Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Crepe Cake + Berry Compote

I inherited my baking skills from my mom, who mastered her technique from my grandmother. So lately, I've been on a mission to learn and transcribe all of my grandma's recipes. We started with one of my mom's popular classics - the french crepe, or as we call it - "blinchik." The batter is very simple, but my mom is such a pro that she eyeballs all her ingredients and never uses proper measures. Us inexperienced folk are probably better off using this recipe. (Just substitute the water with milk for a tastier crepe.) I tried my hand at swirling the crepes, but it's no easy task. I definitely ruined a handful of crepes before achieving a perfectly thin and hole-less one. A stack of crepes later, we decided to make a delicious lemon-ricotta crepe cake with berry compote based off of this recipe. 

Making the crepe: Crepes are very delicate, so the key is to immediately swirl the batter after ladling the mixture into the pan. Use less than a ladle-full of batter for a perfectly thin crepe. After a few seconds, once you see bubbles forming, run a sharp knife around the edges and flip with your fingers. Give the other side a few seconds before removing the crepe. And remember, the first crepe is always a disaster. 
The Berry Compote: Frozen berries work just fine for this recipe. Just add half a cup of sugar and a dash of lemon zest to the saucepan and let cool. The sauce will be just fine without the cornstarch.

Assembling the cake: Spread a tablespoon or so of the ricotta spread between each layer. Don't neglect to spread filling on the crispy edges. Repeat until you have about 12 layers.

The Finished Cake: My cake came out to 15 layers. If you want a taller cake, make sure to double the ricotta filling.

Pour the cooled berry sauce over the cake and slice. Bon appetit! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

East Coast Charm: What I Ate In DC

Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Ganache

This past week, my boyfriend and I spent some quality time exploring and eating our way through Washington, DC with my sister. But what was supposed to be a brief weekend trip to the nation's capitol turned into a week-long adventure caused by a national hurricane. (You may have heard of her...Her name is Sandy.) Regardless, we spent our week in DC ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the breathtaking architecture, satisfying our tummies with the best DC had to offer, and visiting almost every single DC landmark. Though I'll always be a Cali girl, my recent trips to NYC and DC have confirmed that I've been bitten by the east coast bug. I took 1000 photos but here are some of the food highlights from my week in DC. 

Ben's Chili Bowl: A DC institution made famous by Obama and Bill Cosby, Ben's Chili Bowl serves up some major comfort food, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it the best of the best. The cheese on the fries was underwhelming, but after a long airport day, it hit the spot.

Founding Farmers: FF capitalizes on the farm-to-table and eco-friendly concept, which always promises fresh and natural ingredients. The fried green tomatoes with herbed goat cheese and avocado dipping sauce was a major standout and a MUST. The Tuna Poke salad was delicious with a spicy kick. But the real star of this meal was the Cucumber Cranberry Cooler. I could drink it everyday. 

Il Canale: Hands down, the best spaghetti and meatballs I've ever had. I can't even begin to describe how delicious each morsel was. The Diavola pizza, topped with sliced soppresata, buffalo mozzarella and basil, was also pretty amazing. Will definitely go back next time I'm in DC.

Cafe Bonaparte: An adorable little creperie in Georgetown. The Moulin Rouge Crepe was delicious with caramelized peaches, vanilla ice cream, and a chocolate- berry melba sauce. 

Old Ebbitt Grill: This old-school oyster bar is located right by the White House and seems to be popular with locals and tourists alike. The oysters were so smooth and refreshing and the pumpkin ravioli tasted like Autumn on a plate.

Bistro du Coin: This romantic bistro is located in Dupont Circle but once you step in, you feel like you're in France. Go here for the best-tasting french onion soup you'll ever have. Perfect cold-weather food.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is my favorite pie of all-time. Lucky for me, the advent of canned pumpkins has given me the luxury of enjoying my favorite seasonal treat year-round. For a classic, fuss-free, non-fancy shmancy pumpkin pie, this is my go-to recipe. Although the recipe is simple, here's how to achieve pie perfection:

*blind-bake the pie crust - place a sheet of foil or parchment over the unbaked crust; fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice; bake at 350 degrees for about 15 mins. This half-baking process will ensure that the bottom of the crust does not become soggy upon contact with the wet filling.

*Do not - I repeat - DO NOT - overbake the pie. 
{Overbaked pumpkin pie = super dense.}
{Perfectly baked pumpkin pie = super creamy.}

*Cool the pie thoroughly before serving. Bon appetit!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Best Croissant in LA

I've never been to Paris, but each time I take a bite into a croissant from Proof Bakery in Atwater Village, I tele-transport to France. 

Located in a tiny space with minimal etching on the storefront windows, it seems like Proof is trying hard to go unnoticed. But judging from the incessant crowds and the rate at which they sell out of pastries, it's clearly not working. The reason is simple. Proof Bakery makes a mean croissant.  

A Proof croissant is a far cry from the Costco croissants we've all grown to love. Each bite yields massive flaking from the exterior crust and a perfectly chewy and buttery center. The plain and almond croissants are perfect and classic. But my inner sweet tooth can rarely ever pass up the decadent Valrhona chocolate croissant. Each bite is better than the last and letting a fallen crumb go to waste would be blasphemy. It's that good. 

Sure, Proof has a variety of other gorgeous pastries, but it's so incredibly difficult to resist a croissant once you lay your eyes upon their glistening golden crusts. Just don't forget to pair your treat with an agave latte. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tarte aux Pommes

Ina Garten's recipes never fail me. I recently made this foolproof French Apple Tart for Friday night company, and to say my guests were impressed is an understatement. Served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, this tart is the perfect dessert - simple, rustic, and delicious. 

Slice three large Granny Smith Apples into 1/4-inch slices and arrange diagonally on rolled out pastry dough.

Sprinkle apples with 1/2 cup of sugar. Dot with 4 tbsps unsalted butter. 

Tip: The apple juices and sugars will ooze out and burn on the pan. But have no fear! The bottom of the tart will be fine. Just learn from my mistake and make sure to bake the tart on parchment as opposed to directly on the pan. While the tart is still very warm, generously brush warmed apricot jam or jelly. 

Bon apetit! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Asparagus Fontina Tart

Puff pastry is great in so many ways. It's buttery and flaky. It's crunchy and light. And it's a perfect base for dessert and dinner. Inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe, I whipped up this crowd-pleasing asparagus tart that was surprisingly easy and quick to make. It adds a perfect crunch when eaten with hot soup, but it's also a perfect (and impressive looking) hors d' oeuvre when cut into small squares. 

Prepare the toppings: Depending on the size of the asparagus, cut the bottom, tough ends about 1-inch from the edge. Shred the cheese.

The Puff Pastry: Don't forget to make shallow holes in the tart before baking. Score the edges into a rectangle so the crust puffs up. Remember, this is like a fancy pizza, so you want to have a crust to grab onto. Arrange the cheese in an even layer. 

Arrange the asparagus over the cheese. It's ok if the stems go over the edges. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

Notice how the asparagus sinks into the cheese? Delicious. 
Serve while hot and toasty!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mixed Berry Galette

I had a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream, a bowl of berries, and a pie crust sitting in my fridge, so the only logical thing to do on a Sunday afternoon was marry these ingredients for a perfect mid-day snack. Galettes and crostatas can be made with virtually any fruit - berries, figs, apples, peaches, whatever is in season.  I improvised with ingredients on hand, and the result was a refreshing, indulgent and guilt-less snack. (see recipe below).

Mixed Berry Galette
one store-bought or homemade pie crust (I used Pillsbury)
a couple tablespoons granulated sugar (adjust this based on the sweetness level of the fruit)
one teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice + some of its grated zest

Roll out the thawed pie crust on a heavy duty pan. Toss the berries with the lemon juice, zest and sugar. Let the berries macerate for about ten minutes or so. Pile the berry mixture onto the middle of the pie crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. (Make sure to pour in all the juices!) Fold over the crust and sprinkle the edges with sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees until crust is golden brown and berries start to bubble. Serve with ice cream. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Smoothie Operator

I'm a spoiled smoothie drinker. I live walking distance from Jamba Juice, so I rarely make smoothies at home. But lately, I've found my fridge stocked with endless berries and fruits that usually end up being tossed away. Smoothies are a great way to salvage neglected fruits on the verge of rotting. Plus, overly ripe fruits are always the sweetest, saving you the trouble of adding sweetener to your smoothies. Here are two of my favorite smoothies, perfect for breakfast, dessert, and a mid day pick-me-up. 

I usually eyeball the measurements and try to make the most of ingredients that I have on hand. Tweak the portions to your tastebuds' liking. Happy blending!

Peanut Banana and Coffee Smoothie*
1 banana
a few tablespoons of peanut butter (I prefer chunky)
about 1/2 cup Vanilla coconut milk
a few tablespoons of coffee ice cream
*this is clearly a less healthy alternate 

Berry-Banana Smoothie
1 banana
one handful strawberries (fresh or frozen)
one handful other berries (fresh or frozen blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
about 1/2 cup of Vanilla coconut milk
a few tablespoons of Pomegranate-Blueberry Sherbet

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nostalgia Cupcakes

My Grandma was famous for her orange cake. There was something magical about it. Maybe it was the swirl of cocoa powder in each slice. Or maybe it was the unique shape of the pan (which I still can't find). Whatever it was, Grandma's cake was always made with love and each time she made it, the cake tasted better than the last. I doubt any orange cake will ever match her's, but this recipe definitely comes very close. Without a doubt, these are the best cupcakes I've ever made. And the orange cream cheese frosting truly is the icing on the cake.

For the icing, this is a good base recipe. Add a dash of vanilla extract and adjust the orange juice and confectioner's sugar to achieve a spreadable frosting to your liking. Garnish with thinly sliced orange peel.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mimosas and Bouquets

I spent my particularly humid and hot Saturday afternoon brunching at my boyfriend's favorite restaurant, Comme Ca. I'm a huge fan of the bubbly, so bottomless mimosas sounded way too good to pass up. We munched on the Salmon Tartare before proceeding to the surprisingly light Croque Monsieur and famous Comme Ca burger. We wrapped up the afternoon driving aimlessly around LA and finished the day off with some retail therapy - a perfect afternoon.

"Just Because" flowers. The best kind of flowers.

Dylan's Candy Bar at The Grove. Made me nostalgic for our recent trip to New York.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall into Autumn

I love everything about Fall - Halloween, Thanksgiving, pumpkins, crisp air, fall fashion, and most importantly, the beginning of the holiday season. Unfortunately, it still feels like we're in the throes of summer in LA. But the hot weather didn't stop me from trying out this butternut squash bisque. The recipe is a great base, but I suggest amping the seasoning with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg. Next time, I'll try adding some heavy cream to make a more indulgent soup. Happy Fall!

Lots of peeling -  onion, large russet potato, carrots and, of course, squash. Be patient with the squash because its rind is coarse and tough. 

All chopped up and into the pot they go. Remember to season, season, season!

Simmer for 40 minutes.

Blend the veggies but don't use all of
 the cooking stock. Add the appropriate amount
 of stock to achieve your desired consistency. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I ♥ NY

I wrapped up the last week of summer with a jam-packed trip to New York with my boyfriend. Our trip was equal parts a city tour and a food tour - we overloaded on pizza and pastrami sandwiches, visited four museums, took in some of the most breathtaking city views, and got caught in an albeit romantic summer rainstorm. Here are just a handful of my favorite snapshots from my week in the Big Apple.


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