So You Think You Know Food: Italian, French, Portuguese

So You Think You Know Food

Yesterday was a banner day. It marked the first in what I hope will become a semi-regular series of discussions about food and culture via Google + Hangouts on Air!

Jamie Schler (Life’s a Feast and Plated Stories) and I have been talking about doing something like this on French cuisine for quite some time, It seems like Americans especially have an overly romantic view of what French food is all about, and as an American who has lived in France for thirty years, she wanted to dispel some myths. And I wanted to help her.

Then, we decided to broaden our scope, so we asked Domenica Marchetti (Domenica Cooks), prolific author of gorgeous Italian cookbooks (her sixth comes out next year) to speak about myths and misconceptions surrounding Italian food. We also approached the fabulous David Leite, master of Leite’s Culinaria, multiple nominated and award-winning food blogger and food writer extraordinaire to represent the cuisine of Portugal. David is 100% Portuguese, and he spent a year in the Azores (where his family is from) and Portugal researching the cuisine for his book, The New Portuguese Table.

Sounds like a great panel. Bring it on!

Caramelized Honey and Lavender Panna Cotta: A Valentine to My Readers, No Less Sincere for Being Belated

caramelized honey and lavender panna cotta

When I started this website, and eventually the blog to go along with it, I didn’t know who I would reach. I didn’t know if I would reach anyone at all.

I thought there might be a need for a site that focused on ingredient function, on mixing methods and techniques and on thinking a bit outside the box when it came to baking. There were already so many blogs–many of them wonderful–that shared recipes along with a story and gorgeous, eye-popping photography. I was no photographer. I still am not, so I knew I couldn’t run in those circles. I didn’t even really want to. I wanted to teach people what they needed to know in order to make their own versions of fun, delicious and even spectacular desserts.

Teach me! Especially about that panna cotta!

Help4Harleigh: With Love, Bearing Food

help4harleigh

The best way to begin is just to begin. Take a deep breath and begin.

help4harleigh

I was going to write a Valentine’s Day post today. I was going to take pretty pictures so that people would pin, would share, would come and read and ooh and ah over my creation. Swirls of frosting. Pink and red. What an awesome blogger. What beautiful photos.

This is my Valentine’s post. A plea for help for a child I’ve never met. Help4Harleigh. Whose uncle I have only spoken with a handful of times via social media. I ask that you pin this, that you invite people to come and read, that you share this post. To help spread the word for Mark and his family.

It is so hard to watch a child suffer. Everyone wants to do all that they can to ease the pain and will the healing begin.

Tell me more so I can help spread the word.

Lemon Thyme Tea Cakes | Easy as Pie Pops Cookbook Review | Cookbook Giveaway

Lemon Thyme Tea Cakes

Lollipops and corn dogs are pretty much the only food items I think should be on sticks. Yet here I am reviewing the new cookbook that is mostly all about shoving sticks into other foods: Easy as Pie Pops, Small in Size and Huge on Flavor and Fun by Andrea Smetona of Cakewalk Desserts.

When I first got my copy of the book from Page Street Publishing, I decided that I would be making one of the tea cakes since they don’t have to be shoved on a stick. I made Lemon Thyme Tea Cakes, and overall I was pleased with the way they turned out. More on that in a bit, though.

I think Pie Pops and Tea Cakes sound lovely. Plus, I hear there’s a giveaway!

Cinnamon Buttermilk Cheesecake with Apple Pie Topping

biscotti-cream-sheese

I hardly ever make cheesecake. Not because I don’t like it but because I like it a little too much.

I am pretty sure I have never met a cheesecake I didn’t love and eat more of than maybe I should. I have even purchased a tub of Philadelphia cheesecake filling just to eat straight like pudding. Wait, that wasn’t me…

About three weeks ago, I ordered a jar of Apple Pie Jam from Fogwood Farm as part of our order through Carolina Grown. When I ordered it, I didn’t actually have a plan for it. I just had an idea that I’d be able to use it to make something delicious at some point. When the jam arrived, I put it in the cabinet and waited for inspiration.

Mmmmm….Cheesecake! Lead on…

Cuban Sandwich Empanadas | Review of Stuffed by Dan Whelan | Stuffed Giveaway

Stuffed Cookbook

Let me introduce you to the Cuban Sandwich Empanada. I’m pretty sure there is really nothing else to say. I should just stand out of the way as you stampede to make the recipe. Since I’m me, though, I shall say more. Tender, juicy, garlicky-citrusy mojo pork; sweet and salty ham; mellow Swiss cheese; sour, acidic dill pickles; the bite of yellow mustard. These things should be in that song. You know the one.

Raindrops on roses. Whiskers on kittens.

Hot Cuban sammies I must get my mitts on.

See?

I think they will be one of my favorite things, too. Tell me more! And you’re giving away something, right?

Turtle Graham Crackers Candy

turtle graham crackers candy

I have had turtles and s’mores on the brain ever since I made Kim’s Turtle S’mores Chocolate Cake for her birthday celebration. So when I looked at my leftover butterscotch candy, ganache and pecans from the cake extravaganza, I immediately thought graham crackers. Turtle graham crackers candy.

Because, who wouldn’t, right?

Um…right? Tell me more.

The Raspberry Fizz Cocktail: A Valentine’s Beverage

Raspberry Fizz Cocktail

This is the story of the Raspberry Fizz Cocktail. It’s funny how seemingly unrelated actions, events and circumstances can sometimes conspire to make unforeseen yet very cool things happen.

First, my video production group was tasked with making a cocktail video. That gave birth to the Maine Root Float video as well as to a review of The Best Craft Cocktails. It also made my buy vodka. Then, when we were asked to make another cocktail video, the stars aligned with my klout perk from People Magazine, and I ended up making the Blurred Lines Cocktail and video. I also had to buy KahlĂșa, Frangelico and club soda for that one.

At the end of our hangout last week, Lenny–our fearless video production group leader and one half of the fabulous ChezUs–told us that we had to shoot yet another cocktail video, this time at night with no natural light and only one light source. Quite honestly, we were all less than pleased.

But then something really interesting happened. Rather than feeling all daunted and sad and grumpy over having to shoot a video of mixing drinks in the dark, we all got inspired and decided to just go for it. While we all usually wait until the last minute to shoot and upload our videos before our meetings, this time, most of us have our videos up days in advance. And, do you know what? They are awesome. We all ended up enjoying the challenge and making some pretty good videos in what might be considered less than ideal lighting situations. Yay us! Thanks Lenny for pushing us. We might grumble to your face, but we all appreciate the push and the inspiration!

Here’s how I came up with my beverage. Once I found out our assignment and I realized I had to make yet another mixed drink (hard life, right?) I took stock of my admittedly limited selection of booze: vodka, Sambuca, Frangelico, Kahlua, some more vodka. Club soda makes everything fizzy and festive as well as diluting the alcohol, so I knew I’d be using that. And then I thought, hey, raspberry and hazelnuts are friends, so I picked up some raspberry sorbetto made by the Talenti people at the grocery store, and the raspberry fizz cocktail was born. You’ll notice there is no lime in it in the video, but it could definitely benefit from a squeeze of lime juice and a twist of zest, just for balance. Alas, I did not own limes at video making time.

Bring on the Fizz, please!

Turtle Smore Chocolate Cake for Kim’s Birthday

kim1-001

Join me in celebrating Kim’s birthday, won’t you? You probably know Kim better as the evil genius behind Cravings of a Lunatic. Each year for her birthday, she asks a fellow blogger to make a birthday cake for her. I am honored that she asked me to be that fellow this year.a gift card, and the giveaway is open to everyone in the US and Canada. Check the end of this post for a link and enter!

Let me introduce you to Kim’s birthday cake, the Turtle Smore Chocolate Cake. First, the cake itself is a version of Hershey’s perfectly chocolate chocolate cake. You can find the recipe on the back of any can of Hershey’s cocoa powder. For Kim’s cake, I added just a hint of coffee extract, increased the salt just a bit, and caramelized half the sugar called for to deepen the chocolate flavor.

Cake and a giveaway? Oh, happy day! Tell me more!

Ottolenghi and Saffron Crackers with Citrus Fennel Sea Salt

saffron crackers

Ottolenghi

The name is spoken in hushed, reverent tones, like a prayer.

Ottolenghi.

It rolls off the tongue, the third syllable stressed and elongated, like a Gregorian chant.

Ottolenghi.

Foodies who were lucky enough to receive a copy of Ottolenghi or Jerusalem or Plenty for Christmas felt blessed from on high. As if God himself had penned the words, tested the recipes and taken the photographs.

What is it about the name? What is it about a take-away shop that quietly opened in Notting Hill in London and gave birth to three more?

Um, I thought there were crackers. There are crackers, right?