Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Japanese Potato Salad


It's hard to believe summer is just around the bend, but with Memorial Day weekend behind us, there's nothing but grilling and fun sides to look forward to in the coming months! One of our absolute favorites is potato salad - traditional American-style, German, French, I'll take them all! A nostalgic and delicious choice among them is Japanese-style potato salad, similar to the mayo-based American version in texture but lighter, a bit more tart and dotted with crunchy, refreshing veg like cucumbers and carrots.

Lovely Lanvin, one of my favorite Japanese food blogs, was kind enough to share her version. In my mind, this is the ultimate Japanese potato salad! It hits on all the right notes and I'd be surprised if this didn't become a go-to in your summer repertoire. We've already made it a number of times (doubling the recipe for just two people; we love it THAT much!) and see no end in sight. Delicious with some spicy grilled sausages and a cold beer! We've experimented by mixing in a couple of chopped hard-boiled eggs - even more tasty, if you ask me!

Thanks again, Shirley!

Japanese Potato Salad
Courtesy of LovelyLanvin.com

Ingredients: Serves 4 (or 2, if you're us! :D)
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup Kewpie (Japanese) mayonnaise
1/2 cucumber (preferably Japanese or English) thinly sliced
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
Extra sea salt for salting & blanching vegetables

Group A ingredients:
1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (I use Japanese superfine Sugar but regular sugar is fine)
1/3 teaspoon karashi, Japanese spicy mustard (try ground mustard if you have trouble finding karashi)

Preparation:
Put the potatoes in a saucepan of cold, salted water so the water is just covering the top of the potatoes. Bring to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until a paring knife or wooden skewer poked into them goes in without resistance, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander.

While potatoes are cooking prepare the other vegetables:
Sprinkle both onion slices and cucumber slices lightly with sea salt, mix with your hands making sure the salt coats them evenly. Set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes rinse off vegetables in a colander and wrap and gently squeeze vegetables in a clean dish cloth or a few paper towels to get all of the moisture out. This is a very important step and will prevent soggy potato salad.

Add carrot slices to a small saucepan of salted water, bring to a boil and blanch for two minutes. They should still have a slight crunch, do not overcook. Drain and set aside. Place the cooked potatoes into a medium sized bowl and gently smash with a fork making sure you leave some small chunks. In a small bowl mix together the Group A ingredients and pour over the smashed potatoes, gently tossing to evenly coat the potatoes. Add the onions, cucumber, carrots and Kewpie Mayonnaise and gently combine with the potato mixture until all of the ingredients are combined. Serve at room temperature or chilled in the refrigerator.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Crepe Layer Cake | Pannkakstarta


I'm so very into what's referred to as the "mille feuille crêpes cake" these days. Lady M makes a divine one that's set the standard for me; Bottega Falai's brûléed version has me weak in the knees! Little did I know this layered crêpes cake is also familiar to Swedes, who know it as pannkakstårta, or pancake cake.

O took it upon himself to fashion our very first attempt, cooking up and cooling nearly 20 Swedish-style pancakes before layering them with simply whipped heavy cream laced with a touch of vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. Top with whatever berries look the most promising for that time of year (in our case, supermarket raspberries in March) and shower with a generous dusting of confectioners' sugar. Best enjoyed day of, but also pretty tasty for breakfast the next day. ;)

This is a great oven-free dessert recipe that is high in drama, but surprisingly low in difficulty; you just need to the time to rest the batter, and make and cool all those pancakes. I would love to try making this with layers of classic vanilla pastry cream - as you know, my favorite!!

Pannkakstårta

Pannkakor
Makes about 20 to 25 pancakes in a 9- to 10-inch skillet

4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar (we used vanilla sugar)
5 cups milk (preferably whole milk)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons butter, melted; additional butter for the pan

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, salt and sugar. Add half of the milk and gradually add the flour, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add the remaining milk and melted butter. Let the batter rest for about one hour.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt a bit of butter until foamy. Ladle about 1/3 cup of the batter per pancake into the skillet, swirling to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. When the top of the pancake turns matte, about a minute or less, flip the pancake and cook the other side for roughly the same amount of time for golden brown doneness. Don't worry, the first pancake is usually for the chef. ;) Repeat the process, only adding a bit of butter if the pan looks dry.

Stack all your pancakes and cool them in the fridge for about one hour.

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream, cold
1 to 2 tablespoon vanilla sugar or regular sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk [using a hand blender, if available!] heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract until you start to see stiff peaks then STOP (you don't want to overbeat the heavy cream, or else you'll get butter).

Assembly
Confectioners' sugar
Fresh berries, rinsed and dried

Place the first pancake down on the platter you will use to serve the cake. Spread a dollop of the whipped cream and evenly spread with an offset spatula. Repeat the process with all of the pancakes. Place the cleaned and dried berries atop the cake. Dust with a generous sprinkling of confectioners' sugar using a sieve, if available. Chill the entire cake in the fridge for at least one hour, if possible (this will harden the whipped cream a bit, making it easier to slice). Slice, serve and enjoy when ready!

Once you've mastered this classic version, try using melted jam or Nutella between some of the layers. Yum.


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Monday, March 31, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies


Okay, I know that is the least sexy name for a cookie but let me tell you - these are delicious! Everything you want in both oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies (crispy on the outside, chewy and wholesome on the inside), with the added benefit of boosting your milk production, if that's what you're looking for. This recipe's made its rounds among many a new mom group, but they're so good I'd happily bake them up for any occasion. Another plus: it's a simple one-bowl recipe and can easily be whipped up with just wooden spoon and some elbow grease!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies
Adapted from here

Makes about 2 dozen

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoon brewers yeast

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix the flaxseed meal and water and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes.

Beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar in a bowl. Add egg and mix well. Add the flaxseed mix and vanilla, beat well.

Add the flour, brewers yeast, baking soda and salt to the wet ingredients. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips. Scoop onto baking sheet a few inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges get golden brown. Remove from oven and let set for a couple minutes before removing from tray and cooling on a rack for at least 15 minutes.


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Our New Addition

Lana at just a few days old and her new friend for life, blabla's Mozart the Monkey!

Apologies for the long silence! It has been a wild few months as we welcomed the arrival of our daughter Lana earlier this year. Yes, I realize now that I never made a formal pregnancy announcement on this blog, so it might seem a bit funny that we are now certifiable parents!

Everything you hear about the time surrounding a newborn's arrival is true: the erratic schedule, the sleep deprivation, the navigation through a sea of emotions. We are only just a couple of months into this parenting thing, but it already feels like we've gone through so much.

I've really and truly missed my blog and hope to resume 'regular' posting activity bit by bit. I am considerably more active on Instagram these days, so if you don't already follow me there, please do so! I simply love the ease and immediacy of Instagram, but there's nothing like claiming your own space on the internets where you can really feel like home.

I hope you'll continue to join me here as I discover the pleasures and challenges of motherhood, especially balanced with the rest of my life and interests. It's amazing being a mom to this sweet little thing and I can't wait to share more, xo!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Marion Cunningham's Buttermilk Pancakes


These photos reflect a doubled recipe, which it does easily - highly recommended, even if it's just two people! ;)



Stop what you're doing and go ahead and bookmark this recipe. Done? Okay, good. ;) When it comes to pancakes, I'm an unabashed lover of the thin variety - I'd take the more crepe-like French and Swedish versions over a fluffy, thick stack any day!

Then I discovered Marion Cunningham's pancakes.

I've tried many a buttermilk pancake and never felt the need to stay devoted to one recipe or brunch locale until NOW. This version is everything you love about good ol' American pancakes: crisped, buttery edges; tender insides with a touch of tangy sweetness that just begs for a generous pour of quality maple syrup.

Trust me, you'll refer back to this recipe time and time again! These would be fantastic to break out this long holiday weekend when loved ones are near and comfort food is paramount. Consider this my Christmas present to you - happy holidays, xo! :)

Buttermilk Pancakes
From Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book

Makes about 10 pancakes

1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled a bit
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Put the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a bowl or measuring cup; stir briskly until smooth and blended.

In a bowl, stir the flour, salt and baking soda together until well blended. Stir the liquid ingredients into the buttermilk mixture only until the dry ingredients are moistened (lumps are okay).

Heat a skillet (we like cast iron for this) to medium high. Grease lightly and spoon out about 3 tablespoons of batter per pancake. Cook until bubbles break on top; flip and cook briefly until light brown on bottom.

Serve immediately with maple syrup.

Note: Marion says the batter holds well for several days in the refrigerator. Also, you can substitute 1/4 C of rye flour, whole wheat flour or cornmeal for 1/4 C of the all-purpose flour in the recipe.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baking Ruis at NORTH: Nordic Food Festival NYC 2013

Chef Simo's gorgeous, rustic loaves and rounds on display.

Last month, O and I were invited by Honest Cooking to attend a Finnish bread baking class as part of the the NORTH Food Festival here in NYC. We were so excited - not only were we already fans of Nordic Breads, introduced to us a couple of years back at New Amsterdam Market; but any chance to get our hands dirty, we welcome!

Being married to a Swede, I thought I had a good grasp of what Finnish bread might be like, both flavor- and texture-wise. Luckily, we both ended up learning a whole lot more about ruis, or rye bread, and how it differentiates itself from its Scandinavian counterparts. Chef Simo Kuusisto taught us that the 100% rye content of his organic bread makes it extremely healthful and friendly to those with dietary restrictions, including diabetics and gluten-sensitive folks. In terms of flavor, it's richer, earthier and denser - with a pretty long shelf life to boot, if sliced and frozen right away.

During our baking exercise, we had the luxury of enjoying fresh ruis Chef Simo had prepared a bit earlier (with proofing time, our little loaves would take a lot longer to prepare than the class time allowed). Chewy and perfect, topped with Scandinavian classics like gravlax and its accompanying sauce, as well as sharp cheese, cucumber and dill. I could have eaten these open-faced snacks all afternoon.

Nordic Breads sells online and delivers across the country (and farther!), but if you're in the NYC-area, swing by Union Square Market - they're there at least once or twice a week (Fridays and Saturdays, I believe).

Chef Simo demos ruis bread baking techniques - low gluten means no need to knead!

Putting our lovelies into a very low warm oven to proof.

Simple and beautiful open-faced snacks.

Impatiently checking on our loaves - are they ready? No. Just starting to crackle...

Finally! The gorgeous crags appear and chef deems them ready for the oven!

Our friend Ellen hard at work. | Hot loaves cooling off.

Don't be alarmed at how dark ruis gets - the deep, rich colors adds massive flavor to the end result.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creme Fraiche Apple Spice Cake


'Tis the season for apples and let me tell you: this is the apple cake to end all apple cakes! Unlike pies and tarts - which I, of course, also love - cakes come together super fast and you don't feel quite as indulgent digging into a thick wedge for breakfast, alongside a tall glass of milk or mug of hot coffee.

You can use any apples lying around; they don't have to be the tart ones more specific to baking, ie: Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, etc. I happened to use 4 really small and ripe Galas that worked just perfectly - I just dialed down the sugar a bit to adjust the sweetness to my taste. If you don't have crème fraîche, by all means try using sour cream for the tang; but it will be less rich (good thing? bad thing? ;)).

This cake is so fab we ended up finishing it over the course of two(!!) days. Alarming speed, but that just means it's a guaranteed winner! The spiced topping kind of reminded me of my other favorite breakfast cake, coffee cake, so of course I loved it even more. The use of both cut-up apple and crème fraîche in the batter yields a cake so decadent and moist, I almost couldn't believe how delicious the result was. Seriously, who likes a dry cake?? Please try it this fall and let me know what you think! :)

Crème Fraîche Apple Spice Cake
Adapted generously from here

3 regular-sized or 4 small apples, peeled and cored
125 grams (4½ ounces) butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted, to brush on top
125 grams (4½ ounces) sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 grams (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
170g (6 ounces) crème fraîche or sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350F. Chop half of your apples into small chunks and cut the other half into slices roughly 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness (not too thin). Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the vanilla extract and the crème fraîche until smooth; add in the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and stir everything until just combined.

Stir in the chopped apple, then spread the mixture into the tin (it will be thick). Smooth, then arrange, the apple slices on top. Mix the melted butter with the 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining cinnamon, and brush over the top of the cake. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes (I baked mine for closer to 1 hour - 1 hour and 10 minutes; I was looking for a nice caramelized top!), until the cake has risen, golden brown and firm to the touch (the sides of the cake will also come away from the pan slightly). Remove and cool on a wire rack before slicing up and serving. Cool scoop of vanilla ice cream highly recommended. ;)



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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kale Pesto White Bean Dip


Yesterday was National Kale Day and we celebrated in the office with a small Kale-a-palooza-style potluck! Everyone brought in a favorite kale dish and I offered up this addictively tasty dip, fit for any gathering.

I have a deep love of pesto and am a sucker for any kind of dip, so this recipe really appealed to me on many levels. It may look like guacamole, but the dip's distinctly Mediterranean with its bright hits of lemon, creamy white bean texture and punchy garlic notes. I'd liken it to a chunky kale hummus with a kick. The kale - as always - is earthy, verdant and downright beautiful! This went extremely well with both Brad's Raw Kale Chips and simple corn tortilla chips, but I could see this being an excellent sandwich spread or partnering equally well with some cut up vegetables. :)

You probably already have all the ingredients lying around! Kale might be a divisive ingredient, but trust me when I say this is a crowd hit that comes together in just minutes. Have it up your sleeve for all the parties this upcoming holiday season - it's always nice to have a healthier, less indulgent spread item on the table, especially during Super Bowl!

Kale Pesto White Bean Dip
Adapted generously from Annie's Eats

2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
3 cups kale leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle for garnish
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups cannellini and/or garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained well (I used one 15-ounce can of each bean)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, toasted pine nuts and kale. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the processor running, add the olive oil, lemon juice and water in a steady stream through the feed tube until combined but still coarse. Add in the Parmesan, salt and pepper and pulse until combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the drained beans and the balsamic vinegar. Process the mixture until smooth with some chunks (my preference), scraping down the bowl as needed. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. If you have time, chill in the fridge for at least 30 to 60 minutes, if not longer, to really let the flavors meld. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with kale chips, tortilla chips, pita chips, fresh veggies, whatever you have on hand!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies


Classic chocolate chip is my absolute favorite kind of cookie, and I'm always ready and willing to try all interpretations of it. Even vegan ones, apparently! I've been looking for new ways to incorporate coconut oil into my baking, so this recipe quickly got bookmarked when I came across it. The coconut oil is unobtrusive but noticeable; I cut back on both the sugar (as I'm wont to do) and vanilla to really make sure the hint of coconut would shine through.

My unintentional foray into vegan baking yielded a delicious cookie: thick, chewy and well-balanced. Delicious both with (not pictured - already eaten, oops!) and without Maldon salt. I would make this recipe again without hesitation - vegan or not, this cookie can stand on its own!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted via this recipe

1/2 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounce bar vegan dark chocolate, roughly chopped into small chunks (alternately: 1 cup vegan chocolate chips)
Optional: 1 teaspoon Maldon, or other flaky, sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil and brown sugar by hand, then add the almond milk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the chocolate chunks. Use a small ice cream scoop or roll the batter into tablespoon-sized balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, then flatten them lightly with your palm. The dough may be a little crumbly, but just smoosh it together and it will work fine. If using the sea salt, sprinkle on top of cookies now and pat them in gently.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the tops get golden brown. Cool on a rack and enjoy with a glass of cold milk! :)



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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shelter Island Jaunt






O and I went away to Shelter Island for Labor Day weekend - it was our first time there! It was a short trip, but the perfect length of time to get our fill of calm quiet bliss, good food (including the best darn pancakes I've had in a LONG time!) and plenty of long walks through both the forest and sand. I still can't believe how quickly summer flew this year. Luckily, I love fall (who doesn't?) and am relishing the crisp air that seems to greet me in the mornings these days.

All photos taken with the iPhone.

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