Search This Blog

30 August 2011

Peach Hotcakes

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find good peaches at the grocery store? We've gotten lucky and our not-as-close neighborhood grocery store has had really good peaches lately. We went there to get some emergency ice cream rations to prepare for the coming hurricane and the peaches reached out and grabbed us and we bought a couple pounds. That hurricane was a bit of a let down for us (the earthquake was scarier), but the peaches were quite good.

I made some peach pancakes based on the buttermilk-blueberry pancake recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I used cardamom instead of cinnamon, and it was okay, but it didn't have a spectacular flavor. I would just go with cinnamon for this one next time. But if you want a recipe for pancakes with cardamom, here's one from Mark Bittman. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds delightful. 

Oh, and for some reason in my family we call them hotcakes instead of pancakes, I've always figured it's because they're bigger than the usual pancakes. If you're reading this and you know the answer, please comment and let me know!

cooked peach pancake

We like them big, but this one was almost unflippable

Peach Hotcakes
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. semolina flour or cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (or your favorite complementary spice)
1 Tbsp. honey (or sugar)
1 egg, beaten
1 c. buttermilk or yogurt or whey from draining yogurt or a combination
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 peach, cut into blueberry-size pieces, peeled if desired, covered in lemon juice to keep from browning

Mix together flour, semolina/cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon (and sugar, if using) in a bowl, set aside.

Mix together the honey (if using), egg, buttermilk/yogurt/whey and oil. 

Start heating up a griddle for cooking, then mix together the wet and dry ingredients until they are just barely mixed and still lumpy, then add peach pieces gently. 

Cook pancakes on lightly oiled griddle, eat with your favorite topping. 

22 August 2011

Blueberry Mascarpone Turnovers

I really need a good pastry fix, and these turnovers will do in a pinch. These have a cheese filling (mascarpone cheese, lemon zest and juice, sugar and cornstarch) topped with blueberries. Made with puff pastry from the frozen aisle.

Fold puff pastry over fillings and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes (the puff pastry should have instructions for how long to bake it) and the fillings might explode everywhere. I'm not sure how to fix the exploding, but the cornstarch helps a little bit.

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls

Here's some cinnamon rolls I made with the other half of my brioche dough. They were quite delicious and gone the same day. My favorite cinnamon/sugar proportions are 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon, in case you were wondering.

18 August 2011


Brioche fresh from the oven

Brioche is a lovely rich bread from France, similar to challah. It has a lot of egg and a lot of butter and sometimes a little sugar. This is a recipe that I got from the King Arthur Flour website, and I just checked and it's still there along with some a lot of other amazing looking things! They give instructions for mixing in a stand mixer, but I don't have one, so below you will find the recipe and instructions for mixing by hand. You will need to plan ahead, because it needs a lot of rising time, it's easy to make the dough the day before you need it.

Today I made 1 1/2 of this recipe, and cut it in half so that I can have two loaves, one of which I will bake later. My loaf today does have a very eggy flavor, perhaps next time I will replace one egg with water. The first time I made this recipe a few years ago, I tried mixing in the butter with my wimpy hand mixer and it blew out the motor.  So now when I make it by hand, the butter doesn't get incorporated as well as with a stand mixer, and the final product usually ends up a little crisper and flakier than brioche that you buy in the bakery (if you're lucky enough to find it) and that is just the way I like it.

Brioche dough is a good base for making all sorts of sweet or savory rolls or loaves. There are recipes for cinnamon sticky buns or orange rolls that start with a brioche dough, so it's a good one to experiment with. You can make it in different sizes and shapes, like a nice braid or just in a regular loaf pan.

Brioche (from King Arthur Flour)

2 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. water
4 eggs (perhaps try it with 3 eggs and add an extra 1/4 c. water)
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. cold unsalted butter

Mix together 1 1/2 c. flour, yeast, water and eggs in a bowl until smooth. Cover and let rest for 30-45 minutes. It will bubble a little. Add the remaining 1 1/4 c. flour and salt and beat/knead for 8-10 minutes, dough should become smooth and elastic.

Place butter in between two layers of plastic wrap and beat with a rolling pin or meat mallet until it is soft and pliable, but not warm. Cut butter into pieces, fold by thirds into the dough, working quickly to try to keep the butter from melting. If it starts melting a lot and getting your hands greasy, pack up the dough into the fridge for a few minutes to chill, then knead gently again. It's okay for there to be biggish chunks of butter, but they should be well dispersed throughout the dough.

Form the dough approximately into a ball, place in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 4-16 hours. It will firm up a lot and rise a little. Remove from fridge and work quickly (don't let the butter melt!) to form it into the shape you want it, I do an oval-ish loaf. Let the shaped loaf rise for 2-3 hours (I turn on the oven after 2 hours to start the preheating). Preheat oven to 375. Brush the loaf with an egg wash, if desired (beat egg with a little water and brush over entire surface), cut slashes if  that is needed for the shape you chose to make it. Bake for 45-50 minutes, outside should be dark golden brown. Let cool on a rack a couple minutes before removing from the pan to cool the rest of the way. Enjoy!

Brioche with jam

17 August 2011


Yesterday we went to Eden Center, an area of town with a high concentration of Vietnamese stores, and got some food and some fruits called rambutan. These are related to lychees, with the outside peel and the inside fruit. These have a very pleasant grape-y flavor, without the floral tones of lychees. The texture of the outside shell reminded me of millipedes, which made me nervous to pick them up, but they weren't gross at all. Older Brother also discovered that if you get the outside shell off  mostly whole, you can put it on your nose and look like a clown and have the delicious smell of the fruit constantly wafting up your nose. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of that.

I also had bahn mi for the first time, mine had caramelized tofu skins instead of meat on it, and it was pretty delicious. I'll definitely be going back for more awesome stuff.

rambutan before peeling

rambutan with fruit in the middle

15 August 2011

Some happenings in the kitchen and around town

Here's some of our adventures in eating lately.

Ethiopian Food today at Awash, it looks like a mess, but it's quite delicious.

Brownies with cardamom and orange peel topped with preserved kumquat and orange sauce, kumquats from Chinatown, New York City, sorry the lighting was bad, but these were pretty amazing. Just add about a teaspoon of cardamom and some orange zest to your favorite brownie recipe and try to make an awesome orange topping.

What we made with our eggplant from the market: Eggplant casserole with onion, pepper, tomatoes and kefalotyri cheese (a fabulous greek cheese I got from my friendly neighborhood middle eastern market).

Peach and cardamom upside down cake, not super successful, will develop a better recipe, probably in muffin form, coming . . . sometime, if I ever figure it out.

13 August 2011

National Mechanics, Philadelphia, PA

photo source
This is where we ate with Older Brother's Friend when we visited Philadelphia yesterday. National Mechanics is in a building that used to be a bank geared toward blue collar workers, the outside has the same classical architecture as the First and Second Banks of the United States, which are in the same area, and the inside has some interesting bizarre decorations, including carnivorous (and other) plants in terrariums in the windows, interesting lightbulbs, and a beetle collection display.

I was uncertain about eating here because from the outside it didn't look like it would have many good vegetarian options, but the menu and specials were very vegetarian friendly, and I was quite impressed with the variety of interesting options.

I had an eggplant sandwich with cilantro spread, wilted spinach, lots of tomatoes and cheese on a bun with tomato baked into it. Older Brother got the National Veggie Burger which looked amazing to me with all sorts of vegetables making up the patty. We couldn't figure out how it was holding together. Older Brother's Friend got vegetable empanadas with a snazzy looking dipping sauce. The empanadas were filled mostly with mushrooms, and you probably know by now what a sucker I am for mushrooms.

National Mechanics: Eggplant Sandwich
National Mechanics: National Veggie Burger
National Mechanics: Vegetable Empanadas
This was a pretty fabulous place with a lot of character and quirkiness. Look at the sink in the bathroom! Look at these awesome glasses with notable people from Philly (Ira EinhornEdgar Allen PoeFrank Rizzo)!

This was a really fun place if you happen to be in Philadephia with good food and an interesting atmosphere with plenty of conversation pieces to look at.

National Mechanics: Bathroom Sink 
National Mechanics: glasses with famous people

New Acquisitions and Adventures

Older Brother and I went to New York City and Philadelphia the last couple of days and did a lot of walking and sightseeing and visiting of friends. It was exhausting, but I had a great time, and I'm glad that Older Brother wanted to go, because I probably wouldn't have gone by myself. Here are our food adventures, in chronological order.

Before taking off early Wednesday morning, we bought some maps at Barnes and Noble, and I found this book in the bargain bin. I'm excited to try some recipes, and I love the pictures even if the recipes don't turn out.

In New York (between visiting some friends, browsing through fabric in the garment district, and taking the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty) we had some pizza which had a nice crust and lots of vegetables, but it wasn't a revelation, I had high hopes for New York pizza, and maybe it was just the stuff that we got, but it was still just pizza. We also had dumplings from a place in Chinatown, which were good, nice crunchy vegetables inside and not super salty. Older Brother bought these preserved salted kumquats that are really good. Oh, we also had breakfast at Community Food and Juice with a friend, and it was a really nice place, good food and nice atmosphere, I definitely recommend it.

stuffing my face with New York pizza

Preserved and salted kumquats
In Philly we saw some more friends and ate lunch with one of them at a place called the National Mechanics in the old city which was pretty awesome. They surprised me with a good selection of vegetarian foods, and I think they deserve their own review (next post). Ws also visited Reading Terminal Market which was pretty awesome, but I didn't buy anything and didn't get any pictures, but it was a very impressive area and I would like to go back.We didn't do a lot of eating in Philidelphia, which is a shame because my friend knows all the good places, but we weren't super hungry after the awesome lunch.

Food from National Mechanics

This morning, back home in DC, we went to the Eastern Market, on the hunt for some good produce. We found a good selection of cute eggplants for really cheap, in such interesting colors, I had no idea there was such a thing as an orange eggplant. Aren't they cute? And there were some delicious white peaches, I bought a bunch for some cardamom experiments, hopefully they will be fruitful (haha!) and I'll have plenty to write about here. There were some awesome looking ravioli with different colors, and can you see the sign for chocolate and cream ravioli! We also tried some pastries from a vendor there, and they still didn't stack up to Pavel's, so the hunt continues for the awesomest bakery in the D.C. Metro Area.

09 August 2011


We went to the fish market yesterday and bought 2 1/2 dozen blue crabs, they were so cute when they were alive, crawling all over each other. When the guy pulled them out of the bin, they grab on to each other and look like a barrel of monkeys. They were covered in Old Bay spice and steamed. I ate a bunch, I just wanted a taste and they were quite delicious - I guess I have no self control.

We had leftovers, so I cracked them all and removed the meat and I'm going to save the shells to make a stock. But this might make you appreciate imitation crab and the cost of real crab meat. This is the remains of 4 crabs, you can see the ratio of meat to shell.

08 August 2011

Amazing Desserts/Restaurant Review

A couple nights ago we went to dinner to celebrate younger brothers-in-law's birthdays (does that make sense?) at this restaurant, Zaytinya, and the food was pretty spectacular, especially that squash and cheese dish that I don't know the name of. But I especially want to show-and-tell about our desserts, I hope you don't mind fuzzy pictures of half-eaten food.

This is what I got, I don't remember what they called it because it was the special that day, but our server described it as "deconstructed baklava." It had olive oil jelly, a honey/syrup jelly, vanilla ice cream, phyllo dough with nuts rolled up in it, chopped pistachios, and fresh blackberries. It was very good and the guy pointed out that when you eat these "deconstructed" desserts you should get a little bit of all of the different elements on your spoon and eat them all at once to get the flavor of the original/classic dessert. It is pretty fun to try the different element on their own too. Olive oil jelly is surprisingly good.

This was what Lovemuffin ordered, and I think I liked it slightly better than my own. It is a Greek honey and yogurt concoction with apricot jammy stuff in the bottom and ice cream and pistachios on top. It was very pretty and very tasty.

This is what one little brother ordered, and everyone thought it was the weakest of the bunch, I was too busy taking pictures so I didn't get around to tasting it. It was another "deconstructed" dessert based on Turkish delight. I didn't really understand how to break Turkish delight down into several elements, and it was also not the most photogenic dessert. I wish I could say more about it, but since I didn't try it and no one else had a lot to say about it . . . Yeah.

The other little brother ordered this which was hands-down everyone's favorite. It was a chocolate cake with gooey insides, with cardamom and coffee flavors served with chocolate mousse-y stuff and flavored whipped cream and it was stunning, miraculous, amazing and magnificent. Our server called it "outrageous." He recommended getting the large size because the small size is just enough to piss you off.  The combination of chocolate and cardamom was incredible and revived my obsession with cardamom. In fact, I'm going to create a "cardamom" label so that you can easily find anything on this blog that contains cardamom. Perhaps I should also make cardamom chocolate cookies or muffins or something. The coffee flavor was not that noticeable to me, but it probably served to deepen the flavor of the chocolate. The thing I really liked about this dessert was that you can taste it before you even put it in your mouth.

Over all, it was a pretty great restaurant, it had a nice atmosphere but wasn't snobby or intimidating, our server was super helpful and nice, and all of the food was beyond excellent. I'm thinking of going back with my older brother for some lunch and dessert.

02 August 2011

The New Digs

We moved to our new place near Washington D.C. a little over a month ago. Things are good here and I really like the city. Our new apartment is fairly large, there is room for a desk in the living room as well as other furniture, so I've put my sewing machine on the desk instead of the kitchen table and now there is room for cooking in the kitchen. The kitchen is pretty big, but doesn't have a lot of storage or counter space, so we've acquired some shelves that give us more of both. It does have a dishwasher, which feels like a miracle. We still need some dining chairs, but other than that, we're pretty settled in. However, right now it's too hot to cook, so I feel mostly uninspired and don't have a lot to write about.

There interesting things that do make me want to cook, for example, always has something awesome going on. The other day I made ginger and cinnamon cookies (I love those ginger cookies so much!) and froze most of the dough so I don't eat them all at once. Also, a couple of weeks ago I tried out the cucumber agua fresca which was quite refreshing and I really need to make it again. I would like to make this peach and blueberry cake, but the thought of the oven being on for that long is deterring me. And I have my new library card, so if I find any interesting cookbooks at the library, I'd like to review them here too.

I'm trying to find some good ethnic markets/cheap food and a stellar bakery. We've gone to a good Ethiopian restaurant, an excellent falafel house and a not so great Vietnamese place. Yesterday we found a Japanese market that seemed really good and fresh, and even sells miso paste! So I need to find more markets specializing in interesting international/ethic foods. So far, we have not encountered any bakeries that even compare with Pavel's. I probably just need to get out more, because in all honesty, I haven't been looking that hard. Older Brother told me about this food blog that will be helpful once I start reading it. All in all, it has been a good move and if you want to come visit, you would be welcome here!

my new kitchen

01 August 2011

A Green Smoothie

A few days ago my tummy was upset, but I was hungry, so I thought something super healthy with yogurt might help.  I gave in to the green smoothie fad and made one with kale, peaches and yogurt for breakfast. I've heard that the flavor of the greens is not noticeable in a green smoothie, but I want to tell you that depends entirely on how much you use. My first batch of smoothie was great, and so for my second breakfast I put even more kale in it, and this time it was overly "green" flavored. So I recommend not overdoing it on the greens. The peaches were nice, they gave it a nice flavor and sweetness and the colors did not clash to make something completely disgusting looking. I didn't measure the ingredients, but I took a picture of the second batch before blending, the one with too much kale, which is as close as I can get to writing down a recipe for a smoothie. But if you want a real recipe with real measurements, there's a ton out there within searching range, they've been very popular lately.

green smoothie-too much kale in this one