Meet Gracie

DSC04663This is my brand-new KitchenAid mixer! A heavy-duty professional model.

I got it as an early birthday present from Mimi and Andy.  I’ve already used it to make Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Downy Yellow Butter Cake recipe from The Cake Bible. From Rose, I learned to do what America’s Test Kitchen called “reverse creaming” a method in which all the dry ingredients are combined then mixed with the butter and the other wet ingredients. Until I got my very first KitchenAid, Moby the Great White Mixer,  I never had a mixer powerful enough to do the reverse creaming without over mixing. But I had to give Moby away when I moved back to Thailand,  and now, thanks to Andy and Mimi, meet Gracie. And look what Gracie can do!

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chef john’s pasta primavera

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Chef John’s Pasta Primavera (allrecipes.com)
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 45 Minutes

INGREDIENTS:
Serves 6

1 bunch fresh basil
3 cups chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1 pound (500g) fettuccine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, white & light green parts only, chopped
1 large bunch green onions, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
2 zucchinis, diced
1 cup chopped sugar snap peas or 1 cup green peas
1/2 cup shelled green peas (if using sugar snap peas)
1 bunch asparagus, stalks diced, tips left whole
grated Parmesan cheese, optional

DIRECTIONS:
1. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Hold basil bunch by the stems and dip basil leaves in boiling water until bright green, about 2 seconds.    Immerse basil in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the basil is cold, drain well. Remove basil leaves from stems and discard stems.

2. Blend basil leaves, 1 cup (1/2 cup) chicken broth, 1/2 cup (1/4 cup) olive oil, and garlic together in a food processor until smooth. Cook the green peas, if desired.
3. Stir fettuccine into the same pot of boiling water, bring back to a boil, and cook pasta over medium heat until cooked through but still firm to the bite, about 8-10 minutes. Drain.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir leek and green onion in hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeno (if using) and salt; cook and stir until jalapeno is soft, about 5 minutes.

5. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir 2 cups (1 cup) chicken broth, zucchini, sugar snap peas, and green peas into leek-green onion mixture; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and continue cooking until asparagus is soft, about 3 minutes more.
6. Pour 1/4 cup basil-garlic mixture into zucchini mixture and cook and stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

7. Place pasta in a large bowl; pour leek-green onion mixture over pasta and pour remaining basil-garlic mixture over the zucchini mixture. Spread Parmesan cheese over the top. Toss mixture briefly to combine and tightly wrap bowl with aluminum foil. Let stand until pasta and vegetables soak up most of the juices and oil, about 5 minutes. Toss again. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with garlic toast.

four-ingredient slow cooker pulled pork with corn-cabbage slaw

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pulled pork with corn-cabbage slaw on whole wheat roll

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pulled pork with caramelized onions on hamburger bun

DSC04562Allrecipes.com had this recipe that had only three ingredients in it: root beer, pork, and barbecue sauce. As root beer is a rather exotic animal in these parts, I substituted Leo beer instead. I had the beer in the pantry as well as two kinds of Beerenberg sauces that I combined–one for its tomato flavor and the other for its spiciness. So I guess you could say this is a “found” recipe rather like found poetry where you use whatever is on hand to create something new. I used pork tenderloin, which some cooks on the internet said couldn’t or shouldn’t be done as it would get dry and trashy. However, the good thing about using the tenderloin instead of pork shoulder is that the tenderloin is leaner. In addition,  allrecipes.com had already adapted this recipe for pork tenderloin and I found it quite delicious. The only special equipment needed for this recipe is a slow cooker.  Switch it on and forget it–well, almost!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 6 hours

Ingredients
2 pounds pork tenderloin
12 oz Leo beer plus half a can more (original recipe: root beer)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (omit if using root beer)
2 300ml bottles Beerenberg sauces, any flavor (original recipe: barbecue sauce)
caramelized onions for serving, optional
corn slaw for serving, optional
8 hamburger buns or medium rolls

Put the tenderloin in the slow cooker and cover with beer. Add the brown sugar and mix. Turn on the slow cooker to low and let it cook for 6 hours. After 6 hours, remove the tenderloin and shred it with two forks. Drain the liquid from the slow cooker and return the shredded pork to the cooker. Add the sauces. Heat through about 15-20 minutes on low in the slow cooker. Serve hot on hamburger buns topped with caramelized onions or corn-cabbage slaw.

Corn-Cabbage Slaw
Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 ear of corn, kernels removed from the cob or 2 cups frozen corn
1 small cabbage, shredded, about 4 cups
1 cup grape tomatoes
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup cheese cubes (I used mozzarella)
1-2 jalapeños, thinly sliced on the bias, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the fresh corn in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse in cool water. Drain again. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use. Top the pulled pork generously with about 1/3 cup slaw.

lunch: skillet pizza and sangria

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Sangria is easy. Choose any kind of clear juice–apple, pomelo, or grapefruit. Then choose a red juice–pomegranate or grape. I really don’t like to use orange juice partly because of the pulp but mostly because it makes the sangria look “muddy.” Serve it over crushed ice as a non-alcoholic drink with a quarter cup of soda water or seltzer. But it really takes off with red wine. Here’s what you do:

In a tall jar with a wide mouth, add two parts pomelo juice to 1 part grape juice, and 1 cup of apple juice to sweeten. Cut up half an orange, half an apple, quarter a small lime and put all the fruit in the juice mixture–I like the jar better than a jug. Chill. To serve, pour a quarter cup red wine in a glass, top  up with sangria and fruit, and drop in some ice cubes. Drink.

The skillet pizza comes from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve  made it before and it is really easy to make too. Because it’s ATK tested you know it will come out. I find this dough is tasty without the fuss of making a  pizza dough with yeast. The beer adds a little yeasty-flavor but it’s not required.

Pizza dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup beer or water
7 tablespoons olive oil

Pizza topping
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup diced grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded basil for garnis

In the workbowl of a food processor put the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Turn it on to low speed. While the motor is running, pour the beer or water down the food chute. Then add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Process until the flour comes together in a shaggy ball.

Remove the dough from the food processor. Wrap dough in plastic film and let it rest 10 minutes. Divide the dough in half and wrap the remaining half in the plastic while you roll out the other half on a lightly floured board into a disk that is roughly 9 inches in diameter. I don’t stress that it’s not a perfect circle; I like the uneven look of the dough–it looks home-made.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot, add the disk. When it begins bubble, use a fork to prick the dough. When the underside begins to brown, turn the dough over. Add the tomatoes then the cheese to the fried top. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. It takes about 4 minutes to do the first side. After I add the toppings, I cover the skillet and turn the heat down to medium, letting the dough cook for about 2-4 minutes or until browned, so that the heat has a chance to melt the cheese topping. Repeat with the remaining dough. Garnish each pizza with shredded basil leaves. Makes two personal pizzas! Did I say pizza is great paired with sangria? It is!

miami beach birthday cake for mother’s day

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I make this cake once a year. I like to make it to perfect it. This year I added a caramel sauce to the topping because it seemed a little dry. I know this recipe is long but I took notes so I could remember what to do next year when I bake it again.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Cooling time: 2 1/2 hours
Assembling the cake: 20 minutes

Topping
1 cup (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate morsels (at least 70% cacao), divided
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2-4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Cake
250g (2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 tablespoon for pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
338g (1 1/2 cups) superfine sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour milk (1 tablespoon vinegar in 1 cup measure topped up with milk to 1 cup mark)

Quick Crème Fraîche Frosting (from The Cake Bible)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream or 1 small carton (substitute: Greek style plain yogurt)
2 tablespoons sugar

Equipment needed: 9-inch springform cake pan, 2 wire racks, cake lifter or pancake turner

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and mix it with 1/2 tablespoon flour. Generously grease bottom and sides of springform pan with this butter-flour mixture. Set aside.

Melt 1/3 cup morsels in a bowl over hot simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Set melted chocolate aside. To make the topping, combine graham cracker crumbs with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add enough melted butter to make the graham crackers come together, up to 2 additional tablespoons. Add nuts and remaining 2/3 cup morsels; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add half the sour milk and beat until just combined. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the remaining buttermilk/sour milk and vanilla to the beaten eggs. Starting and ending with the flour, add the flour mixture alternating with the egg mixture, beating until just moistened. Scrape down the bowl after each addition. There should be light streaks of flour in the batter. Scrape down the sides one last time.

Cake Baker’s Note: To make a chocolate swirl cake, remove 1/2 the batter to a medium bowl. Add the melted chocolate morsels and combine. Pour half the plain batter into the prepared pan. Top this layer with the chocolate batter. Top with the remaining plain batter. Use the end of a wooden spoon or a skewer make 3 large swirls in the batter.

Sprinkle top with crumb mixture, making sure to get right up to the edge of the batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If the top still jiggles after 30 minutes, bake another 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then use a skewer to loosen the sides. Remove the side of the springform pan. Cool completely on the wire rack. To remove the bottom, loosen the cake around the edges with a thin blade. Using a pancake turner or a cake lifter, carefully lift the cake from the pan bottom. Remove the pan bottom from the wire rack and place the entire cake back on the wire rack.

Cake Baker’s Note: Cake may be baked one day ahead and stored in an airtight cake tin. First, cool the cake thoroughly. Remove the side as directed but not the bottom. This ensures support for the cake when you remove it from the cake tin. Wrap cake and springform pan bottom airtight in plastic. Store it in a large cake tin, preferably one with a tight fitting lid. When ready to frost the cake, remove the pan bottom as directed.

Make a quick crème fraîche. Chill medium bowl and beaters in the freezer. Put heavy cream, sour cream, and sugar in bowl. Whip until stiff peaks form. Crème fraîche may be made while the cake is baking then refrigerated until ready to use.

The cake will be completely cooled to frost in about 2 1/2 hours. Slice the cake a little more than in half horizontally with a large serrated knife. Put the half with the topping on another wire cake rack, lifting the layer with a pancake turner or cake lifter.

Cake Baker’s Note: Before slicing the cake horizontally, I put a piece of parchment or waxed paper on top of the nut mixture when I do this so that I can place my hand lightly on top without damaging the nut layer.

Assemble the cake. Place the cake bottom with the cut side up on a serving plate. Put about half the crème fraîche on top of the cut side. Smooth it out evenly. Place the layer with the chocolate-nut mixture on top of the crème fraîche, nut layer up. Frost sides with remainder of crème fraîche. Drizzle caramel sauce on top. Don’t drizzle the sauce too close to the edges or it will run over the sides as happened in the picture. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice with a serrated knife. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Variation
• Top the cut-side layer with crème fraîche. Drizzle the crème with caramel sauce, then place the nut layer on top of the crème fraîche-caramel sauce layer. Frost the sides with crème fraîche.

anya’s mango with sticky rice, dessert fusion style

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This is a fusion version of that Thai favorite in mango season: sticky rice with mango. Going clockwise around the plate:  mango sorbet, mango, coconut-jasmine jelly, mango maccaron with pineapple jam. And that’s a cube of sticky rice with coconut sauce in that syringe-like tube sticking out of it like a junkie’s stolen fix. The tube was the only inedible thing besides that plate. And that purplish blob in the center is taro sorbet. The whole thing was lined up on a bed of crushed cookies and nuts.

As a fusion dessert it was whimsical if a bit puzzling. We had to ask what was in the tube. So we pulled it out of the rice (For some reason The Sword in the Stone flashed in my mind) and squirted the coconut sauce  all over the rice, as that is customary. The dessert tasted a lot better than it looked.  It was sweet, salty, crunchy, cold, gelatinous–though I would have preferred the taro ice cream with corn for texture. We split the maccaron and I was disappointed that the pineapple jam was from a jar. Now I’m curious to know if they outsourced the maccaron, the jelly, the cookies, and the sorbet. We were so completely distracted by the novelty of the presentation that we forgot to notice we only got four pieces of mango, all for the price of Baht 250. I could just spit. At the market you get an entire half of a mango, without the fussy fusion.