Monday, December 13, 2010


I was once told that there are only 10 original ideas in the world and everything else is a mimicked, slightly skewed version of an original.  As a person that thinks she alone has had more than 10 original ideas, I hate to admit that there is an inkling of truth in that statement.

BUT, I do think this concept does hold true for recipes.  My best creations have been copies or Chaos versions of something I have seen, tasted or read about.

Today's copy cat creation was inspired by an amazing Roasted Red Pepper Gouda Soup shared over event planning at my favorite 18th Street coffee shop, Tryst.  My version has a slightly spiced up flavor but the idea is the same... savory hot soup that with a rich finish.  I recommend the use of an emulsion blender for prime smoothness but a stand-up blender works fine.  

Roasted Red Pepper Gouda Soup

2 tablespoons butter
4 red bell peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
I container chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon red pepper2 cups shredded gouda cheese

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place the red bell pepper, onion and garlic in the saucepan and sauté for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
Pour in the chicken broth, stirring well, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the liquid to the saucepan over medium low heat. Stir in the heavy cream, the ground black pepper and cheese, and allow to heat through, about 5 to 10 minutes.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chaos, Cookies and Creativity...

When life dishes up chaos I often procrastinate by piling another dish with cookies... and other culinary items all while crafting... perched on the floor of Kasa K.  

Top ways to tell when my plate runneth over... 
1- You find me sitting on the floor, a lot.  Often quite.  Old school Indian Style.  There is something grounding about this position.

2- I start inviting you over for dinner and gifting you baked items.  Almost daily.   (Now I see why I was writing so much in the blog circa 3 years ago.)

3- My best ideas revolve around paper products, beads or books that I want to write.

What is it about chaos that brings creativity (and often in my case, chicken)?  I read once that artist need to be in a depressed emotional state to create their best work so does my best work come from high levels of anxiety and stress?  So far this week, I made two entrees, one soup and two types of cookies.  Oh yes, and I made a pair of earrings, holiday cards, visited a knitting shop and I am signed first pottery class. (And am currently typing while sitting on my floor).  

In efforts for my creative outburst to be more productive (than adding to my calorie count), here are the recipes from this week's sweet items of procrastination:

Caught between two deadlines Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate

Makes 12-18  cookies, depending on how much dough is consumed in the process
(On December 8, 2010 there were 11 cookies created)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup  walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.
Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.
Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Save the Work for Tomorrow Snickerdoodle Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. At this point, I chilled the dough for an hour (or you can overnight) before scooping it, because I otherwise found it too difficult to scoop into balls and roll but the original recipe doesn’t find this step necessary.

Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop* to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. In theory, they can be stored in an airtight container up to one week, but I say good luck wtih that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chaos, Coconut and Connotations

Coconut is my favorite cupcake flavor, my choice companion to curry and a phrase used often as a term of endearment-- ("You are a coconut" = you make me smile and I think you are slightly crazy in a me-kind-of-way).  Sometimes it can have a negative connotation-- ("She is a coconut"= She is a nut, a crazy person in a rotten-kind-of coconut way).  Most recently it has even been repurposed as my nickname by one certain gentleman in my life (I am hopeful his association refers to the first use of the word but with my sometimes challenging behavior, one can never tell).  

Today, coconut came in form a daydream after reading a food blog entry.  An entry that made me want to leave my desk and head straight to the kitchen.  An entry that made me wonder if my cooking skills were up for a challenge of a tart laced with my favorite ingredient.

Just in case my chaos keeps me away from this creation, I wanted to share as soon as possible.

Straight from one of my favorite DC Food Blogs,  

Coconut Dream Tart

written by Amanda on 12/06/2010

By Jennifer Segal Metrocurean contributor, Once Upon a Chef

This recipe came about when I decided to recreate one of my husband’s favorite desserts: the signature Coconut Cream Pie from  The Capital Grille (which if you haven’t tried, you are missing out on one of life’s greatest gastronomic pleasures).

The folks over at Capital Grille were nice enough to share a few secrets with me so I was able to come up with something very close to theirs: a coconut-scented cookie crust filled with a creamy coconut custard, all covered in a pillow of whipped cream and heaps of toasted coconut. It’s heaven!
Coconut Dream Tart
Inspired by the Coconut Cream Pie at The Capital Grille (crust adapted from Gourmet)
makes one 10-inch pie, serves 8-10
for crust
7½  oz shortbread cookies such as Walker's Pure Butter Shortbread, finely ground (if you don't have a baking scale, it's 11 Walker's rectangular'll need 2 boxes)
1¼ cups loosely packed sweetened flaked coconut
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted
for custard
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, packed
2 tablespoons corn starch, packed
pinch salt
1½ tablespoons Malibu Rum*
5 tablespoons cream of coconut (stir well before using)
1 cup coconut milk (stir well before using)
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
for whipped cream and topping
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Malibu Rum*
¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes**, toasted in a skillet until golden and cooled

*Malibu Rum is a rum made with coconut extract.

**Unsweetened coconut flakes can be hard to find. In the DC area, you can get them at MOMs Organic Market (look for the Let's Do...Organic brand). If you can't find them, feel free to substitute ½ cup sweetened flaked coconut (the stuff in the blue bag available everywhere).

to make the crust:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.

Pulse cookie crumbs, coconut, and melted butter in a food processor until coconut is finely ground. Using a ½ cup dry measuring cup, press crumbs firmly and evenly into bottom and up sides of 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Bake until golden, about 15-18 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack (you can speed this up in the fridge or freezer). If it shrinks or cracks a bit, simply press it back together and up the sides while it's still hot.
to make the filling:

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine Malibu rum, cream of coconut, coconut milk and whole milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Whisking constantly, slowly ladle about a cup of hot milk mixture into egg mixture; whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add remaining milk mixture to egg mixture in 3 or 4 additions; whisk well to combine. Return mixture to sauce pan. Over medium-high heat, cook, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Filling must boil for at least 30 seconds in order to fully thicken. Off heat, whisk in butter until fully incorporated.

Pour hot filling into cooled pie shell and smooth surface with spatula; press plastic wrap directly against surface of filling and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 10 hours.
for the whipped cream:

Up to 3 hours before serving, beat cream, sugar and Malibu Rum with electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 1½ - 2 minutes. Top tart with whipped cream and sprinkle with cooled toasted coconut.
to serve:

Carefully remove the rim from the pan by gently pressing upwards on the bottom while holding the rim in place. Cut into wedges, wiping your knife clean between slices, and serve cold.

Tart (without whipped cream topping) can be chilled up to 10 hours (the crust will begin to soften if chilled too much longer). Tart can be topped with whipped cream 3 hours ahead and chilled.