Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cheesy Gougères and Champagne

I love these cheesy, lightly salted little bites. Treat yourself and enjoy them with a chilled glass of Champagne. The bubbly sharpness of the Champagne cuts nicely with the richness of the gougères.

“Come quickly, I am tasting stars,” ........Dom Perignon


1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick)
¼ Tsp Kosher salt
Dash cayenne pepper or white pepper
1 Tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
½ Tsp paprika   

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
½+ ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups grated Swiss, Emmenthaler or Gruyere

Egg wash: 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 TBS of cold water
Coarse salt (fleur de sel or kosher salt) to sprinkle on top

·              Bring the milk, butter, salt, pepper or cayenne, paprika and thyme to a gentle boil in a 2 QT saucepan over medium high heat.
·              Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball.
·               Return the pan to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute or until the bottom of the pan looks coated.
·               Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle or a food processor fitted with a plastic blade. Let it cool for 5 minutes, then mix on low speed for about 5 seconds.
·               Add the eggs 1 at a time. Mix each egg in well before adding another egg, then mix on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds. Let the paste cool for 10 minutes.
·               Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.
·               Reserve the ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Add the remainder of the Parmesan and all the Swiss cheese to the paste. Stir on low speed just enough to incorporate.
·               Using a piping bag with a wide tip, pipe the gougères onto the prepared baking sheets about 2” apart.   
           Brush each gougère
with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and top each with a good pinch of the reserved Parmesan cheese.
·                 Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom about ½ way through, until nicely browned and crisp.  
·                Turn off the oven, open the oven door and prick each gougères on its side with a toothpick or the point of a paring knife.  
           Leave the baked gougères in the oven until they cool.
Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.

Yield: 2 ½ to 3 dozen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fractally Speaking

Math is not my favorite subject. It was the only subject I ever failed and I had to go to summer school because of it. You could say, math is not my friend. So it came as quite a surprise when I found out that a branch of my least favorite subject, geometry, had much to do with my favorite thing, food.

Fractals. Fractals are in food. No they have  nothing to do with taste (as far as I can tell) and also nothing to do with nutrition (I think). No. Fractals have to do with the incredible, amazing design ability of the Mother we call Nature.

A fractal is a geometeric pattern within a pattern within a pattern, decreasing in size, ad infinitum. Trees are a classic example of fractal design. Start with the big trunk and main bottom branches and that design repeats itself as the tree grows, the pattern growing smaller as the tree grows out.

But I thinks fractals in food are a lot more fun. Some grow that way. Others we can create ourselves.

The Artichoke as a fractal
Take the artichoke with it's layers of leaves. It's the perfect vegetable fractal. Or how about romanesco (green cauliflower)? I love the design on that.

Romanesco as a fractal...look closely as the repeating design & how it grows smaller

We can also create a fractal in food and have some fun doing it. I found this picture of fractal eggs on line. It really made me giggle.

Fractal sunny side funny eggs

And you ask, what is the point of all this? Absolutely nothing. The subject just struck me as fun. It also ended my life long grudge with that subject called math.

Curly Fractal Cabbage

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summertime Chili

Look at this beautiful chard...isn't it pretty?
I find it nearly impossible to visit a summer farmer's market and resist the gorgeous arrays of produce. I always come home with more than I need and then spend the rest of the day trashing my kitchen as I cook and prepare it all before that freshly picked goodnessness is lost.

But my repertoire of great warm weather recipes are getting boring as summer dances on and I use them over and over. I wanted something new today so I made something up. I'm calling it Summertime Chili and wow was it good!

 My Summertime Chili
serves 4

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in large dice
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 generous rounded tablespoons chili seasoning (see below)
1/2  tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 package of Boca crumbles
1 can of your favorite beans---low salt if available----well rinsed and drained. (I used cannellini, the red color matched the chard)
2 large (or 3 medium) roughly chopped Roma tomatoes (include skin and seeds) 

1 cup fresh unsalted tomato sauce
1 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock

2 cobs of fresh corn grilled, ‘corn milk’ and corn kernels scraped off. Break cobs in 1/2 and reserve.
1/2  red, green or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” cubes
1 small cubanel pepper cut in 1” cubes

3 stalks of red chard, stems removed and sliced, greens cut in half lengthwise, rolled and cut into chiffonade 
1 small zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 disc (1.5 oz) Ibarra Mexican Chocolate      

In a 3 quart pot set over medium heat, sauté onions in 2-3 TBS extra virgin olive oil until soft. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add oregano, cumin, chili powder and cook 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients (including the cobs) except the zucchini and chard greens. Bring to a simmer and partially cover. Simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add chard greens & zucchini, stir and simmer a further 15 minutes.

Remove cobs and serve with dollops of sour cream and thinly sliced green onions.

3 dried Ancho peppers, stemmed and seeded
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons whole coriander
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon chili powder
Put everything in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the chilis have softened, about 3 minutes. Put the spices into a spice mill or food processor and grind until they are powdered. Makes about ½ cup. Store tightly covered in a cool dry place

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cookies and Milk

Sometimes a day is just a day. And sometimes a day needs home-made-fresh-from-the-oven cookies with icy cold milk. My oven fresh fav is spicy oatmeal raisin. I made a bunch today and then ate 6 (yikes!).
Still cooling....waiting, waiting
Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
makes about 3 dozen
7 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 TBS brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 Tsp real vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp cinnamon
1/4 Tsp allspice
1/8 Tsp ground clove
1/8 Tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 Tsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 1/2 cups uncooked oats

  • Beat together softened butter and sugars until smooth and creamy
  • Add egg and vanilla; beat well
  • Add flour, salt, spices and baking soda
  • Mix well, but do not beat
  • Mix oats and raisins together and add. Mix well.
  • Cover cookie mix and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  • Preheat over to 350 degrees while dough is chilling
Line heavy duty cookie pans with silpat or parchment paper. Using a 1" ice cream scoop, drop cookies about 2" apart onto prepared pans.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Rotate pans (front to back) half way through. Cool, eat and don't forget the milk.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Funny, Clever, Insighful!

It's not often that I read something where I get the feeling the writer was conjuring me. And, not only was she conjuring, she was also putting my very thoughts down on paper---or in this case into a blog---with such great cleverness, humor and aplomb. 

The Saucy Server is written by a talented lady who reports that she's been a server in Atlanta---in places high and low---for ten years. I laughed out loud the first time I read this blog. I immediately recognized the surly customers, oddball characters and ".....the strange and wonderful idiosyncrasies in our industry of serving people."  

Check it out...... The Saucy Server

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time To Make The Biscuits

Something came over me the other morning. I was craving fresh flaky hot biscuits covered in oozing melty butter and a good drizzle of honey. I decided to make some, not from a mix, from scratch.  Flour, water, milk, a little sugar and baking powder. The recipe I found seemed easy enough and it was, sort of.... until it came time to scrape the batter out of the bowl.

Someone please clean up this mess
Will they be edible?

Baked, golden, not so pretty
It was a sticky gooey mess. I plowed ahead anyway. Dusted in more flour, tried not to man-handle the dough too much. Cut and on the cookie sheet, the biscuits were looking a little ragged. I baked them anyway and they were---surprise, surprise!---flaky, light and surprisingly good. Just the same, I will definitely need more practice.

Ready for eating

Flaky Biscuits
 makes about 8

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 tablespoons cold, good quality unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
*Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor. 
*Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs.
*Add milk and pulse until it forms a rough ball.
*Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat. 
*Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
*Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches. Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.
*Place biscuits on a parchment (or silpat) covered sheet pan and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. 
*Serve warm.

Southern Biscuits Need Southern Honey

Chocolate, Ice Cream and Margaritas

There are some wonderful stores and restaurants tucked away and off the beaten path in and around Atlanta. I love shopping these places. They're special gems that I like to think only I know about. 

is a candy store sitting across the street from the Chamblee (GA) Marta station. Actually, candy store does not do Maison Robert justice. It is more a confiserie-pâtisserie, an elegant old world shop offering fine hand dipped candies and beautifully decorated pastries. 
The sweet treats are all the work of a fourth generation, French trained confectioner. Choose from a case filled with perfectly luscious little bites or make a selection from their many beautifully wrapped gift box assortments.
I fell in love with the adorable marzipan critters. (Actually, anything marzipan will send me swooning.) They tasted as good as they looked. You can also find delicate pastel macaroons, fruit tarts, black and white mousse and Sachertorte. 

For those of you who want to learn the fine art of candy making, Maison Robert also offers classes.

Maison Robert Fine Chocolates 
 5256 Peachtree Road, Suite 110, Atlanta, Georgia 30341 |
(770) 454-6442 | (800) 782-3249

When it's hot and steamy in Atlanta and I'm craving home made frozen goodness, I head for the Frosty Caboose. An old railroad caboose parked on unused track takes pride of place along Chamblee's  (GA) antique row. It also anchors a site adjacent to the summertime Saturday Farmer's Market.

The Menu:  
Floats, Malts, Shakes, Sundaes, Cups and Cones 
Frozen Doggie Treats 
Ice Cream, Sorbet, Sherbet, Frozen Yogurt, Gourmet light
The Flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, Green Tea,  Black Cherry, Coffee, Cookies and Cream, Pistachio, Mint Chocolate Chip, Peach, Butter Pecan, Superman, Birthday Cake, Rocky Road, Coffee Almond Fudge, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.....
The Toppings: Sprinkles, Heath Bar Pieces, Chocolate Chips, Rainbow Nerds, Chocolate Cookie Crunch, Reese's Pieces, M&M's, Peanuts, Almonds, Strawberries, Caramel, Blueberry, Marshmallow, Hot Fudge, Chocolate Syrup.....
5435 Peachtree Road ~ Chamblee, GA 30341 ~ 770-451-4556
In my neighborhood Monterrey is the place to go when any of us need a pitcher of margaritas, good food, a relaxed atmosphere and pleasant service. If the weather's good we sit outside under colorful umbrellas. As more and more friends arrive, heeding the call for an adult beverage and a bite to eat, the tables magically expand as the accommodating, smiling staff know to add chairs, add glasses and bring more pitchers of frozen limey goodness.

The food is traditional (Americanized) Mexican. Hearty, well made, unpretentious food. Generous servings of tacos, tortillas, taquitos, chalupas, empanadas, fajitas, enchiladas come by themselves or with refried beans, rice, lettuce tomato, crema, guacamole.

They make a drop-dead-best-I've-ever-eaten  home made chicken soup that arrives in a huge steamy bowl laden with large pieces of white meat chicken, rice, cilantro, carrots, celery and lime. Don't make a face. It's delicious. The other day I had chicken taquitos. Crispy, deep fried tacos wrapped around nicely seasoned chicken. I ate four doused with a little crema. I intend to go back for more.

There are combination plates and vegetarian options. Nothing is over $15 and the margaritas, by the pitcher, frozen or straight up, rock.

Go there, Relax. Hang Out. Watch the world go by. You'll eat and drink well.  "Ve allí, Relax. Pasar el rato. Ver el mundo pasar. Que va a comer y beber bien."

Monterrey Mexican 5406 Buford Hwy
Doraville, GA 30340  770-458-1179

Monterey Mexican on Urbanspoon

Maison Robert Fine Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Frosty Caboose on Urbanspoon

Tomato! Tomato! Tomato!

Every year, as tomatoes reach their summer peak of perfection, my Southern friends start talking about tomato sandwiches. The right mayonnaise, the right bread, salt or no salt and include pepper? No way!

For 16 years I've listened, smiled my amusement at what I saw as silliness, and ignored the rapturous oohing and aahing over the tomato sandwich. I deigned not to take a bite.

(I bet you know where this is going).  Bill showed up the other day with 3 gorgeous tomatoes from his enviable of them as big as a grapefruit that he called a Cherokee red. "Eat this first," Bill instructed and I spent all of the next day mulling the use of this prized tomato. The bottom line? It had to be a tomato sandwich but a tomato sandwich on my terms.

Sorry all, no Dukes for me. I used Hellmans, skipped the salt, skipped the pepper and traded the white bread for a doughy soft burger bun. (Better to sop up those juices.)
Bill's tomatoes and my Hellmans
They were all right. The sandwich was heaven. I ate two. I was a fool to wait.