Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This Bread is Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

After a few days of rain, and a month of summer weather hanging on for as long as it could, I walked outside today to feel for one of the first times this year, pure and perfect September. Sun shining, the air remains still with the last bit of warmth revered in the months prior, only to break occasionally with a few cool autumn breezes. September, you’ve passed me by so quickly.

Since graduating from college in the spring, this month was filled with a lot of good things, it was just different. It’s an empty, strange, bitter-sweet type feeling when for the first time in your life September no longer means going back to school. On days like today when the weather is just right, it brings back thoughts distinctly reminiscent of the start of school year. After three months of fun in the sun, anticipation and dread swirl around as you are given the opportunity to a fresh start: new clothes, new workload, new notebooks, new people, and new opportunities.

One of the first leaves
 I've spotted turning in my yard.
From making friends on the playground in elementary school to saying goodbye to your parents after being dropped off at college, September is a month of milestones. First day of school memories often resurface at this time of year to haunt me or to bring a smile. Like on day two of high school when every nightmare my newbie mind could have fathomed seemed to unravel at once. After stomping home with anger bubbling through my veins, I stepping through the gates of my backyard to my mom asking, “how was your day?” and that was it. Red in the face and shaking with frustration, I ripped my heavy backpack from my shoulders, heaved it over my head, and like a pro wrestler, slammed it to the ground as hard as I could. “It sucked!” That one always makes me LOL.

Now that I have officially experienced the mind-set of fall, time to move on to some fall food. The cover model of this month’s Cooking Light magazine is a sexy loaf of banana bread—peanut butter banana bread to be exact. I looked at my magazine, then to the rapidly ripening bananas on the counter, and I knew right then what I was making. The magazine features several different recipes for healthy-delicious banana bread; I was drawn to the Bananas Foster variety with rum and brown sugar. Just for fun, I made mini muffin-sized breads instead of a loaf.

Bananas Foster reminds me of working front of the house at CIA’s French restaurant Escoffier, where we would have to prepare the dessert and make it flambé tableside. It also reminds me of the “cooking show” that I produced for my TV 101 class at NYIT where I had a chef demonstrate how to make it. Made up of rum, butter, brown sugar, and bananas over vanilla ice cream, this famous New Orleans dish is hard to resist.

The flavors of Bananas Foster mixed with the spices of the banana bread make a sweet pair. As described in the magazine by Cooking Light’s Kitchen Director, Vanessa Pruett, “it feels decadent enough to be a dessert.” The bread also comes out very moist (from what I’ve read a lot of people don’t like when the term “moist” is used to describe food, but--that’s what it is), and is finished with a glaze that has just the amount of liquor to make you lick your lips.

As I often do with Cooking Light recipes, I seem to go against their intentions and alter the healthy recipe to make it unhealthy. My bad! I’m giving you the original recipe as it was written.

Bananas Foster Bread:
Cooking Light, October 2010

Yield: 16 servings

- 1 ½ cup mashed rip banana
- 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided
- 6 tablespoon butter, melted and divided
- ¼ cup cognac or dark run, divided
- 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 6.75 oz all-purpose flour (about 1 ½ cups)
- ¼ cup ground flaxseed
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- Cooking spray
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Combine banana, ½ cup brown sugar, 5 tablespoons butter, and 3 tablespoons cognac in a nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat; cool. Place banana mixture in a large bowl. Add yogurt, remaining ½ cup brown sugar, and eggs. Beat with a mixer at medium speed.
• Weight or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat until just blended. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; place on wire rack.
• Combine remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, remaining 1 tablespoon cognac, and powdered sugar; stir until well blended. Drizzle over the warm bread.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'll Stir-Fry you in My Wok!

Making your own stir-fry at home is all the fun of Chinese takeout minus the little white boxes, fortune cookies, and indigestion.

Aw man, no fortune cookie? If you’re like me, you look forward to seeing what that tiny piece of paper hidden within the folds has to say; although usually filled with lame advice or some sort of silly generic message about luck, often times it will reveal something remotely inspiring or incidentally true…

Don't hate on my Photoshop skills!

Ever since I got my wok last year, stir-fries have been making a frequent appearance on the dinner menu. They are quick, satisfying, and unlike the implicit mystery gulped down with your last order from Wok and Roll, you know exactly what’s in it.

The smells of stir-frying always elicit memories of my Cuisines of Asia class at the Culinary Institute of America. The second I crack open the sesame oil and the toasty aroma jumps into my senses, I’m right back in that kitchen. Cuisines of Asia is one of the first cuisine classes that you go into after months of basic skills training. Every day I walked into that fully equipped kitchen complete with traditional steel woks, wok burners, and tandoor oven, I was venturing into exciting and intimidating foreign territory.

Absorbing so much culture and being introduced to so many new, different ingredients at once, was a challenge I often felt overwhelmed by. For pop quizzes and tests, we would have to be able to identify dozens of different soy sauces, Asian pastes, and oils laid out in paper cups by taste, color and smell alone. It’s not easy! And the chef was intense. You don’t even want to know about the day I burned the bottom of the rice and thought I could get away with serving it. Who knew that a few extra-toasty grains could make you feel so crappy about yourself? Basically, I was damned if I didn’t serve it and damned if I did. Lesson learned: you’re better off not serving anything than putting out something that’s not completely up to par.

In addition to teaching me quite a few similar lessons, Cuisines of Asia provided me with tons of useful knowledge that I still reference today. It also gave me one of the first kicks in the ass that I needed and the worst grades I ever received in culinary school, second only to Meat Identification and Fabrication. Meat and fish are the first two kitchens you ever step foot in at CIA. Seven days each, they wear down your crisp chef whites and brand new sharp knives real fast. My difficulty to successfully memorize and identify every single cut from every animal in a week was perhaps elevated by the horror film-factor of meats class. In a cold room with wet floors, the smell of death just lingers in the air. How can you not feel like a serial killer when there are full carcasses hanging in the fridge, and bloody bones and meat scraps sitting on band saws? I know, I’m so dramatic.

Simple pork stir-fry over rice.
Anyway, back to stir-frying! This is one of the many stir-fry recipes that I make. I usually don’t write them down, typically following the same basic formula of protein, vegetable, and sauce. This pork stir-fry serves as a great platform to base any variation you would like to make. After browning the meat, in this case, seasoned with fragrent five spice powder, you begin with ginger, scallions, and garlic. This trio is like the mirepoix of Asian cooking. (A mirepoix is made up of carrots, celery and onion, and is the aromatic base of most classic dishes in French cooking).

Next, is the addition of vegetables. You can include whatever you have on hand. For this stir-fry, I used a colorful mix of peppers and crisp snow peas. When making a sauce for stir-fry I always make sure to include an element of every taste profile: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. And for a little bit of added crunch, cashews or peanuts are always a nice addition. I love my wok and highly recommend them for every household. If you don’t have one yet, you can of course use a large, deep sauté pan instead. Happy stir-frying!

Pork Stir Fry:

Yield: 4-6 Servings

- About 2 Tbs of olive or peanut oil
- 5 boneless center cut pork chops, diced into large cubes
- 1 tsp 5 spice powder
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs ginger, minced
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, sliced
- ½ cup snow peas
- ½ cup cashews
- ¼ cup light soy sauce
- 3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 3 Tbs light brown sugar
- ¼ cup slurry ( ½ cornstarch, ½ water whisked together)

• Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl together, except for slurry.
• Mix pork with salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder. Heat 1 Tbs oil in wok or deep sauté pan and cook pork until almost done; set aside.
• Heat 1 Tbs oil in pan or wok. Add garlic, ginger, and scallions and cook for about a minute. Add peppers and cook through. When peppers are almost done cooking, add snow peas. Return pork to the pan. Add cashews and sauce; bring to a simmer. Slowly pour the slurry into the sauce, whisking as you go. Allow sauce to thicken slightly. Serve over rice or noodles.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest Post on Foodie House: Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Loaded Baked Potato!

Loaded Baked Potato Balls
Who doesn’t love a baked potato? Sliced down the center, the steaming, tender golden insides revealed within its crispy skin are an open invitation to any number of toppings; from chili to gravy, and all of the gourmet recipes in between, none can contend with the classic medley of butter, sour cream, crispy bacon, grated sharp cheddar, and fragrant sliced scallions. Try as the others so desperately may, there is no greater compliment to a potato’s naturally delicious quality than these five ingredients together (yes, that is an opinion stated as a fact). Now what if you rolled up all of those tasty elements together in a ball and fried it? Like where this is going?

Read all about it in my guest post over at Foodie House.

Last month, Lauren Zabaneh of one of my favorite blogs, Foodie House, got a new DSLR camera. For fun, she held a contest to name it with the prize of a guest post on her blog and ended up choosing my name, “Snaps” (not just because it snaps pictures, but because they come out good enough to make you say, “Oh, snap!”). While you’re at Foodie House checking out my post, take a look around. This blog is so fun to read; filled with family, humor, engaging stories, and of course, great food, I can bet you’ll love it too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Step Right Up, it’s the Amazing Marzipan! The Cookie that looks like a Fruit!

I’ve always been drawn to marzipan cookies. They stand out behind the glass of the bakery counter, unlike any other; beside rows of cookies topped with sesame seeds, sprinkles, and chocolate chips, to spot a marzipan is like discovering a piece of art. Brightly colored and often shaped as fruit, they barely look edible; in fact, when I was little I didn’t think they were. Then, I tasted one, and it was like forget about it*!

*“Forget about it,” often pronounced, “fugetaboutit.” For more on its usage, refer to Donnie Brasco:

From then on, I remember asking my dad to grab me a marzipan cookie every time he had to run into the bakery. I would always look forward to seeing what kind of “fruit” would be in the bag when he returned. A sweet mixture of almond paste and pure sugar, marzipan is like candy and a cookie in one. It can be molded into anything--people, animals, sandwiches, flowers—but is traditionally spotted in the form of produce like bananas, oranges, and strawberries, realistically painted with food coloring.

Frutta Martorana
The origin of marzipan fruit is rooted in Palermo, Sicily where it is known as Frutta Martorana and is traditionally eaten on All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and is commonly spotted around Christmas time. The nuns of the no-longer existent Monastero della Martorana in Palermo are said to have made these confections to decorate the convent’s empty fruit trees when important guests such as the bishop were coming to visit.

Besides being deceptively sculpted into decorative sugary imitations of other foods, Marzipan is also used inside chocolates and candies, and can be rolled out like fondant to attractively cover fancy cakes. I created my miniature fruits using the leftover marzipan I had bought to use for the bottom layer of the petit fours I made for my tea party.You can find decent pre-made marzipan in the baking aisle of most grocery stores, but it is also very easy to make. Here is a highly-rated, positively reviewed recipe I found that you can try.

You don’t have to be an artist to make these pretty little sugary fruits. You don’t even need to have a steady hand. Mine are very small and dainty, but that’s only because I didn’t have much to work with. You can make them whatever size is easier for you or suits your purpose; maybe you would like to use them as a decoration for a cake, or maybe you just want to put your edible artificial  fruit out on the table to be enjoyed as they are. Once you mold the marzipan into the general shape of your choice, you will be surprised how quickly it comes to life when painted. A simple ball is suddenly an orange when colored as such. To make your fruit even more realistic-looking, you can get creative adding leaves, stems, seeds, and texture.

As you can see, the paint really brings each of the shapes to life. Except in the case of my
sorry little strawberry, which looks more dead than anything.
Making flowers requires a little more crafting and technique, but are barely as difficult as they may appear. See my photo slideshow for a step-by-step visual on how to make a rose out of marzipan:

Making Marzipan Roses:
1) Roll a piece of marzipan into a ball and flatten it. Take the flat circle and fold it around itself.
2) With a slightly larger piece of marzipan, roll into a ball and flatten. Pinch the top of the flat circle a little to form a petal shape; wrap around the first petal. Continue this process throughout, making each layer a little bigger than the next for as many petals as you would like.
3) Once you have completed your rose, I find it to look a little prettier when all or most of the petals are pinched in the middle of their edges for an added bit of texture.
4) If desired, you can paint the finished roses with food coloring. You can also fold the food coloring into the marzipan before you sculpt it but it might be messier and stain your hands.

I am just as impressed by marzipan today, as I ever was. Perhaps what is most remarkable is that while it can be shaped into a presentation of beautiful flowers and Frutta Martorana, it also tastes really good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Sweetest Place on Earth

When entering the hub of this charming Pennsylvania town, you can rely on the signs to tell you where you are, or you can simply follow your nose. If the towering brown smoke stacks branded with the name familiar to every candy counter don’t give it away, or the street lights shaped as Kisses, it’s the smell of chocolate in the air that unmistakably let you know that you are in Hershey.

Home of the infamous Hershey bar, the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania is like the Disney World of chocolate. Rather than a mouse, Milton Hershey built his dream on sugar and cocoa. With the Hershey bar, he found a way to make quality milk chocolate marketable and revolutionized the way it was mass produced. Originally constructed around the Hershey factory in order to provide workers with a place to live, the town of Hershey complete with an amusement park, is now an attraction for families from all over the country and a mecca for chocoholics.

Last week, I entered Hershey with a mission: to eat anything and everything chocolate. Making matters easier, I stayed at the Hotel Hershey, Milton Hershey’s own hotel built in the 1930’s. There, everyone is officially greeted with their own dark or milk Hershey bar (I got the dark), “Kissed” goodnight with a few of the famous foil-wrapped chocolates on the pillow, and coaxed with bowls of assorted fun sized bars waiting around at any turn.

In addition to the candy itself, every menu from one of the hotel’s several restaurants boasted something epically chocolicious—drinks, desserts, entrees—If I saw chocolate, I ordered it. I tasted as much I could until I was busting at the seams like a chocolate-dipped blueberry Violet Beauregarde fit to be rolled to the juicing room by oompa loompas. Roll with me into a chocolate-induced stupor as I relive last week’s sweet memories…

Death by Chocolate Martini:
chocolate vodka, dark chocolate liqueur, dark crème de cacao, chocolate sugar rim, and a Hershey’s Kiss.

Chocolate Cherry Bread with Chocolate Butter.
This was the bread before the meal but it tasted like dessert. Sweet and rich, it was more like chocolate cake and icing. Pretty good start, I’d say!

Cocoa-Dused Scallops
Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie.
There are many knockoffs of this pie out there--this one was the real deal.

Hotel Hershey’s signature chocolate cream pie at Harvest restaurant.
Everything is homemade from the whipped cream down to the chocolate itself. The hotel’s newest restaurant, Harvest is a farm to table eatery that sources only local ingredients.
Mini s’mores cupcake from the hotel’s cupcake shop.

And just in case you didn’t get enough chocolate, placed on the table with the check at the Hotel Hershey's Circular Dining Room: salted caramel, raspberry filled chocolate, and chocolate dipped, chocolate filled, chocolate French macaroon. I had to take them to go! The macaroon was like a brownie; so amazing! The caramel was also delicious. Milton Hershey (pictured) actually started his candy-making career in caramels. 

Since the actual Hershey factory is not open for tours, Chocolate World is one of the town’s main attractions where you can learn the process of how they make their famous sweets. Along with chocolate bars and Kisses, you’ll find other Hershey-made favorites including Reese’s, Jolly Ranchers, Kit Kats, Twizzlers, and of course, chocolate syrup. Here, you can also take a fun crash course in chocolate tasting. Set up much like a wine tasting, you are given a variety of different chocolates ranging from Hershey’s classic milk to artisanal dark. For each different kind, you examine the smell, taste, and sound or “snap.”

When tasting, it was advised to resist biting into the chocolate, allowing it to melt on your tongue in order to pick up the sweet, salty, sour, and bitter profiles. Try it out for yourself sometime and see what you can taste. It is an especially enjoyable way to savor dark chocolate. Similar to wine, chocolate has different flavor notes; it can be floral, citrusy, or woodsy. Hershey sources their cocoa beans from all over the world. Where the beans are from play a large role in what the final product will taste like. For example, if the beans grow in a tropical forest around banana and citrus plants, you may pick up some of those notes in the chocolate.

I think I accomplished my chocolate eating mission, tenfold! And I’m still not tired of it! As a matter of fact, all this talking about it makes me want a peice right now...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Foodbuzz 24 x 24: Tea Party for Ovarian Cancer Research

A woman is like a teabag.
It’s only when she’s in hot water that you realize how strong she is.
– Nancy Reagan

Saturday, September 4th, my great-grandmother’s tea set awaited guests atop an embroidered tablecloth that lay just-so over the dining room table. Among the fragile tea pots and flowered tea cups, were tiers of crustless sandwiches and plates piled high with cookies, scones, and tiny cakes. Each place setting was adorned with linen napkins tied in ribbons of teal--the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness.

Much to my pleasure, I was chosen to take part in Foodbuzz’s September 24 x 24; each month, the food blogging site selects 24 of its Featured Publishers from around the globe to post about a unique meal that occurs within a 24 hour period. This month, Foodbuzz and Electrolux have joined forces to donate $250 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for each participant hosting a meal. All together, that is a $6,000 contribution!

I immediately knew that I wanted to host a tea party. Afternoon tea is all about women taking a break, getting together to be fabulous, fashionable, and girly. They’re classy, steeped in tradition, and are deliciously abundant with dainty sweets and savory finger foods. I’ve always thought about having one, and this was the perfect time. What better occasion to get the girls together than to help support a cause and each other?

Anna, the Duchess of Afternoon Tea
The custom of serving food with tea and the rituals we have come to associate with tea parties began and evolved in England. According Koren Trygg and Lucy Poshek, authors of the book Afternoon Tea, snacking during tea time is often accredited to Anna, Duchess of Bedford in the 1700’s. The Duchess began serving tea and light fare to her guests at around 4 o’clock to hold them over between meal periods which then consisted of a large breakfast, light lunch, and late dinner. She was quite the trend setter, as ladies soon began inviting friends over to do the same. As time went on, afternoon tea became a social practice where proper etiquette between the hostess and guests were values to be judged for. From the conversation down to the lace tablecloth, how a woman served her tea dictated the kind of lady that she was.

Today, gathering for tea is rooted in much the same purpose as when it first began: it is time to unwind in a pleasant atmosphere while enjoying the company of friends. Although the rules of appropriate etiquette surrounding tea parties are strict and often debated (what’s with the pinky? Up or down, rude or not? I’ve read arguments on both sides), it is fun to just relax and act as proper as you consider appropriate.

Guests at the tea party were my Grandma, Mom, Aunt Jo, Cousin Eloise, and family friend, Ann. All in pearls, we put on our best British accents and said things like, “one lump or two?” A table full of New York girls, we laughed at our exaggerated and often unsuccessful attempts at being overtly proper and dainty. The accents quickly faded but the laughs remained as we conversed over the aromatic scent of steeping teas. Classical music played softly between the clinking sound of spoons against china, and our plates piled with seconds and thirds of the spread offered before us:

Assorted Hot Teas


Fruit Platter

Cakes and Cookies:

**Click on each menu item for full recipe.**
All recipes are also available in the "print recipes" tab under the link "Tea Party Menu."  

Assorted Tea Sandwiches: Cucumber and Watercress with Herbed Cream Cheese; Gorgonzola and Pear; Turkey with Goat Cheese and Mango-Cranberry Chutney 
Tea sandwiches, light, and usually crustless, can easily be devoured in just a few bites. When preparing the sandwiches, I made sure that there were at least three for each person. Cucumber is the classic, and is typically the first kind of sandwich that comes to mind when one thinks of a tea party; I also added watercress to mine. The pear and gorgonzola sandwich was good; it was kind of like eating the elements of a cheese plate in between bread. Overall, the turkey with goat cheese and homemade mango-cranberry chutney was the favorite of the group.

Smoked Salmon bites with Dill and Chive Crème Fraiche on Rye

Devilled Eggs garnished with Chives and Cayenne Powder

Tea Scones and Mock Devonshire Cream
It just wouldn’t be a proper tea party without scones. Made with raisins, we enjoyed them the traditional way, topped with a smear of jam and a dollop of Devonshire cream (also known as clotted cream). Technically, it is not possible to make Devonshire cream in America as we do not have Devonshire cows, but an equally delicious substitute can be made simply by whipping heavy cream with sugar and folding in sour cream. The tender flaky scone with the sweetness of the jam and silky cream is a combination understandably fit for the Queen (and for us).

Spinach and Feta Quiche with Olive Oil Crust
All of the baking in this menu was a little bit challenging but rewarding all the same. It seems that baking never lets me win without a fight. Through frustration, minor panic, and emergency fixes, everything worked out fine in the end. One of the snags I ran into was with the olive oil crust for the spinach and feta quiche. After cooling in the refrigerator overnight, the dough had amassed into a crumbly, oily, brick. I was able to fix it with some water and extra flour, but unfortunatly am not confidant enough to give out the recipe. I am giving the recipe for the quiche itself, which ended up being one of my personal favorites. I literally ate the leftovers every day until only scattered crumbs remained at the bottom of the pie plate.

Light and airy lemon angel food cake compliments of the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.

Petit Fours
Be it in the company of the Queen sipping out of porcelain or the Mad Hatter giggling witlessly at the table’s end, the tea parties I’ve imagined are completed with a plate of dainty petit fours, just like these. I was most excited and simultaneously intimidated by making these darling little cakes. Enveloped in a glaze of white icing, three layers of sweet almond frangipane cake each spread with apricot jam sit atop an underlying sheet of marzipan. And they don't just look good, they taste great too! Think Italian rainbow cookie. They were definitely the star of the party.

Petit Four Assembly
Making the petit fours was a process, but went much smoother than I had expected. The only time it got a bit messy was covering them in the icing; the above photos show every step of the cake’s assembly up until that point. After baking the cake and cooling, then layering and cooling again, you cut the cake into squares (or any shape of your choice), and get to glazing. Petit Fours are often topped with a piped design or filigree. If you choose to go that route, make sure that the icing is dry. Decorative sprinkles such as the ones I used also make a nice presentation, but must be applied while the glaze is still wet.

Mini Cream Puffs filled with Honey Pastry Cream and Chantilly Cream
Pate a choux and pastry cream, the two components that make up the cream puffs are each complex enough for their own blog post, so I’m going to try and keep it as simple as possible. Pate a choux is a classic airy pastry famous for its use in éclairs and cream puffs. The dough is first cooked in a pot until it comes together and is transferred to an electric mixing bowl where the process is completed. The end result is more like a batter: it is so soft and creamy that is must be piped into its desired shapes. In the oven, it magically puffs up into the pastry we all know and love. Pastry cream is custard basically made up of milk, sugar, starch and eggs. It must be cooked and stirred vigorously over heat until it comes to a boil and thickens. The most intimidating aspect of making pastry cream is maintaining the balance between getting the mixture hot enough to thicken, without scrambling the eggs.

Linzer cookies with traditional hazelnut Linzer dough, filled with homemade raspberry jam from the farmers market.
  Grandma's favorite.

Check out these flowers. The florist was able to make this beautiful arrangement right inside of a tea pot.
How cute is that?
The tea party went as fabulously as I had always imagined having one would be. For a few hours, it was if my family and I had travelled back to the Victorian Era. Dressed in our most appropriate attire for the occasion, we acted like ladies, but in our hearts we were all just little girls playing tea party. The food and the company were all wonderful; as everyone’s first real tea party, it was a memory that none of us will soon forget. Knowing that this event was helping to spread awareness and benefit such an important cause as Ovarian Cancer Research made it all even sweeter.

Ovarian Cancer tragically takes the lives of thousands of women every year. It is a disease that often strikes unexpectedly. As early detection can save a life, The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund works to educate the public and fund research to ultimately find a cure. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Click here to learn more about the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and find out how you can show your support.

Thank you, Foodbuzz and Electrolux!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Baby Eggplant Carpaccio Salad

I found these tiny white and purple eggplants at the farmers market beneath the label, “Italian baby eggplants.” They were among the last remaining in a largely depleted crate that I imagined were once stacked to the brim only a few hours earlier. “What cute little babies!” I thought, and adopted them for my own. I walked away without the slightest clue of what would become of them. The adventure was entirely in the mystery.
Have you ever seen a white eggplant?
Although most recognized as being large and purple, the eggplant has many different identities. The first eggplant to reach Europe in the Middle Ages was actually a rare white variety. Small, round, and pallid, can you guess what it looked like? An egg! And so, the name “eggplant” came to be, and stuck even when the plant’s fruit no longer looked much like an egg at all. Green, white, yellow, striped, and in an array of different shapes and sizes, eggplant varieties are vast with origins that span across the globe.

At one time, when the eggplant was still just a misunderstood fruit, it was referred to as “mad apple” because it was thought to make you go crazy if you ate it. Obviously, this myth was busted a long time ago, but I did feel a tinge of insanity; not from eating the baby eggplants, but from wondering what to do with them. There are so many ways to prepare eggplant: baked, fried, grilled, sautéed, and stuffed— just about any way you want, really. But these were so little and I wanted to make them in a way that would show off their adorably distinct quality.

I thought and thought, and came up with this baby eggplant “carpaccio” salad. The thin slices of eggplant layered in a flat circle on the plate reminded me of the thinly sliced meat or fish in a carpaccio dish. If you make this salad, keep a watchful eye on the oven as the eggplant cooks super fast; I burnt my first batch. The tahini dressing really made the dish. This small thin variety of eggplant is available in the summer through September. I also suggest using Japanese eggplant because they are very similar in size.

I also sautéed the baby eggplant with tomato, onion, and garlic
in simple spaghetti topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
P.S. Had a great tea party yesterday for Foodbuzz's September 24 x 24 in support of Ovarian Cancer Research. I made tons of good stuff! Keep an eye out for my post on Wednesday, September 8th.

Baby Eggplant Carpaccio Salad with Tahini Dressing:

Yield: 1 Serving

- 2-3 Italian baby or Japanese eggplants, thinly sliced on mandolin
- ½ tsp tahini paste
- Lemon juice from ½ lemon
- ¼ tsp honey
- 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
- A few leaves of mint and basil, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mixed greens (optional)
- 1 tsp crumbled goat cheese

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay out slices of eggplant on a sheet pan, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put in oven for about 5 minutes. Keep a watchful eye as they can easily burn.
• In the meantime, make the dressing: combine tahini paste, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in extra virgin olive oil until an emulsion is formed. Add mint and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
• Arrange eggplant slices on a plate. Top with mixed greens and goat cheese crumbles. Pour tahini dressing over eggplant and greens.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

That's Corny!

There’s something to be said for corn in the summer, particularly corn on the cob. The all-American accompaniment to barbeques, clam bakes, and backyard cookouts, summer memories are made with a side of bright yellow corn.

Whether a dining room full of country club members with lobster bibs tied over their golf shirts, or a bathing suit-clad family hanging out around a picnic table by the pool, you’re sure to recognize the familiar crunches and slurps of fresh corn on the cob being enjoyed on a hot summer day. There are no restraints when it comes to eating this laid back vegetable in its natural form. With a barehanded grip on each end, teeth feverishly move back and forth over sweet kernels like breaking news over a typewriter carriage. The aftermath: corn juice on your cheeks, up your nose, and a kernel-filled smile to match.Although an unattractive scene, it’s moments like these one finds themselves dreaming about just around mid-January as they freeze their butts off, watching the snow pile up around their car.

The last moments of summer weather are officially upon us here in New York. During the day, the sun beats down heavy, but it is at night when you can feel fall slowly creeping its way in. There is a distinct feeling when the wind blows; it’s in the sounds of the trees and the smell of the air. As if the too-soon display of Halloween decorations in store windows were not enough of a reminder--summer is just about gone.

As you say “so long” to summer at your Labor Day cook outs, take the time to savor the last few bites of corn until next year. Grilled ears of corn topped with lime aioli, melted Gouda cheese, and cayenne go beyond butter, livening up and highlighting the unmatched essence of summer inside each kernel. The melding of sweet and charred flavors in the corn is comparable to popcorn. The aioli incorporates a zesty flavor from the lime, while the melted Gouda adds bite and richness. Complimenting the flavors from the grill, the finishing touch is a dusting of smoky cayenne powder.

This recipe was inspired by items I picked up at my recent trip to the farmers market.You can make your own aioli or garlic mayonnaise from scratch, or you can save yourself some whisking and use good-old store bought mayo and simply incorporate the garlic.

Grilled Corn with Lime Aioli, Gouda Cheese, and Cayenne

Yield: 4 Servings

- 4 ears of corn
- ½ cup homemade aioli or store bought mayonnaise
- 1 lime, juiced and zested
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup grated Gouda cheese
- Cayenne powder to finish
• For the aioli: in a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise or homemade aioli, lime juice and zest, garlic (if using store bought mayo), salt and pepper.
• Husk corn and place directly on the grill over medium-high heat until you achieve an even char all around the cob. Just before you are about to take the corn off the grill, brush aioli all over kernels. Sprinkle cheese over one side and heat until melted. Finish with a quick dusting of cayenne.