Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Food Blog: Food Coma LA

My beautiful, funny, talented and weird friend Kelly Fremon is listed by Variety as one of the "10 Screenwriters to Watch" for her independent screenplay "Ticket To Ride" (to star Alexis Bledel, Carol Burnett, other awesome people) and is remaking the French film "Intimate Strangers" with Hillary Swank.

Kelly has been inspired by me to create her own food blog: Food Coma, LA. Check it out! It is, like her, wonderful and weird and hilarious.

We met each other in the two-year Humanities Honors program at UC Irvine, and were both pfouffy English majors who had to figure out what to do with our humanities degrees (although we also doubled in a social science). I went to law school and decided to become a law professor. She moved to Los Angeles to pursuse her dream of being a screenwriter. She started working at Fox writing promotional copy for DVD releases, wrote her own screenplay at night after work, and sold it to Warner Bros within a year and is now re-writing two other movies (well, currently she's on strike, as she's no scab).

To my knowledge, she is the only person I know who pursued her dream in Los Angeles and actually achieved it. Go to any coffee shop in Los Angeles and throw a rock, and chances are it'll hit a failed screenwriter, half of whom have pricey MFAs. She is utterly awesome, has the coolest job in the world, and for some reason thinks I am awesome and what I do is interesting. She is also drop dead gorgeous and insanely goofy, and thus has that bewitching combination of being utterly sweet and non-egotistical and really weird. She met her boyfriend at a pretentious Los Angeles wrap party for "24" by meeting him in the middle of the dance floor getting her groove on to "Billy Jean." 'Nuff said.

There is nothing I miss more than hanging out with her and her Dude eating stuff and watching The Office (UK edition). I miss the days when I used to come over from a long day of law school and bake banana bread and awesome pie and eat her chicken in madeira sauce and avoid her weird strumpety neighbor and get freaked out by her boyfriend's ghost stories. Now we live too far apart for me to do any of that, but our food blogs will be the umbilical cords between our well-fed bellies.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Favorite Food Blog: Smitten Kitchen

TC, she of the awesome cake that bringeth luck, fame, and fortune, introduces me to an awesome blog: The Smitten Kitchen.

Everyone who regularly dines with me is, I hope, hitting the gym more, because this site makes me want to cook up all manner of mischief in the kitchen. Fortunately, this also runs up against end-of-term paper crunch time, so they are not in too much danger of expanding waistlines. Alas for all around, I tend to survive off of 1-2 cooked meals a week and a lot of take out, turkey sandwiches, pizza, and bowls of cereal for the first three weeks of December.

If the plans hold though, tomorrow upon my return I will be making:

  • Fried Sage Leaf Pork Chops
  • Yams Baked with Cranberries and Pecans
  • Sauteed Squash in Lemon Basil Butter
  • Apple-Cranberry Cobbler

Yes, for a casual Monday night meal. Everything is so much more impressive when you Type Things Out With Capital Letters, but really, everything above is very easy and cooks all at the same time, it's only a lot of chopping. And my poor knife technique is at least getting more efficient. We've been eating a lot of chops lately (pork, lamb) because they cook quickly right before serving, a bonus when I'm coming home from a long day at school and The Dude's coming in from a long day of "real work" and a commute. Recipes and pictures will be posted the next day.

For Wednesday, I plan to make my Big Pot of Awesome Chicken Soup and chocolate chip cookies. Comfort food for a cold night that will last me through a weekend dissertating alone--at least my belly will be warm.

But now that I have learned about this blog, I am going to have to make:

Savory recipes are lacking on this blog, but I'm sure I'll figure something out with my freezer-full of 5 lb. pork roast, pork chops, and 12 lbs. filet mignon steaks.

I like this blog because of the very good pictures (appealing without being food porn), the snappy writing (again, descriptive without being salivatingly sexed up, no use of "voluptuous" to describe beets for example), and the fact that they road test recipes from TV and magazines and say which ones work and which don't. It's "real": home cooks trying to make do and make good, and sometimes your pate brisee breaks and so your galette bubbles and leaks. Right now I'm eating Cheetos, which means I fail the foodie test and should have no pretenses of being a better person/cook than I really am.

I also like how the snappy writers and commenters acknowledge universally known truths: Rachel Ray is f'ing annoying with her acronyms and hybrid neologisms and nicknames for food ("stoups" = stew-like soups; "sammies" = sandwiches), too loud, too stupid, too easy. But there is nothing wrong with a 30 minute meal (see above menu for tomorrow, even though it's more like 1 hour of prep + cooking and doesn't include half of the bake time). And at least she's a better cook and person than Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Craptastic meals.

Seriously, what would explain the chutzpah of a WASPy Aryan Stepford wife coming up with something as offensive (and DISGUSTING) as a "semi-homemade" (even an idiot can use a can of store-bought frosting on a store-bought cake) "Kwanzaa Celebration Cake" using Cornuts?! WTF?!

At any rate, stay tuned and add this blog to your RSS feed for more recipes and fun. Just don't expect me to bake a Kwanzaa Cake.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Recipes to Come

I am going to post favorite recipes, but I would like each to be accompanied by photos. But I make my favorites pretty regularly (they are easy and economical), even as I want a little more variety and creativity when I'm not eating alone. Then again, when I eat alone, I'm pretty lazy.

The Favorites:
  • Chicken Soup and Biscuits
  • Masoor Dal with Saffron Basmati Rice
  • 4 Hour Adobo Pork Roast with Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Sage Pork Chops and Yams Baked With Cranberries and Walnuts
  • Wine Braised Chicken with Rosemary, Mushrooms and Onions and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
  • Sausage Pasta with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce
  • Mushroom Asparagus Risotto
  • Tomato-Cumin Braised Chicken over Cous Cous with Cilantro
  • Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken
  • Cranberry Walnut Scones
  • Anise Almond Biscotti
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
  • Orange Essence Shortbread
  • Blondies
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies

New experiments to come as well!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Amber's Bundt Cake Of Love and Joy

All bundt cakes are cakes of love and joy. A bundt cake is like a hug.

--Amber Taylor

I stole this from her blog. This remains the best chocolate cake I've made (and I've experimented with other recipes) using cocoa powder, which I use because it's cheaper per gram and I don't have a double boiler. It's the one I keep making over and over: at three dinner parties, and for dinner with The Dude. It is an awesome cake.

Amber's Bundt Cake

This is a modified version of the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake from The New Best Recipe (modified in that I didn't have any instant coffee so I used extra cocoa instead).

Using a bundt pan instead of two round pans essentially doubled the baking time.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease pan with Baker's Joy.

12 tbsp softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large room-temperature eggs

Beat butter for 30 seconds, then gradually add sugar and beat 3-5 minutes.

Add 1 egg and beat for 1 minute. Repeat for other egg.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tsp cocoa (2 tsp should have been powdered coffee, but I didn't have any.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Whisk these together and add 1/3 of the mixture to the batter with your mixer on its lowest setting.

Then add 1/3 of a mixture of the following:

1 cup + 2 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla

and mix until almost blended.

Repeat for other 2/3 of dry and wet ingredients.

Mix for 15 seconds or until satiny.

Schlop into bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Dust with powdered sugar.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pear, Pecan and Cranberry Pie of Awesomeness

This is my favorite pie to make in the Fall, as it is full of autumnal ingredients, warms up the house, and is best served warm on a cold day. It's also a big hit at a dinner party. I plan to make a variation when I get my tartlet pans, which will make for pretty little pies. I lost the original recipe, so I'm making this all from memory (I've made it enough times that I can).

It takes forever to make (though maybe because I used to make dough by hand with a pastry cutter, and used to chop less efficiently), but can be made in stages. Everything can be premade (the dough, the filling), refrigerated, and put together at the last stage. If you do this all in one day, it cuts into fancy dinner making.

I used to call this a tarte in a fit of Francophilic pretension, but then I got down on France, so let us call a pie a pie. I add pastry flowers on top, making it a variation on the lattice pie. I am a jingoistic American, so all is cool.

I make a basic, flaky sweet pastry dough, jazzing it up with fresh lemon zest and a teaspoon of sugar. I recently bought a food processor, so now I put my pastry cutter and too-warm hands to rest.

I double the recipe below to get enough dough to work with. You can always freeze the extra dough (if any), or use it to make jam tarts (fancy pop tarts!) like I do.

Pastry Dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) COLD unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. (Belle: I use a spray bottle to get greatest surface-area dispersal of the cold water, drizzling is for drips.)

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated.

Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Turn out dough onto a work surface. Divide dough into 4 portions.

With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with pastry scraper.

Press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk (Belle: you will have two 5-inch disks).

Chill for an hour in the refrigerator. While that is chilling, you can make the filling:


2-3 Diced Anjou pears
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped roasted pecans
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cognac
3 tablespoons butter

Toss the pears and cranberries in the lemon juice, sugar, and lemon zest until coated

In a big pot, melt the butter, and over low-medium heat, cook the pears and cranberries, stirring around until the pears soften a bit, about 15 minutes.

Turn up the heat a bit and add the cognac and vanilla. Cook until the alcohol burns off and the liquid reduces a bit, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in the pecans, let cool to room temperature. While you do that, you can prepare your pie crust:

Take out the 5-inch dough disks and set out for 10 minutes (you could have done this as you were in the last stages of filling prep). Roll out one disk and line the bottom of a pie dish or your tartlet pans. Roll out the other disk and using a paring knife, cut out leaf and flower shaped bits of dough. If lazy, use cookie cutters. Put these decorative bits back into the fridge to chill.

Pour cooled pie filling into pie shell.

Arrange the decorative dough bits across the top, overlapping the edges of leaves or flowers. Press the edges together a bit to make sure they stick, or brush with egg white. Press the edges of the pie shell with the tines of a fork to seal, or do what I do and overlap more pastry leaves. Roll out some flower centers and make things pretty.

Bake everything for about 40-45 minutes at 350 F, depending on your oven, until the crust is golden.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Apple Coffee Cake

I baked this for Larry Solum when he visited. I used a round pie dish to get high, fluffy wedges, and this added 10-15 minutes to the bake time. I tented it with foil to keep the top from getting burnt with the additional bake time.

Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9"x13" pan.

Mix together 3 cups of apples, peeled and sliced with 2 tsps of cinnamon; set aside.

Beat together the following ingredients for about 3 minutes:

3 cups flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs

Pour half of flour mixture into 9"x13" pan, top with half of the apple mixture and repeat.

Mix 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup brown sugar together, sprinkle over the top.
Melt 2 Tbsps of butter and drizzle over.

Bake for 50 minutes; cool for 15 minutes.

Mix the following until smooth consistency:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp softened butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
3 tsps hot water

Drizzle the glaze over the cake.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sugar Cookies

I add the zest of Meyer lemons to these cookies to make them tastier. Icing is optional, as I use them as tea cookies. I underbake a bit to make them soft, chewy tea biscuits, or overbake to make crisp dipping cookies.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon zest of Meyer lemons

Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 6 minutes with a handheld.

Beat in egg and vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 6-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out 1 disk of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into an 8 1/2-inch round (1/4 inch thick) on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm.)

Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with cutters and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, 10 to 15 minutes. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll scraps only once) and bake on cooled baking sheets.

If using icing and coloring it, transfer 1/4 cup icing to a small bowl for each color and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color icing into a sealable bag, pressing out excess air, and snip a 1/8-inch opening in 1 bottom corner of bag. Twisting bag firmly just above icing, decoratively pipe icing onto cookies. Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour) before storing cookies.

Cooks' notes:

• Dough can be chilled up to 3 days.

• Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lemon Bars and Cake

The Roomie and I found and rescued about 7 large lemons from an abandoned Minute Maid stand at the end of a baseball game in a large stadium in The City. This is what resulted from the fruit of the poisonous tree:


Shortbread Base:

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a food processor process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps.

Sprinkle mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom.

Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes.

While shortbread is baking, prepare topping.

I doubled the recipe for the lemon curd and add lemon zest to make them tarter and juicier bars.

Lemon Curd:

6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1.5 cups fresh lemon juice
Zest of half the lemons
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a bowl whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until combined well and stir in lemon juice and flour.

Pour lemon mixture over hot shortbread.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. and bake confection in middle of oven until set, about 30 minutes.

Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars.

Bar cookies keep, covered and chilled, 3 days. Sift confectioners' sugar over bars before serving.


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.

Spray bundt pan with Baker's Joy. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color (about 3 minutes).

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter along with the lemon juice. Mix only until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool, then gently remove the sides of the pan.

For the icing, combine the sifted confectioners' sugar with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (You want the icing to be thicker than a glaze but still thin enough that it will just run over the sides of the cake.

If not the right consistency add more lemon juice or powdered sugar, accordingly.)

Frost the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides.

Let the icing set before covering.

This cake will keep for several days in an airtight container.