The kitchen will operate soon

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
~Henry Ward Beecher

.......ah those past weeks were the trying moments of my life. And when moments like this happen, the thought that you are not alone braving all these make things a lot easier. After reading all your messages left on my last post, I would admit that I was deeply overwhelmed. Words have always helped me make sense to this world and understand its essence.

My deepest gratitude goes to all of you . Thank you. I can't wait to start cooking again.

What do you do when you lose your inspiration in the kitchen?

When something bad happens people normally sort to drinking coffee, tea or eating chocolate to console them. I am normally the type that would take out a good cookbook and would start cooking; I always find enorme pleasure when I am in the kitchen. I become more imaginative, I blossom and I tend to forget everything around me. It is indeed my comfort zone.

But today is a different day. No matter what I do my morale is totally down. Did I lost my inspiration? Where did it go my magic wand?

It is since yesterday that I have learned the sad news from home that my dad or papush (that's how I often call him) just passed away. When I've found out the news from my sister I felt like it was just a dream. That I am not there and I am not hearing this news. Strangely I feel so empty inside. Being far from them makes this emotion even harder to bear. I tried to take a nap but I couldn't. I took a hot shower hoping that my tears will fall unperceived this way, but nothing came out. All I had running like a broken record in my head were images of my papush and me laughing and enjoying those moments when we were young. Everytime I look back, I see our life as in the italian movie of Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful that the father does everything to hide the harsh realities of life. And that life is colorful and worth living amidst poverty and no matter what.

Taken during my wedding..

He is my biggest inspiration in life. Everything I accomplised in life I owe it all to him. It's gonna be a very very rough time for me I guess.

I'll be taking a short break (probably 2 or 3 days) I'll be heading home tomorrow. After this 14 long hours of flight to Philippines I will be confronting reality. It is so hard to say goodbye specially when you don't want it in the first place. But don't worry I am alright and rest assured I'll be back in few days ( I have tons of recipes lined up waiting to be published). And besides blogging will help in healing me :-)

As I think about it this would mean; no more corny jokes, no more captivating scent of coffee brewing, no more heart-warming kundiman (romantic) songs in the morning, no more "best" garlic fried-rice in the kitchen....oh gosh I will terribly miss you Dad!

Delicious Sacher torte and a sweet weekend gathering

Sacher torte, what do we do when there's only one slice left?

Me and my big mouth.

That's what I thought after haphazardly volunteering to prepare the cake for our weekend gathering. I have almost forgotten that I have a seven month's old baby girl and that preparing for big number of guests wouldn't be that simple. Specially now that she has improve drastically her psychomotor abilities. Meaning she's everywhere and could be pulling anything. (Grrrrrr, but still very very cute). I was thinking of making something simple and easy but then again my craziness for cooking is much stronger than my brain telling me "be logic, be logic". So I ended up buying 800 grams of dark chocolate, 500 grams of freshly picked from the farm raspberries and a two dozen of naturely grown farm eggs in the market last Friday. In short, I baked a Sacher Torte for almost twenty guests. I have never tried making this famous Austrian chocolate cake nor tasted them for that matter. I adopted my recipe from the french site of Austrian Tourism Office explaining how to make this cake and I used Pierre Herme's raspberry chocolate recipe for my glaçage.

Everybody loved it! I suppose for they were speechless and just all headed on finishing their slices on their plate.

Fresh lilas from the garden adorn the table

If you were wondering what was the occassion, it was my dad in law, sis in law, his fiancé and my brother in law's birthday celebration. No fancy menu this weekend just some green vegetable terrine and endive salad for entrée, fondue bourguignone for the main course and apple tart, sacher torte and champagne for the dessert.

Sacher Torte (you can check the original recipe here)
(recipe for one cake)
200 g of dark chocolate
8 egg yolks
120 g of melted butter
10 egg whites
1 tsp of Vanilla essence
a pinch of salt
180 of sugar
120 of sifter flour

Beat the egg yolks. Fold in the melted butter, vanilla essence and melted chocolate. Dust the flour and mix until homogenous. Whisk the egg. Add the salt; put the sugar little by little and continue whisking until it forms its peak. Put one fourth of this mixture on the chocolate mixture. Mix carefully then add directly on the whisk egg whites and mix gently. Pour this mixture on two round pans (of 22cm in diameter and 4 cm depth) with buttered baking paper inside. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 180° celsius.

Chocolate Raspberry Glaçage
14 cl of heavy cream
150 g of raspberries
20 of butter
200 g of dark chocolate

Put the raspberries on an electric mixer and blend it. Pass this purée on a streamer to remove the seeds. Melt the chocolate in bain marie and in a separate casserole warm up the heavy cream. Put the warm heavy cream on the melted chocolate and mix delicately. Add the raspberry purée. Add the butter and continue mixing;

Assembling the cake. Put a raspberry preserves on the middle of the two cakes to stick them together. Then pour in the chocolate glaçage; Let it stand in the fridge for at least two hours.

The famous yogurt-apple tart of my sister in law

Parade of champagne glasses, anything becomes great with a glass of champagne

LIVESTRONG Day Recipe: Yellow Plum Mini-Pizzas and Poppy Seeds

A Taste of Yellow: Yellow Plum Mini-Pizzas and Poppy Seeds

Without giving much clues you probably know the answer to this question,

What is the world’s longest cycling event that usually runs more than 3,000 km that the route normally covers a circuit around France and other neighboring countries ?

You guess it right, Tour de France.

I I remember when I was still a student learning french for the first time in our language institute, the ffirst important things I’ve learned about french people was their love for good weather, good food, enjoying life and doing a good sport (I would say it’s perfectly described in Pink Martini’s song Je ne veux pas travailler (literally means I don’t want to work). And when it comes to sports three things that preoccupies them, their fondness for petanque, football and of course the pride of the french the Tour de France. I am not really a big fan of this sport (nor any other sports for that matter (you see I am more of a passive sportsman, hehehe I only love watching them) but Tour de France never cease to amaze me on human capacities to push their limit, really impressive !.

So why all this introduction on this biking event ? Well simply because today I am honoring and supporting LIVESTRONG Day a one-day initiative spearheaded by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise awareness and funds to fight against Cancer and this will be on May 13, 2008. In connivance to support this day, Barbara of Winos and Foodies is calling all food bloggers for « A TASTE OF YELLOW » food blogging event. You can check her site for more details.

Yellow is beautiful. Yellow is my favorite color. Yellow is the color of the first Sunday dress sewn by my mom. And the when the sky is yellow it is the day that angels are happy because I did a good act. So for a taste of something yellow, I'm sharing my recipe for Yellow Plum Mini-Pizza and poppy seeds. (Special thanks to Manggy for reminding me :-) that prune is plum in english )

Yellow Plum Mini Pizza and Poppy Seeds

for the dough:
400 g of flour
4 tbps of olive oil
1 sachet of dry yeast
a pinch of salt

for the garniture:
18 pcs of yellow prune (you can replace it with apricots)
75 g almond powder
120 g of brown sugar
80 g de butter
1 tsp of poppy seeds (optional)
1 tsp of Orange water (eau de fleur d’orange)

Mix the yeast with 25cl of warm water. In a bowl mix the flour, salt, the yeast diluted in water and oil. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Put it back in a bowl and cover with a slightly wet towel. Let it stand for an hour. Once the dough has doubled in volume, work on the dough and make 8 mini-pizza’s approximately 12 centimeters in diameter. Next prepare the yellow prune. Cut and remove the seeds and slice thinly . Cut in small cubes the butter and put it over the pizzas. Drizzle the almond powder over the pizza and decorate it with the sliced prune. And lastly powder it with sugar, poppy seeds and a little bit of orange water for perfume. Bake it for 20-25 at 180° celsius.

A plum a day keeps the doctor away...

Come join the fight...

Artichokes, Bacon, Cheese Muffin and trimming your Artichoke

Eveything you like in one plate; Artichokes, bacon and cheese muffin, nothing else.

I just thought that artichokes in salty muffins would be great.

I thought, I imagined and I was right.

Say I do, to this lovely flowers....

A week before we left for vacation, our market was teeming with green asparagus, bloody red strawberries and our famous southern france violet artichokes. I thought I will miss the chance to enjoy them since we will be in vacation for three weeks. But I didn't.
I was lucky to still find some reasonably priced from my favorite farmer in the market. Although they were probably the last batch of his harvest but nonetheless I was excited for I didn't get to miss the chance to savor them this year. Provencal's violet artichokes compared to the big normal green artichokes are much smaller and much tender. From most of the people I know who are big fan of artichokes I don't know one who knows how to turn them around (tourner des artichauts) , the french cooking terminology to trim artichokes. So I just thought, It would be great to share this thing I've learned from one of the episodes of Joel Robuchon's cooking show.

The art of trimming violet artichokes:

1. You start with your artichoke and your knife.

2. Cut off the stem

3. Take off one by one with your hand the hard tiny leaves around your artichoke. You will continue until the tender leaves appears.

4. Trim the base of your violet artichokes with a knife.

5. Cut the remaining part of the artichoke with a sharp knife.

6. This will give you this result. Contrary to big green artichokes the small violet ones are much tender and does not require scooping the hairy fiber because it doesn't have one.

7. Cut them at your desired sizes. To avoid discoloration plunge them in water with lemon juice.

And for our recipe,

Artichoke, Bacon and Cheese Muffin

200 g of flour
2 eggs
1 sachet of baking powder
25 g of butter
25 cl of milk
2 tbsps of youghurt (optional to add fluffy texture)
6 heads of violet artichokes (trimmed and cut thinly)
200 g of Lardon (you can use bacon)
150 g of grated Gruyere cheese
some thymes and rosemary

In a pan cook the artichokes and bacon over medium fire. Add the herbes to flavor up the artichokes and bacon. Cook until artichoke is tender and bacon have changed color. In a bowl mix the eggs, melted butter and the dry ingredients (flour and bakign powder until it becomes homegenous. I added up two tablespoons of yogurt to make my dough soft and airy. I add little by little the milk until the dough is perfect mixed. Fold in the artichokes, bacon andcheese. I didn't add salt because French lardon are already too salty but if you will be using normal bacon you can add salt depending on your taste. Bake in muffin pans for 20- 25 minutes at 180 degrees celsius. Best eaten with green salad or to accompany your fried or grilled chicken.

One sexy little muffin....

For my french readers, the french version of this muffin recipe is here: