Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Best Hot Spiked Cider

Just in time for Halloween and the harvest season, I present you with the BEST recipe for hot spiked (or not) cider.  This recipe is courtesy of H who serves this each year at her Hallo-wine Party. 

Hot Spiked Cider

5-1/3 cups water

4 orange spice tea bags

2/3 cup light brown sugar

2-2/3 cups apple cider

2 cups light rum

10-1/2 cinnamon sticks1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon butter

1. Pour water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and toss in the orange spice tea bags. Cover and let steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar, apple cider, rum, and 2 of the cinnamon sticks. Heat just to steaming -- do not boil. 2. Ladle hot cider into 6 mugs and drop 1/2 teaspoon butter into each. Garnish with a cinnamon "swizzle" stick.

Serves: 8

Here are some pictures of H, Rae Rae, and myself (dressed as Gilly) with the cider at this year's party:

H looking gorgeous as Audrey Hepburn

Rae Rae the naughty nurse

A serious moment with Gilly

If you haven't heard of Gilly, here is a hulu link to the SNL skit.  I love Kristen Wiig, here is my favorite sketch of hers.  And here is my Gilly dance at the Hallo-wine party:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meet Olive!

This week I started my new job.  So far I really like it and I really really like my new co-workers.  Today, the Cleveland Animal Protection League had an adoption event in the lobby and I just couldn't resist this little gal.  She is 3 months old, born in July on my Dad's birthday.  She is a long-haired tabby and she loves to cuddle and sleep.  She slept for about 3 hours in a box next to my cube without making a peep, just looking super cute.  She came with the name "Goofy" but that just absolutely didn't fit her.  She is the perfect little Olive!

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Blogiversary!

Happy Blogiversary!!  Can you believe it has been one year since I started this blog?  To  reminisce over the past year, I went back and re-read many posts and I'm so happy to have these memories digitzied forever.  It has been quite a year.  I think this is a year and an era that we will look back on for years to come.  Our children will ask us about the Great Recession and the year that Obama took office.  I will remember it as the year I went to London and Barcelona, bought a house, and started a new job.  This is certainly a year that will go down in history, and though I don't write about politics or the economy (just mentioned some of the stimuli), I'm glad I can look back on this year of change with clarity and fondness and of course, remember all the food.

I've settled on two things to celebrate my blog milestone.  The first, is to make my favorite vietnamese soup, known as pho, from scratch.  And the second, to reenforce my dedication to the blog, I am going to participate in Nablopomo in November.  Basically, this means I will commit to writing a post a day for the whole month.  It will be a challenge, but if there is one thing I've learned from the past year, it's the more posts the better!

So back to the pho.  I get this soup on a very regular basis from either Saigon or #1 Pho, but I was very intimidated to try making it myself.  It has such complex flavors and I really wouldn't know where to start.  But I have been cooking out of the Food and Wine 2007 Annual Cookbook this week and I came upon this recipe and it didn't seem too bad.  It does require the broth to be refridgerated overnight and a trip to the Asian Market, but overall, it wasn't complicated, it turned out amazing, and I will definitely make it again.  However, with local restaurants offering the quick and inexpensive pho, I think I will save it for special occasions.

Spiced Beef Pho with Sesame-Chile Oil
6 Servings

Beef Broth

4 lbs. oxtails or beef short ribs (I used short ribs)
18 cups water
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, halved
one 3-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
2 bay leaves
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
one 2-inch piece of rock sugar or 6 sugar cubes
kosher salt
4 whole cloves
4 star anise pods, broken up
2 tsp. fennel seeds

In a large soup pot, cover the oxtails with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat; drain.  Add the 18 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a small nonstick skillet.  Add the onion halves and the ginger, cut sides down, and cook over moderately high heat until richly browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the onion and ginger to the oxtail pot with the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, rock sugar and 1 tbsp of salt.  Put the cloves, star anise and fennel seeds in a tea ball or tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth.  Add them to the oxtail pot and simmer, skimming occasionally, until the oxtails are tender, about 2 hours.  Strain the broth in a large sieve set over a large heatproof bowl.  Remove the meat from the oxtails.  Refrigerate the beef broth and the oxtail meat separately overnight.

Sesame-Chili Oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and sesame seeds and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sesame oil and a pinch of salt.

Soup Garnishes

1 pound rice vermicelli
1 pound beef round, partially frozen and very thinly sliced across the grain
Asian fish sauce
Asian sesame oil
Sriracha chile oil
Lime wedges
Cilantro sprigs
Basil leaves
Onion slices
Chile slices
Escarole leaves
Mung bean sprouts

I garnished with thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, and the sesame-chili oil

Assembling the soup:  Put the rice vermicelli in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the vermicelli soak until pliable, about 20 minutes.  Skim the fat from the surface of the beef broth and discard. Bring the broth to a simmer over moderately high heat. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Place the thinly sliced raw beef in a large strainer and lower it into the simmering broth for 4 seconds; transfer the meat to 6 soup bowls. Drain the vermicelli. Working in 6 batches, put the vermicelli in the strainer and lower it into the boiling water for 30 seconds, or until the vermicelli is barely tender. Drain and transfer to the bowls. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the broth over each bowl of vermicelli and add the chilled oxtail meat.  Put each of the remaining ingredients in seperate bowls or arrange the vegetables and herbs together on a platter. Serve the soup with the condiments and the sesame-chile oil.

After reflecting on the past year, I think now would be a good time to think about what goals I have for the next year.  There are lots of house projects to do, many of which are under way already.  Career-wise I have a new job to adjust to and I want to get serious about going back to school for my MBA.  And personally, I want this to be the year I get a pet, settle in with CC and do lots of entertaining (now that I finally have some space to do it in).   I hope you decide to stay tuned!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grilled Asian Chicken Salad

In preparation for last night's meal and the beef pho I plan to make today, I ventured to the Asian Market yesterday.  Well, first I went to Westside Market, remembered they were closed on Tuesdays, ate at the cafe so it wasn't a completely wasted trip, and then ventured to Midtown to the Asian Market.  I went into the Asian Plaza where Li Wah restaurant is on E. 30th and Payne.  The grocery, called "Park and Shop" is actually behind the plaza, further north on E. 30th - in case you decide to actually park and shop there.  

The market was situated just like any regular American grocery, except I couldn't read much of anything.  A nice man helped me find everything I was looking for including: rock sugar, thai basil, miso paste, Chinese chili-garlic sauce, and the miscellaneous produce I needed. I wandered through the store and thought about getting some meat form the butcher.  Their short ribs were thinner than what I was looking for, so I passed on buying them and kept wandering down the case.  There was all different kinds of fish, duck, and whole chickens.  I wasn't surprised by any of that, however I was not expecting to find a bucket of live eel at the end.  Then I noticed next to it there was a cage with these huge live soft shelled turtles.  And next to that there was a tank full of live frogs - I felt like I was at the zoo!  I love trying new foods, and I would be all for trying any of these prepared by a chef in a restaurant, but if I took home a turtle or a frog it would definitely end up a pet before it made it on a plate.

Driving down Payne I also passed the Koko Bakery.  Bender has recommended this place to me and it was pretty busy for a Tuesday afternoon, so I stopped in.   The cases are full of asian pastries, and they serve bubble tea and assorted sandwiches.  The lady behind the counter gave me some samples and I bought some things to try, but I really had no idea what I was buying.  These buns (see below) have duck yolk and sweet red bean paste in them.  I tricked CC and the Little Potato into trying them before I told them what they were.  They are sweet, but kinda weird.  I also bought a loaf of sweet bread that is delicious!

Before heading home I stopped at Gallucci's cuz I don't know of a better deal on spice in the city - $1.85 for a tub of cumin, yes please!

Last night's dinner recipe came from Food and Wine's 2007 Annual Cookbook.  I messed a few things up: 1. I asked CC to pick up chicken breast, but the recipe actully called for chicken thighs.  No biggie, just a little healtheir.  2.  I decided to just shred the whole head of cabbage I had in the fridge from the CSA and didn't measure it.  I think it was way more than 4 cups.  I just get so carried away when I start shredding things in the food processor.

The paste has a fantastic flavor and can be rubbed on steak, shrimp, or pork.  But too much cabbage diluted the overall flavor.

Ginger-Miso Spice Paste
Makes 1/4 cup

1 tbsp. finely grated ginger
1 tbsp. miso paste
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp. Chinese chile-garlic sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 twp Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mash to a paste.

Grilled Chinese-Chicken Salad
4 Servings

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 c. Ginger Miso Spice paste (above)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 lb. snow peas
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 scallions, cut into thin 1 inch julienne strips
10 oz. shredded colesaw mix

1. Light a grill.  Make 1/4 inch deep slashes in the chicken thighs.  In a bowl, combine 2 tbsp. of the spice paste with 2 tbsp of the oil and spread all over the chicken.  Grill over high heat until cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes.  Let cool then cut into thin strips.
2.  Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of salted water to boi.  Add the snow pease and blanch for 1 minute.  Drain and rinse under cold water; pat dry.  Slice in half lengthwise.  In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tbsp. of paste with the lime juice and the remaining 2 tbsp. of oil.  Season with salt.  Add the snow peas, scallions, coleslaw mix and chicken, tolls well and serve.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Herbed Baked Goat Cheese Salad

Hola!  How long has it been.... oh never mind, I'm back.  Again!  We have to stop meeting like this.  Have I mentioned that my kitchen is a mess?  Yeah, that's all I got...  On with things, we have lots to catch up on!

Lets start with a kitchen update.  Have you heard of KraftMaid cabinetry?  They are gorgeous semi-custom cabinets made right around the corner in Geauga County.  They have an amazing showroom in Chagrin Falls full of dream kitchens, any of which I would die for and are completely out of my price range.  BUT, great news, they have a warehouse store in Warren that is most definitely in my price range.  (It used to be in Lordstown, this one is a bit smaller and only open every other Saturday)  It takes a bit of creativity and early morning drives to Warren on Saturdays, but after 4 trips, CC and I have pieced together our very own dream kitchen that will be installed in the next month or so.  I cannot wait.

Next, a life update.  This is a year of change.  I bought a house, moved in with CC and my sister, and Friday was my last day at the job I've had for the last four years.  I have this week off - plan is to paint as much as I can manage, so don't be jealous - and then I start my new job next week!  And I joined a new gym yesterday.  Ok, you are caught up.
Gorgeous sunflowers from the North Union Farmers Market 
(can you spot my new pet Stinky?)

Last week I forced myself back into the half demolished kitchen and just tried to ignore the holes and exposed dry wall.  I got inspiration from the Fall Entertaining magazine from Cooks Illustrated.  The week's menu: 
Sunday - Herbed Baked Goat Cheese Salad with apples, walnuts, dried cranberries and a shallot vinaigrette
Monday - Beef soft tacos
Tuesday - Coq au vin (great 90 minute version)
Wednesday - Out to dinner at Corky and Lenny's
Thursday - Sauteed Mushrooms with farfalle in a light cream sauce 

All of these dishes were really delicious, but the goat cheese salad was so simple and satisfying I wanted to share the recipe:

Herbed Baked Goat Cheese
Makes 16 Rounds

3 oz. white melba toasts (about 2 cups)
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 large eggs
2 tbsp dijon mustard
4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
16 oz firm goat cheese
(Molls Note: I had a goat cheese that was already garlic and herb infused, so I skipped the fresh herbs and it was still wonderful)

1.  In food processor, process the Melba toasts to fine, even crumbs, about 1 1/2 minutes; transfer crumbs to medium bowl and stir in pepper.  Whisk eggs and mustard in medium bowl until combined.  Combine thyme and chives in small bowl.
2.  Using kitchen twine or dental floss, divide cheese into 16 evenly sized pieces (about 1 oz each).  Roll each piece into ball; roll each ball in herbs to lightly coat.  Transfer 8 pieces to egg mixture, and turn each piece to coat; transfer to Melba crumbs and turn each piece to coat, pressing crumbs into cheese.  Flatten each ball into disk about 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch thick and set on baking sheet.  Repeat process with remaining 8 pieces cheese.  Freeze cheese until firm, about 30 minutes.  Adjust oven rack to uppermost position; heat to 475 degrees.
3.  Remove cheese from freezer and brush tops and sides evenly with olive oil.  Bake until crumbs are golden brown and cheese is soft, 7 to 9 minutes.  Using thin metal spatula, transfer cheese to paper towel-lined plate and cool 3 minutes.

Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese and Vinaigrette
Serves 8

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp finely minced shallot
1/4 tsp table salt
6 tbsp EVOO
ground black pepper
16 cups hearty mixed greens, washed and dried
1 recipe Herbed Baked Goat Cheese (above)

1.  Combine vinegar, mustard, shallot, and salt in small bowl.  Whisking constantly, drizzle in olive oil; season to taste with S&P.
2.  Place greens in large bowl, drizzle vinaigrette over, toss to coat.  Divide greens among individual plates; place two goat cheese rounds on each salad and serve immediately.
I served each salad with the goat cheese, a few thinly sliced apple wedges, a handful of craisins, and a handful of lightly toasted chopped walnuts.  Beautiful and delicious!

P.S. I won Cleveland Foodie's Beer Week toast contest!  Read my entry here.  Free tickets to Brewzilla - awesome!!  Thank you!