The big change

My dear spoonglish readers (all ten of you), please get excited about the big change. Like my friend Yera would say, "you aren't so excited about it because you don't know how it's going to be".  I don't either, to be honest, but I am SO excited. Yesterday, I purchased a Canon Rebel T2i and it is going to arrive here today

I am a total beginner, level negative one, on SLR photography. My dad gave me his 1980 film SLR Canon last year and after shooting a couple rolls of film with pretty bad results, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. I have been, however, a big photography fan for a long time. Besides using common point and shoot cameras and then a little Photoshop to make the pictures look better, I also take pictures with plastic toy cameras. Now you are thinking that I am another hipster that bought a Lomo at Urban Outfitters and think I am very cool because of that. You can think whatever you want. Anyway, at digital SLR photography I am a complete beginner, but I am determined to learn fast. It can't be that hard, right? Nowadays those expensive gadgets do everything for you (I hope). So from now on, expect the pictures on this site to be so much better and hopefully Photoshop free.

However, today I have a recipe that I made last Tuesday, with pictures taken with Scott's camera and then photoshopped by myself (this is when I decided I needed an SLR).I made duck breast. Why? Because on Monday, when we landed in DC, we went straight to the grocery store and I saw these duck breasts looking at me and saying "Buy me, buy me!". So I bought them. That's how I roll. Then I had to cook them and I had no recipe. And who is there always to give me yummy recipes? Bon Appétit. I know, always Bon Appétit. I am sorry . I promise that this is going to change. So I found a recipe, I bought the ingredients, I cooked it, I took some terrible pictures of it, we ate it, I edited the pictures and told myself that I needed a better camera, I bought a new camera, and now I am writing about it.

I changed the recipe a little bit. I made more quantity of sauce, because it just looked so delicious to me that I wanted more. Also, the original recipe called for orange blossom honey. I am not the kind of person who has one honey from each type of flower. However, I am the kind of person who has orange blossom water. So I mixed honey with a little bit of orange blossom water and I had my own version of orange blossom honey. As you probably don't have orange blossom water, just use regular honey and I am sure it will be OK.

I am also the kind of person who doesn't like not having a side dish with an entrée. So I had to think of something that goes good with duck. Potatoes! Great, I had some new red and yellow potatoes. So I cut them in half and tossed them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and some mint flakes, and then roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes. Great side dish!  But wait, two sides are better than one. So I also made a plain salad with just some baby mixed greens, sherry vinegar and olive oil.

Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce
Serves 2. Adapted from Bon Appétit.

2 duck breasts
2 tbsp of chilled butter,divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup/140 ml chicken stock
20 halved pitted cherries (fresh or thawed)
4 tbsp tawny Port
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp orange blossom water (Optional. If used, mix with the honey)

Pound the duck breasts until they are 1/2-3/4 inch (about 1.5 cm) thick. On the skin side, score skin on a diamond pattern without cutting the meat. Season with salt and pepper. 

On a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and sear breasts, skin side down, for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Turn them over, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 more minutes or to desired doneness. Take them to a plate and cover with foil. 

Remove all  but 1 tbsp of drippings from the pan. Add shallot and stir over medium heat for one minute, until softened. Add port, cherries, chicken stock and honey. Increase the heat and keep stirring until the sauce is reduced, about 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter to thicken the sauce.Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Finally, thinly slice the breasts. Arrange each one on a plate and pour the sauce over them. Serve with potatoes, salad or any other side you like.


The cherry blossoms

Scott and I just came back to DC after a week in Spain and Portugal. Every time I go back home time just flies. We spent literally all the time we had seeing family and friends, and it was not enough to see everybody and spend all the time I wanted with my people. 

However, we came back and it seems like so much time passed since we left and so many things happened here in DC. We missed Saint Patrick's Day and seeing Obama at an Irish Pub, like our friends did (check this entry on Lumay's blog Fork+Canvas). But the worst of all, we missed the Cherry Blossoms. 

Washington DC has many attractions: museums, monuments, parks, restaurants... lots of things to see that I never see because I live here and I can go anytime. However, there is one thing you can't see anytime even if you live here, and that is the Cherry Blossom Festival. Thousands of cherry trees, donated by Japan 100 years ago, bloom every year in the capital and thousands of tourists come to see it. The blooming usually starts in April and lasts a couple weeks. I was excited about the Cherry Blossoms since I first moved to DC. Months of excitement. Months of excitement crashed on the ground because this year the trees decided to bloom on March 20th (when I was in Spain), and then a couple days later it rained and all the flowers disappeared. Thank you trees. Thank you Global Warming. Really, thank you...

So yesterday I drove to Potomac Park to see what was left of the flowers. Most of the trees were empty and the ground was full of petals. I took the picture below. The flowers are not from a cherry tree, but from a different kind of tree. There were some of these full of flowers and people who were late for the cherry blossoms, like me, were taking pictures of them as a consolation price.

Oh well, that was enough crying. Now I want to give you the recipe of the roasted chicken I made before going to Spain, the one we ate with the Brussels sprouts

I have always been disgusted by whole raw chickens. I remember watching my mom empty the insides and burn the feathers on the kitchen burner. It was really unpleasant. And that smell.. Fortunately, in America, chicken comes clean,empty and featherless. Thanks God. I really didn't want to have to do that with my first chicken. So I read about fifteen recipes of roasted chicken in different blogs and books, and then I improvised this recipe based on all of them.

Roast Chicken

1 chicken
1 onion quartered
1 lemon quartered
1/2 tbsp dry thyme
1/2 tbsp dry sage
3 tbsp butter (or olive oil)

Clean the chicken and empty the insides if it is not empty. Season with salt and pepper outside and inside. This can be done the day before, then put the chicken in a plastic bag and leave it in the refrigerator so it absorbs the salt.  

Preheat the oven at 450°F/230°C. Stuff the chicken with the onion and the lemon. Sprinkle it with the spices and brush the melted butter (or olive oil) over the chicken.

Set wire rack on a large roasting pan. Pour a cup of water over the pan. Arrange the chicken over the prepared rack breast side up. Roast on the top third of the oven for about 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°F/180°C and roast for another 40 minutes or until the temperature inside the thigh reaches 165°F/75°C. Let it rest for 15 minutes before eating. Serve with the pan drippings.

I didn't have enough juice on the pan so I poured them into a skillet, I added some white wine and chicken stock and let it simmer a couple minutes. Then I added a tablespoon of butter to thicken it. Great sauce.


Those little belgians

Brussels sprouts were never my friends. Luckily or not, they were never served at home, nor at school. I remember once, when I was little, that I ate lunch at my neighbor's house and I ate Brussels sprouts for the first time, and last time too. Since then I never wanted to get close to one of those little cabbages. I felt really disgusted  even just thinking about them.

However, a year ago I went to one of the Jose Andres restaurants in DC. The restaurant is called Zaytinya and specializes in a mix of Greek, Turkish and Lebanese food served in small plates that are meant to share, tapas style. We were four people, and after choosing one tapa each, we asked the server to bring also his favorite one. Just try to picture my face when he came back and put in front of my face a plate of BRUSSELS SPROUTS. I almost leave the restaurant immediately. But I gave it a second thought because being the server's favorite, it had to be somewhat good. So we all tried them and OMG, they were so good! I could not believe it!

A few months after that, we went to another Jose Andres restaurant, Jaleo. Jaleo is also a tapas restaurant, but this one is Spanish (where tapas are actually from). We ordered Brussels sprouts again, this time in a salad. The sprouts came on spare leafs like they were baby lettuces. I can't tell if they were raw of they had been cooked somehow. They were so tender and fresh. The dressing was sweet, which paired perfectly with the sour flavor of the sprouts. I believe the salad also had grapes and Spanish Serrano ham. So good! Since then, I declare myself a Brussels-Sprout-Lover and I promise to give a second chance to all those dishes that I hate since I was little (there aren't that many, I eat almost everything).

Today's recipe is also from bon appétit (by chance) but I have adapted it. Instead of bacon I used prosciutto. I also added more stock than the recipe called for and I let it cook a little longer because the sprouts didn't seem tender enough.

They were great, totally delicious. We ate them with roasted chicken. I will post the chicken some other day. Kisses.

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto and Raisins

1 lb of Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup diced prosciutto
1 shallot or 1/2 onion, finely chopped.
1/4 cup  raisins
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil

Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the prosciutto. Take it out with a slotted spoon and reserve over paper towel. Rinse, trim and cut the Brussels sprouts lengthwise. Add to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until they start to become brown and tender. Add the shallot, raisins and butter and cook over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the shallots are soft. Stir in the stock, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer until the liquid has evaporated, like 10 more minutes. Stir in the prosciutto and serve.


Chocolate souffles with orange blossom cream

A few months after I moved to America, Scott's parents got us a subscription to Bon Appetit. When the end of each month approaches, I start checking the mailbox everyday to see if the new issue has arrived. After it arrives, I go over the whole magazine once a day for about a whole week, observing the delicious looking pictures and selecting the recipes that I want to make. We have cooked many dishes from Bon Appetit and none of them has ever disappointed us. 

For my first post, I have chosen a dessert that I had never made before. A souffle. It is from the February 2011 issue (all the recipes are also online at the Bon Appetit website). I chose this recipe for three reasons. First of all, the picture of the souffle in the magazine made me want to eat the page, no kidding. Second of all, the recipe called for orange flower water. I know that doesn't sound like a reason, but just wait a second and let me tell you a story.

Orange blossom water is an ingredient that I only have seen in Roscon de Reyes, a typical Spanish sweet bread that we eat on Three Kings Day. So a couple months ago, I felt like making Roscon de Reyes, but I didn't know where to find orange blossom water here in DC. If you ask Google, it will tell you to go to a Middle Eastern market. Thanks Google, like I live in a neighborhood surrounded by Middle Eastern markets. However, there is always a plan B, and it's called Amazon.com. I think Amazon is about to pass Google in my personal ranking of best things ever. So I went on Amazon and I found it (of course). Amazon 1 - Google 0. When the package arrived, I realized that I had bought EIGHT bottles of orange blossom water (yeah, I do that, I buy things not knowing what I'm actually buying). So I found space to store them in one of the least reachable cabinets in our very small kitchen, and then forgot about it, until today (I never made Roscon de Reyes).

The third reason (if you remember, 3 reasons made me want to make this) is that Rachel (Scott's sister) lent us her KitchenAid mix master a few days ago. KitchenAids are not a thing in Spain. Most people there don't even know what it is, so I had never even used one. To make this recipe, you have to whip cream and beat egg whites, and for those my friend, you have to have a KitchenAid (or a Thermomix, of course, the Spanish counterpart).

So I made the souffles and this is the result:

Well, it was the result. There recipe makes eight. I made the whole recipe but I only baked four and refrigerated the remaining batter. Scott ate 3 of them. He says, and I agree, that these things are amazingly good. I am so happy I chose this as the first recipe. It is so good!

So here it is, the first recipe:

Bittersweet cocoa souffles with Orange Blossom Cream
From Bon Appetit, makes 8

For the cream: 

1 cup chilled whipping cream
1 and 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp finely grated orange peel
1 tsp orange blossom water

Beat all ingredients in medium bowl until peaks form. Cover and refrigerate.

For the souffles:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 egg yolks
1 tsp  vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips).
Butter and more sugar for the ramekins.

Butter eight individual ramekins and dust them with sugar.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Whisk 1/2 cup sugar, flour, and 1/8 teaspoon (scant) salt in small saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of milk and whisk until you get a thick paste. Gradually whisk in remaining milk except 2 tablespoons. Stir over medium heat until slightly thickened (it can take a while). Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add cocoa powder, remaining 2 tablespoons milk, 2 egg yolks, and vanilla. Stir until smooth, thick paste forms.
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, beating on high speed until firm peaks form. Add 1/4 of whites to chocolate mixture and fold to blend. Add remaining beaten egg whites and chopped chocolate and fold until whites are just blended into batter. Divide batter among prepared ramekins. The more you fill them, the more they rise. Bake in bottom third of oven for about 12 minutes.

Pour a couple spoonfuls of the cream over each souffle and enjoy!

Hello World

Hello. Anyone there?
This is so exciting. I am starting my blog right now! I have been designing the blog for days and now it is ready!
Should I introduce myself? Ok, this is me. Although, this blog is not about me. It is about FOOD and what you do with it: COOKING and EATING.

So let's start, shall we?

I am going to write the first post in Spanish, and then I am going to start making a chocolate souffle..oh yeah, I am in America baby, go big or go home!

Welcome to spoonglish World!