Friday, September 30, 2016

Whole Wheat Käsespätzle with Walnuts

I always crack up when I hear non German speakers try to pronounce Käsespätzle. I snicker only because I am a smug biatch who lived in Germany for 10 years. If that wasn't the case, I would probably be spouting my own laughable version. 

Often called the German Macaroni and Cheese, spätzle are handmade noodles that are boiled and then baked with cheese to make käse (cheese) spätzle. The dish is usually topped with fried or caramelized onions.

I switched up the ingredients for this version and used whole wheat flour and walnuts. More flavor, more crunch. This is my idea of German comfort food. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fresh Fig Rosemary Hazelnut Puff Pastry Tart

This is my first puff pastry tart. I was inspired by several recipes featuring puff pastry I have seen in German cooking magazine. As a rule, I am wary of any type of crust or dough I do not make myself. I can't believe I waited this long to make one. Using puff pastry as a crust not only made this tart so easy to make, the prep time for the entire recipe was only 20 minutes.

With the crust out of the way, I was able to focus my creativity on the filling. I created a cinnamon cream to spread out as a base. Quartered gorgeous, juicy ripe figs, red globe grape halves, toasted hazelnuts and fresh rosemary topped the cinnamon cream.

The tart takes 20 minutes to bake, so only 40 minutes from start to finish and you can have this beautiful dessert.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Baked Apples Stuffed with Sage Beef & Rice

Baked apples are usually served up as dessert. In this savory twist, saged flavored chopped beef, seasoned onions and rice are stuffed into baked apples. 

This recipe takes a bit of time to make and has several steps but it's worth it. The flesh you scoop out of the apples to hollow them end up in the filling, so nothing is wasted.  

Next time I want to add some cheese to the recipe. If you want to try, shred some Emmentaler or Gruyere and stir it into the meat mixture right before stuffing it into the apples. 

Fresh sage leaves are used to garnish the apples. You can also use fresh mint, marjoram or lemon balm leaves, whatever few ones you have on hand. The dish looks pretty without the garnish.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cream Cheese, Buttermilk Leek Soup

Admittedly, this was a "leftovers" inspired soup. Every time a recipe calls for buttermilk, I always end up with some leftover. I was going to roll it into a yeasted sheet cake but that called for 2 cups and I only had 1.

There were a bunch of leeks going to wilt in the crisper. A fix was needed. Stat. Many German soup recipes use "frischkäse", soft whipped cheese or what is essentially cream cheese. I had an 8 oz. package on hand so that's how this soup came together. 

The soup is creamy and hearty. You can substitute regular milk for the buttermilk. The result will by less tangy but add some extra seasoning to make up for it. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Inside-Out Pumpkin Muffins - September's King Arthur Flour's Bakealong

This is the second month of King Arthur Flour's Bakealong. September's Inside-Out Pumpkin Muffins recipe features a streusel topping and a cream cheese center. The muffins look much more complicated to make than they are. 

Even though I just posted a streusel cake a couple of days ago, I had to share these streusel-topped muffins sooner rather than later, because they are so unusual and delicious. 

For each Bakalong, King Arthur Flour provides detailed step by step instructions in addition to the recipe as well as tips and tricks to use along the way. 

Upload a picture of your creation to social media, use the hashtag #bakealong and your photo will also go up on King Arthur Flour's Bakealong site. I don't know why I am having so much fun with this, but I am. 

I thought it was serendipitous when this month's recipe was released because I had all but one ingredient already on hand and could start baking immediately. The missing ingredient was boiled cider, although the recipe says you can substitute dark corn syrup or honey. FYI - You can also buy boiled cider on the King Arthur Flour's website

Monday, September 19, 2016

Baked Camembert with Honey Thyme Onions

This fall inspired baked camembert cheese is so easy to make and is sure to add some zushz to any seasonal get-together. The recipe is also a good use of the dwindling fragrant fresh thyme in your garden. 

A deliciously warm runny, creamy cheese is topped with sweet, thyme scented caramelized onions. This makes an appetizer or snack that is packed with gorgeous flavor. The secret ingredient in the onions is apple cider vinegar which gives them just enough tang to balance out the sweet honey/thyme flavor. 

Even in NYC, it was a bit of a search to find camembert cheese wrapped in wooden boxes. The first two I bought turned out to be plastic when I unwrapped them at home. 

If you can't find the boxed camembert, you can bake the camembert cheeses without the boxes. Make a barrier out of folded aluminum foil around each cheese before baking, folding it slightly under the cheese and up the sides all around each cheese. You don't want the cheeses breaking their rinds and running all over your oven. Not a pretty or easy cleanup. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Buttermilk Butter Cake with Lavender Lemon Streusel

Here the last gasp cake of the summer. However, I doubt if this will be my last streusel cake of the season. I can't seem to stop creating new ones. These flavors scream "spring/summer," even though you can source these ingredients year round.

This lemon lavender cake was so delicious, I wanted to squeeze it in before the Fall flavor bombardment begins. 

I grow lavender in my garden every year. Every year, I have yet to take the time to figure out how to properly harvest and dry the buds. So, for this recipe, I used store bought dried lavender I had hanging out in my cabinet.

As with most streusel cakes, this one essentially has two steps, making the cake and making the streusel. There are two other steps to be aware of: 

1) Because the cake is yeasted, you will have to let the cake batter rise for 45 minutes.

2) Halfway through the baking, the cake is removed from the oven, more buttermilk is poured over the top, then the cake is returned for its final turn in the oven. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Chilling with One of the Coolest Chefs in the Caribbean

Full disclosure: I was a guest of the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa participating in a press trip. My airfare, room, food, beverages and activities were all courtesy of the hotel. However, the views and opinions expressed in this post are purely and entirely my own. 

Chef Sandy Tuason’s soft voice and humble demeanor are deceiving. Soon after engaging him in conversation, one quickly notices beneath his spray of salt and pepper hair, the mischievous spark in his eyes and the razor-sharp, edgy humor of a Jersey boy. After stints at prestigious NYC restaurants such as Sign of the Dove, Park Avenue Cafe and Le Cirque, he moved on to luxury hotels in New York City, Hawaii and Nevis. Recently transplanted to the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, Chef Tuason has revamped the menus for the property’s three restaurants. Here he touches on everything from briefly knowing Mario Batali and James Gandolfini way back when to his arduous days under Chef Daniel Boulud to his foie gras PB&J creation.
Cabana side menu from Westin Grand Cayman's Tortuga Beach Grill & Bar. famous frozen Mudslide cocktail, West Indes Jerk Chicken Wrap and Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken
So. Jersey boy?
I grew up in Glen Rock, New Jersey in a big family with four sisters and a brother. I moved to America from the Philippines when I was 6 years old. Of course, I grew up eating a lot of Philippine food. My mother had a very modest garden but we ate everything she grew. As a matter of fact, with such a large family to feed, you just ate what she put on the table. If you didn’t, you went without. Like most families, we congregated in the kitchen around a big table.  I definitely loved and was attracted to food. I just didn’t think of culinary as a profession.
Breakfast at Westin Grand Cayman's Ferdinand's Caribbean Cafe. Blueberry Banana Smoothie, Spicy Smoked Turkey Taco.
My first job in a restaurant came when I was 14 years old as a dishwasher in a pizzeria. The next year I was a busboy at a typical Jersey diner. I used to hitchhike to work. It was more about making money to support my teenage lifestyle. During my college days at Rutgers, I got a job at a cafe in New Brunswick, New Jersey doing salads but the profession was not a calling yet.  I went to Rutgers University and graduated with a major in English Literature. I partied with both Mario Batali and James Gandolfini back then. They were college acquaintances. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

General Tso's Chicken & A Phoenix Claws and Jade Tree Cookbook/Anolon Wok Giveaway

I met Kian Lamm Kho and his lovely partner Warren through my friend, Jackie Gordon, a while back. Kian is a food writer, cooking teacher and food consultant specializing in Chinese cuisine.We chatted at her place. He showed me a PDF on his phone of his upcoming cookbook and I was instantly mesmerized by the concept of an intro to cooking Chinese cuisine by techniques. The style of the book was stunning. I went home and immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon.

When the book arrived, it did not disappoint. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking was not only a visual treat, it is an informative and beautifully written cookbook. I was so happy for Kian when it went on to win the 2016 IACP Julia Child First Book Award. The book was also nominated for a James Beard Award. Well deserved. Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees comprehensively covers the culinary regions of China, utensils, ingredients, sauces and is divided into methods of cooking. If you like to read and learn from cookbooks, this one is perfect. 

When Kian contacted me to participate with other bloggers in his blog event, Mid-Autumn Festival Blog Feast, I was honored. I found out that the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration after Chinese New Year in the Chinese holiday calendar. Family members gather for a feast and enjoy the harvest moon. We were tasked with preparing a recipe from his book and I chose General Tso's chicken.