November 29, 2011

butterscotch pots de crème

These are heaven sent. I swear. Sent to the leprechauns waiting where rainbows touch the earth, poured into their 'gold' pots, and stored away for magical moments. Magical moments which I have been showering on my kitchen and guests ever since I discovered this recipe. The butterscotch is rich and creamy, but also firmly delicate with a silky lightness on your tongue. So so sooo good.

I am a butterscotch girl, raised in a butterscotch family, eager for magical butterscotch-filled moments to fall upon me. The butterscotch gene was passed on from my dad, who inherited it from his dad, who I'm sure inherited it from his dad, and so on and so forth. I'm guessing it must be because we are Scottish that butterscotch (and cholesterol - is that the genes or the butterscotch?) flows so thickly in our blood. In truth my dad's butterscotch predilection falls towards butterscotch sundaes, but rest assured he would like these little pots of gold, after all they are pure butterscotchy goodness.
Zach said this was one of the best desserts I've ever made. He wanted to know how he could preserve the leftovers - freeze or fridge or time capsule - so he can have a little butterscotch everyday. I guess he married into a butterscotch family. But really, he shouldn't be so worried about saving them, he should just worry about keeping our pantry stocked with the ingredients, because these are so easy to make. Super. duper. simple. Okay maybe not as simple as pouring orange juice into a popsicle maker and sticking it in the fridge, but still pretty darn easy. Pots of golden heaven.....I mean pots de crème
from Gourmet October 2003 epicurious
also featured on orangette

* dark muscovado sugar a brown, molasses flavored sugar, that is darker and coarser than your standard brand brown sugar. It should be easy to find in most stores. In Zürich you can find it at most reformhaus and also at Jelmoli.

* Demerara sugar is a coarse grain sugar, often used for decoration. It's brown in color. In Zürich you can find it at the same spots you find muscovado sugar

* the recipe calls for 6 ramekins, but I found it was perfect for 4 small coffee cups.

- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (that's the heavenly part)
- 6 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar (that's the golden part)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla bean seeds, 1 tsp)

Preheat the oven to 300ºF and center the rack in the middle.

Bring cream, muscovado sugar and salt to just a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat

In another pot (2 qt) bring water and Demerara sugar to a boil over moderate heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, and stir occasionally until brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes (almost exactly). Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream mixture, whisking until combined

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla, then add it to the hot cream mixture, again whisking until combined. Pour the custard through a sieve into a 4 cup measuring cup. Skim off any foam from the top of the custard.

Divide the custard among the ramekins. You are going to cook them in a water bath so select a roasting pan that is large enough to hold all the ramekins without them touching and line the bottom of it with a kitchen towel. Place the ramekins in the pan and cover the tops with aluminum foil. Fill the roasting pan with hot tap water until it reaches half way up the ramekins. Put the pan in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes (mine took about 60+) until the custards are set around the edges but still tremble in the centers. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and cool to room temperature. They will continue to set as they cool.

Eat them the same day or keep them refrigerated, covered with saran wrap.
I hope you shower yourself with a little creamy, butterscotch magic sometime soon. These would be perfect for a dinner party, especially a dinner party where you are entertaining a gluten-free friend or just a friend who loves butterscotch and pudding, combined in a nice little 'pot'. I imagine the recipe doubles and triples nicely, but of course you'd need a roasting pan big enough for all of your ramekins/teacups.

Just make them. You will shower me with thanks and magic.

November 24, 2011

from our table to yours....

Two years ago Zach was too busy scheming about how he was going to propose to eat his fill of turkey and stuffing. Last year I packed myself full of Thanksgiving fare and then jetted off to Zürich just as the pie was being served. This year we are gathering with new friends and sharing new traditions. We are thankful.

I am also thankful for technology. I've been stirring stuffing and videoing with my mom and grandmother for the last three hours. My mom has stuffed a Turkey - full of oranges, lemon and thyme - and now she is prepping her stuffing and searching her cupboards for marshmallows to top of her famous sweet potatoes. I'm not there, and I wish I was, but at least we can celebrate this day together - thank you google video.

Thank you also to Coop (local grocery store) for playing this song (Little Lovin' - Lissie) while I was shopping for my made me smile..."I gotta lotta lovin..."

And for this Ted talk today on nature, beauty and gratitude. It's only 10 minutes. Take a moment. Today is not just another day, it is a gift. I am grateful.

Enjoy this day, your family and the tremendous feast you are about to enjoy.

November 22, 2011

chasing the light...and a little sugar

Let's set the scene. It is 4:30pm and night has fallen, already. The air is cold and your cheeks are red and ready for some time indoors, as is the rest of you, which has been chasing the light all day. You are tired. It is time to go home. Rest awaits you, and so does an apple-streusel cake that you baked earlier that morning while you were waiting for the grey and the fog to lift. It was easy to make and heck the apartment still smells like cinnamon when you walk in. Job well done; afternoon snack and cozy-seasonal-scented apartment all in one. Pat yourself on the back, put some tunes on, press the button on the espresso machine, cut a slice of cake, put your feet up, and relish the little perks of a cold fall night.
Check out the kitty in this photo....I caught him jumping for swallows that were flirting about in the leafy vines. Admittedly I'm jealous of his house, if this is indeed his house, all leafy and colorful.
I know I just recently posted another apple cake recipe, but I didn't really have an option when it came to baking this cake. I had to do it. Ali and Jess both made this cake within a week of one another, both raving about it's hearty, moist, deliciousness while cooing over their new babies. How can I resist new babies and apple-cake? I can't. Hence today's featured cake. And since I don't have a newborn to coo over I added a little extra sugar in the form of a pecan streusel filling.

Teddie's apple cake, adapted from the NYTimes
* cooks note - I followed Ali's lead and left the walnuts and raisins out, but then of course pretty much replaced them with the streusel filling. Just do what feels right. It will be good

- butter for greasing the pan
- 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (I used about 1/4 tsp vanilla seeds, which are cheeper and easier to come by here in Zurich)
- 3 cups peeled and cored and thickly sliced tart apples

streusel filling (you might have extra, that's okay)
- 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Butter and flour a 9" tube pan.

Beat the oil and sugar with a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. Add the eggs and beat until creamy, about 5 minutes

Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla and apples.

Make your streusel by combining the chopped pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

You are going to place the streusel filling in the middle of the cake so spoon about half of the dough into the tube pan. With a knife create a little well for your streusel filling. Sprinkle as much of the filling as will fit, making sure it doesn't touch the sides (it will burn). Cover with the remaining dough and smooth out with a spatula

Bake for an 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve at room temperature for breakfast or dessert.
I love this last photo. The trees were given a haircut, just enough so that the leaves hover over your head. And while you are wandering under the leaves you can have some water. I don't think I've mentioned them before, but there are a whole network of water fountains in the city which are completely safe to drink out of. I like to think of it as my own little Evian spring, right from the Alps.

November 20, 2011

sunday scenes

I'm not the only cook in the kitchen. Zach makes a mean plate of eggs and bacon. He finely chops some shallots, cooks them in butter until they are soft and fragrant - something he learned from his grandmother - he then adds the eggs, which he's mixed with a little cream, to the pan and scoots everything around until the eggs are nice and scrambled with just a hint of brown. We like our eggs on the well done side. This we agree on. It might be the only egg related thing we agree on considering I don't like any type of egg besides scrambled.

It's hard work cooking and eating a pile of eggs and bacon. Post breakfast table you will find the Sunday chef in the nook with the newest New Yorker, which is always inevitably an old New Yorker considering they arrive in Switzerland a week or so after they are released in the states.

Hope you had / are having a nice Sunday!

November 18, 2011

talley & julia....french onion soup

I'm watching Julie & Julia for the third time, this week. I initially turned it on because after hunting on youtube for the hilarious onion chopping scene - Julia fumigates her husband right out of their apartment with all of the onion gas - and not finding anything besides the generic movie trailer I decided to turn on the movie. The pile of chopped onions was in the pot, on their slow journey to caramelization, and Julia was on the screen, keeping me company. It was a great, sweet, wine-infused, journey.

Enchantè Julia!

A lot of people have asked me if I'm familiar with the movie. It makes sense. I'm an expat, I cook, I blog. But now after seeing it three more times, I wonder if maybe all those people weren't asking simply if I'd seen it, but rather if it meant something else, if perhaps there was a little 'je ne sais quoi' about the movie. And you know what? I think there might be. Not with the Julie bit, (I find her particularly self important, whiny, and annoying), but with the Julia bit. It makes me laugh and it also makes me appreciate living abroad and the time it has given me to learn to cook. As Julia says, "I'm in heaven here." If only I had her collection of copper pots....and spoke French...
Onion soup, like Caesar salad, was one of my first forays into grownup food. I would eat spaghetti with plain tomato sauce at home, but when we went out to eat I'd order onion soup right alongside my parents. The Burns have eaten a lot of onion soup over the years. If it is on the menu we are likely to order four. My dad taught me to love the cheese that burns and gets all crispy on the sides of the pot, but I learned to love the broth soaked bread and the sweet soft onions all on my own. Thankfully Zach is also an onion soup connisseur. We've come to judge restaurants on their onion soup. It seems fair considering that it's a fairly easy soup to make, hard to screw up, so if you do, we are likely to notice.
Besides onions, one of the essential ingredients for onions soup is a set of little oven safe ramekins. The other day when I was window shopping on Bahnhofstrasse (have I mentioned Zurich is insanely expensive?) I came across a little kitchen store that was selling these Staub mini pots for 5.50chf. In Zurich terms that is basically free, so I bought 4. Thank goodness, because I can now make onion soup all the time.
So this isn't Julia Child's recipe, but she does have one, and you can watch and follow her on youtube. I started this soup with the Tartine recipe in front of me and the cream already in the pot, before I turned on the movie and before I was in love with Julia Child.

onion soup, adapted from Tartine
- 6 large yellow onions (I used 3 large onions and 8 - 9 small ones - they are cheaper) cut into slices 1/4 thick
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (Tartine calls for 1 cup, but the onions were cooking too slowly in all that liquid, maybe I'm too impatient)
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 6 cups stock (veggie or chicken, I used veggie - see end of post. Tartine calls for 8, but I like my soup a bit denser)
- sliced and toasted bread for top of soup
- Gruyère cheese sliced for soup.

Combine the butter and cream in the bottom of a 5-8 quart pan/pot. Let it heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and then add the onions. Cook and stir occasionally until the onions have softened and are transparent. This might take a while because there are so many onions. Be patient. Turn on a movie. Once transparent, let the cream and onions cook at a slow boil. Cook the onions, without stirring, until the bottom of the pot begins to brown. Again this could take a while, depending on the size of your pot. Stir the onions with a wooden spoon, adding 1/2 cup of wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot, stirring quickly, scraping the bottom of the pan and then leaving the onions to cook until the bottom of the pot browns again, about 6 - 8 minutes. Repeat the process two more times, until the onions take on a deep caramel color. All in all this process took me over an hour, the first part taking me the longest time.

Poor in the stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat, cooking for 15 or so minutes until the broth is well flavored by the onions. Taste and season with salt if needed.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Toast the bread, until dry and brittle, about 10 minutes. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil, ladle the soup into your little oven safe pots, top with bread and cheese and bake until the cheese is bubbly and caramelized, 20 - 30 minutes.
This soup is ridiculously good. So good that I sent this email to Zach's work email after I first tasted it....

holy *****
this is the best thing i've ever made
want to bathe in it
you will too

that is word for word, asterisk for asterick, lack of punctuation for lack of punctuation, exactly what I wrote. I guess all of that cheesy goodness impaired my judgement about what is appropriate to send to your husband's work email. whoopsy daisy. But hopefully that will convey to you just how **** good it really is.

. . . the stock. . . As Julia says homemade stock is an essential ingredient for onion soup - why bother making soup from scratch if you aren't going to use homemade stock. I agree.
I recently read An Everlasting Meal, I wonderful book my Tamar Adler, that helped me change the way I approach cooking. Before I read the book I threw away a lot of food; the leafy ends of celery, the ends of onions, the butts of carrots and pretty much any part of a vegetable that I wasn't going to use. Now I throw all of those tails and ends and butts into a pot, cover them with water and let it boil until it's stock. It's pretty much magic. And in Switzerland where you can't buy liquid stock of any kind, it really is a miracle, completely revolutionary.Vegetable stock
- throw whatever ends, tails butts of veggies you have into a pot. If carrots and celery aren't already in the mix then add some, especially the leafy parts and the bulb. Also add an onion, sliced in half, and a head of garlic sliced in half. Sprinkle in some black pepper corns. Poor in water until it covers the veggies and then bring a boil over high heat. Turn down to a simmer and allow to cook until the water has absorbed the vegetable flavors. Taste and season with salt as needed. Strain the veggies and poor liquid into jars and place the jars in the fridge.

The color of the stock will depend on what veggies you use. In the pictures above, in the recipe section, you will notice that the stock is two different colors and that is because it is from two different batches, one had the skin and ends of a butternut squash in it and the other one, well I can't quite remember. Really it's just about feel and whatever scraps you have lying around.

As you can see from the above pictures I saved all the onions ends and skins from the onions that went into this soup and threw them into a pot of stock. I try not to throw any vegetables away at this point. It can always be stock, and you always need stock. Especially with thanksgiving coming up!

* * * *

November 15, 2011

zurich wine boats

Red in fall-winter-spring, white in summer, not too fruity, not too bold, fairly smooth. That's what I like in a wine. Descriptive huh? Ha! I know nothing about wine, just that I like most of it and that I like sharing a bottle with friends.

I've been to the wine boats twice. I first went last week with some girlfriends for lunch and tastings, where the highlight was definitely the group of old men with mustaches, donned in plaid, having lunch next to us (see picture above). After lunch we tried some champagne and then moved quickly to Chilean, Spanish and South African red wines. I think I pegged a Spanish Rioja as my favorite, but now I can't remember.

Last night Zach and I went back with some Swiss friends who knew a lot about wine and we staked out the Movenpick booth (where one of our friends was working) and we sampled a whole variety of reds. Our favorite was a malbec from Mendoza which was upwards of 100chf a bottle. Zoinks. Won't be getting a case of that one, or a bottle for that matter.

For those unfamiliar with the boats, they tie up all of the commuter lake boats right at the Zurich dock, set up a gazillion wine booths inside, and open them up to the public for two weeks of tastings. The boats/booths have a cozy atmosphere, which can be great or just really crowded.

There are only two more days - Wednesday and Thursday - to visit the boats. If you go before 12:30 you can get in for free. Zach and I were thinking of going back tomorrow so I might even wander over there sometime before noon so I can get in for free and then walk right back out with a bracelet that will let me back in for free all day and night. Sneaky, aren't I?

November 14, 2011

you like brussels sprouts?

"Are you serious?"

I've asked this a lot over the last few days/months/years. Those of you who know Zach know that he can be quite sarcastic. Even as his wife I don't always know when he's joking and when he's serious. Here are some seemingly outlandish things Zach has said recently which have provoked questioning...

"The Financial district is my favorite neighborhood in NYC."

"Brussels Sprouts are the best."

"I'm dying to go to Murmansk."

The crazy thing is that he was serious. About all of them. There were others, but I can't remember them, and neither can Zach, even as we sit here trying to wrack our brains about the topics we chatted about this weekend. Point being, sometimes he's joking and sometimes he's serious and the only way to tell is to either ask or to look for that little sideways smirk he makes when he knows he's being funny.

He was serious about Brussels sprouts. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. Both of my parents hate them. Actively. The mere mention of Brussels sprouts elicits grimaces and gagging noises. I've known people that like them, but I always thought they were either too healthy for their own good or just plain silly. I've only eaten Brussels sprouts a handful of times. I remember my first time. It was a fluke accident, my friend Crem ordered them when we were out to dinner at Momofuku Ssäm Bar a couple of years ago and we ate the entire bowl. I loved them. They were fried and crispy and a perfect mix of sweet and salty, crunchy and soft. I thought it must have been magic, that it would be impossible to recreate them at home, and that I should just go on hating them. But when you're a cook and your husband says he loves something it's hard to at least not give it a shot. So here enters a husband who apparently loves Brussels sprouts, an uncovered magical recipe, and I should note, a wife who came around and now loves the little green sprouts.
Zach announced his love as Brussels sprouts just as they came into season. Lucky for him. Every vendor at the farmer's market last Friday was selling them. Some of the sprouts were larger than others, but they were all being sold off the stalk. I had heard that buying them on the stalk is a good way to ensure that they won't be too bitter. No stalk in site I decided to just go for some of the smaller ones, intimidated by the big ones, and the big bites they would entail later. I wanted to learn to love Brussels sprouts little by little, not enormous mouthful by enormous mouthful. I also went with the small ones in the hopes that they would be a bit easier to get nice and crispy. And as you can see below, it worked.
It wasn't hard to track down the recipe. It was waiting for me on The success of this recipe is all in the crispy-ness of the sprouts and of the sweet thai fish sauce based dressing.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar Brussels Sprouts

for the sprouts
- 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

for the dressing
- 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro stems
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 (1 1/2 inch) red thai chili, sliced thinly crosswise, including seeds

for puffed rice (optional, I didn't use it, but I remember it being good)
- 1/2 cup crisp rice cereal - Rice Crispies
- 1/4 teaspoon olive oil or canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend)

Preheat the oven to 450, with the rack in the upper third.

Toss the sprouts with the oil, arrange them, spread out, cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until the outer leaves are crisp and very dark brown and the insides are soft. Add butter and toss to coat.

Stir together all of the dressing ingredients until the sugar has dissolved.

To make the puffed rice cook the cereal in oil and the Japanese spice blend over medium heat, shaking the skillet and stirring, until rice is coated and begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally.

Put the sprouts in a serving bowl, then toss with just enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with puffed rice and serve remaining dressing on the side.
I'm still not quite sure Zach is serious about the Financial District being his favorite neighborhood in the city. I think he just wanted to say it outloud to see how it felt, hanging out there in the open. It just can't be true. He claims to love the narrow, cavernous streets, but can those streets possibly live up to the nooks and crannies of the West Village or the restaurants and bars in the East Village. What about Rue B Zach? Isn't that your favorite bar? Have you ever even eaten a meal near Wall Street? I doubt it. Perhaps he's just trying to support Occupy Wall Street by approving of their home base in Zuccotti Park. Six months working at 14 Wall street (in an architecture firm) was more than enough time for me at the tip of Manhattan. Give me an ivy covered townhouse on a cobblestone street over the caverns of downtown any day.

And for Murmansk...perhaps on the summer solstice, but that's about the only time you will get me there. I bet if you go in the winter you'd need to hire a dog sled and rent some fur coats.

* ps since posting this recipe last night I have had the following responses from my immediate family
Mom - "love your Brussels sprouts post, but hate the sprouts."
Dad - "Brussels sprouts !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (those are negative exclamation points, like I've sold out on him and our once mutual hatred for the little green goblins. I did the same thing with sweet potatoes, he hates them and I've grown to love them)
Peter - grosssssss

November 13, 2011

it was sunny

I pretty much ran to the camera shop to pick up my first roll of film. It was a test roll, full of mistakes and over/under exposed/whoops photos, but thankfully amongst the mistakes there were some keepers.

There is a meditative quality to taking 35mm photos, especially with an older camera. You have to manually focus the lens, adjust the shutter and aperture dials, depress the shutter and then advance the film. It's slow, but thoughtful and determined. I like it.

We spent the entire day yesterday outside in the sunshine. At one point I was even hot. It felt good. I'm going to miss it. Today was an inside day. It was grey all day, but we ate bacon so everything was a-okay.