Girl + Fire = Food



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake. Two words that delight the senses and make the mouth water. What's better than chocolate cake? Chocolate cake with wine in it!

Unless, of course, you don't like chocolate. Or wine. But that's too crazy to contemplate.

A friend recommended this recipe from Smitten Kitchen saying it was pretty easy. I'm not a baker, at all. But I had a delicious bottle of Cabernet Franc. So very tasty, this wine. And you know what they say about cooking with wine...

If you don't know how difficult it was to leave a 2005 Domaine de Château Gaillard Saumur Cab Franc untouched, your life is semi-charmed. First of all, I was stuck in bed with alcohol-unfriendly sickies. Then I somehow convinced myself that I needed to make the cake with this particular wine, so even once I was better, I still couldn't savor it. Because somehow I'd had the inhuman willpower when I first opened the bottle to save the exact 3/4 cup needed for this recipe. Who am I?

This wine is truly fantastic. I have had many red wines and this was quite near the top of all the delectable red-hued intoxicants that have passed through these lips. I'm fantasizing about it right now as I write this.

That said, I shouldn't have wasted it on a cake. Remember how I'm not a baker? Why I tested a recipe with a bottle of wine that costs more than two dollars is beyond me. I blame the codeine-induced haze I was living in. Deb suggests that the cake comes out of the oven "shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate." It sounds pretty. Mine didn't look like that. It looked like the exact opposite of that.

Don't get me wrong, it tastes good. I ate a piece for breakfast. Then another. Then I put whipped cream and powdered sugar on it and took pictures for you. Then I ate that piece too. And also the other piece you won't see pictures of, but that has cranberry sauce all over it. Yeah, 4 pieces. Then I called some friends and asked them to come eat the rest before I ended up drunk for breakfast.

You shouldn't drink alone, right? You also shouldn't stuff your face with alcohol-infused chocolate cake alone either.

Because sharing is caring. Especially when it's a Cab Franc.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Girl+Fire Turns 2 with the Annual Top 5

A few weeks ago, I was laid up in bed. I didn't cook, I didn't eat, I didn't leave my house. All I could do was sip my codeine-laden cough syrup and sleep.

At some point, while I was in a sleepy haze, Girl+Fire turned two. My little blog here has been around for 2 orange-tinged years! I'm about 12 days late on the celebration, but that's how long I was stuck in bed, so it evens out.

It's math. You can't argue.

And so to continue the tradition we began with last year's celebration, here are the top 5 memorable moments of the year:

5. Discovering the ripe freshness of extra virgin olive oil. Unfortunately CalTech wasn't able to hold their harvest this year due to lack of olives, so once I used up the contents of this very pretty bottle, there was no more to be had. Hopefully we'll procure more later this year!

4. Food Swaps and the introduction to the delicious Surly Temple. There's nothing like revisiting a childhood favorite with a dash of alcohol.

3. Turning a food fail into an exquisite spicy sweet sauce.

2. And then putting it on pizza. (How does pizza end up on the list every year?)

1. But the best possible experience from this past year was visiting Costa Rica and eating with the Murillo family. Nothing can even compare. ¡Pura vida!

So what will year 3 bring? Who knows! Thank you all for reading along. I might be getting a hang of this cooking thing.


And now that I'm back up and out of bed, I can thankfully start cooking again. Yay!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Attempt at French Food: Fish Mousseline with Sauce Nantua

The French know everything about cooking, right? They invented it.

Because of this, I've always felt that it's pretty intimidating to attempt French food. As if somewhere, a panel of unrelenting judges will strike you from the kitchen should you not recreate a dish perfectly. You'll be banished to a life of raw and fast food eats for the remainder of your days.

That's not at all true, though French food can seem complicated. The recipes seem to have innumerable ingredients with highly complex steps. But when I happened to catch an episode of French Food at Home on the Cooking Channel, Laura Calder made it actually seem doable. Not "easy" but definitely less difficult than I had previously believed. So I attempted her Fish Mousseline with Sauce Nantua. Translation: fish mousse with a creamy shrimp sauce.

I was heading to my parents' house the next day for a family dinner, and knew that my very picky little brother has just recently started eating fish. We had gathered at Chez Mommy & Daddy to watch the Giants take out the 'Niners in the NFC championship playoffs, so I decided to test this on them.

My parents are pretty adventurous, and they too like to experiment with new recipes, so they're the perfect test subjects. My brother could always order a pizza if he didn't like it.

The sauce was quite simple, surprisingly. Butter, onions, carrots, shrimp, herbs, set them on fire then add cream and puree. It was the first time I've flambéd a dish. That was fun. Fire! We like fire here at Girl + Fire.

Then came the fish mousse. I don't know what I did wrong, but it was overly watery, so it never set properly. I could blame the blender that created butter out of the cream, but that was my fault. So I had both a watery and buttery mousse. Split personality mousse. I should have drained the liquid. And probably used a food processor instead of a blender. Tip for next time.

The Giants ended up winning that game (and then the Super Bowl! AGAIN!). We ended up loving the creamy shrimp sauce. The fish But if I learned nothing else, it's that French food ain't that scary after all.

You can find the original recipe here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kelp Noodles in Almond Sauce

Kelp noodles! Have you ever heard of such thing? Until last week, I had not. I can't even remember what turned me on to it (probably my favorite vegan blogger Janet, again) I just knew I had to try them as soon as I could.

But what do you do with kelp noodles? They come refrigerated in a bag, filled with water, and you have to rinse them. Then what?

Then you eat them. It's that simple. They're crunchy and salty. Fat-free, gluten-free, low in carbs, calories, etc etc. So are they any good?

Because I didn't know, I decided to update my Peanut Sauce Dressing with almond butter and let them swim in it. I knew that it, at least, is very tasty.

Making almond butter is simple. You simply put a couple cups of almonds in your food processor and let it run for 15 minutes, until the oil is extruded and it all blends together into creaminess. Katie from Dishin & Dishes has an excellent photo tutorial on the process.

Adding in some julienned cucumbers and edamame, the end result:

Lunch. Simple. Excellent.

Kelp noodles can be found in the refrigerated section of your local Whole Foods (at least here in Los Angeles, your mileage may vary), or online directly from the Sea Tangle Noodle Company. The company also makes an organic green tea variety. Though I am usually game to try anything at least once, this just doesn't appeal to me.

If you try it, let us know how that works out for you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tia Lily's Salsa Colorada

My beloved aunt Lily is my mom's sister. They are originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and she is one of the best cooks I've ever met. As a rule, I don't eat at Mexican restaurants because nothing compares to my tia's cooking. I only eat her posole, and her tamales are a Christmas treat, but what she's best known for is her salsa.

Lest you think I'm putting my own mother down, let me tell you who the best Puerto Rican cook I've ever met is: my mom. While Tia Lily is the consummate Mexican cocinera, my mom had to learn to cook for my dad, who preferred his own homeland's cuisine. And hates celery.

The joke in our family is that you can always tell how angry she was when she makes her salsas by the level of spice. Those babies will burn through your tongue, even when she's in the greatest of moods. They can take on any Indian curry or southern Thai dish in a heat competition. You will probably sweat eating them. And it'll be totally worth it.

She made this salsa for a recent family gathering. One of the wonderful things about our family is that every occasion brings out the entire clan. I have 5 cousins on that side, 4 of which have their own children, and I love the parties we have together. Piñatas, food, music, and kids running everywhere, that's life. It was on one of these family affairs, while my mouth was on fire, that I begged her to share the recipe. She laughed while telling me how utterly simple it is.

Like my dad's salsa, it goes great on everything: rice, tacos, eggs. But the salsa verde has far less heat than this one, so be careful how much you throw on your plate. Make sure you have lots of crema (or sour cream, milk, what have you) on hand!

It's especially delicious on an egg in a hole, which has a convenient buffer for heat built right in: bread!

print recipe

Tia Lily's Salsa Colorada
An intensely spicy red salsa.
  • 8 tomatillos
  • 6 chiles arbol (with seeds)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oil for frying chiles
  • 3 sprigs cilantro (more for garnish)
  • salt to taste 
1. Remove the papery outer skin of the tomatillos and rinse well (they will be pretty sticky). Chop in half, and put in a large pot of water. Make sure the water covers the tomatillos by at least an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes (till fork tender).2. While the tomatillos are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the chiles and fry until crispy. Remove from heat and discard the oil.3. Drain the tomatillos, reserving a quarter cup of the water. Blend together the tomatillos, fried chiles, garlic, and cilantro with half the water. Add more as needed for a thinner salsa. Add salt to taste.4. Pour into a bowl, garnish with some cilantro. Or pour over a dish that needs a bit of pizzazz. Enjoy.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Semi-Raw Kale Experiment

I love kale. At least, I thought I did because I've only ever had it cooked in some manner. My mom makes a wonderful dish with kale and swiss chard, but again, it's cooked. And kale chips! Those are delicioso!

Then I tried it raw one day and almost immediately spit it out. It's not quite the same. At all. Apparently the only cruciferous veggie I can handle raw is daikon...I think I've eaten raw. But, in any case, kale is full of health benefits, so it must be eaten.

It's no wonder kids don't like vegetables...

And then I came across Janet's post over at The Taste Space, Almost Raw Asian Kale and Edamame Salad. It calls for marinating the kale in a lime juice for a bit. I figure this ceviche-like treatment would help "cook" it so it was worth trying.

I'm not one for vegan food. It's not a lifestyle I could ever adhere to, since I love cheese. And MEAT! But The Taste Space has some interesting recipes I've been eager to try, and this kale edamame salad was truly simple. And a good test of semi-raw kale.

As I suspected, the lime juice really does "cook" the bitterness out of the kale. The added benefit of sour lime juice is a bonus, since I love all things sour.

Janet suggests slicing the kale thinly, so I made kale chiffonade. It's so pretty! And yummy! Win!

For Janet's recipe, please click here.

It also works REALLY well with spinach. Spinach chiffonade! Pretty! Yummy! More win!