Dec 26, 2009

DFO: Martha's Shrimp

By now we’ve all had our fill of the traditional holiday fare, and it’s too cold to venture out for takeout. I saw this recipe in the new issue of Martha Stewart and thought it looked like an easy, fast way to make to make an Indian-inspired dish at home - the perfect antidote for post-holiday taste bud burnout. The original recipe makes enough for four, so I’ve adjusted it a bit to create a great DFO.

Dinner For One: Shrimp Tikka Masala w/ Toasted-Coconut Rice
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, January 2010

This may not be the prettiest dinner I’ve ever pointed a camera at, but it’s really delicious. Full flavored with ginger, garlic and a little spice, it’s definitely beer food - perfect with a lager like Kingfisher.

What you need
for the rice:
1 TB olive oil
.5 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup basmati or other long grain rice
2 cups water
pinch salt
1 scallion, finely sliced

for the shrimp:
2 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 TB grated, peeled fresh ginger
.5 TB minced garlic
2 tea tikka masala spice blend*
pinch of ground red pepper
.5 cup water
10-12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 TB plain yogurt or sour cream

How you make it:
To make sure everything is ready to eat at the same time, start the rice about ten minutes before the shrimp. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add coconut and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Removed two tablespoons of the toasted coconut and set it aside. Add rice, water and salt to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

In another small saucepan, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and spices. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and water, cook until shrimp is pink and cooked through. You’ll need to stir it while the shrimp cook to ensure the spice/onion mixture gets broken up and distributed equally.

Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt or sour cream and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve the shrimp over rice and top with scallions and the reserved toasted coconut.

*I happen to have some on hand – It’s available at international markets. If you can’t find it, simply stick to Martha’s original ingredients: mix two teaspoons of tomato paste with two teaspoons of garam masala, a more readily-available spice blend.

Dec 18, 2009

DIY: Holiday Mailing

Who says Single Gals can’t send out holiday cards? I know they’re usually plastered with precious photos of your pals’ kids or pets or kids with pets… but why not break the mold a bit and send out a holiday greeting of your own this year? You’re going to have to hurry though – it’s getting late! 

Image: Brown Parcel Press

I love this idea from the printing geniuses at Brown Parcel Press – a recipe postcard! Now that you’ve been cooking and entertaining all year as the fabulous Single Gal you are – drop a little culinary wisdom on your loved ones by sharing one of your favorite recipes.

Here are a few of my favorites you can crib:

Herb Crackers

Homemade Oreos

The best mac n’ cheese on the planet. For real.

Spicy Mexican Brownies

If you’re not going to buy pre-made cards from these guys and feel like making your own - then what to put on the front of your postcard?? How about a stunning image of you, decked out and looking fabulous – ideally with your head thrown back in peals of laughter and a glass of champagne in your hand. No such photo exists? How about a snapshot where you love how you look, or a picture you’ve taken that you think is cool, or use the camera in your computer and some of the funky effects to make yourself into a Warhol-esque portrait, or simply typeset a favorite greeting or quote in a fun font. Hell, put a picture of your cat on it for all I care – it’s your card!

Dec 17, 2009

DIY: Winter Wonderland

Image courtesy of Canadian House & Home

Loved this wintery white mix and it’s easy and inexpensive to duplicate:

Grab some branches from your yard (or a park!) and bundle them in a clear vase.
Hang small silver ornaments (try your local hardware store or, of course, Target) from the branches and fill a few small jars with the extras.
Drape the mantle (or table, or window, or anyplace else) with strands of white pom pom garland (a craft store like Michael’s) and tack a few (clean!) white socks up for fun.
Finish your display off with some small figurines or toys (again – the craft store).

Voila! A little winter wonderland of your very own…

Dec 13, 2009

yes, yes, yes!

Check me out:

These were a gift for a friend who loves the macaron like I do - pink lemonade + cocoa with bittersweet espresso ganache. I'll admit, there's a bit of a learning curve... but once you have the technique figured out these are really pretty easy! Drop me a note if you have any questions or want to learn how... as I told my gal pal: As long as you aren't afraid to waste a few eggs you can do anything!

Dec 8, 2009

Sweet Victory

I am magnificent! I am invincible! I am… exhausted.

I read the article about French Almond Macarons in this month’s Food & Wine magazine and thought to myself, “if that fashion designer & his supermodel friends can do it, then surely I can too!”. What I neglected to take note of was the master French pastry chef standing next to those bozos in the pictures. That was my first mistake.

I almost let the macarons beat me. It was a close battle, but after four rounds I emerged from the kitchen victorious. Just barely, but hey - a win is a win.

That’s right, it took me four tries to get these macarons to turn out right. Well, to turn out edible if we’re really being honest… so for those of you keeping score, that means I blew through a dozen eggs to end up with about a dozen cookies. It was a long day.

At last!

After my first three attempts were abysmal failures it occurred to me that maybe I had a bum recipe (particularly since it was becoming painfully obvious I’m no master pastry chef) so I switched over to this recipe by Martha Stewart and immediately turned my fortune around. It’ll still take some practice to get the meringues looking perfect - but the taste & texture are divine… maybe I’ll tackle piping skills next weekend.

I ended up with bright pink meringue cookies and I tried out two filling flavors – seedless raspberry jam & lemon curd. The lemon was so tasty – I’m calling them Pink Lemonade Macarons!

How to: Pink Lemonade Macarons

What you need:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) sliced almonds, finely ground, or almond flour
All-purpose flour, for dipping
3 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4-5 drops red food coloring
Lemon curd for filling

How you make them:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sift confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in almonds; set aside. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats, and mark circles using a 1 1/2-inch cutter dipped in flour.

Put egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until foamy, then beat in salt. Beat in granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, until medium-soft peaks form. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Using a rubber spatula, fold half the almond mixture into the egg white mixture until just incorporated. Fold in vanilla, food coloring and remaining almond mixture until just incorporated. Firmly tap bottom of bowl on counter to eliminate air pockets.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (I used a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag & snipped a corner off). Pipe mixture into marked circles on prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until macaroons are slightly firm and can be gently lifted off parchment (bottoms will be dry), 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer macaroons on parchment to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Spread 2 teaspoons filling on flat sides of half the macaroons, then sandwich with remaining halves, keeping flat sides together. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes, before serving. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2-3 days or in the freezer for a week or more.

Chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour.
Coconut: Substitute 2 tablespoons desiccated unsweetened coconut for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon rum; sprinkle with additional coconut before baking.
Peanut: Substitute an equal amount finely ground unsalted peanuts (peanut flour) for the almond flour.
Pistachio: Substitute 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios (pistachio flour) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour, and add 2 to 3 drops green food coloring.
Raspberry: Add 1 tablespoon fresh raspberry puree, strained, plus 3 to 4 drops dusty- rose gel-paste food coloring.
Vanilla Bean: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use.

How the pros do it...

Looking to really knock one out of the park? Make your own lemon curd! I made the Barefoot Contessa recipe below this weekend and it was easy, tart & tasty...

Ina Garten's Lemon Curd
Zest from 3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. Alternately, use a rasp to zest the lemons and mix the fine zest with the sugar by hand.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool.

Dec 6, 2009

Chalk it up to cuteness...

Love this mini chalkboard from World Market... use it as a wine bottle tag on a hostess gift or label the options on a cheese plate or buffet - so cute. 

Dec 4, 2009

DFO: Pasotto

Yeah, I know the name is stupid... stay with me, ok?

I really like Mark Bittman. I like what's he's done for food & cooking and while his newest ultra-health kick (and book) doesn't really speak to me, I'm a fan of his New York Times blog and that's where I came across this sorta recipe-slash-cooking method.

Dinner For One: Pasotto

Ok, so Bittman didn't come up with the silly name - that's all me. He calls it "Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms, Risotto Style"... but that was a real mouthful & I left out the chicken so I really wanted to highlight the technique, not the ingredient list... you get the idea. Though the truth is, it doesn't matter what you call it - this stuff is pretty delish.

What you need:
1/2 lb. dried pasta, any short shape (I used Campenelle - short, wide noodles with frilly edges)
28oz. chicken or vegetable broth (you won't use all of it)
4-5 small portobello mushrooms, chopped (or any kind you like)
large shallot, minced
large garlic clove, minced
olive oil
parmesan cheese & fresh herbs (optional)

How you make it:
Bittman has posted a short video which I highly recommend watching, but here's the synopsis... you're using the basic risotto method. Heat a swirl of olive oil & a pat of butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add shallot & garlic and cook until soft & translucent. Add mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Add dried pasta & stir to coat in the oil/butter mixture. Add broth until the pasta is barely covered, cook over medium-low heat adding more broth as it gets absorbed into the noodles. When the pasta is cooked through and the remaining broth has reduced down to a thick sauce - it's ready. Add salt, pepper, cheese & herbs to taste.

Dec 2, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

Any survivors out there?

I know, it's been awhile... can we blame it on Thanksgiving? oh, and let's blame the nasty head cold my baby brother gave me too - yeah, that works.

OK, so maybe you've heard that it's December? I thought so. Seems like it came on hard this year - my guess is that it's been a rough 2009 and everyone could really use a holiday. I know I could.

Here's my plan of attack...

First, I'm going to transform my huge framed chalkboard into a countdown calendar this month. Kinda like this:

Image courtesy of Living etc. Magazine

I'm going to tape up party invites, make note of dinner plans & plot out shopping trips. It feels a little soon to decorate the house for my taste, so instead I'll hit the grocery store for some of these:

A big bowl of clementines is a bright and pretty centerpiece - and I'll grab one every time I walk by so I should get enough vitamin C to fend off any more colds! I'm also going to stock up on real apple cider and cinnamon sticks so I can serve warm spiced cider to any and everyone who comes over this month:

Last but not least, I'm going to find some old fashioned ribbon candy like this:
Image courtesy of Hammonds Candies

I'll fill my candy jar with these colorful treats and maybe tie them to the outside of presents with beautiful ribbon when I start wrapping! Get some in every color of the rainbow here.

How are you welcoming the holiday season?