Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Layers of Citrus Beauty - Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse's Cooking School in Paris.

Daring Bakers' never ceases to amaze me. Not only does it challenge me to go above and beyond recipes I would normally dare to try, but it also introduces me to new recipes I probably never would have encountered. I love adventure; I love a challenge; I love new experiences -- I love encountering these things in my travels (another great interest of mine), and now I'm able to face them in my baking endeavors as well. Hallelujah! :)

This month's challenge was an Orange Tian. Never heard of such a thing? Neither had I. Although, I'm rather embarrassed about this as it is of French origin. My Francophile tendencies apparently have a rather large gap in them. And in the culinary arena no less -- quelle horreur!

Basically, the tian is a fanfare of a dessert meant to showcase beautiful layers of flavor. And as we well know, the French are all about artistic display. Appearances are everything. They love the richness of the display.

I'm not sure if I did it justice on display, but one couldn't beat the exquisite flavor of this bombshell of a dessert. Its richness had us nearly satisfied after two bites...but, of course, my friend and I couldn't put down our forks.

In the process of forming the tian, I....

carefully segmented several oranges,

produced a delectable marmalade (which doubles as an excellent addition to morning toast),

discovered a new shortbread recipe French-style: pate sablee (perhaps the best yet!),

and melded all the flavors together with marmalade-flavored whipped cream in cute heart-shaped molds.

Thinking I should try it with strawberries next... ;-)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Adventures with Asparagus

Asparagus has always seemed rather enigmatic to me. Not always sure what to pair it with, it usually ends up on my plate sauteed and plain. I could tell, though, it had potential. Albeit, concerned with wrongly tainting its meaty flavor, I decided to through caution to the wind the other night and dive in deep.

To begin my foray into culinary adventure, I bravely sliced a few crimini mushrooms to sautee alongside the asparagus in a generous pat of butter. To brighten to the dish, I squeezed about a quarter of a lemon over the asparagus and mushrooms. This tiny addition literally brings sunshine to your palate upon first bite!

Really going out on a limb, I chose to add a couple hard-boiled eggs to the dish. Eggs never cease to amaze me with the great variety of dishes they complement. French vanilla ice cream, potato salad, macaroons, salad nicoise, heuvos rancheros... Not just for breakfast!! :)

To complete this fantastic dish, I adorned my plated asparagus with shavings of parmesan. A delightful flourish to a mission accomplished.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kiss Me, I'm Irish!

St. Patty's Day is just around the corner and it's time to break out the green in your closet. If you're brave, like my brothers, you'll go all out and don a kilt complete with sporran and tassled socks. They are mighty proud of their Irish heritage.

Personally, I'm more concerned about the yummy food I'll be enjoying tomorrow....corned beef, colcannon, Guinness, Shamrock shakes. :) Do these have to be relegated to only one day a year? They seem to only make an appearance on the day when everyone is traipsing around like leprechauns. Hmmm...perhaps these things turn people into leprechauns. I never saw the connection until now....

One of my favorite Irish recipes which, fortunately, makes an appearance at least once a month on my breakfast table is Irish soda bread. A breeze to make, it is a hearty bread that goes well with stew or smeared with jam first thing in the morning.

3 c. flour (all-purpose, whole wheat or a combo)
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. raisins (opt.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients together. Make well in center and pour in buttermilk. Bring dough together with your hands. (Add raisins.)
Knead dough on floured surface. Form into an 8-in. round, about 1/2 in. thick. Cut an X on top. Place on baking sheet and bake 25-30 minutes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Roasted Pepper Chicken with Mexican Rice

Working full-time lately has left me with little energy for cooking elaborate meals when I return home in the evening. Plus, I'm not big on creativity when it is just me eating. It is difficult to elicit the creative spark when you don't have another to enjoy it with, ya know? (Oh dear, this is making me sound like a loner with no friends... ;-) As a matter of fact, we enjoy meals together all the time, I've just been remiss in recording lately...and the fact I keep forgetting to visually document. :-p) Nonetheless, I don't like to skimp on zesty flavor combinations so I've been mixing and matching flavors recently that come together in a jiffy. My penchant for Mexican fare churned up this tasty meal the other evening....


2 chicken breasts

salt and pepper, to season

3-4 pieces of roasted bell peppers (Trader Joe's come in a jar with garlic)

a handful of spinach

1/2 c. cooked rice

1/2 c. black beans

1/4 c. picante salsa

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until cooked through. Toss in bell peppers and spinach, cooking until spinach is wilted.

Heat rice, beans and salsa mixed together in a pot.

Serves 1.