Friday, March 30, 2012

Pineapple Buckle

Pineapple Buckle

This Pineapple Buckle is a yellow cake with chunks of pineapple mixed in and hints of lime zest and juice, and after some time in the oven slices of pineapple are arranged on top.  Because the batter has been partially cooked, the slices won't sink in and will sit on top, pretty as a picture. That's what the recipe said, anyway.  What happened is another matter.

Update: This post made the Foodbuzz Top 9!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich

The crispy, Panko-coated eggplant slices are so good, I could eat a whole plate of just those.  But it doesn't hurt to throw on some mozzarella, tomatoes, peppadews, and basil, and sandwich the whole thing in a ciabatta roll.  I was telling Joe just that when he asked, sort of absent-mindedly, "Is it crispy?" I bit into one, and the loud crunch got his attention.  Then he ended up pilfering some eggplant slices.

Graffiti Eggplant

The recipe is a bit of a production, but I think you can easily streamline it without affecting the quality.  Skip the whole eggplant-salting thing for starters.  This is a graffiti eggplant, and it not only looks cool, but it's smaller than your typical Italian eggplant and not as bitter or full of seeds; hence, no need to salt and drain. One of these made about a quarter of the recipe, which was a perfect amount for us.  And I made those oven-roasted tomatoes (they're lost between layers in the photo, in case you were wondering), and they were good but I don't think worth the trouble again.  A spoon of marinara will do it for me next time.

You also don't need the whole inch of oil in the skillet, or the frying thermometer.  We're not making bone-in fried chicken here, so drop a crumb of panko in the oil -- if it doesn't do much, the oil's not hot enough, and if it starts to bubble up it's hot enough.  I cooked them by color rather than time, flipping and removing them when they were golden brown.  I hate spongy, al dente eggplant, but these were meltingly soft.  A bit of a production, yes, but also a very satisfying lunch.

This post was featured on Yummly's 10 Egg-cellent Eggplant Recipes.
Certified Yummly Recipes on

I also wanted to thank Dawn at DJ's Sugar Shack for passing on to me the Versatile Blogger award and Anuja of Simple Baking for the Liebster Blog award.  Since I've received the Versatile Blogger award in the past, you don't need to read all about me again or the blogs I recommend.  But if you'd like to anyway, click here.  And definitely visit Dawn's and Anuja's great blogs!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shrimp, Scallion and Lap Cheong Omelets



This was inspired by a childhood favorite of mine.  Mom often made these omelets with shrimp, but no scallions or vegetables because my picky childhood palate wouldn't tolerate anything green.  When I was older I added the scallions.  Still not a lot in there, but I'm not a fan of diner-style omelets with a pound of cheese and filling.  The freshness of the scallions was great with the crisp and briny bite of fresh shrimp.  You can add soy sauce or oyster sauce like my brother does, or hot sauce like my dad.  And Mom always served these with rice.

Lap Cheong

To add another twist to the omelet, I used lap cheong (widely known by that Cantonese pronunciation, and called la chang in Mandarin).  You'll find these Chinese sausages in the refrigerated section of your Asian grocer, though Mom buys me some fresh from the butcher when I visit her.  If anybody can recommend a good prepackaged brand, since lap cheong vary in flavor and sweetness, I'd appreciate a suggestion in the comments!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My New Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits


Biscuits sq

Can you believe this weather?  I'm glad these were baked last week, because it may be too hot to turn on the oven this week.  We've had highs in the 70s, and Thursday is supposed to be 83.  Beach, here I come!  And yet, Joe and I are such fans of these biscuits, we may turn on the oven just for them.  I've tried various biscuit recipes before, but these have everything I want.  You can take them the savory route with cheese or ham, or the sweet route with jam -- peach ginger here.  But they're so good, I like them best without any add-ons.

The best part is how light and fluffy they are.  I'm not sure whether to credit the recipe or the use of pastry flour -- I'm going to say it's the two combined.  The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I used pastry flour (rather, King Arthur's Perfect Pastry Blend, which falls somewhere between all-purpose and pastry flours) to make them extra tender.  They didn't come out like the perfect hockey puck shapes in the cookbook photo, but I realized hockey puck shapes were overrated when I bit into flaky, soft, buttery layers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

"Oooh, big cookie," Joe said as he walked past the cooling skillet.  This just looks like a fun recipe.  It's also easy to throw together, and you save a little time from the usual scooping of smaller cookies onto a baking sheet.

The drawback?  It's a bit dry.  The original recipe didn't have any such complaint in its reviews, so I hope it wasn't because I replaced a quarter of the flour with white whole wheat flour.  Or maybe other people used skillets that weren't cast iron -- which conducts more heat -- like I did?  Some people even commented that they used pie pans.  Maybe because I decided to forgo the ice cream and caramel sauce.  If you have a skillet variation you recommend, leave me a comment.  I'd like to give this another go!

This post was shared with:
Tea Party Tuesday
Crazy Sweet Tuesday
Sweet Treats Thursday
Sweets for a Saturday

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cafe G at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has reopened with a new wing and updated restaurant.  Cafe G is in a great space with three glass walls that let you look out onto the city, and there are a bunch of small dishes to choose from, or heartier fare like this grilled comté sandwich with roasted grapes and frisée.

E***Doughnuts with Champagne Creme Anglaise

It was the perfect venue for our Jane Austen book club get-together because we were reading Laurie Horowitz's The Family Fortune, a modern retelling of Persuasion in which the protagonist's fictional ancestor was a rival of Isabella Stewart Gardner, Boston patroness of art.  Gardner served Champagne and doughnuts at the museum opening in 1903, and this impossibly tasty dessert I ordered -- warm doughnuts served with a Champagne crème anglaise -- was a tribute to that history.

For more on the small and elegant dishes my table sampled, head to my post at Boston Tea Party.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Black Bottom Tart

Black Bottom Tart

This is one heck of a tart.  The flaky pastry shell is topped with a layer of chocolate pastry cream, then a layer of rum-flavored cream, and finally piped with  whipped cream.  I will say I wish there was more chocolate filling and rum flavor, but it's still delicious.
(Update 3/12/12: I had a mini-tart made from leftover dough and filling, and tipping a tablespoon of the rum in the cream before whipping gives it the needed oomph!)

You can halve the recipe like I did, since I have only one of those tart pans.  When halving recipes, there's always a dilemma like "how do I halve 3 egg yolks?"  I went with one egg yolk and the whole tablespoon full of rum, and the recipe seems forgiving.  It takes some time to make all the components, but your reward will be sweet.  If you want to go an easier and more chocolatey route, I highly recommend this Chocolate Cream Pie.


For a primer on making chocolate curls, I like  Pioneer Woman's how-to post.  I started out with just chocolate, and it kept shattering instead of curling.  I couldn't believe it, since this wasn't my first time making them.  Maybe because my new place is so dry?  After repeated attempts, I threw my hands up and told Joe I was ready to down the airplane-sized bottle of rum I bought just for this recipe.  He told me to go for it.  Anyway, I thought there was something to the Pioneer Woman using shortening in her chocolate curls, but shortening creeps me out and I didn't have any.  So I used a pat of butter, and lo and behold the chocolate curled!

This post was shared with:
Tea Party Tuesday
Crazy Sweet Tuesday
Sweet Treats Thursday
Sweets for a Saturday

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Parmesan Thyme Twists

straws lighten

A few years ago I blogged about turning homemade puff pastry dough scraps into cinnamon sugar twists, and included a cheese variation as an afterthought.  This time the cheese version gets the spotlight.  I chose parmesan and thyme here, but try different cheese and herb variations.  Or use multiple cheeses and herbs, or throw in some cayenne for a kick.  The recipe is very adaptable.

Before you possibly panic about the difficulties or fussiness of making puff pastry, I'm going to add that these are made from the storebought variety!  I find making it from scratch time-consuming and messy, but the recipe I used back then is here with step-by-step photos if you want it.

Cinnamon Sugar Twists

And as a bonus, I'll also throw in the Cinnamon-Sugar Twists recipe, updated with a tad more sugar because in retrospect the original wasn't sweet enough.  According to my stats, the original post has been a sleeper hit, which was a surprise to me.

Parmesan Cheese Twist Collage
Parmesan Thyme Twists: The puff pastry is brushed with egg, then sprinkled with cheese and herbs.  The dough is folded over and lightly rolled to seal the edges, then strips are cut with a pastry wheel and twisted before baking.

These are also really easy to throw together for a quick party snack.  Joe loved both varieties, though parmesan isn't my favorite cheese.  But we both enjoyed the cinnamon sugar twists.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ruby Cake with Hidden Chocolate and Raspberry Filling


I made this cake for a potluck at work, and at the end of our glutton-fest and my shift I placed the leftovers in my covered portable cake dome and left it on my desk.  I thought it would be safe there from the daytime shift, and my colleagues could eat the rest the next day.  When I returned that next day and looked at my desk, I was amused to find there was less cake than I remembered!  I put it back out on the communal table, and a few minutes later I saw a higher-up (who shall not be named) pass by and cut a piece, then shove it whole into his mouth.  Hmm ... maybe that explains the cake shrinkage.

Ruby Cake Slice

The Ruby Cake is a buttery bundt with a dense and moist crumb, and a bit of tang from some sour cream.  It gets its name from a hidden filling of raspberry jam and chocolate.  I'm not sure whether it's the nature of this cake, or if I was too careful with keeping the filling away from the walls of the cake pan so it wouldn't burn, but the filling takes up very little of the cake.  Plus it rose up through the batter while baking.  I simply wanted more of the chocolate and raspberry.

Ruby Cake How-to 1
Clockwise from top left: the cake batter; piping in circles of batter; digging a trough and adding jam to it; topping the jam with chopped chocolate.
I LOVE this beater attachment.  If you have a stand mixer, get one of these beaters that scrapes the bowl as it mixes.  No need to stop the mixer and scrape the bowl periodically.

Ruby Cake How-to 2
Next, more circles of batter are piped on top, then smoothed. In the final step, a chopstick is inserted into the batter in swirling motions to distribute the chocolate and raspberry filling.
I have to say I think you can dispense with the piping bag and circles, and just scoop the batter in.  The extra steps -- scraping the batter into a bag, piping the batter, then washing the bag later -- seemed unnecessary.


Bundts also call to mind this baking pan I saw recently at the Museum of Science's exhibit on Pompeii.  This is what I would have used in Roman times!

Ruby Cake Baked

For me this cake was good but not amazing, though that could change by doubling up on the chocolate and raspberry next time.  But that's just my opinion; you might also want to ask the person involved in the cake's disappearing act.

This post was shared with:
Tea Party Tuesday
Crazy Sweet Tuesday
Sweet Treats Thursday
Sweets for a Saturday
Themed Baker's Sunday