Monday, June 30, 2008

Recipes to Rival: Ratatouille

The Daring Bakers have been doing a lot of sweet challenges lately. My tastebuds love it, but not so much my waistline. A few people started talking about wanting to do savory challenges too, so Lori of Lipsmacking Goodness and Temperance of High on the Hog decided to found Recipes to Rival. Like the Daring Bakers, Recipes to Rival is a group of people cooking the same recipe to see how they turn out. The difference is that Recipes to Rival is going to be meals, while The Daring Bakers is, of course, baking. I love both groups, so I plan to do both each month. For more information, you can click on the link in the sidebar.

Our first challenge would make Remy proud. Remy who? The one and only rat of Ratatouille!!

That's right, we all chanted "Anyone can cook" and worked on figuring out how to find Japanese eggplant (never could, had to use baby eggplant) and slice the vegetables 1/16th of an inch thick [(went out to buy a mandoline) say it with me, "any excuse to buy a new kitchen toy"]. ;-)

Of course, you can't make ratatouille without watching Ratatouille, so I put the DVD in the DVD player and got to work (it takes longer to make the dish than to watch the movie, so I ended up playing it twice). One thing that I realized was that at the end of the movie, Remy makes this dish for Anton Ego. He only decides to make it as Mr. Ego arrives at the restaurant. Unless Anton Ego waited for 2½ hours for his meal, there is no way Remy could have done this in time...movies are just so unrealistic sometimes! I am so disappointed! ;-)

The recipe calls for peeled, diced tomatoes. I just opened up a can. I didn't read that part of the directions ahead of time and it was too late to do the tomatoes any other way.

Is it strange that I love to roast and peel peppers? I think it's so cool how they just slip right off the skin once roasted. I also love the smell. I love bell peppers. Bell peppers and vanilla beans, I wonder what I could do with that....

Anyway, slicing the vegetables wasn't too bad with the mandoline, except for the eggplant. I found that didn't slice very well with the mandoline, so I just used a knife for that.

Now, I can't figure out how to plate the ratatouille very prettily, but I must say this is the best vegetable dish I have ever had! We ate the whole thing the first night, then I made a double recipe again the next day since it was so delicious! I served this with a roll, and pork chops roasted with the other half of the peppers, onion, and some garlic. Lee actually asked to go vegetarian because of this dish...after just buying a bunch of meat on sale at the store...not sure how that's going to work out. We both just couldn't get enough of this fabulous dish!

I must say, I never would have made ratatouille if it wasn't for joining Recipes to Rival. I must also say that although it's time consuming, this isn't really a difficult dish to make, but it looks impressive and I can't imagine anyone not liking it. It is full of flavor!! It's the perfect complement to a roast dinner.

For the recipe, you can visit the Recipes to Rival page and also visit all the other dishes from other Rivalers. You can see more information about Ratatouille and how they made the food look so realistic by visiting the Revolution Health website.

Here are some pictures, I only have three of this challenge, so I didn't do a slideshow.

Yes, my lovely Emerilware stainless steel pans are oven safe and broiler safe, so I was able to follow the recipe and use a skillet to cook it in. Too bad my hands just can't seem to remember to put on mitts when I put skillets in the oven. For some reason I always remember to get mitts for baking sheets, roasting pans, etc...but not skillets! I'm just so used to the handles of skillets not getting hot, I don't think "hot oven=hot skillet" and just stick those hands right in!


Luckily, I've never burned my hands badly, just a bit red, no blisters. I'm now making myself get into the habit of putting the mitts on my hands before even opening the oven door.

Look at the thinness of the vegetables! The mandoline made them paper-thin!!

Thanks, Remy, for showing us that a peasant dish can be fine cuisine!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish!

I was a bit intimidated when I saw what Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking? chose for us, but that's the whole point of the Daring Bakers. I don't tend to like Danish, but I really think that's because they have all had cream cheese in them and I don't like cream cheese. I was excited to make a Danish that had a flavor I liked.

This Danish recipe called for orange in the dough. I wasn't sure how I would like that with my apple filling, but I went for it since it was in the recipe. Next time, I'll leave out the orange, it had a strong enough flavor that I didn't like it with the sweet fruit. Lee bought some bing cherries instead of maraschino cherries for ice cream, so I decided to use up the bing cherries for a second Danish.

My braids turned out pretty well, although not as nice as some others. I think most of us who tried a cherry filling ended up with a bit of a "cracked rib" look to our Danish, that one seemed to expand and spread apart the braid a lot more than other fillings. Someone mentioned it had to do with the liquid. I also think it may have been my layer of pastry cream that didn't allow the braid to stick together as well.

The trickiest part of this was the rolling. I made this on a day when it was 90°F outside!! I cranked the A/C and went for it. I had some butter popping out (definitely made a crackle sound as it popped out!) After the first turn it was fine and no more butter popped out. It wasn't as difficult to roll it out as I thought it would be.

The best part of this challenge? Discovering my love of real vanilla beans!!! Kelly mentioned seeing a blog where the person stated she bought vanilla beans off e-Bay. They are a lot less expensive than the grocery store and they are better quality too. I bought mine from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company. I ended up buying both Tahitian and Bourbon vanilla beans so I have loads on hand. The scent from the vanilla beans is incredible! It's such a clean, fresh scent.

The other best part of the challenge? The apple filling! This has got to be, hands down, the best apple filling I have ever tasted in my entire life. I could not stop eating it when it had cooked. It's apple crack. They're like Pringles, once you start you can't stop!!

As I said before, I made one apple filling, that was just the one from the recipe and one cherry. I found a cherry pie filling recipe from Recipezaar that I decided to try as well as a pastry cream recipe. The pastry cream used my new favorite ingredient: vanilla bean!

As I was talking about making the cherry filling, I mentioned I would need to buy a cherry pitter so I could pit the cherries. Lee thought I was just looking for an excuse to buy a new toy, but I told him no way was I picking cherry pits out of my mouth as I was eating a Danish. He didn't think they were too big. I beg to differ! The pitter definitely make it much easier to pit about 100 cherries!

The assembly wasn't too bad, I just had a bit of difficulty getting the first Danish onto the baking sheet because I didn't think to put my Silpat under it before assembling. I made sure to do my second one on top of parchment paper so it would be easier to transfer.

The Danish needed to proof for two hours. Lee and I went swimming while it was proofing and came back to find the power went out!! I couldn't cook dinner, and I couldn't cook the Danish. My Danish ended up getting a bit of an extra rise time. The Danish tasted just fine, though.

I'm not sure with all the time this takes if it is really worth making a lot, but maybe as a once in a while treat it would be good. I really like that I can make whatever fillings I want.

Here are some pictures in my first try making a slideshow! I hope it works. :-)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Maple Apple Crumble

I have a backlog of recipes I've made lately for the Zaar World Tour, but with the end of the school year and two friends having babies this week, and some personal things going on, I've been too busy to post! I'll get them all up eventually, because I've made some fabulous things I can't wait to share, but I'll start with last night's dessert: Maple Apple Crumble. A crumble is a less sweet version of a crisp. Some people say they are the same thing. I think the crust of a crisp is more sugary than the crust of a crumble.

This is a recipe I made for the Canada part of the Zaar World Tour. I wasn't very sure how much I'd like it because of the maple syrup. I was worried there would be too much of a maple taste, but it was delicious. It had just a hint of maple flavor. The only thing I would prefer is to have more cinnamon than the original recipe calls for. In my posted recipe I have increased the cinnamon and change the method a little.

Maple-Apple Crumble
Serves 4

2 fuji (or other tart cooking apples), peeled, cored, and diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
51g butter, softened
50g brown sugar, packed
42g all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
26g rolled oats
4 tablespoons maple syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Combine apples and cinnamon. Divide into 4 ramekins. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.
  4. Add the flour, salt, and oats. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour one heaping teaspoon of maple syrup over apples in each ramekin.
  6. Cover each ramekin with 1/4 oat mixture.
  7. Place ramekins on baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
  8. You may serve with a scoop of ice cream, or go with Lee and have custard or cream!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hummus, Hummuses, Hummi???

Lee and I are trying to figure out what the plural of hummus is. We cannot figure it out. It's kind of necessary I do, because I made two recipes of hummus last night and want to blog about it!!!

Well, I made hummus last night for the Greek part of the Zaar World Tour. I made a regular hummus recipe and a roasted red pepper hummus.

I didn't mind the roasted red pepper hummus, although I can only eat a little bit at a time (I think it's the taste of the chick peas that take some getting used to), but I do not like the regular hummus. The regular hummus recipe took so much salt, that it was almost like eating salt water! I'm not sure if hummus is supposed to be that salty, but the roasted red pepper one didn't take much at all.

Since I have changed the idea behind my blog, I will only post the recipe I did like...the roasted red pepper hummus.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 can (15 ounces) chick peas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
1 cup roasted red pepper, deseeded, drained, and diced (or 1 red pepper)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup sour cream
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

  1. If using fresh red pepper, preheat broiler. Broil pepper until top is charred, turn, and char again. Repeat until all sides are charred. Cool.
  2. When red pepper is cooled, cut in half, deseed, and dice.
  3. Place chick peas in a food processor, process until smooth.
  4. Add the red pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sour cream, salt, and black pepper and process until smooth.
  5. Serve with pita, chips, crackers.
  6. Keep refrigerated.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Steamed Salmon with a Ginger/Soy Glaze

Tonight I made another recipe for the Zaar World Tour. I was making a recipe for the "Hot and Steamy" challenge. There was a recipe I found to be interesting called Steamed Salmon with Soy Glaze and I decided to make that last night.

There was one problem with that.

There recipe wasn't complete.

It was missing directions for the noodles and green beans.

I sent a message to the woman who posted the recipe and she let me know that she is trying to edit the recipe and get it fixed, but let me know how to complete the recipe. I didn't get the message until well after dinner last night. That wasn't much of a problem though because I just changed around my plans.

This was delicious!!! It is also low calorie, according to the nutrition facts on Recipezaar. This was pretty easy to make as well. The most difficult part was grating the ginger because it was so moist.

This is definitely a recipe I'll have to make again sometime!

Steamed Salmon with Soy Glaze

4 skinless salmon fillets, 6 oz. each
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons shredded ginger
2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry wine
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
1 (18 3/4 ounce) package soba noodles or 1 (1 lb) box whole wheat pasta
1/2 lb small green beans, sliced in half lengthwise
  1. Place the salmon in a shallow dish. Combine 3 t. of the soy sauce, the garlic, grated ginger, and 1 T. of the rice wine and pour over the salmon, turning to coat. Cover and marinade for 15 minutes in refrigerator (fish shouldn't be marinaded for much longer than that).
  2. Place the rice vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, the remaining soy sauce, and the remaining rice wine in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir, and when sugar is dissolved, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
  3. Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of salted water and bring to a boil. Remove the salmon from the marinade and place in a steamer basket over the pot. Sprinkle the scallions and shredded ginger over the salmon. Cover and steam over the boiling water for 4 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and keep warm.
  4. While the salmon is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook noodles to package directions. Add green beans to the noodles for about 3-4 minutes of boiling time.
  5. Drain the noodles, serve on a plate, topped with the salmon, and pour some glaze over the top.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sweet and Sour Pork with Pork Fried Rice

I'm participating in a cooking event on Recipezaar called Zaar World Tour 4. We are trying recipes from or inspired by various regions from around the world. Apparently we don't visit all regions for each tour, this time we are doing Asia (huge region, I'm surprised it isn't broken down more since there is so much variation), Germany and Benelux, Italy, Canada, Central and South America, Africa (except for the northern part), Eastern Europe, and Greece.

This week we are working on Asia and Germany and Benelux. Italy is a Wild Card that we can do until the end of the game.

On Saturday night, I did my first recipe, we have until June 5th to complete it, but apparently starting on Saturday was a bit later than we were supposed to do. I wasn't happy about that, I figured that as long as it was done by the 5th it was no big deal. I digress....

I decided to start with an Asian dish. I had Pork defrosting, so decided to make pork fried rice and Lee said he wanted Sweet and Sour Pork Balls to go with it. I didn't feel like getting any ground pork, so I found a recipe for regular Sweet and Sour Pork and did that.

These recipes turned out pretty well. I would prefer the Sweet and Sour Pork without the pepper, but Lee loved it and I had to make extra for him to eat with some of the leftover rice. I added some extra soy sauce to the rice to give it a bit more flavour.

This recipe I used makes A LOT of rice!!! Apparently it wasn't too much for Lee because I realized today there isn't any more rice left. Lee ate it all!

I am so happy that I made Chinese food! I always think of this stuff as food I can never make myself, but apparently that's not true!

Partial Defeat....

So, I have been doing well with trying something new every day, but not with posting. I have been really busy and at least half of my new foods this month have been convenience foods. That is not what I intended this blog to be. I will continue with trying new foods, however the blog will be different. I will no longer post about any new food I try, but will only post about new recipes or foods I have made myself. I am disappointed I haven't done better, but I've realized that this goal is different from some something like Project365. I have to research to find new things and that takes up a lot more time than just finding something interesting, like I was able to do at first. May killed me, with work and social life, it just got the best of me. Lee doesn't want me to do this, but I think it's for the best. So I start anew in June, and hope it will make this a better quality blog.

Thanks for reading!



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