Eat Beast Update #6 - He's a Big, Spicy Meatball

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's been a while since we had an Eat Beast update, so I guess it's time to bring you back into the fatty fatty fat fat kitty cat loop. Well, Rob and I are still trying to teach him some manners, but most of it to no avail. In fact we've started using his gluttony for out own entertainment and are attempting to simply use that voracious momentum to our advantage.

We've learned in addition to limes, he won't eat radishes. Too stinky. He'll bat them around, but not eat them. He also has an odd habit of smacking them at Cid, who also hates radishes and runs from them. You have to imagine the scene: Cat runs by, followed closely behind by a radish skidding across the floor, followed by a fuzzy black blob.

He will however, lick chili powder off the counter. Let me explain, we read that by sprinkling chili powder and cayenne pepper around places we do not want the cats to go, they'll be so offended by the smell and by trying to lick it off their paws that they'll just avoid the area all together.

Not so with Eat Beast. Eat Beast simply proceeded to simply lick THE ENTIRE COUNTER CLEAN. Not a speck of cayenne or chili powder was left. I was grossed out and astounded all at the same time. I was also very sure to clean the entire area with comet to remove the fine coat of cat spit from my food prep area (YUM! he also licks his butt! gotta love that tongue all over your counter!).

I'm not kidding. He's also taken to some red chili's I had left hanging to dry out, so I had to move them outside where he wouldn't get to them. I mean hell, most PEOPLE can't eat like this.

He wasn't sick at all. He simply ate it all in stride. No pain.

As for using his appetite to my advantage I have used his food to teach him to stand and beg at a startling pace. I guess gluttony can inspire the most slothful creatures to do the amazing.

We also trick him into the tub for bath times by throwing a kernel of food in. He dives in after it, completley oblivious that we have now fooled him into his watery torture about 8 times now the same way, and then BAM!, he gets hit with the soaking heavy towel (to pin him down due to the fact that five of his six ends are sharp and pointy; plus it's much easier than running water) and shampoo.

I'm hoping to teach him more tricks, but he has no attention span, so I think stand up is about as good as it will get. He gets too anxious to actually sit down and be still when he sees the treat, the fat fuzzy bastard.

Lucky Me! Plum Crepes on a Monday Morning.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Love is your partner getting up extra early to make you crepes in the morning.
In case you wanted to show some good lovin' to someone special of yours, here's his recipe.

Rob's Morning Crepes
2 eggs
1 cup of milk

2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract -or- scrapings from 1 vanilla bean

What You'll Do...
1) Combine all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour.

2) Heat a shallow frying pan over medium high heat and give a light coat of oil. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan, tilting and rotating it to cover the entire surface. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, flipping it over only once, until it's golden. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

3) Fill and roll with your favorite ingredients. (Rob used some plum jam which was divine.)

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Five spice is a classic Chinese condiment that embodies the 5 main senses of taste - salty, sour, sweet, savory, and bitter. A unique flavor profile if you haven't had it before and tastes great on meat dishes. The main combination consists of cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, and ginger root though some have been known to switch out ginger for Szechuan pepper or cassia buds instead of cloves.

Regardless of the mix, it all pairs beautifully with chocolate. These cupcakes utilize high quality, high cacao percentage chocolate for a very dark bittersweet taste, which acts as the perfect backdrop for the full bloom of flavors from the five spice powder.

The five spice cream cheese is also spiked with a bit of ground ginger for a bit more oomph. It's definitely a tasty treat that's familiar and exotically fragrant.

Rob really liked this one and wanted them again, however I was busy and out of chocolate and eggs. Plus, pay day was still a whiles away (goddammit). So I did what anyone would do. I cheated. I used devil's food box mix, which is fine and tastes great too. It's a lot fluffier as box mix tends to be, so if that's the texture you want or want to save some time go this way. Both recipes are below.

Serving them with a small bit of candied ginger is a nice touch and a great way to finish off an Asian inspired meal for friends and family. This cupcake is by far one of my top favorites, and once you try it, I'm sure you'll agree.

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
200 grams of bar chocolate 62-70% cacao (Scharffen Berger is wonderful)
3 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
8 eggs
1-1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder 70% cacao
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of Chinese Five Spice powder

What You'll Do...
1) Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (a double boiler works great too). Stir until chocolate melts and combined with the butter.

2) Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes to thicken.

3) Place the bowl back into the mixer and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.

4) Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds before adding the next.

5) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until just blended.

6) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking.

5 Spice Cream Cheese Frosting
What You'll Need...
1 8oz. package of cream cheese
1/4 cup of butter
3-4 cups of powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice

1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scraped down the sides and bottom.

2) Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the ginger and five spice. Spread on cooled cupcakes. Decorated with chopped candied ginger.

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Cupcakes (Box Mix Version)
one 18.25 oz package of devil's food or dark chocolate cake mix
1 1/3 cups of water
1/2 cup of oil

3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons of Chinese Five Spice powder

Combine all ingredients together and mix for about two minutes at medium speed. Place in cupcake papers and bake at 350F for 19-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Bits of Foodish Wisdom That Spurned From My Foul Mood

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I am making a giant vat of cookie dough right now. Because when it rains, it pours. And when it pours, make cookie dough and eat it by the spoonful. So while I indulge in sweet smelling baked goods, let me impart some other bits of wisdom brought on through anger of my car's tire breaking... for the third time. And learning the people who fixed my brakes broke the bolts. And waiting outside in 100 degree heat for 2 hours.

When life gives you lemons, heave 'em back at life's face and chuck in a couple of your own.

Don't cry over split milk. Instead, lose it in front of everyone while you rock yourself in a corner covering your ears and squeezing your eyes shut. Then cry. It's much more dramatic and wins far more sympathy.

If you spill salt, remember to toss some over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck. Plus, you may get someone in the eye. Nothing helps a bad mood more than passing it on to someone else.

The second you take off your sandals to walk around in the grass barefoot to wait for the taxi to take your sweaty-from-the-heat ass home and abandon your car at work (praying it doesn't get vandalized in some way), that will be the moment you step on the apricot pit you forgot you discarded only mere moments ago.

And because it's funny, to the vegetarians I say this; red meat is not bad for you. Smelly, old, greenish-brown meat is.

That has nothing to do with bad things, but damn it, it makes me smile a bit. As does this following joke. What is a robot's tongue made of?

Wait for it...

Tungsten! Get it!?

Anywhose, cheers everybody. Will do my best to post something more substantial and less angry tomorrow. I'm going to brood over how to pay for all this car repair with my cookie dough now.

Tagine of Chicken & Lemon

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I love my tagine, it's the best little piece of earthenware ever. This recipe is really simple and I just kinda winged it. It's citrusy, fragrant, fruity, and flavorful. If you don't have a tagine for this dish, a covered casserole dish or even an open Pyrex dish will be fine, but a tagine is great for circulating the moisture and flavor, and gets points for presentation. I also used some plum conserve that Elise gave me, which added a nice fruity sweetness to the dish, but use what you have. The recipe is adaptable and quite forgiving.

This recipe is a new favorite of mine, and one that will be revisited again and again.

Tagine of Chicken & Lemon
What You'll Need...
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of black pepper
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 chicken breasts
1 cup of chicken broth
1 lemon or preserved lemon
some chopped prunes, dried apricots, plum conserve, or a few spoonfuls of raisins (whatever of these you have, just toss in a small amount of it, I used about 3 spoonfuls of conserve)

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Rub the chicken with the cinnamon, black pepper, and ground ginger, then let sit for an hour, covered, in the fridge.

2) Place the olive oil and turmeric in a saucepot or skillet, mix, and heat over medium high heat. Place the chicken breasts in and sear on each side to seal in the juices. The chicken should brown a bit and be very fragrant. About 2-3 minutes.

3) Place the chicken in the tagine or other oven safe dish to rest. Toss in the onions into the sauce pot or skillet so they can get a very quick sear and soak up the rest of the turmeric and oil. About 30 seconds.

4) Place in the tagine over the chicken. Add the chicken broth and fruit. Place a few slices of lemon over it, and cover. Place in the oven for 35 minutes.

5) Let sit for 5 minutes to cool a bit, then serve with rice or couscous.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I have a love-hate relationship with Crate & Barrel. I love the furniture, but hate how far out of my price range it all is. But someday, after I rig the lottery get a high paying job and earn the money (yeah, right, I plan to teach once my M.A. is done) I'll get that awesome table set.

Anyways, I was there replacing the tagine my mom got for me; it had cracked in the oven so I needed to pick up a new one. When exchanging it, the girl behind the counter informed me to my utter delight that the tagine was now on sale so I was free to roam the store and trivially spend an extra $2o.

Oh, the joy of frivolously spending free money!

As I danced in my own candy store, hovering over place mats, fawning about the flatware, enveloping myself in curtain samples, and mentally putting together future bedroom sets in my head I couldn't help but smile. Then suddenly a shrill cry shattered the air whilst I was fondling the display bedding.

"Oh, we can just get this table! It's no worry, if my husband doesn't like it, we'll give it to someone else, or take it back, or throw it away or whatever!"

I stared at her, and her tight, tan, personally trained body. Her suspiciously perky breasts. Her too taught face with a slight bit of healing still occurring around the professionally highlighted hairline. She waved her bangled wrists as she motioned to some benches. "Package these up too! They look good with this table!" They didn't.

"Ooo! What's this?" she squealed to the poor part-timer whom she had enslaved. She strolled up to the tagine display.

"A tagine. It's used in African cooking or something."

"I'll get one of those too, it'll look good on the mantle." She then gracefully turned around on her Gucci 3 inch heels and went to conquer another section of the store.

And I was angry.

I was, in fact, furious. For lots of reasons. For self-deserving air-heads being able to do what I could only wish for simply because they were born well-off and married rich. Angry that she didn't seem to care about anything but looks and possessions. Angry that I was only just starting grad school, and had so long to go until I could get a home of my dreams. Even then, I doubt I could do it on a whim, like her.

And then, I calmed down. I'm 24. My life is pretty good where it is, and I'm working hard to make it better. Plus, she might get scarring from the plastic, and her skin is destined to become like a weathered leather handbag you find in your granny's attic, so yayness there.

We all succumb to jealousy. We're only human after all. Plus, I at least know how to use the tagine.

French Vanilla Cupcakes with Rose Meringue

Sunday, August 19, 2007

French vanilla isn't actually a type of vanilla (for that list see this post), but rather a designation used to describe vanilla recipes that have heavy vanilla scent and contains vanilla grains. The name comes from the French style of making ice cream using egg yolks, cream, and vanilla beans. So when I tried to find a French vanilla cake recipe to study, not surprisingly, there didn't seem to be any. Anything I did find was just white cake mix with a smattering of random ingredients that varied from almond extract to gross amounts of cornstarch depending which recipe you read.

I then decided to make my own and take some inspiration from the ice cream method. I used lots of fresh vanilla, a few extra egg yolks, and a bit of cream with the milk for a rich cake that was moist and dense, yet still had a nice crumb. A simple meringue flavored with a bit of rose water was the perfect finish. Sweet, flavorful, and a nice textural match to the cake.

It took many, many, many tries to get this one to come out to something I like and would write up. They still brown a bit around the edges a bit more than I would prefer, but that doesn't affect the taste at all.

In trying to make the cake comparable to a French custard like ice cream, this cake is heavy, dense, and very powerful in flavor. I can see this recipe making for a wonderful layer cake as well. It's a comforting cupcake perfect for meeting the soon to come chilly winds that will be heralding in the fall.

French Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 24 / 350F Oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups of sugar or vanilla sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 egg yolks, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup of cream
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

What You'll Do...
1) Beat butter on high until soft for 30 seconds.

2) Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.

3) Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.

4) Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda, in a bowl.

5) Measure out milk and vanilla extract in another glass. Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add them to the milk.

6) Mix in the flour mixture then the milk mixture, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Mix throughly.

7) Scoop into cupcake papers about 1/2 full (due to the custardy nature of the batter, it is imperative you mix the ingrdients thuroughly and only fill halfway to avoid overflow or deflation, but frosting always covers up these little flaws so no huge worries if it happens).

8) Bake for 18-22 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Rose Meringue
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of rose water (ideally, you could also use orange blossom water, or vanilla extract as well)

What You'll Do...
Whisk the egg whites and medium speed for 30 seconds, then go to high speed. When frothy, slowly add the sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Add the rose water and whisk for a moment more. Be sure that everything and your hands are totally clean, the slightest bit of oil can screw a meringue.

I had quite a bit left over after all this, so I popped the meringue in little dollops into the oven at 350F for 30 minutes on top of some baking paper for some rose meringue cookies. Yum!


Me: "I smell bacon. Are you eating bacon? You can't eat bacon."

Jewish Friend Aaron: "Well, here I am eating it, so I guess that shoots down your theory."

"You can't because you're Jewish. You're being a bad Jew, you're cousin is so gonna kill you."

JFA: "Only if I get caught. The act of not eating kosher is only defined by the act of getting caught.

Me: "And by holy scripture, plus G-d is watching."

JFA: "He's too busy, it's other Jews I watch out for."

Me: "So thank G-d for tic-tacs?"

JFA: "Precisely."

Me: "Still, when did you get a love for bacon?"

JFA: "My uncle slipped it to us when we were kids. We were corrupted early. Bacon and Melissa Ethridge." My friend throws the horns and head bangs a bit before taking another bite of bacon burger.

Me: "Still, doesn't G-d get pissed when you eat meat with dairy, shellfish, and pig?"

JFA: "Don't forget camel. For Jews, camel is the other forbidden white meat."

"Really? No camel?"

JFA: "Nothing with cloven hooves and that chews it's own cud."

"I'll keep that in mind. But seriously, why bacon for lunch today and not, say, oysters?"

"Well, sometimes I really really just have a craving for it, so I sneak a piece by ordering a burger with bacon on it. It's religiously painful, but it gives me joy. Sue me."

Me: "So you're a matzochist?"

JFA: "Ha ha, Clever. I am so using that come Passover."

Faux Bon Vivant

Friday, August 17, 2007

This is an old post I wrote but never got around to putting up.

As the grand bon vivant, it is always a pleasure to grace only the finest restaurants with my presence. I delight in the fact that every owner has my picture posted, red pen encircling my face with a warning to host and waiter alike that due reward will be given to anyone able to spot me, should they distinguish me from my alias and disguise. My mere presence when announced sends fear to the owner, and chef quibble prostrate behind kitchen doors wondering how my affable opinion will either make or ruin them. And with show and ostentation, I put the meal on my tab and float out the door, for this has just been another night of fabulous foods and delectable wines for me!

For I am, the Restaurant Critic.


Apparently, this is how some people view me and other food bloggers when we critique restaurants. Which I gotta say, is pretty far from the truth. I mean, eating like this is how I would use a wish on a monkey's paw, only without the curse part preferably.

I recently received an e-mail which basically accused me of being stuffy and perceiving myself as "all deserving to critique food," and it was my ordained task to do so. He was upset that I could "pass judgment on restaurants which work hard and have years of cumulative experience in their staff to create a fine dining scene."

Let's do a reality check for a moment.

I am not Ruth Reichel, Mike Dunne, Kate Washington or Frank Bruni. I am a 24 year old grad student who works in the non-profit arena, writes for a local food magazine, and has a blog. I had hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls and cheese last night for a quick meal for Christ's sake (which was yumtastic). I was able to interview the new chef at The Firehouse for Edible Sacramento, the whole time knowing I'll never eat there as it's like $200 a meal. It's like I'm freakin' Tantalus or something.

What makes me a "restaurant critic" is that I go out and spend my own money for a fun time out and a good meal with friends. I then write about my experience. That's it. I have been eating food for years and doing my best to educate myself; does that not qualify me to judge the food that I pay for and eat? I think so.

If someone can gain insight to deciding to go out to a certain venue based on my experience, then great. If they disagree then they had a different experience than I did, and that's to be expected. Everyone will experience a meal differently.

But to call me snooty? Gurl, please.

Who doesn't critique the food they eat? Be it mom's home cooking, KFC, or The French F***ng Laundry, I'm going to analyze what's in my mouth (insert dirty joke here). Plus, going out is a special occasion I can do once in a while since I live in a two income household, budget like a crazy cat lady, and have no kids to worry about. Thus, I can go out to eat every so often.

Do I go to the Waterboy every damn night? No, I like to go to small mom and pop places, bars, coffee shops, and everything else that serves food. And far more often than not, I cook at home.

So in response, get over yourself, and maybe go have a nice meal, critique it based on your experience, and have some fun. And I'll bet money, you'll review it to all of your friends the next day.

Late Summer Galette with Stone Fruit & Thyme

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oh me, oh my, what a recipe! It is my opinion that stone fruit and thyme are a combination made in heaven! I use thyme in bread puddings, cupcakes, and a variety of other sweet n' savory goods. Tasters are never able to guess what it is, but curiosity always takes a back seat to the desire for a second bite.

This galette is no exception. Thyme's warm, earthy flavor along with the fruit is just made to be eaten at the beach or alongside a cup of iced tea with lemon. When you match the verdant and primal flavors of thyme with a variety of sweet-tart stone fruit it's divine proof that God is not only out there, you're doing her will in the kitchen.

Late Summer Galette
I really have to send props to Elise of Simply Recipes. For the crust I used her recipe. And it worked! I MADE CRUST! You don't understand, my crusts are always sheet rock. This was yummy and flaky! This is also her basic plum galette recipe with a few alterations I made for what I had on hand. Feel free to switch out the stone fruit as you see fit. I used 6 different kinds.

What You'll Need...
1 recipe pate brisee pie crust
1 peach or nectarine, pitted and sliced

5-6 small stone fruits such as pluots, plums, Italian plums, apriums, apricots, or whatever all pitted and sliced

1/2 cup of chopped almonds
Zest from one lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons of chopped thyme

2 tablespoon of flour

1/2 cup of sugar

1) In a medium sized bowl, gently toss the fruit slices with the thyme, lemon ze
st, flour and sugar.

2) Preheat oven to 375°F. If you are using homemade chilled pie dough, remove it from the refrigerator to let stand for 10 minutes before rolling out.

3) Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the pie dough to a 13-inch round of even thickness.

4) Place rolled-out pie dough in the center of a small-rimmed, lightly buttered baking sheet. Place plum mixture in the center of the pie dough round, leaving a border of 2 inches on all sides. Fold the edges of the pie crust up and over so that circle of the filling is visible.

5) Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a rack for an hour before serving.

Kitchen Bitchin' for Fig Ice Cream

Monday, August 13, 2007

If David Lebovitz will have me, I would like to be his kitchen bitch. I can clean the oven, dice fresh produce, and clean dishes all while wearing a skimpy little outfit even. That's how much I seriously love his ice cream book.

The fig ice cream has been thus far my absolute favorite ice cream in the book. Not that the rice pudding gelato, cheesecake ice cream, or endless sorbets haven't been absolutely fantastic. But this one is just *UNH!* It's the bee's knees. Pure ecstatic pleasure; like driving down a bumpy old dirt road in a car with bad shocks. (I bet I get an angry e-mail about this post...)

This ice cream is great with some honey and pairs harmoniously as a side to a cheese plate; we had a bit of manchego on the side for us. It's insanely sweet, but really extols the heady nature of figs. The figs have come into full season at the farmer's market, so be sure to head down, pick some up and make this ice cream.Fresh Fig Ice Cream
From David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

2 lbs fresh figs (about 20)
1/2 cup of water 1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
3/4 cup of sugar

1 cup of heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon of freshly squeezed, lemon juice, or more to taste

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a
medium, nonreactive suacepan with the water, and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8-1o minutes until the figs are tender.

Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend together with cream and lemon juice, chill in the fridge and then put in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions.

So F***ing Gross

Sunday, August 12, 2007

So I was at Costco picking up some staple items like butter and razors and whatnot. Now, I've learned to keep a keen eye whenever I go there. It's like trudging through the marshes of Vietnam; every single sound or rustle may be the first warning of an attack. Or liken it to walking in the middle of a herd of water buffalo, you have to be ready to run and keep an open ear out. Anything can start a stampede.

Likewise, the crowds are dangerously restless, each individual armed with a cart loaded up with so much bulk pantyhose and soda water that the thing is weighted like a tank. They drive recklessly and without any restriction. Every man for himself.

They also dangerously circle those free sample stands. I try to avoid them like the plague. Nothing is worse than being right in front of the sample stand when the little old lady announces the Otis Spunkmeyer cookies are done. If you're lucky enough to escape being trampled like a stray cigarette butt on the street, you're a salmon fighting your way upstream out of the horde. I like to picture I am escaping zombies when that happens to make it less traumatic. (Actually, come to think of it, that's exactly what I am doing.)

But back to the story. As I was escaping the french bread pizza samples, I noticed the little old lady throwing her head back and suddenly...


All over the samples.

But what was really gross?

When she announced the pizza samples were ready. No one cared.


L'Affaire du Clafoutis

Friday, August 10, 2007

I have to admit I have a small, school girl like crush. I'm smitten. All I can do is daydream when I should be working. In my imagination I melt with each new embrace. My lip quivering and bosom heaving like a lead lady in some Harlequin romance novel.

I am, of course, speaking of clafoutis.

A few days ago I pleaded for help on identifying some Italian plums and what to do with them. Many of you suggested this strange, foreign new comer with rosy cheeks that just sort of make me melt at the mere thought of them.

Clafoutis is an eggy, almost custard, not quite flan, adult form of crepe sort of gustatory fiancee of mine. Normally it's made with unpitted cherries; the cherries adding a supposedly deep, nutty flavor. However, my Italian plums wooed me and swept me off my feet in this so simple, easy to make recipe. The sassy little tarts.

I'm cheating on the cupcakes with clafoutis at the moment. It's tawdry the way we sneak around in the kitchen, sharing moments with each other while the cupcake tin wonders where I am, and Rob wonders where his piece of clafoutis is. She is all mine though, I'm too selfish for a menage et trois.

Italian Plum Clafoutis
Serves 9 / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...

6 Italian plums, each cut into 8 wedges, stones discarded

3 eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar
1 cup of milk or cream ( I used a bit of both)

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1/2 cup of flour

powdered sugar to garnish

What You'll Do...
1) Lightly butter a 9 inch or 8 inch, round or square, Pyrex dish or tart pan. Arrange the plums on the bottom. Give them a light, fine dusting of granulated sugar. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2) Whisk together the sugar and eggs for a minute or two. Add the milk, extract, and salt and whisk a minute more.

3) Sift in the flour and whisk. Lightly pour into the baking dish or tart pan, try to keep the plums from floating away, but some of them will regardless what you do. Just accept it.

4) Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the the pan after the first 32 to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and let cool for 40 minutes. the clafoutis will deflate a bit, but that's fine and supposed to happen. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Normally you use a round 9 or 10 inch tart pan for this. I used a Pyrex 8 inch square pan for it, which was just fine too.

Mystery Plum

Thursday, August 9, 2007

So I grabbed these instead of figs by accident this last Sunday at the Farmer's Market. I think they're plums. They're tiny little things, and the flesh grips the stone like it was about to get a vaccination shot. To anyone reading I ask: What are they, and does anyone have a recipe for them?

5 Things About Food I Hate -or- Four Vicadin Make Garrett No Feel No More

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I am at home today, instead of at work. My voice is searing and scratchy and my head is splitting. I didn't so much sleep last night as I took the place of a race horse at the Derby. Rob slept on the couch I was having such a seizure in bed. So I woke up in more pain than I was in when I watched The Ring 2.

I, with my fear of medicine (I would rather suck a hooker's big toe then take cough medicine) actually took four Vicadin. I am, by the way, notoriously immune to pain killers, as any doctor and dentist can tell you as they have to repeatedly shoot me up with enough tranqs to O.D. a bull elephant. So no worries about me sprawled out on the couch drooling on myself while death laughs over me. I mean, I'm typing, aren't I?

So here I am. Mute. Awake. Numb to the world around me.

I hate taking sick days when I'm actually sick. I feel cheated. It takes the love out of something I normally adore, but hey sometimes we hate the things we normally adore.

It's not always love of food here either. Sometimes it's the hate. Like any obsessed nerd, I know where certain things don't work or outright fail. In Xena it was the off screen death of Amarice (see how I back up that nerd thing here?), in food it is the following:

1) The word "Surprise" - To me the word "surprise" translates to "threw so much crap into the dish, I don't even know what it tastes like anymore". Big no-no.

2) Lavender - I do not like lavender in my food. I have had it once in a salt rub on turkey which was great, but with that one exception it belongs in decorative pillows and not on my plate.

3) Small plates as entrées - If I can't tell the difference between an appetizer and a entrée at a restaurant, then methinks I am being ripped off.

4) Raw Food Movement restaurants - Raw garlic, cactus, and kelp soup that comes from a blender to a bowl in front of you is wrong. Just wrong. Being charged $10 for it was even worse. After seeing a menu I showed the friend who wanted to eat there for dinner how to do the whole thing at home. For free. Because it's not like there was any actual cooking involved. Total rip-off. From what I understand, the place closed.

5) Hot Pockets - A reluctant hate. They taste so damn good. But it's infuriating trying to microwave them for peak temperature. Gotta love that ice cube in the center surrounded by molten lava burn your tongue so bad you can't taste anything for weeks and the bread hid the actual skin graft inducing temperatures cheese and tomato sauce.

6) BONUS! Food Poisoning. The rampant STD of the food world.

Anyone else have one or a list of things in any aspect of the food world you can't stand? Feel free to post them in the comments section. Remember each comment helps me get better.

Orange Clove Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and Clove-Candied Orange Peel

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My friend Babette, who is also the creator of Bakespace, is celebrating the Bakespace birthday this month, so I decided to make her her very own cupcake.

This is a slightly citric, lightly aromatic, and hedonistic spice cake. It's comforting and eloquent with it's bold, in-your-face flavors. Orange cake has been laced with hints of freshly ground cloves to give it a bit of a bite. A vanilla buttercream acts as a simple, if not perfectly paired backdrop to allow the real star flavors to shine. The candied orange peel has also been given a bit of raw ground clove as well, it's pungent and slightly bitter flavor creating sweet little pinpricks on your tongue. It's a delicious thing to bite into.

Here's to you darlin'! Congrats!

Orange Clove Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes / 350F oven

What You'll Need...
3 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder

1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of grated orange zest
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup of orange juice (no pulp)

1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cloves

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, zest, ground cloves, salt and baking pow
der together in a bowl and set aside.

2) Place eggs and sugar in a mixer and beat on high for 30 seconds until light and fluffy.

3) Add the vanilla and oil and mix until just combined.

4) Add some of the dry ingredients and then the orange juice. Alternate the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry.

5) Scoop into cupcake papers about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan after the first 15 minutes. Check with a cake tester or toothpick for doneness.

Vanilla Buttercream
What You'll Need...
1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter until soft.

2) Add the sugar and then the milk and vanilla extract. Cream till soft. Spread on cooled cupcakes.
Cloved & Candied Orange Peel
What You'll Need...
2 oranges
1 tablespoon of salt
1 pinch of ground cloves
2 cups of sugar, plus some extra for rolling

What You'll Do...
1) Zest the peel into long strips with a citrus zester. (You can cut off the zest as well with e a vegetable peeler, then cut into strips, just be sure to scrape off all of the white pith as it's nasty bitter.) Add salt and peel to 4 cups of water and let stand overnight.

2) Drain and rinse. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat to boiling and then drain. Repeat 3 times (this is to remove any bitter taste).

3) In sauce pan, combine peel, sugar and 1/2 cup water. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook until peel is translucent. Drain any liquid.

4) Place some granulated sugar and a pinch and roll peel in granulated sugar and ground cloves. Be sure to only use a small pinch of cloves, in
large amounts by itself raw cloves can create a burning or numbing sensation on the tongue. (By the by never take a pinch of ground cloves and put it on your tongue; can you tell I learned something today?) You just want a very slight taste of it, and when combined with the sugar it's tamed and tasty. Allow to dry.

Note: This, like many of my recipes, can easily be adapted to a sheet or round cake as well.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Never eat two egg salad sandwiches and a chocolate Power Bar for lunch.

I am going to go and lie down now.

That is all.

Dear Coffee Bitch...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dear Coffee Bitch,

I'm sorry your little emo-attitude, life-is-so-hard-and-no-one-understands-me lifestyle is deranging your brain and outlook on life. I'm sorry you hate your job, but you know what? Don't take it out on me.

When I went up to you and told you, "I'm sorry, there's no milk in my coffee, and there some banana stuff in here when it should be mocha," you were a total punk. You looked at the drink, sneered at me, and grunted as you swiped it away, chucked it in the trash indignantly, and went upon your arduous and labor heavy task of making my order correctly.

If a simple correct order disgruntles you so much, your life must really suck. Or you're a dick. I'm guessing the latter.

I haven't felt so unwelcome in a long time. I was a burden to you at your place of work. You ruined a place I go to usually, and normally enjoy with sheer delight. Sorry to dispose you even longer from the conversation with your co-worker about Paris Hilton or whatever underground emo band bullshit you think is so damn important.

Yet, as I looked at your tip jar on which was taped a cute little and common (it was on the tip jar at the coffee shop I worked at) tip jar slogan "KARMA'S A BITCH" I could only think one thing.

How true.

"How very true," I said aloud as my hand passed over the jar and deposited my change in my pocket where it so rightly belonged.

Do yourself a favor. Take your crack pipe (your eyes were the giveaway), stab yourself with it, and let the coffee shop hire someone else who knows how to do their job, and knows something about customer service.

Going to throw the coffee in your face next time I have to deal with your bull-crap.

Rainbow Chard & Cow Eggs

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

BeforeRainbow chard purchased for $1 at the Sacramento Farmer's Market located at 8th & W, under the freeway.

AfterTear up some rainbow chard and discard parts of the stem that are too woody. Warm about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauce pot. Toss in 1/2 of a shallot chopped up and some red pepper flakes and heat until shallots are soft and slightly translucent. Add chard, some salt and pepper, and some lemon juice. Let the chard wilt a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Give it a turn with some tongs every 20 seconds or so for even cooking and to mix in the shallots and pepper flakes. Serve on a dish and squeeze on some lemon juice. Enjoy.

While making a milk run at Save-Mart...

Little Girl: "Mom, why are they called beefsteak tomatoes?"

Mom: "Because they're the eggs laid by cows."

Little Girl: "Nuh-uh!" *pause* "Really?"

Mom: "Yes, now put away that sugar cereal and grab the oatmeal. We have to meet Nana for Shake-N-Bake."

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