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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pomegranate & Ginger Flan Patissier

It was my turn to host NYE this year.  I had a spectacular feast of wasabi lump eggs, oysters on the half shell, shrimp, homemade egg rolls, crocodile steak in green coconut curry, and lovely French cheeses.  It was a fusion of cultures within each course.. a perfect representation of this year.  To top it off, I wanted something beautiful.. and no.. no Buche.  I'm not a buche type of girl.
After researching a bit on different traditions, I found that it brings good fortune to eat round things on NYE and New Year's Day.  In the dessert section, it is often round cakes.  Pie is round.. right?  I am a pie type of girl.. but what?
I finally settled on something simple.. a Parisian Flan.  Alone, it is an everyday type of dessert.. but I decided to lace it up in a ruby crusted corset to make it sexy enough for the occasion.
Round fruits are also signs of good fortune.. and pomegranate fits right into that category.  Plus, it makes me think of precious rubies scattered all over my plate.
I also learned that eating pomegranate seeds promotes fertility.. hmm... interesting.
One never knows what the year to come has in store for us.  I never in my life would have imagined living the events that happened in this past year.
Life is Beautiful
Serves 8-10
100g (3.5oz) butter, cubed
100g (3.5oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) flour
pinch salt
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk
5 cL (approx 2 floz) water
Use the method, then pre-bake for 10 minutes at 190°C

75cL milk
20 cL cream
70g (2.5oz) cornstarch
4 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
90g (3.2oz) cane sugar
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g (1.1oz) butter butter
seeds from 1 pomegranate
handful chopped candied ginger

seeds from 1 pomegranate
drizzle of pomegranate molasses

1.  In a mixing bowl, whisk part of the milk with the cornstarch until evenly dissolved, then beat the rest of the milk, eggs, sugar, fresh ginger, and salt until even without lumps.
2.  Pour the mixture into a pot and heat on medium high on the stovetop.  Whisk continually and the mixture will thicken.
3.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, pomegranate seeds, vanilla, and candied ginger.
4.  Pour the mixture into the pre-backed shortcrust and bake for 40 minutes at 180°C 350°F.
5.  Let cool!  This step is important.  You want it to be chilled or at room temperature.  The chilling can be done in the fridge.
To serve, cut a slice and spoon some fresh pomegranate seeds onto it.  I love the look of fresh pomegranate seeds.. it's studded with rubies!
Then to make it extra fancy, drizzle some of that sexy pomegranate molasses onto the plate.
My artistic father would be proud of this creation.

The result is a mixture of textures and tastes.. sweet, sour, crunchy, nutty, spicy.  It is the perfect jewel for a perfect end to the most incredible year I've lived since being in France.
Happy New Year to all!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chipotle Barbacoa Beef

As much as I love living and eating in France, there is seriously a lack of Mexicans and Tex-Mex items.  Please, Mexicans.. COME TO FRANCE!!  You will feel exotic and unique here!
I can easily find Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Thai products, but simple things like dried chiles and hominy are literally non existant with an exception once every 5 years.
Yes, you can find fresh chiles, but they are usually the red Thai or the green Moroccan.  No Jalapeños in sight.  When it comes to dried, you can find the spicy oiseau or cayenne ones, and in specialty stores you can find the red Indian ones.. but nowhere in site are chile de arboles, guajillo, moritas, puyas, pasilla, ancho.. or any of the other magnificent Mexican nectar.
For those who know me and travel, my "bring me this" list is always dried chiles and chipotles from a can... (and mango chile lollipops and Tapatio sauce).
So when I get my hands on some tortillas, I often dream about barbacoa beef.. but I had never really thought it was a possibility here.
Behold my very last can of chipotle chiles (family and friends.. this is a sign).. I have dedicated it to making my ultimate favorite fast/slow food burrito.. the Chipotle Barbacoa Beef burrito.
Just typing those words is making me salivate.
In college, I think I ate one of these at least once a week!
Serves 12 extra large burritos
1 kg (2 lbs) stew beef or chuck roast
1/6 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp whole black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
juice from 1 lime
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (from a can)
3/8 cup vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1.  Place the garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, cloves, salt, and chipotle chiles with sauce in a blender and mix into a smooth puree.
2.  Put the beef in your slow cooker and cover with the puree adding the broth, bay leaves, and lemon juice on top.
3.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  I did this overnight.. I had some really hot Chipotle dreams that night.
4.  Using 2 forks, separate the meat into shreds and let it sit for a little while to let let shreds absorb the juice.  I transferred to a baking dish and covered with foil to free my crockpot for black beans.
5.  Now your meat is ready.  If it has cooled down too much, it can be re-heated in the oven, covered, of course!
You can use this for a bowl, on corn tortillas as tacos, or in burritos.
(There are no real corn tortillas in France)

Here's what went into my big fat Chipotle burritos!
With all the fixings.. sautéed bells and onions, black beans, rice, pico de gallo salsa with corn, sour cream, shredded cabbage, avocado, shredded swiss.. mmmmm!
Then I rolled it and wrapped it up Chipotle style for practical eating purposes...
.. and topped each bite with a lovely squirt of lime..

Just heavenly spicy deliciousness.
These are the kind of cravings that make you orgasmic when you obtain them... especially when you realize you made it 10x better than the original version!

The upside?  I ate this for 3 days in a row.. and I froze half the meat for future cravings.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Three-Ginger Pecan Pie

Pecan pie has been on my mind for a few years now.  I have some old Thanksgiving memories of a tooth-achingly sweet but absolutely fabulous pie with pecans forming a top crust and a gelatinous custard underneath I could never figure out.  Coming from the desert, I would joke that it was cockroach pie because the intact pecans reminded me of the local Palmetto roaches that like to hang out in the swamp coolers.  I know.. this is not a very appetizing intro.. but I used to refuse to eat dates as well for the same reason.  Once I got past that little though, bliss became me.
The only reason I hadn't made pecan pie until now is that almost every single recipe called for corn syrup and cornstarch.
I know it's psychological, but I cannot knowingly put corn syrup into one of my desserts.  Plus, I can't handle very very sweet desserts.. at least not as much as I could when I was younger.  It actually horrified me when I found out what that jiggly sweet stuff was under the pecan crust.
So, I completely stopped looking for pecan pie recipes.
It's funny because it's when you stop actively looking for love that it hits you in the face.  A recipe literally called out to me with the magic word: Ginger.
It has 3 types of ginger; fresh, powdered, and candied, maple syrup instead of corn syrup, and no corn starch.  Plus, I could cut out all the refined sugar if I wanted because it wouldn't dramatically change the texture.
This one was a winner.. and I'm very happy I decided to go through and make myself a new pecan pie memory..
Adapted from David Lebovitz.
Serves 8
100g (3.5oz) butter, cubed
125g (4.4oz) buckwheat flour
125g (4.4oz) flour
pinch salt
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk
5 cL (approx 2 floz) water
Use the method, then pre-bake for 10 minutes at 190°C

3 Tbsp butter
juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
225g (7.9oz) pecans, toasted and chopped
50g (1.8oz) chopped candied ginger

1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the milk, maple syrup, lime, salt, fresh ginger, and powdered ginger.  Remove from heat, add the chopped pecans, and let infuse for about 10 minutes.
2.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well with the vanilla extract.
3.  Add the infused mixture into the beaten eggs along with the chopped candied ginger and mix well.
4.  Pour the filling into the pre-baked shortcrust.  Bake at 350°F 180°C for about 40 minutes.
The recipe says it should jiggle.. mine didn't really jiggle, but after cooling for about 1 hour, it was very easy to cut into slices.
It was the most fabulous tasting dessert I've ever made.
It is probably better to eat it in the afternoon with tea, for after a heavy meal it is a bit hard to go through with your desire to eat 2 slices.
Ginger is really getting a hold on me this season!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Nothing says "Holiday" like ginger and spice.  I've been putting it everywhere on everything.  It's the most addicting piece of nature out there.. and when mixed with cinnamon cloves, and nutmeg, it fills you with warmth and love.. and leaves you wanting more.
I usually just have one cookie when I make a batch and keep the rest on the counter to offer.. but I can't keep my hands off these ones...
Yield 3 dozen cookies
100g (3.5oz) buckwheat flour
180g (6.3oz) whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp salt
90g (3.2oz) room temperature butter
100g (3.5oz) sugar
130g (4.6oz) molasses
2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 large egg
Chopped candied ginger
1.  Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together, then whisk in the molasses.  It may be hard to stir.. molasses is a sticky caramelized licoricy mess.  But mmMmmMm!
3.  Whisk in the grated ginger.  When it is all well incorporated, whisk in the egg until nice and homogenous.
4.  Ditch the whisk and prepare your wooden spoon. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ones a little at a time.  It will be nice and stiff..hang in there.
5.  When all the dry ingredients are incorporated, preheat the oven to 350°F 180°C.
6.  Make tablespoon sized balls with the dough, dip into the chopped candied ginger, and press onto a cookie sheet.  make sure to space each cookie out at least 1 1/2 inches apart.  It is actually easier to handle if you chill the dough beforehand.
7.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  10 for chewy, 12 for crunchy.
8.  Remove onto a cooling rack and let cool at least 15 minutes!  Do not be too impatient..

The result is a light crispy chewy cookie full of ginger and spice and everything nice...
Ginger does make this world a happier place.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Banana Cream Pie

I know this doesn't look like anything sexy enough for a holiday dinner.  I wasn't planning on the banana I used as a topping to turn brown during chilling time.  Of course I should have known it.. but I just wasn't thinking.
This was, however, a mouthful (or several mouthfuls) of pure banana bliss.  Even non-dessert lovers ate their entire slice after an entire holiday meal!
I'm always weary of custards because you never really know how they're going to turn out until it's too late for a plan B.  If it says to chill 1 hour and you only let it chill 1 hour.. well, you're probably going to be out of luck.. because NOTHING sets in just 1 hour.  Those are lies.. all lies.
Also.. who tries a "needs time to set" recipe for the first time on Christmas Eve?  Someone crazy.. that's who.  Me.
80g butter, cubed
125g buckwheat flour
125g flour
pinch salt
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 packet vanilla sugar
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 very ripe mashed banana
1 egg yolk
2 cL water
Use the method and bake for 30 minutes at 190°C
75g cane sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (or normal milk)
1 1/2 cups cream
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter
1 banana sliced lengthwise
3 bananas sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1.  Whisk together in order the sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, cream, an egg yolks.
2.  Pour the mixture into a saucepan on medium to high heat.  Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens, about 6 minutes.  You don't want it to be clumpy, but evenly thick where it will not drip off a spoon.
3.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in the butter and vanilla extract until dissolved.  Let cool.
4.  In your pre-baked shortcrust, spread a hefty layer of custard on the bottom.  Add in the banana rounds in a layer.  Repeat until you run out of custard and bananas.
5.  If you want to make it like mine, add the last banana sliced lengthwise on the top of the last layer of custard.  This step can be done right before serving to avoid the browning.
6.  Chill in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.  I let mine for 11.
After 11 hours, this baby was NOT runny.
It was a silky delectable consistency full of ripe banana flavor without being overwhelmingly sweet.
Just a perfect end to a delightful evening with Friends that are more like Family...

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Mouttabal Al-Yaqteen (Pumpkin Tahini Dip)

As an intro to my Falafel Soiree, I wanted something that fit the theme, but that was new and refreshing.  This Syrian pumpkin dip is as old as time, but it was a discovery to me.  I had no idea pumpkin or squash was that popular anywhere else but in the Americas.  It is quite simple to put together once everything is prepped.. it really only takes a few minutes.  The longest part would be roasting the pumpkin and letting it cool.
Fortunately, I must have seen this discovery in my near future the day I brought home a nice plump Delica Moratti pumpkin and roasted it whole for my pumpkin pie urge of the moment.  Since one pumpkin yields quite a bit of flesh, I froze the roasted flesh pound by pound.. you know, just in case.  I was probably preparing for more pie urges.. or some sort of creamy chili, but bless my soul.. that was the perfect amount for this lovely Mouttabal Al-Yaqteen!
Recipe from Desert Candy
450g (1lb) roasted pumpkin flesh (mine was Delica Moratti)
1 large clove garlic, smashed
75g (3/8 cup) tahini
juice from 1 lime
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch salt
handful fresh pomegranate seeds
drizzle pomegranate molasses
1.  Blend everything together until it has a smooth homogenous consistency.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
2.  Serve topped with fresh pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.
I served mine for happy hour with some Luques olives and some turkish cheese stuffed chiles.
I also had some Man'Ouché bread for dipping.
The fresh tart beads of pomegranate are really what take this over the top.  The pumpkin is lightly sweet with the nutty creaminess of the tahini, making it a perfect dippable texture.. but those little beads of sweet juiciness that explode as you bite into them give so much dimension it seems they were made to be paired together.  The molasses evens out the flavors as well.
As long as you have roasted pumpkin handy.. Mouttabal should be on your mind...

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