Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day Millefoglie

Millefoglie is my favorite dessert, ever. I only ever tried it for the first time about a year ago. I had never even seen it on a menu before. Since then, I've had it 3 times and 3 totally different ways, although the most basic preparation is puff pastry sheets with chantilly cream. "Mille" is Italian for 1,000, and "foglie" is Italian for leaves (as in layers). If you've had a proper millefoglie, you'll see that there are several layers of pastry with cream in between. I've also had it drizzled with caramel and toasted hazelnuts. Since you have to actually go to an Italian restaurant to get one (In LA: Madeo on Beverly, Angelini Osteria on Beverly, or Vincente in Brentwood on San Vicente), I decided to try making it at home for Valentine's Day.

First: the puff pastry. I luckily had a heart-shaped cookie cutter so that worked out well. I thawed the puff pastry and then rolled it out as thin as I could and then used the cutter for the pieces. Now, the first batch were throwaways because puff pastry rises, even when it's rolled out and heart-shaped so I had 8 puffy useless hearts. I tried again, this time placing a cookie sheet over the top keeping them compressed as they cooked) 350F for 10 or so minutes).

Second: I was not about to make a chantilly cream with eggs and all that mess so I bought whipping cream (Strauss Dairy) and whipped it with confectioner's sugar and almond extract! I am the first person to refuse marzipan because the almond is just too much but the TBSP of extract was enough to subtly flavor the cream.

After my pastry hearts totally cooled, I put the cream in a ziploc bag and piped it onto each layer. I rolled the thing around in crushed almonds and then topped with slivered almonds and strawberry I ran through a mandoline.

Note: Don't put the cream on too early or the pastry will become mushy. You should prepare the dessert and put it in the fridge if you're serving that evening but that's it. And don't put the topping on until the end or the strawberry will taste stale and possibly dry.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chile Relleno in Guajillo Sauce

I used to bake my chile rellenos but I used a different method for this one and prefer it much better. After peeling the skin and stuffing it with cheese and vegetables, I toothpicked the opening together and then lightly dusted with flour. In a hot cast iron skillet with a LITTLE oil, I cooked the chile toothpick-side-down FIRST. That way, when you flip it, you don't have to flip it again after the cheese has begun melting. This cooking method gives it a nice dryer, firmer skin as opposed to my old baking method where the skin gets soggy and steamed.

The sauce is a guajillo chili sauce so it's rich and smoky. I pan-roasted two guajillo chilis in a dry cast iron skillet with 5 cloves of garlic in their skins. After they were hot and fragrant, I removed the stems and seeds from the chilis and put them in water for 15 minutes to rehydrate. Then, with the garlic and about 1 cup of water, I pureed them in the food processor. I also added lime juice, salt, roasted tomatoes and onions. I strained the mixture so the sauce was more refined.

Pizza II

I continue my self-education in the process of pizza. It's definitely fun but it's definitely a science. Not so much the measuring part but more so the approach and ingredient part. A true neapolitan margherita consists of nothing more than flour, water, salt, and yeast. The toppings consist of exactly: San Marzano DOP tomatoes, basil, oregano, certified mozzarella di bufala, and parmesano reggiano.

This dough does not follow that style because I learned from another recipe and it's been working so I haven't ventured outside of my comfort zone. It does contain oil and sugar.

I am happy with the crust. Although I don't have an 850F wood-fired oven (which can cook a pizza in under TWO MINUTES), I have been able to get decent results thru testing in an electronic oven. Because my oven doesn't create enough ambient heat obviously to cook a pizza in 2 minutes, I need to parbake my dough FIRST for about 8 minutes and then put the sauce and cheese on for a few final minutes. Otherwise the cheese and sauce will burn.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I've always been obsessed with pizza but recently I became obsessed with making homemade pizza DOUGH. It's like my absolute favorite thing to make now. There is nothing more gratifying then a light, airy, bubbly, soft pizza dough. If you don't press it down too much it bubbles and rises. If you stretch it out right before the point of tearing, it's thin and light and crispy. This photo is from my first successful dough though I've made more since and will continue to expand until it's perfect! I just used San Marzano tomatoes, red onions, and parmesano reggiano.

I don't have a wood oven (yet) so I baked this at 500 degrees on the very bottom of the oven to get that prized crisp and char beneath.

Pasta e Fagioli

This is kind of the official new favorite dish of the house next to artichoke and pizza night. Pasta e Fagioli translates to "pasta and beans". It's one of the simplest, best tasting dishes I make at home. And it's CHEAP and EASY, to boot! Each ingredient measures out to be almost an equal part in the dish.

  1. 1/2 large white onion chopped or a whole small one
  2. 1.5 cups of dry gluten-free rice pasta (or use regular if you're not allergic to wheat)
  3. 2 cups of packed chopped kale
  4. 3/4 can of kidney beans
  5. 1 large can of tomato puree or diced tomatoes
  6. 16 oz of vegetable stock

Sweat your onions first. Then add the beans and tomatoes and let it stew together. Add your stock incrementally. I don't make it like a soup but more like a thick hearty stew. Then add the kale and S/P to taste. When it seems like everything is coming together, add your boiled pasta and give everything another 5-10 minutes to soak up.

When serving, grate parmesano reggiano over the top for that absolutely necessary finish.

Side Dish: Caramelized Endive

I saw Jacque Pepin do something like this once so it's become a great side dish stand-by. I just take a bunch of endives, split them down the middle, and in a hot pan with a little Earth butter, olive oil, and a pinch of sugar, I lay them face down, put the lid on, and let them caramelize. The lid helps steam-cook them and reduce the bitterness of the endive. Then I turn them over and give them a bit more time to cook in what's left at the bottom of the pan.

They actually cook pretty quickly so keep an eye on them.


I love these things. They've always been one of my favorite but they're one of those things I never conceived of making. When I buy them in a store however, I feel guilty because I can see the congealed centimeters of oil layered across and know that can't be that great for me. So I decided to learn how to make them myself so I knew what was going into them. I've seen this same brand of leaves at both Whole Foods and "specialty" food stores.

These 8 oz. jars will yield you about 24 dolmade with some broken leaves left over you'll probably throw out. The leaves are really packed tightly in the jar. They're all rolled together so you just have to maneuver them out by grabbing a hold of the end and rotating round and round until them come out. You have to blanche them in hot water for maybe a minute or two and then lay them out to dry a bit. You also have to cut off the 1/2" stem at the bottom. It will seriously get into your way when trying to do the next step.

THE FILLING: There are so many ways you can fill this thing. I kept it pretty traditional and vegetarian although they're often stuffed with lamb.
  1. Dice 1 whole white onion and sweat it in a pan with minimal olive oil. S/P to taste.
  2. Throw in 3/4 cup of basmati, 3/4 cup of raisins and cook together for a few minutes.
  3. Add a handful of chopped parsley and dill. I LOVE dill so I used a LOT.
  4. S/P to taste again and squeeze the juice of one lemon.
  5. TASTE the final mixture, dry rice and all, because that's what your filling is going to taste like. Now is the time to add more S/P, lemon, or herbs!
  6. Lay out a leaf SHINY side down and put in about a cereal spoon-sized spoonful in the middle and follow the steps above to wrap it.

After about 20 minutes, you'll have your army of dolmade ready to go. Make sure the seam side is on the bottom so they don't unravel. My 10" flat-bottomed stainless steel pan is the perfect size for a single layer. Slice up carrots or potatoes and lay them flat on the bottom of the pan. Feel free to add the stems left over from the herbs. This helps to not only keep them from sticking, but at the end you have soft, lemony vegetables to add to your platter.

Once you have all the dolmade arranged on top of the vegetables and in a single layer, place a flat heavy plate across them because they're going to swell and mis-shape. Once the plate is in place, fill the pan up with water until right above the plate. Simmer for 30 minutes, drizzle a LITTLE bit of olive oil into the water, and then simmer for another 30 minutes. 99% of the water should be gone, and the rest that's left is going to be an opaque lemony, salty juice that will stick to your dolmade as you let them cool. ENJOY!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ricotta Caprese

This is a variation on the traditional caprese because the shop I get burrata from was all out. They run out pretty much by noon daily. All they had for fresh cheese was a sheep's milk ricotta. Since the sheep's milk was a bit too harsh for the delicacy of a tomato, I seasoned it with salt, pepper, black truffle oil, and chopped basil. The balsamic reduction is the same as I describe in the previous post.

Btw, the next day I had a bit of the ricotta mixture leftover. I drizzled agave syrup on it and ate it -- I guarantee it would probably make the best sweet/savory crepe on the planet.

Caprayze ... too much?

I am crazy for caprese. I love the freshness and I especially love any excuse to eat a ball of burrata. This looks like a massive amount because I was going to a BBQ that ended up serving mexican food, but that's OK. We ate it anyway and it was delicious.

Just line up slices of heirloom tomatoes, burrata and/or fresh mozzarella, and chopped basil. I added salt and pepper across the top, then drizzled black truffle oil.

As an accoutrement, I reduced 1 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1 TBSP of sugar, and drizzled it on the dish right before it was served. Don't do it any earlier or it just gets muddy.

Boigah Night

Maybe I watch too much Family Guy. I don't know. But I can't help but pronounce "burger" like "boigah". Also, 5 readers, my house became predominantly vegetarian in the last year, if you've noticed a shift in content lately. Hence, the veggie burger. But here's the deal. I'm not a devout vegetarian and I LOVE cheeseburgers. So for the whole household to be happy, I need a pretty damn hefty burger or I'm going to feel unsatisfied the rest of the night.


  1. Veggie patty (Whatever - gardenburger, Amy's, Morning Star)
  2. Grilled tomatoes, red onions, and 1 fat portobello. Salt and pepper all of it.
  3. Butter lettuce
  4. Sliced cheese (the one in the pic is a super melty vegan one from Trader Joes)
  5. THE KICKER: the special sauce. Now the special sauce is what some of you would consider the Big Mac sauce aka thousand island. Chopped pickles, ketchup, and mayo/vegannaise.
  6. Stir the special sauce together and salt it well to bring out the pickle more.