Monday, July 30, 2007

Where to Eat in Pittsburgh.

I've made a google map of some of my favorite places to eat and buy food in Pittsburgh.

You can find it here.

I think the only place that isn't on here right now is Cafe Richard in the Strip District. It is located right next to Mon Aimee Chocolat. I might be missing a few other places, but these are most of my favorites. I will try and divide them up by type/price later.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turkey Burgers.

Sara Foster's Casual Cooking has some great easy recipes. This one is a good example of something relatively simple that yields fantastic results. The burgers are just a little bit spicy, and very flavorful considering the meat isn't fatty.

Grilled Turkey Burgers
adapted from Sara Foster's Casual Cooking

1.5 lbs ground turkey
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used panko.)
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp hot sauce, such as texas pete or tabasco
2 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt, plus extra to taste
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, plus extra to taste

Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill, or heat a grill pan over medium high heat until hot.

Combine the turkey, bread crumb, mayo, chives, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, scallions, basil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and work the mixture with your hands just to mix. (Do not overmix or the burgers will be tough.) Form the meat mix into four 1-inch thick patties.

Season both sides with salt and pepper and grill them for 5-6 minutes per side, or until they're just done. Remove the patties to a platter, cover them loosely with foil to keep warm, ad set them aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve on hamburger buns and top with tomato or pickle or whatever you fancy. I ate mine in a pita pocket with tomato, arugula, and avocado.

A Very Aromatic Brioche.

Almond Brioche

I'm a huge fan of Bostock: day old brioche brushed with syrup, slathered with almond cream, and baked to a crisp. Michel Richard is my favorite place to eat almond brioche, hands down.

I used Melissa's recipe for vanilla bean/brown butter brioche, and Clotilde's recipe for the almond cream.

I added some strawberries on a whim and was pleasantly surprised when they resulted in a very aromatic and delicious brioche. I am a huge fan of the strawberry/almond extract combination, and these bostock really played up those flavors. I highly recommend them with some coffee or a glass of orange juice.

Thanks for all the nice comments from newer readers. It's nice to know that people actually look at this blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mushroom Tart

My mom encouraged me to make this tart because the picture in the book looked really delicious. I love Deborah Madison's recipes for their clean, simple flavors. This tart might seem like a lot of work, but it isn't really. If you make the tart shell ahead of time, the rest of the process will be a cinch. If I can make all the components in a few hours, so can you.

Mushroom Tart
adapted from Vegetarian Suppers in Deborah Madison's Kitchen

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp All purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/8 tsp sea salt
5 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sour cream (I actually used some tart yogurt and it came out fine.)
ice water.

Pulse the flours and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until it looks like fine crumbs. Add the sour cream and pulse again until combined. Add ice water 1/2-1 tbsp at a time until the mix barely comes together. You don't want it to be too wet or sticky.

Refrigerate the dough for 15-30 minutes. This seems short, but I had no problem at all with dough shrinkage. Roll the dough out to fit a 9 inch tart pan (about 1/4 inch thick) and fit it into the pan. Poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork. Freeze for 15-20 minutes, or until firm. Preheat your oven to 425. Pre-bake for 20-25 minutes until it just starts to color.

Mushroom Filling:
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine (...or water if you don't have any.)
olive oil
1 large white onion, finely diced
1/2 lb sliced portobello mushrooms
1/2 lb white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp parsley, thyme, or marjoram (or any combo) chopped finely
1 egg
2/3 cup half and half, cream, or mushroom stock (I used a combo of cream and stock.)
salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the dried mushrooms, wine, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and set aside for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop them into a rough dice.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion until it starts to color (about 5 minutes.) Add the portobello and cremini mushrooms and about a tsp of sea salt and turn the heat to high. Saute until they are browned but try not to overcook them. (5-10 minutes) Add half the herbs and tomato paste, and the porcini mushrooms. Add a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid- and add more a little at a time until the mushrooms are glazed and cooked.

Pour the hot filling into the prebaked tart shell. Mix together the egg and half and half and pour over the tart. Bake in the 425 oven for 25-30 minutes, until the custard is set. (Mine was done in about 20, but I didn't use all the custard.) Sprinkle the finished tart with the rest of the herbs, and brush the top with a little oil if you like.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I'm not the biggest fan of cheesecake, but my little brother loves it. I made him a plain cheesecake with meyer lemon zest and vanilla on a gingersnap crust. The recipe comes from The New York Times Dessert Book, but i'm not going to post it. There are much better recipes out there.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sandwich Cookies.

These are from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf. Most of Donna Hay's cookbooks have great recipes for simple, crispy butter cookies. This particular recipe called for a sweetened condensed milk caramel filling, which I didn't care for. I suggest filling the cookies with ganache, dulce de leche, or another filling you've tried before. You could also dip the tops in sugar and eat them plain.

Caramel Filled Biscuits
adapted from Donna Hay

8 oz butter, chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 egg

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a smooth dough forms. Roll tablespoons of the mix into balls and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Flatten the dough slightly with your hand or a glass and chill for about 10 minutes until firm. Bake the biscuits in a preheated 350 oven for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on racks. Fill with a filling of your choice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Espresso-Chocolate Semifreddo

Usually I don't care for semifreddo; it's not quite ice cream and not quite a substantial torte, cake, or pudding. I picked this recipe out of food and wine magazine because the picture was really pretty, and i'm happy to say it turned out quite well.

I'm a fan of Sherry Yard's recipes. They're usually very sophisticated, though sometimes a little hard to execute at home. This recipe didn't give an indication of just how much batter it produced. Make sure you use a very large mixing bowl.

This recipe was also a good excuse to play with my dad's huge La Cimbali espresso machine. I brewed shot after shot and tasted them all before measuring them out for the recipe O.o

If you like Tiramisu, I think you'll like this. It's got great coffee taste and a really nice texture. It'd be great with some raspberry coulis, or at least some muddled fruit.

Espresso Chocolate Semifreddo
(adapted from Food and Wine Magazine)
1.5 cup sugar
3/4 cup water+ 2tbsp
1.25 cup strongly brewed espresso
1/2 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tsp gelatin dissolved in 2 tsp water
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1.25 cups heavy cream
18 dry ladyfingers
1 tbsp cocoa for sprinkling
Raspberries, for serving

1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar with the 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup of the espresso. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let the espresso syrup cool.

2. In a small saucepan, boil the remaining 1 cup of espresso over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 8 minutes) Pour into a medium heatproof bowl.

3. Warm the milk with the vanilla bean and seeds over moderate heat until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin until melted. Discard the vanilla bean. Add the hot milk to the reduced espresso and whisk in the chocolate until melted.

4. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs at high speed until light yellow and foamy. In a small saucepan bring the corn syrup, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, and 2 T of water to a simmer. Cook over moderately high heat until the syrup registers to 235 on a candy thermometer*, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually beat the hot syrup into the eggs. Continue beating until the mixture is very pale and has tripled in volume, about 4 mins. Fold in the espresso mixture**

5. In a bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the mousse mixture until no streaks remain**

6. Spoon about 1/4 of the mousse into a 9 inch springform pan. Dip 6 lady fingers into the espresso syrup until just soaked through. Arrange the ladyfingers over the mousse in rows. Repeat the process 2 more times, then top with the remaining mousse. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours.

7. Before serving, warm a thin sharp knife under hot water. Run the knife around the edge of the semifreddo and remove the ring (you can refreeze after this if the sides are a little melty) Sift cocoa over the top of the semifreddo. Cut into wedges and serve with raspberries. The semifreddo will keep frozen for up to three days (so says the magazine.)

*If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can cook the syrup and periodically drop a little of it into a bowl of cold water. You want to cook it until a little before the soft ball phase. You should be able to shape the cold syrup with your fingers, but it shouldn't form a really dense ball. It takes a little practice sometimes.

** I was running out of room in my bowl, so I just gently whisked in these ingredients. It didn't deflate the mix or anything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

San Francisco

I spent this past weekend in San Francisco.

We went to the ferry building farmer's market. I think I spent all of Saturday eating...Chocolate/Cherry Rugelagh, Almond Croissants, Peaches, Summer Squash Tamales, Nutella Doughnuts, Spiced Sandwich Cookies, Fruit Crostata, Panna Cotta, Chocolates, Hummus, Cappucino...

It was a little too ambitious to buy produce and expect it to survive a 7 hour drive unscathed. My peaches and little strawberries rather died.

I didn't like San Francisco as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem is I stayed in Union Square- which wasn't suited to my personality at all. The city was busier than I expected it to be, and I encountered snooty, hurried service in many of the bakeries and restaurants I visited.

On a positive note, I did eat at some wonderful places. All the baked products I purchased tasted fresh, as opposed to many I bought in Manhattan. Here's the lowdown:

Delfina was recommended by Dave Lebovitz and the food was really fantastic. The buttermilk panna cotta and profiteroles were to die for, as well as one of the two table breads. The fruit budino was dissapointing (I could hardly eat it because in my head I kept thinking it had to be made from leftover bread...) We had grilled calamari, marinated sardines, some fantastic salt cod spread, steak, roast chicken, and salmon...all in all it was a great meal. The only problem was our service was -excruciatingly- slow. It was a busy night though.

Recchiuti Confections was very good, though I think I need to try more chocolates before I know how much I really like it. Of the five pieces I tried, my favorites were the burnt caramel and the sesame nougat.

Some people say Tartine is way overrated and the service is bad, but I found it really enjoyable! All of their cookies were fantastic, especially old favorites like shortbread and mexican wedding cookies. They had fantastic looking croissants too.

Citizen Cake had great service and a very streamlined design. Everything I sampled was good, and the brunch offerings looked AMAZING. Fresh doughnuts with butter and jam...mmm. Poached eggs over potatoes. I'd definitely go there again. They had interesting ice cream flavors too.

I was supposed to intern at Miette but I ended up finding a paid position. Everything at Miette was pretty, but not really to my taste. I did have a panna cotta/pot de creme that was fantastic though- worth ordering again.

Sears makes a damn good breakfast.

That was the notable eating. Everyone should read restaurant and bakery reviews with a certain amount of caution. Consider questions like "How much does atmosphere and clientele affect my enjoyment of a place?" "Will I enjoy my food if I feel very rushed, or if there isn't anywhere to sit down?" "How do I feel in crowded places where the staff doesn't have much time to be personable?" "Do I like restaurants that are trendy or homey?"

I think different cities are better suited to different personalities. It's really worth planning ahead to make your vacations enjoyable.

Tiramisu 101.

I've tried a few tiramisu recipes lately. Most recipes have similar ingredients but different techniques, suggestions, and flavors. I hate bad tiramisu, so I try to stick to a few rules.

1) Do not use bad coffee. You're better off using reconstituted instant espresso powder than bitter, mediocre coffee or espresso. When I don't have a giant espresso machine handy, I usually use the powder.

2) Do not use bad alcohol. I'm not a fan of Marsala in my Tiramisu, tradition or no. Cheap alcohol can ruin a good tiramisu.

3) Do not oversoak the ladyfingers. It might take a few tries to get this right. You want the ladyfinger to be almost completely saturated, but not squashy or soggy. If you oversoak, you'll end up with an ugly pool of coffee whenever you cut a slice out of the pan.

The recipe I used above came from Viana LaPlace and Evan Kleiman's Cucica Rustica. It adds raspberries and ground hazelnuts between the layers. I thought it was pretty good, though it still isn't the tiramisu of my dreams.

Peach-Raspberry Crostata

This recipe came from Sarah Foster's Casual Cooking. I own all three of the Foster's Market cookbooks and they're all fantastic. The recipes are always fresh and easy to execute.

This crostata dough was particularly good. Adding egg yolk and milk made the dough a little more tender than a pure short crust, but it still was really really crispy. The filling had a hint of ginger and cinnamon, and enough cornstarch to keep the crostata from becoming too liquidy.

Peach Raspberry Crostatas
For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 T sugar
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
3-4 T ice water or milk (i used milk.)

For the filling:
2 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/3 cup sugar plus extra for sprinkling
3 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
4 T unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces (I omitted this.)
1 large egg
1-2 T milk

To make the crust, stir the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and blend it in with the flour using a pastry blender or two knives in a crisscrossing motion until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk the egg yolk and 3 T of milk together in a small bowl and add it to the flour mixture. Stir until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball, adding the remaining milk if necessary. Dust your hands lightly with flour and press the dough together to form a fat, round disk. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or cover with parchment and set aside.

To make the filling, combine the peaches, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl and stir gently to mix.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into 8 equal size pieces. Lightly flour the work surface and roll each piece into a 6 inch round. Place the rounds onto prepared baking sheets.

Scoop the filling and juices into the center of each round, dividing it evenly and leaving a 1 inch border around the edges. Place a piece of butter on top of the fruit, if you like. Folkd the dough over the fruit all the way around to form an edge.

Whisk the egg and milk together to make an egg wash. (I usually strain this to avoid ugly lumpy bits of egg.) Brush the edges of each tart and sprinkle with sugar. Put the tarts in the fridge and chill for about 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 375. Bake the tarts for 40-45 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the crusts are golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cool the tarts slightly and serve warm. (I like a little dollop of vanilla ice cream on top :))

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Blueberry Hand Pies

Blueberry Hand Pies

Lately i've noticed the growing popularity of the hand pie. People hail it as "a gourmet pop-tart." I decided to try some hand pies because they looked so darned cute.

I used this recipe for the crust, and a recipe from The Foster's Market Cookbook for the filling.

The crust is different. It is flaky, but not nearly as crispy as i'd like. My favorite crust recipes either combine butter and shortening or use tons of butter. In retrospect, I wish i'd have used my favorite crostata dough.

I baked them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. They did leak some blueberry filling, but not much.

Honestly, hand pies aren't my favorite. They take a long time to make, and you really can't fit much fruit in them. I'd much rather have a crisp or a big slice of berry pie. Still, if you are a big crust or pop-tart fan, these could be your new favorite thing.

Blueberry Hand Pies