Wednesday, April 29, 2009

mostly pantry puttanesca

Puttanesca Recipe + Picture of a Kitty= HEAD EXPLODIE! Are you totally creeped out right about now? I promise you, no cats were harmed in the making of this puttanesca. I have gotten fairly lazy with the picture taking and wanted to post this awesome recipe, and blogs require pics, so meet my other cat, Maeby. My friend and teammate (Go Jedi Masters!), Mustafa, let me borrow his lens, and this is part of that experiment. I must get me one of those.

So anyway, I did a quick look over teh interwebs today and found this little doosie on the origins of Puttanesca (via NY Times):

Ostensibly a sauce invented and made by prostitutes, it is said that pasta puttanesca was designed to lure customers with its aroma. Other explanations have more appeal to the minimalist cook: that the prostitutes were too busy to cook much, or that they had no storage for fresh ingredients and cooked entirely from the pantry. My favorite legend has it that it was a favorite not of prostitutes, but of women who wanted to serve a quick meal at home in order to move on to other things.

So yes, no picture this week. But you should still make this recipe. Because whores like to make it. Wait, what does that make me?

Bran and I have been eating really late lately. He gets home after 7 every night :( and if we want to drive by a house that has just come on the market (we're house-hunting!) or do anything else that necessitates light, we have to do it in that window right after he gets home. That doesn't leave much time for cooking. And to be honest, I have a busy schedule of watching reruns of Beverly Hills 90210 to tend to after I get home from work, so dinner sometimes gets pushed aside.

So at about 8:15 last night, the question came up about dinner. Of course we hadn't been to the store in a week and Bran said he was craving pasta with red sauce. So, I started throwing things into a pot. We had 2 cans of this, one can of that, some of these, a few of those, some veggies that were almost past their prime... Voila! It isn't a true version of puttanesca (with the omission of anchovies and the added veg), but it's what it most closely resembled.

*Mostly Pantry Puttanesca*
1 medium brown onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
5 uncooked Italian sausage links
2 14oz cans diced tomatoes
1 14oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp dried basil
2 heaping tbsp capers
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups baby broccoli, chopped into large pieces

Heat your pasta water! I always forget to do that.

Cover the bottom of your pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Put in your onions and sauté until they are transparent. Add in the garlic and sausage. Cook through.

Add in all of your other ingredients. Let simmer with the lid off until your pasta (I like spaghetti here) is cooked or about 15 minutes.

Eat it up. Yum.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

lemony lemon cake with whipped lemon curd filling and buttercream icing

Confession: I steal lemons from my neighbors lemon tree. I know, I'm a terrible person, but they are hanging over the fence in my backyard, so technically they're mine, right? Not to mention the fact that this is the most fruitful lemon tree with the most beautiful lemons I've ever seen. The skins are rarely flawed, the pith is not too thick or too thin and they yield massive amounts of juice.

If you are unfortunate enough to not have a lemon tree in your own backyard (and your arms aren't long enough to reach over the fence to pick your neighbors), there are a few techniques to use to pick superb lemons at the grocery. You want to make sure they smell lemony, feel heavy for their size and are a bright yellow color (not green or dingy yellow). I hate coming home from the store and cutting into a lemon, only to be disappointed when, even after using all my might, I can only get about a tsp of juice out of it. It's an obsession, a game if you will. Sometimes I even line up different measuring receptacles and put a lemon next to each one. The lemon with the most juice wins.

Obviously, I am obsessed with lemons. Easter begs for lemons, Easter begs for cake, Easter Begs for lemon cake! So, here we go!

*Lemon Cake*
(courtesy of Country Living)
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 parchment-paper-lined 8-inch cake pans. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a mixer set on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture by thirds, alternating with the lemon juice and buttermilk.

Divide the batter between the pans. Bake until golden and a toothpick tests clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Unmold the cakes and cool completely

Split cakes into 4 layers using a long serrated knife. Fill with whipped lemon curd and frost with buttercream frosting, but don't be as sloppy as I was!

*Whipped Lemon Curd*
(Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)

Wash and dry:
4 lemons

Grate the zest of one of the lemons on the small holes of a grater. Juice the lemons; there should be about ½ cup juice.

Beat until just mixed:
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)

Stir in the lemon juice and zest and add:
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces.

Cook the mixture in a small nonreactive heavy pan, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat a spoon. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle. When thick, pour through a sieve into a bowl or glass jars to cool. Cover and refrigerate.

Once the lemon curd is cold, whip up:
1 cup of heavy whipping cream

Fold the cold lemon curd into your whipped cream. Refrigerated until ready to use.

*Buttercream Frosting*
(courtesy of C&H sugar box:) )
3-3 3/4 cups of powdered sugar (1 box)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer or with heavy spoon until smooth and creamy; scrape bowl often. If too stiff to spread easily, beat in a few drops of milk.
Happy belated Easter!

Monday, April 13, 2009

mixology monday! plan c, big-batch, minted lemon drop

Spring is in the drink... er.. air? This month, I'm participating in what's called Mixology Monday- a monthly drink submission bloggy community thing (got that?). The main thing to know is that I'm involved, it's fun, and this month, it's being hosted by The Wild Drink Blog. Check out both of these sites... you won't be sorry! This weeks theme is twists on classics. My (third tier) drink of choice is a regular old lemon drop, but the twist is the addition of mint (I know, I know, big whoop) AND the versatility of making it in bigger batches so that it's absolutely minimal fuss. It's a twist in flavor, method, and service.

I came into this drink challenge with high hopes. On Friday night, I got myself to my favorite liquor store and perused the shelves to find a liqueur/liquor/mixer that might spark an interest. I have already blogged on my current drink of choice, so I had to go to plan B. I remembered my foray to a little bar in San Francisco, where I discovered a maraschino cherry liquor called Luxardo. I remembered it being not terribly sweet and not at all like cherry. It seemed like a challenge I was up to.

I got home Friday night and enlisted Audrey's help. We mixed the luxardo into everything that we could think of... I mixed it into a margarita, she tried a lemon drop, we tried a cosmo, we tried straight up with gin. Nothing, and I mean nothing, turned out remotely delicious. Sure, they were palatable, but since I might have more than my regular 5-10 viewers for this post, I wanted to make sure that it was spectacular. (BTW, does anyone have a tried and true recipe for Luxardo? I'm feeling defeated.)

Since Friday came and went and I already knew that I needed a drink to serve for Easter, I wanted to make a big batch of something I *know* everyone loves. I call it, plan C. So I went to my ace in the hole- a minted lemon drop.

It's showcases everything that's good with spring, great for large parties, and very versatile. Making drinks in big batches is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered.

*minted lemon drop*
3 cups vodka
2 cups lemon juice
1 cup superfine sugar
1 cup mint, torn into pieces

Put all of the ingredients together. Mix up and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

Serve in one of several ways: shake it up and pour it into a martini glass for a more traditional lemon drop look, put it over ice for backyard BBQ's, or top it off with sparkling water if you're a lightweight (this drink packs a punch)!

It's no fuss and fabulous!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


My friend, Keoni, is a man of simple tastes. He enjoys eating very few things in this world: chicken, ramen, mac and cheese, a special family recipe custard pie, and, well, that's pretty much it. We are absolute opposites on the food/pleasure scale. He eats to live (sustenance). I live to eat (pleasure). This is why when he suggested eating Thai food that very first time I tried Saladang, I was a bit surprised. It's not that I don't trust his taste. It's just that I was shocked that he would suggest something to out of his comfort zone. He done good.

We tried. It was excellent. Happiness commenced.

I really like Saladang. So, it's not authentic. The flavors are fresh and good and the service is fast and friendly. It's just yummy. My party of four ordered the green curry with shrimp, pad se iew, pad thai, BBQ beef and Tom Yum Pak. We order pretty much the same thing every time we go because we are consistently happy with it. Sometimes it's good to know what you're going to get and Saladang delivers.

My absolute favorite is the Tom Yum. I call it foot soup because, to be frank, it smells like foot. But it sure doesn't taste like it. Fresh, fork tender veggies overflow in this spicy, sour soup. It's fills you up on good, tasty, healthy calories before the rest of the meal, which is always a good thing.

Oh yes, One last thing. I may be a little partial. Saladang did cater my wedding ::cough cough:: We had 10 different dishes, buffet style, and all were very, very good. I was happy. Plus, we fed 100 people for under $2000. This is UNHEARD OF in the wedding community. Choices usually are between chicken, beef, or fish. We had the options of pad thai, seafood medley, salad rolls, yellow curry, BBQ beef, pad se iew, etc. Everyone told me they loved the food, and I don't think it's just because I was the bride. Although possibly colored by the emotions of the day, I loved the food at my wedding. Saladang is good stuff.

Monday, April 06, 2009

crumbs bake shop

I really do not like the Americana in Glendale. I avoid it at all costs, unless, of course, I'm shopping at Anthropologie, because, well, I love Anthropologie (can't help it!). I had a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble, and since that's the closest one I could think of on my way home from work, I braved Brand Blvd during rush hour.

While walking from my car (parked where the old Mervyns used to be to avoid paying for parking... shhhh!), I walked by a little bakery that I had passed by serveral times in the past, Crumbs Bake Shop. I decided to press my luck because we're talking cupcakes, people!

I walked in and I have to say, it was cute and inviting, albeit somewhat sterile. I was the sole person in the shop, although it could be due to the unfortunate, off the beaten path, location it holds on Brand Blvd, where only cheapies like me pass by when they steal parking lot time. When I got in, the case was full of muffin-sized creations priced anywhere from $3-$5. With Brandon in mind, I took home a Boston Cream and a Chocolate Chocolate Buttercream cupcake.

We split up the cupcakes that night. I really could only eat half a cupcake, so I cut them into quarters and tried a bit of each one. The boston cream was first. The cake itself was very moist because vanilla custard that was infused in it. It was good, not great. The chocolate chocolate had some problems in the cake department. It was somewhat of a dry crumb, but not distractingly dry. The frosting made up for it. It wasn't that cloying fake buttercream that you get at grocery stores (although, who am I kidding, there is definitely a time and a place where I could bathe myself in that stuff). It was just the right sweet, chocolate, buttery. Yum.

Overall, a bit experience, but I would eat one again. And, after checking out the site, I see that they are pretty much all over the show, so there might be one in your area. CUPCAKES! It's hard to screw up too badly, but it's also hard to perfect them. These are good!