Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shabu-Shabu

Mãe & the sister-in-law are visiting from Portugal right now. The in-laws love to eat out so we have been eating at lots of wonderful Japanese restaurants for the past week or so. The sister is a HUUUGE fan of yakiniku and shabu shabu. She's a meat eater just like hubby... so we went to one of the local shabu shabu spots on Sawtelle, Mizu 212.
The restaurant has a hip interior with tall bars all along the walls.
Each seat has its own individual hot pot. Shabu shabu is especially fun when you have it with a big group of people. Shabu shabu is a very popular style of cooking in Japan. It is basically thin slices of meat (beef or pork) and vegetables boiled in stock. I would compare Shabu shabu to fondue. You dip one piece at a time in the boiling pot and dip it in your choice of sauce. Most of the time the choices are Ponzu sauce and sesame sauce. yum~
MIZU 212
2000 Sawtelle Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: (310) 478-8979

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Filbert Gateau With Almond Buttercream

I just completed my second Daring Bakers challenge and I am very proud of myself! This month's Daring Bakers host was Chris from Mele Cotte who chose the recipe for a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. This Filbert Gateau was quite a difficult cake to make. This is the second cake I've ever made (the first was the opera cake) so I learned quite a few things in this challenge. FILBERT GATEAU WITH ALMOND BUTTERCREAM RECIPE

*From Great Cakes by Carol Walter*

Filbert Genoise Recipe
Ingredients:.
1 cup – 1tbsp. Almond Flour
1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. grated lemon rind
3 lg. egg whites
1/8 cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)
Directions:
1. Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.
2. Using a food processor, almond flour, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. Don’t over-process. Set aside.
3. Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 1/4 cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.
4. Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
5. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.
6. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.
7. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.
8. Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

Sugar Syrup Recipe
Ingredients:
1 cup water
¼ cup sugar

Directions:
1. In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake.
Almond Buttercream Recipe
Ingredients:
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 Almond Paste

Directions:
1. Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.

Swiss Buttercream Recipe
Ingredients:
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar1
½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
1. Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage).
2. Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time.
3. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
4. Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not over beat*.
5. Set aside.
6. Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not over beat*.
7. On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.
8. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Praline Paste Recipe
Ingredients:
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Almonds, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Directions:
1. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning.
2. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly.
3. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble.
4. Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle.
5. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder.
6. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze Recipe
Ingredients:
2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

Directions:
1. In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.
2. Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants.
3. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze Recipe
Ingredients:
6 oz. semisweet chocolate
6 oz. cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Port Wine
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Directions:
1. Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.
2. Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
3. Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute,
4. Slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture.
5. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn't thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn't get too cold!

Instructions for Assembling the Mini Cakes
1. Cut out small circles from the larger cake using a round cookie cutter. Make sure the cake has been refrigerated before you do this.
2. Cut out 3 rounds for each mini cake for the 3 layers.
3. Place the first layer top-side down on parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1/2 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.
4. Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.
5. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.
6. Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the parchment paper. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge.
7. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely.
8. Chill while you prepare the ganache.
9. Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings.
10. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center.
11. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.)
12. Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.
13. Garnish the cake with buttercream as desired.
14. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set.
15. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.
16. Eat! I made half of the recipe that was provided so that I wouldn't end up with a gigantic cake. I also had a lot of Almond flour left over from the opera cake and I don't really have a food processor so I opted to substitute the almond flour for the whole hazelnuts. I also didn't use any alcohol in the recipe, just a little tablespoon of port wine in the Ganache Glaze and it turned out perfectly!
To make the mini cakes, I cut out small circles with a round cookie cutter from one big cake. The main problem I had were the jagged edges around the cake. I tried my best to conceal the rough edges with decoration. But I have to say... it was a lot of work to make these little cakes. I think my attempt was pretty successful and I'm proud of the outcome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mini Blueberry Pies

I went out and bought me-self some Trader Joe's pre-made pie crust dough the other day. I've never even attempted to bake a pie in my life before... so I decided to start out with a pre-made dough to make things easier on myself.

I didn't want to waste pie dough in case I messed up either... so the solution was to make mini blueberry pies in my cupcake pan. The pies turned out super cute and super tasty. I used fresh berries and it turned out great & not overwhelmingly sweet.
EASY MINI BLUEBERRY PIE RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 box of pre-made pie crust
3 pints of blueberries (washed)
2Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F
2. Roll out small balls of pre-made pie crust and line the cupcake tin with the dough.
3. Combine blueberries, flour, lemon juice, and sugar and place mixture in each crust in each cupcake hole.
4. Bake for 20 minutes at 400°. Reduce heat to 300°F and bake for another 20 min until juices are bubbling.
5. Let the mini pies cool before removing from cupcake pan.
6. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream!
We ate these little suckers up in a flash with some whipped cream on the side.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Driving to San Francisco

On Saturday, Hubby and I drove to San Francisco. Before we left home, I found this cute little praying mantis sitting on the roof of my car. What a funny looking guy!
Anyways, it was a long 6.5 hour drive from LA to SF. I always get excited when we pass by these windmills because it means we are about 1 hour away from SF and they are just so beautiful!
Wind power is not only visually appealing, but also an Eco-friendly source of power!
The long trip to SF was well worth it. We were attending one of my good friends wedding receptions at Jelly's Dance Cafe. She had just gotten married in Cuba and was celebrating her wedding at this club since not all of us were able to make it to Cuba.
I was in awe by their wedding cake at the reception. One of J's friends made this huge wedding cake all by hand in her kitchen! She even has a map of California on one of the cakes, and the map of Cuba on the other (all hand drawn)! And it was my favorite... carrot cake too!
Congrats to J&L, yet another beautiful couple that looks wonderfully happy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chawan-Mushi

My mom is a great cook. Her Japanese homemade meals are always healthy and heart warming.
Mom made miso glazed fish and chawan-mushi for dinner the other night. In English, chawan-mushi literally means "steamed in a tea cup". Chawan-mushi is a delicious Japanese savory egg custard dish that most often eaten as an appetizer. It could be served hot or cold. It takes some skill to perfectly steam the chawan-mushi. If it is steamed too long the chawan-mushi becomes spongy and loses flavor and attractiveness. If you steam it too little it would come out watery and ugly. I have yet to master the skill of the Chawan-mushi.

CHAWAN MUSHI RECIPE
(makes 4 cups)
Ingredients:
3 eggs
500cc dashi
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
50 g sasami chicken meat
4shrimps
4 slices of kamaboko
half stalk of mitsuba (trefoil leaves)

Directions:
1. Break 3 eggs add dashi, salt, and soy sauce as you stir.
3. Throw the chicken and shrimp pieces in 4 individual tea cup sized cups.
2. Divide and pour the egg mixture equally into each cup.
4. Place kamaboko slice into each cup.
5. Fill a double-boiler pan (mushiki) half full with water.
6. When water comes to a boil, place the cups and steam.
7. Heat 1-2 minutes on a strong fire, reduce heat and cook for an additional 12-15 minutes.
8. When the chawan-mushi is firm and clear liquid rises it is ready!
9. Garnish each cup with mitsuba.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nectarine Madness

We've always had this nectarine tree in our backyard but this year is the first time there's been so much fruit on the tree! Not only are there hundreds of nectarines but they are huge and juicy!
My family members are not the only ones enjoying these fruits... the dogs are crazy for them! We've caught Xabi jumping up to pick the nectarines and he eats dozens at a time. Just look at that picture of him! He looks so guilty stealing the nectarines off the tree! haha.
Sometimes Xabi will go missing for a while and we would catch him over by the nectarine tree. Last year my parents even had to take him to the emergency vet because he was violently puking after hoarding nectarines in the backyard.
Zion was even having fun frolicking under the tree. By the way... hasn't he grown so much!?
Hubby and I decided to go nectarine picking before the dogs got to them all. We had so many nectarines that we couldn't possibly eat them all! So I decided to take on the challenge of making nectarine jam. It seemed the best solution for using up the most nectarines and not wasting them.
HOMEMADE ORGANIC NECTARINE JAM

Ingredients:
8 cups chopped organic nectarines (do not peel)
1.5 cups organic sugar
4 tablespoons fresh organic lemon juice

Directions:
1. Cook all ingredients at a very mild boil for 30-minutes.
2. Skim foam off surface.
3. Ladle into sterilized jars.
4. Process jars in boiling water bath for 10-mins.

Making jam seemed like an intimidating task but it was surprisingly easy. I decided to use all organic ingredients since the nectarines were naturally organic. I didn't want to ruin the pureness with processed and bleached sugar. The jam turned out a pretty rose color and tasted perfectly juicy. I was even able to make 6 jars to hand out to my friends. Hope everyone likes it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let Me See That Sushi Roll~

Everybody looks forward to our monthly sushi dinner at home. This month we simply had rice with an assortment of sashimi. Have you heard this joke before? No matter how many times I hear it (or say it), it cracks me up!

Q: What did the Sushi say to the bee?
A: Wassap~ bee!?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Time to Tighten the Waist and the Wallet...

I'm finally getting over my jet lag and getting back into the groove of things at home. I was gone for nearly a month and a half so I've been a little bit out of it. Our wonderful summer world travels have wreaked havoc on my waistline and wallet to say the least...
I love Europe and it's decadent food. I love that no one looks at you like you're psycho if you want to order the triple chocolate cake for dessert. Eating dessert after ever meal is so normal over there! Also the US dollar is monopoly money in Europe so our bank account is running on low at the moment... Of course, I had a blast and would eat every fattening thing and do every expensive thing all over again but now it's time for me to get into gear and tighten that waist and wallet!
So as a solution I'll be focusing on cooking (more) health conscious and wallet conscious recipes for a while.

This recipe is one of my mother's simple creations. Tasty, cheap, quick, and easy... how much better can it get?
CATAPILAR BOWL RECIPE

Ingredients
2 Avocados
1 Package of Unagi (eel)
3 cups of Japanese White Rice
Pinch of Sansho (Japanese Pepper)

Directions
1. Follow directions on package of Unagi and heat.
2. Cut avocados into thin slices.
3. Cut unagi into desired bite size pieces.
4. Lay the pieces of unagi and avocado on a bed of rice.
5. Pour the remaining unagi sauce over everything and top with sansho (Japanese flavoring pepper).
One package of unagi could feed 3-4 people and costs about $10. If you're lucky you could find 2 avocados for $1.
So for $11 this is a pretty health and wallet conscious meal that tastes wonderful!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tea Party

I've blogged about the Japanese tea ceremony before but I'll blog about it again! Yesterday, we had a ocha-kai or tea party at my Sensei's house. She has converted the guest bedroom in her house into a beautiful Japanese tea room with rice paper screen doors and straw tatami mat floors. Every week I go to her house for lessons. I love this tea room. The soft lighting and smell of the tatami mats is calming to the soul.
This weekend, instead of the typical weekly lesson, we had a full blown proper Japanese tea party. The traditional Japanese ocha-kai begins with osumi demae, where the host lays the charcoal inside the hearth the to start a fire so that the water in the iron pot will boil. Next, okoicha (thick tea) is served to the guests in a series of elegantly choreographed steps. After the first bowl of tea the guests have a kaiseki lunch (a special kind of full-course meal). We started off with cute red lacquer bowls of clear soup broth.Then we had a beautiful and delicious lunchbox catered from a local Japanese restaurant called Mimi. Everything was so good! After lunch, the host will serve usucha (thin tea) with confections or small sweets.I love all of the delicate and unique utensils used in the Japanese tea ceremony. A Japanese tea party is an elegant occasion where the ladies come dressed in their finest kimonos.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thanks Foodbuzz!

I've been a foodbuzz member and featured publisher for a few months now. It's a really neat website that's kind of like a myspace for food lovers like myself. If you haven't yet, you should go check it out!The other day I opened my mailbox to find some neat surprises from foodbuzz. I got a eco friendly tote with a badge that sports my blog name on it!
I also got these reaaaly cute mini business cards that have my blog on them! Each one has a unique photo on the back side of the card. I got a couple hundred of these cards and I'm not quite sure who I would pass them out to, but I love them!
I feel like an important foodie blogger now. haha.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Euro Cup 2008 Finals in Vienna

It's been about 2 weeks since we've come home from our amazing travels and I'm still not finished blogging about all of the wonderful things I did and ate! So I'm still on the topic of Vienna at the moment. When we arrived in Vienna the place was crazy with Euro madness! It was a lot of fun just walking throughout the city because a lot of the gorgeous national monuments, statues and buildings were dressed up for the Euro. We saw huge soccer shoes representing each country standing in the Museum quarters. We even saw this statue of Velázquez wearing soccer shoes!And how funny is it that this iconic statue of Maria Teresa was in the center of the Fanzone over looking all of the soccer crazyness...Vienna was our final destination before heading home because... well the Euro 2008 finals was in Vienna the day before our departure. Have I mentioned that hubby is a die hard soccer fan? Especially when it comes to the Portugal national team. We had tickets for the Euro final game in Vienna through the Portuguese Football federation, which means that IF Portugal makes it to the finals we would too. It would have been a great end to our trip if we got to go to the finals but sadly Portugal didn't pull through for us ;( We weren't the only ones without tickets. There were lots of people begging for tickets outside the stadium. haha.At least we got to enjoy the final match between Germany and Spain at the Vienna Fanzone! Hundreds of thousands of fans gathered to watch the final game on many of the jumbo screens and everyone was pumped up.We cheered for Spain to win... and they did!

The Spanish were celebrating like crazy after the game. Sorry Germans... Our vacation ended with a big bang and a huge celebration. This was truly a summer that I will never forget.

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