Thursday, January 27, 2011

Seville Orange Marmalade

I must admit that I have had Seville Orange envy for a few years now. Every year Rebecca posts about making Seville Orange Marmalade. A couple of years ago (have we been at this that long?) she was kind enough to send me some. Her Marmalade was wonderful, but it didn't last very long! For two years I have been searching for a source for my very own Seville Oranges. Finally, I was able to find them this year. I am so glad because not only have a been checking out Rebecca's marmalade activities, but I have also been dying to make some orange marmalade cookies. After some minor mishaps with the company I ordered from I ended up with about three times as many oranges as I was expecting, and some grapefruit and tangerines too! I ended up making two batches of Marmalade. This one from David Lebovitz was great as I don't have a whole lot of experience wit Marmalade. I have made citrus jelly in the past, but never Marmalade. It makes a really small amount, I ended up with 3 1/2 pints. At the last minute I decided to swap out the whiskey for Grand Marnier.
The best part of making this one was a happy accident I had at the end of the process. I had about 1/4 cup of marmalade left in the bottom of the pan and still needed to make dinner. It was getting late and I was feeling terribly lazy. I was planning to make some simple salads with a little steak on top. So I poured a little olive oil  the pan with the marmalade and added a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce. David looked quite skeptical, but it was so good I'm actually working on a more official recipe to post here. Plus, I had one less pan to wash.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Banana Lemongrass Soup

One of my favorite parts of eating out is trying to figure out how to make the recipes at home. Not in that weird kind of secret restaurant recipes kind of way where you make Taco Bell Bean Burritos, because I don't really get that at all. Mine is more like I am only going to get to eat at this restaurant once this year, so I better figure this out if I ever want to eat it again. I admit it is a lot easier now that every recipe you can imagine is posted on the internet.
As soon as I saw Banana Lemongrass Soup on the menu at Ginger in Anchorage I knew it was one I was going  to want to make myself. You don't often see banana in savory dishes, and lemongrass is one of those ingredients I can't readily get my hands on, so I always appreciate it when I have access.
Both at Ginger and in this recipe I loved the depth of flavor in this soup. At Ginger they serve it with little bits of crab and eggplant to give it some texture. I just made mine a simple puree. If I wasgoing to have it as  a meal type soup, I might finely dice a little tofu and add it in. I rarely make soups that require straining and I was hoping I would have to strain this one, but the lemongrass just made the texture too stringy. If you have more experience with lemongrass than I do I would love to hear your suggestions for getting it a little more smooth.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Maple Walnuts with Rosemary and Orange Zest

Last week on my trip to Anchorage I felt like a temperamental four year old. In my head I was stomping my feet and crying "Why?". Why can't we have a cheese shop in Fairbanks? What about a chocolate lounge? A good brewery? The big question, why can't we get lettuce that isn't slimy and disgusting? I just don't understand. Maybe I need a nap.
I understand why we can't have the things that Seattle has. Shipping costs, distance, etc...
It's just not fair that Anchorage gets to have them and we don't. Really, it is only a seven hour car ride, or less than an hour by plane. Hmmmph.
Well, at least I was able to have two good salads while I was there. I also picked up some Valdeon Blue Cheese from Frommagio's. Back here in the real world of Fairbanks I scour the produce section for something green and leafy to serve it with. I will even stoop to bag lettuce, or this week a bag spinach. All this to eat something green. Good luck finding fresh veggies to top that salad. Luckily, with some really good cheese, homemade vinaigrette, and some dried fruit I can get by with something that resembles salad. If I really want to feel like I'm eating something special and forget about the lack of fresh produce, I  add some candied nuts. Recently, I stumbled across a few good  recipes that really add that extra touch to an otherwise boring salad. This recipe is a combination of two of them. The citrus flavor really complements the blue cheese and the rosemary makes your house smell wonderful while they are cooking. Rosemary and Citrus are both recommended recommended aromatherapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vin d’Orange

I'm not a big cocktail drinker. Yes, I enjoy a mojito or two when the mint is fresh in my garden during the summer. I have been known to be a fan of the Margarita with salt. Honestly, I am a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. I can't drink one pint of beer on a weeknight without feeling a little groggy at work the next day. I'm not sure if this is a blessing or a curse. I know it has been both at one time or another.
Despite this fact I still enjoy having a little sip of something before dinner or sitting by the wood stove in the evening. Recently, I found myself with a few too many Seville Oranges and decided to give Vin d'Orange a try. The description was of a light summer drink, but I found with the addition of vanilla and cinnamon it makes a perfect winter warm up. Many recipes are easier than mine, they just call for cutting up the fruit, not zesting or juicing. They also need to sit a little longer. I found this was ready to go within two weeks. It did take a little extra straining, but it was worth the time. You can also make it with regular Naval Oranges, but you will need to adjust the sugar. The recipe is flexible, I recently saw another recipe that included dark rum. The Seville's I have left seem to be holding up pretty well in my cold storage. Maybe I'll make another batch.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oat Scones

In my quest for the perfect scone  there is one thing I have learned over the last couple of years, a scone is not necessarily a scone. I have had a very hard time accepting this fact. You may remember I was so challenged by this fact that I actually re-named one recipe and called them Blueberry Biscuits because they were not my idea of the perfect scone. I recently ordered the Alice's Tea Cup cookbook. My main reason for ordering the book was for the multitude of scone recipes included. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that it was not a book full of recipes of my ideal scone. I have come to accept that my scone might not be everyone's scone. Some people like them more cake like, others more dry. Sometimes I actually like the scones that aren't scones. The truth of the matter is that these are really good, even if I don't want to call them scones.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

The Christmas season is truly a season of excess. It seems as though food falls from the sky and directly into our kitchen. Every time I turn around, more food. To avoid having anything go bad I feel like I am continuously turning it into something else to prolong its life. Those oranges look like they are about to turn, make marmalade. Oh no, the apples are getting brown spots, make applesauce. At some point we do need to eat this stuff, although I do have quite a few recipes marked for the marmalade.
During the holidays  we also received a couple of  fruit gifts including some beautiful pears. The two of us ate most of the pears just as they were. They were so good, but we reached our saturation with three pears left. Desperate I turned them into this pear cake. Once it was done and I took it out of the oven, I thought it might have just been easier to eat the remaining pears instead of a whole cake. One bite of this unusual cake made me realize I had made the right decision. I had a lot of luck with this cake, it turned out perfect on the first try. I do caution you to read some of the comments on the original site where it was posted as it looks like other struggled with baking times. My pears were huge and incredibly juicy, I would imagine the baking time would be significantly less with smaller or dryer pears. Mine did sink a bit (ok, a lot) in the middle, but it tasted great.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Maple Walnut Muffins

What makes a cookbook kitchen worthy? I have been thinking about this a lot lately. You see, I have a very small shelf in my kitchen where I keep all the cookbooks that I actually use regularly. It is what you see at the bottom of this page. Those are not all the cookbooks I own. The shelves in the living room are  filling up as well. In order to grant a cookbook precious space in the kitchen, another one must be sent around the corner to the living room. I usually don't buy a cookbook unless I think it is going to be worthy of the kitchen space, but looking in the living room you will see I have made a lot mistakes. This is not to say that I have not had great joy from those cookbooks, many were great reads. There are so many that I marked up to 50 recipes, yet somehow never got around to making one. Then there is what I call cookbook sudden death. I am totally excited about a new cookbook and then the first recipe I make doesn't turn out. It doesn't matter if it is totally my fault, or I had some bad ingredients, or my new crock pot made the dish taste like plastic. This is an automatic move to the living room.
As soon as I looked inside Sarabeth's Bakery, I knew it had potential. I liked the photos. They provide good instruction in the places you need it, but it is not step-by-step which can be overkill. She includes tons of tips. The recipes are so well written, explaining the areas that might be confusing. The thing I like the most is that unlike many cookbooks, the recipes are all different. Many cookbooks have ten muffins recipes that are all the same, just one has blueberries and the other banana. After making these maple walnut muffins, I also made the blueberry ones. They were equally good, but very different. The direction and the clarity the recipes provide make me feel as though it could be possible to cook every recipe successfully, even the croissants. These muffins turned out just as described, nice and brown on the outside and full of maple goodness on the inside. This book is definitely kitchen worthy. Now to decide which one is moving to the living room.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Orange Olive Oil Cake

December is hard. Every year I think it will get easier. This year I even looked forward to December, hoping for some quiet time to reflect. In the middle of it all I rarely realize how challenging it is. 40 below and no daylight during the week. I go to work in the dark, there are no windows in my office, and I leave in the dark. I will admit they don't chain me to my desk, but staring out into the ice fog and looking for the sun that is just barely above the horizon is not really incentive enough to leave my office.When it is all over and January finally arrives I suddenly realize I have come out of my own personal ice fog.  December is hard in Fairbanks.
January on the other hand is quite literally the light at the end of the tunnel. I have had two weeks off at home to crank up the wood stove and throw open the blinds and let in the light. Each and every day the light increase by 3 minutes. It is noticeable in so many ways. January is also when the citrus starts finding its way into our kitchen. Each year I do some serious research trying to find sources that will ship fresh citrus fruit to Fairbanks. Until this year the only place I could find was the Lemon Ladies Orchard in California. This year with the motivation of making this cake I was determined to find someone to ship me some naval oranges. One by one I went through lists of online citrus companies reading through their shipping policies and finally came across The Orange Shop in Florida. Next, to find the olive oil. The recipe calls for a light and fruity olive oil. I couldn't think of a better place to look for a good olive oil than Zingerman's. They list theirs by flavor profile in their catalog, so I thought it would be easy to pick one out. After reading all the descriptions online I still wasn't sure which one would be best. I sent off an e-mail to the customer service department along with a link to the recipe. I was so glad I did, they were so helpful and suggested the perfect olive oil for this cake. The online description didn't sound quite right, but they assured me this was the one. They were right. The day I made the cake my house smelled like an orange grove. As directed I waited an entire day to cut into the cake. It was perfectly moist and the flavor was subtle enough to make the cake feel light after a rich meal. The best part was the following day. The sliced end that had been exposed to the air was still perfectly moist and the flavor had intensified. I had a piece for breakfast.  A few hours later the sun came up and the temperatures pushed above zero. I really can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
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