August 31, 2008

Lesson Learned: Apple Tart Tatin

Last weekend, I saw the first apples of the season at my local farmers' market. I couldn't resist them. I decided I would make a tart tatin, something I'd yet to do.

And, it seemed easy enough...coat the bottom of a tatin pan (or cast iron skillet) with melted butter & sugar, let brown on the stove top, fill with peeled/halved/cored apples, top with puff pastry, and bake!

But, instead of following a recipe, I tried to improvise and adapt two different recipes. I think my recent baking success got the better of me. I should have just followed one of the recipes as written.

Dorie Greenspan's version says to melt butter in a tatin pan, then add sugar & apples. After the sugar browns, then you are supposed to top it with pastry & bake. Tyler Florence's version called for melting butter & sugar until caramelized, then adding cream and wine to make a caramel. This get poured in a tatin pan, topped with apples & pastry, then baked.

So, I melted a stick of butter with 3/4 cup of sugar in a skillet (Dorie's measurements) and stirred it constantly (Tyler's suggestion). It got all foamy but not brown. So, I added another 1/4 cup of sugar (to equal the 1 cup of sugar in Tyler's recipe). The mixture immediately separated and the sugar started to brown...but there was lots of melted butter that wouldn't mix in. So, I added another 1/2 cup of sugar. It all came together then.

I pour this into the tatin pan and started peeling apples. As I was laying the apple halves into the caramel, I noticed it was starting to harden. But, I didn't worry about it...I figured it would melt when baked.

The finished tart tatin actually looked quite nice when I pulled it from the oven, all puffed & golden.

Dorie's recipe said to flip it onto a plate immediately, while Tyler's said to wait 10 minutes. I chose immediately...and when I did, liquid spilled out from the pan...all over the counter.

Nevertheless, it looked good! The apples were tender and browned. The crust was crispy. Even the bits of hardened caramel left in the pan didn't bother me.

I let it cool for just a few minutes, then cut a slice. There was lots of liquid underneath instead of the thick, caramely sauce I expected. Ugh. The apples put off a lot of juice, I guess.

All in all, the dessert tasted apple pie. But, I will try it again this fall...hopefully with freshly-picked apples from the orchard. And, I'll be sure to follow one of the recipes a little more closely.

August 24, 2008

Taste & Create: Bacon Fried Rice

I was paired up with Christine of Kits Chow for this month's edition of Taste & Create, a blog event in which foodies are paired up and required to cook one recipe from each other's blog, write about it on their own page, and submit pics to the T&C website.

After browsing through all the delicious looking recipes, I narrowed my choice down to two...the bacon fried rice or the sweet & sour caramelized pork spare ribs. I even bought all the ingredients for both recipes. In the end, however, I went with the fried rice.

I bought a wok last year and was excited to FINALLY be using it. I am inspired, now, to seek out other wok recipes.

The fried rice is flavorful and not at all greasy, as I worried about while I was cooking. I'm glad I picked it!

Bacon Fried Rice


4 rashers of smoked bacon (I used four thick-cut slices of hickory smoked bacon)
2 eggs, beaten, salt and pepper added
4 shallots (or medium white onion), sliced thinly
Optional, a couple of tablespoons of
ginger scallion oil (see recipe below)
A cup of frozen peas (or any kind of mixed frozen vegetables)
4 cups of cooked rice
2 or 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
Sesame oil or hot chili oil
Peanut oil for stir frying


Kelly's Note: First of all, since bacon is the key ingredient here, be sure to choose a GOOD QUALITY bacon. A lean, center-cut bacon would work well here.

  • Heat the wok or frying pan and add a couple tablespoons of the oil. Fry the bacon and the chopped shallots until the bacon is cooked through and the onion is soft. Add the ginger scallion oil.

Kelly's Note: If you want the bacon crispy, fry it separately. Remove the bacon from the pan, break into bits and set aside. (Toss the bacon bits in with the fried rice just before serving). Then fry the chopped shallots until they have softened & mix in the ginger scallion oil.

  • Add the eggs and fry them the way you cook scrambled eggs. The eggs should be runny. They will be cooked more later. Remove the eggs from the pan and set aside.
  • Add some another tablespoon of oil and heat it. Then add the cold rice, lumps and all. Use the spatula to break up the pieces.
  • Add the frozen peas. It isn't necessary to boil them first. Use the spatula to break the peas up. Stir fry the peas and rice together.
  • Put the scrambled eggs/bacon/onion mixture back into the pan. Stir fry everything together.
  • Add the oyster sauce and mix everything together.
  • Sprinkle some sesame oil (or hot chili oil) and toss everything together.
  • Dish up and serve. Add more hot chili oil to each serving, if desired.

Ginger Scallion Oil

1/2 a cup of shredded ginger (or finely minced ginger)
1/2 a cup of finely chopped scallions
1 cup of peanut oil
A clove of garlic, minced
Some coarse sea salt

  • Heat a small frying pan with half the oil and add the ginger, scallions, & garlic. Cook them without browning until the vegetables become limp.
  • Add the rest of the oil and heat the oil for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the sea salt when the mixture has cooled.
  • Put the contents of the pan into a bowl and set aside.

August 19, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Granola Grabbers

Thanks to Michelle of Bad Girl Baking, who chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe (you can see the full recipe on Michelle's blog). The "Granola Grabbers" made a great breakfast treat for the first week of school!

I started a new job this week. After 8 years of teaching college composition and literature courses, I'm now teaching high school English. I just couldn't make ends meet on an adjunct's pay, especially now that I am divorced. I was teaching 3-4 classes two days a week for a university, teaching 1-2 nights a week for a community college, AND working 3-4 days (including weekends) at the cooking school. It was exhausting! I simply couldn't pass up the salary, insurance, and retirement benefits of a high school job!

It all happened very suddenly. About three weeks ago, I got a call from the superintendent of a district near where I live (the school is about 10 minutes from my house) about interviewing. They needed someone with a Masters Degree in English to teach their college-credit courses. I hadn't applied to the district, but they somehow got my name from someone in my hometown. I interviewed two days later (on a Thursday), was offered the job two days after that (on a Saturday), then officially hired by the school board the next week (the following Tuesday). I signed my contract that Wednesday, organized my room all last week, and started teacher workshops this week. The students start tomorrow.

I'll be teaching four classes: a sophomore literature class, two college English classes, and a two-hour European studies course that will be team taught with a history teacher.

Even though I taught middle school many years ago, I had forgotten all of the extra things that teachers have to standards-alignment, assessment, and such. I have been feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I just want to start teaching. When I plan my classes, I get excited about the possibilities. I hope my students will get excited about something, too, this semester.


Anyway, I made the batter for these granola cookies on Sunday, baked a batch, and was amazed at how good--and healthy--they are! I altered the recipe slightly by using ingredients I had on hand...mixed dried berries (blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, & cherries) instead of raisins, macadamia nuts instead of almonds & peanuts, and wheat bran instead of wheat germ.

I put the rest of the batter in the fridge and will bake them tonight, so that I can take them to school tomorrow...a treat for the teachers' lounge on the first day of school.


August 17, 2008

Sizzling Rice Soup

I finally got a chance to check out the Asian market, called Seafood City, where the Rotten Apple folks buy live crawfish for their Sunday boils. It experience, to say the least. After walking to the corner of the store, past the tank of live frogs (huge frogs!), you get to the tanks of live fish and bins of live crabs & crawfish. There are also two long tables with a variety of whole fish (and shrimp and eel) on ice.

I was a bit freaked out.

So, I slinked past the frogs (I am terribly afraid of frogs!) and browsed the aisles while Jerad loaded up 15 pounds of crawling crawfish. The package of "Instant Sizzling Rice" caught my eye, so I bought one to try.

The directions read: "Prepare soup stock with your favorite ingredients. Boil and set aside. Bring 3-4 cups of cooking oil to a boil. Deep fry the 'sizzling rice' pellets to a golden brown withdrawn & quickly add to soup stock. You will hear the sizzle & enjoy the flavor."

I put a quick supper soup together with some ingredients I had on hand.

Sizzling Rice Soup
with Asparagus

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup asparagus tips *
6 squares of sizzling rice
vegetable oil for frying

* You could, of course, add any veggies (or cooked meats) in the soup. It would be particularly good with mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, and cabbage.
  • Combine the broth, soy, vinegar, & garlic in a small stockpot. Boil over medium heat, then remove from heat and add the asparagus (plus any other veggies or meats you are using). Ladle soup into deep bowls.
  • Meanwhile, heat 3-4 cups of oil in a shallow skillet. Fry the sizzle rice "pellets", turning once, until brown. This only take a couple minutes.
  • Immediately transfer 2 or 3 browned rice squares to each bowl. The rice will sizzle and steam upon contact with the broth.
The rice had a very nutty taste that goes well with the saltiness of the soup. I'm anxious to try it again with a more substantial soup.

August 10, 2008

Shredded Pork Tacos

One of the people I follow on Twitter is Deb, editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. She recently shared a link to a recipe for shredded pork tacos. And since I've been craving Mexican food, I decided to give it a try last weekend.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (3-pound) boneless pork shoulder, cut in half lengthwise *
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes in juice
1 large chipotle chile in adobo sauce (from a small can), minced (about 4 teaspoons)

* I couldn't find a boneless shoulder, so I used a 3 1/2 pound bone-in "picnic" roast. I did not cut it in half.

  • In a large (5-quart) heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes (breaking them up) and their juice, chipotle, and 1 cup water. Add pork.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (I cooked mine more like 3 hours). Discard bay leaves.
  • Using tongs, transfer meat to a cutting board; shred with two forks, discarding any large pieces of fat or gristle.
  • Return meat to pan, and simmer until sauce is thick, 30 to 45 minutes more. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.
I made soft tacos with the meat using toasted corn tortillas (you can simply heat them right over a gas burner on the stove or in a non-stick skillet), shredded pepper jack cheese, shredded cabbage, and sour cream.

I also used the meat--this recipe make A LOT--to make nachos & tostadas (fry a corn tortilla in a bit of oil until crispy).

The tacos were so good, I didn't wait to take pics. Here are the nachos, though.
Holy god, they were good!

This slow-cooked pork is very tender, and the sauce is flavorful with a bit of a kick. A few of my friends tried the tacos & nachos, and everyone liked them!

Thanks, Deb!

August 5, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Black-and-White Banana Loaf

I was indecisive about this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, a chocolate-swirled banana bread that was chosen by Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen (you can find the recipe there).

At first, I wasn't going to make it because I don't really like banana bread. Then, I realized that I had all the ingredients on hand, including a few over-ripe bananas in the freezer. I figured I could take the loaf to work on Saturday. But, it was really hot here over the weekend. The weatherman actually forecasted "stifling heat and suffocating humidity." So, I wasn't about to bake something for over an hour in my already-hot, central-air upstairs only house. The temperature was a bit cooler Sunday evening, and I decided to make the loaf--finally--in an attempt to procrastinate averaging final grades for my summer classes.

And, boy oh boy! Am I glad I made it! It was really good!! The banana flavor wasn't overwhelming and was so good with the chocolate. Unlike most banana breads, this is more like a dense, moist cake.

The recipe is basically a banana & rum batter (I used Wild Turkey American Honey, because I had no rum in the house), half of which is mixed with melted chocolate & butter then marbled together.

I was pretty impressed with the marbling, if I do say so myself. And it was easy to do. I simply used an ice cream disher to layer scoops of the two batters. First, a scoop of white batter went into one corner of the loaf pan. A scoop of chocolate batter was added next to it...and so on until the first layer was finished. I then alternated scoops, layering chocolate on top of white and white on top of chocolate, until I used all of the batters. I ran a butter knife gently through the batters to swirl them just a bit.

I like this so much that I plan to make another loaf soon. Well, as soon as the weather cools down again.

August 4, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging Round-Up #143

I've been buying produce at farmers' markets more this summer than I ever have before. I make a point to go every Saturday, even that means just walking down the street to our local market. I love all the fresh produce, but more than anything, I love the fresh herbs...particularly the basil. I didn't get a chance to plant an herb garden this year, because we had tons of rain in the St. Louis area this spring and early summer. My planter was much too wet. When I first saw fresh basil at the markets in June, I got so excited! I bought a huge bunch; then my car & my kitchen smelled like basil. Wonderful!

Without further ado...and speaking of are this week's entries for Weekend Herb Blogging, an event created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen:

For the inaugural post on her new blog Food, Margaret uses 2 whole cups of Thai basil and cinnamon basil leaves in a Thai Basil Eggplant dish. She also includes many good tips about cooking Thai food!

After experiencing painful kidney stones, Lalaine decided to use fresh herbs instead of salt to season her food. She uses basil in this Caprese Sandwich with Pesto Mayonnaise. You can see the recipe at The Cook Mobile.

Liza, a former colleague of mine, writes a new food blog called Knick Nosh, and she submitted a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato that uses fresh mint from her garden. This is definitely on my list of things to make soon!

On Living to Eat, Ros's Cambodian Pork and Butternut Curry has an "intense yellow flavour [that] comes from the use of turmeric and a herbal paste called Kroeung, which is made from blending lemongrass, turmeric, ginger or galangal, onion, lime leaf and garlic."

It's "Lavender Fields Forever" over at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies, where Natashya showcases several ways to use lavender...including lavender salt & sugar, Herbes de Provence, lavender simple syrup, lavender vinegar.

Garlic Greens
Padma of Padma's Kitchen uses fresh garlic greens from the farmers' market in Hare lasun ki dal (green garlic dal), an Indian lentil stew.

Kalyn experimented with growing Russian Red Kale in her garden this summer. She's posted a recipe at Kalyn's Kitchen for Red Russian Kale and Red Cabbage Slaw with an Ancho Chile Mayo dressing that's sweetened with agave nectar.

Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska was surprised to see the arugula in her garden had wintered over and emerged this spring after the snow melted. She posts several recipes, each showing how to use arugula in a different this Arugula & Tomato Salad with Anchovies.

I'm so jealous that Anna had gooseberries to make a gorgeous old-fashioned Gooseberry Pie inspired by her mother's recipe at Anna's Cool Finds.

Fiddlehead Ferns
A Scientist in the Kitchen is talking about fiddlehead ferns, otherwise known as "pako" in the Philippines, and making a Pako Salad with tomatoes, onions, and a ginger vinaigrette.

Jude of Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté (love the alliteration!) baked a beautiful Rosemary Potato Bread (which was made with mashed potatoes), the perfect bread for dipping into olive oil.

Sweet Potatoes
Speaking of potato bread...Haalo has Sweet Potato & Chevre Bread mini-loaves on the menu at Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once. The recipe also includes nutmeg and lots of sage. This is a dough that doesn't need to rise, so I'll be trying it soon (I am still a bit scared of bread doughs!). Oh, and, I'm awarding a gold star for the use of the word "amalgamated." ;-)

I'd never heard of purslane until I read Lia's post on Swirling Notions. Then, all of a sudden, I'm seeing articles, blog posts, and recipes featuring the plant everywhere! Lia explain what purslane is and features a recipe for Beet Salad with Purslane.

Black Truffles
Anh of Food Lover's Journey used Perigord Truffles in a delicious & decadent looking Black Truffle Risotto, which she calls "undoubtedly the best thing" to come out of her kitchen and the most expensive meal she's ever cooked. Anh, if you're ever in the St. Louis area, you are welcome to come over to my house for dinner...but you have to make this dish!

Black Beans
At Heart and Hearth, Ning writes about a whole Seabass in Black Bean Sauce, a recipe that uses small black soybeans that have been preserved in salt. She explains that "fermented black beans (tausi) is widely available here in Manila. In your country, maybe you can look for it in Asian Markets and groceries."

Pam infuses red wine vinegar with honey and thyme and lets the mixture steep for two weeks to make a Honey Herb Vinegar that she features on her blog, Sidewalk Shoes.

Root Beer Plant
Victoria gives us an informative post about Hoja Santa or The Root Beer Plant on her blog, Flavors of the Sun. She writes, "I’ve heard it said that hoja santa (Piper auritum) tastes like anise with hints of tarragon, black pepper, nutmeg, and sassafras thrown in. Perhaps. But to me, the name given to the plant in the Southern United States says it all: Root Beer Plant. Crush one of the velvety, heart-shaped leaves in your hand, and you’ll know what I mean. Root Beer. Pure and simple. And it’s hard to imagine that one plant could capture so complex a flavor, but Hoja Santa does just that." Interesting!

Rice Noodles
Wandering Chopsticks details an interesting way to cook rice noodles for Vietnamese pan-fried rice noodles sauteed with beef. First, the noodles are pan-fried, then they are sauteed to create "a crispy and chewy noodle that soaks up all the beefy juices."

Unripe Hungarian Yellow Wax peppers (which, ironically, are red when ripe) are the key ingredient in Graziana's White Gaspacho, a recipe that also includes cucumber, apple, and onion, over at Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs).

Zucchini Blossoms
Dhanggit fried up some Zucchini Flower Tempura using an authentic Japanese tempura recipe in Dhanggit's Kitchen. This is seriously making my stomach growl!

Old-fashioned Cucumber Salad
with vinegar dressing, a simple but delicious looking recipe, is featured at Thyme for Cooking by Katie.

Cheryl gives us Gluten Free Goodness with Sorrel Soup. Never tried sorrel? It's a tart, almost lemon-like, herb that's very tasty in a soup like this!

Grains of Paradise
Here at Sounding My Barbaric Gulp, I tried to use up the 10 pounds of garden cucumbers by making pickles for the first time. I made three varieties: Rosemary Garlic, Sour Dill, and Bread & Butter. They all included Grains of Paradise, an African pepper that has a zesty, herby flavor.

This is my first time hosting a blog event. I loved all the entries, bookmarked several to try, and enjoyed reading a few blogs that were new to me. Thanks to everyone who submitted a recipe! If I've missed an entry, please let me know and I'll get it posted ASAP.

August 1, 2008

Take a cooking class with me!

I am teaching 5 cooking classes at Kitchen Conservatory this fall, and the schedule is now available online!

All of my classes cost $40. They are demonstration classes, which means that you sit and watch while I cook for you. You get to eat everything I make. It's like your own personal cooking show!

"Cookin' the Books" - A monthly series featuring recipes from my favorite cookbooks.

Sept. 14 (12:30-3:00) - The Bacon Cookbook
* Hot bacon-blue cheese dip
* Corn & bacon souffle
* Chicken, avocado, & orange salad with bacon dressing
* German bacon cookies with maple glaze & candied bacon

And, I'm seriously considering making everyone a bloody mary with bacon-infused vodka & a bacon-salt rim!

Oct. 12 (1:00-3:30) - The Kitchen Diaries
* Goat cheese "puddings"
* Red lentil & pumpkin soup
* Rosemary & pancetta chicken patties stuffed with gorgonzola
* "Very good chocolate brownies"

Nov. 2 (1:00-3:30) - Tyler's Ultimate
* Caramelized onion toast
* Curry-lime chicken wings
* Macaroni & cheese with peas & bacon (by far the best mac & cheese recipe I've found yet)
* Pear cobbler with cranberry streusel

Holiday Classes

Dec. 8 (6:30-9:00) - Season's Eatings

I'm making my favorite holiday appetizers:
* Blue cheese & cranberry gougeres
* Spicy maple pecans
* Feta bruschetta
* "Naughty & Nice" Pumpkin Hummus
* BLT cheesecake

Dec. 18 (6:00-8:30) - Visions of Gingerbread
I'll show you how to make gingerbread syrup & use it in a variety of recipes:
* "Holiday in a Glass" cocktail
* Spinach salad with apples, walnuts, baked goat cheese & gingerbread vinaigrette
* Glazed chicken satay with peanut dipping sauce
* Spiced pear & caramel trifle

If you're interested in taking a class, you can call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online. The links above will take you to the registration page for each class as well.

Hope to see you there! It's going to be a blast!!