Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Daring Lime Cheesecake

Hoo-boy did I drop the ball this month. I should've had this baby up a couple days ago. I'll resist from blaming it on homework (but it was homework's fault. stupid homework.)

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Jenny chose quite the delicious recipe, I will admit. It was a little too rich for me, so I did change it up a little bit.

I replaced the heavy cream with evaporated milk and halved the butter in the crust. I also replaced the extracts and flavorings in the original recipe with fresh squeezed lime juice and added lime zest to the graham cracker crust.

It was delicious.

I let myself eat two pieces before sacrificing it to the trash can gods.

I'm on a diet here, people. (Whoo - lost 12 pounds!) I can't be eating cheesecakes for weeks on end.

Which is how long I would've been eating it because I wasn't smart enough to halve the recipe.

This was a very good cheesecake. It was a very good recipe. Jenny was a great host. Be sure to check out her blog and the rest of the Daring Bakers on the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lemon-Pepper Shrimp

This is another recipe courtesy of my MiL (Marinating MiL? The MiL who marinades? hmmm...)

It's quite the quick and tasty treat, especially when grilled with some mushrooms. It was a rather nice recipe to break out the hibachi for the first time this year.

The only problem with using a hibachi is that they're such a pain to get lit it almost seems like a travesty to not use it for as much as possible while it's going.

Cue the s'mores and my healthy lemon pepper shrimp dinner soon turned into a rather disappointing calorie count for the day.

Nonetheless, this recipe is outstanding. Nice tanginess, a good deal of spice, but not too much.

I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

It was yummy.

Lemon-Pepper Shrimp Marinade

1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoone extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
4 teaspoons rosemary
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Mix and let shrimp marinate for at least one hour. Grill. Devour.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Cognac-Cream Sauce and Baby Pea Shoots

I hope I'm not starting to sound like a Foodbuzz broken record, but once again they've sent me a tasty treat to try and review. I promise, I'm not totally in their pocket!

This time I was sent a package of Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti to try. I'd been seeing the advertisements for this in Gourmet and Bon Apetit and was thinking of trying it out anyways.

I'm a marketing director's dream - show me enough pretty pictures and I'll try anything. I may not go back for seconds, but I'll at least try it once.

I'm notorious for watching TV (back when I had a TV) and after seeing an advertisement developing a huge craving for whatever they were advertising. It's pathetic really.

This time the product has lived up to the hype, though. The ravioli were truly outstanding - some of the best storebought ravioli I've ever had.

I actually just took a moment to google the other Foodbuzz blogger reviews and it appears that just about everyone likes them. We may sound brainwashed, but I assure you they really are quite impressive for a grocery store selection.

I know that next time I need a quick meal I'd be more likely to pick these up then the ravioli I've chosen in the past from the freezer section.

I must admit after first opening the package they didn't look all that fantastic, but they more than made up for it with flavor. I thought it was kind of silly that they promote it as 'wild mushroom' ravioli filled with cremini and portabello mushrooms. First of all, they're the exact same mushroom, merely at different stages of maturity. Secondly, they're both cultivated - not wild.

But, no matter. They were tasty. I won't complain anymore about silly marketing ploys.

I decided to participate in the contest Foodbuzz and Buitoni are holding for a sauce recipe, so I made a cognac-cream sauce with sauteed creminis and baby pea shoots. It's a simple recipe, very easy and quick to make, and has a pleasant complexity of flavor that really complements the ravioli.

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Cognac-Cream Sauce and Baby Pea Shoots

1 9 oz package Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
4 medium cremini mushrooms, sliced
50 ml Courvoisier, or other cognac (50 ml is one of those little airport size bottles, about 3 tablespoons)
1/2 pint heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
baby pea shoots
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Cook the shallots and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and cooked through. Remove the mushrooms to a separate plate, cover with tin foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet pour the cognac, be very careful if using a gas stove - the cognac will ignite if poured over the flame. Let the cognac boil until reduced by half. Add the cream all at once, bring to a boil stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce by half.

Meanwhile, boil the pasta in salted water with 1 tablespoon of olive oil about 3-5 minutes, or until ravioli float to the top. Strain the ravioli and add to the skillet with the cream sauce. Allow to cook further for about 2 minutes.

Plate several ravioli, topped with half the cremini mushrooms and a generous handful baby pea shoots. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coconut Pancakes with Mango-Honey Compote

I am procrastinating.

I don't wanna write another damn paper.

Ironically it's on chronic stress - apropos, eh?

Instead I will tell you about the coconut pancakes I made the other night.

They were outstanding.

My husband frequently sends me text messages about what he's decided he wants for dinner. Unless I've got something that requires a ton of preparation, I usually let him have his way.

This time he wanted pancakes.

For dinner.

I hate pancakes - what's the point of a simple, empty carb swimming in sugary syrup? The calories just aren't worth it to me.

But, for him I will make exceptions (and I'd eaten a huge Subway sandwich for lunch so I only ate what you see on the plate - not much of a sacrifice if you ask me).

He also loves coconut and mangoes - Thai sticky rice with mangoes is a menu staple in our house - so I decided I'd make coconut pancakes and incorporate the mangoes somehow. The only problem with making recipes with a lot of coconut is the exorbitant amount of saturated fat present in nearly all coconut products. One cup of coconut milk alone contains 45 grams of fat. As nihilistic as I have been in the past towards my arteries, I don't hate them that much.

Because I wanted to make the husband happy with coconut pancakes and mangoes I decided to use 2% evaporated milk with a teaspoon of coconut extract. Tastes like coconut with a mere fraction of the fat. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

I'm not going to lie, I fudged on these pancakes. I had some Jiffy Baking Mix languishing in the drawer that I needed to use up - so I did. And they were still fabulous.

Fast, easy, and relatively low-fat coconut pancakes - if anyone objects to using a boxed mix they can feel free to just alter their own pancake recipe. This one is good.

Coconut Pancakes with Mango-Honey Compote

Makes 4 servings

2 cups Jiffy Baking Mix/ Bisquick Mix
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup shredded coconut

1 mango, in small dice
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water

Make the compote:

Combine mango, honey, and water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium to low heat until mango is softened and falling apart and majority of liquid has evaporated.

Make the pancakes:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pitcher - blend with whisk or immersion blender (immersion blender will chop up the coconut more). Cook over medium heat in a butter greased skillet for approximately 2 1/2 minutes each side, or until golden brown.

Serve with mango-honey compote. Garnish with micro or chopped mint if desired.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Apple Pie

It is hot, hot, HOT here. Thankfully today it has cooled down to the 80s.

Oh yes, you read me right. 80s!

This is not a normal thing for the Central Coast. Do not the weather gods know that we wee mortals melt above 85?

Apparently not.

At least I'm getting a sweet tan so at least I won't look like the Pillsbury Dough Girl when I ditch CA for FL in 6 weeks.

Obviously when it's this hot out I am less than interested in turning on the oven for any reason whatsoever. I made this last week when it was a much more normal 65 degrees. Because even in the Spring we need a little bit of comfort food.

...or I can tell the truth, which is that I was plodding away on the treadmill for the second hour in the day and I was like, "You know what sounds good, self?"

And I replied, "Apple pie!"

Thankfully we were in agreement, and apple pie was made that night.

I'm not posting a recipe because I was totally lame and used my favorite store bought crust and I don't think combining a couple pounds of apples with 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, a sprinkle of cloves and allspice, and some fresh ground nutmeg qualifies as a real recipe. Unless of course I also add that you should bake it at 400 degrees for the first 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake 20 minutes further, tent with foil and cook ten minutes further.

Oh, and egg wash the pastry.


That is so not a recipe.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter Lamb

This marinade recipe comes courtesy of my Mother-in-law. Lamb is one of my favorite things to eat with her - well...and duck, and sushi, and risotto, and get the picture.

She is quite the amazing cook, visiting her home is always a pleasant experience resplendent with fresh, new treats to explore and devour. Not to mention the outstanding wine I get to drink when I'm with her (being the only person who drinks alcohol in a household can make it difficult to explore new wines).

This marinade works as a tenderizing agent as well. I let my boneless leg of lamb soak in it for about 24 hours and it was truly divine after being pan seared. A little drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon to finish and it was quite the Easter treat.

Spring Lamb Marinade

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cloves minced garlic

Mix together well and let lamb soak for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Monterey Bay Sand Dabs

I must admit after moving to Monterey I was curious about seeing Sand Dabs on menus at nearly every restaurant we visited. A sand dab, after all, sounds less than appetizing. It more conjures up thoughts of gritty shellfish than a mildly flavored, delicate fish.

Sand dabs are flatfish, like flounder, and are indigenous to the Pacific Ocean. They're very popular along the California coast and are considered a delicacy. They're not as popular elsewhere, though after trying them I can only assume it's because they're not available everywhere.

Last night I finally decided to try them out after being convinced by my local fishmonger. Unfortunately the only way I could get them was pre-breaded, but after a little fry in some olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon I'm thinking breaded may be the way to go when preparing sand dabs.

I really can't recommend them enough if you happen to be on the California coastline. They couldn't be simpler to prepare and they're so fresh you might as well be catching them yourself (obviously dependent upon where you buy them).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Off to the salt mines...

You know what sucks about college?

Well, other than the outrageous tuition, ridiculous hours of homework, ungodly amounts of required reading, friggin' stupid as hell classmates, and unrealistic instructors.

Not having the time to make tasty treats and talk about them on the interwebz.

This Greek salad with sauteed shrimp is about as complicated as I've gotten in the last week or two. And I'm pretty sure no in is interested in reading about the various pizzas, burgers, and tacos we've consumed because I'm just way too damn busy to cook a decent meal every night.

I had midterms the last two weeks, a paper due this week, a paper due next week, one due the week after that, and an additional project due the week after that. Top it all off with a sadistic teacher that likes to assign at least 5 hours of reading each week (on top of the other work she assigns), plus all the normal homework that's due each week and I think my damn head is about to explode.

I'd like to let all my friends and family know that if I ever try to take this many classes in an abbreviated semester again, you have my permission to beat me about the head and face until I see reason.

Until that time when I again have a spare moment to make some tasty goodies and show off my mad cooking skillz (yeah right), please enjoy my favorite lolcat pictures.

If you've never seen or heard of a lol cat, go here: I Can Haz Cheezburger