RumpelStilton

Port Jelly and Stilton Butter Canapés

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 2.38.08 PM

  1. Dissolve one packet of gelatin in 1/4 c. room temperature water. Bring 3/4 c. port to boil and pour over gelatin mixture. Whisk until gelatin has dissolved, pour into glass container and chill for several hours until completely set.
  2. Using a fork, mash together equal parts Stilton cheese and room temperature butter.
  3. Serve on water crackers.
Advertisements

Tuesdays With Calamari

DSC04433

Calamari:

About 6 cleaned squid, sliced into ¼-inch rings

5 cups vegetable oil

Tempura batter:

1 cup seltzer water, ice cold

1 egg white

1 cup flour

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp. black pepper

Dip:

Juice one lemon

½ cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh chives to garnish

Instruction:

  1. Heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees.
  2. Whisk lemon juice and mayo. Sprinkle with chives and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Whisk egg white and combine it and the dry ingredients with seltzer until just combined (it’s okay if the batter is lumpy).
  4. Using chopsticks or a fork, coat each squid ring in the batter and fry for about a minute and a half (until light golden brown), turning midway through cooking.
  5. Serve immediately with lemon mayo.

Enjoy squid tempura with Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes!

The Polar Espresso

When it comes to culinary adventures, taste is the most obvious of the five senses involved. Smell is close behind, and sight is also thrown into the mix. But there are sounds that are always coming out of my kitchen that make cooking about more than what meets the eye, nostril, or tastebud. Just as the young boy who narrates The Polar Express is so affected by the ring of a small bell, I am instantly brought back to a comforting and magical place with certain sounds – the sizzling of a breadcrumbed chicken cutlet, the rhythmic slicing of risotto-bound onions, and (perhaps most importantly) the whiz of the coffee grinder first thing in the morning.

My father is a self-proclaimed coffee snob, and I am following directly in his footsteps. There is truly a difference in tasting the flavor of freshly ground beans in each sip of my morning jolt that has made me very attached to all things espresso. And so, I couldn’t resist injecting a bit of that richness into this festive holiday recipe. Merry Christmas!

SONY DSC

Gooey Mocha Brownies:

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup espresso powder

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup strong filter coffee, near boiling

2 oz. dark chocolate chips (and 6 oz. dark chocolate chips later on)

2 eggs, room temperature

2 additional egg yolks, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups sugar

1 ¾ cups flour

1 tsp salt

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instruction:

  1. Whisk cocoa powder, espresso powder, and cinnamon in coffee until smooth. Whisk in first 2 oz. of chocolate chips until melted.
  2. Whisk butter and oil into mixture. Then, add eggs, additional yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  3. Sift in flour and salt and fold until completely combined. Finally, fold in the remaining 6 oz. chocolate chips.
  4. Transfer to 9×13 baking pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour, until toothpick comes out clean.
  5. After brownies have cooled slightly, carefully transfer to wire rack. To serve, stack different sized squares at 45 degree angles and dust with powdered sugar.

Enjoy gooey mocha brownies with Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Rip Van Sprinkle

Over the past several years I’ve developed a tendency toward over-organization (and have even tip-toed into the territory of pleasantly neurotic). When I can’t sleep (a problem Rip Van Winkle never had), I relax by unfolding stacks of t-shirts just so I can refold them. I make to-do lists that include “make to-do list” as the first item. And this afternoon, in a surge of Christmas cheer, I divided a container of multi-colored sprinkles one by one to extract the reds and greens. And though that is definitely forty minutes of my life I’ll never get back, the result was a perfect addition to this Christmassy dessert!

SONY DSC

Gingerbread Terrines

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup molasses

1 egg, room temp

1/2 cup applesauce

1 tbsp. Cognac

1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. salt

1 cup hot water

Instruction:

  1. Cream butter and sugar in standing mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add in molasses, egg, applesauce, Cognac, vanilla extract.
  3. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt into the standing mixture.
  4. Finish by gradually adding hot water and mixing on low speed until smooth.
  5. Bake in lined muffin tin 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes OR in a cake pan for a bit longer (until toothpick comes out clean).

 Cognac Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp

1 oz. Cognac

2 cups powdered sugar (or more, as needed for thickness)

Pinch of salt

Instruction:

  1. Beat butter, cream cheese, Cognac, and salt until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar and beat until smooth and thick.
  2. Pipe onto cooled terrines or cupcakes and garnish with Christmas sprinkles!
SONY DSC

Enjoy gingerbread terrines and Cognac cream cheese icing with Washinton Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Legend of Sleepy Challah

Last weekend my friends Jennie and Zander came over for brunch. Jennie and I met over thirteen years ago, and some of our best memories have been shared over a good meal. But when we were younger, I thought Jennie’s food tastes were crazy. A life without meat or chocolate? The thought nearly knocked my head off.

But now that some time has passed, I’ve broadened my own tastes and realized that some of the best flavors on earth involve neither meat nor chocolate. In fact, one can live a perfectly pleasant existence without what I consider to be culinary staples. Take this autumnal french toast recipe: it has both sweetness and substance.

After over a decade of friendship, Jennie and I can still happily coexist with our varying palates. With the warm, hearty flavors of a satisfying brunch like this, who couldn’t love the month of October? (Except perhaps poor Ichabod Crane…)

DSC03219

Pumpkin French Toast:

8 slices challah bread

4 egg yolks

2 cups milk

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Instruction:

  1. On parchment paper-lined baking sheet, toast bread in 300 degree oven for about five minutes on each side. Turn off oven and let bread cool.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients (when they have all been brought to room temperature) except for bread.
  3. Soak challah slices in wet mixture for twenty seconds on each side. Allow excess moisture to drip off and immediately put in buttered frying pan over medium heat. Let toast cook on each side for about three minutes, adding more butter if the pan becomes too dry.
  4. Transfer to oven (still warm from step 1) until ready to serve!

Wet Spiced Maple Pecans:

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp milk

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pecans

Instruction:

  1. Bring corn syrup, maple syrup, milk, brown sugar, and vanilla extract to a boil, whisking until smooth. Reduce to simmer and keep on heat for about five minutes.
  2. Toss pecans in spices. Pour syrup mixture over the pecans and toss until evenly coating.

Enjoy pumpkin french toast and wet maple spiced pecans with Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews.

Harry Potter and the Deathly ‘Mallows

The early 2000s were a time of wonderful weirdness for preteens. Maybe you made up a dance routine to Monster Mash in your friend’s basement. Perhaps you rocked a Limited Too pageboy hat on a fifth grade field trip. But I’d bet that the most accurate manifestation of preteen splendor would be your AOL Instant Messenger screen name and password.

While I wavered between Neopets and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats themes, my sister was always very steadfast – the username was based on a fearless Shakespearean protagonist, and the password paid tribute to one of the most entertaining characters in literature: Peeves the Poltergeist.

The ghosts were such a phenomenal part of the Harry Potter series, and though their appearances were brief and infrequent, they were always entertaining. Nearly Headless Nick was bizarrely endearing, and Peeves was hilariously pesky. JK Rowling did a wonderful job of making ghosts – in the past classically “scary” figures – into something we all looked forward to encountering as we turned the pages of the Harry Potter books.

Like the fashion and social choices we made as preteens, these meringues represent something stereotypically scary at first glance; but when you actually dive in, they’re actually quite sweet.

DSC03320

Meringue Ghosts:

3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 oz dark chocolate chips

Instruction:

  1. In standing mixer, whip egg whites and salt until frothy. Gradually add sugar on medium-high speed and whip until you have stiff and glossy peaks.
  2. Pipe egg white mixture onto parchment paper-lined baking tray. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, until meringues are light brown on top. Let meringues cool completely.
  3. Melt chocolate chips in microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Using a toothpick or a small piping bag, pipe two dots onto the meringue as the ghost’s eyes.

Enjoy meringue ghosts with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Madame Clovery

Over the past 25 years, I’ve learned lots of things from my mother – probably because she’s told them to me again and again (and again and again). The current proverb is to always pay off my credit card in full. When I was 16 it was that not getting the lead in the boys’ school musical wasn’t the end of the world. And when I was a child, it was to at least try what was on my plate at the dinner table; I might be surprised by something delicious.

I’ve always had an aversion to vegetables, particularly the ones that sound particularly heinous, like parsnip and turnip. But – as every mother loves to hear – my mom was RIGHT! Parsnips, when cooked and seasoned properly, are sweet, warm, and autumnally satisfying. Perhaps Gustave Flaubert’s title character in Madame Bovary, who found herself hopeless and in debt, also should’ve listened to my mother. Maybe if she had paid off her credit card in full, the book would’ve had a happier ending…

DSC03023

Mulled Parsnip Crisps:

8 parsnips

1 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 star anise piece

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup olive oil

Instruction:

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of parsnip “ribbon.”

2. Combine all spices in vegetable and olive oils. Heat mixture for about a minute, then turn off heat to let flavors infuse.

3. Strain oil and toss parsnips in the mixture.

4. Spread chips evenly on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes – until edges are golden brown. Remove and allow to cool and crisp up for several minutes.

Enjoy mulled parsnip crisps with Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Of Mousse and Men

I’ve recently started teaching part-time at my old high school to supplement the ever unpredictable life of a freelance writer. It’s very surreal walking the same hallways without my beloved green plaid kilt and trusty backpack, calling former teachers by their first names, and giving the same speeches to my own students that I used to hear seven years ago.

There were definitely high school classes that were not my strongpoint. Math was a disaster, and science was a constant struggle. While my freakishly smart classmates excelled, I had no clue what was going on 95% of the time. But like John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, often “quality over quantity” rings true. Steinbeck’s perhaps most well-known work was a novella, rather than a full-length book. Its brevity didn’t matter, because the content was what made an impression on people. As with any novel, there are many parts that fall away in one’s memory, and only the truly fascinating parts that make a lasting impact.

When I used to look back on my two years of high school chemistry, I was convinced that the beautiful science was lost on me because as a whole, the courses were overwhelming,  the concepts were huge, and the AP exams were ultimately a disaster for me. But when I think to the individual things that peaked my interest, I realize that chemistry was probably one of the more significant classes in my high school career. Perhaps it was learning how heat reacts with different fats in a cut of beef. Or maybe it’s learning that gelatin can make flavorful beads of any liquid. But I owe my chemistry teachers a big thank you, for the bits of information that have lasted the test of time, and even shaped who I am as a chef.

DSC02821

Chocolate Mousse:

8 oz. dark chocolate

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

3 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Instruction:

1. Over double boiler, melt chocolate, cinnamon, and salt.

2. Whip whipped cream in Kitchen Aid until soft peaks begin to form. Fold into melted chocolate mixture.

3. Begin whisking egg whites in Kitchen Aid. Meanwhile, heat sugar to 120 degrees (use instant thermometer). When sugar reaches temperature, begin pouring into egg whites as they are being whisked. Increase speed to medium and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.

4. Lightly fold whipped chocolate cream mixture into egg whites. Transfer to piping bag and pipe into ramekins. Chill in refrigerator for at least three hours.

Limoncello caviar:

1 cup limoncello

1/2 oz. gelatin powder

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Instruction:

1. Put vegetable oil in freezer for about twenty minutes. Remove right before you are ready to make the beads.

2. Bring limoncello and gelatin powder just to a boil (allow powder to dissolve) and turn off heat. Using an eye dropper, squeeze drops of the liquid onto the frozen oil. Beads will form and begin to sink to the bottom.

3. Allow beads to sit for several minutes as they continue to sink. GENTLY use a strainer to discard the oil, and place strainer on top of a paper towel to soak up the rest of the oil surrounding the beads.

Whipped Cream:

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

Instruction:

1. Begin whipping cream on low speed. Increase to medium speed and gradually begin to add sugar. When stiff peaks form, transfer to piping bag to garnish mousse.

Enjoy chocolate mousse and limoncello caviar with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Never Let Mango

When I was growing up, it was always considered a special occasion to go over to my cousins’ house. And while sure, it was nice to spend time with family, that’s not the real reason I looked forward to it. No, the second we arrived I would dash upstairs into the furthest bedroom down the hallway and prepare for a night of video games.

My parents were big believers that video games were antisocial and addictive, and as a result – we never had them in the house growing up. Like the three protagonists in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, being sheltered from the unknown only peaked my curiosity even further. And what my parents didn’t realize is that gaming is anything BUT isolating – in fact, many games have formed thriving and long-lasting communities.

Super Smash Bros. Melee has an absolutely flourishing community whose dedication to the game makes it an art form. The personas they take on are the varied ingredients that make for a most impressive product. Like a smooth simple syrup, Princess Peach fights sweetly and delicately. Like fresh mint leaves, Marth is cool, subtle, but most of all strong. And Falco is like a generous splash of vodka – a bit unpredictable, but proven to be timeless!

The greatest Melee players have even made a career out of their commitment to a game they love. And so, I’d like to dedicate this post to the Smash Community, and this mango mojito smoothie to Joseph “MaNg0” Marquez. Thank you all for proving to my mom and dad that video games are a good thing. And perhaps since I’m at an age old enough to spike my smoothies with vodka, I can also disobey my parents and break the longtime ban!

SONY DSC

Mango mojito smoothie:

1 cup vodka

2 fresh mangos

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup fresh mint

2 cups ice

Instruction:

1. To make a simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as sugar has dissolved into water, turn off heat and add fresh mint leaves. Allow mint leaves to steep for at least five minutes.

2. Peel mango and cut away from pit. Add mango flesh to blender, and puree until completely smooth. Using strainer, add simple syrup and puree again. Add vodka and ice, and puree until smooth.

3. Optionally using strainer to eliminate any lingering bits of mango, transfer blender contents to your desired glass. Add a sprig of mint and a festive straw to serve.

Enjoy a mango mojito smoothie with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Super Smash Bros. Melee, and check in at http://warandpeach.com soon!

A Midsummer Night’s Bream

Over the weekend, I took a quick jaunt over to London for the Rugby World Cup. Edward got these tickets almost a year ago, but with my new job back in the States, I could only take one day off. The result was a 48-hour haze of joyful reunions, fierce England sporting patriotism, and – unfortunately – a steady battle against jet lag. Like the mortals who wander through hill and dale in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, most of the time I had no idea whether I was awake or dreaming. But there are some things in life that zing you awake – perhaps it’s the limey acidity and sharp red onion in a ceviche nacho dish; perhaps it’s an elixir from cheeky Puck in the forest; or perhaps it’s the feeling of being surrounded by 80,000 people singing “God Save the Queen” in support of England’s rugby team (who, incidentally, beat Fiji!).

 

SONY DSC

Ceviche Nachos:

1/2 pound white fish (sea bream, sole, tilapia, halibut)

1 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

1 red pepper

1/2 red onion

Zest of three limes

2 tsp chopped parsley (or a fresh herb of your choice)

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choosing (I used a Mexican mix)

Four heft handfuls of tortilla chips

Instruction:

1. Cut fish into quarter-inch cubes. Pour lime juice until just covering fish, then cover with cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes. The fish should be opaque.

2. In the meantime, dice pepper and onion. Toss together with black beans, lime zest, parsley, salt, and pepper. When fish is finished chilling, gently drain lime juice and add fish to the pepper and onion mixture.

3. Arrange tortilla chips on a plate, sprinkle with cheese, and microwave for about 40 seconds (cheese should be melted and bubbling). Serve immediately with ceviche.

Enjoy ceviche nachos with William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!