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This is a pretty picture…

The basil plant on the patio survived not only an entire summer in my less then green thumbed care but also hurricane Irene’s recent attempt to take New York City by storm so I figured something should be made as an homage to the little basil plant that stood.

My only foray into the world of Ottolenghi has been via one of their cookbooks. In September I intend to make a pilgrimage there along with maybe a return to Moro.  Ottolenghi recipes for baked goods are delicious. A little challenging which is fun plus there is always a little thoughtful twist on run of the mill desserts that is inspiring.

Using their ‘tea cake’ recipe which is for 6 peach/raspberry  ‘bundt’ cakes, I made a batch of peach-basil muffins. Peach and basil is a pretty divine combination no matter how you do it.  Ice pops, cakes, a salad or a rice dish…..

Tip: Skins of fruit and veg are not the worst thing in the world – often they contain the best nutrition. However should you wish to be rid of them simply plunge the peaches in hot water for a minute then immediately into cold for 3o seconds and the skins will be easy to rub/peel off.

The following recipe makes 6 bundt cakes or about 12 normal size muffins.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.

 

Ingredients

  • 180gr butter (plus melted butter for greasing if necessary)
  • 260gr flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 160gr caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 170ml soured cream
  • 2 peaches diced
  • good handful of fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces

Making

Preheat the oven to 350 f.

Depending on what tins you’re using butter a muffin tray and leave in the fridge.

Put the flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then beat the eggs with the vanilla and add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time.  Fold in the flour mixture one third at a time until well incorporated making a smooth batter. Add the peaches last.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tray keeping it just below the surface.  Bake for about 30 minutes until a knife emerges clean and dry from their centers.

The sour cream factor can mean they have less of a shelf life so eat them quickly!

Man cannot live on chickpeas alone. In their naked cooked state they can be a little unappetising. But they remain a healthy, cheap food.  Roasted in olive oil with a little salt and they become delicate and nuanced. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  They make a great snack and a good sidekick for an evening aperitif. Babies love to munch on them too!

 

This couscous dish stands well alone or as a hot or cold accompaniment to fish or meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous (uncooked measure)
  • 2 tablespoons golden sultanas
  • a handful of fresh vine tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful of chopped fresh basil

Plus 1 quantity spice mix (see below)

Spice mix (vary as desired) also see a previous post using a spice mix…

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a little sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350f.  If using canned chickpeas rinse them well in cold water and drain in a colander. In the meantime, using a bowl big enough to handle the chickpeas, make the spice mix blending the ingredients together with the oils. Coat the chickpeas with the spice mix and let sit for a few minutes.  Spread the coated chickpeas evenly in a single layer on a roasting pan shaking them around a little to make sure the spice mix is well distributed. Sprinkle a little salt over them. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the skins start to become papery and dry.

While waiting for the chickpeas make the couscous – follow the instructions on your particular brand of couscous!  While you wait for the couscous to fluff up, set it aside.

For the tomatoes, plonk them a in a bowl of boiling water for a minute, then plonk them in a bowl of cold water for a minute. You will then be able to drain them and easily remove the skins. (This works well for peaches too). Cut the tomatoes into quarters or halves depending on their size and set aside.  Submerge the sultanas in a little warm water for a few minutes too. Then drain them and set them aside. This will plump them up nicely.

Once the chickpeas are roasted to your liking take them out of the oven and allow to cool a little so they don’t break apart too much when handled. Then assemble your dish. In a serving dish mix the warm couscous with a little butter, add the chickpeas, the sultanas and the tomatoes. Sprinkle with some torn up fresh basil and serve warm or cold.

 

Our new Brooklyn friends kindly gave us their share of a local CSA last weekend. The Red Hook community farm which supplies the Red Hook CSA is run by the non-profit Added Value in a community that needed a little help in the fresh produce area. Read about it here….

Our share included fresh green tomatillos nicely nestled in their papery husks. These aren’t something that appear on the typical Paris menu and I really had never handled one before .  The tomatillo is a staple of Mexican cuisine mainly used for salsa verde and is part of the nightshade family which, while related to the tomato family, is not part of it.

I decided to husk them and roast them in a little olive oil  for about 45 minutes with a few cloves of (Red Hook) garlic and an onion.
Result – a rough and ready cold ‘jam’ spiked with sweet roasted garlic to spread on a piece of cheddar…

 

Like a cross between a shortbread and a clafoutis…or clafoutis on shortbread.  The original recipe called for an enormous amount of sugar. When this happens take a step back and think about it. Is all that sugar really necessary? Aren’t fresh strawberries pretty sweet with just a sprinkling of cane sugar or a little honey? In the end I used 2/3 of a cup of maple syrup. This makes for a denser topping I suppose but gives more depth to the taste too. Baking with maple syrup needs a little extra  thought. When substituting sweeteners care needs to be taken with other elements in the recipe. Often when substituting maple syrup it is necessary to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe.  In this case however the strawberries balanced worked well as a counter sweetener to the syrup and the dense topping made for a fruity smooth square.

 


Ingredients

Base:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • scant 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Strawberry topping

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

Making

Make the base first. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees f. Lightly butter the base and sides of a 9 x 13 inch dish. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar and the coconut if using. Using your fingers or a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture is crumb like. Pour into the prepared dish and press out until evenly distirubuted over the bottom. Don’t worry if the base seems thin. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the edges turn golden.

Remove from the oven and reduce temperature to 325.

To make the topping whisk the eggs well and blend in the maple syrup. Whisk in the flour. Pour this over the hot baked crust and bake for about 35 minutes or until the topping seems set. Wait until completely cool before cutting into squares and drizzling with a little icing sugar to serve.

I finally got to visit Vermont recently. Land of lakes, liberals and great cheese.  The Chester farmer’s market saw us procure a large jug of local maple syrup and feast on Ana’s amazing empanadas. As for the banana bread, nothing revolutionary here but a healthy and delicious recipe which contains no refined sugar and is quickly thrown together for breakfast, on-the-go baby snacks or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 ripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
sprinkle of salt

Making

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. Cream the butter with maple syrup and add the other wet ingredients and the coconut flakes. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder, soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold until just incorporated – do not overmix.
Pour into a lined and greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.

 

Last year, while discussing an upcoming trip to Lebanon with a Paris friend, I waxed lyrical about Lebanese food and how I had discovered a great website and cookbook author Anissa Helou. It transpired that he knew Mme. Helou, having met her at a food symposium and they had kept in touch. He put me in contact with her and she very kindly sent me a list of her favourite Beirut food destinations.  Thrilled, we embarked on our trip clutching a printout of her recommendations. I had her book Modern Mezze and now I have been to Lebanon a couple of times it has really come to life for me.  It’s a concise repetoire of classic mezze detailing how to go about making the dishes that make up standard middle eastern fare giving a litle background and explanation for each one.

Falafel are the go-to middle eastern food as far as most western palates are concerned yet I’m guessing most of us assume they’re all made from fried chickpeas and a little tahini and that’s that. I was surprised to learn that Eygptian falafel are the original and they are made only with fava beans while Syrian and Lebanese ones contain chickpeas as well.

I opted to bake these so that they would be easier to digest for an 11 month old. Frying them is undoubtedly better – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

PS: Garbanzo or chickpea? Wikipedia discusses….

Note: Ideally use dried beans and soak them overnight in cold water with 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda. However, canned beans will do, just drain them well.

Recipe taken from Anissa Helou’s Modern Mezze

Ingredients

  • 100gr chickpeas
  • 200gr broad beans/fava beans
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 50gr coriander sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (if using dried beans)
  • sea salt

Making

Drain the beans and rinse them well. Put them in a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and process until they form a fine paste. Transfer to a large bowl, season and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Pinch off enough mixture to form small balls and do so until you have 20-25.

If frying heat vegetale oil to about 5 cm depth and when bubbling hot drop the balls in for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and crispy. If baking place on a baking tray in a preheated oven (375 degrees F) and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Mop off the excess fat and serve hot or cold with a tahini dip.

A chewy coconut cake for no reason at all. Replace the sugar with 1 cup maple syrup or 1/2 cup agave for a healthier snack. The courgette/zucchini can be omitted but it adds a nice moistness to balance the crunchy, toasty coconut.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 (150 gr) cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (100gr) toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated courgette
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 stick (100 gr) butter
  • 1 cup (200 gr) sugar
  • 1 pot plain/vanilla whole milk yogurt (125 gr)


Making

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor or by hand cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, the yogurt and the grated courgette.  Meanwhile, toast the coconut flakes for about 5 minutes in the oven. In a separate bowl mix the flour and the baking powder – sieve the flour. Add the poppy seeds and the toasted coconut to the flour, then mix the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Pour into a cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes.

In response to my constant derision of people’s bizarre food allergies, the universe has bitten me on the butt, slapped me on the wrist and made it that my son of not yet a year has some sort of allergy to cows milk and its products. While this is most likely a temporary situation, I can’t give him most cheese or yogurt products lest his face explode in a rash. So, what to do?

Goats milk and cheese are a great  if not expensive solution as are almond milk and soy products. It’s really not a big deal but last week I wanted to make a big lasagna that would feed the three of us for a couple of days.  So I started to figure out how I could make it dairy free but still satisfying and stodgy, the soul food it should be.  While other vegetables can easily be used as indeed could some ground lamb or beef, use fresh spinach at all costs! Frozen spinach is an affront to the real thing and makes for a watery soggy component to any lasagna.

 

Ingredients

1 box pre cooked lasagna pasta

Sauce

  • 1 and 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 5 oz soft creamy goats cheese

Filling

  • 8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 courgettes, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (rinsed and stemmed)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 jar tomato/marinara sauce

Making

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat some olive oil in a pan and toss the courgettes around until soft and slightly golden.  In the meantime make the sauce.  In a bowl mix together the almond milk, the beaten eggs, the nutmeg, the almond butter and the goat cheese. Set aside. Once the courgettes are done, season with a little salt and set aside. In the same pan toss the garlic and mushrooms.  Once the mushrooms are browned and fragrant, add the spinach leaves and allow them to wilt in the heat – this will only take a few minutes. The spinach should not get mushy and overcooked. At this point put the courgettes back into the pan with the other vegetables and add the tomato sauce simmering for a few minutes.

To assemble the lasagna line a rectangular dish with a layer of lasagna sheets then add a layer of the vegetable filling, add another layer of pasta then a layer of the sauce, then a layer of vegetables, pasta and sauce making sure you will have enough sauce to cover the top sheets of lasagna.

For a final flourish you could add some almond slivers to the top of the lasagna for a crunchy topping. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the lasgna is golden on top. This keeps well in the fridge for a few days and seems to taste better the next day.

 

Paris has become Brooklyn. It became Brooklyn in November of last year.  Maple syrup is still maple syrup, we just got a little sidetracked what with the well cooked baby of July reaching almost 10 months old and the exploration of Brooklyn and it’s pickling, brewing and baking. Life as a stay at home mother was a bit of an adjustment, there just has  not been as much time to embrace my inner chef as I had expected….

Nonetheless, cooking has continued. Bread baking is being pursued. I realise a food blog is a little like the starter for the sourdough – it needs to be refreshed, to be fed, if it’s going to grow and attract attention from your husband and perhaps even a reader or two.

One of the fun aspects to moving from France to the US has been discovering American baking. I had never heard of a lot of the most popular desserts here, for example the Whoopie pie – essentially a biscuit sandwich in various flavours that has its roots in Amish home baking in Pennsylvania but is also the official state treat of Maine – see the Wikipedia entry….

Before I left Paris I was told by none other then David Lebovitz to make a pilgrimage to Baked of Red Hook. So I did. It was seriously worth it. Wandering through rather barren streets with only Ikea and the Atlantic ocean before me, I came across this small oasis of baking that has bravely set up shop in one of the more off the beaten track neighbourhoods of Brooklyn and is famous for its delicious cookies and baked goods including a whoopie pie.

I tried two different recipes for both chocolate and pumpkin whoopie pies. The chocolate one is from Epicurious.  The other can be found here at the Brown Eyed Baker. For the cakes themselves, I found that a recipe using just baking soda produced a fluffier whoopie pie. While the traditional whoopie pie  filling was almost always made with marshmallow fluff, yet another good old all-American treat, hoarded and stockpiled by ex-pats in Paris, I decided to go with a less toxic cream cheese filling using maple syrup in both cases.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup  buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg

Making

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and in a separate bowl stir together the buttermilk and vanilla.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl  until pale and fluffy, then add the egg, beating until combined. Alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

Using a dessert spoon or a cookie dropper, spoon  batter about 2 inches apart onto large baking sheets.  Bake until cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool using a spatula.

The cakes can be made in advance of the filling which I made a little less sweet then the recipes I had seen called for….

Filling (adjust to your recipe and the number of pies you made)

4 oz of cream cheese

2 oz butter

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)

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