Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tangerine Cocktail

Tangerines have been cultivated for over 3,000 years in China. The season is from October to April in the Northern Hemisphere. Most commonly you will peel and eat right away. They have a vivid orange color and are so sweet.  Today we hit almost 80 degrees in the Bay Area and this cocktail was perfect to ring in the first warm day of the year!

Why not create a quick, simple and tasty cocktail to celebrate this beautiful citrus gem. You could certainly substitute the cognac for vodka. It is refreshing and celebrates the change of seasons from Winter to Spring.

Tangerine Cocktail

3 oz fresh tangerine juice
1/2 oz  fresh lemon juice
1 oz ginger simple syrup
1 1/2 oz Cognac

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice & shake well for 15-20 seconds. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a tangerine wedge.

Ginger Syrup

2 C. Water
2 C. Sugar
1 - 2 large ginger root, cut into one inch pieces

In a small saucepan add the water and sugar. Bring to boil while stirring a few times. Reduce to a simmer and add the ginger. Let cook for about one hour. When ready, strain and transfer to a glass container and allow to cool to room temperature.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cake Batter Pancakes with Cinnamon Apples

Ever since being a little girl, I have had a distinct fascination with cake batter. Every time my Mom would make a cake, I was right there by her side to lick the bowl. It did not matter if it was white, chocolate or yellow cake mix – they were all delicious.

Every once in a while when we were little, my Mom would have what she called – “Dessert Dinner”. These were very rare occasions but ever so special. I believe we had these perhaps 3 to 4 times during childhood. She would make banana splits, brownies and even give us a small bowl of cake mix prior to cooking the cake. My Mom tried to make things fun, which as an adult I completely appreciate.

Some of these dessert dinners were outings to Fenton’s Creamery in North Oakland. As a family we would wait in line until a table opened up. Today, Fenton’s is still a tradition with many families and they enjoy the handcrafted ice cream. Fenton’s goes beyond ice cream, with a full restaurant menu. The classic grilled crab sandwich was a favorite among our family. We often enjoyed dinner and dessert. We always left with very full bellies but very happy.

Cake batter is still a favorite. When I saw Baking Serendipity’s post for Cake Batter Pancakes, this was something I had to make. If you have not visited Sarah’s blog, take a peek, you will enjoy. The thought of adding cake mix to pancakes was such a brilliant idea. I added a bit more vanilla and milk to the recipe and opted out of the sprinkles. Instead, I added cinnamon apples to the finished product. Next time, I am going classic old school with simple maple syrup.

Cake Batter Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup yellow cake mix
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk + 2 T.

Combine flour, cake mix, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and milk, and stir until combined. Your batter should be the consistency of regular pancake batter, so if you need to add a little more milk, go for it. Spoon onto greased griddle or large skillet and flip when the edges begin to dry, cooking evenly on both sides.

Cinnamon Apples

3 Large Apples, Granny Smith
4 T. Butter
1/3 C. Sugar
¾ t. Cinnamon
Pinch Ground Cloves
2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
1 t. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Core the apples, then slice and put those slices in half. In large skillet, melt the butter, add the apples, sugar, spices and lemon juice. Cook on medium for about 3 to 5 minutes until the apples are soft yet still firm.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Roasted Beet Carpaccio with Shallot Vinaigrette

Whether you enjoy the ruby red/purple, golden or Chioggia variety, these beautiful gems are magical. The uses are endless. Simply roasting them brings out the sweet wonderful flavor. Add a bit of your favorite dressing, some goat cheese and a bit of toasted pecans and you have a perfect simple salad.

I distinctly remember of photo of when I was a child sitting in at the dinner table with the rich purple color all over my hands and mouth. I completely enjoyed beets as a kid and to this day, they are a favorite vegetable.

One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco is One Market. It has earned the prestigous Michelin star for the fourth consecutive year. In 1993, One Market Restaurant’s eagerly anticipated debut happened and become the pennant for refined dining. Chef Mark Dommen creates farm-to-table food which incarnates a high style approach that embodies intense flavors. The restaurant features an open exhibition kitchen with a special "Chef's Table," private dining rooms, and a luxurious bar.

One of my favorite dishes is Chef Dommen’s Beet Carpaccio radishes, fresh chevre, sherry vinaigrette. The chilled plate has thinly sliced roasted beets that are delicately arranged in a perfect circle. The light dressing of sherry vinaigrette is a perfect compliment along with the goat cheese and slivers of radishes.

The weather this weekend in the Bay Area has been cold and stormy. It beckons me to hibernate inside the house and nest. Cleaning my office was priority number one this weekend. It had gotten out of control with too much clutter and needed a good editing. It is such a wonderful feeling when I am able to clean, put things away and toss unwanted items. My office is a clean workspace now.

Here is my spin on the One Market Beet Carpaccio. Enjoy!!

{ Beet Carpaccio with Shallot Vinaigrette }

Roast Beets

4 Medium Beets
Olive Oil

Rinse any dirt from the beets. Put beets on cookie sheet with a large piece of aluminum foil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Drizzle the beets with a bit of olive oil before roasting. If you are planning on making a salad with the roasted beets, feel free to use plenty of oil. For even roasting of the beets, fold the foil over them and crimp the sides closed.

Roast beets until tender. The amount of time this will take can vary greatly depending on the size of the beets. For smaller beets, start checking them for tenderness at about 25 minutes. Larger and older beets can take up to an hour.

Remove beets from oven when tender. Let sit until cool enough to handle. When beets are cool enough to handle, slip peels off. You can use a paring knife or just rub with your fingers to remove the peels.

Shallot Vinaigrette

1 Shallot, finely minced
1 T. Champagne Vinegar
½ t. Salt
¼ t. Pepper
¼ t. Dijon mustard
3 T. Olive oil

Combine all ingredients together and stir well. Let sit at least 15 minutes to let flavors marry together.

To assemble:

Use a mandoline to slice the beets very thin. Carefully lie in a circle and overlap slightly. Start from the outside and work your way to the middle. Drizzle with the shallot vinaigrette. Using two spoons create quenelles of goat cheese and place on the beets. Garnish with micro greens. Either serve individual servings or on large platter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guinness Beer Bread

2011 is just flying by! It is hard to believe that it is almost St. Patrick’s Day again. I remember it was such a big deal to wear green, especially in grade school – you did not want to get pinched. Today, it is more about going out to your local Irish Pub or cooking a meal of corn beef and cabbage at home. However you celebrate the holiday, I thought it was interesting to learn a bit more about the history of this holiday.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. It is widely celebrated also in Canada, United States, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lent prohibits against the consumption of meat was overlooked and people would dance, drink and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Many years ago, I traveled with my parents and sister to England and Ireland. Since there is Irish heritage on my Dad’s side, I found Ireland to be a fascinating country to visit. It has to have one of the most green country sides I have ever seen. We journeyed to the typical tourist spots such as Blarney Castle, Guinness Factory and the Waterford Factory.

I kissed the Blarney Stone. They say it gives you the gift of gab. It was a bit different than I imagined. You hike several stories worth of stairs to get to the top of this very old castle. Once you arrive at the top, you are basically standing on the roof of the castle and it is fully exposed to the sky. You sit on a stone and then an older Irish gentleman holds your hand as you lay back and tilt your head backwards to kiss the Blarney stone. When your head is basically upside down, you look down about a hundred feet to the bottom while kissing the Blarney stone. What a fun and unique experience.

The tour of the Guinness Factory was intriguing. You see the barley, hops and bottling line. The entire process of making the beer is revealed. At the end of the tour, you land in the tasting room. This Guinness was leaps above the bottled version you buy in the US. It was creamy, rich and quite a decadent treat.

The Waterford tour was simply astounding. They shared that a master cutter for Waterford goes through an apprenticeship for five years and then another 3 years before they are certified as a master cutter. To earn this prestigious pedigree, the master cutter must successfully make every Waterford cut perfectly on this very important bowl, called the Waterford Master Cutter Bowl.

One of my absolute favorite quick breads is Beer Bread. Typically I use a lighter beer, but with this festive Irish holiday upon us, the addition of Guinness seemed like the perfect ingredient. I enjoy it when it is still warm with a generous pat of butter on top. It makes great toast the next morning for a hearty breakfast treat.

Guinness Beer Bread

3 C. Flour
3 T. Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 T. Baking powder
1 t. Salt
1 Bottle (12 oz) Guinness Beer
4 T. Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Open the beer and add all at once. It will foam up and that is what you want. Stir quickly just until combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and drizzle with the melted butter.

Bake until the top is crusty and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then turn the loaf onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Coconut Sticks

My hubby and I had a full weekend of fun, adventure and entertaining! Today, Sunday was supposed to be a day of cleaning and relaxation – well that did not quite happen. However, I did get 30 minutes on the treadmill, so that was a good thing. Then the baking bug hit me.

Several months ago a posting on Lottie +Doof caught my eye and inspired me. It was for Coconut Sticks by Alice Medrich's, from her book - Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt in your Mouth Cookie. After seeing the posting, my mouth began to water and I book marked the recipe for a later date. Carpe Diem – today was the day to create these little coconut gems. I slightly adapted the recipe and method.

I used my last egg in the house this morning and did not quite feel like venturing to the store. I knew that the Coconut Sticks did not require eggs, so I let the baking frenzy begin. This was such simple dough to make and prepare.

The original recipe said to put into a loaf pan, which I bypassed this step. Instead I put on a baking sheet that had sides and decided to cut the shapes out. Essentially it created the same cookie just done a bit differently.

If you love coconut, butter and vanilla – then this cookie is for you. It is crunchy, flavorful, and buttery and the toasted coconut flavor is out of this world.

Coconut Sticks

6 T. butter
2/3 C. sugar
½ t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 C. unsweetened dried coconut
1 C. + 3 T flour
2 T. water

In a medium bowl mix the flour, sugar and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes, add to the flour mixture and coat. Break apart the butter with your fingers until small bits form. Add the coconut and mix. Mid the vanilla and water together, then dump into mixture and work with your fingers. Pinch and gather the mixture until it is moist but crumbly. The dough will not form a smooth, cohesive mass; it will be crumbly, but it will stick together when you press it.

Use a 9 x 13 baking sheet with sides. Pour dough onto pan and pat down until flat and even. About ¼ inch thick and let cool for at least two hours in the refrigerator. Cut strips to one inch wide and then divide into thirds. Carefully remove from pan to a cookie sheet. Place at least one inch apart.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Position rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Bake for 12-17 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to turn golden at the edges. Rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies are most delicious on the day they are baked. May be stored, airtight, for several days. Makes about 25 cookies.

*Adapted slightly from Alice Medrich's – Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt in your Mouth Cookie

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fig Pop-Tarts

My obsession with figs continues. For the longest time I have wanted to make homemade pop-tarts. It is all the rage on the food blogs now with a variety of flavors, versions and adaptations. Thought I would throw my version out into the blog-sphere. And of course, they have a fig filling. I used the fig filling that I made the Sour Cream Fig Sprials but you could use any jam flavor you like.

My hubby is obsessed with pop-tarts. He absolutely loves them, especially if they are the frosted variety. If I am heading for a Target run and ask him if he needs anything – sure enough pop-tarts are on the request list. If I run to Trader Joe’s, they are on the list – he especially loves their version. I mentioned that I was making homemade pop-tarts and his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. He absolutely loved them and asked when I can make them again – great compliment.

The official pop-tart was introduced in 1964 without frosting, but later the frosting was added since it could withstand the heat from the toaster. The frosted version was introduced in 1967 and originally came in four flavors: strawberry, brown sugar, cinnamon, and apple currant. Today the flavors seem endless.

Earlier in the week, I had the baking bug and made these delightful pop-tarts after work. Several hours later, it was time for the 10:00 news and I was just finishing frosting the last batch. I enjoyed one while watching the news – how bad was it that I ate this so late at night – oh well, a treat every once in a while is okay.

The next day, I brought one for each of my team members at one of my offices to enjoy during our morning meeting. Some loved the filling, some loved the crust and others could not get enough of the frosting. It was priceless to see the expressions on each person’s face when they saw they were homemade pop-tarts. Glad I could put a smile on everyone’s face and start the day with a treat.

Fig Pop-Tarts
(Makes 12)

Pate Sucree (From Martha Stewart)

2 ½ C. Flour
3 T. Sugar
1 C. Butter (2 sticks), chilled and cut into pieces
2 Egg yolks
¼ C. Ice water

Use a food processor, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter pieces and process until the mixture is crumbly. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the mixture and pulse until combined. Then stream the ice water into the processor and continue to process until the dough holds together. Remove and divide the dough into two balls and flatten. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Use a large cutting board and generously flour. Lay one of the disks on the floured board. Place plastic wrap on top and begin to roll out to a thin sheet of dough. You will want to rotate the dough after a few rolls with the rolling pin.

Each pop-tart rectangle will be 3 ½ inches by 4 ½ inches approximately.

Each pop-tart will take two pastry squares. Lay one square on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Place about 2 teaspoons of the fig spread in the middle. Carefully lay the top sheet of pastry on top. To seal, use a fork to press all around the pastry and dock the top of the pop-tart by poking 4 to 5 times with the fork.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack. Frost the top of each one and let harden before storing. Keep in an airtight container.

Fig and Orange Spread

1 Pound Dried Figs (about 2 ½ Cups)
½ t. Salt
½ t. Pepper
Zest of one orange
1 C. Orange Juice
1 T. Honey
½ C. Water

Put the figs, salt, pepper, orange zest, orange juice, honey and water in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Cover the pan and bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid is thick. About 30 minutes. Make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate.

Remove from the heat and drain the liquid into a bowl. If needed, add water to the fig juice to total ¾ cup. Blend the figs and liquid in a food processor until smooth. Store in an airtight container.


1 ½ C. Powdered Sugar
1 t. Vanilla
1T + ½ t. Water

Add to a medium bowl and mix well until any lumps are removed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Neiman Marcus Popovers

If you have ever had the pleasure of dining at Neiman Marcus, then you know how wonderful the popovers are when they arrive at your table. The classic strawberry butter that is served along side, just melts on each bite of the crunchy and rich popover. One of the classic starters at Neiman Marcus is the complimentary demitasse cup of handmade chicken consumme with a petite puff pastry bite. The chicken flavor is out of this world and you will surely savor each sip. I first experienced this epitome of luxury at the Rotunda Restaurant which overlooks Union Square in San Francisco.

Mr. Stanely Marcus; or better known as “Mr. Stanley” was a greatly respected businessman whose celebrated acumen and promotional intellect defined and shaped the Neiman Marcus company. He was a second generation contributor to the business with his father, Herbert Marcus being the founder of this marquee company in 1907. Neiman Marcus is synonymous for taste, elegance and flair. He encouraged the chefs to be creative and put a modern twist on traditional recipes. Mr. Stanley focused on the customer.

A few of the notes that Mr. Stanley left for the forward to the Neiman Marcus cookbook are simply the reasons why this special restaurant is so successful. Here is his list:
  • Customers do not like to wait more than two minutes to be recognized and four minutes to be seated.
  • Customers like prompt service of food; Prompt service of breads, jams, and butter; and the service of a waiter one minute after being seated.
  • The manager should be able to quickly inspect a dining room to see if any food has not been eaten.
  • Offer a small dish newly added to the menu without a charge.
  • Know the customers by name and know their habits and taste preferences.
  • Prompt response to the customer’s eye and head signals, especially when it comes to presenting the check.
If you have the opportunity to eat at one of these iconic restaurants at a Neiman Marcus, you will certainly not be disappointed. These popovers take a bit of time to make, but worth every minute - crunchy on the outside and rich on the inside and completely satisfying.


Recipe from Neiman Marcus Cookbook

Makes 12

3 1/2 C. milk
4 C. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
6 large eggs, at room temperature

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F

Place the milk in a bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until warm to the touch. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.

Crack the eggs into the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until foamy and pale in color. Turn down the mixer to low and add the warm milk. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Turn the machine off and let the batter rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Spray a popover tin generously with nonstick spray. Fill the popover cups almost to the top with the batter and place the popover tin on a cookie sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer, until the popovers are a deep golden brown on the outside and airy on the inside.

Turn out the popovers and serve hot with strawberry butter.

Note: The key to making great popovers is having the eggs and milk warm before mixing. It is also important to let the batter sit for an hour before baking it. Popovers do not freeze well, and pre-made batter has a tendency not to work properly the next day.

Strawberry butter (optional)

3/4 C. Strawberry Preserves
1/2 C. Butter

Place the butter in the work bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high until light and fluffy. Add the preserves and beat until well combined.

To serve, spoon or pipe the flavored butter into 2-tablespoon ramekins or onto side plates.

Note: Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. This spread will last for two to three days.

Recipes from the Neiman Marcus Cookbook by Kevin Garvin