Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blueberries Pound Cake - Cake aux Myrtilles

At least, once a year, I have this stupid idea go through the endeavor of cleaning the freezer. Which means that for a few weeks prior to that I try to incorporate as many frozen ingredients in my daily cooking ; trying to avoid the French fries-fish fingers-ice cream dinner autant que faire se peut.
I don't freeze much food I make myself, a few soups and bread here and there excepted. The main reason behind this is that I never make too much that won't be eaten during the same week. However, I do use the freezer to stock on frozen food such as emergency dinner-type-of-food (fish fingers, Asian dumplings) or frozen vegetables that I integrate in my daily cooking.
If you were to open the freezer door tonight (knowing that I have been working on "cleaning" the freezer for about 3 weeks now), you would see : peas, corn, spinach, blueberries and other berries, store-bought pie crust and filo dough, a bag of French fries,  homemade bread, and no fewer than 8 open pints of icecream in the flavors  of Amaretto, coffee, raspberry, mango, chocolate sorbet, chocolate icecream, banana, pistachio!!
Then there is my husband's icecream collection! And that, to tell the truth, is the hardest to go through! Not not because we just do not it ice cream... but just because whenever my husband goes grocery shopping he generally comes back with another pints (or two) of icecream that happened to be on sale (and he CAN NOT resist purchasing icecream if it's on sale!!). Our icecream inventory therefore hardly ever goes down...  It would only if I were to declare an "Icecream Week"... but that's not even a thought I have despite the joy it would bring to my children... Alternatively, I could have a lot of children over to help with our icecream stock... but then again, we can't entertain THAT many kids at once in our small apartment. No matter how much my children would love it too!
That to say that I don't know when I am going to be able to clean the freezer... At least, through this recipe (inspired by Tartelette), I got a few blueberries out (but that's not the hardest to get rid of!)! Bon Appetit!
- 1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (120gr) powdered sugar, unsifted
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup (155gr) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Zest of one lemon (optional)- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk (or whole milk)
- 1 cup (145gr) blueberries

  • Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
  • In a bowl mix the butter and powdered sugar until creamy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt and the lemon zest.
  • Add the buttermilk and mix well until combined. 
  • Fold in the blueberries by hand. 
  • Pour the batter in a lightly-buttered prepared pan and bake for 30 to 45 minutes (tend with foil midway if the top seems to brown faster than the cakes bake).
My Personal Comments:
  • I really like the additional flavor brought by the lemon zest
  • You could make individual cakes with this recipe; you would have to adjust cooking time since individual cakes cook faster.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Curried Cauliflower with Fresh Ginger, Potatoes and Peas

"Mais qu'est-ce que ça sent?" did my husband ask as he entered our apartment one evening. No need to be fluent in French to understand that he totally skipped the "Hello Honey, how was your day?" part before he inquired what on earth I had cooked for dinner that evening for it to smell so bad (had it smelled good, he would have said "hmm, ça sent bon"...)
Du choux fleur,  that what it was... and for those of you who have been putting up with reading this blog for a while, you must remember that my husband is not a big fan of cauliflower... But that's not enough of a reason for me not to cook it, especially in the Winter time when the offer of vegetables-in-season is limited.  This time, in order to change from our usual recipes, I had followed a recipe found in one of the latest issues of Vegetarian Times Magazine (I got a free subscription, that's why I get it these days).. and since I had all the ingredients handy, I decided to give it a try. On top of that, it was a recipe using a pressure cooker, which I am a big fan of because it actually cut cooking time!
Cooking cauliflower is always tricky. I remember my mom trying any tricks she could (bread in the cooking water was one of them) to dampen the smell in the kitchen (no American open-kitchen in our French apartments, ie, at least, the smell is contained in the kitchen : not in the whole apartment and in the hallway by the same token!!). I don't have any truc special to share with you. I just try to make a draft, no matter how cold it can get!
The verdict for this recipe? Delicious. My children ate it (minus the ginger bits that I had not cut small enough for them not to notice them). And so dit my husband. Sure, this dish will never compete with a Boeuf Bourguignon, but 1) that was never the point 2) it's good enough to make it again this Winter. Even if it means freezing for a few minutes and/or not getting a nice evening greeting first!  Bon Appetit!
- 2 ts ghee or melted butter
- 1 large onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ts minced fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 ts curry powder
- 1 ts ground cumin
- 1 ts brown mustad seeds
- 1/2 ts turmeric
- about 1 1/2 pound of potatoes
- 1 head of cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
- 1 cup frozen peas
  • Heat the ghee in pressure cooker over medium heat. 
  • Add onions and cook for about 2 minutes or until softened. 
  • Stir in garlic, ginger, curry powder, cumin, mustard seeds, and turmeric. Saute for 2 minutes. 
  • Add potatoes, cauliflower and 1/2 cup of water.
  • Closer pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 5 minutes
  • Release pressure
  • Stir in peas. Season with salt and pepper.
My Personal Comments:
- I used more water than the 1/2 cup ; it will depend on how many potatoes and how big your cauliflower head is.
- The recipe calls for sugar but I never felt I needed to add it.
- You can cook it without a pressure cooker, just cook it over low-to-medium heat in a thick-bottom pot.
-The little choux-fleur was made by Leslie whose shop on is here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The other day, I was asking my children which cake they wanted us to bake to celebrate my husband's birthday. While we have established the tradition in our family that the guest-of-honor chooses his/her birthday menu, my husband was away (on vacation, for ONE FULL week!!), it was therefore a surprise for him! I listed his favorite desserts : tarte tatin, pithiviers, apfel strudel and tiramisu (only to list a few)...
When she heard "tiramisu, my daughter almost screamed "tiramisu, c'est mon préféré dessert!" (yes, we are getting a few English grammar mistakes in her French these days but so far we find it funny!)...  She discovered Tiramisu last Summer in France when my sister-in-law made a delicious one. .. and fell for it! She had it again when one Italian friend of ours brought one a few months ago... and since then, she has made sure that we know that "Miratisu" or "Ramitusi" or "papa, tu sais le dessert que j'adore" is her dessert préféré!  So, Tiramisu, it was.
What I like about Tiramisu is that it's so easy to make : nothing to heat, nothing to let to rest for a while... just plain easy to make as long as you think ahead of time to refrigerate it long enough. I literally made this in less than 15 minutes... and let it sit in the fridge for about 5 hours (but this was not enough).
In the end, the sad part of the story is that my daughter was not feeling well that evening and decided not to eat her dessert. Both my son and husband immediately volunteered to eat her share (my husband won; it was his birthday after all)! My daughter did eat another little Tiramisu the next day, though... and I'm sure that if I were to ask her again what she would want for dessert, "Miratisu" or "Mirasuti" or "tu sais le dessert que j'ADORE" would pop up! Bon Appetit!
For 6-8 ramequins
- 125 ml (1/2 cup or 4.2 Fl oz) strong espresso, at room temperature
- 45 ml ( 3 TB or 1.5 Fl oz)Marsala (or rhum)
-  2 eggs
 - 1 pinch of salt
- 1 small container Mascarpone (about 250 grams)
- 90 gr (7 TB or 3.17 oz)sugar
- Ladyfingers cookies, about 2-3 per ramequins.
- Unsweetened Cocoa
- Bittersweet chocolate (optional)

  • Mix the coffee and the Marsala and set aside.
  • In a bowl, beat the eggwhites and salt together until they beging to be stiff; add half of the sugar and beat some more until stiff.
  • In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the mascarpone and beat and stirr well.
  • Fold in half of the eggwhites; and then the rest until fully incorporated
  • Scoop some of that cream into the ramequins (about 1/3 of the height)
  • Cut the ladyfingers in half and soak them in the coffee. They have to be soaked but not soft. 
  • Lay the ladyfingers on the cream in the ramequins.
  • Shred some bittersweet chocolate on top (optional)
  • Cover with more cream.
  • Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, overnight it best
  • Just before serving, spread cocoa powder on top.
My Personal Comments:
  • If you don't put bittersweet chocolate on top of the ladyfingers, the Tiramisu won't taste very sweet.
  • Don't hesitate about the alcohol, it's what makes the difference in the Tiramisu and the taste does attenuate after refrigeration.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Marinated Ahi-Tuna Steaks

"In pepper or in paper?"did my flatmate asked me one day, showing me a pepper mill in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. We were just talking about the tuna recipe I had planned to cook for our bi-weekly dinner parties with our friends B&L in San Francisco...and he could not just put spicy+paper together even though he had seen me cook "en papillotte" before.  I know there is a major pronounciation difference between the two words but when come the evening: fatigue and a glass (or two) of wine make my French accent thicker, hence the confusion... and the funny situations I have got into over time!
So that night, the recipe for tuna was calling for pepper... and since I wanted to make sure not to use the 10-month-old pepper jar that was in our kitchen,  I had purchased high-quality multi-colored whole pepper corns that day. Pretty! High quality! High intensity! That pepper was soo spicy that we could just not possible eat the pan-seared tuna steaks. IMPOSSIBLE! Each bite was starting a fire...... After two bites, we decided to cut off most of the pepper to still eat the tuna. We drank a lot (and not just water!) and enjoyed a dressing-less salad to calm the heat!...  The next day though, we all felt that our skin was still perspirating pepper! That remained one of my best culinary disasters, yet a memorable moment full of laughter shared with great friends. And I laugh about it whenever I purchase/eat tuna!

I have not tried to cook tuna "in paper" nor have I tried "tuna in pepper" with my children yet. When we purchase raw tuna, I generally marinate it for a few hours (overnight is best) in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper (not too much!!), tomatoes, thin onions slices, and balsamic vinegar (I don't have a fix recipe, I just adjust the dressing to my liking.) We then just pan-sear the tuna in olive oil and eat it with a salad or over rice.  Easy. Tasty... but not as funny as my tuna steaks from San Francisco! Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crème Chocolat Fraises - Chocolate Creme with Strawberries

Replenishing stocks is something I do quite well. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to find a recipe I want to make just to realize that I am missing basic ingredients like confectioner sugar or almond flour. Although we don't have much pantry space in our apartment, I also try to stock when I can get the best deals. I don't go to Costco (the equivalent of the French Metro supermarkets) because it's too far from our place to justify the drive... and also because I definitively don't have enough space to stock on 10 packs of cereals and 25 pounds of flour! I just purchase more whenever there is a 2-for-1 deal or any other types of promotion.

Tonight, we just found out that our chocolate bars inventory reached zero! This is really bad news! Bad news because we all enjoy un carré (or two) of chocolate, dark chocolate that is.  I generally have it with my coffee after lunch (although since I started working I have not enjoyed a small espresso with chocolate! Local coffee shops don't treat you as well as French ones!!), my husband with his after dinner espresso. As for our children, "whenever" is their favorite time for chocolate. Since they drink chocolate milk in the morning and generally have something with chocolate for their gouter, they are allowed a carré (ou deux) de chocolat after lunch on week-ends. It's their little "plaisir", obviously because, in addition to being good, they associate the after lunch carré(s) de chocolat with adults habits. If they could lick their carré to the end to enjoy it for hours, they would!

No good chocolate bars indeed in our house tonight and for once I don't know when the next replenishment will come since we generally purchase our bars by the dozens in chocolate outlets (NB: for my readers outside the US: yes, there is such a thing as Chocolate outlet!!)).  No matter how much we are hooked on love chocolate, I can't justify a 50-mile trip to purchase chocolate bars. Quand même!! So, what's the plan? The fallback plan is to eat pink&red colored M&Ms, Saint-Valentin oblige... or to eat some of the baking chocolate I always keep in the cupboards! We did both... but it's really not the same!

Since we are talking about chocolate, here is an easy-to-make Chocolate Crème with fresh strawberries. My children loved it! As for me, I'd rather stick with my carré de chocolat with my espresso, assuming stocks are going to be replenished soon! Bon Appétit!

Yields about 6 small ramequins

- 2 cups (500 ml) of whole milk
- 1/3 cup of sugar (preferably light brown cane sugar)
- 1.75 oz (50 gr) bittersweet dark chocolate
- 2 eggs + 1 yolk
- 1/2 Vanilla Bean, scrapped
- A few strawberries, dicesd + more for decoration

  • In a large pot, pour the milk and the vanilla bean, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and leave it infused for half an hour (you skip this step if you use vanilla extract).
  • Preheat the oven to 320F (160C)
  • In a large bowl, mix the eggs (+ egg yolk) and the sugar. Add the warm milk.
  • Add a little bit of water to the chocolate, put it 20s in the microwave to melt it. Mix it to reach a smooth texture.
  • Pour the cream on the chocolate and stir well.
  • Pour the chocolate cream the ramequins
  • Place a few peaces of fresh strawberries in the cream.
  • Place the ramequins in a baking dish. Pour hot water so that the ramequins are half immersed.
  • Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. The center of the creams should be still moving a little bit.
  • Take them out of the water and let them cool down
  • Cover them up and put them in the fridge before serving.
  • Decorate with additional fresh strawberries
My Personal Comments:
  • I use at least 70% dark chocolate bars.