Monday, February 17, 2014

It's My Party...Kinda

I'm a medical assistant in a single-doctor dermatology clinic. There are 6 of us (the doctor, the office manager, a receptionist, and 3 medical assistants.) We like jump at the opportunity to celebrate things, and tomorrow is the last day we'll all be in the office before my birthday.

Instead of the usual cookies or cake that get ordered for other birthdays- you know, those delicious bakery items chock full of butter and love- I decided to take matters into my own hands and make something that I love, I can eat, and is easy enough that I didn't punk out half way through the recipe because today was a crazy busy and long day at the office. I made coconut meringues and macerated mixed berries for Pavlovas.

What is a Pavlova? I'm so glad you asked! This is where I get my nerd on!! This dessert originates in New Zealand, and was created to honor the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. It's pretty simple: a meringue base and fruit topping. You can make it with or without whipped cream. Obviously, I go without :)

You'll need:
6 egg whites
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 Tbsp corn starch
2 Tbsp coconut infused white balsamic vinegar*

2 pints fresh or frozen berries**
2 Tbsp dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar**
2 Tbsp sugar**

Start by preheating your oven to 275 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trust me, use the parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then slowly add the sugar, incorporating well with each addition. Mix the corn starch and white balsamic vinegar together and pour slowly into the eggs. Your finished egg mixture should be fluffy, stiff and glossy. It reminds me a lot of marshmallow fluff.

Spoon the egg mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet. You should get 8-10 large meringues out of this recipe.

Place the baking sheet in the oven, set a timer for 55 minutes and reduce the heat to 250 degrees.

*If you don't have coconut infused balsamic vinegar, do not fear! Any white vinegar will do. You can even use plain white vinegar and a splash of vanilla. That's the traditional way to do things.

Now make your berry topping. This is where all those **s come in. I chose to use mixed berries and toss them with the chocolate balsamic and sugar. At the last minute I'm going to spoon those onto my meringues and then serve them to the office.

You can use any kind of fruit you want. For a friend's wedding shower I made one giant meringue and topped it with whipped cream, pomegranate seeds and dark chocolate shavings. I've had it with kiwi, pineapple, mango and cherries. Pick what you like, just make sure you have around 2 pints all together.

When the meringues come out they should be crisp and slightly golden on the outside and soft and spongy inside. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely before serving. They're not big, it shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes for them to cool.

Top them with your fruit right before serving and watch everyone ooh and aah over your fancy dessert!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Curried Lentil Soup

It's gray and cold outside, so I wanted to make something for lunch that was both hearty and inspired without taking too much effort. I saw the jar of red lentils on the counter and knew I'd be making this soup. Forgive me, but this is one of those infuriatingly imprecise recipes that less than enthusiastic cooks hate. All I can say is you make it your own by adding what you have and what you want. It's so simple to begin with, that I'm confident anyone can make this good. 

Start by slicing some bacon strips into small pieces. I generally use 1 slice per serving.  Start that rendering and dice 1 medium onion. That can get tossed in as soon as you're ready. Now cube some potatoes, again I generally use 1 small red skin potato per serving. Toss them in and give everything a good stir. Let them brown and add your lentils. I use red for this dish, but yellow would work, too. About 1/4 cup per serving. Stir them in along with about 1.5 cups veggie stock per serving. Add a good dash of sweet yellow curry and pop the lid on. Let everything simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the pot and give everything a good stir. Add salt and pepper to taste and finish with a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. Ladle some onto a sunny, happy bowl and enjoy hot or cold. 

1 strip bacon per serving
1 medium onion
1 small potato per serving
1/4 cup lentils per serving, red or yellow
1.5 cups vegetable stock/broth per serving
Sweet yellow curry powder
Fresh cilantro
A fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste