Sunday, August 16, 2009

Must Make Martha's Macarons!!!

French Macarons, or Macaroons as they are more commonly referred to by English speaking people, are the most heavenly, sublime, wonderful treat on the planet. To my taste buds, at least. They are so delicate, the colors so sweet. Eating a macaron honestly feels so indulgent. Despite my recent discovery that Morton's Market now sell them, I really need to get over my intimidation and learn how to make them. As I'm notorious for losing or forgetting about recipes that I intend to make, I'm "archiving" this recipe on my blog from Have you made macarons? Do you have any advise to share? I would love to hear from you!

French Macaroons
The basic batter and the fillings for these delectable little desserts can be varied endlessly simply by adding different flavorings and colorings; for starters, there's chocolate, coconut, peanut, pistachio, raspberry, and vanilla bean.

Makes 35 macaroons.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, for filling

Chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour.
Coconut: Substitute 2 tablespoons desiccated unsweetened coconut for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon rum; sprinkle with additional coconut before baking.
Peanut: Substitute an equal amount finely ground unsalted peanuts (peanut flour) for the almond flour.

Pistachio: Substitute 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios (pistachio flour) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour, and add 2 to 3 drops forest-green gel-paste food coloring.
Raspberry: Add 1 tablespoon fresh raspberry puree, strained, plus 3 to 4 drops dusty- rose gel-paste food coloring.
Vanilla Bean: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use.

Chocolate: Chocolate Ganache
Coconut: 1 cup Swiss Meringue Buttercream, mixed with 1/3 cup angel-flake coconut.
Peanut: Chocolate Ganache, or store-bought dulce de leche, jam, or peanut butter.
Pistachio: 1 cup Swiss Meringue Buttercream, mixed with 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios.
Raspberry: 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam.

Vanilla Bean: 1 cup Pineapple Buttercream , 1 cup Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or 3/4 cup store-bought jam or preserves.

1. Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.
3. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macaroons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.
4. Let macaroons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macaroons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macaroons.)
5. Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with 1 teaspoon jam. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.
Copyright 2009 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Want to give as a gift? One reviewer of this recipe, AmberLee, also left a link to her blog where you can get the cutest template for labels that she designed for a bake sale. Her blog was such a fun discovery with loads of gift ideas. French Macarons would make a great gift.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saffron Potatoes with Chorizo

I first made this for Mother's Day and it has quickly become one of our favorite warm weather dishes. It makes a nice, easy weeknight dinner. It is also great on the weekends when you can't be bothered to get out of the pool and need something simple for when you finally do drag yourself out. On either occasion, I like to simply serve with salad. What you'll need:
  • 1 lb new potatoes, baby Yukon Golds are divine if available
  • good pinch of saffron
  • 4 oz Chorizo sausage
  • olive oil, salt, pepper

Cut potatoes into large bite sized pieces and place into pot of water with saffron. Add a pinch of salt and boil until soft, but not overcooked - about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and return to pot with a good drizzle of olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until potatoes start to crisp and skins start to brown.
Next add the Chorizo in chunks that are similar in size to the potatoes. Let cook just long enough for the sausage to release its oil to coat the potatoes, about 3-5 minutes (over medium heat). At this point the Chorizo will be warmed and it is ready to serve. You could also serve this as an hors d'oeuvre by putting one piece of potato and Chorizo each on a cocktail stick.
My favorite dish to serve with these potatoes is the 1905 Salad from the Columbia Restaurant. What a great combination for a lovely summer meal.

Times Grill World Famous Burgers, Jacksonville

Times Grill was founded in 1994. While they claim to be world famous, I had never heard of them, but am happy that my dad suggested that we go there. With 20 burgers on the menu, it is next to impossible to chose. The most unique to me was the Cajun Sunset®. This burger is seasoned with Creole spices and is topped with a fried egg. Thankfully I don't eat eggs, so was not tempted by this heart attack on a bun. After combing the menu over and over again, narrowing it down to about 5 burgers, James and I decided to order 2 and each have half. This proved to be a great idea as we sampled two amazing burgers. My choice was the El Camino Burger™. This burger is topped with a Chorizo con Queso sauce, salsa, and jalepeños slices. It was love at first bite. I was very happy that I followed my gut instinct and chose this spicy burger.
James chose the Buffaloaded Burger. This burger is flavored with a mild buffalo BBQ sauce, blue cheese, and topped with fried onions. I can feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it. This was also an excellent choice.
My Dad and Kathy went with their usual, the Swisshroom. As the name suggests, this is topped with Swiss cheese and mushrooms. You'll notice from this photo that you can also order sweet potato fries.
I don't think they have a bad burger on their menu, however, this was a bittersweet lunch: while we were so saddened by the fact we live 4 hours from Jacksonville and Time Grill, we were slightly relieved as this tempting place would be too hard to stay away from. It will be something to look forward to on our next trip to Jacksonville.

Benny's Steak & Seafood, Jacksonville

Two weeks ago we went to visit my dad and step mom, Kathy, in Jacksonville. My favorite place to eat in Jacksonville is Benny's Steak & Seafood.Benny's is located downtown in the Jacksonville Landing on the St. John's River.
The fountain at the center of the Landing adds a fun daytime place for kids to play, giving into an adults playground at night. Surrounded by various bars and a performance stage, this is a great place for live entertainment at night. The last time I was in Jacksonville, I missed seeing Eddie Money perform by one week. For free! Can you beat seeing Eddie Money perform for free? Don't answer.
We were lucky enough to get my favorite table next to the window. By day or night, this is a great spot to take in the views of the St. John's River and downtown Jacksonville.
The Caribbean Jerk Chicken my favorite thing on the menu at Benny's. I am such a sucker for jerk chicken, and this is the best I've ever had. It is the only thing I've ever ordered at Benny's, and so far I show no signs of getting tired of it. It is amazingly seasoned with a nice touch of heat. The mango and tomato salsa compliment the jerk seasoning perfectly. Served with nicely steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes with a Chardonnay - lemon sauce, this is guaranteed to keep me quiet until my plate is clean!
While I'm always full after the chicken, I've never been able to resist sharing a dessert. James and I had a very generous slice of their Red Velvet Cake.
I can't wait to go back!

Lavender Sage

A few weeks after finding Lavender Mint at the Farmers' Market, I found Lavender Sage!!! The taste is a bit stronger than traditional sage, and it really does smell of a lovely combination of lavender and sage. Every week I so look forward to what exciting things await to be discovered at My Mother's Garden. What could it be next week: Lavender Thyme???

Morton's Market Has True French Macarons!!!

This was a very excited discovery for me. Ever since my first taste last October in France, I have been obsessively searching for macarons. Imported from France, these were slightly stale, but are more than adequate to fill my craving until I can next return to France. Morton's charge $1 per macaron, which isn't bad considering I was paying €1 each in France. The lemon has been the best, least stale flavor of the ones I've tried so far. Fingers crossed that they keep them in stock, or better yet, start making their own!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rose and Herb Posy

When I find myself inundated with roses and my herbs are growing faster than I can cook with, I love to make posies. Not only are the colors beautiful, but the scent is divine. Placed in a sunny window, these sweet little nosegays will fill a room with a luscious floral/herbal aroma, making it an eco-friendly air freshener. For this arrangement, I used my sweet little yellow roses, tarragon, rosemary, lavender mint, and lavender sage. Many of these herbs are also natural bug repellents, which come in handy during the muggy, bug infested summers of Florida.