Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Speedy Stir Fry Series - Green Been and Beef Stir Fry

This week marks the first of a Speedy Stir Frys Series from my second half in the kitchen. Long before I attended culinary school and decided to make a career around the realm of food, we were just two college students that really enjoyed good food. I started this blog and the rest is history. This small section is a welcomed addition to Chocolate Shavings and I hope you enjoy it.

Always an avid taster of the recipes I develop, O. has witnessed the making of this blog since day one. We share a passion for photography and eating and spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. He will be writing a weekly section on his favourite stir fry recipes.. many of which we enjoy on busy weeknights.... so welcome!

Dear Chocolate Shavings readers,

It's long been my belief that the advent of asian fast food joints have given stir frying a bad name. It's become synonomous with chunks of cheap meat, covered in a sickly sweet sauce sitting in a pool of oil.
A couple years ago, Jenn bought me a Breath of a Wok, by Grace Young, and it has truly transformed the way I cook. I've discovered how stir frying correctly can be a versatile, powerful style of cooking. For the many many recipes Jenn has expertly served me over the years, I thought I'd contribute a tiny amount to the culinary wisdom that she shares.

Green Bean and Beef Stir Fry
Serves 2-3 people

This is a classic stir fry of mine. It has all the essential parts: simple ingredients prepared quickly and methodically to bring out deep, clean flavors. The most important part of the dish is the sear: leaving the beans and then the beef to sit, undisturbed, on high heat.

2 tablespoons of Shao Hsing rice wine (a chinese rice wine easily available in most asian grocers)
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, diced
300 of flank steak
3 handfuls of green beans, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons of black sesame seeds

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch. Take the flank steak and cut across the grain into 2-3 inch portions. For each portion, cut with the grain into 3-4 sheets. Stack the sheets and slice finely against the grain into strips. Mix the meat into marinade.

Preheat the wok or skillet to medium-hot.

Prepare the green beans, trimming the ends and washing thoroughly. Blanch in the salted water for 2-3 minutes and drain.

Now you're ready to stir fry: Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the hot pan. Add in your meat mixture. Let it sear for 30-40 seconds. Spinkle on the garlic and ginger. Stir fry briefly then push meat to the side of the pan. Add the drained green beats and, similarly, allow to sear at the bottom of the pan for 30-45 seconds. Stir fry entire mixture for 1-2 minutes until meat and beans are cooked through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with noodles or rice.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What to do with Leftover Puff Pastry: Chocolate and Almond Pear Tarts

This is the follow-up to my last post featuring my Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart. As I was mentioning, I've found myself countless times with leftover scraps of puff pastry which sadly never really turn into anything. This recipe is my easy way to do something productive with these leftovers, and to waste less!

I designed this recipe for 4 individual tartlets, but it's such a simple recipe that you can easily modify the quantities to fit any number of tarts. These tarts take minutes to make and are the perfect way to end any meal - or to enjoy as an afternoon treat. There is no added sugar, just some velvety bittersweet chocolate, some powdered almonds and some pear. Pear, chocolate and almond is always a winning combination in my book and I never tire of coming up with different combinations to use them together.

I've often been asked what items I always have in my pantry - and bittersweet chocolate chip and powdered almonds are always great staples to have on hand. Powdered almonds are used in a variety of desserts and add that perfect touch of nuttiness to any sweet treat. Adding powdered almonds to certain tart doughs is absolutely delicious, as is adding it to tart fillings. Canned pears, on the other hand, are not an item I usually have on hand but for quick desserts like this one, it really helps to ensure that your dessert will be perfectly cooked in very little time as the pears are juicy and soft. So here goes..!

Chocolate and Almond Pear Tarts
Makes 4 tartlets

1/4 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
3 tablespoons of powdered almonds
2 halves of canned pears, cut into 4 pieces
Leftover puff pastry
Muffin pan

Preheat your oven to 350F. Roll out your leftover puff pastry until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 4 circles of dough, slightly bigger in size than the diameter of each muffin mold.

Lightly grease 4 of your muffin molds and add one puff pastry circle into each mold, Using your fingers, gently press down on the center of each circle so that they take the shape of the mold.

Melt the chocolate chips in a small double boiler. Add the cream and stir until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered almonds and stir. Divide the chocolate mold between the 4 tartlets. Add a piece of pear at the center of each, and, using your fingers, gently crinkle the dough on the sides of the muffin mold so it folds back onto the chocolate batter.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart

I re-created this tart after enjoying it with my family in the Basque country in the South of France this summer. Served with a simple leafy green salad, it's the perfect meal. This also is part 1 of my puff pastry series for the summer.

First, a few words about puff pastry. Puff pastry is deliciously buttery, made of layers of butter and flour that rise and separate in the oven to create the perfect texture of velvety flaky pastry. If you're ever in search of a Sunday afternoon activity, you can definitely try making this at home - but be prepared to spend your afternoon working on it. For everyday cooking, buying puff pastry is really the best and easiest option. Homemade doughs are usually the way to go but puff pastry really is too much of an under-taking for everyday cooking and a good-quality store-bought puff pastry really does the trick.

I designed this recipe to make a full-size tart for 6 people as well as an easy dessert recipe for the leftover scraps of puff pastry. As you will see in part 2 of this post, you can make an easy sweet treat using the scraps. If you're like me, you often want to use leftover pieces dough but for some reason never end up making something very productive with it. This recipe makes it easy to use up leftovers and make real second dish out of them! So stay tuned for my chocolate, almond and pear tart dessert.

For now, let's stick to the goat cheese tomato tart!

Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart

Serves 6

400 g of frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1/2 cup of soft goat cheese
1/2 cup of light ricotta
1/4 cup of whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten saving 2 teaspoons in a separate bowl
1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
A handful of cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon of chopped coriander or basil
11 Inch x 7 Inch quiche pan

Preheat your oven to 325F. Lightly flour a working surface and place the block of thawed puff pastry dough in the center. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it's about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to fit your 11 x 7 inch pan. Lightly butter the quiche pan and gently transfer the dough to the pan, trimming the dough as necessary.

In a large bowl, add the goat cheese, ricotta and cream. Whisk the mixture until smooth and creamy. Add the beaten eggs (except for the reserved 2 teaspoons) and whisk again. Add the pepper and mix. Pour the mixture on top of the dough. Top with the cherry tomatoes. Using a pastry brush and the reserved 2 teaspoons of egg, brush the sides of the pastry. Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough is just golden brown and the filling is cooked. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve alongside your favourite leafy greens. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zucchini Fritters

This weekend, I had a couple of my friends visit for a little get together. It was a great opportunity to have a lovely homemade breakfast before heading out for a busy day of visiting Toronto and catching up. I had been meaning to make zucchini fritters for a while and they ended up being the perfect addition to a poached egg on some toasted olive sourdough bread.

These really are easy to make, and can be whipped up while you toast the bread and wait for your poached eggs to cook. I hope you appreciate the photo as I saved the last four for a quick photo session and they then had to be eaten cold! I'm heading back to Montreal in a few days, after almost four month out of town. Between a job at the BBC in London, visiting my family in Paris and in the South of France and working from Toronto it's been quite an eventful summer! I'm looking forward to getting back to my kitchen though.. especially since I only had a few days to play around with my new pink Kitchen Aid. Be prepared for many recipes with that baby!

Since the new school year is upon us, I thought I would share the names of a few cookbooks that are coming out this fall. My ever-growing collection (I must have hit 70 by now!) has been missed this summer as I only had room for a couple books to bring with me during my travels. I'm looking forward to browsing these new cookbooks and something tells me that they will make their way to my over-stocked library shelf...

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips
, to be released on October 26th, 2010. I have yet to try an Ina Garten recipe that wasn't absolutely fabulous. As most spontaneous and intuitive cooks will recognize, it's not that easy to write a fail-safe recipe but Ina does just that, every time.

Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook: Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond from New York's Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant. This is one of my favourite breakfast spots in NYC and they are now releasing a cookbook. I hope it does not disappoint! To be released on November 8th, 2010.

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
: If you loved the original Baked book, you should love this one! Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito will give us their take on popular dessert this special twists and tweaks. Release date set for October 1st, 2010.

Tartine Bread: One of my favourite spots in San Francisco is coming out with a second cookbook dedicated to bread. Making bread is really an essential skill for any home baker and I bet these recipes will make it ever more accessible. Release date set for September 29th, 2010.

What new cookbooks are you looking forward to this Fall?

Zucchini Fritters
Makes about 12

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the zucchini into a medium bowl, leaving the skin on. Add the lemon zest, chopped parsley, and eggs. Mix well to combine. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper Slowly add flour, stirring so no lumps form. Fold in the parmesan.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until oil sizzles when you drop a small amount of zucchini mixture into the pan. Carefully drop about 2 tablespoons zucchini mixture into pan; repeat, spacing fritters a few inches apart.

Cook fritters until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Turn fritters, and continue cooking until golden, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer fritters to a plate; set aside in a warm place. Cook remaining zucchini mixture, adding more oil to pan if necessary. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creamy Artichoke and Garlic Spaghetti

I just got back from a few blissful days spent in the Basque country where my family has a house we all reunite in once or twice a year. We spent a wonderful holiday filled with a lot, a lot of food, time relaxing in the sun and some much needed catching up. Family meals have always been a pretty central part of my family life and I can't imagine not recreating that feeling with my own family one day. Sharing a love for flavourful ingredients and satisfying meals, we feasted on the classic 'melon et jambon' - slices of cantaloupe with thinly sliced Bayonne ham -, curried mussels, slowly braised lamb with garlic haricots verts, goat cheese and tomato tarts, pear clafoutis.. and I much, much more!

All to say, that lighter meals are now in order! This pasta dish has become a classic in our house. We always have canned artichokes in our pantry and they come in very handy for these kinds of dishes. I get the ones that are marinating in oil and herbs so they are nice and tasty and needed little extra preparation. This really is a light pasta meal with only a couple tablespoons of cream, and is another one of those easy pasta dishes I can make in the time it takes the pasta to cook!

Creamy Artichoke and Garlic Spaghetti
Serves 2

Spaghetti for 2
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
4 scallions, finely sliced
1 cup of canned artichokes, drained
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, and extra to serve
2 tablespoons of whipping cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, place a pan on medium heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the garlic slices and leave untouched for 2-3 minutes. Add the scallions and stir. Cook for another 2 minutes and add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the artichokes and add to the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cream and stir. Add one tablespoon of the pasta water - the starch from the pasta in the water will help thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Stir so all the ingredients mix in with the spaghetti. Add the parmesan, a pinch of salt and pepper, the lemon juice and stir again. Serve immediately, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rosemary, Walnut and Fleur de Sel Bread Rolls

Receiving my KitchenAid stand mixer in the mail was the closest thing to Christmas in the middle of the summer. I opened the package like an excited child and gazed at its beautiful light pink tint — it was just perfect.

I was looking forward to using the stand mixer for bread because one of the three attachments that comes standard with the mixer is a dough hook. The dough hook attachment is amazing for kneading dough, a part of bread-making that has traditionally been a point of frustration for home bakers.

This bread recipe was a little time-consuming, but the spectacular results made it well worthwhile. Because it is a basic recipe, it can be used in a myriad of ways. Try adding some cooked diced pancetta, some coarsely chopped olives, sundried tomatoes or some grated parmesan — the possibilities really are endless.

I flavored these rolls with generous amounts of chopped walnuts and fresh rosemary, then lightly brushed the rolls with olive oil right before baking them. The finishing touch was sprinkling them with a little fleur de sel.

Rosemary, Walnut and Fleur de Sel Bread Rolls

Click here for this recipe as well as other delicious Kitchen Aid sponsored treats!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Matcha and Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I'm writing this post from the beautiful Basque country, where I've spent most of my summers since I was a little girl. Although I grew up in a bustling Parisian setting, our family would always find the way to get together and spend some quality time in a family home near Biarritz. Living so far from France today, it's always a wonderful feeling to come back to the same house, same surroundings and spend a little time closer to where I'm from. A lot of people vacation on the south east coast of France - where popular beach towns fill up during the summer, but the south west is a tad more rugged, with waves the size of mountains, real summer thunderstorms and beautiful scenery.

This is truly one of the places besides Paris where I fell in love with good food. The tables of 'charcuterie' (cured meats), beautiful fragrant cheeses, full glasses of sangria, grilled fish, and plums straight from the tree are a few of the staples I've been feasting on every summer. The proximity to Spain allows us to spend a few blissful days a year across the border every time we come here, and I always look forward to the tapas we enjoy standing up on the stone streets of the old San Sebastian. The delights here are truly my kind of food: rustic, generous, pungent foods without unnecessary sophistication. It's a lot of good olive oil, garlic and herbs - everything I love.

How does this relate to the recipe I bring you today? Well, it doesn't really.. but I made these matcha muffins right before leaving and didn't get a chance to post the recipe until now. I've been experimenting with matcha powder for a little while - and thanks to a gift from one of my good friends - I've been able to use matcha powder directly brought from Japan. I can't decipher any inscriptions on the package but the results have still been lovely! For those of you who haven't tried using matcha powder in your baked goods, I strongly recommend it! It's incredibly fragrant - a tiny amount only is needed - and it brings a great new layer of flavours to baked goods. So here goes!

Matcha and Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Adapted from Kirbie's Cravings
Makes about 14 muffins

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder
1/3 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 cups sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg white
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup low fat yogurt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1.5 tablespoons matcha powder

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line muffin baking pan with cupcake liners.
In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift together. Set aside. In another small bowl combine the espresso powder, cocoa and 1/3 cup of the sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Whisk until smooth. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk whole egg with egg white. Set aside.

Cut the butter into pieces and place in an electric mixing bowl. Beat for 1 minute to soften. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat at high speed for about 3 minutes. Add in the egg mixture, beating constantly for about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture. On medium-high speed, beat in half of the yogurt. On low speed, beat in half of the remaining flour. On high speed, beat in the rest of the yogurt and the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the remaining flour.

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of yogurt batter and mix into the cocoa mixture. Set aside. Add the matcha powder to the rest of the yogurt batter in the mixing bowl.

Using a large spoon, scoop some of chocolate batter in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Then add a spoonful of green tea batter and another small spoonful of chocolate batter. Using a toothpick, swirl the mixture so both flavors create a nice swirled pattern.

Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.
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