it's okay to play with your food

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Edition, Part 3

Tonight is New Year's Eve, a night in which we all get to engage in a few final acts of 2008 gluttony and debauchery before the new year wipes our slates clean.

But in case you feel like extending the party into the first few daylight hours of 2009, here is a recipe that is as simple and tasty as it is absurd: the Poor Man's Mimosa.

The Poor Man's Mimosa

PBR (often left over from the 2am beer run the night before)
Orange Juice

Mix 2 parts PBR to 1 part OJ. Drink it.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Edition, Part 2

I realize that by this point in the season, many people are tired of sweet things, chocolate things, buttery things, etc. But this recipe for Peppermint Bark is definitely worth a look and a try-out.

I often make truffles of some variety over the holidays, but I was urged by a co-worker to try Peppermint Bark. I was totally up for the challenge. After all, these are something of a specialty food item, sold at Williams-Sonoma for between $27 and $53. I figured there must be something daunting and special about the process of making them, right?

Turns out, the ratio of tastyness to difficulty is actually something like 10 to 1. And people love it! It's delicious and looks festive as a gift or displayed on the holiday dessert table.

I found a recipe on epicurious but wasn't 100% happy with it, so my slightly modified version is below. Obviously, the better quality chocolate you use, the better your bark will turn out. I was trying to work on a budget, however, and trying to keep things simple, so I ended up using Nestle chocolate chips. The result was still a big hit, though I can imagine these would be devastatingly good with a serious chocolate (Callebut comes to mind).

Peppermint Bark
Modified from the Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark on

18 ounces white chocolate chips
4-5 candy canes, coarsely crushed (I put them in the empty bag of white chocolate chips and broke them up with a can of coconut milk)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Melt 2/3 of the white chocolate in the microwave (2-3 minutes on 50% power seemed to work best.) Pour melted white chocolate onto foil. Using a spatula, spread chocolate to create a rectangle, about a 1/4 of an inch thick. Sprinkle with half of the crushed candy canes. Chill in the freezer until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir semisweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture over white chocolate rectangle. Using spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Freeze until very cold and firm, about 20 minutes.

Melt remaining white chocolate in microwave (about 1-2 minutes on 50% power). Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer. For me, it was half drizzling and half smoothing out globs of chocolate. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. Using your hands, break the bark up into serving pieces. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container.)

Holiday Edition, Part 1

Since returning from my vacation in Hawaii, I have fully steeped myself in the winter holiday season. (Something about 80 degree weather and coconuts kept me from appreciating the wishes of Mele Kalikimaka on the radio.) Like most people, that means cooking and eating as much as possible.

So with the passing of fall and Christmas a recent memory, I am finally sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes from the past few months.

I am a strong believer in extended kin networks. So it was really awesome to host two of my best friends- Daniel and Sarah- for brunch on Christmas Day. My brother celebrated with us too, and it was this lovely convergence of blood relations and friends-as-family. Everyone brought something... Daniel the bacon, Sarah an amazing multi-grain loaf from Metropolitan Bakery... and I made scones and frittata for the main course. Oh yes... and there were mimosas...

Christmas Brunch Menu
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Drop Scones with Orange Cinnamon Butter
Spinach and Red Pepper Frittata
Multigrain Toast

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Drop Scones with Orange Cinnamon Butter
Adapted from the recipe for Oatmeal Date Drop Scones from

3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Rind from one orange
2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a bowl whisk together the milk, the egg, the brown sugar, vanilla and orange rind until
the mixture is combined well. In another bowl stir together the flour, the oats, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt and blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sir in the chocolate chips and the milk mixture until the mixture just forms a sticky dough. Drop the dough by 1/3-cup measures onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake the scones in the middle of a preheated 400°F. for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden.

Orange Cinnamon Butter
Soften butter to room temperature. Add about 1 tsp. of orange rind, 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. of powdered sugar and combine well. Serve in a ramekin or other small bowl. I basically approximated all measurements to taste.

Spinach and Red Pepper Frittata
8 eggs
Milk, salt and pepper
1-2 cloves of garlic and olive oil
One red bell pepper, diced
Large handful of baby spinach
Feta CheesePreheat oven to 500 degrees (or use the broiler if you know your dish wear is oven-safe). On low heat, saute the garlic in olive oil. Add red pepper and saute till just tender. Add spinach till lightly wilted. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Combine eggs with vegetables in a stove and oven safe dish. Cook on stove-top at medium-high temperature till eggs are just set in the bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle with feta cheese and pop in the oven for approx. ten minutes. If the top of the frittata isn't completely cooked, but the edges are brown, take it out of the oven and let sit on the stovetop till completely cooked through. The egg will continue cooking from the heat within and you won't burn the rest of the frittata.