Simple Olive Tapenade

Tapenade makes for a great salty snack, and it couldn’t be easier to make.  I threw some together this weekend in under 10 minutes and gobbled it up on some fresh sliced ciabatta bread.  I had intended to toast the ciabatta under the broiler and rub it with a garlic clove and enjoy it as legitimate crostini…. but the tapenade was so yummy looking and came together so quickly that I didn’t want to wait around for the bread to toast up.

Ciabatta bread might be my new favorite thing.  Bread baking is not something I’ve played around with very much, but it’s appeal is growing on me.  Especially since my friend Chad has been posting pictures of his bread baking quests on facebook lately.

This tapenade works wonderfully as a topping for crostini, bruschetta or as a spread for sandwiches.  It’s a great choice for entertaining, and this recipe makes enough for you to always have some on hand in the fridge.  According to the recipe, it should keep for a month – though I’m not sure it will last that long without being eaten!

Source:  The Best Recipes In The World, Mark Bittman

Ingredients:

1 pound pitted black olives
1/4 capers, drained
2 garlic cloves, smashed
8 anchovy fillets
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

To make tapenade, put olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in container of food processor or blender, along with a bit of olive oil. Pulse machine once or twice, and swiftly add remaining olive oil while machine is running. Do not purée. You want a coarse, uneven blend. (If you have the energy, you can chop all the ingredients by hand or grind them with mortar and pestle.) Thin with more olive oil if you like.

If you’re afraid you won’t like anchovies you can always leave them out.  Though I think they are barely noticeable once everything is all processed together – maybe start with half the qty if you are freaked.

3 Comments + Posted in: Recipes, Starters, Vegetarian

This Friday I Fancy…

Texas Bluebonnets

I am so very excited that Spring has sprung and that April is quickly upon us!  I spent the last week or so lamenting the time change (messes me up every year), but I’ve got my circadian rhythms (mostly) back in check and now I’m overjoyed to have the extra daylight hours after work.  Who wouldn’t enjoy more evening daylight hours?  Especially when you have these to enjoy on your commute …

I drive by these every day on the way home from work.  It’s kind of amazing.

If you are lucky enough to live in God’s Country Central Texas, you really should drive out into the hill country a bit and see how lovely the wildflowers are this year.  I highly recommend the trip north from San Antonio to Austin on HWY 281 or west from San Antonio via IH 10.  Hopefully the weather this weekend will make for a nice drive.

Spring Inspired Table Decor

Source: Pottery Barn Victorian Tumblers

I have all the drinkware a girl could use (and more), but if I was looking to add to my collection these pastel tumblers would be hard to pass up at $36 for a set of 6.  You can also buy them individually in-store if you prefer a monochromatic look.

At this point in my life, I don’t need to expand my serveringware beyond my crisp white basics.  But that doesn’t stop me from obsessing over Jadeite dishware…

In fact, this picture proves just how good my crisp white basics would look juxtaposed with some jadeite.

Thank goodness jadeite is a little trickier to come by, or I would have a hard time restraining myself.

Cheapo Chic-Lit

I’m a huge fan of used book stores like Half Price Books.  There is a Half Price Books conveniently situated next door to my favorite watering hole, and I almost always stop in for a look after closing my tab.  I’ve found it to be a phenomenal resource for cookbooks.  You can find great cookbooks for as little as $3!  On my last visit I scored the entire Emily Giffin collection for only $12.

I normally avoid chick lit as much as possible, but some of my favorite bloggers and twitter friends have been singing the praises of these books.  I’m sure I was subliminally drawn to the spring pallate of the jacket covers as well.

Have you read any of the Emily Giffin books?  I would love to hear your feedback.  I’m planning to start the first novel, Something Borrowed, this weekend.  You can join me on Goodreads.com to keep up with my progress!

4 Comments + Posted in: Uncategorized

Food On The Tube For Spring 2010

So I am currently without a TV (gasps from the shocked readership) and this has led to me watching mostly programs I can stream on my laptop. I’ve been making due with content on hulu and other areas of the interwebs, but I’ve been in serious food television withdrawals. Here are my top picks in foodie television for spring:

Talk about right up my ally! I’m planning on writing my masters thesis on the role of nutrition education on socioeconomic outcomes! But even if your interests in nutrition, food and culture aren’t as obsessive as mine, I think you’ll enjoy this program. It premiered with a one hour episode last Sunday (you can catch up on hulu before the two hour episode this Friday on abc).

I’m so looking forward to Top Chef Masters season 2! It premiers on Bravo on April 7th. I am pretty motivated to address the not having a TV issue so I can keep up and do episode recaps like I’ve done in the past. The cast has been announced and you can read more about the contestants here. I’m delighted that James Oseland will be back as a judge (sarcasm font). There are so many talented Chefs this season, I’m really looking forward to seeing them work together.

My early favorite is Marcus Samuelsson. I’ve enjoyed him on several Food Network programs over the years, and he has a great back story. He was born in Ethiopia and later adopted by Swedish parents who supported him as he pursued his culinary interests in Sweden and Austria. Fun fact: He was the chef at the first official state dinner of the Obama administration when they hosted the Prime Minister of India. This little PR opportunity for him probably didn’t realize it’s full potential because of the whole gate crashers story that wouldn’t die.

And for my last recommendation: I almost hate to admit it… but… I kind of love What Would Brian Boitano Make.

Sure, it’s crazy and campy, but it’s also pretty charming. If you haven’t seen it, imagine all of the gimmicks and skits of Good Eats minus the science angle with a dash of fabulous. I haven’t been very motivated to try any of the dishes he’s prepared on the show, but it is helping to fill the void left by the close of the Olympics last month. If you feel like tuning in, it airs on Sunday afternoons on Food Network.

Have you been watching any of these shows? What other gems am I missing by not having a television?

3 Comments + Posted in: Uncategorized

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

Last Thursday was my Mom’s birthday.  Since I was lucky enough to be off of work and school for Spring Break, I had plenty of time to whip up something special for her.  I haven’t been baking as much as I would like these days, and it felt really good to get in the kitchen.  The ritual of mis en place*, the organization required when following a complex recipe, the whir of the kitchen aid mixer, the satisfying “plop” of ganache being poured over something… all very soothing to me for some reason.

This was my first attempt at Boston cream pie, and I was very pleased with the results.  It was a bit of a high maintenance recipe {make the custard, chill the custard, make the cake (which requires whipping egg whites to soft peaks) slice the cake into layers, fill the cake, make the ganache and then coat the assembled cake with the ganache} but I think it was well worth the effort.  Plus it was for my Mom, and she clearly deserves going the extra mile a bit.

The recipe for the cake itself is an interesting one, very different from the buttermilk cakes I’m drawn to the majority of the time.  The addition of beaten egg whites makes it light and fluffy with a gorgeous sheen to the top once it’s baked.

The biggest draw back on this recipe would be that it didn’t hold up well in the fridge.  Usually I would recommend storing cakes at room temperature, but a ganache glaze wouldn’t hold up to such a warm environment so into the fridge it went.  The next day it was pretty dried out.  Not that I let that stop me from eating it for breakfast.  I would recommend baking this cake when you are entertaining – it will serve 6-8 people easily.

Boston Cream Pie

Source: Gale Gand, Sweet Dreams

Ingredients

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pastry cream, recipe follows
Ganache, recipe follows

Pastry Cream Filling:
2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Ganache:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream, boiling

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Add milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined.
Beat an additional 3 minutes on high speed and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium to high speed until soft peaks form.
Pour the egg yolk mixture over the egg white mixture and fold in.
Gently pour the batter into a 9-inch greased pie pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.
Invert the pan onto a wire rack.
Cool completely.

Pastry Cream Filling:
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat.
Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain.
Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated.
Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.
Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan.
Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.
Let cool slightly.
Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.)

Ganache:
In a medium bowl, pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.
To assemble pie, remove the cake from the pan.
Cut the cake in half horizontally.
Place bottom layer on a serving plate or board, and spread with the pastry cream.
Top with second cake layer.
Pour chocolate ganache over and down the sides of the cake.
Store in refrigerator.

Some tips and tricks from The Waspy Redhead:

Though the recipe presents the components in the order of cake, pastry cream, ganache; I would advocate that you start with the pastry cream so that it can be chilling in the fridge while you make the cake.  You’ll still have some down time before the pastry cream has set enough and the cake has cooled, so you don’t need to make the ganache right away.  You could even make the pastry cream the night before.

When it comes time to pour the ganache over the filled cake layers, I highly recommend taking some extra steps to get prepared and prevent mess.  If you are serving the cake on a stand, serving plate or a cake board you’ll want to do the ganache coating on it’s final destination (once you coat it, it will have this glorious smooth texture and moving it will get it all messed up).  To make sure that the drippy ganache doesn’t pool and puddle all over your end product cut 4 pieces of parchment paper to approximately 5×8″ and tuck them neatly under the cake.  This way once you have poured the ganache you can carefully remove each piece of parchment to reveal the clean serving vessel!  If you don’t feel like messing with a serving plate or cake stand that is A-OK.  Just use a wire cooling rack placed over a baking sheet lined with some old newspapers.

*It should be noted that I am not in the least bit disciplined when it comes to mis en place.  When cooking I have a very improvisational and intuitive approach.  I almost never measure, I just eyeball most things (I’m pretty darn accurate with most measurements if I do say so myself).  The only exception is that when I’m baking, I do tend to lay out my ingredients in an organized way.  Even if they aren’t pre-measured and put into delightful tiny glass bowls like I’m on a cooking show – everything I need is set out before I get started.  If a recipe calls for separated eggs, softened butter or anything else high maintenance, I tend to these items first.  This allows me to keep my activity flowing once I do get into the serious mixing magic.

3 Comments + Posted in: Dessert, Recipes

This Friday I Fancy…

This will be the first in what I hope will be a weekly feature here on the blog.  Let me know what you think – are you only here for the food, or are you interested in general & miscellaneous musings of this waspy redhead?

This Friday I Fancy…

Starbucks Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Paninis!!

Go get one.  Now.

You’re welcome.

Digital Photography!!!

Steve got me hooked on his fancy DSLR or Digital Single Reflex Camera, and now I’ve turned into a bit of a snob about it.  Once he showed me just how good my food could look…

…. I haven’t been excited about posting pictures like these

Sadly recipes like this super delicious fried rice just won’t get shared because I don’t feel good about putting really low quality images on the blog.

I’ve been resisting taking the plunge and getting more serious about photography because I’ve felt like I just didn’t have the time (work & grad school strike again).  But I think I’ve reached the point with the blog that I really need to step it up.  Here’s the Canon I’m crushing on…

Unfortunately, my wish list at B & H has a not so pretty price tag attached to it – so I think that for my first entre into digital photography, I’ll be in the market for some used equipment.

Epiphanie Bags!!

When I do make the investment in a DSLR camera, I know that I’ll be rocking one of these chic camera bags designed to look like purses.

Natalie, one of the attendees of Techmunch during SXSW interactive (More on Techmunch to come)

photo credit: SouthernFairytale
Epiphanie bags totally look like a fashionable handbags, but they’re actually super functional camera bags!  The “Bella” bag is the one I’m most smitten with, but there are several styles to choose from.  Check em’ out!

9 Comments + Posted in: Uncategorized

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