Sunday, December 27, 2009

Potato Salad Ni├žoise


It all started a couple weeks ago when I went to get my hair done. I had recently noticed that as my hair got longer, I would find more of it in my hairbrush. I decided to get some advice from my stylist. In return she gave me a Retirement Living magazine to read under the dryer. I am in my twenties. So is she. This is how we communicate.

Not letting her get the best of me, I decided to actually read the magazine. Suffice it to say I learned a lot about varicose veins and their treatment. I did, however, find something that caught my eye. It was a recipe called Potato Salad Nicoise. As I read through it, I noticed the dressing was a mustard vinaigrette, and since I had so much luck with my pear salad, I decided to try this one out as well.

Unfortunately, by the end of my hair appointment, I was a little too embarrassed to ask if I could rip out the recipe from the magazine, so I committed to trying to find it online instead.

I didn’t have much luck finding the original article, but I did come across a similar recipe in Canadian Living (click here for recipe). It’s simple, easy, and quick. It’s also healthy but filling, so it wins major points with me. Oh yeah, the taste is pretty good too.


Okay, first wash cute potatoes like these.

Then chop them up like so

Next, deploy the green beans.

Snap off the ends like this.

Chop up red peppers.

Mix with the dressing. (Olives and spinach not pictured.)

And you'll end up with something like this.


Yum.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I didn't have grape tomatoes or black olives, so I substituted them for a few romas and marinated kalamata olives. Still tasty.

Oh, and in case you were worried for me, my hair is not falling out. It’s normal. 80 per day I hear. I just wanted to make sure you had some closure on this issue.

~A

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cake "Napoleon"

Okay. First order of business. Verdict on Banan’ bread. Excellent. I’m a fan of all types of banana bread – spicy and sweet. The last recipe was a sweet one, but the coffee just gives it the right amount of bitterness. I’ve made this recipe once more since and I was right, the recipe calls to make two mini loaves, so if you’re making a single one like I did, just lower the oven to 300F and I baked for at least an hour and fifteen (but I think this will also depend on your oven, so just make sure you toothpick test the dough!)

Next. HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!! ‘Tis the season for shopping and parties and has it ever been busy! Whew! I’ve spent the last 2 days baking up a storm of cookies and cakes! They won’t all make it to blog but I do have a special treat for you!


My friend Cassie also got me one of the best kitchen-related presents ever!! Some cute new cookie cutters and THIS:



Isn’t it adorable?? I wish I had all these retro patterns. So stylish and cute! P.S. Notice the cupcake??


With all the baking I was able to put it to good use right away!


So I want to share with you a childhood treat of mine. When I was young, my parents had a friend named “Krystina” (say this with a Russian accent). She was a grandiose lady (think Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts) and was always throwing parties. I loved those parties for one reason I remember more than any other. The cake. Oh! It was so delicious! She called it Napleon Cake and she would never share the recipe. It was filled with cream and lots of tiny layers (I recently found out it also goes by another name in French “Mille-Feuille”). If you have never tried it I can’t recommend it more, but if you’re going to make it,WARNING, it’s NOT easy.


I recently found a website called RussianFoods.com that actually carried the RECIPE for this tasty treat. However, I found myself lost in a few places (due to a few errors in the recipe I think). I was really worried a few times during this caking process, but somehow, it turned out pretty similar to what I remember, so you can imagine how pleased I am!


I baked this cake for my lovely friend Nina (Happy Birthday Nina!!)



And thanks again to Tim for opening his home for her birthday and putting up with a female Rockband takeover (but he still rules way more at the “instruments”).


Okay, are you ready?


Here it goes.


Cake “Napoleon”



(look at all the tiny layers!!)


Here is the original recipe, but I will also explain my "enhancements"


Ingredients

Dough

· 500 g flour

· 250 g margarine

· 1 egg

· 1 T vinegar


Icing (Cream)

· 1 cup sugar

· ½ L milk

· 2 eggs

· 2 T flour

· 200 g butter

· vanilla


Directions


Make the dough first because it needs some chilling time.


Mix the margarine (or butter) with the flour. Do this a little at a time for consistency. The recipe says to do this “until smooth”.



It never really got “smooth”. Just sort of crumbly., which is what I expected from margarine and flour.



Next the recipe called (in a separate bowl) to mix the egg with vinegar in 1 cup of water.



This is where I think something went funny with the recipe. I trustingly did this:



and then mixed it with the flour mixture, but because I knew the dough would later be rolled, I also knew it looked WAY too runny. The recipe said to knead the dough until “elastic-y”, but I could tell that wasn’t going to happen. In an attempt to remedy the situation I proceeded to knead in flour in small portions until the dough became a little less “wet”. Although, it still wasn’t what I would call “elastic”, but I decided to roll with it. Get it? Haha.



I didn’t want to make the dough TOO thick because it has to be rolled really thin. Oh! And I also added salt. I tasted the dough and it seemed a little floury so I whipped out the salt shaker. I’m not sure how much I put in, but it was only a little. Definitely less than half a teaspoon.


Okay, so I got my dough somewhat elastic. Then you portion it in 8 equal parts. I wrapped these in plasti-wrap and stuck ‘em in the fridge.



Cream filling:

I once tried to make custard and burned it. I was a little worried about this one, but it turned out great!

In a saucepan, mix the sugar eggs and flour.



Then stir in the milk.



Cook the liquid on a low heat and STIR CONSTANTLY OR IT WILL BURN OR BOIL OVER.


This part actually takes a little while. I read somewhere that you must do this for 10 minutes, but I’m sure I was standing there for at least fifteen. When you start, the liquid will be pretty thin. Eventually it will thicken up, but it takes a while, but then happens quite suddenly. Pay attention (I’ve made this mistake). I was reading up on custards and it’s got something to do with the egg that it shouldn’t get too hot or it will set improperly. (HERE are some custard tips if you’re interested. This recipe uses a “stirred” custard)


You can tell when the icing is finished by dipping a metal spoon into it. You should see a film like this:



When this happens, take the saucepan off the heat.


Once it has cooled a little, add ½ tsp of vanilla. Then stir in the butter, a little at a time again.


Voila! Done icing.



Baking time.


Preheat the oven to 365F. The recipe I used didn’t include a baking temp or time, so I ended up figuring this out when 420F was too hot. Yep.


These next steps should be repeated for each section of dough.


First roll the dough out really thin.



I have pizza pans, not baking sheets, so please make due. Then cut the excess strips of dough off (you want at least semi-uniform pieces for when you layer the cake). Don’t through these strips away. Use them. Later.


Pierce the dough with the fork all over.



Put to bake. Depending on how hot your oven is, the baking time will vary. I baked my sheets for about 5.5 to 6 mins each. You want them to stay golden in colour, but still get crispy.



Once all your layers are baked, it’s time for the scraps! Bake the excess strips of dough the same way. You will use them to crumble on the cake afterwards.


Now it’s time for assembly! Put the first sheet down on whatever you’re going to use to transport your cake. Then put the icing generously on top.



Repeat with all the layers. Finish with cream all over the top. It looks nice when it spills over and covers the sides of the cake, see:



Finally, take your strips, crush ‘em, and sprinkle the pieces all over the top.



Ta Da!! Pretty, no?


Finally, put your cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours (the longer the better, trust me).


And, enjoy!