My 2013 Cooking Challenge

Here is my new project for 2013!

I want to find more time to cook or at least finally try and discover some recipes that I have heard of, never tried before or simply as “bring the childhood recipes back into my life”.

I will not necessarily do the list in this order, it is just how it came up.
The goal would be to do one recipe every month for the rest of the year.

My 2013 Cooking Challenge

1. Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam (or in-season fruits)
2. Duck confit Garbure Soup
3. S’mores
4. Cheese Souffle / Souffle au fromage
5. Risotto
6. Indian seasonal vegetable dish
7. Savory Crepes
8. Chocolate recipe from the book “Atelier Chocolat”
9. Cupcakes
10. Gulab Jamun

Details & Explanations

1. Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam (or any in-season fruit) – when I was in France the year before moving back to the U.S., me and my best friend Claire spent a few winter Sunday afternoons making jam in my parents kitchen. I discovered and learned from her and love home made jams 🙂

2. Duck confit Garbure Soup – this a traditional soup from Bearn in South West of France. My grand-mother used to do it, it is delicious and a perfect winter healthy meal.

3. S’mores – my friend Ellie mentioned it recently and was “amazed” that I had no idea on what she was talking about… the very next day, I found this blog post on the same subject… the signs were obvious, we thus have a date for a “S’mores” diner. It will certainly be the first item to be completed on this list!

4. Cheese Souffle / Souffle au fromage – My mom used to make this dish when I was a kid and I have great memories of it. It is not easy to make but I want to try so that my husband can taste it!

5. Risotto – it might seem silly but I have never cooked a risotto before, and it time to start!

6. Indian seasonal vegetable dish – I want to become more comfortable in cooking Indian food and for that I need to try, even though it will take me some time at the beginning, especially on weekdays once I am back from work…

7. Savory Crepes – my husband has been asking for home made Crepes, since we got back from Brittany and had the most delicious Crepes on earth in Carantec. I’m serious: it is really the best place I have ever eaten Crepes.

8. Chocolate recipe from “Atelier Chocolat” – a book that my brother and his girlfriend gifted me for Christmas. It seems complicated or at least that is in my mind but it doesn’t seem that hard when reading it. I just need to do it!

9. Cupcakes – since this list has French and Indian cooking, I thought I needed to have something from here as well. I already tried with success pancakes (see my post here ) and thought that the next on the list would be cupcakes 🙂

10. Gulab Jamun – this is my favorite Indian sweet (with Jellabys) and this week-end, my husband’s cousin was telling me how to make them. A must try!

Let me know your thoughts about the challenge, about one of the item/recipe and any help/suggestion or encouragement will be helpful!

Thanks and happy blogging!

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Pictures Credit:

http://www.owlhaven.net/2008/06/10/strawberry-rhubarb-jam/

http://www.52kitchenadventures.com/2012/05/02/gluten-free-cupcakes-with-nutella-cloud-frosting/

http://www.france-voyage.com/travel-guide/photo-garbure-1381_2.htm

http://www.phamfatale.com/id_1625/title_Galette-Complete-Savory-Crepe-Recipe/

http://nutritionfor.us/2012/07/butternut-squash-risotto-recipe/

http://cooksjoy.com/blog/2012/11/gulab-jamun-milk-powder-method.html

http://www.lacuisinedebernard.com/2011/03/le-souffle-au-fromage.html

http://littleindiana.com/2012/07/4-smores-themed-recipes-you-can-really-sink-your-teeth-into/

http://palakkadcooking.blogspot.com/2012/11/aloo-gobi.html

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Endive Winter Salad

Winter is not completely over but I can feel how everyone around me would like to see spring come up.
Last week, few people including me got lighter sweaters and jackets out again but it was still pretty cold and windy, which doesn’t help. We all got back into our winter jackets, putting our spring ones on hold for a little bit more.

It is nice cooking according to the season and we used to have this salad during winter in my family when I grew up.

Winter salad

Ingredients

– 3 endives
– 2 apples (ideally Golden, or any slightly acid kind)
– gruyere
– 100g / 3.5oz coarsely chopped walnuts
– 100g / 3.5oz bacon (optional)

You can add or reduce quantities based on your preferences and a good balance between the ingredients. The apple brings a freshness to balance the “heaviness” of the gruyere and walnuts.
You can also put tomatoes instead of apples and use another kind of cheese, like blue cheese, Gorgonzola or Roquefort, just to name a few.

This salad can be served as an appetizer (antipasti) or can be an entree on its self, for which i add the bacon.

Preparation

Wash and chop the endives crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Peel and cut the apples.
Cut the gruyere in small pieces.

In a bowl, mix the endives, apples, gruyere and walnuts. Add vinaigrette. I like to do the basic vinaigrette with olive oil, mustard and balsamic vinegar. For this salad, it is also nice to add some honey to the vinaigrette.

Just before serving, cook the sliced bacon in a pan. You don’t need to add olive oil in the pan, the fat of the bacon will do the job when reducing.

Put the salad on each plates and add a little bit of bacon on top of each before serving.

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Chocolate truffles & Holiday Spirit

Christmas is around the corner and it’s time for me to make some chocolate truffles!

This became a Christmas tradition with my brother. We would team up: I would do the ganache, multiply quantities by 2 (to be sure to have enough for all the chocolate lovers of this family) and my brother would come help me roll them in cocoa powder.

I think we both have a very sweet memory of these moments spent preparing this deliciousness in the spirit of holidays 🙂

The recipe is coming from this cooking book for children that we had (and still have at my parents place) – with a red cover and nice pictures for every single step.
We still love it!

Chocolate truffles

Ingredients
250g / ~ 8.8oz cooking chocolate
125g / ~4.4oz butter
2 egg yolk
1 packet of vanilla sugar (equivalent of 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp sugar)
125g / ~4.4oz powdered sugar
50g / ~2oz cocoa powder

Preparation

Cut the chocolate in pieces and bring it to melt it using the “bain-marie” technique: place the chocolate in a small pan. Take a larger pan and add water in it. Put the small one containing chocolate in the larger one, floating in the water. bring the water to boil.
Once the chocolate is melted, add the butter cut in pieces.
Once the mix is melted, take the pan out of the boiling water.

In a bowl mix the egg yolks, powdered sugar and vanilla sugar.
Add in the melted mix chocolate/butter and mix well.

Let the ganache cool down and harden in the fridge for 1-2 hours, until it is hard enough to roll with your hands.

Place the cocoa powder on a plate.
Shape the truffles from the ganache into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands.
The size of the truffles can vary depending of the size of the ganache you are using.
In the cocoa powder plate, move the truffle around until they are coated.

Put the truffles in a display tray and in the fridge to harden before serving them.

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Eggplant and Tomato Gratin

My mom gave me this original recipe recently. I don’t know how she discovered it but she was very happy with it especially because my brother loved it, when he is not a big fan of vegetables, really not.
He got himself a second portion of it during dinner, that says it all.

I decided to give it a try and really liked it. I also discovered that my husband is unfortunately not a big fan of eggplants…

This dish is great to be served as a side with fish or meat but is not enough on it’s own for a meal.

Eggplant and Tomato Gratin

Ingredients
– 3 middle sized eggplants
– 4 big tomatoes
– 2 garlic gloves
– 150g / 5.2 oz shredded cheese

Wash the eggplants and tomatoes.
Peel the tomatoes. The trick to easily peel them: put them for a few minutes in boiling water until you see the skin starting to crack.
Cool them off and peel them.

In a pan, cook on low to middle heat the eggplant slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let them melt, add the chopped garlic and let cook for another 5 minutes.

Put the slices in an oven-proof dish.
Cover with sliced tomatoes.
Cover with cheese.
Add another row of tomatoes and on top of that another row of cheese.

Put in the pre-heated oven for 25 min on 410’F / 210’C.

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Post Hurricane recovery dinner – Duck Confit with sautĂ©ed potatoes and ratatouille

The hurricane Sandy left us 4 days without power, heat or hot water.
After moving back home I felt the need to get comfort through food.

This diner is what my grand mother would cook in my childhood when we would visit her in south of France: duck confit with sautéed potatoes (cooked in duck fat) and ratatouille.

I soooo love this food and it is such a great reminder of my childhood… It was such a great recovery diner 🙂

Duck confit with sautéed potatoes and ratatouille.

Ratatouille
– 1 zucchini, chopped
– 2 tomatoes, sliced
– 1 onion, chopped

In a pan on medium heat, sauted the onion in olive oil, about 5 minutes until they start to soften.
Add the chopped zucchinis, salt, pepper, and basil. Cook on high heat, while stirring, until zucchini get slightly brown.
Put on low heat and let cook for some time. Stir occasionally.

When zucchini is half way cooked, add the sliced tomatoes and let cook on low heat until you get juice from the tomatoes and zucchini is well cooked.

You can also use thyme, rosemary and baby leaf for more flavor. I use basil because I like it a lot and have it most often in my kitchen.

Note also that this is my own personal recipe of ratatouille as usually there is also eggplant.
I don’t often have eggplant at home and the cooking is longer to have a good ratatouille. I just found a easier and faster way to make a good vegetable dish, almost as a ratatouille and very flavorful 🙂

Duck confit

I will not give you here the recipe to make duck confit from scratch. My great-grand parents knew how to do it (they had a farm in south-west of France) but I always saw my family get it already done, just ready to be heated and served 🙂
This one was then quite easy as I just had to open the can and heat it in a pan.

Sautéed potatoes

Boil the potatoes using the pressure cooker.
Chop them (not too small).
In a pan, use the fat from the duck confit to sautéed the potatoes, add salt and garlic.
Stir occasionally so that it doesn’t stick.

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Hurricane Sandy candle light cooking

This is candle night #2 after Hurricane Sandy and while we lost power, wifi & network, we are lucky to still have running water & gas.

The fridge starting slowly to be out if service, I need to think about what to cook with what I have in the fridge/freezer that can turn bad to avoid maximum waste.

Right now Vegetables in the freezer are still half frozen so I can afford another day before using them.

I decided to cook daal with rice and in top of that Paratha.
I had frozen ready-made Paratha and they were starting to be completely un-frozen (understand they would turn bad pretty quickly).
When eating daal, you either have rice or Paratha/Roti but we got both tonight as hurricane exception.

Besides we are hosting a Dutch friend in the city to run the NYC marathon.
We still don’t know if it will actually happen but in case it does, she needs a high carb diet.
Indian lentils & rice are a good start.

Daal

2 cups of Indian lentils – you have different varieties, I used the yellow one.
4 cups if water
Salt
1 tsp of butter
1/2 tsp of garlic
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds (Jeera)

Wash the lentils and put them in the pressure cooker with the water and salt.
Once you hear the whistling, let the pressure go away after 1-2 min by opening the top button.

In a tablespoon, melt the butter on top of a flame. That said you need to have gas to be able to proceed.
Once the butter is half melted, add the garlic & cumin seeds & keep cooking on the flame until the cumin seeds turn brown.
Toss quickly into the daal and mix. The quickly part is important as it allows you to keep all the flavors.

Serve in a bowl with some rice mixed together.

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Grapefruit, Avocado & Tomato Salad

Staying at home for hurricane Sandy with lots of supply is just making me wanna cook…

To get vitamins, I decided to do this really good and original salad.

This one of my so-called secret recipe: everybody is very surprised by the combination and even if some are doubtful, it ends up always being a huge success. And nobody can guess the sauce 🙂

Grapefruit, Avocado & Tomato Salad

Ingredients
– 1 grapefruit
– 2 small tomatoes
– 1 avocado
– 1 tbsp of mayonnaise

Preparation

Take off all the skin of the grapefruit Di you only have the flesh.

This part might be the longest, especially if you ate not used to do it.
I am not a big fan if anything time consuming when cooking but this is so much better that it’s worth the time and effort.

Cut the avocado and tomatoes in small pieces and mix everything together.

Add 1 tbsp of mayonnaise in the mix.

You can also replace the avocado with shrimps for a non-vegetarian version, also delish!

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This is America – Sunday Pancakes

Sunday morning, I got woken up by a bad dream and I was also craving for pancakes.

I spent some time in bed looking for the perfect recipe both on American and French websites.

I always need to read few different recipes to get a feel of it and then make my own.

I came up with this one:

Ingredients

– 8.8 oz / 250g flour
– Salt
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1/2 tsp baking powder = 1/2 sachet of “levure chimique” (in France we have ready made size sachet of backing powder and all recipes are going with 1/2 or 1 sachet)
– 1 sachet of vanilla-flavored sugar (also a very French cooking thing) which is the equivalent of 1 tsp sugar + 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 eggs
– 11.8 oz / 37.5 cl milk
– 2 oz / 50 g butter

Preparation

1. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, levure/backing powder, sugar & vanilla extract (or sucre vanillé).

2. In 2 other different bowls, separate the yellow and the white of the eggs. Mix the milk with the yellow of the eggs. Add this mix slowly to the first bowl. The trick is to mix slowly to keep it lump free as much as possible.

3. Add to this mixture the melted butter and mix well.

4. Add a pinch of salt to egg whites and whisk them with an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks.
Fold them gently into the mixture.

5. Heat griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium to low heat; brush griddle lightly with oil. Drop batter by generous 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle, the pancake will naturally takes its form on its own.

Cook until bubbles form on tops of pancakes and bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Turn pancakes over and cook until golden brown on bottoms, about 2 minutes.

To keep them all warm, put them in low heated oven once they are cooked.

Enjoy with maple syrup, fruits such as bananas, blueberries, strawberries and also with some Nutella.

I tried other recipes before but didn’t really succeeded. This one turned out to make delicious & not too heavy pancakes.

I would encourage everybody to try it out!

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Aloo Bartha

As I am learning more and more Indian dishes, I tried for the first time to cook Aloo Bartha – or vegetable dish based of potatoes.

I am starting to get better at Indian cooking – apprehending the spices and base ingredients.
Maybe I haven’t made enough to discover the variety or I am just starting with the basics and getting better at it.
At least I can host my friends with basic Indian cooking and they love it.
That’s a good sign, isn’t it?

Alloo Bartha – potato vegetable dish

Put in a pan:
Some olive oil or 2 table spoon of ghee
1 tea spoon of cumin seeds (Jeera)
1 Tomato or 2 tomatoes depending on their size or tomato paste
Green chili
Ginger

Let it cook until all water is gone.

Add salt, coriander powder, red chili, a little bit of tamarin powder.
Let paste cook for 2 more minutes.

Add 1 table spoon of yoghurt.

Let it cook for 2 minutes till the oil separate out.

Add boiled potatoes.

Mix everything & add water 1.5 cup.

Add fresh coriander.

Let it boil & reduce the flame once it’s boiling, cover & let cook for 10 min, until you can see the layer of oil separating.

You can serve that as a side dish or eat with roti or bread.

When I cooked it, I made it as main dish with bread and had also a salad to go with it.

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The 20’s and a Pic-nic

We went to a flapper party this week-end on Governor Island – meaning everybody is dressed up as in the 1920’s.

While meeting with friends, we brought our food & blankets.

Our added value to this delicious pic-nic was:

– 1 piece of this delicious saucisson that I got directly from France – god I had forgotten how good saucisson was and I am so glad I could take some back from France!

– rice salad with tomatoes/orange sweet pepper/cucumber/avocado/hard boiled egg

Fresh rice salad & veggies

In a bowl mix the tomatoes, cucumber, sweet pepper, avocado chopped in small pieces.

Once the rice is cooked, put it under cold water to cool it down.

Put one egg in boiling water for 10 minutes. Once it is cooked, put under cold water as well to cool it down. Peel, remove the membrane and chop in small pieces.

Add the rice and the hard boiled egg chopped to the mix.

Prepare the vinaigrette: mix half a tea spoon of mustard with 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Add olive oil while mixing energetically at the same time (2-3 tablespoon).

Add the vinaigrette at the last minute before serving/eating.

If you prepare this in advance, the trick to avoid the avocado turning black is to add lemon juice on it when you add it in the salad. This is working pretty well for a few hours.

Another trick is to leave the avocado pit in the salad and remove it at the last minute. It used this trick this time and it worked well, the avocado was not brown at all!

For dessert, I had raspberry cookies that I brought back from France.
I used to have these when I was a kid and they are my favorites!

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