Sunday, May 29, 2011

I LOVE all Parts of Fennel [Fennel Frond Pesto Recipe]

A trip to the farmer's market energizes me. I can't help, but walk with an extra bounce in my step as I wander from stall to stall. I drool and oogle at the bright vibrant greens that are calling out to me. The orange carrot with its fluffy healthy green glowing hair. Pearly white fennel bulbs that are unmarred along with tall fronds and stalks that scream "I'm healthy and fresh, BUY ME!" I can't help, but gather the carrots, fennel, and a couple heads of organic broccoli. I can't believe the gorgeous loot I obtained without effort.

As soon as I arrived home, I decided to roast the fennel as toppings for our salad. Since we bought organic fennel, I didn't want to waste the fronds and stalks. In the end, my mom used the stalk to make soup and I used the fronds to make pesto. When I googled "What to do with fennel fronds?", I was surprised that I could use it to make pesto. I gathered my ingredients, reached for my food processor, gave all the ingredients a whirl, and a lovely shade of green spread appeared.

A step by step tutorial with the full recipe written at the end.

Gather pistachios.

Grate Parmesan cheese. I got lazy and minced my cheese instead. >.>

Juice half a lemon, wash and rinse the fronds, and roughly chop up 3 garlic cloves.

Dump pistachios, cheese, garlic, salt, and cayenne in food processor.

Give it a whirl until it looks like this.

Put fennel frond in food processor.

With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil and stop it when it resembles a paste.

Use the fresh pesto to make a pesto pasta salad! Yums~

Fennel Frond Pesto
adapted from Recipe Interrupted

Notes: This recipe can easily be substituted to make traditional pesto. Replace 2 cups of fronds with basil and pistachios with pine nuts (This part is optional). For more ideas about what to do with the pesto, read this post.

1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups lightly packed frond
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced

  1. Blend pistachios, garlic, cheese, salt, and cayanne pepper in food processor until mixture is minced.
  2. Add fennel into food processor and drizzle in olive oil with the machine running. Stop when the mixture has the consistency of a paste and is spreadable. Add lemon juice to taste. 
Use within a few days. For longer storage, wrap portions of pesto in saran wrap and store in freezer.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to shorten the lifespan of your hand mixer. [Castella (Japanese Sponge Cake) Recipe]

We recently acquired a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer at the school I work at. Excited by the new purchase, my coworker and I took it on a test run with our students. We made strawberry thumbprint cookies and egg white cake. I'm pretty sure I wet myself when I used the new tool to dominate the egg whites. It's a beast and I'd do anything to get one into my house. After the near death experience for my hand mixer during the creation of marshmallows, I thought about purchasing a stand mixer. After using and witnessing the speed, power, efficiency, and sexiness of a stand mixer, it's not an "if" anymore. It is a MUST!

Too bad I didn't have a stand mixer in my possession when I was making the castella sponge cake, because the technique this recipe required nearly choked the life out of my hand mixer. The hand mixer was agreeable, felt healthy, and worked well in the beginning, but at the 15 minute mark, the mixer began wheezing. By 20 minutes, it was begging for a break. When 30 minutes hit, the mixer was coughing, grinding it's motor, and running a high fever. Lucky for me, the batter reached the proper consistency before the mixer experienced a heart attack.

Was the near death experience with my mixer worth it? Yes. The cake was chewy and dense with a lovely scent of honey sweetness. It was a tad too sweet for me so I will probably cut down on the honey glaze next time or add matcha powder into the batter to help cut the sweetness. (I did mix some of the leftover batter with matcha powder and I loved the taste of it.)

Kasutera (Castella)
originally from JustHungry

My Notes
(1) Please read recipe completely before beginning.
(2) Please use a stand mixer if you don't want to shorten the lifespan of your hand mixer.
(3) If using a hand mixer, use the largest bowl you can find, the batter will expand considerably. Near the end,  the batter was on the very edge of the bowl and bits of it was sloshing out.
(4) A 8x8 inch dish works fine, you'll have some leftover batter that can be baked in ramekins.
(5) A gallon sized Ziploc bag fits a 8x8 inch cake.

8 whole "large" (55g) eggs
300g (10.5 oz) raw cane sugar (In a pinch, use regular granulated sugar), plus a little extra sugar for sprinkling
200g (7 oz) all-purpose or bread flour (not cake flour), sift twice
100cc (about 1/2 cup, or 3.5 fluid oz) milk
4 TBSP honey, plus one extra TBSP. for the top

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C / 340°F, or 150°C / 300°F if you're using a convection oven.
  2. Cut the parchment paper so that it's large enough to fit the bottom and sides of the cake pan with a little excess. Fold it in until it completely covers the bottom and sides, leaving a little hanging over. (To make it stick to the pan, smear a little butter or shortening on the pan first.) Sprinkle a little sugar over the bottom, on top of the paper.
  3. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
  4. Mix together the milk and 4 tablespoons of honey. It helps if you warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave.
  5. Break the eggs into the bowl and whisk. Add the sugar. Start whisking this while holding the bowl over the pot of hot water. As soon as the mixture feels lukewarm to the touch, take it off the water and continue whisking. If it cools down again, put it back on the hot pot of water to warm it up. To get the best texture, whisk mixture on lowest setting; it took me around 35 minutes on the lowest setting. If using a stand mixer, take the bowl and whisk by hand while it warms up above the pot. Once mixture is warm, return it to the stand and whisk on low until cool, then return it back to pot. 
  6. Continue this process until the batter is thick and forms soft peaks when you lift up the whisk. Final test: write initials on surface with whisk and the batter should hold it long enough to be read before it disappears. 
  7. Whisk in the milk and honey mixture. Add the flour a tablespoon at a time, beating on lowest setting until there are no pockets of flour (you can also mix this part by hand).
  8. Pour the batter to the very top of the pan. Bake in oven for approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Check by sticking a knife or toothpick in middle. If it comes out clean, it's done. 
  9. Five minutes before cake is done, mix together the 1 tablespoon of honey and a water, to make a glaze. Warm it up in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. 
  10. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, brush the top with the honey-water glaze.
  11. When it's cool enough to handle but still warm (about 15 minutes), lift it out of the pan, paper and all, and put into a plastic bag. Seal the bag and put into the refrigerator, for at least several hours. This step is critical to ensure the kasutera has a moist texture. If you let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the plastic bag, it will end up a bit dry.
  12. To serve, use a very sharp knife to make clean cuts. Use only one cutting motion for each side of the cake. Do not use a sawing motion if you don't want an ugly edge to your cake. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The reason for why I go to baseball games. [How to make Roasted Garlic]

Garlic is my best friend. I love it in chunks, minced, whole, and even dried. Who cares?! Let me have garlic breath. I remember the first time I went to a baseball game with my dad and sisters and I didn't care much for the game. The best part of the day was when he took me to the $5 garlic fries booth and I was sold to the garlic devil. From that moment on, my favorite part of going to the ballpark was buying garlic fries not rooting for my team. Team spirit fail.

Then one day when I was out with my boyfriend for happy hour, I stumbled into another delicious garlic concoction that has been missing from my life: roasted garlic. Wow. Roasted garlic smeared onto a crispy baguette is simply divine. After I finished my happy hour snack, I promised myself that I needed to make some for myself in the future.

Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic

Note: I know most recipes ask you to take a whole garlic bulb, hack off the top, drizzle it with oil, wrap it in foil, and then dump it in the oven. However, I didn't want to use a whole bulb, which is why I suggested the use of garlic cloves. 

olive oil
salt, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Take garlic cloves and cut off the top or bottom end. 
  3. Take a sheet of foil, put the cloves in the middle, and coat it in olive oil. 
  4. Wrap the garlic and pop it in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. [To save on my electric bill, I often bake this along with roasted vegetables.]
  5. Carefully unwrap the package and squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery skin. It should slip right out. If desired, sprinkle it with salt.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Delicious, but Ugly Series #1 [Caramelized Rum Bananas and Peanut Butter Toast]

I have come to the conclusion that making food look sexy is not one of my talents. It's no surprise that I have improved since the beginning, but making food look good is tough. I struggle to figure out what I want and often times, I don't KNOW what I want when I photograph a dish. All I know is that the dish tastes good and I want to document the recipe.

Sadly, on some days, my food looks more awful than usual. Thus, this debut: Delicious, but Ugly Series, which begins with Caramelized Rum Bananas and Peanut Butter Toast.

Delicious, but Ugly #1: Rum Bananas, Peanut Butter, and Toast

Caramelized Rum Bananas and Peanut Butter Toast
Serves 1

3 to 4 slices of sourdough baguette
peanut butter
1 TBSP of turbinado sugar
1/2 a banana, cut into thick slices
2 to 3 TBSP dark rum, to taste
cinnamon, optional

  1. Toast sliced sourdough baguette in toaster/toaster oven.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle 1/2 TBSP of sugar in pan and add bananas-- flat side down.
  3. When sugar is bubbling and color is showing on banana (check by flipping a slice over), sprinkle the rest of the sugar and flip the rest of the bananas over to caramelize the other side. 
  4. When sugar is bubbling again and bananas are caramelized, add the rum (Be careful, the rum will sizzle violently.) and swirl the liquid around in the pan. Once it has stopped sizzling, turn off the heat and coat bananas in the sauce.
  5. Take the warmed slices of bread from toaster, spread with peanut butter, and top with the bananas. Optional: Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy~

- SimplyPiee


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