26 November 2009

Blogs I Am Thankful For

All right, folks. Behold, the project I've been working on for the past two months, which is why I've only had TWD posts for a while. As you know, I normally do a blogs I am thankful for post, but this year I wanted to not only mention the blogs but actually make a recipe from each of them. This was a somewhat daunting tasks, but I succeeded, with only one exception (I was going to make something from Delicious Days today and there was a big of an egg shortage in my refrigerator). In order from least to most successful recipe (though let's be clear, the blogs themselves are all great -- sometimes I just have a faux pas), here are some of my favorite blogs. Happy Thanksgiving!

#21: Sweet and Spicy Almonds from Dragon's Kitchen

The failure of this recipe, I have to point out, was totally my fault. I was watching fairly carefully, stirring every few minutes as Dragon suggests, but in about 30 seconds they went from golden and bubbling to blackened. I tried a few anyway, but I couldn't really stomach my blackened walnuts. That said, I really like this blog because it's full of fairly basic recipes that look tasty and easy to prepare.

#20: Cranberry Hazelnut Crisps from La Cuisine d'Helene

This is a blog that I come across frequently when I'm looking for baking and dessert recipes. I tried the cranberry hazelnut crisps, which weren't bad, but I had a little storage snafu. Don't put these in a bread box -- they were crisp when they came out of the oven, but then softened up in the bread box, and ended up tasting kind of stale. That said, I like the cranberry and hazelnut flavor a lot and the recipe's not hard. You want to make sure the loaf is nice and cold before slicing, but you don't have to do it paper thin to get results.

#19: Linguine with Sage Burnt Butter Sauce and Sauteed Sweet Potato from Cook (Almost) Anything Once

Cook (Almost) Anything Once is a long-time favorite blog of mine because of the beautiful pictures and very simple recipes. Unfortunately, the recipes often feature some specialty ingredient or brand that I can't get or can't afford, so I haven't done much cooking from this blog. The linguine I found to be good overall, though it took me a long time to get the butter to even start to brown, and I don't think it was really dark enough. The pasta was mostly oily, though the sweet potato and sage were nice flavors and I enjoyed it with shaved parmesan.

#18: Pasta Gratins with Goat Cheese, Sage, and Mushrooms from Cafe Fernando

Cafe Fernando is one of those big-name blogs that everyone reads, and I don't keep terribly good track of it, but I studied Turkish and so I enjoy seeing what Turkish food bloggers are cooking. These gratins are a really clever idea for health food, but I found them lacking in taste. The mushrooms came through, but the sauce was quite bland. It was mostly the taste of the herb (I used basil instead of cheese), and I didn't think that was enough to carry the dish. I might try a stronger cheese were I to do this again. Also, I used a little bit more pasta than called for so I ended up getting six tartelette tins and an 8 x 8 dish out of it The big dish was much better and more moist.

#17: Eggplant Marinara from Coconut & Lime

This eggplant marinara didn't strike me so much as marinara as just a pasta sauce. It was thinner than I think of for marinara, with big chunks of eggplant, instead of uniformly thick. That said, I liked the tangy taste and it went well with pasta, if not so much a great dipper for mozzarella sticks. I love Coconut & Lime's blog because Rachel does only original recipes, and because she's a fellow Baltimore blogger. I also enjoy that there are thoughts after each recipe so that you get an honest, concise take on the recipe. I've done several recipes from her blog and though this isn't my favorite, it's a good staple pasta sauce.

#16: Sweet Corn Puddin' from Kitchen Wench

I used to visit Kitchen Wench more than I do these days, but it's still a great standby blog for recipes. I love corn puddin', just like all the delicious Southern corn recipes -- cornbread, corn muffins, corn pie... really, after living in Iowa, I wonder if we don't like corn more than they do. This is a nice reliable dish, dense and sweet and plenty corny, as well as being easy to prepare. It's also not watery, which is a problem I've had before in corn pudding.

#15: Spaghetti with Avocado and Cashew Pesto from the Passionate Cook

Again, a blog that I don't visit as much as I used to, but a very reliable source for recipes. This pesto was an interesting idea, though I did a lot of substitutions, using mint and almonds instead of the specified ingredients. I liked the way the creamy avocado brought the pasta together, though the mint taste as very strong and next time I would probably just stick with basil.

#14: Pain d'Épices by Amuses Bouche

I have a number of French blogs on my list, and this is a longtime favorite. The pain d'épices was relatively straightforward, and the taste was about what you would expect: a dense, sweet spice cake. The amount of honey in the recipe seemed really off to me, so I reduced to a few tablespoons and that worked well. I also mixed my own basic ratio of quatre d'épices, playing around with it a bit.

#13: Eggplant Korma by Beau à la Louche

Beau à la Louche is a fun blogger I've been following for a while, and this korma did not disappoint. It's my standby fare for Indian restaurants, but the last time I tried it at home I wasn't too impressed. I found that using full-fat coconut milk really helped, and quality does make a difference here. The recipe was a great balance of sweet and spicy, and definitely recognizable as korma.

#12: Cheddar Ale Spread by Peabody

I adore Peabody because not only does she produce consistently tasty-looking recipes, but she also has a sense of humor and always comes across as very candid in her blog posts. She's a big fan of sweet things, but I selected a savory recipe this time, and was not disappointed. The flavor of the ale (I used Pyramid's apricot ale) was definitely pleasant, and the crunch of the hazelnuts worked well. My food processor situation right now is... interesting... so there were more chunks than intended, but I actually liked that. Very dense, actually works as a meal if you're so inclined. Also, it looks like potato salad in the picture but in reality it's orange.

#11: Chocolate Espresso Mousse Cake by Tartelette

I have to admit that I'm kind of intimidated by Tartelette, who always has the most gorgeous little desserts with several different subsets of steps. However, despite the number of steps her recipes usually seem doable enough, and this first one was not bad at all. The cake was a bit dense and dry in European fashion, but the mousse was fantastic, and so the combination worked really well. I didn't bother with a crumb coating and I don't think it needed it. Got rave reviews at the office.

#10: Cake au Miel, Romarin, et Gorgonzola by Foodbeam

Foodbeam is a fantastic French/English blog that specializes in desserts but has a little bit of everything. This "cake" is sort of in between a cake and a bread, with a really interesting mix of flavors. It has a nice dense, moist crumb with a delicious melty ribbon of blue cheese running through the middle. My crust got a bit too dark, but I found it really yummy sliced and reheated by the slice for about 30 seconds in the microwave.

#9: Poêlée de Champignons au Miel by Chez Lorette

Another French blog I enjoy is Chez Lorette, and of course any mushroom recipe gets bumped up a few points by default on this blog. Like any side dish involving mushrooms, these reduced down a lot so that they were dark and delicious but only a few servings. Still, despite my wanting more more more, I liked the idea of doing a mushroom sautée with honey, and I loved the really dark and sweet mushrooms.

#8: Mini Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies by Sugar Plum

Sugar Plum is a fun storyteller whose blog uses tons of photographs and lots of original recipes. I actually had intended to make a different recipe, and this was the first one I chickened out on and switched at the last minute, from Cheddar Chipotle Biscuits to these cookies. I'm glad I did, because cookies are easy and these were very good cookies. I froze half the dough for later and was able to pop it in the toaster oven for a quick dessert option for a birthday potluck at work. Everyone loved them, especially with my sub of cinnamon chips for chocolate.

#7: Chai Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes by Joy the Baker

Joy the Baker has one of my favorite blogs because her personality comes straight through the screen and you just want to grin with her. She's a breakfast nut, and hopefully would approve of my turning to her blog to satisfy a 3 am pancake craving. The chai spice is a great flavor for these pancakes, and I love how yummy and fluffy they are. 3 am needs more pancakes, really. I enjoyed them with some real Canadian maple syrup (#1 medium, in case you were wondering) and thought this was an awesome idea.

#6: Butterscotch Pudding by David Lebovitz

David Lebovitz is quite a big name blogger, and though I don't use his blog much for recipes, I like how simple they are, and I also like that he throws in some of the French recipes I crave. This butterscotch pudding was awesome, and relatively easy for a pudding recipe. I tend to suck at any kind of smooth, creamy, make over the stove and don't mess up recipe, especially if there's a danger of curdling, but this barely curdled at all, and all the curdle stayed at the bottom so I could just leave it in the pan. Perfect.

#5: Spinach and Artichoke Dip by Stephanie's Kitchen

Stephanie is yet another tasty, reliable food blogger with fabulous easy recipes. This dip really hit the spot, so much so that I did a spin off (post to come). I loved the combo of cream cheese and cheddar with the veggies, and baking it with the parmesan in the last step. This is another dip you can eat as a meal. It's also good on baguettes if you want to add in some carbs.

#4: Mac 'n' Cheese by My Madison Bistro

My Madison Bistro is one of my newest favorite blogs, which lured me in because of the pretty pictures but kept me because of the awesome recipes. I am a huge mac 'n' cheese freak, and this is definitely going to be one of my standbys. It's nothing super fancy, just your usual bechamel sauce and cheeses, but I thought the panko bread crumb topping worked really well, as did the thyme. This is my first try at panko, and I loved how it turned out. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that she got the recipe from Ina Garten!

#3: Bohemiènne by La Tartine Gourmande

Another of my absolute favorite French foodblogs, with gorgeous photos and recipes. You really can't go wrong with a recipe like this. I've seen quite a few variations on the basic eggplant, tomato, onion, olive oil combo, and I never can complain. In fact, my only complaint is that they never seem to have enough servings! I am a huge fan of earthy vegetables, and this dish wins for that.

#2: Mushrooms Bourgignon by Smitten Kitchen

I'd been planning to make this for my Thanksgiving entree for quite a while. A small bridge was thrown in the works when I saw the price of baby bellas, and so I actually used half the mushroom amount (and no pearl onions, because there weren't any). It was thus a little more gravy like, but still awesome. I ended up getting invited to Thanksgiving with friends, and so instead of an entree for one with leftovers, it ended up being a sort of gravy for four over mashed potatoes. I used a Cabernet for the wine and Emeril's vegetable stock, courtesy of my awesome partners at Foodbuzz, for the liquid. Delicious, earthy, boozy, and dark. Can't go wrong. Smitten Kitchen remains my favorite blog, and I hope she sticks around for many years to come.

#1: Almond Crunch Cookies by Use Real Butter

I'm so amused that this was my favorite recipe of them all, because it was really an accident. I had an egg crisis last night at 11 pm when I was getting ready to make crustless pumpkin pie to take to Thanksgiving and realized that I only had one egg, that the store was already closed, and wouldn't be open today due to the holiday. I didn't want to neglect Use Real Butter, as it's one of my favorite blogs with never-fail recipes and great photos, but I couldn't go with the plan. After a small anxiety attack, I found these cookies instead, and boy were they awesome. The inside is like marzipan, the outside crunchy and delicious. Perfect for dessert as pictured with apple crunch, vanilla ice cream, and runny custard.

24 November 2009

TWD: Holiday Bundt Cake

It's Tuesday, so that must mean my camera's funky! This is kind of a placeholder post while it's still Tuesday, but the basic idea is that I loved the holiday bundt cake. I used sweet potato instead of pumpkin, almond extract instead of vanilla, and almonds instead of pecans, but it worked really well. Nice and dense and crumbly, with the tartness of cranberries and mild sweetness of apples. Very nice.

10 November 2009

TWD: Cran-apple Crisps

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie host is Em of the Repressed Pastry Chef, and she chose Cran-Apple Crisps for our recipe. This one was a big hit with my Sunday brunch guests, which is a bit of a relief, since Dorie's recipes have not been on the whole particularly successful for me thus far. I don't want to believe that such a big book of such good-looking recipes will yield a ton of flops! Here, my friend Bizzy shows her enjoyment of said crisp.

I made one large version as Dorie allows for, but instead of a 9" deep dish pie pan I used an 8" square pan (a little topping left over, but for the most part it worked. I had a vegan and a gluten-free guest coming, so I made the filling first without the flour and put a bit of the fruit into a couple of oiled tartelette tins, then finished the recipe. The small ones only took about 25-30 minutes, the full crisp about 40. The fruit was hot and bubbling before the crisp was browned, but everything worked out well. Other bakers complained about the sweetness of the crisp, and I suppose it could be more tart, but I had enough of a sweet tooth to enjoy this one