4th of July Part 1: Harvard Mess

Hello, my dear readers. Last week was the 4th of July (i.e. America’s birthday) so I was obliged, in the name of my homeland, to make some very important patriotic desserts. First up, I have a variation on a popular English dessert called Eaton Mess. Since modifying (and sometimes bastardizing) foods from other countries is something we Americans already love to do, I thought that a small tweak on a favorite dish of our former colonial overlords would be incredibly appropriate and delicious. Normally, Eaton Mess consists of whipped cream, strawberries and meringue cookies. But to make it patriotic-looking, I added blueberries.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

1/2 cup blueberries

1 cup crushed meringue cookie

1 tsp vanilla extract

If you have an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream on medium speed until thick. Otherwise, beat it with a whisk (this could take a while). Once the cream has reached the appropriate consistency, add vanilla. Add crushed meringue cookies and fruit. Serve immediately.

Bon Appétit, mes amis!

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A Triumphant Return: Mediterranean Savory Oatmeal

My dear friends, I am so sorry to have abandoned this blog for so long. As often happens, exams, school, and life got in the way for an extended period of time. But I vow, no more shall I wantonly leave behind this project! However, in the time that I have been away, I have cooked many things and invented a number of recipes of my own which I am very excited to share here.

Today, I will be demonstrating a quick and easy breakfast that I improvised this morning. It was so great that I feel compelled to share it with the entire internet.

I got the idea for savory oatmeal when I was flipping through Angela Liddon’s “Oh She Glows” cookbook which is overflowing with delicious-looking, healthy, vegan recipes. This book has a version of savory oatmeal with lentils, hummus and avocado which I’m sure I will have to try at some point. When I described this concoction to my friend Dorothy she said, and I quote, “Oh my God. Savory oatmeal is great! Try cracking an egg into it!”. So I did. And thus, the situation below was born.

Ta da!

Ta da!

To make this you will need:

1/2 cup of rolled oats

1 cup of boiling water

1 egg

2-3 tablespoons of baba gannouj

1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

a drizzle of olive oil

1/4 teaspoon of paprika (smoked is ideal)

salt and pepper to taste

First, bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the oatmeal and cook according to package directions (generally just stir occasionally until it’s thick). Next, crack the egg into the mixture and stir until the egg is well combined and thoroughly cooked. Add salt and pepper. Top with baba gannouj, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and paprika.

Bam! You’ve started the day on the right foot.

Bon Appetite, mes amis!

Reverse Brunch Part 2: Smoked Salmon and Vegetable Hash

As promised, here is Part 2 of the Reverse Brunch eatings! So, since this meal followed a run (an exceedingly beautiful one, I might add) I thought it would be nice to have something healthy and protein-packed to start.

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest ages ago and I had intended to make it for dinner for my family one night while I was home between moves. I had nearly forgotten about it until I was browsing through my extensive collection of pinned recipes looking for brunch inspiration and it seemed completely perfect. (it was)

Following our run, my roommate, our friend and I set to work chopping up all of the vegetables. Our friend has an incredibly photogenic kitchen so the resulting pictures of our handiwork turned out rather beautifully.

Look at all of the vegetables! Yum!

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While the vegetables were cooking, we had a baguette and cheese and laughed and chatted about our lives as the kitchen was brimming with happy energy and wonderful smells When everything was finally cooked it was deliciously filling, truly the perfect post-run, reverse-brunch savory treat. It was how food should be: social, fun and nourishing for the soul as well as the body. Though this dish was very tasty, the best part of it was the way that the three of us created it together. So often these days, cooking seems to be treated as an inconvenience. People cook because they have to: either to save money or to save calories. Making and eating food this way robs the entire process of any joy. Cooking should not only be creative, but also communal. The entire production of food should bring people together and leave everyone with full hearts as well as full stomachs. Good food is love.

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The recipe I used is from William Sonoma’s blog. It calls for smoked trout but they were out of it at the grocery store so I substituted smoked salmon. It also suggests putting the pan used for sautee-ing the vegetables in the oven but since the pan wasn’t quite large enough, I transferred the vegetables to a baking dish. I also simplified it rather substantially in terms of the order in which things are prepared.

Without further ado, here is the recipe!

2/3 cup rye bread crumbs (I used crumbled whole wheat crackers instead)

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ pound of chanterelle mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms look good)

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2-3 large carrots chopped into rounds

¾ pound asparagus, ends trimmed

1 pound fingerling potatoes

8 oz. Smoked salmon

6 eggs

2 tablespoons chopped herbs (chive, parsley, basil)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F/190 C. In a frying pan, sautee the onion with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the onion is translucent, add the rest of the vegetables. Cook until the potatoes and asparagus start to brown.

Transfer the vegetables to a baking dish and sprinkle bread crumbs and herbs on top. Layer the smoked salmon until the vegetables are covered.

Using the back of a heavy spoon, make six divots into the salmon. Crack an egg into each of these divots. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the eggs appear cooked to your liking.

Serve immediately and eat it with you face!

Bonne Appétite, mes amis!

Reverse Brunch – Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Since I moved to Montreal, my roommate and I have gotten into this wonderful Sunday routine where we go running and then have brunch at one of the many delicious cafes on the Plateau. After running around outdoors in the fresh air, there is really nothing better than digging into some rich, delicious breakfast food. This weekend, we’re going on a little holiday to Quebec City so we decided to go for a run mid-week with one of our friends who lives near the Old Port.

In my opinion, the ideal brunch consists of something rich and savoury (preferably something eggy) along with something sweet (preferably a pastry). Since it was a Wednesday, this run-and-brunch adventure had to happen in the evening. Thus, we dubbed the occasion “reverse brunch”. Since I made both something eggy and something sweet, I’ll have dessert first and write the first of this two-part post about the “something sweet”.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. Good God. Just the name sounds decadent and maybe just a little bit kitschy in its autumnal-ness. But since this recipe was from Smitten Kitchen, I knew that it just HAD to be good. Prior to this undertaking, the only cinnamon rolls I had ever made before were the pre-packaged Pillsbury rolls that come in a can so I knew that I was in for a bit of a challenge. I guessed right. I will forewarn you, dear readers, that this recipe is not for the faint of heart. However, the rewards will be great should you choose to power through with these. Trust me.

I started making these in the afternoon in order to refrigerate them for later. From the beginning, these cinnamon rolls were fighting me. It started with my attempt to make brown butter. I left my melting butter in the saucepan while I attended to other things thinking that it would all be fine and dandy. I returned to find not lovely, flavorful brown butter in my saucepan, but rather, some sort of infernal black ooze that smelled like death. I recoiled in mild horror

FAIL

FAIL

After cleaning up the heinous “black butter”, I started over. Now feeling rather timid, I instead just melted the butter and didn’t bother trying to get it to brown. Then, as I was assembling the dry ingredients, the contents of the shelf above me fell down as if possessed, only just barely missing my head. Feeling extremely flustered, I exasperatedly asked my roommate what half of “2/3” is. Yeah. That bad. Oy.

Then, I was manically mixing my dough and kept adding milk and adding milk, confused as to why it was so dry. I quickly realized it was because I hadn’t added the pumpkin. With all of these manifold incidents, I was seriously concerned that these cinnamon rolls were going to be an epic hot mess.

But somehow, I really don’t even know how, I managed to make an awesome smelling dough that was the right texture and everything. Although, side-note, mixing any dough with yeast without an electric mixer is HARD. The recipe said that it should be mixed with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Lol. NO. My inspirational phrase for the evening became, “I am my own dough hook”.

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When it came time to assemble the actual rolls, everything started to go very smoothly and my dough made the cutest of little pinwheels!

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Pan of cinnamon rolls in tow, my roommate and I headed to the metro and down into the Old Port. After a beautiful run along Canal de Lachine and a wonderfully savoury egg dish (stay tuned for Part 2!), we popped these babies in the oven.

When my friends took the first bite, it was solid redemption. The looks on their faces said it all. I took a bite and non-ironically declared, “this is the best thing I’ve ever made”.

Really, this is the best thing I’ve ever made. It’s a bit of effort, but seriously guys, it’s worth it. If you make these, you will not be disappointed.

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Without further ado, here is my adaptation of the recipe. Since I did not need such a large quantity of cinnamon rolls, I halved it. Although, I kept the full amount of the spices because I wanted them to have lots of flavor. I also used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast because it is simply easier to find here.

Original: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/10/pumpkin-cinnamon-rolls/

Dough:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons brown sugar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup pumpkin puree (I used the canned stuff, it’s great for baked goods)

1 large egg

Oil for coating the rising bowl (I used coconut oil)

Filling:

1/3 cup brown sugar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

a dash of salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze:

2 oz of cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon of milk

1 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a saucepan. If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and brown that butter. It’s delicious but not mandatory.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Use an electric mixer if you have one. Then slowly add about 2/3 of the butter to the mixture and mix until well-combined. Add the yeast, pumpkin and egg. If you’re using an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix it on low speed for five minutes. If you’re using good old fashioned elbow-grease, sweat it out for five minutes. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl that you’ve coated in oil and cover it with either plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Leave it to rise for one hour. It seems like there ought to be something for you to do in this hour, but there really isn’t. You can just sit and ponder your life choices and wonder what it is that compelled you to make pumpkin cinnamon rolls in the first place. Or, you can watch your roommate enthusiastically make hummus with a magic bullet. It was delicious.

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When the dough is done rising, line a 9-inch cake pan with aluminum foil. Scoop the dough onto a well-floured work surface and roll it out into an approximately 8 inch/6 inch rectangle. Then, spread your remaining melted butter onto the surface of the dough. Mix the filling and spoon it onto the dough.

Next, roll the dough into a log. Using a large, cerrated knife, cut it into sections about 1 inch thick. Arrange the adorable pinwheels of dough in the cake pan and spoon some of the filling on top.

When you’re ready to bake them, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.

For the glaze, beat all ingredients together and adjust to your taste.

Then eat it. All of it. With your face.

Bonne Appétit, mes amis!

Autumn For The Win Part 2: Snickerdoodles

Snicker: A subtle kind of evil laugh generally done while making fun of someone/something. No equivalent French word.

Doodle: A small, non-sensical drawing often done in the margins of notebooks. No equivalent French word.

The above definition of a “snickerdoodle” arose during conversation hour with my French class. Of course the only way that “a nonsensical evil laugh drawing” could exist would be in cookie form.

The snickerdoodle, aside from anything gauche like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, is perhaps the most Autumnal of all cookies. It’s like a sugar cookie but better because it has more butter and is rolled in cinnamon. Yum. They are also super American so I was surprised to realize that I had never attempted to make them before. Last night seemed as good of a time as any for a first attempt.

During my walk home yesterday, I had the sudden urge to make cookies, any sort of cookies. I was initially thinking peanut butter because I have a bunch of it laying around (‘murica) but then Pinterest led me to recipes upon recipes for snickerdoodles. After much deliberation, I ended up going with this one from 30 Handmade Days (http://www.thirtyhandmadedays.com/2014/04/best-snickerdoodle-cookies-ive-ever/).

First of all, I found out that even if you let butter soften for three hours, it is still REALLY hard to mix without an electric mixer. As I had only a sturdy wisk, I’m pretty sure I got my arm work-out for the week making these things.

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Once I had the dough assembled, I found the task of assembling the cookies – rolling the dough into little balls and rolling them in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar – to be quite calming, meditative even.

The recipe suggests that the cookies only need to bake for 12-14 minutes and it would be wrong. So very, very wrong. It’s possible that there may be a typo with the oven temperature, but I doubled the cooking time and they turned out perfectly delicious.

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Also, I ended up with so much dough that I ran out of space on both of my baking sheets and had to refrigerate the rest of the dough to make later. Of course, I made the rest of it tonight. What kind of person just has errant cookie dough in their fridge and doesn’t eat it? (either as actual cookies or in dough form. . .I’m not judging)

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I ended up eating two as soon as they came out of the oven. I also ate a few for breakfast because I am a wonton glutton. They’re kind of extremely delicious dipped into hot coffee. I also brought a bunch to class to share with my wonderful classmates.

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So without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Cookies:

1 cup of butter, softened (seriously, you want it really soft and if you have an electric mixer, do use it)

1 cup of granulated sugar

2/3 cup of brown sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla (the original recipe had only 1 teaspoon but I added more because vanilla is delicious)

3 cups of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon of cream of tartar

Topping:

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

(I halved this from the original recipe. It made way too much and now the rest is in a mason jar for decoration)

Preheat the oven to 300 F/150 C.

In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugars together until there are no lumps. If you’re feeling ambitious, put down your dumbells and mix it by hand.

Add eggs and vanilla and mix until it is smooth. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients. Once everything is well blended, chill the dough for 30 minutes to and hour (the perfect amount of time to make lunch and do homework!).

Combine the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Scoop the dough into about 1-inch balls. If you’re fancy and have a cookie scoop or a melon baller, use that. I just used a regular spoon. Roll each ball to smooth the edges and dip into the cinnamon/sugar mixture to coat it all the way around. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or tinfoil.

Bake 15-20 minutes.

In theory, you’re supposed to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to let them cool completely. I didn’t do that because I have no self control in the face of baked goods. But do let them cool before storing them. Since this recipe makes A LOT of cookies, I recommend sharing . . . or not.

Bonne Appétit, mes amis!

Autumn for the Win, Part 1: Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Galette

Autumn has always been my favorite season, which would be rather surprising given that I grew up in a place where the only two seasons are “Summer” and “not-Summer”. For most residents of Arizona, Autumn is a time of bitter rage when we look at Istagram pictures of fiery-colored leaves while sighing in resigned exasperation at our perpetually brown, prickly landscape. While the rest of the country is ooh-ing and ahh-ing over pumpkin-spice lattes in their scarves and mittens, we’re still chugging iced tea in hopes of avoiding death by heat stroke. But Autumn was also a time of great optimism because it always signalled that the worst of the heat was over and pleasant weather where normal activities like going outside to get the mail or stepping into a car would no longer put one at risk for skin cancer or third degree burns.

Now that I live in beautiful Montreal where Autumn is beautiful past the point of absurdity, I decided that I needed to cook some autumnal foods. And of course, what could be more autumnal than butternut squash?

So, as I often do while procrastinating, I browsed Pinterest and Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. I came across this recipe (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2007/10/butternut-squash-and-caramelized-onion-galette/) for a carmelized onion and butternut squash galette from Smitten Kitchen.

Because Smitten Kitchen is very, well, legit and serious about food, their recipe includes instructions for making your own pastry dough. While I normally would follow suit (because everything is better from scratch), I happened to have some left-over frozen puff-pastry from a dinner party so I decided to use that instead. Also, on a Monday night, ‘aint nobody got time for that. Additionally, this recipe calls for fontina cheese and fresh sage. Because I simply forgot it at the grocery store (sometimes existing in another language seems to give me mild dementia), I used the next best things that were already in my fridge: parmesan and fresh oregano. As it turns out, it was still delicious.

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My roommate chopping the squash beast.

The butternut squash I purchased was absolutely massive and provided more than twice the amount of squash that was actually necessary for this recipe. I enlisted the help of my roommate to chop it into tiny pieces.  IMG_0021

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Eventually, the squash was conquered.

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Turns out, butternut squash is quite difficult to cut. It took a surprising amount effort to get things going. At one point, the squash was definitely the target of some rage.

But eventually, it was conquered.

With a bit of classical music in the background and a pleasantly chilly breeze coming in from outside, this recipe turned out to be the perfect thing for an early Autumn evening.

This thing was, let me tell you, DELICIOUS.

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YUM

I put a bunch of the left-over squash on a salad for lunch tomorrow.

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Hooray lunch!

It has kale, pear, chopped almond, dried cherries, some local chevre and, of course, roasted butternut squash.

Recipe for Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Galette:

1 butternut squash (whatever size makes you happy)

2 tablespoons of olive oil (I rarely actually measure olive oil, just drizzle it)

1-2 tablespoons of butter

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon of salt

A pinch of sugar

½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

¾ cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 ½ teaspoons of fresh, chopped oregano

1 package of frozen puff-pastry

First, and most importantly, DEFROST THE PUFF PASTRY. Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I have had easily-preventable baking disasters because I got impatient and did not properly defrost the puff-pastry. Just do it. Seriously, do it.

Step 1: The Squash

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Peel the squash, chop it and remove the innards. You will want a very serious knife for this task. Then chop it into about 1-inch cubes and spread them out on a baking sheet. Drizzle in olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes.

Step 2: The Onion

Meanwhile, chop up the onion. Heat the butter in a saucepan until it is melted and add the onions. Sprinkle with some salt and add the sugar. Cook the onions on low heat until they are translucent and slightly brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Cayenne pepper.

Step 3: Putting It All Together

Once the squash is done cooking, increase the oven temperature to 400 F/205 C. Combine the onion and squash in a bowl and mix in the oregano and parmesan cheese. Next, roll out the puff-pastry (which you most definitely defrosted) onto an un-greased baking sheet. Dump the squash and onion mixture into the center of the dough and fold the edges around it. Don’t worry about making it look too perfect (unless you have a touch of OCD and uneven edges make you nervous, then by all means go for it). Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the puff-pastry is golden brown.

As a responsible person, I feel I should tell you to wait for it to cool a bit before eating it. But I know that that is totally, in every way, unrealistic. Once you take the galette out of the oven, split it equitably with whomever you’re dining with and dig in!

Bonne Appetit, mes amis!