April 30, 2012

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Stop what you are doing.  Go to the store and buy bananas and let them go super ripe.  Okay, all set?  Let's continue.

These. are. the. best. muffins. EVER.  Overripe bananas, cocoa powder, and greek yogurt come together in this muffin to create the moistest, fluffiest muffin you've ever tasted.  The scent of banana combined with the richness of chocolate is intoxicating.  I was nonchalantly walking from my kitchen back to Mad Men after topping a still warm muffin with a little yogurt and had to stop in my tracks.  That good.

I used a recipe from Tyler Florence, my first chef crush, and changed 1/4 cup of flour with natural cocoa powder.  In order to account for the cocoa powder, I had to add more moisture by way of greek yogurt and baking powder since baking soda does not leaven cocoa powder.  A topper of cinnamon and honey flavored greek yogurt lends this chocolate confection to breakfast.

I think I have about 5 posts on the back burner (har har) but this jumped to the front of the line.  So go, go make these and enjoy them as much as I did!

April 29, 2012

Pork Roast Pibil: 50 Women Game Changers in Food - #45 Diana Kennedy

Okay, so I've been a bit MIA but all with good reasons.  On May 7, I will officially be done with classes in grad school.  I'm in the throws of finals while finishing up grading for my class I teach and keeping up with my research.  On top of this all?  Signing my first mortgage today!  Oh hayyy grown up . . . sort of.  Cute condo with a gas stove (yesss) in a lovely kitchen, two steps from a metro stop, and a great outdoor space that my kickball team is already reserving for barbecues.  So forgive me in the months leading up to the move for not being too active in the kitchen, I'm going to be on a rampage to cook everything I own before leaving and it probably won't be too blog worthy.

This pork, however, was delicious and definitely blog worthy.  I didn't know too much about Diana Kennedy before this post, or for that matter anything authentically mexican cuisine wise.  I love eating non-tex-mex mexican food in California (ohhh ceviche in Berkeley!), but that was the extent of my knowledge.  Diana Kennedy is referred to the Julia Child of mexican cuisine, amassing a huge wealth of mexican cooking techniques and history over 45 years.  I do not have access to a lot of her typical ingredients, so I decided to take her banana leaf wrapped pork pibil and lightened it up and make it a little more Sarah-friendly.

First, I used a pork roast I found for dirt cheap, both for cost and because I wouldn't know what to do with a 3 pound+ picnic.  I grabbed a can of chipotle in adobo because even after searching in many a spots across DC I couldn't find annatto or dried chiles (any help would be appreciated).  I didn't have banana leaves so I mashed up a little bit of banana for the marinade and wrapped the pork in foil.  I made a quick avocado, cucumber, and mango salsa to cool down the spicy roasted pork for tacos.  Everything can be found in your local grocery store (with a baller ethnic aisle), so get to it!

And here are all of the lovely ladies who also interpreted a Diana Kennedy recipe for the week:
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary - One Perfect Bite, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable Feasts
Linda A - There and Back Again, Nancy - Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen, Annie - Most Lovely Things, Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce - More Time at the Table
Kathy - Bakeaway with Me, Martha - Simple Nourished Living, Jill - Saucy Cooks 
Sarah - Everything in the Kitchen Sink

April 25, 2012

Mussels in Thai Green Curry Broth

In addition to a bakery and a butcher directly behind my family house, we are within 15 minutes to ridiculously good seafood at this little family owned fish shop.  Giant slabs of tuna, beautiful orange and white sea scallops, jumbo lump crab, and a great supply of mussels that are cheap and always open (that's what he said?).  My first experience with mussels at 9 years old, when I convinced my aunts I could handle a whole pot of mussels by myself.  The briny bites of goodness were infused with the garlicky white wine broth, too good not to finish!  The Belgians take their mussels seriously and now so does our family!

When we found out we could get great mussels at the little fish shop, it was game on.  At under 5 bucks a pound, we would grab a bottle of white wine and a loaf of crusty bread and steam away.  Recently, I've seen places like Mussel Bar in Bethesda get creative with their broths.  I took license with their thai green curry version and created a spicy coconut and lemongrass based broth to steam open the mussels.  I cleaned the mussels by getting rid of any open (bad) mussels, removing the beards, and soaking the mussels in water with a little flour added to help get rid of any grit.

I built the broth by first sauteing shallots, ginger, and garlic.  Next, I added green curry paste from the can.  Sarah?  Using a prepared product?  As many times as I've tried to replicate the flavor of curry paste, I haven't come close yet.  Best leave that to the experts and focus on the mussels instead.  I then added the zest and juice of 2 limes, a can of coconut milk, the same amount of stock, a bruised and knotted lemongrass stalk (ends trimmed, outer leaves removed), a smidge of honey, and a few whole stalks of thai basil.  When all of the flavors had come together with a balance of spicy, sweet, sour, and salt from simmering  over medium high heat for 5 minutes of so, I added the cleaned mussels, chopped thai basil and cilantro, covered and steamed until all of the shells had opened.

Serve with hunks of good dipping bread to get all of the yummy broth.  We forgot bread so we toasted some english muffins and when we ran out of bread my mom and I just attacked the broth with spoons.  No shame, it's THAT GOOD!

April 22, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting and Balsamic Syrup

For some unexplainable reason I've had the combo of fresh strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and goat cheese stuck in my head for the past few weeks.  I see the bounty of (on sale!) strawberries at the grocery store and I just want to make a "Sarah salad": spinach leaves with goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette with fruit thrown in for good measure.  And balsamic macerated strawberries over tangy goat cheese.  I think it's just a beautiful combination that everyone needs to experiment with, including myself.  And my latest experiment?  Strawberry cupcakes with goat cheese frosting and a balsamic syrup to drizzle over the top.

Still here?  Okay good, I thought I might scare some of you away.  I am a big believer in mixing savory with sweet for desserts.  It adds an unexpected twist and makes me feel like I'm on Chopped or Iron Chef.  I'll admit, as a resident of a city who loves cupcakes I rarely make my own.  I've got Georgetown Cupcake (original store patron, I used to get free cupcakes and champagne on Thursdays from the boutique next store!), newly added Sprinkles, Hello Cupcake, a food truck devoted to cupcakes, my favorite Baked and Wired, and so many more!  But I couldn't get this idea out of my head, cupcake shops be damned!  I needed to make it!

And you know what?  Worth it.  I should really listen to myself more often!  In the spirit of DC cupcakes, I added lemon zest to a Sprinkles recipe.  The egg white heavy batter ends up giving you an impossibly light yet moist cupcake that I don't think I've ever really noticed at the store (bad food kid!).  I topped with my goat cheese frosting and a strawberry balsamic syrup.  The syrup is much easier to manage if you let it simmer instead of bubbling at the beginning of cooking; boiling balsamic is like culinary napalm to the nostrils but a slow simmer controls the release of the smell and protects your stove from sticky splatter.

The binding factor in all of the parts?  Food processor buzzed up strawberry puree!  Some in the cake, some in the frosting for color and flavor, and to temper the acidity in the balsamic syrup.  The finished product is a gorgeous cupcake that would rival any of the cupcake bakeries, even in my town!

April 20, 2012

BACON BROWNIES! 50 Women Game Changers in Food: #44 Nigella Lawson

When I think of Nigella Lawson, I think satisfyingly easy comfort food and chocolate.  She is number 44 on the 50 Women Game Changers, but she is personally one of my top lady cooks.  I used to watch her show on the Style Network and loved how she ended every show with her dipping into leftovers at midnight in her pjs.  Adorable!  As she is known as "The Queen of Food Porn," I thought I would honor her by doing my most indulgent recipe ever - BACON BROWNIES.

Yes, bacon brownies.  Rich, chewy, chocolate brownies with maple glazed bacon flecks adding a salty sweet surprise.  I changed her recipe up a little by baking my bacon in the oven and (of course) adding more bacon.  I brought them to kickball last night and they were a hit!  But I did learn a lesson about making brownies on and around 4/20...

Just as a note, if you do not have a kitchen scale check her website for conversions.  I really recommend getting a kitchen scale, if only so you can enjoy more of Nigella's recipes!

Speaking of, here are all of the other ladies participating today:
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary - One Perfect Bite, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable Feasts
Linda A - There and Back Again, Nancy - Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen, Annie - Most Lovely Things, Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce - More Time at the Table
Kathy - Bakeaway with Me, Martha - Simple Nourished Living, Jill - Saucy Cooks 
Sarah - Everything in the Kitchen Sink

April 18, 2012

Honey Oat Beer Bread

Living in an out-of-the-way neighborhood to friends and not having a car has curtailed a lot of money spent on sodas and alcohol.  I'm not entertaining that much and if I want it, I have to carry it blocks or it has to fit in my bike basket (as adorable as it sounds).  So the other day when I had a craving for beer, I had to have a recipe to justify my purchase or else the six pack would sit in the fridge for weeks and take up valuable food space.  Luckily, I love beer bread and it goes perfectly with the rest of the six pack!

Most beer breads have a base of 3 cups of flour, 1 bottle (12 oz) of beer, baking powder, and flavorings.  I used a lager, replaced some of the flour with quick cooking oats, and sweetened the dough with a little honey.  In order to get a crispy crust, the loaf pan is lined with melted butter and then the loaf is brushed with a little more melted butter.

The oats and honey pair so well with the beer and the dough comes together in minutes, no yeast required!  Perfect little quick bread and a great excuse for me to actually buy beer . . . 

April 16, 2012

Sweet Corn, Bacon, and Leek Lasagna

This recipe has been taunting me, begging me to make it.  When I went to the Giada de Laurentiis event a few weeks ago, I fell in love with the Sweet Corn and Basil Lasagna at first glance.  Then Giada told the story of how she served the dish to Prince William and the Duchess last summer, I knew I had to try it!

Giada focuses on the combo of sharp provolone, sweet corn, and lots of basil.  But we all know I can't leave well enough alone.  Pinch of chipotle chili powder, bacon (!!!), and sauteed leeks all add punch to this satisfyingly comforting dish fit for royalty!

April 14, 2012


Gravlax has been on my culinary to-do list for awhile.  It is a cold-cured salmon with a mixture of salt, sugar, spices, and fresh dill.  I love smoked and cured salmon but I've always been a little wary of doing it myself.  One for the raw to cooked without heat and two for the amount of fridge space you need for a project like that.  But I saw it done on Love and Olive Oil and then saw salmon on sale while I had the apartment and fridge to myself for the weekend.  I followed the signs, put on my big girl pants, and got to curing!

This was simple to set up.  I used my coffee grinder to buzz up some carraway, fennel seeds, and white, green, and pink peppercorns and combined it with sugar and salt.  I caked it on the salmon then juiced half a lemon over each filet to help the curing mix stick.  I sandwiched fresh dill between my two 0.7 pound filets and wrapped up the salmon in a few layers of saran wrap.  They sit in there for 48-72 hours, flipping every 12 hours.  Pro tip - use a larger than you think container for holding the salmon to catch any juices that seep out!

When it was cured, I washed off the curing mixture and sliced it thinly.  I schmeared a little cream cheese on toasted bread, topped with the gravlax, and added the typical bagel and lox accompaniments (lemon, capers, thinly sliced red onions, horseradish, etc).  For about a half hour of actual work, you get a great home cured gravlax perfect for breakfast!

April 13, 2012

50 Women Game Changers in Food: #43 April Bloomfield - Roasted Red Onions with Green Pea Pesto

April Bloomfield is #43 on the list of 50 Women Game Changers in food and in my opinion she is a lady chef badass.  Her cookbook A Girl and Her Pig features April with a pig slung over her shoulder on the cover.  AND She believes in the snout to tail philosophy, only for the brave.  While I'm not that adventurous (yet, hopefully), I really admire the respect she has for great ingredients prepared simply.  I found one of her recipes for roasted red onions with sage pesto perfect for Thanksgiving.  Intrigued since caramelized onions are my favorite food, I decided to adjust the recipe for spring based on her pea and ham soup with mint.

Thus, roasted red onions with green pea pesto was born.  I combined slivered almonds, mint, basil, and thawed frozen peas with a little bit of chili powder and oil from sundried tomatoes for depth of flavor.  It was bright and a little sweet, perfectly paired with slow roasted onions and slices of sundried tomatoes on top.  Colorful and flavorful, a lovely homage to another lady game changer.

Here are the other wonderful lady bloggers following the 50 Women Game Changers:
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan - The Spice GardenHeather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita - Beetles Kitchen EscapadesMary - One Perfect Bite, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable FeastsLinda A - There and Back Again, Nancy - Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating HabitsVeronica - My Catholic Kitchen, Annie - Most Lovely Things, Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce - More Time at the TableKathy - Bakeaway with Me, Martha - Simple Nourished Living, Jill - Saucy Cooks, Sarah Everything in the Kitchen Sink

April 09, 2012

Goat Cheese Cheesecakes with Grapefruit Curd Topping

When I set out to make grapefruit curd, I really wanted it to be pink.  Not vibrantly electric pink, just a tinge.  So I was super disappointed when it turned out the color of a lemon curd, just with a slightly bitter bite at the end.  Delectable, but not pink.  To make up for my yellow disappointment I decided to pair the curd with a cheesecake.  But not just any cheesecake, goat cheese cheesecake to complement the grapefruit bitterness.  And it was an Easter miracle because the cheesecakes topped with the curd looked like a fried egg!

I used Ina's curd method: pulse the sugar with the zest in a food processor, creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs and juice, and heating for 10 minutes to thicken, and running through a sieve for a creamy curd.  Easy 20 minute process with a few hours of setting up in the fridge and no slow butter addition.  You can do the double boiler (pot with boiling water and the curd in a bowl on top) but I just cook it on very low heat with my gas stove because I feel like I can control the heat.  I've never had any scrambled eggs come out in the sieve this way, just an embarrassing egg shell piece (oops).

For the cheesecake, I wanted to try something different.  On a whim, I googled goat cheese cheesecake and came upon Anne Burrell's recipe.  Intrigued, I made a half batch to see the effect of goat cheese and sour cream.  As a person who has long used mayo in her cheesecakes (Baby Nutella Cheesecakes), I don't know why I was nervous!  But the end product was SO GOOD, tangy from the goat cheese, fluffy, and only a little sweet, my favorite kind of dessert.

Be sure to bring the ingredients to room temperature before beginning to ensure the fluffy texture.  Made in my recently replaced cupcake pans, it makes about 16 cupcake sized cheesecakes perfect for spring and summer parties!

April 08, 2012

Smoky Tomato and Eggplant Pasta

Recently, I met Giada de Laurentiis at a book signing for her new book Weeknights with Giada.  She did a Q&A portion before where she talked about her boobs (reluctantly), her philosophy on feeding your kids exactly what you're eating, and how her job is to take what she has learned as a chef and teach the home cook little tips and tricks that we wouldn't have thought of ourselves.  And I love her for that!  The recipe that really drove that point home was her Orzo with Smoky Tomato Vinaigrette, where she added smoky flavor by pan-charring the skins of cherry tomatoes in a dry pan.  Genius!  And something I never would have thought of!

What I did think of was taking the idea of pan-charring the cherry tomatoes and making a hearty vegetarian pasta dish with eggplant and mushrooms to complement the body of the smoky tomatoes.  Lemon adds tang and smoked paprika adds another depth of smoke.  Paired with whole wheat pasta and a spicy shiraz, it's a great weeknight pick-me-up meal!

April 05, 2012

Meyer Lemon and Basil Pudding Cakes

I am a proud DC biker.  I know everyone probably hates me because of my two wheels, but I love my morning commute slash exercise complete with the bike version of car singing.  In that I pop in my headphones and belt it out because I don't really care who hears me.  I ran into a giant obstacle to my commute when my trusty U-lock broke.  I tried to use a cheap-o one and it literally broke 24 hours later.  So, I put my pride in my adorable bike basket and rode down to Georgetown to get a new lock, mainly because I love sifting through the Dean and Deluca down the street.  On this trip, I grabbed a few meyer lemons on the cheap when I was waiting to check out.

Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and an orange, smaller and sweeter than a typical lemon.  I have always heard great things but had never tried the baby lemons.  Excited about my purchase, I took to pinterest for a way to use this incredible ingredient.  I ended up finding a recipe from Williams Sonoma for lemon pudding cakes.  It looked like a lot of sugar was added to balance the lemon, so I toned down the sugar content and created a basil simple syrup to add to the egg whites instead of straight sugar.

It was a surprising texture, with a fluffy top from the whipped egg whites and a thick almost curd like pudding at the base.  Sweet lemon flavor and anise flavor from the basil, definitely recommend you try this.  Makes me want to make curd, stay tuned!

April 03, 2012

Toasty Burgers

Sarah is a common name.  Tostanoski is not.  I love my last name, it means I always get to talk about pierogis when people try to pronounce and it lends itself to some great nicknames.  From Big Toaster to just a bunch of i's added to the back by my high school swim coach, the one that has stuck is Toasty.  So, my burgers will hence forth be called Toasty Burgers!  (They sound like super hero burgers, love it)

Alton Brown is my burger hero, but I feel like I'm not allowed to say that because it was on his man episode.  He made really simple burgers on a flat top, smeared toasted buns with a little mayo, and topped with slow carmelized onions.  DROOL!  I first recreated his delicious burger, topped with my homemade mayonnaise.

But I can't do anything without making it a project.  So I made a tangy barbecue sauce to baste the burgers, added melty baby swiss cheese, and topped with pea shoots, which can be found on the cheap at trader joes as a great alternative to lettuce on a burger.  Am I the only person who hates lettuce on a burger?  There is always too much, slopply placed, and doesn't stay crunchy, all of these problems solved by crunchy pea shoots.

So this was my attempt to tackle the burger, and I think I definitely nailed it!

April 02, 2012

Homemade Mayonnaise

I feel like normal people don't go to "hey, I should make mayo" when they have leftover egg yolks.  But after the meringue cookie experiments I had some leftover and mayo was on my culinary to-do list.  I pulled out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to blending!

I'm in the camp of if it can be done with a food processor, I'm going to use it.  In this instance, I really wish I had a stand mixer.  It would have made buzzing up the yolks and drizzling the olive oil easier.  But no matter, still got a great product.

The whole thing came together in a matter of minute.  First blitzing the egg yolks, adding the flavorings, then adding the oil slowly until a thick mayo comes together.  It's a great blank canvas for any mayo, which I'm still trying to figure out since one person cannot reasonably go through one 3 cups of mayo in a week... suggestions welcome!

April 01, 2012

Mame Gohan (Rice Cooked with Edamame): 50 Women Game Changers in Food - Elizabeth Andoh

Do any of you have the Gourmet live app?  It's a free smart phone app that sends you a new "issue" from the people of Gourmet every Wednesday filled with recipes, interesting articles, and new techniques.  They released a list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food, found here, and a group of lady food bloggers have been working through the list.  This week is #41 Elizabeth Andoh, an authority in Japanese cuisines with books on vegetarian Japanese (Kansha, meaning appreciation) and home cooking (Washoku).  I chose a recipe from one of her Washoku workshops, the Mame Gohan (Rice cooked with Edamame).

In this dish, a flavor broth is used to cook both the edamame as well as rinsed and drained rice.  I had made a stock the previous week (Breaking Down a Chicken) with lemongrass and ginger and used this instead of preparing a dashi.  Dashi is a stock containing kombu (edible kelp) and shavings of preserved bonito, which forms the base of miso soup but is clearly not a option for most cooks.

The most important thing in this dish is to rinse and dry the rice.  The drained rice will be easy to break in your hands.  The rice will be better able to suck up all the flavor of the broth, imparting the savory flavor of the edamame and the stock. Simple way to punch up the flavor of a side dish staple!

To check out the other ladies take on Elizabeth Andoh's recipes head here:
Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan - The Spice GardenHeather - girlichef, Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita - Beetles Kitchen EscapadesMary - One Perfect Bite, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable FeastsLinda A - There and Back Again, Nancy - Picadillo, Mireya - My Healthy Eating HabitsVeronica - My Catholic Kitchen, Annie - Most Lovely Things, Jeanette - Healthy Living
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce - More Time at the TableKathy - Bakeaway with Me, Martha - Simple Nourished Living, Jill - Saucy Cooks, Sarah Everything in the Kitchen Sink

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