Sometimes, fun photo ops can be found right at home, without ever having to get in the car and drive anywhere. These are just some of the figs my mother picked from the now-prolific fig tree in her back yard.
Category Archives: Cooking
My sister is a gourmet cook. Sometimes, though, I think she goes overboard. Like when I was there in April 2012 to visit and help celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday at a themed party with 11 other people (not counting me, my sister and bro-in-law). My sister had already made dessert (crème brulee), the main course (a loooonnnnggggg sandwich with three different fillings), crispy baked buttered wontons with garlic, spicy cheese coins with pepper jellies, roasted garlic and cambozola on crispy baked pita chips, and lentil soup. She looked at all she’d cooked and then looked at me and said “Maybe I should make some fried ravioli too”. I told her she’d gone above and beyond already, but my sister NEVER listens to me.
She made the fried ravioli.
And I photographed the process, using my Canon 5D Mark III and 50mm f1.2 lens.
(Burnt Cream – refers to that crunchy brown candy top created from the caramelized brown sugar)
This is the dessert my sister made for 13 people at my brother-in-law’s birthday party in which I partook. Recipe from Chef Francisco Gutierrez of New York City’s Le Cirque 2000 via Martha Stewart (my sister adoresMartha Stewart and has all of her cookbooks).
· Always use fresh eggs
· It’s easier to separate the egg yolks from the whites if the eggs are chilled first
· For best flavor, use vanilla beans (NOT liquid vanilla flavoring)
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
¾ cup granulated sugar
7 large egg yolks
· Spread brown sugar in a large pan or baking sheet and let dry uncovered for about 3 hours. When sufficiently dried, the sugar will feel sandy. Pass the dried brown sugar through a sieve to remove any lumps. My sister then stores it in a glass jar.
· Heat oven to 300 degrees F
· In a small pot over medium heat, combine cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla bean and scraped seeds. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until bubbles start to form around the edges. Make sure the cream does not boil. Remove the pot and set aside.
· In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
Continue to whisk the yolks while slowly pouring cream mixture into yolks. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup to remove the vanilla bean pieces and any overcooked eggs.
· Place nine 5-ounce shallow ramekins on a baking pan with 1-inch-high sides. While the recipe instructs the pan to be placed in the oven and then the custard mix to be poured into the ramekins, my sister pours the strained custard mixture into the ramekins and then carefully places the entire pan into the oven. Make sure the ramekins are filled all the way to the top with custard, because shrinkage occurs during baking. Once the pan with the custard-filled ramekins are in the oven, pour enough hot (not boiling) water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekin.
· Bake about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and trembles slightly when shaken.
· Remove the ramekins from the water bath and place on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes. Then chill for 2 hours (they can chill up to 3 days) before serving. The custard will finish setting in the refrigerator.
· Now, you could actually serve the custard as-is. But, if you like that crunchy caramelized sugar coating, then:
· Just before serving, heat the broiler, or – as in my sister’s case – use a kitchen torch – to caramelize about 2 tablespoons of the dried brown sugar sprinkled over the top of each custard. To do it the broiler way, transfer the ramekins to a clean baking sheet and place the baking sheet about 4 inches from the broiler. Broil until the sugar is caramelized – about 40 seconds – then serve immediately.
Thanks to my sister, I now know what freshly-made crème brulee tastes like (and feels like in the mouth) and will use that as my standard for all other crème brulees which I order.
As promised in my previous post, here is the next recipe post with photos. My sister made this during my April 2012 visit. While I have tried for myself the recipes about which I previously blogged, I have not yet tried this one. However, since my own tries at her other recipes have been successes, I’m pretty sure this one will turn out well too when I finally decide to make this one on my own.
Above is the recipe, below are the photos. For the jelly, my sister bought a bunch of different pepper jellies produced by Micks. I had no idea they made so many!
I unfortunately did not get any shots of the cheese dough preparation. They were already mixed and rolled into logs and in the fridge before my arrival at my sister’s home.
My sister always goes above and beyond with the cooking. She’s a gourmet cook and awesome! I know I will always eat well when I visit.
Here is a very tasty, addictive little appetizer my sister made for my brother-in-law’s birthday party (of which I was a guest during my April 2012 vacation to Washington State).
I must tell you I don’t have photos for every single step of this appetizer construction – I either forgot (like with photos of the tops cut off the garlic heads), or my fingers were too messy to pick up the camera, or I was too busy eating the appetizer to think of taking a photo of it, messy fingers or no.
So, for this recipe, you need:
- A small cupcake baking pan (one of those pans that allow for 6 cupcakes)
- Several heads of garlic
Now, you need to roast said heads of garlic. My sister wanted to try a new method for doing this, rather than using the ceramic garlic roaster they have. I can tell you I have tried the crockpot method of roasting garlic, and I am personally underwhelmed, so I was interested to see how her method turned out. After tasting the results, she and I agreed: to get a true roast garlic flavor with some wonderful caramelization, you must roast it in the oven.
- Slice off the tops of each garlic head so that you can see the insides of the garlic cloves.
- Rub olive oil over each garlic head and also inside the cupcake pans.
- Wrap aluminum foil over the pan and set inside the oven set at 375 degrees. Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. You will want to periodically check to make sure the garlic is not only spreadably soft, but also nicely caramelized.
- Some of the cloves may stick to the aluminum foil – my sister tried spraying the foil with a non-stick spray, but that didn’t seem to work. So, we just ate those few roasted cloves that stuck to the foil
Roasted garlic. Done.
Now, for the pita chips.
- Purchase a bag of pita bread
- Either tear the pita bread into smaller pieces, or cut it into smaller pieces for a more orderly look to the edges of the chips.
- Slather melted butter (the real stuff) over each piece and then stick in the oven to bake at 375 degrees F for oh – maybe 10 minutes or so? It’s not an exact science so you will want to keep checking the chips to make sure they don’t burn. They should be nice and crispy.
Baked pita chips. Done.
- Purchase some cambozola cheese. I live in rural SE Texas (bleah) and when I made this appetizer for myself, I could not find that particular cheese even in the Super HEB some 22 miles away from my town. So, I purchased brie cheese and gorgonzola cheese and sliced a little of each.
Now, serve your guests (or yourself) the pita chips and slather (I mean, spread) a little of the cheese, then the roasted garlic atop your chip.
This is a super-easy one.
For my brother-in-law’s birthday party, my sister made this looonnnnggg sandwich comprised of three different fillings. This caprese (kuh pray say) filling served as the vegetarian offering.
The bread part of this looonnnnggg sandwich was comprised of 7 loaves of frozen bread dough, thawed and then rolled into long French baguette-sized loaves. The dough was allowed to rise for a little bit then baked in the oven until golden. I believe my sister followed the regular baking instructions on the frozen dough package for the oven temp and baking time.
Caprese is usually served as an appetizer or salad. It’s simply tomato slices layered on top of slices of fresh mozzarella with fresh basil leaves on top of all of that. A nice little splash of balsamic vinegar is added for good measure.
For the sandwich, my sister eschewed the balsamic vinegar and instead mixed Dijon mustard with mayonnaise. She did all of this by eye and taste, so I have no idea what the mix measurements were.
Prior to loading the looonnnnggg sandwich with its fillings, the middle portions of each of the loaves were hollowed out, thus keeping the sandwich from being too….”bread-y”…with not enough filling.
My sister has made these tasty little appetizers before, and we all just love them. They are super-easy and very versatile. They go well as a stand-alone appetizer, or with soups and salads.
One package wonton wrappers
One stick butter – melted
Grated parmesan cheese or Romano cheese or finely-minced garlic or garlic salt
- Separate and lay out the wonton wrappers on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (my sister did this) or foil (I did this)
- Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter over each wrapper
- Sprinkle the one of the above-mentioned toppings
- Bake at 375 until the wrappers look golden and crispy (about 7 minutes; they cook quickly you’ve really got to keep an eye on these to make sure they are nicely browned but not burnt)
My sister has made these before using parmesan, but during my April 2012 visit, she used garlic salt. Now, I love salty foods, but some of these were a little bit too salty – so if you use garlic salt, be judicious in how much you sprinkle.
Upon my return to Texas, I made these for my mother, aunt, and myself to accompany lunch. Instead of garlic salt, I used 1/2 pkg of grated Romano cheese (left over from my pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf recipe). I almost burned the first batch because I wasn’t keeping an eye on them and didn’t realize just how quickly they brown up. It would help if my oven had a little window like my sister’s ovens do (yes, she has two ovens as she does a lot of cooking).
WARNING: These little things are super-addictive
During my vacation, I spent several days with my sister and her family. My brother-in-law has a birthday 3 days after mine, and my sister always throws a huge themed party (this year, the theme was Flowers). I try to visit them around this time of year so I can enjoy her cooking and join in on the party, which is always a blast.
My sister is a gourmet cook. She’s awesome! I, on the other hand, do not cook at all unless it’s something to be thrown in the crockpot (the best invention since the microwave). So I enjoyed every single thing she baked/sauteed/fried/roasted/boiled.
My sister cooked allllll day long on the Friday before the party. She made it look so effortless, yet I knew it was time-consuming. I figured the least I could do (besides vacuuming for her) was take photos of each dish she made, step-by-step. I knew deep-down these photos would make for great blog posts, plus I’d get good practice with food photography.
So, this post, and several future posts, will deal with a particular dish my sister made for the party, complete with photographs and recipe.
As I’ve been craving pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf all week long since my return from vacation, I thought this would be a great starter recipe to post. I even made it in my own home today. Yes, I, who do not cook, made pancetta-wrapped turkey meatloaf, and it was a success!
The recipe is an original from Giada de Laurentiis. My sister loves her recipes and – when she had time before becoming an overworked medical transcriptionist – made a point of watching Giada’s show on The Cooking Channel.
For my brother-in-law’s birthday party, my sister made this long, long sandwich, part of which had the turkey meatloaf with arugula mayo in it.
Following are the photos, and then the recipe at the end.
The meatloaf I made earlier today turned out wonderfully, even though I had to substitute coppa for the pancetta since I could not find pancetta anywhere within a 25-mile radius of where I live. Jeesh. So, if you decide to make this dish and end up in a bind because you cannot find sliced pancetta nearby, then coppa will work just as well.