Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spiced Carrot Cake

I adore carrot cake. There is something unabashedly irreverent about the legitmacy of a vegetable placed in a indulgent spiced cake deluged in whiped creamcheese frosting. It is a perfect contradiction in terms. This is actually a very simple and fast carrot cake. I do not mess about with raisins or pecans, but if you wish you can add a cup of both or none. Since I bake for my office, I usually don't include nuts for fear of allergies. But I believe, in the kitchen especially, you should cook to please those you love and yourself. And by all means, please convince yourself that carrot cake is actually good for you.


Carrot Cake

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground black pepper (I love this addition)
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
good scraping of nutmeg
½ teaspoon free-flowing table salt
6 carrots, peeled
1 ½ cups sugar-bowl sugar
½ cup brown sugar packed
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups canola oil (nearly any oil will do, except olive)
Cream Cheese Frosting
Vanilla bean seeds, scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1 package of cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened,
1 tablespoon sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
  2. In a bowl stir together all the dry ingredients including the spices. Whisk together rather than sift, it is much faster.
  3. In a food prep shred the carrots. Set aside the gorgeous orange chaos of carrots.
  4. In the processor whip together the sugars and eggs until creamy and bothered. Drizzle in the oil through while the prep is running through the tube.
  5. Stir together all of the ingredients, food preped egg mixture, the dry goods, and the carrot shreds.
  6. Pour into prepared muffin cups and bake for about 22 mins.
  7. In the mean time, whip together using your food prep or standing mixer all of the ingredients for the cream cheese frosting.
  8. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack.
  9. When cooled decorate to please. I just adore those cute miniature fondant carrots. It is as if a small cartoon bunny will jump up to steal them. There is never too much kitch in the kitchen.

Here is to hoping for an early spring.

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking.

Stuffed Peppers

Anything stuffed in Arabic is called mashi, and Egyptians, they will stuff anything, grape leaves, tomatoes, zucchinis, they'll stuff you if you stand still long enough. But, I digress. My favorite mashi is stuffed peppers. For the most part it is usually vegetable stuffed with a rice, meat, tomato sauce mixture. For this rendition, I made a vegetarian, Greek stuffing with Israeli cous cous, chick peas, olives, feta, and fresh herbs.
I took my inspiration for the Mediterranean.
2 cups Israeli cous cous
1 cup chicken stock
3 Tablespoon of chopped Kalamata olives
4 oz of chopped feta
2 Tablespoons of fresh parsely
2 Tablespoons of fresh basil
1 teaspoon of fresh mint
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of Pimenton (smoked paprika)
a pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 can chick peas, drained
4 cored red peppers
Preheat your oven to 400 F.
1. Cook the cous cous by heating the chicken stock in the microwave to a near boil. Out of the microwave add the cous cous, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for five minutes.
2. Stir together the olives, feta, and fresh herbs.
3. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add all of the dried herbs and the garlic, stir until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and just allow the chickpeas to sautee and really soak up the delicious flavors of the herbs and garlic.
4. Mix all the ingredients together, cooked cous cous, herb/feta mixture, fragrant chickpeas.
5. Fill the peppers with the stuffing. Place in a shallow dish and cook for 20 minutes at 400 F.
6. Garnish with fruity extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some more fresh herbs.
Much love, many blessings, and happy stuffing!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Poulet Basque

Literally, Poulet Basque translates to Basque Chicken, but more figuratively it translates to succulent buttery chicken, golden pepper ragout, and heavenly spiced rice. My mother bought me my latest recipe book, "1001 foods to die for" and while the inspiration came from this lovely volume. The recipe is inherently an Egyptian and Spanish fusion, a science experiment gone beautifully and deliciously wrong.

For the Chicken

6 Skin-on boneless chicken thighs

Pimenton (Smoked Paprika)



Heat up a large skillet with two tablespoons of vegetable oil until it shimmers. Generously clothe the chicken on both sides with your pimenton, salt, and pepper cloak. Sear the chicken on both sides to reach a reddish burnish. Set asside.

For the Ragout

1 Large Onion




1 Large Red Pepper

1 Large Yellow Pepper

1 Large Tomato

Place all of the diced ingredients into a large bowl. Place in a large skillet and place the almost cooked chicken thighs on the bed of vegetables. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. And cook your chicken until an internal temperature reaches 180 degree F, or until the juices run clear about 30 mins.

For the Rice

While the chicken is cooking prepare the rice in a rice cooker.

3 cups of chicken broth

1 and half cups of white rice

10 threads saffron

Pinch of Pimenton

Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Pinch of Cinnamon

1 bay leaf

Place all the ingredients in your rice cooker and set.

Once the rice and chicken is cooked through serve with an excellent Spanish Wine like Temparillo and enjoy.

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy cooking.

Truffled Tallegio Flatbread

I have stumbled across the most elegant party appetizer or winters lunch. It is decadent but inexpensive, it is luxrious, but easy. Really, it is having your elegant cocktail party and enjoying it too. Besides the rise time (which is about an hour and a quarter), it comes together in about 10 minutes, and bakes in 15. What could be better.


1 1/2 cup of warm water

1 Tablespoon of yeast (or packet)

1 sugar cube

4 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of grated parmesan

1 teaspoon of grey sea salt

2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary

1/4 cup of olive oil

6 oz ounces of Tallegio cheese torn into bite-sized morsels

To Garnish:

12 slices of black truffles out of a jar

1/2 teaspoon of fleur de mer (fine-grade sea salt)


1. In a large measuring cup, doll out the water, add the yeast and sugar cube allow to sit until poofy.

2. In your food processor: pulse the salt, rosemary, and paremesan until is ground into a sandy powder.

3. Add the flour and pulse.

4. With the prep blizzing, add the oil and water/yeast mixture through the feed tube and allow to spin until the ball of dough is just formed. Add more flour if necessary for the dough to pull away from the sides of the prep bowl. For this I used what ever is handy which happened to be whole wheat flour, but you can use all-purpose or any other kind.

5. Flour your conter top and knead until you have vented all frustration, it is a wet dough and can be neglected, so do not over tax yourself.

6. Set in an oiled bowl with a tea towel perched over top for about an hour.

7. Divide dough into two equal peices and spread to 1/2 inch thick on to its own baking sheet covered in parchement paper.

8. Cover each piece of dough and the cookie sheet with a tea towel and allow to rest for another quarter hour (15 mins).

9. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F.

10. Using your fingers dot the bread with your fingers to make pillowy indentations into the dough.

11. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt, and dollop out bit-sized morsels of Tallegio cheese.

12. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is brown.

Prego Mange!

Come sempre, molto amore, tante benedizioni, e felice cottura.

Homemade Ricotta

For years, I have been intimidated by making cheese. All-the-while feeling as if those "oh it is so easy" sucessful cheese-makers were mocking me. Mocking me and my lack of ability to let milk spoil. I mean for pete's sake, it is just letting it go rancid, how hard can it be. 19 year-old hormone driven drunken fratboys have more sucess making cheese than I did. Yogurt, sure. Butter, no problem. Cheese, not so much. Suffice it to say that my last attempt to make ricotta included cheese cloth acrobatics as it hung over my sink from my cabinent leaking putrid smelling whey for way too long.
So... this time, I chucked the directions and found a much more civilized approach, so that humans and in-process cheese can co-exist. This recipe makes 2 to 3 cups creamy delicious ricotta with no more effort than warming milk, stirring in vinegar and salt, and letting sit and seperate gently in my fridge overnight.

2 quarts of whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream
2 Tablespoons of white vinegar
1/2 a teaspoon of kosher salt


1 large saucepan
large bowl


1. Heat the milk and cream until it reaches 180 degrees F.
2. Take off the heat and stir in the vinegar, and stir for 30 seconds.
3. Stir in the salt, and stir for another seconds.
4. Set a folded quartered cheesecloth in a colander and set in a large bowl.
5. Gently pour the milk into the cheesecloth lined colander/bowl.
6. Set in the fridge over night and allow the whey gently to drip out.
7. The next morning awake to creamy delicious ricotta... which is delicious for breakfast with orange zest or cocoa powder.

Molto delicioso!

As always, much love, many blessings, and happy cheese making!