You Say Filbert, I say Hazelnut…A Schitzoid Daring Baker’s Gateau…with some serious issues…

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Let me just start this off by saying that I love the word Gateau, and the more times I can use the word Gateau in a post, the happier I feel. Why? Because I just love the sound of the word rolling off my tongue. There is a sophistication to the word, something refined, that “cake” just doesn’t quite measure up. I mean just look at it. A Gateau is something posh people eat, at an upscale bakery, after a nice dinner out that a super talented pastry genius prepared. Gateau gets washed down with a nice strong cup of quality coffee or espresso if you will, and it is meant to be savored. Cake is something that comes out of a cardboard box or even worse a plastic container already baked and smothered in plastic icing. Unfortunately my particular monstrosity, or Franken-cake really has no place being called a gateau, now does it?

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That first photo? The only salvageable piece of gateau-ness I could muster. The rest, mushy disaster.

This DB challenge started off with issues. There is the whole Filbert vs. Hazelnut deal. Lemme give it to you straight, they are not the same nut. First of all, Filbert sounds like the the guy in that comic about the world of cubicles- Dilbert. Ever since they started with this Filbert thing, I have been against it. Its like the checkers at the grocery store who look at my cilantro and ring it up as parsley. Or call a honeydew, cantaloupe. I was lulled into the lies too- thinking Filberts and Hazelnuts were the same. Unfortunately my mouth and tongue did not agree, when I bought a very expensive Filbert cake at Whole Foods years ago for my birthday (back when I didn’t bake) and my mouth itched the whole night immediately after taking one bite. Something that never happens when I eat something with “hazelnuts” in the ingredients. So what gives? I have had this discussion many times with different people and my conclusion is that Filbert is American and Hazelnut is European and that there must be a genetic variation somewhere!

That wasn’t the last time I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding these nuts as we will soon see….I was really excited about this gateau challenge because I just love anything with hazelnuts. I am a real sucker for them – I love them in chocolate, just plain as a nut, and my favorite way in gelato. I also love apricot so things were looking up. The only way I significantly changed the recipe was instead of using hazelnuts for the praline paste, I used pistachios. Roberto’s favorite nut – so it was a marriage between the favorite nuts in the family (pun totally intended!). I also had to add some white chocolate to the ganache, because I didn’t have enough regular. I was feeling pretty smug, not only was the cake coming along but, I also had a little leftover apricot preserves after making the glaze, so I made a simple syrup with that as a base for a fabulous cocktail -

Apricot – Hazelnut Gateau in a Glass (you’ll have to read through the rest of this, to get to that) ;)

I was feeling pretty good about things. All until last night when it came time to put the gateau together.

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Recipe: Mozzarella Stuffed Portabellas and Tomatoes au Gratin

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Here is a quickie for you guys today! These are two great and really fast dishes to prepare that make a wonderful main meal together, with some fresh bread and a salad, or great side dishes for a summer BBQ. They are both simple to prepare and there is a lot of ingredient carry-over, making it all the better. Plus they look beautiful and smell mouth watering. Looking for something quick and easy? These are perfect. They speak for themselves.

Mozzarella Stuffed Portabellas

INGREDIENTS:

6 large portabella mushrooms, stems and gills removed
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 TBS fresh chopped parsley
2 TBS fresh chopped basil
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

METHOD:

Heat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, toss mushrooms with olive oil, balsamic and salt and pepper. Be sure to coat them well. Arrange mushrooms on a cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, mix breadcrumbs, parm, parsley and basil. Divide Mozzarella and spread evenly over all mushrooms, then spoon equal amounts of bread crumb mixture over top. Bake another 7-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are browned.

Tomatoes au Gratin

INGREDIENTS:

4 large Roma tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup cheese of choice (we used cheddar)
2 TBS butter

METHOD:

Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Place cut side up in a small baking dish. Sprinkle all cut sides with salt, breadcrumbs and cheese. Dot with butter. Cook in the oven at 425 F for 5-7 minutes and then place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately!

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July 25, 2008 – Finest Foodies Friday

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As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites yours! What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (just under 2000 strong) to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here. I really want to hear from you guys, so please give me a hand and point me in the direction of your favorite blogs!!!!

Now onto this week’s picks:

Adam‘s blog Baking with Dynamite
is one of my new favorite blogs! I just love to see the guy bloggers out there baking up a storm. It makes me smile. His blog also makes me smile because he has a really great sense of humor AND he is a chiropractor student, which is just awesome. Someone that knows all about health (he is also a retired body builder), but yet still understands and respects the need for treats. If you want to learn more about health, you should check out his weekly posts Fun Fitness Friday.

Petit Fleur writes Rojax Rendevous
She is an expat living in France with her adorable daughter. As I have said before, I enjoy French food, especially from the countryside and the South of France, but I am not very good at making it. So I love reading blogs about the food of France, especially seeing it through the eyes of an expat -as it is usually a cultural look at food seen from an outside perspective. PF’s photographs are gorgeous as well. I have a feeling she is raising a daughter who will have a huge appreciation for food and culture when she is older thanks to her mom’s efforts. People like this I have a lot of respect for – they are very brave and really doing something special for their children.

Kimmi‘s blog The Nourishing Gourmet
is all about creating dishes that nourish the body in some way. She explains her philosophy in this way:
“To often, “health food” is lacking healthy fats, healthy traditional ingredients, and taste appeal. On the other side of the coin, many have trained their senses to only enjoy food loaded with bad fats, MSG and other unnatural flavor enhancers. I believe there is a better way. “
So she uses a variety of different avenues to create this better way – farmers markets, whole grains, as well as gourmet – she has many influences and inspirations. If you share a similar philosophy, I am sure you will enjoy sharing ideas with her.

Lisa from Breakfast and other lovely things
She started the blog to document her bread baking, but felt she wouldn’t be able to update as much as she wanted if she kept that narrow of a focus – so now her blog gives you plenty of ideas for enjoying bread, breakfast and anything else that can be eaten, including a lot of sweeties! I love reading this blog because she has a really nice circle of girlfriends who are all moms. They get together and have wonderful dinner parties with their children, which I think is just such a wonderful thing.

Melody‘s Blog Trap Door
She says that if the world is a stage, she wants to be the trap door. Which leads me to believe that this lady is full of surprises! Or needs an escape route of some kind, which for many of us food bloggers is our kitchen, so I can totally relate. Many of us perform feats of kitchen magic on our blogs everyday, so I can see the comparison between the stage and the kitchen. If you have a CSA membership, you should definitely check out Melody’s blog as she is currently swimming in veggies and is figuring out some tasty things to do with them!

Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them. Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

On an unrelated note, but a note that I feel is important to all food bloggers, please go check out Alosha’s Kitchen and the battle she is having with America’s Test Kitchen/ Cook’s Illustrated/ Cook’s Country. Remember everybody, you don’t get to the top through greed and pomp and if you do, you don’t stay there very long.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Musical Meme

I got tagged for this Meme by both Elly and Brittany, on the same day, so I figured it was fate that I play along. :)

I love music, music is something that stirs my soul almost as much as cooking. I just cannot live without it and there are very few times that I am not listening to it. I used to listen to it when I was going to sleep too, but it makes certain people (like the hubz) unable to fall asleep. Can you believe it?!?!?! Sheesh.

But in any case, I have very eclectic taste in music. Like Brittany, I think I am going to choose 7 songs that I love for all times – the challenge is picking only 7.

I have two favorite musicians of all time – one is Dougie MacLean a Scottish Folk singer who is awesome! I have had the opportunity to actually hang out and raise a few glasses with him. When I lived in Northampton, MA he used to play a club there called The Iron Horse every year and one year I just happened to bump into him outside the club door and he asked me if I knew a good place to grab a pint. So naturally he invited me (and a few other people) to go have one with him. Every year that he came back we (and several others) would get together and have a pint after the show. He is a great guy – very smart and deep. I listened to his music for months straight when I was writing my dissertation on the forced relocation of the Navajo that I worked with closely and his music was just so inspiring. It is hard for me to pick just ONE of his songs, but here goes:

The BoatBuilders – there is no video for this song, but I will post the Lyrics:

I was there on the cold Assynt hills
I heard the hunger cry and the tyrants laughing
I heard the young men say goodbye to the place where their young dreams were grown

CHORUS
There’s a land somewhere where we can build our freedom
There’s a land somewhere where our children will grow strong
And if our lives should be spared oh we’ll need no other reason to sail on, to sail on

On I stood on the shores at St Anne
And watched them building boats to trade the oceans
And saw the preacher raise his hand saying children it’s time to move on
CHORUS

Oh I watched from the white Waipu sands
Saw them drop their sails and throw their anchors
Saw the old men shake each other’s hand saying brothers now I think we are home
CHORUS

but here is a sampling of Dougie’s music:

My other all time favorite musical act is the Scottish band Capercaille. This is a trad music band, however they do delve into some popular music tunes as well. The singer, Karen Matheson has such an amazing voice and I just love not only the beauty of the music they make, but also the beauty of the words (even if I don’t understand what they are saying in 90% of their music):

Here is Four Stone Walls:

here is another bonus that is just fun!:

As most of you know, I love bellydancing. I used to do it all the time, but I took a little break this year after the death of my teacher. After that, I just didn’t have it in me for a little while. But now I think I am ready to find a new teacher and group here in Saint Augustine. I just love the music of the Middle East and North Africa. My favorite artists from this genre are Cheb Mami and Natacha Atlas:

Cheb Mami: Des 2 Cotes – (Can’t find a video for it!) or the music….argh!
But here is another song from that album that I enjoy!

Natacha Atlas: Eye Of The Duck

and I just LOVE this video:

Next is one of my favorite bands of all times – Sky Cries Mary, they hail from Seattle and there is just something about their music that is deeply stirring to my soul: My favorite has to be:
Sister
Click here for mp3 clip

Another favorite artist of mine is Loreena McKennitt – she is Canadian and has one of the most amazing music. It transcends time and space. One of my friends describes her music as so powerful that she has the ability to sing things to life, like the ancient bards and minstrels:

All Souls Night

Then there is Zucchero. His compilation album is one of my favorites. And this song Muoio Per Te the song he does with Sting is my favorite on the whole album:

(I am not really sure what is up with this video – but it was the best I could find on youtube).

Wow, this MEME took forever to compile – I have CDs all over the place in my living room and about 50 youtube windows open. But it sure was FUN! Thanks girls for asking me to play along! Consider you, all my lovely readers tagged for this baby!!!

French Movie and Dinner:Recipe: Pan Fried Chevre with Porky Chard and Pomegranate – Balsamic Reduction

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After finishing up some projects, I decided to treat myself to a movie. You know how there are just some movies that you want for your collection? Well, Le Pacte des Loups or Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of those movies in my book. The film is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and on the famous legend around the Beast of Gévaudan. The plot goes something like this. The Chevalier de Fronsac, a knight and the royal taxidermist (yes, you read that right) of King Louis XV of France, and his Native American companion Mani (who is played by Mark Dacascos “The Chairman”, of Iron Chef fame…oh yeeeeaaaaah!) an Iroquois, are sent by the King to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.

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If you have never seen it, it is an amazing example of cinematography. I have a real weakness for historical movies – where the costumes and scenery are as brilliant as the imagination can make them. I also love a good supernatural mystery and this movie covers all the bases. It is a bit of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, mixed with Last of the Mohicans and a little bit of Sleepy Hollow thrown in for good measure. It is a gorgeous movie, full of mystery, action, intrigue, a little darkness and beautiful French people. If you get this movie, please so not chose the dub option.
It is just way better in French. Take it from one who knows, ma cherie.

I am not really big into French Cuisine. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. Quite the contrary, I just haven’t had many opportunities to eat it and I doubt much of what I cook can be classified as anything close to French cuisine. But in my attempts to somehow create a theme to this movie dinner, I decided to use the one French ingredient I always have in my fridge – Chevre, or Goat’s Cheese. This is my absolute favorite cheese in existence. It is so creamy and pungent and delicious. So I decided that it would taste really good coated in breadcrumbs and pan-fried. My mistake was not giving it an egg wash first. It would have kept these cheesy disks together better. When I was rummaging through the fridge to see what would go with this, my eyes fell on some lovely baby swiss chard leaves I had. So I decided to sautee these up with some bacon, and wine and create a pomegranate-balsamic reduction to go overtop of everything. Not sure how French it was, but it sure tasted fabulous – coupled with some fresh baked bread and a nice glass of red wine, it was certainly a feast for our mouths as we watched the movie, a visual feast for the eyes. Both sensory experiences were intense, deep and exciting!
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July 18, 2008 – Finest Foodies Friday (FFF)!

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Hi everyone! Sorry I am a bit late posting this today. This has been one of those hectic weeks resulting with getting to bed later than usual and therefore we are getting up later than usual! So my apologies! But it is all for the good. We are moving The Foodie Blogroll homepage to a new server which means we will be able to start implementing some of those great features soon! Our old server was just not cutting the mustard and it was crashing the system too much – so as the FBR grows, so must we! :)

As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites yours! What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (just under 2000 strong) to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

So here are today’s FFF picks!

Dhanggit’s Kitchen is just an awesome blog for people with a sweet tooth. Her blog is full of wonderful, beautiful and sophisticated treats that are presented with flair. It doesn’t surprise you at all after visiting her blog that she resides in France – as her creative and distinct pastries and goodies certainly reflect the environment around her.

Lisa‘s blogWhat We Eat is a blog with recipes from an Irish kitchen. Although she is open to trying fancy dishes, she is more about doing traditional dishes that we can all relate to with her spin on them. This summer, for six weeks she and her family are traveling throughout Europe – with stops so far in Spain and Italy! Boy do I wish I was part of her family this summer!

Next we have Beth of Jam and Clotted Cream blogging from Cornwall – a place that I have always wanted to go. I love reading Beth’s blog because I love learning about the foods from her part of the world that has such an interesting history. But that is the beauty of foodblogging – you can put a face and a name to people residing in these places that are most often just a part of our imagination. There is a lot of baking on this blog, but also downright good eats.

Then there is Kandice from Tickle My Palate
I just love her down to earth, simple and colorful family friendly food. The colors in her dishes always make her photos just pop – and the food looks so good that you just want to reach out and grab a bite. She has ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks and everything is mouthwatering.

We will end with a hot new blog – Hot Potato!
The Mrs. describes herself as an “energetic, passionate wife, Momma and housewife extraordinaire. Voracious cook. Zealous reader/booklover “. Sounds like my kind of people. She and her daughter have fun together in the kitchen cooking and baking (something she developed a love for during pregnancy). She is looking to make connections in the food blogosphere so go on over and say hi! :)

Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them. Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Foodie Friends ROCK!!!

Okay, so I say this all the time, but it is so amazingly true –
Food Bloggers are the nicest people in the world! I will stand by this testament. I have proof. I have “met” some of the best people since my introduction to blogging about a year ago. I have shared recipes, stories and laughs with so many new people and I have made some really good friends. I feel very fortunate to know people from practically every continent in the world, and many countries as well. I feel close to people I have never met before and it is an amazing feeling. We all share a love for food and cooking and it has brought us all together. We know things about each others’ lives too, and have budding friendships that span the globe many times over. How cool is that? Roberto and I decided that when we “make it big” we will have to do a world tour so that we can be sure to visit everyone and get the local’s perspective in some of the most interesting, tasty and sometimes exotic (for an American and an Italian) locales the world over. Plus hang out with some of these special people in person – a priceless gift.

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But yesterday we were lucky enough to be the recipients of such a visit – and from a little closer to home.
I have “knownJudy from No Fear Entertaining for a while now. She and I really bonded over posts we were both doing about Farmer’s Markets, eating locally and trying to keep food additives and all kinds of other “food crap” out of our diets. It is something we are both very passionate about. Over many emails and a few phone calls, we found we had a lot of other things in common too, beyond the most obvious thing – we both live in Florida. She helped me learn more about the growing season in FL and taught me a lot about being being a Florida transplant (she is originally from Toronto, Canada, and I am from, well, lots of places, but most recently Vermont). Her friendship and support in food blogging and in life has been a wonderful addition to my life. So yesterday when we finally got to meet her face to face (along with her awesome husband T, and two lovely daughters AND 2 fun and rambunctious dogs) it was great, just as I would have expected. Roberto and I felt like we were with old friends and it was wonderful to meet people who share similar thoughts about the world and values as well as a love for food. We didn’t have much time together because they were on the last leg of their drive home, after 2 weeks away (during which she got to meet another foodie buddy of mine that I have yet to meet in person, Peter from Kalofagas – Judy you sure get around!!!!). So we decided to take a walk in lovely downtown Saint Augustine and take them to our favorite place to get my favorite food – Gelato. It was a sweltering day, and we were all so hot, but the gelato did help to cool us off a bit. I am looking forward to seeing them again in September when it is a bit cooler, when we meet with other Florida Foodies in Orlando! An event that will be sponsored by my friends over at Foodbuzz and that Judy and I are organizing together. :) Thanks you guys for stopping off to visit with us! It was awesome and I hope we can do it many times in the future.

One of the first stops Roberto and I are going to make in our world tour, is going to the home town of my good friend and fellow foodblogger - Dharm from Dad~Baker & Chef in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. I have known Dharm for quite a while now. He was the inspiration for the first curry I ever made at home, his mum’s famous Kheema. We have shared the trials and tribulations of being Daring Bakers together (he is a much better baker than I am though – quite the dessert creator extraordinare in fact). Dharm is also a moderator on the Leftover Queen/ Foodie Blogroll Forum AND he also hosted the Royal Foodie Joust during the month of April, when I was off getting married. His posts are always delightful and humorous, and he is someone that I can count on when it comes to all things food blog related. But even with all these glowing attributes, Dharm just stepped up a notch in my book. He and his “Lovely Wife” (as he refers to her on his blog) and his two beautiful children sent Roberto and I a package – a wedding present, all the way from Malaysia, filled with hand picked goodies that he knew I would (well we would) enjoy. Not only that, but his sweet children insisted on hand making cards for us. The whole package was beautiful and touched us greatly.

Well I know you all are just dying to hear what is IN the package, so here goes:

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Sambal Belacan – Dharm knows how much I love spicy stuff, namely harrisa, so this is similar but made with prawn paste. Cannot wait to try it!

Sarawak Pepper - a special pepper from the state of Sarawak. Smells like heaven!

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Curry Powder – this is the good stuff

Chili Powder - ditto the good stuff

Cannot wait to make a curry with both!

No wait, there is more!

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Dodol - a coconut based candy that is a specialty of Malaysia. This is by far one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted. The flavor reminds me of toasted coconut, but the texture is jellied. Like taffy, but without sticking in your teeth.
Kacang Tumbuk – ground peanuts covered in a light peanut shell. It is wonderfully crunchy and light. Delicious!

Peanut Biscuit – peanuts covered in caramel.

Thank you so much Dharm, you and your lovely family. We will enjoy these treats and think of you. We look forward to the day that we can meet in person. You know you always have a place to come in the States! :)

Hummus Amungus: A Spicy Taste of the Mediterranean

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It is no secret that I adore hummus. I think if I had to pick a favorite food, hummus would be it. It even won us a bottle of rum in Jamaica! We played a newlywed game when we were on our honeymoon there and they asked Roberto what my favorite food was. When he thought about it, the most logical answer was hummus. When they asked me to guess what he said, I had to think about it for a minute. I mean I love all kinds of foods and have so many memories in my mind of different food experiences, it is hard to imagine choosing just one. But when I thought logically about what Roberto would have answered, I knew it had to be hummus, because it is the most consistent staple of my diet. I eat it almost daily, and it is not only filling and delicious, but it is really healthy and easy to grab when you have the munchies. Not only that, you can be as creative as you want with it. Purists may balk, but I say be adventurous with your hummus! So when I read that Tony Tahhan’s Taste of the Mediterranean event this month was focused on Lebanon (one of my favorite cuisines) and Hummus (my favorite food), I knew I was in!

I adore the original, unadulterated hummus. The one with just a few essential ingredients: chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt, maybe a little water to thin it out. There is nothing better….except for when you add a little somethin’ somethin’. For this event, in honor of hummus and Jamaica, I have decided to add some special Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce we got while there (because I adore it) and adorn it with a few pine nuts for some added texture! bring on the heat!!!
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