Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So it's been a while...

After returning to school and, subsequently, my 8 ft by 8 ft box of a kitchen in my college apartment, I haven't blogged. It's not that I don't bake (just ask my roommates), but that I can't seem to get any half decent pictures of what I bake. Which wouldn't be an issue for any normal food blogger, but it bothers this slightly neurotic perfectionist. But at my father's repeated pleads, I will give the people what they want.

A birthday cake for a sweet 14 year old

My birthday-cake-baking began years ago, when my father requested a homemade carrot cake for his birthday. I've since lost that recipe, but have found and tested many more. This particular cake, while drenched in chocolatey goodness, is pure vanilla on the inside. I love Magnolia's vanilla cake recipe. It's easy and reliable and dense but still moist and cakey. 

vanilla chocolate chip filling

The filling is any regular vanilla frosting (or marshmallow filling, if ya wanna get fancy) with mini chocolate chips. The light brown frosting around the outside of the cake is just some of the vanilla frosting mixed with some of the chocolate ganache that's poured over the top of the cake. This same recipe will also make around 24 cupcakes. For a two layer cake (with each layer sliced in half like I did), you'll need two 9-inch pans. Also, if you don't have self-rising flour, or don't know what it is, it's just one cup of all-purpose flour with 1.5 tsp of baking powder and .5 tsp salt.

Magnolia's Vanilla Cake Recipe
(adapted from a Food Network recipe that was pulled from Magnolia's cookbook)
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.

In a large bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer (or with a wooden spoon and a strong arm), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat them together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. After each addition, beat until ingredients are combined but be careful not to over mix. Divide the batter between the two greased cake pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

If you want to bake the cakes the night before, cool the cakes completely and remove from pans. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Cakes will be easier to slice and frost in the morning.

Chocolate Ganache
12 ounces chocolate (I always use semisweet), chopped into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl

Heat the cream in a saucepan on medium high until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for a minute, and then stir until the chocolate is completely mixed and glossy. Let the ganache cool before pouring it over the cake, or let it cool completely (in the fridge helps) before whipping into a frosting.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Eataly = Italy

After much prodding from my father that he's "resigning himself from reading my blog" because I haven't uploaded in so long, I've returned. August was just really hectic and flew by. I finished my internship, went back to school, dealt with cockroaches and dead mice in my apartment (please, don't ask) and had my first full week at school. But don't think I forgot about blogging! I took tons of food pics over the summer, but just didn't have the time to upload them.

(house made mozzarella, prosciutto cotto and crusty bread)

(the Piazza in the center of the market)

I was skeptical about Eataly. After all, I lived in Italy for four months and just didn't think that anywhere on this side of the pond would really be an exact replicate. I was happily surprised that Eataly came pretty close. It's a giant indoor market in Manhattan that sells authentic Italian cheeses, coffees, snacks and just so much more. There are a bunch of different food stands that you can sit down at and try what they have to offer. We stood at one of the bars in the middle of the Piazza and tried the mozzarella, which was some of the best that I've had [in this country]. 

(homemade pasta for sale)

(hi guys!)

And because my boyfriend and I are bottomless pits (it's actually absurd), we went to dinner after (we did do some shopping in between, we're not that chubby). After a lot of research we decided upon Alta, which is right on the edge of the West Village. It is strictly a tapas restaurant, though they call their menu, "a menu of small plates." With 47 dishes to choose from (not including desserts), we were able to customize our meals to exactly our tastes. And, even better, we got to try a lot of different dishes because they were small (and not like usual-sharing-plates-small, they were pretty teeny).

(lamb meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce topped with a yogurt sauce and an egg yolk)

We ordered four dishes and a dessert, and we I was stuffed by the end (my boyfriend probably could have had one or two more plates). We started with the lamb meatballs because so many reviews raved about them. I personally don't like lamb and I loved these, so I guess that says it all. Also, I love yolky runny egg yolks, so that's always a plus in my book. After, we had "the best appetizer of all time," according to the bf. That mighttt be a bit of an exaggeration, but it really was unbelievable. It was a bruschetta with cream, braised artichokes and tomato jam. It was sweet and crunchy, smoky and cooling, and all together the perfect bite.

(the picture doesn't do it justice, but I was rushing to shove the whole thing in my mouth)

(avocado relleno with with crabmeat and shrimp, frisee and orange)

That looks weird, I know. It's a little nugget of crabmeat and shrimp, diced together, surrounded by avocado slices. I loved this, but we ranked it the lowest out of our four dishes because the others were just so good. To round out the meal, our last savory dish was a grilled shrimp and chorizo skewer with avocado cream. I didn't take a picture because we inhaled it. Oops.

(angel food cake with bananas and ice cream)

And because we always save room for dessert, we ended with a sweet and tart angel food cake confection. The malted milk ice cream was to die for. Maybe I'll try that next in my ice cream machine (although since everyone in my apartment is dieting, they might kill me). I promise I'll be blogging more often, I have to make up for lost time!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Graham Cracker Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream

Now this, this alone is a pretty convincing reason to get an ice cream machine. It's so easy to perfect a flavor when you can taste as you go along. Of course, there are still things I would change, but this ice cream is prettty good.

Most of the time at my internship I'm uploading recipes. Every now and then I find a recipe that I like, and I go searching for it on the blogs that I like, and then I get totally off track and stumble onto things like this that make me rush home to my ice cream machine and get churning. This ice cream is so simple, just prepare your basic vanilla recipe and add three crushed graham crackers (next time I would definitely add more). Once the ice cream is finished, layer it in a freezer container with blueberry pie filling (though not so thick, or you'll have frozen chunks of blueberry filling which is what I had. Not that that's a bad thing, at all, it's just a preference).

The ice cream was graham-crackery, creamy and delicious. And it saved me the trouble of having to make a pie and ice cream separately. I love twofers.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Pie and Ice Cream

(triple berry pie)

Let me start by saying that berry pies are not my fave. Would I take a slice at a party? Probably not. If I were stranded on a dessert island with nothing but a berry pie, would I eat it? Absolutely. I like fruit desserts, I just like chocolate/caramel/chocolate better. But the 4th of July calls for a pie, a triple berry pie with oozy fruit filling and a flaky buttery crust. And what's a pie without homemade ice cream.

My brand new ice cream machine. Cause, ya know, I needed it. I was getting jealous of so many food bloggers who post delicious homemade ice cream recipes. They brag how simple it is, and how the machines are so affordable and kitchen friendly that there's no excuse for not having one. And it's robins egg blue and just so cute.

Oh hello.

Anyway, back to the pie. I'm not going to post the ice cream recipe because it was your standard vanilla. Just some heavy cream, milk, vanilla, and sugar. And it was a bit sweet for me, so I'm going to test out different ratios before I post the go-to vanilla recipe. So the pie. It uses a ton of berries, like I still didn't add as much as the recipe called for and the pie was overflowing, so I don't know, maybe I have a shallow pie pan. Or maybe my berries didn't reduce as much. 

And my attempt at a lattice pie crust worked out well! It was actually so easy, I used this tutorial. My dad thought the pie was a bit sweet, but I thought it was perfect with the tartness of the berries (my blackberries were particularly tart, also $3.99 a container, I should invest in my own blackberry bush).

I followed this recipe for the pie, just altered the berry ratios. I used a lot more blueberries because I felt the need to buy a pound of them because they looked so good. 

The pie was gone in a day. So much work for just a few hours of deliciousness. I'll post more ice cream recipes when I get around to making them. Chocolate's next. Or salted caramel. Or s'mores. Or all three...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gluten-Less Me

I would comfortably say that I am a carboholic. I love crusty bread, eggy challah, warm everything bagels with a schmere of cream cheese, pita chips, and baguettes galore. It's more than that though. Wanna know what my favorite fruit is? Bananas. Wanna know which fruit has the highest amount of carbs per serving (26 grams, mind you), bananas. I can't help it, carbohydrates make everything chewy and delicious and starchy and just delicious and so satisfying. So why, would you ask, am I trying out a gluten-free diet when I'm not medically required to be gluten-free? A diet where bready carbs are the enemy? Cause of blogs like this, where all her recipes look so delicious, and yet contain none of the gluten devil. And because my boyfriend was almost diagnosed with celiac disease, almost, but thankfully not quite.

(I can still eat that!)

So what does one eat in a land sans gluten? Well, a lot of quinoa, veggies, grilled meats and fish, froyo (just double check, some ice creams add hidden sources of gluten), and salads, lots of salads. Sounds icky, I know, but the benefits! I'm not tired around 3 p.m., you know, like an hour after you eat lunch and you feel like you could sleep forever (or kill someone for a coffee), I don't have that now. And there's no feeling like a glob of bread is just sitting in your stomach for hours after you eat.

(tuna tartare with avocado, following photos taken at Lavo in NYC)

Anddd you get to eat fancy foods, like tuna tartare, cause ya know, you can't eat pasta or bread or anything.

(chilean sea bass with crispy portabello strips, a garlic-butter-tomato sauce and baby asparagus in the background)

Sorry for the photo quality. These are from my phone. I didn't think anything could be worse than the little digital camera I have now, but apparently I was wrong.

(grilled salmon with zucchini "pasta")

Anyway, I haven't been gluten-free long enough to know if it'll actually change anything, but I'll give it as long as I can handle, until I break down and bake every muffin/cake/cookie in my recipe book and stuff my face. (I give myself a week before my willpower runs out).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mile-High White Chocolate Hummingbird Cake

Father's Day is a big holiday at my house. It's our holiday, so we're in charge of feeding and entertaining around 25 (or more) relatives. I always make a special dessert for my dad, anything that he requests. This year, it was my mistake to send him this while I was browsing through recipes at work, because naturally, that's what he wanted. This 8-layer, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink behemoth of a cake is easy to prep but a pain to assemble. It requires a lot of freezing and patience, and is totally a labor of love. 

Don't be thrown off by the strange combination of ingredients. I wouldn't have thought to put coconut, bananas, toasted pecans, pineapple and white chocolate together in the same cake, but they meld so nicely. It has a similar texture to that of a carrot cake, but without the healthy stuff (like carrots - I have a strict no vegetable policy when it comes to desserts).

Like I said, a pain to assemble. I ended up making only three layers (so once they were halved, 6) because I only had 3 circular cake pans. I don't know if I would have been able to add two more layers though, it might have tipped.

The only thing I omitted from the recipe was the almond extract, mainly because I didn't have any on-hand, but also because I find that once I add almond extract, everything tastes like marzipan. The cake didn't taste too strongly of any one ingredient, though some reviews said that if you use too-ripe bananas, then that flavor is overpowering. This cake is definitely for special occasions only, but after my father happily ate three slices and it got rave reviews, it was worth it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Soft Chocolate Blueberry Tart

I know I've been the laziest blogger alive, but this blog is undergoing a transition and I wasn't sure how to approach it. You see, since I'm no longer abroad, my material is, well, a bit less intriguing. After all there aren't quite as many culinary adventures to be had in New Jersey as there are in all of Europe. So my challenge was how to adapt Just Shmying Around to my life on this side of the sea. I'll still be posting things that I find (and subsequently eat) while I'm shmying, but I'll also be posting recipes! And hopefully, my picture quality will improve as soon as I can save enough for a dslr (any suggestions?). So to start, I give you a tart.

Yesterday at my internship (at, check it out!) my job was to research and piece together a bunch of blueberry recipes. I also happened to bring the largest and most delicious blueberries to work as a snack. By sheer coincidence I wore a blue jacket. And the sky was blue for the first time in days. And so, I think the world was telling me to blog about this soft chocolate and blueberry tart. I think it was meant to be.

This is a favorite in my house. The crumbly short bread crust (as picture above), with its light sweetness and mellow saltiness, pairs perfectly with semisweet chocolate and tart blueberries. Top it off with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and it's gone in seconds (actually seconds, I've seen my family polish off the whole tart in a single sitting).

It's actually pretty simple too. Once the dough is par-baked, the chocolate filling is assembled and poured over the blueberries. After a half hour in the oven, and some time to let it chill (if you can wait) this tart is ready to serve. 

Soft Chocolate and Blueberry Tart

I love using blueberries because I find that they're the perfect contrasting tartness to the sweet chocolate,  but this would work great with cherries or raspberries as well.

Yield: one 9-inch tart

ingredients for sweet tart dough:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk

ingredients for filling:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped (I use Ghiradelli chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup blueberries

I adapted my ingredients from this recipe, so find the rest of the directions here!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cacio e Pepe

For the past two weeks, I have refused to go out for Italian food. I know that it won't be as good as it was abroad, and I don't want to ruin Italian-American food for myself for forever. But despite my aversion to Italian restaurants in the States, I still crave a hearty bowl of perfectly al dente pasta. So, rather than scour the local Italian joints in search of my favorite dish, cacio e pepe, I figured I would give it a try.

Armed with 2 lbs of fresh fettuccine from Fairway, $20 worth of grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, this recipe and my mother as sous chef, I attempted to compile a few of my favorite dishes from abroad into one meal.

One of my favorite appetizers that my parents and I enjoyed when they came to visit was burrata cheese with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh baguette. I found fresh burrata from Fairway (my favorite supermarket, I'm really sorry if you don't have one, you're totally missing out), threw some sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor, and voila. The plate was devoured within seconds.

Cacio e pepe easily translates to cacio cheese and pepper. It's a simple, traditionally Roman recipe that requires little prep or cooking time. The fresh pasta cooks in a minute, then is thrown into a pan with cracked black pepper, some butter and some pasta water. It's tossed until evenly warmed, then hit with handfuls of Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. Toss some more, add more pasta water if it's too thick, and serve. It's such a simple yet satisfying dish. For sides, we had a fresh tomato and basil salad tossed in a garlic infused olive oil (simmer olive oil with two cloves of garlic until the cloves are browned, removed cloves and pour oil over the tomatoes), and asparagus baked with shaved asiago and butter toasted breadcrumbs. Not heart-healthy or waist-friendly, but so easy and SO delicious. My father's still raving about it, two full weeks later.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Bittersweet Farewell

After two sleepless nights, a whirlwind of packing, a final goodbye dinner, a 10 hour flight, and a significant amount of tears, I am back safe and sound in the good ol' US of A. I feel like I've been in transit for four months and now I've screeched to a halt. Whenever I come home it feels like I never left. My younger brothers get taller and my dog gets more decrepit but other than that, my four months abroad already seem like a dream.

(carciofi alla giuda - fried artichokes)

For our goodbye dinner on Monday night (Tuesday night we knew we would be too busy packing and getting ready) we went back one last time to Hostaria la Botticella in Trastevere. It's a wonderful little restaurant run by an older couple and their son. They make unbelievable homemade pasta and alla cacciatore dishes (lamb and chicken), though I'm sure everything on the menu is to die for. 

(schiaffoni con pomodoro, parmesan e basilico)

So simple, but so good. Schiaffoni pasta is like rigaoni, except it's wider and homemade. We ordered more food than was necessary, ate more than we thought was possible and talked and laughed for hours while the owner's wife, who's totally a modern day Strega Nona, made sure that we had everything we needed. What a perfect last meal to end the trip.

(fruit stand in the San Giovanni di Dio market)

Tuesday was a day of lasts. Our last trip to the market, our last time visiting the Pantheon and Trevi fountain, our last cannolis, our last gelato (ughhh noooo), our last tram ride, our last time in Piazza Navona (I could live in Piazza Navona, it's so beautiful in the summer), and our last time at school. It sounds so dramatic, but realistically I don't know when the next time I'll visit Rome will be. In five years, 10 years, 20 years? And when I come back I certainly won't stay in Monteverde, the quiet suburb I lived in. And it most likely won't be with my girlfriends (unless we do a Rome Reunion every 10 years, which I think is the best idea ever). It will be more of a tourist's trip than the true living experience that I've had.

(Goodbye I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza. You make the best cannolis in the whole entire world)

(Goodbye Gelateria Frigidarium. I'm so sad I only found you a few weeks ago because you totally deserve the ranking of #18 out of 3914 places to eat in Rome on TripAdvisor. Seriously everyone, go here.)

(Goodbye three-legged dog who hobbles up and down Via del Governo Vecchio who clearly wanted a lick of my gelato. Not sharing, mi dispiace non mi dispiace)


Monday, May 14, 2012

Things I Will Miss

Now that I'm in the final hours of my time abroad, I really don't want to leave. The amount of real world problems that I have waiting for me once I arrive home is starting to freak me out. Being here is like being in a bubble where the real world doesn't exist, my debit card magically never runs out, and the only work I have to do is for school. But now that I'm officially a SENIOR in college, I guess I need to start getting ready for all the annoying anxieties that come with growing up. But not before one last glorious day in Italia.

(beautiful and sunny, unlike the first time we saw Trevi Fountain)

One more picture for the road, right? We had to visit it once more before we left, and Trevi Fountain is just as beautiful as ever. I always wish that I could see it without the mass crowds of tourists, shoving to throw their coin over their shoulder and trying to take a picture. But I guess that's just part of its allure. Other things that I'll miss? Surprisingly, I'm going to miss AUR. Not the classes, but the campus (if you can even call it that, it's so teeny). Sitting up on the roof, looking out over all of Rome in between classes is something that I certainly won't find at Maryland. And of course, I'll miss the food (prepare yourselves to be bombarded).

(freshly baked chocolate croissants with my morning cappuccino)

(ricotta & spinach croquette and suppli)

(spaghetti cacio e pepe with artichokes and pancetta)

(nutella pizza pie)

(mussels steamed in a white wine and garlic broth, not that I can't get these at home but everything just tastes better here)

(black truffle pizza)

(nutella filled donut)

I miss it already.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stop, It's Sandwich Time

I know the picture's not great, but this was one of my earlier sandwiches at the sandwich shop by school. I was timid at first, only getting turkey, pesto and mozzarella. Très boring. There's such a delicious variety of meats available and I was limiting myself to the most American-Italian sandwich I could get. I might as well have gotten turkey, mustard and cheddar. But not anymore. Today, for my very last sandwich ever, EVER I tell ya, I went all out. Not that I don't always go all out, but usually I don't get quite as much meat and a lighter cheese. But not today.

This, this sandwich masterpiece, was today. Notice the width of it, and the tan-ness of my hand. I told my sandwich maker guy that it was my last one, probably forever, before I take a skip, jump and a hop back over the big pond to the lovely land of the garden state. He didn't really understand all that, but said he would make it extra super special. And so I got: proscuitto, salami picante, pesto, tomato, and taleggio cheese (similar to brie). He piled the layers with such care and love onto the freshly baked roll. After I bid my forever farewells (sort of goes like this, "bye, uh ciao, arrivederchi!") I carried my little package up to the roof top, overlooking all of Rome, and ate the last of my Italian deli sandwiches. Hopefully not forever, if I am so fortunate. And so my last days are upon us. I'm halfway through with my finals and have one weekend left. One more weekend to get in all the eating, seeing, sun, gelato, walking, tram-riding, and people-watching that I can.