Saturday, December 31, 2011

drinking chocolate and the new year





















So many creative pursuits demand a period of solitude for the germination of projects-writing, music-making, painting.  It is in these moments of quiet, where creativity seems to take flight.  For me it can be in the middle of the night, during a run or even snuggled under a blanket on the sofa with a cup of cocoa in hand.  

These times are few and far between for me and I would imagine for most of us.  But when they arrive they are like an old friend whose face brings satisfying warmth from deep within.  Sometimes these moments of inspiration might not lead necessarily to a great work per se, maybe a new approach in business, a recipe or even dare I say…resolutions.
 
At this stage of my life, I’ve decided to approach resolutions as lists of To-Do’s and Not To-Do’s; this seems much more palatable and less constraining than resolutions.  Truth be told, I’m afraid of resolutions.  Afraid to fail I suppose.  But lists on the other hand suggest an in-progress approach. I feel that if I am moving in the right direction, there is hope and I can be encouraged.  Of course this implies that goals, plans and dreams were the starting point, and the list is a springboard from there.

If you need a little encouragement to get started, may I suggest a delicious cup of a deep, slightly spicy hot chocolate to get those creative juices flowing.  This thick rich chocolate is warm and bittersweet and has a lingering heat from the pepper.  This is the type of thing I crave this time of year-not just the indulgence itself but the experience of consuming it, the slowing down, and the savoring.

So as we are closing the chapter of 2011 and looking forward to a new year, I hope you are inspired to take on some new challenges and maybe even head into uncharted territory with courage and determination.

Happy New Year!

Shannon


Spicy Drinking Chocolate
Serves 1

8 oz. whole milk
5 Tbsp. shaved best quality chocolate (I prefer Valrhona 70%)
A pinch of cayenne
A pinch of cinnamon

Bring milk to the simmer over medium low heat.  Add shaved chocolate and stir until dissolved.  Add cayenne and cinnamon.  Serve in a warm mug. 



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

remembering...waffles


I've been organizing some photos from a recent trip to Bruges, Belgium. It's like a place taken from out of a storybook, so beautiful.  I think I was looking through the lens of my camera more than not.  Bruges is known as the “Venice of the North” for its medieval monuments, bridges and romantic scenery.  You can experience the city by taking a cruise through the canals, and discover secret gardens, picturesque bridges and wonderfully beautiful still lives.


 











Along the cobblestone streets in Bruges you can stop into anyone of the 49 chocolate boutiques (after all they are the world’s capital of chocolate) 














or indulge in delicious yeast-raised waffles anytime of day sold by street vendors.  Either plain, dipped in chocolate, topped with whipped cream or fruit they are a comfort I enjoyed if not once at least twice a day.

I think some waffles with a little chocolate might be just the ticket today.

Enjoy!
Shannon
  

Waffles with Chocolate 

 

On a cold winter night (or anytime), indulge in this decadent dessert—homemade waffles dipped into rich chocolate.

For the waffles:

3 eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar

For the chocolate:

1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. chocolate chips
2 to 3 Tbs. flavored liqueur, such as kirsch, amaretto or orange liqueur (optional)

Directions:

To make the waffles, preheat a Belgian waffle maker on medium-high heat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat an oven to 200°F. 

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla until blended. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture and whisk until smooth. 

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1 cup of the whites into the batter, then carefully fold in the remaining whites. 

Pour about 1/3 cup batter into each well of the waffle maker and close the lid. Cook the waffles until golden brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the waffles to a wire rack set on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter. 

Meanwhile, make the chocolate fondue: Using the cream, fondue chips and liqueur, prepare the fondue according to the package instructions. Keep warm in a fondue pot. 

Cut the waffles into quarters and serve with the chocolate fondue. Serves 4 to 6.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

cookie swap


Home 
Homemade cookies.  Few gifts are as thoughtful or as delicious, and nothing is as much fun to create. 
The holidays are when we make those extra efforts-large and small to bring out the best.
  
When it comes to baking and entertaining we turn to traditional and favorite recipes, made with the very finest ingredients.  Pure and intense, fresh and flavorful, these key ingredients are what make our efforts a delicious success in the kitchen.
  
This recipe is a home run for chocolate lovers, only the best Double-Dutch Cocoa (such a Perngotti or Valrhona) plus the addition of espresso powder makes this cookie a rich indulgence. 

Join in with us on our holiday cookie swap.  Share your favorite family holiday cookie recipe, post a picture or a link so we can all enjoy something new and tasty!

So here it is, one of my favorite chocolate cookie recipes. Talk about in your face, these Double-Dark Chocolate Mocha Drops are spiked with espresso, and loaded with chips. Let’s go!

Enjoy!
Shannon
  
Double-Dark Mocha Drops

1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 1/4 cups All purpose flour
2 cups chips: cappuccino, cinnamon, chocolate, or a mixture

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment.
Combine the melted butter, sugars, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder in a mixing bowl.
Beat until the mixture is smooth.
Add the egg and vanilla, and again beat until thoroughly combined. The mixture will look a bit grainy; that's OK.  Beat in the cocoa. Add the flour, beating slowly to combine. Add the chips, mixing until they're well-distributed.
Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. A teaspoon scoop works very well here. If the dough begins to stick, simply dip the scoop in cold water. Space the cookies at least 1" apart.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; the cookies should seem barely done. If you attempt to pick an oven-hot cookie off the baking sheet, it'll fall apart.  Allow the cookies to cool right on the baking sheet.

makes about 4 dozen




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Paris, part 2













    
  After having our espresso and croissant at a local café near our hotel, my daughter and I discussed our plans for the day and knew that our first stop had to be the open-air green market in the 7ème Arrondissement at the lovely Marché Saxe-Breteuil, only a couple of minutes walk away. 


              There are no fewer than eighty greenmarkets in Paris, the vast majority of them are open-air markets (marchés volants, or roving markets) that operate two or three days a week, most of often in the morning. 

              But the Marché Saxe-Breteuil has to be one of the most appealing outdoor food markets in Paris.  Set in an upscale residential neighborhood, the market is shaded by two rows of sycamore trees and the tall light poles with modern fixtures provide a bit of architectural glamour.  The Eiffel tower is in view which adds to the pleasure. 


              On this particular morning, Paris was awakened by sunshine flooding down through the canopy of trees giving the whole market a golden glow.
           As we negotiated our way from stall to stall I was overwhelmed by the mind-numbing assortment of produce




 cheese, bread, meat, and seafood 










            
            not to mention the household goods. Personal clothing is abundant, flowers, toys, purses, wallets, and other leather goods known as maroquinerie (because they come from Morocco) are displayed as well as oriental carpets, fine lace tablecloths and quilts. 
But of course for me, it was the food that captivated my attention, it was a sensory awakening.  I felt a kind of camaraderie as I strolled from stall to stall watching the Parisians discussing with the vendors specific nuances of the what seemed like dozens upon dozens of artisanal cheeses displayed, sampling a little of this and a little of that. 



            I couldn’t believe the abundance of oysters piled high in baskets down a long table.  There were plat or flat, and curved/crenellated types.  They are numbered 1 through 5 to distinguish the largest (#1) from the smallest #5).  A dozen #3’s will set you back as much as a dozen euros in a restaurant, though much less in the open-air market.  The vendor seemed to be explaining the fine points of differences among fines de claires, speciales, and belons all from Marennes and Oléron on the Atlantic coast.



               There are multiple charcuterie stands with sausages, prosciutto, even pig snouts, which attest to the French genius for finding culinary use for every part of the beast.  In an adjacent stall, half a dozen varieties of mushrooms are laid out along with all the glorious greens: crinkly spinach, crisp peppery cresson and my favorite frisée.






              Paris is a city over flowing with wonderful ingredients to cook with. If you are truly in love with food, you can be assured you will be in love with Paris.  And if you are in love for beauty that runs deep through all genres, Paris will happily take you by the hand and accommodate you.


jouir de,
shannon






Tuesday, July 12, 2011

remembering Paris and Poilâne




Whenever I'm asked what I love most about Paris, the reply is of course the food. More specifically, the boulangeries.

Admittedly not all bread in Paris is created equal, but there are those places that are off the charts. One place in particular is Poilâne. Poilâne is probably France’s most famous bakery, founded in 1932 on the chic rue du Cherche Midi.

The bakery welcomes you with beautifully crafted wrought iron door handles made into the shape of wheat sheaves and then as you enter you are overcome by the warm yeasty smell of freshly baked bread and pastries.  


This bakery produces the most famous starter bread in the world simply called pain Poilâne or miche Poilâne. They have taken the most humble of ingredients, bread, salt and water and have elevated it to an art form. One of the things that make Poilâne’s bread so good is the traditional manufacturing process. They use stone-milled gray flour and Guérande salt. A slow natural fermentation process is used which is what helps the bread develop that deep, earthy flavor that is key, and then baked in wood-burning ovens.
















The bread is formed into giant wheels, of which you can buy a half or quarter, and boasts a thick crust. The top is slashed with the signature “P” and the bottom is slightly charred to perfection. The moist, fragrant crumb begs for some creamy butter and fresh fruit preserves. Aside from this star item, the bakery also sells specialty breads that are baked with rye flour, raisins or Périgord walnuts.

The wooden slat shelves that support the loaves of bread wrap around the perimeter of the tiny shop. There are also Poilâne-endorsed accessories that make lovely gifts for the bread lover: embroidered aprons, bread bags, bread knives, bread boxes and homemade jams.
 




























There are croissants that take you’re your breath away
















as well as flans, apple tartlets, and pale blond butter cookies (which can be sampled from a basket at the register) are all for the taking.
















Poilâne’s breads are so distinctive and delicious that loyal fans world wide clamor to have them shipped to far-flung locations. Fortunately, the bread’s crusty exterior and chewy interior lasts up to a week and renders it hardy enough for the voyage, just in case you won’t be able to make a little trip to Paris yourself, grâce à Dieu (thank goodness).

bonne mémoire.
shannon





Sunday, April 24, 2011

debut

















For months now, I have been in a trial and error cycle, trying to get “the feel” for making artisinal bread, that intuitive understanding of how bread works.  The process in making traditional artisinal bread does not lend itself naturally to a written recipe. 

This labor of love has been born from a desire to create and enjoy a beautiful artisan loaf of bread that has a satisfying depth of flavor, a good crust, and a moist, supple crumb that is so difficult to find. 




















When I came across Chad Robertson’s book Tartine Bread, I was inspired.  He has translated his method for making his amazing bread at home that is comparable to his bakery in San Francisco.  In his book he has documented the process with detailed photographs and instructions for clarity.



The making of this bread requires a devotion to the use of natural leaven, often called sourdough. It begins with a culture that is created when flour and water are combined, and the microorganisms-wild yeasts and bacteria present in the flour, in the air, and on the baker’s hands-begin to ferment spontaneously.  After fermentation begins, the baker “feeds” the culture regularly to “train” it into a lively and predictable starter.  But this is a commitment easily entered into if you desire to enjoy bread that has a deep auburn crust that shatters between the teeth, giving way to a tender, pearlescent crumb.  


So if you decide to jump on board and try your hand at creating some extraordinary bread, you have my support.  Or if not, I would be happy to share a slice with you.


Enjoy!
Shannon


















“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’   Matthew 4:4

Monday, March 21, 2011

creative domesticating





































I guess I didn’t think much of my recent project, of turning my refrigerator into a kind of art installation, until I walked in my kitchen a few days ago to find my house guest taking pictures of the fridge and emailing them to friends across the country. He said it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen (I had to wonder if he got out much).
 
I have to admit I was a little embarrassed, probably because apparently this isn’t normal.

But why not turn the fridge into an art installation; aren’t most people kind of embarrassed by what’s in their refrigerator?  So why not thoughtfully arrange everything from the milk to the eggs into an atheistically pleasing way.  The refrigerator is the perfect installation space, an illuminated box. By taking food from its packaging and transferring it to pretty glassware or vintage dishes it is given a place of prominence and is less likely to be pushed into some dark corner and forgotten.  Lining shelves with textiles, hanging hooks to hold cured meats or using baskets to house cheese or fresh produce are all ways to create beauty out of the ordinary.
















This exercise is great for rethinking the way we live, creating beautiful spaces that we interact with daily.  The mundane household chores that can inspire provocative art.
 
Art can be found in a gallery or even a kitchen.

Enjoy!
Shannon






Monday, February 28, 2011

puppy love





If you are a dog lover and want to give your furry friend a little doggie indulgence and puppy pampering then these healthful biscuits are the trick.  These biscuits are appealing to fussy-eater dogs that use everyday wholesome ingredients you probably have on hand.  Using a fifty-cent biscuit cutter and a little time (no need to work like a dog) you can be treating your puppy to a delicious all-natural oven baked snack that will not only delight but is so good he’ll be begging for more.  It will definitely put the “wow” into bow wow.

Enjoy!
Shannon


Champs' Biscuits 

1 cup uncooked oatmeal 
1 tablespoon bouillon granules (beef, chicken or 
vegetable)
3/4 cups powdered milk 
1 egg, beaten 
1/3 c margarine 
1 1/2 cups hot water 
3/4 cups cornmeal 
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. 

In a large bowl pour hot water over oatmeal, margarine, and bouillon granules: let stand 5 minutes. 

Stir in powdered milk, cornmeal, cheddar cheese
 and egg. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. 

Knead 3 to 4 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to make a very stiff dough. Pat or roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into bone shapes and place on a greased baking sheet
. 

Bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool and dry out until hard. 

Makes approximately 1 3/4 pounds. Store in an airtight container 

Storing Dog Treats 
In general you should store dog treats the same way you would homemade people cookies. That being said, there are two main variables that determine storage time - the amount and type of fat in the recipe and your local weather conditions. If your recipe uses fats such as butter, or meat bits or juices then it will be more prone to rancidity than a recipe that uses
some vegetable oil or shortening. Your treats may mold or spoil much faster in humid or very hot climates. 
Refrigeration and Freezing - Refrigeration will prolong the life of more fragile dog treats. Make sure to store in a tightly sealed container or zip lock bag. You can also freeze most treats in zip lock freezer bags. Allow to thaw completely before use. 



















Champ was so excited about his biscuits!







Sunday, February 20, 2011

3rd and Fairfax





What began as a dirt lot for farmers to congregate and sell their fresh produce has now grown into a renowned dining paradise combining nostalgic charm for natives and tourists alike.  L.A.’s Original Farmers’ Market is the place where visitors can experience authentic cuisines from around the world, enjoy old Hollywood stories and maybe even catch sight of a celebrity or two.  Fresh produce, meats, seafood, cheeses and baked goods abound in this condensed area.



If you want to grab something for either breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between you can find it here.  From Mexican to Middle Eastern to Brazilian and even good ol' American diner fare the Farmers' Market has something for everyone.

We hit the market at lunch time so we decided to try the famed Pampas Grill.  It is a Brazilian barbecue joint that seems to always have a line at least 10 deep.




In the center of the restaurant, you’ll see a large mesquite barbecue, where the finest cuts of meat are simply prepared and spit-roasted to juicy perfection. 


The food is priced per pound, customers select dishes they want as they walk along and pay by weight at the end.  


The fried plantains, braised collard greens and black beans were the perfect choice with the succulent lamb for my lunch.

After lunch we headed over to stall 150, Monsieur Marcel’s Gourmet Market.  Where carefully chosen imported fine foods and private label groceries are stocked to over flowing.  You’ll find over twenty five varieties of extra-virgin olive oil, impressive wines, fine cheeses and top quality essentials such as black truffles, beluga caviar and hundred year-old balsamic vinegars.

After narrowing down our purchases which wasn’t easy, we finished up our afternoon with something sweet from Littlejohn’s English Toffee House, it was the perfect ending.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

i won what?


When Ally, a marketing coordinator for Condé Nast contacted me via email to say that I had won the Epicurious Farm Fresh Recipe Contest I was skeptical.   My first thought was that this was some sort of “your name has been entered into a drawing” sort of thing or that it was a marketing promotion.  And honestly, I didn’t even remember entering any contest for Epicurious. But after a little research sure enough it was legit. And the winning recipe was for my Rhubarb & Strawberry Crisp.

After a little back and forth communication with Ally, I thought for sure that this award would catapult me into some sort of rhubarb hall of fame…or that maybe Bobby Flay was going to fly to Orange County and personally hand me my check and with his camera crew in tow wanting to challenge me to a rhubarb crisp throw down.


Sadly, my check arrived with little pomp and circumstance.  But my check did arrive none the less.  And it is going into the fund for the “eating my way through Paris” this spring with my daughter.  So for that I’m very grateful.

So just in case you’d like to make this Farm Fresh Recipe Challenge Winning Recipe here it is (drum roll please!)

Enjoy!
Shannon

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crisp
Serves 8

1 lb. rhubarb, sliced in 1 in. pieces
2 pints strawberries, hulled, sliced in half
Zest and juice from 3 blood oranges (or whatever oranges you have on hand)
¼ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
Topping:
1 stick butter, chilled, cubed
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup oats
Pinch of salt
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, chopped coarsely

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease an 8 x 11 baking dish and set aside.  In a bowl combine sliced rhubarb, strawberries, zest and juice from the oranges, flour and sugar.  Toss gently to incorporate flour and sugar throughout.  Pour into prepared baking dish.
For the topping I like to use a food processor, but a pastry cutter, fork or even your fingers work as well.  Combine chilled, cubed butter, with the flour, sugar and salt, pulse a few times until butter is the size of small peas.  Add oatmeal and pulse once or twice, just enough to get it mixed through, but not chopped too small.  Crumble mixture over the top of the strawberry rhubarb mixture.  Top with the roasted hazelnuts and bake for 45 minutes until the top is browned nicely and the mixture is bubbling through the cracks.
Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.



Friday, February 4, 2011

don't touch my pork belly!


























Confession. If you would have asked me maybe five years ago what Charcuterie was or even how to pronounce it, I couldn’t have said.

Who would have thought that in a relatively short period of time I would now be, dare I say, a little obsessed with the topic.  To the point that when the mention of pork belly comes up I start clapping.  Yes, clapping.  Sadly I’m now one of “those” (whatever those are).

Just yesterday someone found out that I have a food blog and was asking me about it and what I’m working on now.  They should have known better.  I began on this dissertation with such animation, throwing terms around I figured everyone knows and was quite chagrined when they began to glaze over the conversation quickly diverted to something else..I think the weather.  Am I the only one that gets so passionate about pork belly?  Am I alone?

Well, in any case I am plunging head first into this meat adventure.  And yes, if you come over you might just see meat hanging from a rope in the kitchen, curing.  And no, 8 lbs. of pork belly hanging from a rope in the kitchen is not strange.  Believe me when it is cured and ready to be eaten it will be all worth the raised eyebrows.  I hope.

So today, thanks to Drew at The Meat House I am picking up my fresh pork belly that is flying in from a Quaker farm in South Dakota.   The book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn arrived yesterday.  I am dangerously close to beginning my meat adventure.

I’m so excited!

Shannon


Monday, January 31, 2011

a year of meat...the challenge



The blogoshpere is buzzing with a new contest/challenge for all those brave enough to jump on board and learn how to preserve meat,  formally called Charcuterie pronounced shahr-koo-tuh-ree  which is the art and science of making cooked meat preparations (preserving in salt),  usually with a special emphasis on pork.  

The challenge is aptly called "Charcutepalooza" quite a mouth full, but fun to say none the less.  It is a  group of maniacally dedicated food-bloggers across the world currently engaged in a 12-month charcuterie making, salting, curing, cooking and writing contest.

The co-creators of this challenge are Cathy Barrow (Mrs.Wheelbarrows Kitchen) and Kim Foster (The Yummy Mummy). The grand prize for the challenge is a trip to Paris from the folks at Trufflepig Travel.  The winner will enjoy a week in Paris where you’ll be wined and dined, taken on guided tours of the markets, introduced to fromagieres, and truffle sellers.

The winner will also enjoy 5-days at the Kitchen at Camont in Gascony to sit under the tutelage of Kate Hill for one of her week long butchering classes.  Learning about charcuterie where many say the craft was first perfected.


The numbers of bloggers (180 and counting) are signed on to tackle a recipe each month, from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s 2005 "Charcuterie:The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing"  This is the book that Barrow chose as a reference guide for methodology and technique.  But because of all of the crazy press this contest is getting Michael Ruhlman along with chef Bob del Grosso, a former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America have offered to come along side the challenge to help facilitate any questions or comments as they arise.  As well as be two of the judges for the winner of the contest.

D'Artagnan, a specialty food purveyor has signed on to offer a special discount for the project participants through use of a secret promotional code sent out on the 15th of each month. D’Artagnan is dedicated to procuring the best from small farms that support humane and sustainable farming practices and never use antibiotic or hormones.

The challenge for the month of February is pancetta or quanciale. If you would like to join in and try your hand at curing up some pork belly just pick up the book Charcuterie or go to Michael Ruhlmans' blog site and follow his recipe there.  So with the Charcuterie book ordered and in transit from Amazon, the secret code acquired for D’Artagnan (Thanks Cathy!) on getting the discounts for the meat products I’m ready to get started.  Pork belly here I come!

Better late than never.


Shannon