Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Avocado Toast

If you are an avocado lover, you must make this. It couldn't be simpler. All you need is one avocado, a piece of bread, and a little mayo and dijon mustard.

Here's what you do:  toast the bread, spread on a spoonful of mayo and dijon (mixed together first), and top with mashed avocado (one avocado half for one slice of bread).  Add a little salt and you have a delicious lunch or snack.

Many thanks to Luisa at The Wednesday Chef for the idea.  Please check out her blog for the full post on avocado toast and another super easy idea for toast.  If you like salmon, you'll definitely want to have a look.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Carrot Cake with Purple Carrots

In my fridge was a bag full of mixed carrots in shades of purple, yellow, and the traditional orange.  I'd been wanting to make a carrot cake for some time, so I looked at the bag and thought This could be interesting.

I adapted a recipe for Carrot Cupcakes from Everyday Food and picked up a recipe for icing in an issue of Elle à Table, from the same family as Elle fashion magazine.  The icing contains mascarpone cheese, and is a wonderful twist on traditional cream cheese icing.

The cake was moist and flavorful and turned out looking much like regular old carrot cake...but if you look closely, really closely, you can see little flecks of purple.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Everyday Food From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart

1.5c unsweetened, shredded coconut*
1/2c sugar
1/2c maple or agave syrup
1/3c vegetable oil
2T fresh orange juice
1/2t vanilla
2 large eggs
1t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t ground allspice
1/2t salt
1/2c whole wheat flour
1/2c spelt flour (or unbleached white)
1.5c shredded carrots
1/2c chopped walnuts
1/2c raisins (I used golden)

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Spread coconut on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer coconut to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

2.  In a bowl, combine sugar, syrup, oil, juice, vanilla, and eggs.  Stir in baking powder, soda, allspice, and salt.  Add the flour and mix.  Stir in carrots, walnuts, raisins, and 1 cup of the coconut.

3.  Oil and flour a loaf pan; distribute batter evenly.

4.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack before frosting with cream cheese icing.  Garnish with reserved 1/2c of toasted coconut.

*Note:  In Denmark the only shredded coconut I've been able to find is the unsweetened version.  I've come to like it better than the sweetened kind available in the States because it adds the coconut flavor without all the extra sugar (and preservatives).  While I believe that the unsweetened variety is available in most health food stores in the U.S., feel free to use the sweetened version.

Mascarpone-Cream Cheese Icing
From Elle à Table

scant 1c cream cheese
scant 1c mascarpone
4-5T powdered sugar
zest of one orange
1t vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Scandinavian Cheese and Crackers

When my friend Jackie visited Norway and Sweden over the summer, she returned to Denmark with two very special gifts:  cheese and crackers.  But not just any cheese and crackers.

The cheese is from Norway.  On the package it says "Gudbrandsdalen, a Norwegian specialty.  Mixed creamy whey cheese made with goat's milk and cow's cream, based on an original recipe from 1863."

When you open the package you are met with what looks like a giant-sized caramel.  You know, the Kraft kind.  What's interesting is that the cheese actually has a slightly sweet taste not completely unlike that of a caramel.  But more important is the way that the sweet mixes with the salty, and the creamy texture melts in your mouth.

The color might be off-putting to some, but if you can get past it, this is a truly unique cheese that easily could become addictive.  It's good with crackers, yes, but also with slices of crisp apple or pear.  Jackie and I were wondering if there are any recipes that you could make with it, but I haven't had a chance to do any research.

And don't you just love the packaging on the Swedish crackers?  I was hesitant to open it for fear of ruining the packaging.  The crackers themselves are typical Scandinavian:  dense, crisp, and very healthy tasting.

I am grateful to Jackie for these wonderful gifts and suppose a road trip will be in order once I deplete my supply.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red-Gooseberry Clafoutis

Oregon, my home state, is a treasure trove of all kinds of berries. However, to the best of my knowledge, there are no red gooseberries. In fact, I wonder if gooseberries grow anywhere in the U.S.?

So when I received a box of the tiny, bright red berries I wasn't exactly sure what to do with them.  I opened up a few cookbooks and surveyed the indexes for gooseberries.  The winning book came from Nigella Lawson, and the winning recipe:  Red-Gooseberry Clafoutis.  There's a good reason why, too.  How to be a Domestic Goddess is the only cookbook I own with a gooseberry recipe.

I served the clafoutis to dinner guests and knew it was a good sign when they took seconds.  And that's a good thing because it wasn't the best looking dessert in the world.  I followed the recipe closely, although I omitted the heavy cream and replaced it with sour cream because that's what my husband brought home from the store.  Every time I ask him to pick up heavy cream, he returns instead with a container of sour cream.  I should learn by now that I need to put a sticky note on his forehead to get him to remember the right kind of cream.  But, no reason to fret, the sour cream worked perfectly.  Also, I threw in a couple handfuls of blackberries from the bushes on our back deck.

The whole thing looked a little too messy and tie-died to me, but I suppose what matters most is that it tasted fifty times better than it looked.

Red-Gooseberry Clafoutis
Adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

1T butter
12 oz red gooseberries
6 large eggs
1/2c cake flour
1/4c sugar
1/2t orange-flower water (I picked up a bottle in France but you could easily omit it)
1t vanilla
1 1/3c sour cream (or heavy cream)
1 1/3c whole milk
powdered sugar for dusting
8-inch diameter pie plate

1.  Preheat the oven to 375F, putting in a baking sheet at the same time.  When it's reached temperature, grease the pie dish with the butter and throw in the gooseberries.  Put in the oven for 10 minutes.

2.  Make the batter the easy way:  put all remaining ingredients into the food processor and blitz until smooth and combined.  When the gooseberries have had their 10 minutes, pour the batter over them, put the dish back on the sheet in the oven, and cook for 35 minutes, by which time the pudding will be just set in the middle and golden brown and puffy at the edges.

3.  Upon cooling, the dessert will sink some, but it's supposed to.  Eat warm or cold, dusted with powdered sugar.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


In last week's community supported agriculture (CSA) box, I was thrilled to find the following:  a seedless watermelon, three large peaches, eight yellow plums, a bunch of what I'm calling fingerling tomatoes (exact shape as the potato of the same name), a head of lettuce, green beans, an eggplant in the prettiest shade of light purple, and a cucumber.  What a score.

To celebrate our bounty, I prepared a BLT salad with chunks of cheddar cheese tossed in, and a sliced, hard-boiled egg on top.  I scattered a handful of chopped parsley over the top and arrived at a very colorful and delicious meal.  All I did was place torn pieces of red-leaf lettuce in a bowl and add chopped tomatoes (the fingerlings!), a little chopped, red onion, crisp bits of bacon, as well as small cubes of cheddar.  Last but definitely not least, I tossed in several handfuls of homemade croutons.  To make, simply toast slices of baguette, rub with a clove of garlic, cut into small pieces, and saute in olive oil until light golden brown.  Voila, the perfect easy summer dinner.  

For dessert, I put the yellow plums to good use.  I prepared a simple pie crust dough and laid it in a tart pan. To that I added a batch of creme amandine mix that I picked up in France.  You simply add an egg and some milk to the mix, stir well, and pour into the pie crust.  I then halved and pitted the plums and evenly distributed the fruit over the tart, pressing it down a little into the creamy filling.  

If you haven't had it, creme amandine is an almond flavored pastry cream.  It's lightly sweet and the absolute perfect complement to fruit.  

When I served it after the salad, I asked Alan if he knew how I made the tart.  That is, with what special ingredient.  He wasn't sure so I grabbed the empty pouch of creme amandine filling and showed him.  While he ate multiple slices and raved about it, seeing the package spawned quite the discussion. Turns out, for something with such a lovely name, it contains some not so wonderful ingredients; such as things that start with the letter E and end with three digit numbers.  I guess it pays to read labels on French products, too.  Next time, I will find my own recipe (now that I stocked up on plenty of almond flour in France), so I don't have to worry about chemical additives polluting my family's food.

That sounds a little preachy because really, we ate every last bite of that delicious tart; but in general, like most people I know, I avoid anything with preservatives and other chemicals.

What made me most happy about the dessert is how some of the plums browned on top during baking and the way that it contributed to the overall beauty of the dessert.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Holidays in Food Part IV - Conclusion

Before we left the Vanoise National Park area, we visited a nearby village that happened to be hosting a medieval festival.  I captured a brief look at midieval food rituals in France.

Once we arrived at Alan's mother's weekend house in the Chartreuse Mountains of France, I basically laid down my camera and didn't pick it up again until it was time to pack and go home.  I took some photos of family and friends but was a total slacker in not capturing the fabulous meals we enjoyed.  I did, however, remember to take a shot of Alan's mom's birthday cake.  It comes from one of the most well known patisseries in Chambéry and is made to look like the flag of Savoie, this particular region in the French Alps.  It was filled with wild blueberries and was beyond delicious.

In case you are wondering, the first baby is our nephew, Emeric.  He is 16-months and was, as you can see, swimming in affection from his older cousin.  The other children belong to our friend Ouafa.  She and her husband are the proud parents of Adam, 2 years, and twins, Sofia and Yasmine, 6 months.

The last two photos are visualizations of items we enjoyed plenty of during our stay in France.  So long summer vacation.  See you next year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Holidays in Food Part III

After Croatia, we spent two days in Venice before heading to Vanoise National Park in the French Alps where we met up with Alan's Dad and camped in a little village called Champagny-le-Haut.  Over the course of four days we hiked, cooked, had two spectacular dinners at the campground's restaurant (who would think a campground restaurant could be so good...but then it is France), and enjoyed the breathtaking sights.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me to the restaurant, but here are some sights of the mountains as well as Anatole making his special "camp soup."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Holidays in Food Part II

Next stop:  Rab Island, Croatia.  We spent seven wonderful days visiting the island's different beaches and riding our bikes in the city and on gorgeous forest trails.  Here, a glimpse at the scenery and some food and beverages from the local grocery store.

The Croatian Fig Newton.  

The jam on the left is made from rose hips and is extremely delicious.  The other is a jam of mixed fruits, just as the label photo suggests.

Local wine.  Tasted like vinegary port, but I'm not complaining.

Alan enjoyed the local beer.

This is for my friend Ann, who urged me not to leave Croatia without trying Kras chocolate.   I was not disappointed.