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The Surreal Life and a Boiled Cider Pie

About around 9:00 Saturday night I was thinking about how surreal my life was. I was standing under a Big Top style tent working as the hired help for a billionaires birthday bash down by the river next to a power plant. And a week before I was at a posh wedding in England. Talk about the tables turning.I swear about a quarter of the nations wealth was under that tent Saturday night. Not to heavy league politicians and the CEO of my company. She saw me and I was busted. But she smiled and said she doesn't blame me moonlighting for such a event. The bash is the private party of the year. I was working for the caterer on the 'front of house side'. But the kitchen was the exciting part me me. In addition to the caterer there were about five of Chicago's top restaurants teams sharing pace with each other to crank out various buffets. Back there I met Gale Gand! And how nice and approachable she was.!I was buzzing with excitement , but some of my co workers though I was talking about Oprah's best buddy Gail. Not!If you don't know who Gale is check out this and this. Most of the staff were excited about the Eagles performing that night. Not me, I was with the cream de la creme of the Chicago culinary scene. I still can't get Hotel California (kind of ironic if you read this and think about the lyrics)out of my head this Monday. In addition to Gale Gand , I met the owner of the hottest cupcake shop in Chi town. More Cupcakes on the Gold Coast. Little bite size miniatures of perfection. They encouraged us to try some towards the parties end. I was hesitant to try her BLT one, but it was awesome. I said it was like a muffin with a savoury cream cheese butter cream. She corrected me and said it wasn't a muffin but a cupcake. Anyway the cupcake was good, and I think most of this cupcake business is overrated. I need to visit that store.

I worked and walked my ass that evening and collapsed into bed.Why do I do this! For the experience and the extra income. I have learned so much and maybe one day I will have may own catering company. Certain Someone was at the Notre Dame /Michigan game all day with his boys and doing what comes with that( tailgating, drinking, etc.). I came in about an hour after him. We slept so late from the sheer exhaustion of of our respective days, previous travels, etc. Then Sunday afternoon he flew to Brussels for work and I was left alone. I have been working on a Etsy shop which I will announce in a few weeks. But I was to tired to produce. So I made a comforting dinner. One item I have been meaning to bake was something I never heard off. A boiled cider pie. I had purchased some boiled cider for an upcoming pie competition. Imagine a custard style pie with the tartness of cider. My pie didn't look like the photos I saw. What I saw had the custard separating from the cider stuff. Mine remained a cider colored custard. I wonder if this was due to me using maple syrup ? Anyway it was delicious. I made my crust using the Atora I brought back from the UK. Atora isn't the healthiest, but it makes the flakiest crusts. I mean its not as if I'm baking pies all the time!For the boiled cider recipe check out this recipe. To see what I thought mine would look like, check out this post ( they used a different recipe, but the principle is the same). This pie was the texture and color of a creamy pumpkin pie. I definitely see me making this again. The only thing I changed was adding grated nutmeg. After today's news I need a comforting slice. My 401 K is vanishing into thin air and my real day job is in the retail sector dependant on consumer spending. I wonder how a those guests on Saturday made out today as the markets plunged? Its all so surreal.
A quick note based on comments:
Boiled cider is a reduced no sugar added cider product. You can make it your self by reducing cider for a very long time, or buy it. See the recipe link for a leading manufacturer. I got mine through King Arthur's. I have read you can substitute frozen apple juice concentrate as well. It is not alcoholic. Just pure non fermented cider.

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Daring Bakers Go The Alternative Route with Lavash Crackers and Vegetarian Dips.

Hard to believe I have been a Daring Baker for one full year! Time sure flies by when your having a blast.For the first time ever the Daring Bakers turned this months hosting duties to our Alternative Daring Bakers. While I don't have vegetarian , Gluten free , non dairy, allergy, religious requirements or restrictions, I always tune into a few of these alternative bakers and marvel how they adapt the challenges to their needs. That is a science in itself and always yields great results. So my hats are off to this months hosts Natalie and Shel. Our challenge this month was to create Lavash Crackers and vegan toppings from
The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, Peter Reinhart. I found this challenge stress free and pretty straight forward. It wasn't a complete success as I slightly over cooked parts of my dough. I used unbleached all purpose flour mixed with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour.I topped my dough like a patchwork quilt with sea salt mixed with cumin, chilies, and mint, smoked paprika,fried garlic, and sesame seeds. The smoked Paprika parts browned quickly. On a Indian kick from a recent trip to London, I made a spicy carrot and tamarind relish.Certain Someone wasn't crazy about the relish, it wasn't his thing but he said it grew on you as you it bite after bite. Be sure to check out our ever growing global group to see their many interpretations.

Glamahs Carrot and Tamarind Relish:
2 tablespoons oil
3 chilies chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic chopped
4 large carrots grated
2 tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
Pulp of 2 tamarinds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon curry
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sea Salt
Heat oil in a fry pan. Add mustard seeds until they start to pop. Add garlic, chilies and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes and carrots and continue to cook. Add brown sugar, remaining spices, red wine vinegar and simmer for approx 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

RECIPE - Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Here's a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids...It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)...The key to a crisp lavash, to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers*
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)*
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast*
1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar*
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil*
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature*
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.or2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).
4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors. or
4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

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Black Pudding, Pig Roasts, and Keeping My Hat On All Day.

I left off the last the post with my visit to Borough Market. If only I could have stayed longer but I had to meet my aunt and take the train to a old market village called Thame. The couple who were getting married generously put us up in the Spread Eagle Inn. No snickers at the name,it cracked me up too. But this Inn is very historic and has seen many a prominent visitor from Charles II to Evelyn Waugh. The groom to be's handsome son and friend Toby picked us up from the train station. They offered to show us some neighboring sites. Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill), Oxford, and Waddesdon Manor (home of the Rothschild's) were close by. Tempting as all that was , we wanted to freshen up after being up all day and exploring London. The boys warned us that unfortunately the yearly town fair was going on at that very moment on the High Street in front of the hotel. The roads were blocked off, and we entered from the back. The boys were called off to pick up some more people and take care of wedding stuff,so we were left to explore the village and maybe meet up later. I was thinking a quaint crafty fair like Chicago. What greeted us was a full blown carnival with warnings of the teenage hooligans who get rowdy. It was hard to see the shops and beauty of the town with all the carny nonsense. The Inn locked off the front doors to prevent entry from the crowds. It was too late to shop, so we went back to the Inn for dinner. No one was in the restaurant but we had a decent dinner from the new menu. I had a rustic pate with red onion marmalade, crispy prawns with crispy noodles . Auntie Mame had salmon and sorrel. You don't come across sorrel often. We retired early to faint sounds of the fair and never made it for drinks.

The morning of the wedding we went down to the restaurant again. I ordered the full English breakfast of eggs, black pudding, grilled tomato, sausage, and beans! I liked blood sausage, so I felt I could do the black pudding. It wasn't bad, but it didn't taste as tasty as blood sausage. It was a lot of food and I was praying the beans wouldn't kick in at the wedding. We shared a taxi over to Nether Winchendon House, a medieval Tudor mansion the wedding was held at. The family it belongs to is related to the Spencer- Churchill family and still live there. However they rent it out for filming, corporate events, and weddings. The wedding was lovely and unstuffy. All the ladies wore hats, but we were asked to be creative with them and use existing hats and embellish. The couple took their vows under a mulberry tree with their 'Vicar' friend. This ceremony was symbolic as their real / legal wedding would be in Chicago. The couple had an enormous sense of humour and deep love for each other, their family, and friends. Endless champagne, wine, beer, etc as we walked the estate and took pictures. The wedding lunch was held in a hall on the grounds. Besides the catered lunch, they had a pig roast outside! In fact there had 2 pig roasts. One for the lunch, and one for the evening buffet. So much good food. At this point I didn't care about being fancy and gobbled up the roast pig and cracklings. The best! We broke up the eating with outdoor activities . The couple hired acrobats who brought all sorts of equipment for the guests, I hula hooped, walked a tight rope with the guidance from the ground,walked on stilts, etc all in my big hat! My aunt has these hysterical photos so I haven't got them yet. By 11:30 we were exhausted.I even got picked up by two 25 year olds. One actually proposed marriage and kept calling me Dorthy. They found it hard to believe I was almost 15 years older than them.Flattery! Back to the Inn, and we flew home the next day. I have to say that was the most joyous , humorous, real wedding I had ever been to. If my day ever comes I plan take a page from them.

I leave you with this recipe I adapted from BBC's Olive Magazine. Over the next few weeks you see me use ideas or items I got from over there: The original recipe from Chef Valentine Warner was a baked Mushroom and Celeriac Tarte. I wanted to incorporate some slow cooked beef shank I had with leeks and mushrooms. The inspiration was using a thinly sliced celery root as my crust. It didn't come out as caramelized and perfect as the magazine( to much liquids which I drained), but it was very good. Even Certain Someone who doesn't like celery or the root liked this.

Glamah's Celeriac Tarte with Beef , Leeks, and Mushrooms
2 beef shanks
1 large leek cleaned and sliced
1 small celery root
1 cup of mushrooms coarsley chopped
salt/ pepper to taste( I used a seasoned sea salt spiced with cumin and mint)
1/2 cup of Cooking Wine
3 cloves of Garlic
Slow cook the beef shanks with with wine, garlic, and salt. Cover and cook in oven for 2 hours. Clean mushrooms and leeks. Add to beef. At this point you can remove the meat from the bone and chop up to cook with the vegetables.Cover and let roast on oven another 20-30 minutes.

Wash and peel celery root. Cut into manageable quarters. Take a mandolin and slice thinly.
Take a cast iron pan and melt butter to coat it on the stove. Arrange the celery root slices to cover. Add the meat and vegetables.Be sure to drain excess liquids . Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Take out and invert pan onto a plate( like making a tarte tatin). Slice and serve.

I am submitting this to Go Ahead Honey Its Gluten Free.The wonderful and English Naomi is hosting and shes picked Slow Food as this months theme.

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Britannia Rules! and An Anniversary Come and Gone.

I have so much to tell about our short trip to London, so I will divide it into two posts over the week. To reacquaint you with the purpose of the visit, my aunt treated me to accompany her to her friends wedding. They are English and Dutch executives who lease her condo in Chicago. To justify this generous gift, we decided to call it an early 4oth birthday. My birthday is not actually until November.And I'm just realizing my One year Blog anniversary has come and gone. I think I have come a long way blogging. Anyway we flew out Wed to arrive on Thursday. Certain Someone got great rate at the the fabulous and posh Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair. Talk about 5 star luxury. We couldn't check into until later so we walked around the neighboring Bond Street and visited the shops. My aunt is a social type and tried on some gowns in shops the assistants say was frequented by the late Princess of Wales. They had photos of her up around the shop. Who knows. We then had a quick lunch at a pub. My first meal was a traditional Shepard's Pie.My aunt and I waited a while for someone to take out order. We soon learned we had to to the bar and place the order. Classic good fare . Finally I had access to our room and took a shower to visit my old friend Ellen. I was to take the tube to Westminster and meet her at another pub called St. Stephens. The after work crowd crowded the place, but my old wine club/ Alliance Francaise pal was waiting in a cozy corner. We cooled down with cider before we drank a glass or two of wine. Another classic English thing I love. Crisp cold , slightly alcoholic cider. Ellen's partner joined us, and we decided to go onto dinner. I really wanted Indian. A friend of mine recommend the area of Brick Lane. That was far off, and they suggested we stick to Mayfair. The restaurants were pricier but there were some good ones. We rang my aunt who had crashed on the 1,000 count sheets, and she got ready to meet us. The concierge Mohammad recommended a excellent hotel in walking distance by Marble Arch called La Porte des Indes. This was an unusual and elegant restaurant owned by the Blue Elephant Group with locations in London and Brussels. They feature Indian /French cuisine inspired by the creole cooking of Pondicery.
The menu made it hard to decide to get the best of everything we decided on the tasting menu option.
Great pickles, steamed fishes, lamb,poulet rouge,etc. Then an elegant dessert trio with Asian and french fused classics.Think star anise chocolate mousse. I got the cook book they sell and plan to make some of these dishes. It was outstanding!
The next day I woke bright and early to hit Jane Asher's Cake shop. Shes an actress and ex girlfriend of Paul McCartney before Linda, and is known for her cakes, etc. I wanted some hard to find back home sugar craft supplies. She had lots of Wilton, but lots lot unique items I haven't seen yet. If only the dollar weren't so low against the pound!I settled on sugar diamonds, some lustre's I haven't seen at home, some cutters etc. Compared to a cake shop I saw later on the trip, she was bit more pricey but the ambiance and neighborhood of Chelsea were what you were paying for. Her staff was very polite. I then headed for the highlight of my trip Borough Markets. This is the oldest food market in London and Kittie recommended I didn't miss it. Was I blown away! I'll let the pictures describe my experience I purchased some Indian spices and curries, sea salts , and a fantastic fresh grilled sausage and bacon sandwich with the strongest English Mustard. Who ever perpetuates the myth that English food is bad and boring needs to get over there ASAP! I love whats going on there.

Next on Coco Cooks.... An English Breakfast, wedding, and some pig roasts thrown in!

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Some Variations on Toast Hawaii Before I Hop Across The Pond

Well folks I fly to London tomorrow with my generous Auntie Mame for a wedding. This trip is an early 40th birthday present and will be a chance for us to have some fun like the old days. My aunt and I have had some adventures in Costa Rica, Budapest, Vienna, Miami, New York. But with my lack of funds and Certain Someone on the scene, we haven't had a good 'girl ' trip in a while.Her associates are getting married and we will spend a day in half in London, and then move onto the village of Thame .Unfortunately I wont be meeting any bloggers due to time restraints. Would you believe I have three on my list!Not to worry because I know one at least is coming to Chicago shortly.And yesterday I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Blog Princess who was visiting Chicago.

So in my haste to get things done but take care of Certain Someone for dinner,I decided on one of his favorites,Toast Hawaii. I had blogged about this before.But this time I had made some variations. I was in a fish mood and he was in a ham mood. So I got to thinking about tuna melts. What if I used the cheese and pineapple principle of toast Hawaii with a shrimp salad? So I made up both versions.Rather buttering bread,I used mayonnaise.
Then topped with either ham or shrimp salad, then fresh pineapple rounds,and then a combo of both Muenster and Colby Cheeses. Certain Someone normally uses Gouda, but he liked this mix because the Muenster melted so well. He even liked the milder shrimp salad version.
The shrimp salad was made with some frozen shrimp thawed,Old Bay,a bit of minced celery, cayenne peeper, salt, and mayo.Use your favorite recipe for the shrimp salad.My honey had a massive appetite I hope he behaves while I'm gone and eats healthy.I hope to have some posts from my trip and I'll stop by and visit you guys when I get back.

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Pear and Hazelnut Souffle

I have been toying with an idea in my head for a while. I love this pear cognac/liquor Certain Someone brings me back from his trips to Sweden, Xante.

So with some hazelnut flour and some Xante in the house I was forced to experiment and make this. Unfortunately my souffle fell before I could get some good picks. Rather than top with powdered sugar, I poured a smidgen of some Boiled Cider I just got from King Arthur's. I liked the flavors of all and feel I can improve on this some more, especially to bring out the Xante flavor. A nice fall souffle. Remember I'm no souffle expert and I made this up. There may be better techniques out there. But it worked well enough for me.
Pear Hazelnut Souffle serves 5-6 mini souffles
1 tablespoon Xante
1 cup milk
1.5 tablespoons of butter plus butter for greasing ramekins
3 eggs separated into whites and yolks
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup hazelnut flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter your ramekins.In a small sauce pan heat milk until near boiling. Set aside.Put egg whites in a mixing bowl and set yolks in a separate small dish. Melt the 1.5 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour and whisk until incorporated ans smooth. Add the hot milk and whisk/blend until smooth.Add sugar. There will be lumps so try to work it out and stir constantly for approx 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water and add to milk flour mix. Stir in and remove from heat. Add hazelnut flour and egg yolks. Mix well. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add Xante to milk/flour/ hazelnut mixture. Take a bit of the peaked egg whites and add to this base. Fold in gently. Add the base to the bowl and whites and continue to fold in till all mix is Incorporated. Fill ramekins 2/3 full. Place ramekins. Bake for approx 20 minutes. on a baking sheet with edges. Fill bottom of pan with water.

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Fusion Dinner and Cookie Contest Update

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Thanks for all your encouragement. I didn't win but had a marvelous experience. The French Pastry School is a class act. They gave each contestant a t shirt, apron, a French Pastry experience gift certificate worth $75( watching their Master chefs give demos and instruction), hand crafted Chocolates, a wonderful demo on site with Chef Instructor Laura Ragano. She showed us how to make Madelines and Finaciers. We each got an instruction booklet with valuable recipes , tips, and photos. They even fed us lunch and there was not registration fee. I'm so tempted to enter the pie competition but I t falls on a day when I have 2 other things going on. Plus the expense in producing 4 final pies and the experimentation up to is just to much for me right now. I have a London trip coming up in a few weeks. Totally unexpected , but I am excited! I consciously chose not to make a sugar cookie with royal icing as decoration because that can mask a really good cookie. Only one other contestant used chocolate. I knew they wanted more than a 'fashion cookie'. The winner was a student at their school ( UNFAIR!) who managed to make a decorative yet tasty cookie. They were pistachio leaf shaped cookies( 1st picture second row) that screamed autumn. 3rd place was the lady next to me with these delicate almost fried like lemony sugar cookies. They were rich , but I thought she would be ruled out because hers looked under the required 1.5 inches. 2nd place was this cherry filled sugar cookie. I was shocked at the props used in competition and had to run and get a serving plate at World Market. Next time I know better. The judges were another treat! We had some Chicago top pastry chefs including Michelle Garcia of Bleeding Heart Bakery who you always see on those Food Network competitions.

Anyway...Its Sunday and you know how much a nice Sundaydinner means to me and Certain Someone.This dinner had a lot of fusion going on . And it was all expermital and improvised, so no comments on it not being traditional, etc.. I know its not. Certain Someone requested Red curry in his chicken. I haven't made a Thai Red curry before and totally improvised the Glamah way. I have this cast iron wok shaped pan I love to use from oven to stove top. I rubbed 3 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste all over the 3 large chicken breasts with skin and bone. I let them sit and marinate with some chopped garlic. I then added some water, sealed in foil, and slow cooked in the oven for an hour to make the chicken nice and tender. I hate tough fast cooked flavorless white meat. I then chopped some small Thai eggplants, and a whole onion to add, and bake some more.

A nice broth was brewing. I took the wok pan onto the gas range and let it simmer some more. I thought it was to much liquid at first, but added a can of coconut milk nevertheless. Certain someone micro managing me complained I left the bones in . I took the breasts and removed the skin and bone. Then he fussed because he wanted the skin I threw away. I told him who wants non crispy skin!Anyway we were left with nice huge chunks of tender white meat. The bones and skin had made the broth more flavorful, sop they served their purpose. I finished it with lots of Basil Leaves.

I also served some Wehani brown rice.This rice took 50 minutes to cook and yielded a great aroma. A new favorite. I decided to try using my chick pea flour to make chickpea pancakes. Indian style. Basically it was 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup chick pea flour, chopped chilies, onions, coriander seeds( my twist), salt, water, etc. Mix, knead, let rest for 1 hour, and fry up. Certain Someone thought they were dry, but we sopped them up with all that coconut red curry sauce. What a fusion Thai elements with Indian elements. Its Glamahs kitchen so she can do what she wants. We enjoyed it and found it very filling. All the bulk in that rice. Thankfully it wasn't to spicy, which was my fear. I love spice, but sometimes you just want it easy.

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Finding My A Game... Wish Me Luck In An Amateur Sugar Cookie Competition

A month ago , feeling ambitious, I registered to compete in the The French Pastry School Sugar Cookie Competition. The event is today. The French Pastry School is a part of the City Colleges here in Chicago and is excellent. They attract such such world re known chefs like Pierre Herme for hard to get in workshops and master classes. The prices of classes are to rich for my blood, but would be a once in lifetime opportunity. And If I had the luxury to enroll , I would! Anyway the first 30 registrants will compete today at Whole Foods On Canal. The requirements are that we must use, but are not limited to Neilsen Massey Vanilla, Plugra Butter, King Arthur Flour, and Callebaut Chocolate. Each participant will win a Free French Patry Experience and Certificate of Participation. Third Prize is a Kitchen Aid Mixer, Second is a Kitchen Aid and Thermohauser French Pastry School Professional Tool Kit, and First is what I really want, a Kitchen Aid,French Pastry Enthusiast Course, French Pastry School Chef Jacket, and Thermohause French Pastry School Professional Kit.
I practiced early on getting my recipe together. I knew I wanted the element of hazelnut. The first cookies were bulky monsters of a hazelnut dough topped with caramel, then covered in chocolate. They were way to rich and bulky. Not bad, but not what I wanted. I got sidetracked, and got back to work. Last week made a swirl dough inspired by a cookie recipe I saw over at Linda's.I still wanted the hazelnut element. The cookies again were to big, flat, and I had a kitchen disaster when they fell uncooked all over my over. The ones I could bake I swirled chocolate to follow the marble pattern. Again not my best work. But I knew the dough was getting there. So this week I procrastinated. Last night I assembled my 2 doughs. The light dough was harder and dryer, and the dark was mushier. I had been chilling them 2 hours! I had changed the sugar type a bit, so I wondered if this played into it. Anyway it wasn't going to plan. Instead of swirls I got marble. Frustrated but encouraged by Certain Someone, I just went with it. I didn't fight the dough. My mother used to have a saying. 'Let Go And Let God'. I followed her advice. So I woke at 6 am and got to work. I used a 2 inch flower cutter and sliced the dough and started shaping and forming. I got over 70 cookies. The competition requires 50 to judge and 10 for show. No oven misshapes and 2 hours later I am typing this.

Hazelnut Sugar Swirls by "Glamah"

A 3-sugar cookie divided into two dough’s to create a swirl effect. Chocolate is used as decoration to outline the swirl.

Hazelnut Dough
½ lb Plugras Butter room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp Nielson Massey Vanilla
1/4 tsb cardamom
1 tsp orange zest or orange icing sugar (an orange flavoring gel used in cakes and icings).
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup Hazelnut Flour
2 cups King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour
¼ tsp sea salt
Brown food coloring optional

Light Dough
1 ¼ cup confectioners sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup Plugras butter room temperature
2 ½ cup King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour
1 egg white + 1 tbsp water

Chocolate Swirl
Callebaut Chocolate

Preparation of Hazelnut dough:
In a bowl or stand mixer cream your eggs, brown sugar, cane sugar, cardamom. orange zest, Vanilla, and butter until incorporated. Do not over blend as to get to much air into the mixture. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, hazelnut flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet as the mixer turns. Once all ingredients are combined stop mixing. At this point, you may add brown food coloring to deepen the color. Shape into a log (close to diameter of cookie shape) on wax paper, and chill for at least 1 hour.
Preparation of Light Dough:
Mix confectioners sugar, butter, and egg yolk in your mixer bowl until combined. Gradually add in flour and knead until dough is firm and incorporated. Chill for a minimum of 1 hour.
Roll out both dough’s on sheets of wax paper. Brush hazelnut dough with egg white mixture. Top with rolled out Light dough. From the long end, roll both dough’s together to form a long slim log. If the log is to thick use both hands to extend it and shape into desired width. Cut log into three parts. Slice lenght wise and lay over each other in opposite directions to mold into another log. The purpose of this is to mix up the doughs tho create the marbeled effect. Just be sure there is a contrast between both doughs. Shape the dough into a log again, wrap, and chill until firm for an at least one hour or over night... When dough is sliced and shaped, it should have a marbled effect.

Preheat oven to 350. Place slices of cookie dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack.

Chocolate Swirl:
Melt Callebaut Chocolate in a double boiler. Once cooled down, pour into a piping bag. Cut off a tiny tip pf the bag and swirl the chocolate over the marbled edges of the cookies.
If chocolate decoration does not solidify immediately, place cookie in the refrigerator for a few minutes to harden.

MARX FOODS IS HAVING ANOTHER CONTEST! is calling all Chanterelle Mushroom Recipes!

To Enter: Submit your best original chanterelle recipe to
Prize: 2 Pounds of fresh chanterelle mushrooms
Contest Dates: September 2nd - Friday, September 19th

You can check out all the recipes that have been entered at our

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Cooking With Salt Cod... Flamenco Stew

A few weeks ago I saw a show with Andrew Zimmerman. He was in Iceland and profiling a chef who was re known with he could do with salt cod, a valuable commodity in Scandinavia. I then got to thinking of a delicious Brandade de Morue I had and was determined to make it. Until I saw all the cups of olive oil involved in making this heavenly codfish paste like dish. So then I took I out my books on Spain. The Spanish should thank a fish merchant named Gurtubay from Bilbao whose order was mistaken for 30-40 bundles of salt cod/Bacalao to 30,040. Stuck with this excess inventory he thought he was screwed. But a Carlist War broke out, food ran low, and the population turned to the merchant for his dried salt cod.Needless to say he racked up! I read this fact in my Culinaria Spain. The Spanish had used salt cod before going back to the 16th century. It was well preserved , could travel, and adapted for dishes during Lent. I remember my Nigerian father incorporating stock fish, or salt cod in his stews and soups. As a child I didn't get it, but know see that flavor that the adults relished.

The trick to using salt cod is to soak it for at least 24- 48 hours and change the water frequently. Its not so widely used in the US, but one can find it in Hispanic or Italian stores. I found mine in the local Treasure Island. For a poor mans fish, it can be awfully expensive. More so than fresh fish. It normally comes in a wooden crate.Don't let the initial smell deter you.

I decided to make a dish I got from Spain and The World Table by the Culinary Institute of America. I won this book a while back from Andrea, and this is the first recipe I made. Flamenco stew is based on the classic Lenten Soups and stews of Spain. I figured I had most of the ingredients. There is a a lot of prep involved but what I got was one of the best fish based stews/ soups I have ever tasted! The house had a fragrant, yet non fishy aroma. What I loved were the salt cod balls that reminded me of matzo balls. Perfect as this weather turns to fall for us here in Chicago.

Flamenco Stew adapted from a recipe from Kisko Garcia, Spain And The World Table, the Culinary Institute of America

serves 8
12 oz salt cod
2 cups dried chickpeas
For the Stew
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Pinch of Saffron
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 lbs potatoes
1 lb fresh spinach( stemmed ,washed, and chopped)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt Cod Balls
2 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced garlic
shredded salt cod from above
4 cups breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Desalt the salt cod. Soak in water, refrigerated for 24-48 hours. Change water at least 5 times. Drain well. Soak chickpeas overnight.
Place salt cod in medium sauce pan with 10 3/4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Remove the fish and save the water! Allow fish to cool and pick out any bones if any.Do not throw out the water!
Heat oil in a Dutch Oven. Cook until tender for 5 minutes and then add garlic, and paprika. Stir and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and reserved water from the salt cod. Bring to boil. Add saffron and bay leaf. . Reduce to medium heat m cover, and simmer 1 hour. Add salt and cook for another 30 min- 1 hour until chickpeas are tender. Add potatoes and simmer for 30 min. Stir in spinach and pepper and remove from heat. Let stand while you make the salt cod balls.
Beat eggs in a bowl. Add parsley, garlic, shredded salt cod, and breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls and set aside.
Taste the stew and adjust seasonings to your tastes. Bring back to simmer on a low heat . Add the salt cod balls and poach gently for 5 minutes or until cooked.

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Certain Someone is Back and A Weeks Worth of Food

My honey is back. Thank you guys for bearing with me as I got a little melancholy. It was a long time away , but the man has to do what he has to do in regards to his job. Certain Someone flew in last Monday and our first meal was his favorite . Harold's fried Chicken. He was going through withdrawals and I couldn't blame him. Plus I was to tired to cook. Tuesday he took me to the place where we met and fell and love. Le Sardine. This little gem of a restaurant has a prix fixe for $25 every Tuesday for 3 full size courses. I knew he was the man for me when I saw him order and devour a lamb shank 2 1/2 years ago. Last Tuesday I was more adventurous and started with blood sausage and caramelised apples. So good. Open your minds people. I then had Maigret of duck with lentils, and Grand Mariner souffle with Strawberry coulis. Certain Someone had a braised oxtails and gnocchi to start, steak,and the creme brulee. It was nice to unwind finally and relax over dinner.

With my man back I needed to get shopping. CS's starter was so small , I got to thinking of the last time I made oxtails. Its was the first meal I made for him. Slow cooked while I was work. I took Thursday off to prepare for a house guest of ours this weekend and picked up some oxtails. I slow cooked them in my Le Creuset Dutch oven with some bay leaf, canned tomatoes, mushrooms, frozen beet greens, leeks, and leftover frozen cauliflower puree I had. Just throwing in tons of produce.The cauliflower puree soaked up the liquid and made a nice thickened low carb sauce. I served this with saffron rice. Homey and good.It doesnt look like much , but it was delish.
We still have some leftovers.

Fridays fare was more American leading up to the holiday weekend. Hot wings. I used Franks Hot sauce . I was rushed and they didn't come out as crispy as I liked, but nevertheless good.

With our Swedish house guest we went out to dinner most of the time. Fogo De Chao ( I can never eat my share of meat there, its a mans place), deep dish Chicago Pizza at Lou Malnati's, drinks at Sushi Samba.
And today this late lunch/ dinner waiting for him when returned form the golf course. A summer vegetable medley I whipped up with my mandolin of yellow squash, sliced Brussels sprouts, chopped tomatoes, herbs, and a splash of rice vinegar slowly sauteed. The ribs were slow cooked after a dry rub with Penzeys BBQ 3000( a gift from a friend) my own rub of pulverized bay leaf and cumin seeds( I remember Peter writing of ground Bay Leaf and decided to try it myself), pan wrapped and sealed in foil with a little water, and slow cooked for about 3-4 hours. Then I took the foil off when I judged the meat to be tender enough and brushed with the excellent Country Bobs sauce. Meaty and tender.

Writing this I realize we ate very good this week. But its a special week. The return of Certain Someone, a long holiday weekend, and showing our friend some of Chicago. I got my mojo back.

I have a winner for the The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry Book Giveaway. Using RANDOM. ORG I got Bellini Valli who is living her dream:
Dreams can come true. I started on my dream when I visited a cooking school/vacation on the island of Kea in Greece. There are so many wonderful cooking vacations in so many diverse countries it would be my dream to visit most of them and then wtite a guide book for others to enjoy.

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