauce

HerbFarm Cookbook Review

Monday, September 13, 2010

Delancey

Mark and I have been to Delancey three times now and realized I haven't blogged about it yet. Delancey serves up some of the best wood-fire pizzas in Seattle. It's owned by the husband/wife team, Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg. I think most people hear about the place by word of mouth because everyone talks about how good they are. I think I first heard about them from Matthew, aka suomynona via his zillion Flickr photos from the place. Ok so that's a bit of an exaggeration, it's actually 395 photos as of this blog post. I have no idea how many times he's been there but I think at one point he ate there every day for 30 something days. Saying he's a regular is probably an understatement. He probably calls it his second home.

Each time we've gone to Delancey, we got their just before opening so we could cozy up to the bar. The first time there was a pretty long line and we ended up having to wait, but it was worth it. We started with a baby lettuce salad and got the pizza special which was topped with arugula pesto, fresh mozzarella, Leporati prosciutto di Parma, & 10-year balsamic.
Baby Lettuces Slice

We just had to go again a few weeks later after Matthew posted photos and tweeted about the padron pizza which is around. It's only available for a limited time, while the peppers are in season, so we had to go before they were gone. We got a seat at the bar again and discovered Matthew was also there that night for the padron. We tried one of the other starters this time and got the toasted baguettes with Burrata. I had never tried or even heard of burrata before. It had a very unusual texture, like a buttery, creamy, mozzarella cheese. The padrons were indeed spicy and oh so good. We rarely ever think of getting dessert but Matthew surprised us with chocolate chip cookies. We were too full so took the cookies home for later. I think it might have been the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever had. What pushed this cookie to the top was the lovely gray sea salt that was sprinkled on the top. I think it was then that I realized how much a sprinkle of salt can make a difference.
Burrata Padron Pizza

We went again this year not long after their first year anniversary to get the padron pizza while in season. We were one of the first people in line and got the first pizza out of the oven. This time we got our padrons with some of Delancey's homemade pork fennel sausage. It was the perfect combination.
Delancey's Padron Sausage Pizza

If you haven't given Delancey a try yet, I would recommend it, especially while the padron peppers are available.
Delancey on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Drunken Fig Jam

I finally got around to doing something with those figs I picked from Pat's backyard. He was kind enough to let me and Kelly Cline pick some figs while he was out of town having fun in Vegas with Miss Universe contestants. We weren't sure what kind of figs he had but figured they were probably Croatian because the family that lived there, as is his wife, are from Croatia. Kelly's best guess is that they are Dalmatia figs and Pat thinks she is probably spot on.

Before this year, my only experience with fresh figs was with these Dalmatia's that Pat would bring in every fall from his tree. It is a pretty weird looking fruit if you ask me. It reminds me of pistachios when I was a kid. I always wanted them but when I got them they were so weird looking I almost didn't want to eat them. Something just doesn't look right about them. Kelly is a big fig whore so I've had some experience this year eating some other varieties of figs. There are so many varieties and they're all different in looks and taste. The Dalmatia's are bright green, big, juicy, and have lots of sweet flavor. I think it makes the perfect fig for jam.

The photos below with the yellow background and the purple napkins were borrowed from Mark's mom and are from the Philippines. I love the bright yellow, it is a good contrast for the jam pics I've taken.

I found an interesting looking recipe on Epicurious for Drunken Fig Jam. Instead of using water as the liquid that's used in most jam recipes, this one uses brandy. It's brilliant! :) The recipe says to use black figs but of course I used these green ones and it turned out wonderful. Below is the only slightly altered recipe from Epicurious.

Ingredients:
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 lbs ripe fresh figs, stemmed, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 9 cups)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup brandy or Cognac
  • 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

  • Directions:

    Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).

    Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

    Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

    Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. The lids should pop which means they're sealed. If any don't seal properly they should be stored in the fridge. Otherwise, you can store in cool dark place up to 1 year.


    Dalmatia Figs Dalmatia Fig Close Up
    Lemon Peel Dalmatia Figs Ready to Cook
    Drunken Fig Jam

    Monday, September 06, 2010

    Plum and Lavender Chutney

    plum and lavender chutneyThis chutney was made using the last category of The HerbFarm Cookbook, Condiments and Candies, which means this project has come to an end. I will be doing one more blog post summarizing the project and give my thoughts on the cookbook. I plan on doing this again using another cookbook but am still undecided on which one I will be going through next.

    The recipe called for red or purple plums, such as Santa Rosa or Friar. I used red plums for this chutney though I have no idea what the variety is. They never seem to specify the varieties at the grocery stores. I've never made chutney before but have had it before. I know there are many that have not heard of it, it wasn't that long ago that I had tried it for the first time. Even the guy at the hardware store that I bought the jars from had never heard of chutney.

    I guess the best way to describe it would be like a spicy jam. The sweetness and texture is like a jam but it also has a lot of spice. In this case, the spice comes from red pepper flakes, ginger, and mustard seeds. Both vinegar and lemon juice are used in this recipe and act as a preservative.

    It goes well with cheese and crackers, sandwiches, turkey, or even pork. So far though, I've only tried it on crackers. I don't post recipes from cookbooks on my blog so you will just have to buy the book if you want to try it out.

    Red Plums Sliced Red Plums
    Filled Jar Processing Jars

    Wednesday, September 01, 2010

    IFBC 2010

    flowersThe 2nd annual IFBC (International Food Blogger Conference) was held at Theo Chocolate, where just the night before there was a wedding shot by Jasmine Star that broadcast live over the internet for all to see. I watched some of it and followed some of the twitter feed, enough to know they stayed up well into Saturday morning getting the place cleaned up and ready for our IFBC conference. You may have noticed all the beautiful white flower bouquets surrounding the stage and on tables in the back of the room that were left over from the wedding.

    I didn't have any trouble finding parking when I arrived at 8:00 AM. It took me a while to find the place to register. There was a small table tucked away and hiding behind the food line. No one else seemed to be in line for registration since most people probably registered the night before. I explained my circumstances and showed an email I printed out and finally got my badge for the day. I picked up some fruit, banana muffin and croissant from the breakfast table and a Pomx tea from a barrel of ice. I found a seat in the front row left side next to Donna Kelly of Fab Frugal Food. She has the best "business cards". Her contact info is printed on a bowl scraper. Each seat had a little notebook which at first I thought was a great idea for note taking in case some people didn't bring paper, like me. But no, it was a sudoku puzzle book. I ended up borrowing a few sheets of paper from Donna. Unfortunately, all the notes I took during the first three sessions seem to have disappeared. When I came back from lunch I couldn't find my notes but the blank sheets of paper and everything else was still there.

    Breakfast

    I was looking forward to the first session which was on recipe writing. I've never really given much thought to the art of writing recipes. It seems easy enough but I learned there's actually a lot more that goes into it. Amy Sherman, author of Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers: Classic Recipes Redefined was the moderator of the panel and she was joined by Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food and Kristine Kidd, food editor at Bon Appetit.

    One of the most important things you need to know before writing a recipe is knowing who your audience is. How much do they know about cooking determines how much explanation and detail you need in your recipe. It's always good to give options for alternative ingredients or amounts. I've definitely found that to be helpful in The Herbfarm Cookbook. It's not only a good idea for personal tastes but it's also good if you're using hard to find ingredients. It's also always a good idea to test your recipe before publishing it. That doesn't mean testing it yourself, but having a friend test it to make sure they understand and are able to follow it and it actually works. There was also a debate on whether you should use semi colons or not. I don't use them myself, but I don't mind them either.

    Recipe Writing Panel

    The next session was on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), basically how to get your site placed high in Google searches to get the most traffic. This panel consisted of Joy Victory, Wordpress Editorial Czar, Barnaby Dorfman, Foodista CEO, and Mani Dhillon, UrbanSpoon general manager.

    I don't spend a ton of time on this but there are things I do that they mentioned that are important in SEO. Here are just a few that were mentioned that come to mind and that I already do:
    • update site often (They didn't specify how often but I usually post a blogpost at least once a week)
    • use links (I always try to link companies and people when I reference them in my blog posts)
    • use captions/alt text on photos (I use the title= code in my images since Flickr does that automatically when you copy the code)
    • title posts wisely (Post titles should be specific and not too general)
    • check statistics (I recently started using Google Analytics which was mentioned. Using it shouldn't affect your SEO but it's good to see what sites are referring to yours and how much traffic you are getting)
    • use link backs (The more sites that refer to your site the better. When commenting on other blogs I include the url to my site. Urbanspoon also has a linkback program called "spoonback". If you put a specific html code that links to them on your blog post they will link back to yours. I just started using that site rather than Yelp fairly recently and have a few spoonbacks to some of my restaurant blog posts.)

    One thing I learned about that I didn't know about before is Google Rank. The higher your Google Rank the better. I believe it ranges from 1-10. I looked mine up using this Google PageRank Checker and found my blog is only 2 but my Flickr stream is a whopping 5. I guess that explains why my flickr pics usually show up near the top of searches. I upload pics several times a week so I guess that is what has pushed it up there.

    The next session was writing with all five senses with Kathleen Flinn. Lemons, both whole and sliced were handed out and we spent time describing them using different senses, one at a time. The main thing I learned from this session is that I'm no writer. People took turns saying what they wrote and there are some real talented writers out there. I would have been embarrassed sharing what I wrote. Writing and English were not my strong subjects in school and I never liked them much.

    After the 3rd session it was 1:00 and time for some lunch. There were 4 delicious dishes to choose from, all fairly small portions so you could probably try them all without getting full and several wines to pair with. They had each chef give a description of what they would be serving and there were many gluten free options available and a couple of vegan dishes as well. I would have liked to try Chef Jason Stratton of Spinasse's zucchini capione but unfortunately they ran out. I heard from several people who did try it that it was very tasty. I just loved the plates and flatware from Bambu, so original. Below are the three dishes I did have.
    Lunch - Beef Shoulder TartareBeef shoulder tartare prepared by Chef Daisley Gordon of Campagne
    Lunch - Salmon Carpaccio Plate Lunch - Marinated Octopus with Chick Peas and Chorizo Vinaigrette Plate
    Left: salmon carpaccio prepared by Chef John Howie of Seastar Restaurant
    Right: marinated octopus with chick peas and chorizo vinaigrette prepared by Chef Shannon Galusha of Bastille Cafe and Bar
    My favorite of these was the one I least expected to like, the octopus and chick peas. I'm not a fan of octopus and usually try to avoid it because all the times I've had it, it was rubbery and I don't like the texture. This octopus on the other hand was nothing like I remember. It was tender and the chorizo and chick peas went so well together. I almost went back for another plate but I held off.

    flowersThere was still about an hour and a half before the next session and wasn't sure what I was going to do until then. I was checking tweets occasionally and saw one from @saltyseattle saying she was at "the former Triangle". I think I had only been there once, when it was the Triangle. I wasn't sure what it's new name or if that was really it's new name. I decided I would go hunt for it. I walked a few blocks North then Googled for it on my phone. Eventually, I found the address and the small group of foodies huddled around one of the booths having a drink. Drank down a Greyhound (vodka + grapefruit juice), exchanged cards with a few people, and then headed back for the next session.

    We got back a couple minutes late but I don't think we missed much. This session was on Law & Ethics. Why they chose this subject right after lunch is beyond me. Much of what was said went right over my head. The panelists were Robin Goldstein, IP attorney, author and food/wine blogger, Robert Schroeder, Director of the FTC’s Northwest Regional Office in Seattle, and Barnaby Dorfman, CEO of Foodista.com. Robin did a great job story telling and joke making to keep everyone awake despite the dry subject matter.

    The final session was titled "From the Source: People Who Will Change The Way You Think About Food" Jack Czarnecki from Oregon White Truffle Oil, Debra Music from Theo Chocolate and Andrew Stout CEO/Founder of Full Circle Farm were the speakers. Each one talked a little bit about their products and where they came from.

    Before dinner there was a sherry tasting party hosted by the Secret Sherry Society and appetizers were provided by Chef Philippe Thomelin of Olivar. I'm not much of a sherry fan but I did try all four along with the appetizers.
    Sherry Tasting Table Sherry Tasting App - Lamb Meatballs

    James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur did a keynote speech before dinner. He gave a great presentation and was able to keep everyone's attention. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner.

    There were lots of options for dinner and again the chefs introduced themselves and the dishes they had prepared. I really wish menus were provided that showed what chefs created what dishes. I did find one via twitter for the lunch menu but didn't come across one for dinner.

    The lighting for dinner photos was not the best. I took my photos using candle light of the four dishes I tried, including dessert which was an awesome molten chocolate cake. My favorite dinner dish was probably the beef cheek. It was so melt in your mouth tender.

    salmon chick pea salad
    Left: Chilled Sockeye Salmon with Mascarpone, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Chile Salsa
    (Chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough)
    Right: Salad of Locally Grown Chickpeas (Chef Holly Smith)
    Marscapone Polenta
    Creamy Mascarpone Polenta with Spinach and Southern Grits with a Vegetable Ratatouille
    (combo plate by Chefs Jeff Mall and Josh Silvers)
    Beef Cheeks
    Wagyu Beef Cheek with Stuffed Squash Blossoms and Fresh Corn
    (Chef Tamara Murphy)
    Molten Chocolate
    Molten Chocolate Cake - Chef unknown

    ok I think this might be my longest blog post ever. Whew! Can't wait till next year!