Archive for November, 2008

Lemon Almond Torta and Chocolate Nemesis

November 20, 2008

I have given the Lemon Almond Torta from The Traveler’s Lunchbox another chance. It was good the first time, but I was a little disappointed. First of all, my torta did not look anything like Melissa’s picture.

Melissa seems to have photographed a miniature lemon torta, which she managed to completely encrust in toasted almonds. In response to a question about getting the almonds to stick, she posted that she used a thick layer of butter to get the almonds to adhere to the sides of the pan and then “glued” more on with a sugar paste. I tried this without success.

I tried a few things differently the second time. First, I used a regular cake pan instead of a springform pan because I hate dealing with springform pans. Second, I gave up the idea of completely encrusting the torta with almonds. I did not even bother to try to get the nuts to stick at all to the sides of the pan.

The first time I made the torta, the cake was a little dense. This time, it was much better, but just a little soggy in the center under all the lemon curd. I might have underbaked it. Both times I made the torta, I neglected to toast the almonds. Next time, I will pay attention to this step because the almonds on my tortas were a little pale and got a bit soggy.

These quibbles aside, the torta was a big success. It was especially good paired with Chocolate Nemesis (Good Housekeeping, December 2005)

Jaden’s knife giveaway!

November 20, 2008

Steamy Kitchen is giving away three free knives. And you get to pick the knife you want to win.

Making Pasta with Kids

November 13, 2008

The LA Times’ Amy Scattergood has written an article about making pasta with kids. “Pasta-making is a bit like a kid’s project anyway,” she writes. “Mix flour and eggs together into something that resembles Play-Doh. Then roll it out, cut it into funny shapes, boil it and eat it under a spoonful of sauce.”

She made it sound so easy.


I told my 3 12/ year old we would make noodles. It would be a project. Like when we made split pea soup or oatmeal cookies. “Great!” He said.

His eyes opened wide when I showed him the play-Doh like mass of pasta dough and the pasta machine. He excitedly cranked the handle and watched the dough extrude.

But something was amiss. The dough was coming out somewhat shredded looking, a little lacy, with lots of holes. So we kept folding the dough and putting it through. The little guy was wearing down and cranking more slowly as we put the dough through again and again to smooth it out.

Daddy came to help. “Are you having fun with the project?” He asked. “Daddy,” my son said wearily, “this isn’t a project, this is REAL.”

Finally, I divided up the dough and put through smaller pieces. Success! [note: the recipe, I realize now, says to divide it in four pieces before rolling it out. I missed that crucial instruction, unfortunately. Well, now we know what happens if you don’t divide it up!] We made the dough thinner and thinner (by now, Daddy was cranking). Then we put it through the fettuccine cutter. That was exciting.

The pasta was delicious, but, I’m sorry Amy, that was hard work! Though it would have been easier if I had followed the directions better. Oh well. Next time.

Tortilla Casserole

November 10, 2008

This could not be easier. You can have this recipe assembled in the time it takes to read through the recipe.

The original recipe title was enchiladas, but they aren’t really enchiladas. Faux-chiladas, maybe. Or Mexican lasagna.

The tomatoes and sauce can be poured down the center of the dish, leaving the ends of the tortillas exposed, and the exposed part of the tortillas will crisp up. You could also spread the tomato mixture around so that the tortillas are completely covered. Then the tortillas will get soft and the dish will have a texture like lasagna.

Tortilla Casserole
1 lb. ricotta
10 ounces frozen chopped broccoli or spinach, defrosted and drained very well
1 cup or 4 ounces shredded mozzarella (can use all or part spicy Pepper Jack cheese instead)
10 ounces Mexicorn (or regular canned or frozen corn)
2 eggs

6-10 flour tortillas, small size (8″ diameter)

14.5 ounces canned diced tomato (with or without jalapeno)
8 ounces canned tomato sauce
1 cup or 4 ounces shredded cheese (use Mozzarella or Pepper Jack)

Combine filling ingredients in a bowl. Grease a 9×13 pan (8×10 OK, too). Fill tortillas and roll up. Place rolled tortillas side by side in pan. Top with tomatoes and sauce. Top with cheese. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, until heated though and crusty on top.

Update: It is crucial to squeeze out every drop of moisture from the spinach before adding it in, or the filling will be runny and the tortillas will get really soggy. Not good.

Chocolate Cupcakes and More Soup

November 9, 2008

I needed an easy dessert. Scrolling through the dessert section of Leite’s Culinaria, I settled upon these chocolate cupcakes. I used Callebaut Dutch process cocoa instead of Hershey’s natural cocoa, and I used only 3/4 cup of mayo. They were excellent. DH rates them an 8, but only because the tops got sticky when they cooled. I did not make the frosting recipe. I suppose I could just substitute oil for the mayo if I was making these for the mayo-phobes I know.

DH rated the Armenian apricot and red lentil soup a 6 or 7, because he found the slight sweetness slightly off-putting. He and DS prefer split pea soup. I made a pot with lots of garlic and a pinch of poultry seasoning that had the house smelling like I just roasted a chicken.

Split Pea Soup

1 pound split peas
handful of barley, optional
1-2 carrots, finely chopped
2 onions, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbl. salt, or more to taste
1-2 stalks celery, plus celery leaves, finely chopped
pinch poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp.  pepper, or more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large pot with 8 cups of water and cook until mushy, about 2 hours. Adjust seasoning and add more water as needed to adjust thickness.

Armenian Apricot Red Lentil Soup

November 6, 2008

I have wanted to make red lentil soup with apricots ever since I saw a recipe for it in The Cranks Recipe Book. But I held off for some inexplicable reason. Then I saw it again in a cookbook called The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups. I still held off. Then I saw that Heidi made it.

So, on a dark, wet day that begged for soup, I finally made the recipe. I cut the amounts in half and made a few other changes. I hate having to put soup in a blender, so I changed the recipe so that it would turn to mush on its own: I chopped the vegetables and apricots very finely; Instead of adding the apricots at the end, I added them at the same time that I added the lentils and water; and I cooked the soup for a very, very long time, until the lentils completely disintegrated. I had to keep adding water because the soup got very thick.

The flavor was a tad bland, but nice. I added ground pepper, but I wanted to add a touch of lemon juice to brighten it up. The Cranks book calls for lemon juice and fresh parsley. Please to the Table adds in lemon juice, garlic, thyme, and some chopped tomatoes–that would be nice. I think that would add the bite that I think this soup needs. I must try that version next.

All the same, my favorite red lentil soup is this really easy recipe from Good Housekeeping. I substitute plain water for the canned vegetable broth.