Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Chess Pie With Praline Sauce

Who takes whipped cream on their pumpkin pie? Everyone in the whole world should be jumping up and down and shouting "I do! I do!" because thats just how pumpkin pie is made. Yup it is basically a scientific fact that every slice of pumpkin pie is naturally grown with whipped cream on top, and apparently pies grown closer local college towns carry a bit of a kick. Okay, so maybe that last part is simply on our "to do some day" list, just for fun =P. With whipped cream being such a staple of the good old American pumpkin pie, imagine everyones shock when we put away the can and poured on a sauce! There were horrified glances around the table, whimpers of fear and the occasional look of sheer terror from our guests that night. What was this strange sauce? How dare they not have any cans of whipped cream in the house! The table was on the verge of mutiny! Or we're exaggerating a little bit. Here's what actually happened: everyone just scarfed down the whole pie in about 2 minutes and asked for more. Eric is a stickler for having whipped cream on his pie, but sometimes the old switch-a-roo comes out better than the original. The praline sauce was a huge hit and changed the way we're looking at pie. Its like putting icing on a cake, if you've only ever had cake, you wouldn't know what your missing, but if you add the best icing ever, it becomes that much more amazing and you never want to have it any other way. As someone at the table mentioned, "Marie Calanders, eat your heart out".

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, with lots of food and family and hopefully too much food and family. We also hope that enough of you survived Back Friday that we still have readers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Savory Sausage Bread Pudding

It dawned on Eric yesterday that November is here and that means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Yup, it took him until the 20th to figure that out. A month of 70 - 80 degree days here in the Bay Area can do that to you but this past weekend November came back with a vengeance. Cold, blustery and full of rain it was the perfect kind of weather to build a nice big fire (in the fireplace of course!) and cook up some warm filling food. From the looks of things, this is going to be a trend for the next few months as winter rolls in. So we spent the day doing projects and getting ready to fire up something that could keep us warm even when Eric refuses to turn on the heat. What better to keep you full and warm than a big savory bread pudding with sausage? Not much. Eric's not always the biggest fan of bread pudding but this one sent him back for thirds. All the flavors just come together in a mouthful that hearty and warming. The texture and flavors together reminded us of our honeymoon in England. English food gets panned here in America but the pubs over there are renown for the English version of down home cooking. Shepard's pie and Sticky Toffee Pudding with that dark English ale somehow brought us across the pond and into Grandma's kitchen while she cooked up something hearty and delicious. For us the flavors and textures of this pudding brought us all the way back to London. When the bowls were empty and Eric was off doing dishes Charisse was tied up keeping the cat warm on the sofa enjoying the dying fire and watching a movie and November settled in for the long haul.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Raviolis A Simple Sage Sauce

We were in Costco the other day and ran across a display of all the cartoons we grew up with, packaged in wonderful DVD boxed sets. Helloooo Loony Toons, good bye paycheck. We hit that point where we've started talking about getting some offspring and what we want them to watch on TV comes up every now and again, especially when channel surfing lands us on some kids network. Every conversation tends to center around how much better TV was when we were kids (the answer is "much") and how awful kids TV is now. So coming across these boxed sets really made our day and restored hope in the future of humanity or something like that. What does this have to do with our post? Absolution nothing, but it must have been pretty funny to see grown adults getting excited over kids shows in the middle of Costco. This post more centers around the fig tree in our backyard and the comedy of errors that produced these raviolis. So of the multitude of trees that we've been able to bring back to life here since we've moved in include now 2 Fig trees which both produced fruit this year. We were pretty excited about that, not as excited as we were about the nectarine tree but still pretty excited. When the first crop came, they were horrid and we were pretty disappointed but have heard that its pretty normal for the first crop to be a rough one for figs. Around the same time we were given some figs from someone and Charisse got crafty in the kitchen. After our Christmas Ravioli disaster of 2009 Charisse dove into a rav making fever and really nailed down a solid method of putting them together. We've found that using a hand press was the best way and this was the perfect excuse to use it. Pulling together basically stuff we had in the kitchen, we did a goat and ricotta cheese base with the chopped roasted figs. The flavors were wonderful. Everything you love about both types of cheese accented with sweet fig. The only thing we'd change next time is the texture. It needed a little something that separates the texture of the cheese from the texture of the ravioli dough. What that is we don't know, maybe you do?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mulled Apple Cider

It was a cold November night, fall was all around. Halloween was placed in boxes and gently packed away awaiting next October's frights while Thanksgiving was peaking out its head. The splendor of orange and yellow and rustic red around the house mirrored the blasts of color and heat cast out from the fireplace. The leaves outside the big picture window had started to change with bright bursts of color being whipped around by the cold November wind. And Charisse was snuggled up on the couch straining to hear her favorite Seinfeld show over the banging and cursing and carrying on that was Eric on his own in the kitchen. Yup, things were pretty much normal. You see Charisse actually had a touch of a cold, so Eric decided to whip up some hot mulled apple cider which would fit the night. Unfortunately, Eric decided to do it his way and in the kitchen that doesn't always work. Actually, he followed the steps pretty faithfully, but neglected the difference between "finely diced" and "Pureed". He also bought the cheap cheesecloth from Safeway and so was ending up with more of a mulled apple sauce than a cider. It was one of those moments when he realized we had Charisse's juicer around and that a juicer would be much better than trying to squeeze apples through a fine mesh strainer. We have the Waring one and it is a beast. Eric had gotten through about half the apples when he switched to the juicer, which pulled the same amount of juice from the "done" apples as Eric had done the hard way, then pulled all the juice from the rest all in about 2 minutes. Next time, were going all juicer all the way. Anyways, once we got the juice thing figured out, we pulled the cider together and it really was just what the evening needed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake With Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

Sometimes its possible to have too much of a good thing. You'll know you've reached that point when theres none left. Thats how it is around here every fall; pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin. Charisse is actually quite mad for pumpkin and looks forward to this time of year all summer (at least when she's not trying to get away with humming Christmas carols in July). We generally stock up on enough canned pumpkin products to last us through the summer. In reality they last until about May. We're especially fond of our friend Jen when she whips up her famous pumpkin pie bars while we watch the Sharks. Maybe if everyone asks, she'll share her recipe with you all this year, its probably the best thing you can serve in a baking pan. This post though is the story of our pumpkin cake which we made for the Halloween dinner party at Charisse's parents house. Every Halloween they have a big dinner party full of eating and drinking and being spooky and its become a tradition to wander down to the little fair the church on the corner puts on every year. This year Charisse won herself a goldfish which we promptly had to carry around all night in a little plastic baggy. The temptation to reenact the scene from "Finding Nemo" was huge, but never safe for the little fish. Anyways, we were in charge of bringing a dessert and pumpkin was obviously on the brain. We started our planing  thinking about a pumpkin pie, but someone else was already bringing one. About that time Charisse came across some cake sprinkles shaped like fall leaves and decided right then and there that we would bring a cake. With cinnamon and ginger added to the pumpkin this cake came out amazingly moist and delicious but the real kicker, the thing that made it a cake to remember was the frosting. We learned our lesson from the "cup" cake incident so Charisse pulled this pumpkiney delight together with a brilliant cinnamon and brown sugar buttercream icing, which instantly became Eric's favorite icing ever. Keeping him off the cake before it even left the house was nearly impossible. Stopping everyone from diving into it before we could actually photograph a slice? Impossible. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival

So we spent last weekend in San Francisco attending the Foodbuzz Food Blogger Festival, 3 days of eating, drinking, meeting fellow food bloggers and eating. It was downright exhausting but definitely worth going. For those readers unfamiliar with foodbuzz or the festival, you can check out the info page here. We got there on Friday afternoon and after checking into a hotel a few blocks from our old apartment we headed into Union Square to catch the festival buses heading to Fort Mason for the first event, the Street Food Fare. This event was in a giant warehouse and consisted of some of the better street foods of the city along with a handful of other select vendors. We fell in love with Mission Minis and got to talk to the owner Brandon who's got some sort of show coming up that they were filming for. Yay for TV time! We're not sure it when it is airing, but it'll either be on the food network or that new cooking network and hopefully they'll use our interview in it. Check out the cupcake pictures after the brake and join us in a "Yum" for how crazy tasty they are, then hit the mission on your next trip to The City. It is here too that Eric, who does most of our photography got a huge dose of reality. While we've built ourselves a very consistent easy to adjust photostudio in the kitchen, shooting food in the wild is hard. Wildly bouncing and inconsistent light, crazy shadows and trying to get a good shot of the plate your holding without spilling your wine makes for generally lousy pictures. He actually spent a good deal of time ogling all the lenses strutting about the place. Charisse was a little nervous about heading out to meet all these random strangers but pretty soon realized that she actually knew quite a few people from Foodbuzz. It was great getting recognized when we did and meeting the people behind the blog. Because we made a decision to keep people out of the blog as much as possible, people didn't recognize us on sight the same way they might recognize someone like Chef Dennis (one of our favorite bloggers out there, and a heck of a decent guy). We had a handful of breakout sessions on Saturday morning (little workshops) and hit the Tasting Pavilion in the mid afternoon for more eating. Saturday night was the Gala Dinner, quite the splendid meal put on by Foodbuzz. We had a great time sitting with a group of bloggers from the East Coast as Eric had hit it off with Jeff of High/Low Food/Drink. Sunday was a farewell brunch and everyone was looking a little worse for wear. They had some of the best applewood bacon and we didn't think about taking a picture of any of the food until we were pretty much fed. So that was our weekend in a very very small nutshell, no cooking to be had, but lots of shwag, new friends and great memories. Thanks again Foodbuzz!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Deep Dish Pizza Of Our Dreams

We're not huge fans of Chicago style deep dish pizza. The belief is strong in our family that pizza is something that should be eaten with your hands. Actually thats a lie, we like any pizza that tastes good. The biggest issue we have with the Chicago style is having the sauce on top, its just messy and you loose so much of its flavor. We decided to bury the sauce in a few places under some cheese which kept the slice together better. Still needed a knife and fork though. We had Jen of "Dan and Jen" helping out this time around and are looking forward to having them over to make Christmas Candy in a few short weeks. In case you haven't noticed we see a lot of each other on the weekends, especially when its cooking time which stems from Eric and Dan living next door to each other since elementary school. That Jen and Charisse have become such fast friends these last few years has been an added bonus and has kept our families close which has really helped shape our cooking style. See Jen is from The South. That's "The South" with a capitol T and a capitol S. We like to give her a hard time about it, the rest of us being native to San Jose but Jen assures us that they had running water, shoes and paved roads growing up. We don't necessarily believe her but we do know that where she's from they taught her how to spell the state of Mississippi forwards and backwards and when you get right down to it they can cook. There is not a meal that goes by involving the four of us that doesn't bring on a major food coma and for that we forgive the stories where locals went hunting with their raffles

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sweet Potato Pie with Toasted Marshmallow Meringue

Charisse's Arkansas trip worked out really well for the holiday season because she came back with this idea for a sweet potato pie. Sweet potato? In a pie? Eric was skeptical, especially when it the bag of marshmallows came out for the topping. Eric was wrong to be skeptical, very wrong. As it turned out, in addition to all the yummy fried food and other interesting dishes they have in Arkansas (we'll have to do Arkansas Sloppy Joes one  day...) they also have pie. Wonderful glorious pie. Charisse thinks they should change their slogan from "The Natural State" to "The Pie State". She had pie of every kind imaginable; apple pie, pumpkin pie, Frito pie. Frito pie? Yup. Pie made with all natural organic Fritos. Okay, so maybe we're exaggerating, Fritos are not organic nor are they all natural but hey, close enough for government work. Anyways, Charisse put this pie together based on her experiences there, and it really blew our minds. It looks like pumpkin pie, it even smells like it. Its got the same consistency and color, but the taste is wildly different. Its a surprise in your mouth... the good kind! But what REALLY made this stand out was the Meringue. It is like eating the marshmallows out of a fresh smore and has become the new must have for our fall pies.