Friday, January 31, 2014

A Spill of Pistachios-Black and White Wednesday #115

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The one thing I don't like about pistachios is the shelling process, but they are so darn delicious, I force myself to do it.  It's no wonder that the Queen of Sheba hoarded the entire Assyrian supply for herself and her court. The shelling task is laborious, but goes faster when I watch television. Afterwards, I have a bounty of freshly shelled pistachios to use for just about anything-like a Pistachio Cherry Biscotti or this Pistachio, Mango and Blood Orange Terrine or Pistachio Date Muffins.

The pistachio is actually a member of the cashew family and originally grown in Central Asia and the Middle East. Archaeologist evidence shows that pistachios were grown as early as 6750 BC. One of the three nuts mentioned in the bible- Genesis 43-11 "Then their father Israel said to them, "If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds." A desert plant, the pistachio is hardy in the right conditions, needs a sunny position and well-drained soil. Most of the pistachios available in the United States are grown in California. The shell of the pistachio is naturally beige, but it's sometimes dyed red or green in commercial uses. 

This image is my contribution to BWW#115 hosted by Siri of Cooking with Siri. The odd thing about this image is the gold color around the bowl. It came totally by accident when I was playing around with the tone mapping in Photomatix. I thought the effect was pretty cool so stayed with it. Hope you like it too!
I will be hosting BWW #116, the Valentine edition. Anything goes!! Hope to see you lots of images! 
Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Focaccia Caprese-We Knead to Bake #13

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Caprese (in the style of Capri), is a dish prepared with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, then drizzled with olive oil. The key to a successful caprese style dish is that all the ingredients are fresh, whether in a salad, sandwich or main dish.  Focaccia is a perfect vehicle for a caprese. Homemade dough, similar to a pizza ingredient wise, but has more leavening and is typically rolled or hand pressed into a thicker layer of dough. Once the thick layer of dough has risen some, it is typically dotted with the fingers or a utensil  to create multiple indentations. Olive oil is brushed on the prepared dough prior to the topping ingredients. This was a perfect bread to make for our monthly We Knead to Bake Facebook group. What I really liked about Aparna's adaptation was the herb seasoned olive oil drizzled on the focaccia before baking! Dried basil, oregano, minced garlic and red chili flakes in olive oil was just the flavor kick the toppings needed!

Although this focaccia dough can be made in by conventional means, I used my bread machine to process the dough. By doing so, it frees me up for other kitchen tasks. The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight before preparing the focaccia caprese.

For the Dough

2 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar ( I used only 1 tablespoon)
3-1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing the dough
1-1 1/2 cups warm water

For the Topping

4-5 large tomatoes, Heirloom ones are great to use
1 6-7-inch round fresh mozzarella, cut into strips or slices
Fresh basil leaves, cut into strips, plus extra leaves for garnish

For the Herbed Oil

1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
Salt to taste

First make the herbed oil and set aside. In the bread machine pan according to manufacturer's instruction, add the ingredients for the dough. Process on the dough cycle taking care to check if  more flour or water is needed to achieve a soft elastic dough which is slightly sticky. When cycle has completed, remove the dough, shape into a round and place in an oiled bowl. Turn to oil both sides. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about an hour.

When dough has risen, divide into 2 equal pieces. For smaller focaccia, divide into 4 equal pieces. You can shape the focaccia into rounds or rectangular pieces. Roll or press each portion into roughly a  5-inch by 7-inch piece. Rustic shaping is ok as the focaccia is a casual bread. Place each piece in a parchment lined baking pan, pressing to make sure the thickness of the layer is even. Let rise for about 20 minutes. Lightly oil your fingertips or a small spoon and press indentations into the focaccia. Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 410 °F until done and beginning to turn a light golden brown. Remove from oven, but keep oven on to finish the focaccia. Lightly drizzle some of the herbed oil over the focaccia, then place the mozzarella slices over the oil leaving no spaces. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese and sprinkle with some of the chopped basil. Drizzle more herbed oil over. Bake the focaccia for 5-8 minutes until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven. Cut into slices and serve while still hot. Makes 4-6 servings.

Thanks to Aparna for the delicious focaccia recipe. I barely had time to photograph them before we demolished the entire four! The topping ideas are endless and the unadorned focaccia can be sliced in half and made into panini or any sandwich.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ghost Mining Town, Nelson Nevada-BWW #113

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Deadly Potion

On a long and winding road about a half hour outside of the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas lies the ghost town of Nelson ,once a thriving gold mine town aptly named Eldorado by the Spaniards who first discovered gold in this area in 1775. The mines were active from around 1858 until 1945 and many who worked in the mines were Civil War deserters.

Now a tourist site, one can see old rusted cars, trucks and even crashed airplanes dotting the area on both sides of the road. A few miles past the mining town is Eldorado Canyon on the Colorado River. An old wharf there was destroyed by a flash flood a few years ago
Rusted Coca Cola Truck

The two images above are my contribution to BWW #113, hosted this week by its creator,  Susan. Three exposures of each image was brought into Photomatix and then converted to black and white. Below are a few color images of the ghost town of Nelson.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dulce de Leche Coffee-Black and White Wednesday #112

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Dulce de Leche Coffee

This is my contribution to BWW #112 , this week hosted by Sanhita from Pocketfull of Spices. A very easy dessert coffee using dulce del leche prepared in the slow cooker. Dulce de leche and coffee are a marriage made in heaven. Kahlua or another coffee liqueur kicks it up a notch with a more intense coffee flavor. Topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate, this liquid dessert will surely please your guests.

Dulce de Leche Coffee

Makes 6 servings

4 cups strongly  brewed coffee
3/4 cup dulce de leche
6 or more tablespoons of Kahlua (or whiskey or brandy)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons chocolate, grated

Heat the dulce de leche in the microwave at 50% power until very soft. Add the very hot coffee stir until completely dissolved and combined. Keep the coffee hot.

Whip together the cream and sugar until stiff. Ad 1 tablespoon Kahlua to each coffee cup.

Pour into each cup or glass and top with lots of whipped cream. Add a little grated chocolate to garnish.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Black and White Wednesday #111-The Gallery

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Welcome to the gallery of Black and White Wednesday, edition #111. Below are some fascinating images from a very talented group of food and still life photographers who share a love of culinary monochromatic images. Thanks to everyone who shared their images and a special thanks to Susan, creator of BWW and to Cinzia, who manages this event with brilliance. As I've said before, BWW is my favorite event as I get excited converting color culinary images into shades of black and white. Sanhita of Pocketfull of Spices will be hosting BWW #112. Please, if I have missed anyone or made any errors, let me know and I will correct them. Thanks everyone for your lovely images!

Homemade Cazzareilli
Cinzia-CindyStar Blog

Masala Kara Sev
Suja-Suja's Kitchen



Haalo-Cook Almost Anything

Lonely Grape On a Vine
Rosa-Rosa's Yummy Yums

Thin Vermicelli

Grandmother's Recipe Collage
Lynne-Cafe Lynnylu

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche Flan

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Believe it or not, you can use your slow cooker not only to make dulce de leche from canned condensed milk, but you can use your slow cooker as a bain marie and make a very lovely dulce de leche flan with minimum effort. I have no photos to show you how to make dulce de leche in the slow cooker, but it's very easy to do. Take the labels off 1-3 cans of condensed milk (I used low fat), place the cans in your slow cooker ( mine is an oval 6.5 quart electric slow cooker with a ceramic insert); pour water to cover by at least an inch, then cook on high for 8-10 hours. Turn off your slow cooker and let the cans cool in the water. Refrigerate unopened indefinitely. Once opened, either use or transfer to a container, refrigerate and use within a few days. Here are a few links with photos to show the process.A Year of Slow CookingThe Kitchn, and Serious Eats.

In order to properly prepare the dulce de leche flan in a slow cooker,  you need a mold that will fit in the cooker and something to raise it off the bottom of the slow cooker. Since my slow cooker is an oval one, a 6 cup oval mold worked great and to raise it off the bottom I used three English muffin rings. Chopsticks are an option or anything you may have in your kitchen that will serve this purpose. I have heard of mason jar rings being used, but sometimes rust may form and mar your cooker insert.
 English Muffin Rings
Oval Mold

This is a truly decadent flan, beautifully dark and rich, almost like pumpkin pie filling and I can imagine this same filling poured in a pie shell and baked. The caramel topping made ahead and poured into the bottom of the mold before baking drizzles down the sides of the flan and creates a lovely sauce.
Dulce de Leche Flan
Serves 6-8
Original Recipe From "The Mexican Slow Cooker" by Deborah Schneider

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 (12 ounce ) can low fat evaporated milk
Prepared Dulce de Leche (1 14-ounce can) or store bought
4 ounces low fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries, to serve

With the shortening, thoroughly grease a heatproof 6-cup mold that will fit in your 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Place a rack, chopsticks, or metal rings in the bottom of the slow cooker to prevent the mold from resting on the bottom.

Place the sugar in a heavy saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt. Swirl or stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is a dark golden brown, but not in danger of burning. Immediately pour the caramel in the bottom of the mold. 

In a blender, combine eggs, low fat evaporated milk, the dulce de leche, cream cheese, vanilla and salt. Blend until smooth. Pour into the mold. Set the mold on the rack in the slow cooker. Very carefully, pour boiling water into the slow cooker insert until it comes halfway up the sides of the mold.

Lay a clean kitchen towel snugly across the top of the cooker and hold tightly into place with the lid. This keeps excess moisture from dripping onto the flan as it cooks.

Cook on high until just firm and a skewer inserted comes out clean. (The first time I made the flan, it took most of the 4 hours-the second flan was done in about 2 hours. I think my water was hotter with the second flan.) Remove the mold from the slow cooker and let cool on a rack, then chill, covered for several hours or overnight. Either serve from the mold or turn upside down on a plate. Serve cold with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Black and White Wednesday #111-The Announcement

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Grandmother's Recipe Collage

I'm pleased to be hosting the 111th edition of Black and White Wednesday. The rules, history and host lineup of this event can be found here. Just briefly, the event is a culinary black and white image event. Just about anything goes that's culinary in nature or food related. Sometimes it's best to photograph your subject in color and convert to black and white/grayscale, sepia or cyanotype.

I will be accepting your images up to 10:00 am New York time on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. The gallery will be posted that afternoon (hopefully).

A few years ago, my husband's aunt gave us the entire recipe collection from his grandmother and great aunt. The recipes cover the gamut of dishes, meats, desserts, pickles-you name it and most were written on whatever piece of paper was convenient. Some are written on old checks, some on postcards, a few written in torn and tattered books of specialty recipes like the Fleischmann's booklet shown here in the collage above. I had hoped one day to go through all the recipes, reproduce them and photograph them to publish in a book to give to our Aunt June, but time passed and I kept saying I would do it whenever I finished this or that project.Sadly, she passed away Christmas Eve.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 
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