04.28.07

Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day

Posted in community, technology at 7:45 pm by wingerz

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Thursday was Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. I didn’t have a daughter or son to bring to work, but I did end up running an activity session for eighteen children aged 8 to 11. The topic was the Internet, and we covered the differences between analog and digital data, simulated a simple packet-routing scenario, and discussed the pros and cons of having a centrally regulated Internet. I was really happy to see the students point out two of the best things that the Internet has going for it: 1) free access for all and 2) no censorship. Pretty cool to see these guys so far ahead of where I was technology-wise at their age.

04.26.07

Strawberry Cream Cake

Posted in food, home cooking at 8:31 pm by wingerz

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This was inspired by several things: 1) seeing the recipe on ATK, 2) encouragement from Caroline and Brandon, who also made the cake, 3) 4 pounds of strawberries from Costco, and 4) beautiful Spring weather.

It was a fun recipe to make. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of strawberries but I almost used up all 4 pounds of strawberries. Since the ones we had were huge, I cut them into thirds, preserving the side slices for arranging around the sides of the cake while cutting the middle slices into smaller pieces for the filling. I put a little bit less of the strawberry filling than the recipe calls for since it looked a little bit on the liquid-y side and I didn’t want the cake to get too soggy. Next time around I’ll probably try to drain the strawberries more and further reduce the liquid before mixing them together.

The cake was delicious, and one of the more beautiful desserts to come out of our kitchen.

Strawberry Cream Cake
from America’s Test Kitchen

Cake
1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
4 – 6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kirsch
Pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour round 9 by 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.

3. For the strawberry filling: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

4. For the whipped cream: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).

5. To Assemble the cake: Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.

04.25.07

Afternoon stroll

Posted in photos at 10:29 pm by wingerz

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Lee already blogged about a walk we took together a few weeks ago. I’ve finally gotten around to posting my favorites from that afternoon.

04.22.07

Spring has sprung

Posted in personal at 10:15 pm by wingerz

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It’s about time. It was a month late this year, but we finally got some nice Spring weather. I spent several hours yesterday on the Esplanade and today at the Public Garden and JFK park. Busted out the grill for the first time this season as well; it came out of hibernation too cook us some burgers.

04.19.07

Skillet-Roasted Potatoes

Posted in food, home cooking at 10:30 pm by wingerz

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Saw these on TV a few weeks ago and decided to give them a try. They’re a great option for freeing up the oven (to roast a large hunk of meat or bake a dessert). Pay attention to the heat and the amount of time that you brown the potatoes, and make sure to test doneness by poking with a paring knife. My first batch of these ended up being a little burnt on the outside and not as done as they could have been. My second batch (made several days later) ended up being perfect – salty and spicy on the outside, extremely tender and slightly sweet on the inside.

Spicy Skillet-Roasted Potatoes with Chili and Cumin
from America’s Test Kitchen

1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds Red Bliss potatoes, small or medium, scrubbed and unpeeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Combine chili powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne in small bowl.

2. If using small potatoes, halve each potato. If using medium potatoes, quarter each potato to create 3/4- to 1-inch chunks. Rinse potatoes in cold water and drain well; spread on clean kitchen towel and thoroughly pat dry.

3. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add potatoes cut side down in single layer; cook, without stirring, until golden brown (oil should sizzle but not smoke), 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn potatoes skin side down if using halved small potatoes or second cut side down if using quartered medium potatoes; cook, without stirring, until deep golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes longer. Stir potatoes, then redistribute in single layer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are tender (paring knife can be inserted into potatoes with no resistance), 6 to 9 minutes.

4. When potatoes are tender, sprinkle with salt and chili powder mixture and toss or stir gently to combine. Cook over medium-low heat until spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds; serve immediately.

04.15.07

Ducks on the dock

Posted in photos at 11:49 pm by wingerz

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A few weeks ago I wandered down to the dock where we eat lunch occasionally and found a bunch of ducks. They didn’t flee when I approached so I was able to get a few good shots of them.

04.12.07

Caesar Salad

Posted in food, home cooking at 9:59 pm by wingerz

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This is one of my restaurant favorites. Decided to de-mystify it by making it at home. The garlic croutons were incredibly good, and the dressing was pretty authentic-tasting. I got to use some anchovy paste that Jess and Cy gave me for Christmas.

Caesar Salad
From America’s Test Kitchen‘s The New Best Recipe

Garlic Croutons
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups 3/4-inch bread cubes from 1 baguette or country loaf

Broiled Chicken Breasts
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat
Salt and ground black pepper

Caesar Dressing
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt
Ground black pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
4 anchovy fillets, minced to a paste (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad
2 medium heads romaine lettuce (large outer leaves removed) or 2 large romaine hearts, washed, dried, and torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 cups lightly packed)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the croutons: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the garlic, salt, and oil in a small bowl, let stand 20 minutes to infuse the flavors, then pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Spread the bread cubes in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet; bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet to room temperature.
2. For the chicken: Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Adjust an oven rack to 6 inches from the broiler element; heat the broiler. Spray the broiler pan top with vegetable cooking spray; place the chicken breasts on top and broil until lightly browned, 4 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken over and continue to broil until the thickest part is no longer pink when cut into and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. For the dressing: Bring 2 inches water to boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Lower the eggs into the water and cook 45 seconds; remove with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, crack the eggs open; reserve the yolks in a small bowl and discard the whites. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, the garlic, and anchovies, whisk until smooth. whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.
4. To finish the salad: In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, Parmesan, and about two thirds of the dressing to coat; divide evenly among individual plates. Remove the tenderloins from the chicken breasts; place in the bowl used to dress the lettuce along with the remaining dressing. Cut the chicken breasts crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, add to the bowl, and toss to coat. Divide the dressed chicken evenly among the plates, arranging the slices on the lettuce. Sprinkle each plate with a portion of the croutons and serve immediately.

04.08.07

Peeps Galore

Posted in amusing, food, personal at 8:59 pm by wingerz

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I think marshmallow peeps are disgusting, but some people love them. Julia sent along a link to the results of a Peeps diorama contest. Two of the darker entries caught my attention: Reservoir Peeps (16) and Soylent Green is Peeps (17).

04.06.07

Where is Spring?

Posted in photos at 11:28 pm by wingerz

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After taunting us with some 60 degree highs, the New England weather is back to its old, cold tricks. It snowed a bit this week and is 35 degrees tonight. Fortunately, last weekend was quite nice and I took a short walk around the part of the Minuteman Trail near Davis Square. Snapped a few pictures (including some flowers, a squirrel, and some birds) and then found some other subjects in my neighbor’s front yard, including the one displayed here.

04.05.07

Banana Bread

Posted in food, home cooking at 10:11 pm by wingerz

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For some strange reason, I find it really satisfying to be able to make a recipe using only ingredients found around the house. Soft, mushy bananas were transformed into tasty, moist banana bread. Didn’t get to eat that much of it though, since it was taken to Nick and Ceida’s Final Four party.

Banana Bread
From America’s Test Kitchen‘s The New Best Recipe

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/4 cups walnuts, chopped coarse
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and walnuts together in a large bowl; set aside.
4. Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
5. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days).

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