Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coconut Cupcakes with Pineapple Flowers

Recently Mandi showed me a photo she found of pineapple slices dried in the oven to form flowers. I was inspired to try my hand at them. Of course, you can't have a dessert decoration with out a dessert to put it on... So I tried out a coconut cake recipe I've been fiddling with, with my favorite cream cheese frosting. Here's what happened...

Please, warm sunny days that require pina coladas, come soon!!

You have to remove all it's "eyes." Gross.

Next time, I need a slightly less ripened pineapple. This one was difficult to slice as thin as I needed.

I had a few good ones come out. A few were too thick and were a still a little too wet.

I swear, I tried to par down the recipe to make not as many.


So simple but such a big impact.

Sujoy and the cupcake modeling. 

 I am not sure why Sujoy looks shocked and Rajiv looks angry with Raymond.  I am glad they came over to taste and take some cupcakes off our hands. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday Weekend!

This past weekend was action-packed with birthday fun and scrumdidly-umptiousness. We kicked off Alyssanne's Thirtieth Birthday Celebration with an amazing dinner at The Elephant Walk in Cambridge. We caught the tail-end of restaurant week, and so all 6 of us ordered the 3 (or 4) course tasting menu. And because we are all food-sharers, everyone got to taste pretty much everything on the entire menu. If I absolutely had to choose a favorite right now, it would either be the mussels in wine sauce with jalepenos and pepers or the goat cheese coquette with pear, grapefruit and a balsamic reduction. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it. We give The Elephant Walk twelve thumbs up!

Happy Birthday Flowers!

...and Happy Spring Flowers!

After dinner, we walked down to Toad, a tiny bar across from Porter Station that has live music 7 days a week, cheap cocktails and a really fun atmosphere. Lucky for us, there was a really great bluegrass band playing on Friday.

Saturday, we went down to the Boston Athenaeum for an Edward Gorey Exhibit. What a strange, creepy place. It gave off a secret society-vibe. But the exhibit was incredible.

there's a chance I might never come out..

Afterward, we grabbed some greasy pizza for lunch, and a delicious and fairly traded coffee from Equal Exchange. I had a mocha au late and Sanne had a spicy hot chocolate. Mmm. Josh even made some art in my drink!

see the resemblance? 

Then it was on to the North End to figure out what was for dinner. There are some fantastic little shops down on the North End with really fresh ingredients. Last April, my mom and I went on a culinary tour of the nieghborhood and discovered some great places. Definitely one of my favorites is Salumeria. I get their monthly newsletter which tells about new recipes on the website, deals and specials, and tastings. After wandering around the store, drooling for a few minutes, we decided to do an Italian dinner, Italian-style. An herbed focaccia bread with oil & vinegar for dipping, an antipasto platter, and a simple spaghetti and tomato sauce.


fresh bread

By this time, with a dinner plan in mind, we were getting hungry. Last stop (but not least), Cardullo's to find the perfect bottle of wine to go with our dinner. Eileen recommended Tanuta Villa Rosa Chianti (more on the Wine Goddess later).

At home, Alyssanne started the desert while I started the sauce. On the Culinary Tour last year, I learned from Chef Raymond that simple is good when your making tomato sauce. Normally, I would use twice as many ingredients. But this simple sauce was very flavorful and satisfying.

In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute onions and garlic over medium-high heat for 4 minutes until the onion is translucent.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Stir.
Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and half the basil.
Saute over medium heat for 20-25 minutes.
Turn off heat, and add the remaining olive oil and basil.

For snacking purposes, we brought home an herbed Focaccia bread, some Pecorino, smoked prosciutto, and herbed Mediterranean olives.

my soup & sandwich plates are perfect for this!

from one of my favorite places...
The only thing missing from this night was some girlfriends! So we called up Elizabeth and Jill, and had us a girls night! What is it about Italian food that makes you instantly want to slow down, sip wine and laugh a lot? I don't think there is any other food that does that for me. It is the best way to end a Saturday, and I kind of want to do it every weekend. I think my brain is European.

Eileen's spot-on suggestion

this needs no caption
Please take the time at some point to click on the links above, especially if you are local. There's some good stuff there!

But wait-- there's more!

Sunday morning, Elizabeth and Sabrina joined us for a Big Breakfast of mimosas, sourdough french toast, Strawberry and Avocado Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette dressing, Jimmy Dean sausage, scrambled eggs and hash browns. Everything was really good... but does anyone have any tips for breakfast potatoes? I haven't quite mastered them.


Big Breakfast means using all 4 burners at once

Seriously, try this.


So, as you can see, we had a pretty great weekend. I can't wait for the next birthday!

What are some of your birthday traditions? Who wants to start an Italian night? Any hidden Boston treasures/secrets you want to share?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scotch and Chocolate

It's pretty much a guarantee that if we're friends, I will bake your favorite dessert for you on your birthday, if you're in decent proximity to me. Since it was my birthday on Monday, I got to bake for me! Almost everyone loves chocolate, except for the people who are allergic and the insane. Jk. <3 Anyway, one of the best cookies I have ever tasted comes from a little bakery where I used to live in Weaverville, NC called Well-Bred Bakery. They have many amazing cookies and desserts and other savory items but their chocolate orange cookie is by far my favorite. They also have cream puffs as big as your head. No really, bring four friends and you'll all still take some home for later. I would love to think that I could replicate their cookie recipe but it would probably take many attempts and I wouldn't be enjoying it in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, I was inspired when I thought of the richness of dark chocolate and sweet orange in torte form, with a little scotch thrown in for good measure. I mean, scotch and chocolate...what's not to love?

I looked up a basic recipe for a flour-less chocolate torte and went from there. Here is Emril's recipe for his chocolate torte that a started with:

1/2 lb butter
1 lb semi sweet chocolate coarsely chopped
1/4 c of amaretto (I omitted this)
8 large eggs
1/4 c of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 tsp of salt
confectioner sugar or cocoa powder for garnish
(I ended up making a ganache for the top instead.)

I added a 1/4 c of orange juice, a tablespoon of orange zest and a half cup of Jameson.

The ganache I attempted was simple:

4 ounces of heavy cream
7 ounces of semi sweet or dark chocolate coarsely chopped
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of corn syrup
1/2 tsp of vanilla

I also made a pistachio graham crust.

1 c of graham crumbs
1/4 c of melted butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c of chopped pistachios

If you are curious of the process and specific directions let me know and I'll post them too. Here are some photos for you to enjoy!

Ingredient assembly

Make shift double boiler

choppin' chocolate

pistachio-graham crust

before baking

you better believe there was bowl licking

too much left over = mini tortes!

So freakin' delicious. These we ate warm right out of the oven because we couldn't stand it.

Melting chocolate and cream.

like butta only better. 

I miss you florida citrus.