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Archive for January, 2011

High Time For Tea

Afternoon tea.  Your Grandmother’s lace tablecloth. Delicate bone china cups. Tiny sweet & savory treats. The essence of refined elegance. Classic. Timeless. Almost a lost art. The Brits had it right by having tea & a nosh in the late afternoon everyday. Sort of signals the end of another day. With the evening meal still impending, a nice way to segue from day to-night. Fill the tummy with something light and yummy until a proper meal arrives.

I think its high time  (no not the magazine, though it’s still an entertaining read :O) to bring back this little afternoon ritual. Though really tea can be served any time of day. Not a hurriedly gobbled lunch, nor a  show stopping dinner, or an over the top cocktail party, a “tea” falls somewhere in between. When one thinks of a tea, they almost always think of ladies. Not so anymore. Feel free to invite as many men as you’d like. Not only will the conversation  (and the company) be better for it, they too deserve a bit of pampering now and again. Trust me, they will enjoy it as much as your girlfriends, maybe even more. So dust off the china cups, polish the silver and press your best lace tablecloth and napkins and prepare to spend a leisurely afternoon returning to a time and place when the world moved at a slower pace. Just be sure to turn off the Mac & iphone. 🙂

So whether it’s a tea party in the garden, a cozy gathering around the fire or just quiet afternoon with friends here is my idea of the ideal tea. Grandma never thought tea could be like this. Though she might be pleasantly suprised.

Assemble a nice assortment of teas. My current favourite being Trader Joes Candy Cane Green Tea. Its yum! Though I had a tea in Beverly Hills at The Mosaic Hotel that was simply exquisite. When I go back next week I plan on asking them for some to bring back! The tea bag was in the shape of a pyramid with a small green leaf at the top. Not mention it was one of the smoothest english breakfast teas I have ever had. I digress. Heat or have a large kettle of hot water and a few tea pots or just individual cups. Set out lemon, sugar, honey and a small pitcher of milk. I am partial to soy milk myself. If your making tea in a pot, be sure to heat the pot under warm running water first, add your tea ball of loose leaves or tea bags. Fill with not quite boiling water and steep. A tea cozy serves the purpose of keeping the tea & the pot warm, so if you have one, by all means use it!

The goodies can be as varied as you’d like. A nice mix of sweet and savory works best. Forget the idea of cucumber sandwiches and scones this is a brave new world. New decade too, so get adventurous.  So here is my idea of the perfect afternoon “Tea”.

The Nibbles ~  The Savory

I like to start with a small “shooter” of a super smooth soup. In this instance a Fresh Tomato w/ a drizzle of basil oil. Gets the palate awake and ready for whats to come.

Tiny tea sandwiches of : Prosciutto/ Fig & Arugula w/ smooth and creamy goat cheese on baby brioche buns. I have also done the baby brioche w/ fig jam & a slice of foie gras terrine.

Stilton & Pear w/ sweet cream truffle honey butter on whole wheat.

Smoked Salmon & Asparagus w/ lemon mayo on crostini.

Baby Cheese Scones w/ watercress/ cream cheese & grapes

Tiny puff pastry rounds  w/ caramelized onions & sweet ham

Won Ton Chips w/ ahi tuna tartare/  avocado/ wasabi crema

The Sweet ~

Assorted Macaroons : chocolate/ almond/ vanilla

Summer Berry Tartlets

Dark Chocolate Coffee Truffles

Toasted Tea cakes w/ clotted cream & strawberry jam

Dark and White Chocolate Florentines

Pecan Tassies

Now you have the perfect assortment of savory/ creamy/ crunchy/ crispy/ smooth/ sweet/ delicate and rich. If that doesn’t guarantee a good time I don’t know what will. And lastly , always I repeat, always have a few bottles of ice-cold bubbly at the ready.  Splurge on the good stuff. Veuve Clicquot being a sure thing. It pairs perfectly with the sweets and it can only help to improve the mood! There doesnt it  feel good to pamper yourself and your guests. Just remember to put on your pearls.

Since to include recipes for everything would be rather tedious, I shall include my recipe for baby brioche buns. The rest being rather self-explanatory.

Baby Brioche Buns:

2 1/2 cups ap flour

1 tbsp gran. sugar

1/2 tsp sel

1 tsp yeast

3 eggs

1/2 milk

5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

veg oil for greasing

Sift dry ingredients. Whisk together wet. Incorporate in to the dry. Make a soft dough. Knead 5 minutes. Use a little more flour if to sticky. Place in a greased warmed ( run under hot water first & dry) bowl. Brush the dough w/ veg oil. Cover bowl w/ Saran wrap. Let rise 1 hour.  Turn dough out and knead briefly. Form into 12 small ball. Lightly spray a mini muffin tin. I like to place a small piece of parchment paper in  each tin. Making sort of “cup”. Place dough balls in each tin.  Wrap w/ Saran and let rise 30 minutes.  Brush the tops of each bun w/ milk or cream .  Bake @400 degrees  for about 15- 20 minutes. Let cool. Split and fill. If you want to use them for something sweet .. sprinkle the tops w/ demarra sugar before baking.

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Okay this has nothing to do with food. Though it stars some pretty tasting looking “treats”. I’m partial to Dean or Castiel myself. 🙂  Season 6 has proved to be quite surprising. Sam has no soul. Dean is a family man. The Impala has been rebuilt. Cas is fighting a battle with the angels in Heaven and Crowley is in charge of Hell. And I’m still waiting for Bobby to Riverdance. Awesomeness abounds.  So for all my #Supernatural fans, this one’s for you.

1) Know that skin walkers can be anywhere.

2) Meg still kicks ass.

3) Want Castiel to win his war with Raphael.

4) Wonder if Chuck will reappear.

5) Are tired of Lisa.

6) Be wary of old men bearing rings.

7) Know about Sodom & Gomorrah.

8) Believe in Angels.

9) Don’t care for the Goddess of Truth ~ Veritas.

10) Miss Castiel as a hippie.

11) Knew Dean wouldn’t last one day as Death.

12) Exile on Main Street was a Rolling Stones song.

13) You subscribe to Readers Digest.

14) Think that Grandpa is not what he appears to be.

15) The truth can be cruel.

16) Twilight  & the twi-hards suck.

17) WTF is up with Sam.

18) Want Dean back to his philandering ways.

19) Never trust a shape shifter.

20) Being in the “family” business has taken on a whole new meaning.

21) Think Crowley is kinda hot, in a demon sort of way.

22) Remember Corin “Corky”  Nemic when he was Parker Lewis.

23) You’ve been to Hell and back.

24) Still want to see Bobby Riverdance.

25) Know that Elves are real.

26) So are Leprechaun’s and Tinkerbell.

27) Dragons have a thing for Virgins.

28) Still don’t sleep.

29) Cried when Jensen Ackles got married.

30) Want Ash back.

31) Know that a Vampire doesn’t have to bite you to turn you.

32) Love vintage motels.

33) Think Amber Benson needs to be back as the leader of the Vampires.

34) Wonder if Castiel will get a new wardrobe.

35) Think the Impala needs a GPS system.

36) Dont do shorts.

37) Don’t ever want to be 17 again.

38) Hope Dr. Sexy   (i.e the trickster) comes back.

39) Know that Dark Side of the Moon was once a Pink Floyd song.

40) Noticed that the movie marquee in ‘The End” was playing Route 666.

41) Cupid doesn’t really wear a diaper.

42) The Whore of Babylon has nothing to do with sex.

43) Googled “Mikes Travel Inn”.

44) AC/DC has you Thunderstruck.

45) Tried to book a room at the Elysian Fields hotel.

46) Had a cocktail at the Astro Lounge.

47) Downloaded “Oh Death” by Jen Titus and its in your iTunes library.

48) The voice says your almost out of minutes.

49) Just say no to being an angel condom.

50) Can’t wait til Friday Jan 28th when the boys are back.

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The Little Blue Box

Those who know me are well aware of my obsession with Doctor Who, though this has nothing to do with the Tardis. Though I suppose Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space could be applicable to some of the rather bizarre food pairings going today. No, I’m referring to that ubiquitous little blue box. Childhood comfort food. Something your mum made when you feeling blue (no pun intended) or just needed a bowl of something warm. Soft. Gentle. Soothing for the soul. Yup, macaroni and cheese. There is something supremely satisfying in a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Tender little pastas,  rich golden cheesy sauce clinging to each and every bite. Ooey. Gooey. Creamy. Damn, this is sounding dangerously like food porn. LOL. Though food is an aphrodisiac and fills that basic desire to feel loved.

I can honestly say I tried Kraft mac & cheese once. Only once. At college. My stoner buddies swore by the stuff. So one night I made a box. The orange glop glowed in the dark. I was wary, but I gave it a shot. Ick was my basic reaction and I immediately set about making a pan from scratch. There was no turning back after that. I was hooked. Making mac & cheese from scratch is easy. After you master the basic sauce making , it can be whipped up in no time.  At first I stayed with the basics. As my culinary spirit grew more daring, so did my additions. Tiny cubes of ham and oven roasted tomatoes. Fresh herbs. Poached julienned chicken and asperges dotted with creamy goat cheese. Trio of wild mushrooms. Smoked salmon. Though my all time favourite being Lobster. Who doesn’t love lobster? Lobster mac and cheese just seemed a natural. And they were made for each other. Luscious chunks of butter poached lobster intermingling with tender baby penne. Lots of creamy cheesy goodness. Zest of lemon. Sprinkling of fresh chives. Crispy crunchy panko crumb crust. Drizzled with truffle oil. Or even better dots of truffle butter. If that’s not orgasmic I don’t know what is. Childhood never tasted like this. So here is my recipe for Lobster Mac & Cheese. Be prepared to be transported to a happier time and place.  The Doctor would approve.

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

Cook 1 box of baby penne ( I like this because the slender little tubes hold lots of extra sauce)  according to package directions. Drain. Rinse. Toss w/ small amt of olive oil and set aside.

Sauce: this is a bechamel w/ cheese incorporated into it.

Melt 4 tbsp unsalted butter . Whisk in 4 tbsp flour. Cook for 2 minutes to remove the starch. Add 1 cup heavy cream. 1 cup chicken stock.  1/2 t sp sel. Pinch of white pepper. Pinch of nutmeg. Stir til smooth, thick and creamy. Set aside to cool.

Cook a 1 1/2 lb lobster. Steam in a small amount of water. Do not cover the lobster w/ water.  After 5 minutes remove from heat, drain & let cool. Remove meat from the shell. Chop in good sized chunks. Use all the meat. Tail/ claws/ knuckles. Warm a small knob of butter in a sauce pan. Add lobster meat. Remove from heat. Set aside.

To the cooled cream sauce add 8 0z shredded jack cheese, 8 0z shredded white cheddar. If to thick add small splash of white wine. Add the zest of 1 lemon. Sprinkle in fresh chopped chives.

Pour sauce over cooled pasta. Add cooled lobster. Stir. Spoon into 6 buttered individual  baking dishes. Top w/ a 1/2 cup toasted panko crumbs. Dot w/ butter. Use truffle butter if you have it. 🙂 or drizzle w/ truffle oil.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes til golden and bubbly.

You can also bake in one large gratin dish.

Serve w/ a baby spinach/ cranberry & pecan salad. Light lemon vinaigrette. Crusty bread. Pop some bubbly and toast being a grown- up. Just watch out for a little blue box.  It may very well be The Doctor dropping by to pay you a visit.

** for the vegans .. you too can travel beyond the realms of  being deprived of this treat and find your childhood smile. Follow the basic recipe above, making these substitutions.

Cook 1 box penne. If your gluten intolerant, cook one of the many gluten-free pastas available today.

Make a bechamel : I use cornstarch & olive oil. Add vegetable stock & soy milk. Add the seasonings. Add  1 package soy-sation cheddar/ mozz/ jack cheese blend ( available at trader joes or whole foods). If you indulge in seafood, add the lobster. If you don’t, leave plain or add sautéed mushrooms/ or zucchini, or both.  Finish according to recipe and enjoy.

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The Golden Globes

No not those golden globes silly, that’s next month and I’m not in Beverly Hills just quite yet. No..I’m talking about poached eggs. There is something supremely satisfying about a perfectly poached egg. The firm egg white giving way to reveal a runny yolk, oozing its golden richness and intermingling with a combination of crisp buttered english muffin, smoky salty, sweet ham, light lemony hollandaise.  Yup. Eggs Benedict, that’s what I’m talking about. The ideal food. Whether for breakfast, brunch, dinner or as its original intent, to cure a hangover. It is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Satisfying, elegant and humble all at the same time.

This might have been more apropos to post the day after New Years Eve, but since I indulged the night before myself, I spent New Years Day making Eggs Benedict’s rather than writing about them. The first meal of a new year sets the tone for whats to come. I see golden sun shines and warm gentle days in my future.  So here we go, though first a little history if you please.

The story goes that in 1894 a wall street banker named Lemuel Benedict wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in hopes of finding a cure for his hangover. He ordered buttered toast, poached eggs and crispy bacon with a side of hollandaise sauce. The maitre d’ hotel, Oscar Tschirky was so impressed he put it on the lunch and dinner menus, substituting english muffins for the toast and ham for the bacon and gilding the lily with a truffle slice. History was made.  There are various other accounts but this is the earliest and most accurate. The first printed recipe for Eggs Benedict appeared in 1898 in the slim volume “Eggs and  how to use them”. Good luck finding that treasure today!

Many variations have since come along though its use as a breakfast food/ brunch/ dinner/ hangover cure remains steadfast.  So here are two recollections of my most memorable Benny moments, at two vastly different establishments and on opposite ends of the country.  The first was on the tiny island of Nantucket where I spent a week in March interviewing for a Chefs position at the Harbour House, a rather bustling establishment. Wandering the cold snowy streets I came upon the Fog Island Cafe. A simply wonderful little restaurant that also happens to be open all year. Warm, small, inviting and packed with year round islanders it was a winner. The classic Eggs Benedict was executed perfectly, and the side of homefries that accompianied it were outstanding. Crispy chunks of melting tender potatoes studded with bits of bacon, cheddar, scallions and sour cream.  It was delightful. I went back for breakfast everyday for the next 4 days I was “on-island”.

My next experience was just recently during my trip to Los Angeles. Walking around Beverly Hills, yes you can walk in this city, we came upon “The Farm”.  This has to be one of my current favourite restaurants in BH.  I ordered the Farmer’s Benedict. Poached eggs over a twice baked potato on a bed of sauteed spinach napped with a slightly spicy cheddar hollandaise. It was  stellar. Now while I have been vegan for over a year and no longer do meat or dairy, this was vacation and an exception. One I do not regret! For it gave me many an idea to make a vegan version of Eggs Benedict.

Yesterday I whipped up Lobster Benedict’s w/ chive hollandaise. Filet mignon & sautéed shiitake Benny’s with horseradish hollandaise on cheddar biscuits/ smoked salmon Benny’s on toasted brioche w/ creme fraiche hollandaise & caviar and classic Benny’s on english muffins w/ ham .  All were delightfully yummy I was told. With these I served yukon gold hash browns and small sides of raspberries & blueberries w/ a dollop of fresh carmelized ginger whipped cream. Everyone was happily satiated for the better part of the day.

A few more well-known interpretations include: Eggs Sardou . Poached eggs a top artichoke bottoms, with anchovy filets, chopped ham & shaved truffles. Originally from Antoine’s in New Orleans for the french  playwriter ~Victorien Sardou. Brilliant.  Eggs Florentine where the golden orbs are perched a top a bed of creamy spinach.  Lastly a “Country” Benny. Southern style buttermilk biscuits split and topped with spicy sausage patty, poached egg and creamy peppery country gravy. All are yum. For they serve to satisfy that basic need for something comforting and soothing. A feeling of well- being and being cared for. So the next time your tummy is rumbling and your feeling under the weather or unloved or just blasie. Make your self an Eggs Benedict. Let your imagination soar. You will be instantly transported to a happier place. Enjoy!

For my vegan friends: Here’s a Benny for you!

I make yukon gold hash browns ( for those with no time use Alexia hash browns)  form into a round. I use an O’ ring for this. Crisp/ flip and get golden on both sides. Keep warm in the oven. Take extra firm tofu, press out the excess water and pat dry. Lightly brush with olive oil & dip in panko crumbs. Sautee til golden on both side. Keep warm. Make creamed vegan spinach. Use fresh baby spinach, sautéed w/ minced red onion, and tossed w/ small amount of soy mozz/ cheddar & splash of plain soy milk. Season to taste. Make a hollandaise using soy mayo. Whip in a bowl w/lemon zest, dollop of white miso paste, chopped fresh basil or chives.  To assemble: bottom ~ crispy hash browns topped with tofu topped with creamy spinach topped with hollandaise.  Proceed to smile widely. You have just consumed a gluten/ meat / dairy free version of Eggs Benedict. Be happy.

* This post was inspired by a question from a fellow vegan / music lover. Thank you  “S” .

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