Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blessings

 I'm grateful for more blessings this week.
Spring in Boston... snowfall in late March, but the snowbanks are gone!
I tried my hand (successfully!) at Key Lime Pie, even though Ashley makes Key Lime Extraordinaire. I figured out one that was smooth, tangy, tart, with a hint of sweetness. I'll post a full recipe next week.
Jon and I went for dinner and I asked if they could make me the Valentine's Special Appetizer. They took my request seriously as the sashimi was served in a perfectly beautiful heart. It was even more delicious than I hoped.
Our gracious and beautiful tennis friend gave me a copy of one of her books. Beach Cottage Chaos is cozy mystery, a romantic and fun read. She has a series of books based in western Florida and the main character is sassy, hard-working, and fun... just like Laura! We played another fun match with Laura and her equally fun partner.
I heard some rumblings in the tree and thought I saw something move. I stared for a while and realized that the red wasn't a flower, but a red headed bird. Talk about camouflage. It was an amazing sight.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daily Sketches: Seashells

Seashell #24 is a conical shell that I altered with a purple to green gradient.
I like how Seashell #25 looks like the top of an ice cream cone. The altered version has brilliant colors, instead of earth tones.
Seashell #26 reminds me of a cochlea or ear. It's a fun shape, using Fibonacci's sequence for the curve.
Seashell #27 is the only one I drew with a critter inside.
 
Seashell #28 is a simple shape that I made far-out green. I like how it glows.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Challenge Accepted!

Yesterday, I received an Easter challenge from my brother:
So Daniela,
"Lets see if you accept this Easter Cake challenge or are you "chicken"?
Can you make it look as good as the picture?
Love,
Your favorite brother"
Photo: Carrie Sellman
Luckily for me, he included a link to the baker/artist, Carrie Sellman, on The Cake Blog. I quickly perused the tutorial and replied back immediately,
 "Challenge Accepted!
Love,
 Your favorite sister" 

Now, to make this cake using the technique on the blog to speckle the frosting. Hang on for more updates...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Searching for a Carrot Cake Recipe

Carrot cake is one of my favorite cakes. I love the tang of the cream cheese frosting against the sweet and spicy cake. I don't detect any carrot flavor, but I think it imparts a sweetness and warmth that is a great vehicle for cinnamon, sometimes coconut, walnuts, and pineapple.
In the 80's carrot cake was thought to be healthy simply because of the addition of carrots. With the sugars, flour, and butter, there is no mistaking this indulgence for health food.

Saveur offers a Classic Carrot Cake Recipe 
MyRecipes has an Apple Pecan Carrot Cake
AllRecipes has a Sam's Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe with carrots, raisins, walnuts, and pineapple
Epicurious has a basic recipe for Carrot Cake
Tasty Kitchen has a recipe for Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
The New York Times has a Flourless Carrot Cake Recipe
Smitten Kitchen has a recipe for Carrot Cake with Cider and Olive Oil
Cooking Classy gives a recipe for a ultra-decadent Carrot Cake Cheesecake.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Recipe: Mushrooms Topped Polenta with Black Bean Ragout or how Vegas does Vegan

With more people eating vegan and vegetarian, more and more restaurants are not only carrying alternative meals, but gourmet vegan meals.
Vegan Chef Tal Ronnen created tons of gourmet vegan and vegetarian meals for The Wynn Resorts and properties in Las Vegas, one of the gourmet food capitals of the world.
This recipe has many names, but the briefest is... Vegan Entree
It's specifically known as "Sautéed Mushrooms topped Polenta with Black Bean Ragout" or if it were served in a Las Vegas Steakhouse, it would be listed on the menu as
"polenta-mushroom cake, black bean and butternut ragout, roasted red pepper"

The recipe is simple and all ingredients can be easily found at most grocery stores, but it is involved. Since this recipe was one that was inspired by Las Vegas, I thought I should go all out. This is how Vegas does vegan!
You can omit any ingredient or any part of the recipe, making Mushroom Topped Polenta on it's own would be delicious. Black Bean and Butternut Ragout is a meal in itself and Roasted Red Pepper Salad is a fantastic appetizer. And a warning, this recipe is garlic heavy. Deliciously garlicky, as we call it. 
There are a few parts to this entree: 
Polenta (make ahead for best results)
Roasted Red Pepper Salad (make ahead for best results)
Black Bean and Butternut Ragout (can be made ahead)
Sauteed Mushrooms (prepare fresh)
Make a batch of polenta a day before and place it in a rectangular container, so that you can form slices from it before serving. You can use your own recipe or follow along with my basic recipe here.
The Roasted Red Pepper Salad should be made ahead so the flavors can marry. You can place washed red peppers on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until the peppers are charred all over. Then, remove them from the oven and place in a paper bag. Let steam/cool for 20 minutes. Take the peppers and peel off the charred skin.
OR purchase a jar of roasted peppers in the Italian food section of the grocery store. They come packed in oil or a water/brine solution. You can use either kind. Drain the jar and do a quick rinse under water. Pat peppers dry and slice into strips. Place in a shallow food safe container and layer with olive oil, chopped garlic and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, chop the pepper strips into cubes. Place in a small bowl and add some of the oil and vinegar from the container that held the peppers. Place in small bowls and sprinkle with a garnish of pine nuts.
Black Bean and Butternut Squash Ragout.
About 40-60 minutes before you would like to serve the entree, drain the can can of black beans and rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear. Peel the butternut squash and then cut it in 3/4" cubes. Place in a bowl and drizzle 2 T olive oil over the squash. 
Season with salt and pepper and add 3 tsp of dried rosemary and toss to combine.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.
The edges will be brown and golden and the squash cubes will be tender, but still hold their shape.
Just after you placed the baking sheet in the oven, start the rest of the ragout, but heating 3T olive oil in a sauté pan. Add chopped shallots and 2 tsp chopped garlic. It will be fragrant and delicious. Add chopped tomatoes and cook down until the tomatoes start to tenderize and begin to dissolve. Allow to cook for 5-7 minutes and then add 1/2 cup vegan white wine and allow to reduce.
Add black bean and stir gently to combine.
When the butternut is cooked, add it to the black bean mixture.
When mixture is combined, drizzle on 4 T Balsamic vinegar and once it becomes fragrant, shut off the heat and set aside until ready to use.
Prepare the Mushrooms just 10-15 minutes before serving.
Clean and slice the mushrooms.
Heat a skillet with 2 T olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms and stir as it sizzles. The pan should be very hot and you should keep it hot throughout the cooking process.
When the mushrooms cook down, stir in 4 T chopped garlic and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant.
POLENTA - Slice the and heat either in a warm oven or in a skillet.
Assemble the entree. Place the cups of Roasted Red Pepper Salsa on the serving dish. Place a generous spoonful or two of the Black Bean Ragout on the plate. Add a slice or two of the polenta and top with hot mushrooms. Garnish with additional parsley.
Serve immediately.
Sauteer Mushrooms with Black Bean & Butternut Ragout and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
RECIPES
Roasted Red Pepper Salad
2-3 roasted red peppers, charred and peeled, cut into strips
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 T olive oil
2 T Balsamic Vinegar
2 T pine nuts
salt and pepper
Place red pepper strips in a shallow container. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle smashed garlic on top and layer with a second layer of peppers and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, chop red pepper and drizzle with oil and vinegar from bowl. Place in a small serving dish and sprinkle with pine nuts.


Black Bean and Butternut Squash Ragout
1 15 oz can black beans
1 butternut squash (you can substitute sweet potatoes or other firm squash)
5T olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
5 tsp dried rosemary, divided
2 shallots
3 cloves garlic
2 plum tomatoes, chopped into small cubes
1/2 cup white wine (Vegan)
4 T Balsamic vinegar

About 40-60 minutes before you would like to serve the entree, drain the can can of black beans and rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear. Peel the butternut squash and then cut it in 3/4" cubes. Place in a bowl and drizzle 2 T olive oil over the squash. 
Season with salt and pepper and add 3 tsp of dried rosemary and toss to combine.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.
The edges will be brown and golden and the squash cubes will be tender, but still hold their shape.
Just after you placed the baking sheet in the oven, start the rest of the ragout, but heating 3T olive oil in a sauté pan. Add chopped shallots and 2 tsp chopped garlic. It will be fragrant and delicious. Add chopped tomatoes and cook down until the tomatoes start to tenderize and begin to dissolve. Add 2 tsp dried rosemary. Allow to cook for 5-7 minutes and then add 1/2 cup vegan white wine and allow to reduce.
Add black beans and stir gently to combine.
When the butternut is cooked, add it to the black bean mixture.
When mixture is combined, drizzle on 4 T Balsamic vinegar and once it becomes fragrant, shut off the heat and set aside until ready to use.

Sautéed Mushrooms
Prepare the Mushrooms just 10-15 minutes before serving.

16-24 oz of any combination of mushrooms, Portobello, Shiitake, Oyster, Crimini, Button
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil

Clean and slice the mushrooms.
Heat a skillet with 2 T olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms. The pan should be very hot and you should keep it hot throughout the cooking process. Occasionally, stir mushrooms.
When the mushrooms cook down, stir in 4 T chopped garlic and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant.

ASSEMBLY

Make sure all the components are hot. Bake, grill or sauté the polenta. Sautee the mushrooms and heat the ragout.
Place a generous serving of Roasted Red Pepper Salad in a small dish and set on the side of a large serving plate.
Place a bed of Black Bean and Butternut Ragout on the side of the plate. 
Top with a couple of slices of Polenta.
Spoon Sauteed Mushrooms on Top of Polenta.
Serve.

#MyVegasRecipe









Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Recipe: Stovetop Polenta

 Polenta is a simple food in Italian origin that is cornmeal cooked until it becomes a porridge. The cornmeal simmers in water until it softens and the starch is released which causes it to thicken or gelatinize. After this point, it can be served with a spoon, molded into shapes, or spread in a pan and then cut into shapes with either a knife or cookie cutter. The polenta cakes can then be grilled or sautéed, or just heated. Polenta becomes a base for other recipes and preparing it is a good skill to have in your culinary repertoire.
It's simple, but time consuming and can be made elegant, such as infusing with herbs and cheese, or simple and vegan, cooking with only water and salt.
Polenta cooks on the stovetop for a long time. You'll need a heavy kettle or pot, wooden spoon or heavy silicon scraper, water, salt, and cornmeal.
You can purchase ready-made polenta, (although I have not tried it). But, it is simple to make your own. I purchase course cornmeal, either by the bag or in the canister. The directions for polenta are usually on the back of the package, but the ratio is usually 4 cups of water to 1 cup of cornmeal.
Heat the water and salt in a large, heavy pot until boiling. Slowly, add the cornmeal, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. Stir continually until the mixture reboils and then lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to stir, occasionally, while keeping an eye on the polenta. You don't want it to burn,  but you don't want the heat to be too low, either. Continue to cook, stir, and keep an eye on it until the mixture is thick and when you remove the spoon, it sticks and leaves an indent in the polenta. It should take a minimum of 30 minutes. When the polenta is cooked, remove the pot from the heat. You can either transfer it to a bowl or spread it in a prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Polenta is best made in advance, as the extra time gives it a chance to set up.
Here is the polenta sliced, after being prepared and refrigerated for 24 hours. It can now be cubed, grilled, sautéed, roasted, or toasted. 
Be sure to check back tomorrow for a delicious recipe using polenta.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Daily Sketches: Seashells

Seashell #22 has great texture. I modified it to change the colors completely. I think it looks like jade.
Seashell #23 was a fun one to draw with simple colors, white accented with coral and yellow. The variation is brilliant green granite.