Sunday, June 20, 2010

I < 3 Mint

This is a lot of mint, and there is much more where that came from... there are already two jars of mint syrup in the fridge leftover from mint juleps... and now there are two large bunches hanging in the basement to become tea... what you see here is probably less than one tenth of the patch and it grows like a weed. There must be some recipes out there that require exorbitant amounts of mint...
I can put mint in rice or couscous... season some lamb.... make some tabbouleh or tzatziki sauce... bottle up some mint jelly... bake cookies... churn out ice cream... but I am leaning toward a Middle Eastern theme, maybe some Fattoush salad, Couscous and Lamb Kabobs... this is an opportunity for me to practice making a multi-course dinner!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2 Teaspoons Cajun Seasoning is Plenty Flavor

Rice, Shrimp, Scallions, Plum Tomatoes, Garlic, Olive Oil, Parsley, Cajun Seasoning....   It was even better the next day, after marinating in the fridge.

1 cup white rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
1 pound frozen shrimp, tails on
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 bunches scallions, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Cook rice, set aside (1 cup dry should make 3 cups cooked rice)
2. Heat oil in a large skillet and throw in garlic, wait 1 minute until you can smell the garlic cooking
3. Cook defrosted shrimp with the garlic and add cajun seasoning
4. When the shrimp are nearly finished, add scallions and allow them to brown a little before adding tomatoes
5. Pour in rice and allow it to warm back up if it is no longer hot
6. Add parsley and serve.

I always seem to forget that cooked tomatoes turn into soup, and the liquid from the semi-frozen shrimp and the tomatoes made for a lot of "soup" leftover in the pan. To concentrate the flavors of the cajun seasonings, make sure the shrimp are completely defrosted and don't cook the tomatoes for more than a minute or two before adding the rice.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In Search of Decadent French Toast, Part II

I was looking for decadence, and I got it... but then Lemon Curd is about the most decadent spreadable I have ever lathered on a piece of bread. It is pretty much lemon meringue pie filling (and it has all the butter, eggs and sugar to prove it).                                                                                                                                       
"In late 19th and early 20th century England, home-made lemon curd was traditionally served with bread or scones at afternoon tea as an alternative to jam, and as a filling for cakes, small pastries and tarts." 
- Fruit Curd, Wikipedia

The British don't mess around when it comes to tea time. And the Food Network doesn't mess around with French toast - lemon curd, blueberries, powdered sugar and maple syrup add up to pure deliciousness. 

Basic Recipe:

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 Tbsp butter

Extras for Lemon Blueberry Variation:

Lemon Curd
Challah or Brioche
Powdered Sugar
Maple Syrup


1. Preheat oven to 350 degress. Spread lemon curd on two slices of bread, sandwich blueberries in between two slices.
2. Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, sugar, salt in a bowl
3. Dip lemon blueberry sandwich in egg mixture
4. Cook sandwich in melted butter until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side 
5. Transfer to baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes
6. Cover in powdered sugar and maple syrup and serve.

Conclusion: Hmmm.... I think whoever came up with this recipe really liked sandwiches because they are trying to make two very clumsy French toast sandwiches (the strawberry shortcake French toast was a sandwich too, remember?) When I make this again, I will probably just make normal French toast and layer on the toppings after the bread is cooked on both sides. The blueberries fell out multiple times on the skillet, and it was very clumsy to flip the large challah sandwich I had constructed. Smaller slices would have helped too....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Got Bananas?

If given the choice to eat 4 overripe bananas or make them into a cake - I would make them into a cake every time. This recipe was so much fun to try with my boyfriend and I was happy to have the extra hands when we were preparing the caramel.
As a general rule, I like to cut the fat in half in my baking recipes - it almost never has an effect on the flavor. The butter may be needed for the caramel sauce, but the vegetable oil can definitely be cut in half from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup.

Caramelized Banana Loaf Cake 
Rachel Ray Magazine, December 2009

3 to 4 large bananas
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, in 1 piece
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Grease a 5-by-9 loaf pan. Trim both ends off each of 3 bananas to fit crosswise in the pan; reserve the ends. Halve the long banana pieces lengthwise; peel and transfer to a plate
2. In a large, heavy skillet, bring 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil, without stirring. Cook until the water has evaporated and the mixture starts turning amber. Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter with a fork. Add the long banana pieces cut side down and cook over low heat for 1 minute; transfer to the prepared loaf pan, arranging them crosswise, cut side down. Drizzle the remaining caramel on top.
3. In a medium bowl, mash the banana end pieces to equal 1 cup (add more banana if necessary). Mash in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Beat in the whole egg, egg white and vanilla. 
4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the banana mixture and oil; whisk until blended. Scrape the batter over the bananas in the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool on rack for 10 minutes; invert the cake onto a platter and let cool completely.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In Search of Decadent French Toast

 My obsession with french toast began with my mother's basic white bread and egg recipe and was further provoked by repeated visits to La Madeleine for their version covered in bananas, strawberries, honey, syrup and who knows what other secret, delicious ingredients.

So it is no surprise that I clipped out a recipe called "Perfect French Toast" from the Food Network Magazine and vowed to attempt all three variations -  lemon blueberry, chocolate and strawberry shortcake. I'm working in my best friend's kitchen today and I know she would appreciate the leftover english muffins, so I am going to start with the Strawberry Shortcake....


Basic Recipe:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 Tbsp butter

Extras for Strawberry Shortcake Variation:

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp sugar
3 cups halved strawberries
4 English muffins, halved
Honey (for drizzling)
Vanilla Yogurt (for topping)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degress. Mix 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest with 3 Tbsp sugar, toss in strawberries
2. Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, sugar, salt in a bowl
3. Soak english muffins in egg mixture for five minutes
4. Cook english muffins in melted butter until brown, about 2-3 minutes per side 
5. Transfer english muffins to baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes
6. Sandwich strawberries in between muffin halves and top with yogurt and honey

How do I feel about this recipe? Conflicted. On one hand, I didn't exactly follow the recipe to the letter... using cinnamon instead of nutmeg, including less milk, not measuring and replacing regular english muffins with honey wheat.  On the other hand, the flavors that really stood out to me were not really coming from the french toast... they were from the strawberries, lemon and vanilla yogurt. The egg-y wonderfulness was hidden by these much bigger flavors, producing a subtle richness that balanced the sweeter flavors, but not a wow-that's-french-toast taste

Conclusion: yummy, but unless this recipe is super healthy somehow, the butter, sugar, milk and egg part of this recipe are probably not worth the calories... 
The nutritionals from SparkPeople are below you can decide for yourself:
Calories: 480 
Total Fat: 12 g
   Saturated Fat: 5 g
   Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g
   Monounsaturated Fat: 3.5 g
Cholesterol: 228.5 mg
Sodium: 327 mg
Potassium: 392 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 81 g
   Dietary Fiber: 3 g
   Sugar: 54 g
Protein: 15 g

Vitamin A: 30.5%
Vitamin B-1: 13%
Vitamin B-2: 24.5%
Vitamin B-6: 6%
Vitamin B-12: 8.5%
Vitamin C: 7%
Vitamin D: 26.5%
Vitamin E: 13.5%
Calcium: 29%
Iron: 16%