Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring bakers and vol au vents

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!”

Well, this was a fun challenge, I've made puff pastry from scratch twice so far, once in home economics when I was about 12, and once in class at college recently. It really is excellent when you make it yourself.

I was really excited to make vol-au-vents too, I've had them at many parties and occasions, unfortunately they seem to have fallen out of favor recently, being just way too dated, but I really loved those little fluffy bites and was really looking forward to making them from scratch.

The building of the pastry worked very well, but unfortunately when I rolled it out, I didnt persist, getting a nice thin pastry, so they were a little stodgy. I was also kind of worried about weighing them down with a silpat to make them rise evenly, so they were a little loopy when they baked! My husband says they look like geoducks. Ick!

I decided upon two fillings, I remember really loving mushroom vol au vents, so I sauteed some mushrooms and garlic, added a sprinkle of red pepper and black pepper, a touch of 'better than bouillon' mushroom, a sprinkle of flour and then reduced the sauce down. Mmm. Bit ugly looking but very tasty.

For dessert I whipped up some heavy cream with honey, and filled the vol au vents, then added slices of figs and walnuts.

I was very happy to see all the layers in the pastry, although they were really heavy to eat since they were so thick. Oh well, I'll just have to keep practicing!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Brekkie in San Diego

I generally eat my breakfast at home, our Sunday routine involves slowly scrambled eggs from Schaener Farm, spinach and muffins/bagels and some bacon for my husband. If there are big tomatoes in my CSA I put them under the broiler on a low heat. I like to wake up slowly, have a good brekkie, but not overdo things.

Having visitors, I thought it would be fun to take them out for breakfast, and I wanted to share two outstanding breakfast spots.

I went down to Mission Beach with my beloved brother, and we decided to eat at Mission Cafe. I had the best french toast I have ever had in my life, crusty cinnamon toast with a souffle like soft eggy middle.

My brother enjoyed the Chilaques, which he decided were like breakfast nachos. It was great eating with my brother, we had so much trouble deciding that we ordered these and then swapped half way through, so it was like having two meals. Excellent! I'm trying to think of excuses to get back there asap!!

Another weekend we had a friend in town and we wandered up the hill from our house to Crest Cafe. It has such a cheery exterior, and is really cute inside, and also does a killer version of my favourite breakfast, eggs florentine. They also had a really solid regular breakfast (my husband always orders eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes with an extra side of bacon) and omelette.

Other places that I've heard are good are the City Deli, Hash House a go go and the Studio Diner. I've clearly got a lot more eating out to do!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Livestrong with Banana Bread!

As I surveyed my kitchen after a whirlwind visit from my family, I really wanted to bring something nice to bookclub. We'd just finished 'A homemade life' by Mollie Wizenburg and planned to each bring a dish from it. I realised I had 3 very ripe bananas just waiting to be used in some banana bread.
This also seemed to be a perfect opportunity to work with something yellow for Livestrong Note the cat wandering through my shot!!
This is in honor of many people, especially Jen and Barbara, who is hosting the livestrong taste of yellow.

Cancer is a horrible thing, I like the way livestrong is positive and strong about fighting cancer and moving on with life.
I hope this would be good for someone who is struggling with cancer. It might be a little rich, but the ginger in it may settle the stomach and the bread is very comforting in smell, texture and taste, so definitely good to have around. I like to cut into slices and have a piece ready in a baggie in the freezer ready to pop in the microwave whenever I'm peckish.
There were varying reports on whether the ginger was good or bad, I did use the lovely stuff from King Arthur Flour, so it was probably stronger than other stuff. I used the big choc chips from giradelli, so I thought it paired very nicely. If you're not a fan then it could easily be left out, maybe try walnuts in addition or instead.

This banana bread has similar proportions to my regular low fat banana bread, although I'm definitely a fan of the technique of melting the butter, since one can quickly make this with just a couple of bowls, a whisk and a spoon in a matter of minutes.
We also enjoyed some super delicious butternut soup, I'm not always a fan but the pear and vanilla really cut through the creaminess. There were roasted cauliflowers and the super indulgent corn bread. Everything from the book seems immensely comforting, although not necessarily super rich. We're all looking forward to trying more recipes from it.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger from A Homemade Life
makes 1 loaf
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (around 3)
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

preheat the oven to 350f and grease a 9 x 5 in loaf pan

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
Whisk together the butter, eggs, banana, yoghurt and vanilla.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients with the minimum of stirring, then add the ginger and chocolate, turning a couple of times to mix.

Bake for around 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daring cooks make masala dosa!

What an interesting challenge this month! The dish is of Southern Indian origin. When I travelled in India I didnt really enjoy masala dosa, but that may have been that they are traditionally served for breakfast, which just didnt appeal!
These were delicious. It was fantastic and rich and totally vegan, we really didnt miss the animal products here. My husband doesnt usually enjoy my curries, but the dosas mopped up the sauce and he was very impressed, so this may be added to my rotation. I think in the future I'll make big batches of everything and then it will be just a case of reheating the dish. I followed the recipe almost exactly, I got a bucketload of the coconut sauce, it will last for weeks!
Please visit Debyia for the recipe and her approach to the dish.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

San Francisco and Santa Rosa, fun times!

We had a fun weekend in the bay area, starting with a night in San Francisco at our favourite cheap and cheerful hotel, the Metro. We strolled over to Magnolia Pub for lots of beers, and the best fish and chips I've had in a long time. They also had excellent sausages, saurkraut and crispy pork skin. Not great for veggies, the veggie rice dish was a little bland.

After a heavy beer night, the best thing to do was find a good brekkie. We wandered down to the bean bag cafe and I indulged in a totally delicious nutella and banana crepe, everyone else had hearty omelettes and scrambles which also looked and tasted great. I dont normally go out for breakfast much but this was a total winner.

We then started on our way to wine country and stopped off at Ubuntu for lunch. It was a lovely restaurant, but the meat eaters in the group found it totally over the top and really weren't into the concept of the restaurant. Its easy to win them over with good food, but the insanely over the top attitude of the place did put them off. We started with olives with carrot-top pesto

A wonderful green bean salad with bright colors

Delicious little cutlets with 'nasty bits' of veggies, probably my favourite dish!!
An excellent pizza, while some people say you cant go wrong with pizza, this was lovely

We really over-ordered on this to the waiters recommendation, we probably only needed about 3 dishes between 2. Everything comes out when its ready, so tapas style is the way to go. Another observation was that the plates were insanely large, so it was kind of hard to fit them on the table!

Then we made our way to Santa Rosa, which was by and large a bit of a letdown, foodie wise, apart from a really wonderful Ethiopian meal at Abyssinia. This is one of the best cuisines for a mix of veggies and meat lovers, they had wonderful veggie curries, and slow braised meat stews with the injera and everyone was very happy. I enjoyed the sweet honey wine, and my companions enjoyed the stout.