Tuesday, July 21, 2009


There are some changes coming - and coming soon.

Soon this blog will be boasting a new name, a new site, and a new location - both domain and geographical. When I started it just over a year ago I had no idea I'd stick with it long enough to justify a more involved format.

It does.

Additionally, in the next few weeks Mr. TA and I will be relocating to the East Coast - and I'm sure you all understand how unlikely it is I will be cooking anything in the car to talk about. We will be making some pretty amazing stops on our journey to the other coast though, and I'll be sure to provide any photos of interest upon my return to the blogosphere.

I'm not sure how long it will take to get my kitchen stuff back, but as soon I do I'll be back in the kitchen, cooking away to my heart's content.

See you on the other side!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey - Strawberry - Raspberry Syrup

This recipe was a complete FAIL.

As I was mixing it all up I knew there had to be something wrong with it - there's no way a pancake batter should be as thick as muffin batter.

I added milk until it was right, but after so much experimentation I only had enough batter left to make a few small pancakes.

After being totally frustrated and wasting about an hour and a half of my damn morning trying to figure out this recipe - I realized that I'd copied the recipe down incorrectly.

Go me.

I imagine that if one were to actually make these pancakes properly they would likely be delicious. I wasn't a fan. I did like the strawberry substitution for half the raspberries though.

The recipe is at Vegetarian Times.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles

I remember as a child my sister and I made ice pops nearly every opportunity we had during the summer. We'd sift through the refrigerator, mixing juices and creating different flavor concoctions to pour into the molds. Grape juice, apple juice, lemonade, root beer - you name it, we tried to freeze it.

My favorite then was grape - I believe hers was apple.

I still enjoy a good popsicle over ice cream any day of the week, although I think that has more do to with my freakish sensitivity to cold (thanks to a particularly unskilled dentist a few years ago) than with an actual preference.

I must admit that now my tastes run a little bit more involved than just a simple frozen juice, even though I doubt I'd turn down a grape popsicle most days (a real one, not the fake flavored, frozen garbage people feed to their kids nowadays), especially if it were with my sister.

I was quite delighted to find David Lebovitz's recipe for Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles yesterday.

They are ridiculously easy to make and therefore surprisingly delicious in their simplicity. I can see myself eating a ridiculous amount of these for the rest of the summer. Especially considering that Mr. TA and I will soon be vacating the Central Coast for a rather sultry location on the East Coast in a matter of weeks. I'm sure once I reach that heat I'll be downing these babies on an hourly basis.

Check out his recipe here: Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles. If you like coffee ice cream you will fall in love with it.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

Using David's recipe cut in half (1 cup coffee + 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk) in a 4 popsicle mold, each popsicle will have:

Calories: 88
Carbohydrates: 15g
Fat: 2g
Protein: 2g

The entire recipe (2 cups coffee + 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk) contains:

Calories: 702
Carbohydrates: 122g
Fat: 16g
Protein: 18g

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bistro Christine

I love French food.

Love it. Could nearly eat that and only that every day for the rest of my life.

It would be an even easier decision to make were the French to suddenly include noodles and potstickers to their repertoire.

That being said, I am hypercritical of every single thing that enters my mouth - whether it's a burger or a soufflé, it must be well executed. I'm ever vigilant of the quality of my own cooking, which frequently disappoints me, and equally so with other's. I'm the worst, however, at restaurants.

I worked in the food industry for nearly all of my very short adult life up until two years ago. With the knowledge of what goes on in the back of the house, I see little reason for poorly composed or inadequately cooked foods. In fact I visited a restaurant this week that I adored in the past, only to be severely disappointed with nearly everything ordered.

With that preface, I must introduce you to Bistro Christine. A new kid on the culinary block of Monterey, CA, Bistro Christine is quickly becoming well recognized as a serious contender for the best purveyor of French cuisine in town. I've now been to Bistro Christine twice - and each time I was so completely blown away by the simple perfection of their food that I am heartbroken I will be moving across the country soon.

The cooking is classic French, compliments of the owners and chef (husband and wife team Christine and Francis) hailing from Normandy. The focus is on homey, bistro style cuisine using the freshest, highest quality ingredients to create simple, well-made food that showcases the inherent qualities of each component. Add to that a well-appointed wine list and the exemplary service offered by Christine, and I find it difficult to top the experience had at this little bistro.

The first thing brought to the table is a basket of homemade bread - still steaming from the oven.

It was still so hot, in fact, that I singed the tips of my greedy fingers while trying to steal a piece too soon.

My MiL, in town visiting for special occasion, chose a 2006 Puma Road Pinot Noir from Franscioni Wines at Black Mountain Vineyards. This pinot is to die for. It's not currently available for retail sale - and it's a travesty that it's not. Fruity and fresh with the perfect body. It was well put in this article, that "Someone could’ve taken all the fruit out of this bottle and painted a pretty serious still-life."

To start I ordered the endive gratin - a recipe I've noticed in Simple French Food but was wary to attempt until having tried it.

It is a head of endive, wrapped in ham, smothered in Béchamel and topped with cheese It is then baked until hot and bubbly and the cheese gets all browned and sexy.

It may not sound all that glamorous, but it is a classic French preparation. It was perfectly made, well seasoned, and so superbly delicious I could easily eat one every day. Sadly, I don't think my thighs would appreciate that.

Next up was a crock of Onion Soup au Gratin - a dish so often defiled that I tend to avoid it on most menus. At Bistro Christine, however, it is quite obviously prepared at length. The onions are caramelized to perfection, the broth is quite obviously made from beef bones, and the cheese is Gruyère. As a side note, if you're making this soup at home and do not use Gruyère, I reserve the right to kick you in the shins.

If you can't find a recipe you like, use Thomas Keller's. Because really, there isn't much that man can't do well.

For entrées, my husband ordered medallions of filet mignon with a black pepper sauce.

The medallions were melt in your mouth tender and the black pepper sauce - my god! Divine is the only word that can attempt to describe it.

My MiL ordered sea scallops in a tarragon sauce.

Although I'm not a huge fan of tarragon, I can appreciate it in small doses. This pushed the limits of that, but the sauce itself was outstanding. The scallops were flawlessly cooked and, as you can see, generously portioned.

You'll have to excuse the blurriness of the scallops. I forgot my tripod, the lighting was not in my favor, and that Puma Road Pinot was starting to work it's magic...

I ordered the half roast chicken au jus with fries.

I cannot actually remember the last time I had enough confidence in a restaurant to order the chicken. I've always thought that if I wanted to chew on dried leather that I'd prefer to use one of my neglected pairs of Anne Klein stilettos. I was feeling adventurous though - and was not disappointed. It was moist and juicy, the skin crisp and well-seasoned. And the fries - my god the fries.

They were accompanied by a homemade mayonnaise that nearly brought me to tears.

My husband insisted that he didn't like it because it wasn't the "right" color - meaning a bleached, anemic white. I responded with, "No - this is most definitely the right color." Homemade mayonnaise makes my heart sing - the jarred kind makes me want to - well, you know.

Christine, lovely woman that she is, brought us a sampler of desserts - gratis.

They too were well-executed, though I am unsure if these are made in house. Whether they are or not has not effected their quality though.

A lovely frozen lemon confection -

And a perfect lemon tart, both topped with candied lemon and orange peel.

There was also a brandied chocolate mousse that could not have been more delicious, but without my tripod I was only able to capture a blurry mess that only slightly resembled a chocolate mousse.

It was a lovely meal - one that I hope to repeat at least once more before our move away from Monterey. I hate to sound like a walking advertisement for anything, but I am a firm believer in supporting good restaurants. Bistro Christine deserves to succeed. My worst fear for this place is that someone will dine here and not appreciate the gem that it is.

If you are in Monterey - stop by. You won't be disappointed.

Bistro Christine
481 Alvarado Street
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 644-0819


Wed-Sun. 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Wed-Sun. 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lemon-Vanilla Bean & Berry Tarts

No 4th of July BBQ is complete without a tasty dessert, and the combination of lemon French yogurt cake, vanilla bean pastry cream, and fresh berries is hard to beat.

The handy thing about garnishing cute little individual tarts with fresh berries is that they are amazingly beautiful and look like you slaved in the kitchen for hours to complete - which is rarely ever the case. That being said, I'm ever the fan of delicious eats that look impressive and are in actuality so easy a trained chimp could make them.

The cake itself is a variation on Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake - tweaked a little bit to cut the fat. It's very easy to make and packs a refreshing lemony flavor.

As you're celebrating the 4th today remember to be safe. And please, take a moment to think about the men and women who have sacrificed so much, and those who continue to do so, to keep our country safe and secure.

Happy 4th of July!

Lemon-Vanilla Bean & Berry Tarts

Serves 12

Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup greek/plain, strained yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 jumbo eggs
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F

Grease and line a rimmed half-sheet pan (jelly roll pan) with parchment paper. Set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest, and vanilla bean seeds. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet. Using a rubber spatula fold the oil into the batter until it is fully incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared sheet pan and bake 10-12 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, cook the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside and cool. When the cake comes out of the oven, allow to cool for ten minutes. Brush the top of the cake with the lemon syrup and allow to soak in.

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan (off heat), whisk together sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and salt. Gradually whisk in milk (1 tablespoon at a time to start) until smooth. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with the tip of a paring knife; add seeds and pod to milk mixture. Cook over medium-high, whisking occasionally, until the first bubbles appear on surface; continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute more. Pour pudding through prepared sieve into bowl; discard solids. Place plastic wrap directly on entire surface of pudding to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days. To serve, whisk just until smooth.

To Assemble

Using a 2 3/4 - 3 in. round cookie cutter cut out 24 rounds from the lemon cake. Using a pastry bag or a small spoon top 1 round with a tablespoon or so of the pastry cream, top with a second round of cake, and place another tablespoon of pastry cream on top. Garnish with berries and mint sprigs as desired. Repeat until all twelve are assembled. Devour at will.

There's no break down on nutritional content for these - mainly because I can't get it exact enough to be comfortable enough to give a specific number. From what I've gleaned they're about 225-250 calories per tart though.