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Monday, November 21, 2011

Limoncello Crepes

This past Friday I was dying for something sweet and delicious, but I've been feeling a bit under the weather, and I definitely wasn't up to cooking anything myself.  Unfortunately, I live in a bit of a culinary dessert--food here is notoriously bland and sub-par overall.  I remembered, however, that there was a Cheesecake Factory at the mall.  I really don't like cheesecake very much, but I like the mousse-y cheesecakes at Cheesecake Factory, so I decided to give it a shot.

I'd been itching to make a lemon cream cake all week, so I knew I wanted something with lemon and berries.  When I saw the Limoncello cream torte, I was sold.  It was SO delicious, and SO worth the wait!  The cake had an airy crumb yet it was somehow very dense at moist all at once.  The mascarpone cream filling was divine, and the crumb topping provided some nice textural balance.  The fresh sliced strawberries served with the cake made for a delicious balance of sweet and tart, yum!  This crepe recipe was inspired by my lemon cake craving and Cheesecake Factory's wonderful Limoncello cream torte.  Enjoy!

For this recipe, prepare the batter first, then set aside.  Make the sauce once the batter has rested then begin cooking the crepes according to the instructions below.

Crepe Recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 eggs
1 cup milk (whole, skim, almond, etc)

1. Measure the flour into a bowl, make a well in the center, and add the eggs.  Whisk, drawing in the flour.

2. Continue whisking, pouring in the milk in a light, steady stream, gradually drawing in all the flour.

3. Whisk until smooth.  Let stand about 30 minutes so the starch grains absorb the liquid and swell

4. Ladle enough batter into a lightly greased pan (dip the napkin in oil and lightly grease the pan) (an omelet pan is ideal)

5. Cook over medium heat for 60 seconds, or until golden underneath.  Loosen the edge and flip the crepe over.

6. Cook the other side of the crepe for 30 seconds, or until golden.  Serve.

7. Oil the pan lightly before making the next crepe.

Limoncello Sauce
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/8 c water (optional--use only if your sauce is too tart for your liking)
caster sugar or powdered sugar to taste (I used about 2 TB or so of powdered sugar)
1 TB cachaca or white rum (I only used cachaca because that's what I had on hand)
1/2 stick of butter, cut into pieces

1. Place all in a large nonstick pan or in a medium to large skillet until the butter has melted.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes

2. Reduce the heat to low.  Place 1 crepe in the pan and turn it over to coat on both sides.  Folk it in half then fold it in half again.  Move to the side of the pan.

3. Add another crepe and repeat the same process.  Overlap the first crepe and repeat.

4. Enjoy with whipped cream and fresh berries.

References: Crepe suzette recipe in Cooking Essentials by Barry & Spieler and the Cooking Club of America

Saturday, November 12, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Here are some of the things that I love to keep around to add a little extra punch to my food or to serve as the basis for a quick, easy-to-prepare meal.

1. Jowl Bacon
The sweetness of this particular bacon is delightful against the saltiness typical of bacon.  The crunch and sweet saltiness give great depth and textural variety to a number of dishes from pastas to rices to chicken dishes, veggies, and of course breakfast foods.  Although I'm not at all one to sit down to a breakfast plate and eat a whole slice of bacon on its own, it's nice to use a slice or two of chopped jowl bacon to flavor a dish.

2. Coconut Milk 
Creamy coconut adds an unrivaled delightful velvety richness to both sweet and savory dishes.  My favorite dishes to add coconut milk to are rice dishes, stews, and desserts.  Coconut milk works especially well with rice and beans and SE Asian or West Indian braised and stewed meats.

For savory rice dishes, a TB or two of powdered coconut milk works just as well as the fresh stuff and is much more convenient.  Otherwise, using fresh coconut milk for 1/4-1/2 of the liquid in a rice dish lends great depth and deliciousness.  For sweet rice dishes, fresh coconut milk adds a wonderful richness to make sweet flavors pop and to give them more dimension.

3. Jasmine Rice
Fragrant jasmine rice has a wonderfully soothing scent and a mildly sweet flavor.  It is my preferred rice to steam plain and serve on the side of a meal and my favorite rice for mixed meat and rice dishes such as Haitian rice and beans and Dominican locrio (a dish of meat and rice cooked together).  Of all of the medium to long grain rice, jasmine is my favorite for sweet rice dishes such as rice pudding or arroz con leche as well.

Another great thing about keeping rice around in general is that you can have a delicious and nutritious meal ready in just 30 minutes by adding in canned or frozen veggies and meat along with your seasoned rice.  Also, you can also use raw rice as a thickening agent.  Just soak a palmful rice in enough water to cover it while you prepare a soup; put the soaked rice and water in the blender, strain it, and you've got some old school thickener.  Works much like corn starch would.

4. Canned Tomato Products (tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes)
Canned tomato products are great to keep around for throwing together quick dishes, making speedy sauces, and for adding extra zing to savory rice dishes.  I actually have an entire shelf in my cabinet that is nothing but tomato products.  I keep whole tomatoes, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes around for making marinara or other pasta sauces and I also use 1-2TB of tomato paste in rice dishes (per 1c of raw dish).  I love to keep diced tomatoes around for soups or to mix into rice or pasta.  I also keep whole tomatoes around to slice up for braised meats or other dishes since store-bought fresh tomatoes have become both pricey and lacking in flavor.

5. Homemade chicken stock
Sometimes when I'm having a lazy day I just end up buying a roasted chicken from the grocery store (preferably Sam's Club, yum!).  Once I've eaten the chicken, I put the carcas in the crockpot with onions, garlic, veggies, herbs, and other seasonings until the bones become soft, about 8 hours or so on low.  Just let it do its thing while you're asleep or at work.  Once it's ready, you just strain the broth and enjoy.  I love to freeze the leftover stock in freezer bags in 1 or 2 cup portions.  Then I just pull out the stock to make soups or to use as the liquid for rices. It's so convenient and tastes so much better than store bought stock or broth.

Mmm, Breakfast Time!! Sweet, Salty, and Deeeelish!

I'm not the type of person to sit down and eat a slice of bacon, but there's just something about that touch of saltiness that crumbled bacon lends to so many dishes.  In this particular breakfast dish, the salty and slighlty sweet flavor of the jowl bacon balances the sweetness of the syrup.  The fluffy texture of the waffle with the crunchy bacon and the velvety soft yolk of the egg is simple and easy to make, but oh so delicious!!

*Just as a note, I'd caution against substituting with a store bought waffle in this dish.  The flavor is not nearly good enough to make this dish shine.*

1 fluffy and crisp waffle
2 eggs, fried easy over
1 slice of jowl bacon, cubed and fried

1. Take the freshly prepared waffle and drizzle lightly with syrup  (I do my syrup with just vanilla and butter flavoring, no maple flavoring)

2. Top with easy over fried egg (don't go greasy, all you need is a nonstick pan and a spray of Pam)

3. Sprinkle with crispy fried jowl bacon

4. Enjoy the sweet and salty, fluffy and crunchy goodness!!  Mmm, mmm, mmm!!