Thursday, April 30, 2009

Battle Turkey

Cooking is a very organic process to me. You can definitely follow a recipe and have a wonderful dish, but to be able to create a dish with just what you have on hand is a bit more fun. I say the former as though it’s me, but in actuality, I cannot follow a recipe to save my dear life. I really think that it is some mutant birth defect that I was born with, but it gives me amateur Iron chef abilities at times.

One strange day, Jacob plopped a 5 lb Butterball whole turkey breast in front of me….

Allez Cuisine!

I channeled Masaharu Maramoto and sprung into action (if you don’t get it, watch more Iron Chef)! I rummaged through the fridge and found spinach, carrots, watercress, radishes, and a delicious new batch of yogurt Mr. Jacob prepared the night before (you will want the recipe for the yogurt).

The breasts were removed from the rib cage and skinned. Off we went!

The turkey bones were quickly sautéed in some onions. Water was then added to make a turkey stock.

Dish 1: Turkey Tandoori (Sort of)

Inspired by Tandoori Chicken (chicken marinated in yogurt, tandoori masala, and cayenne), the turkey received a makeover.

In a zip-top bag, I scooped in some yogurt that Jacob had made. The bag provides a simple clean up method and every chef will appreciate! To the yogurt, I threw in a couple of pinches of dried dill that is keep in stock year round at la casa de Jacob. A lemon was then zest and juiced right into the bag.

If you are going to use a lot of zest from lemons or other citrus, I strongly recommend investing in the Microplane zester! It saves time and fingers. God knows we can’t spare any fingers.

Minced garlic, along with salt, pepper, sugar, and olive oil is added to the bag. I closed the bag and asked Jacob to graciously mix the ingredients as I cubed the turkey. Once the turkey is added to the bag, in the fridge it goes to marinade.

As I skewer the turkey, Jacob prepares the grill. With his manly grilling talents, the kabobs came out just perfectly!

I love this dish because there are so many ways you can enjoy the turkey. It can be eaten on the skewer as a snack, or served over rice pilaf along side a nice creamy cucumber salad for a meal.

If you’re in a sandwich mood:

Take a crusty baguette (of which I’ll be posting a recipe for as well!) and slice it length-wise. Slather on your favorite flavored mayonnaise. Line the bread with some baby spring greens and sliced cucumbers. Place the turkey on top of the beds of green. For extra flavor, throw in some parsley leaves and, as always


To Be Continued.....

One breast down, one more to go!!!



1 turkey breast

1 cup of plain yogurt (preferably home made, but Dannon plain is okay)

2 tbsp dill, dried or fresh

2 garlic cloves, minced

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 gallon size zip top bag

6 metal skewers or 12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water to avoid burning

The turkey breast needs to be cut into 1 inch cubes and set aside. In the zip-top bag, combine all of the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add in the turkey and let marinade in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Skewer the turkey evenly onto the kabob and grill for 5-7 minutes on each side.

If you like a spicier dish, add a couple of teaspoons of cayenne pepper and it’ll sure to give the whole dish a kick.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sushi Domo

Restaurants; I love them, but my pockets hate them with the passion of a million suns (minus the sun spots). Last week, Jacob and I were invited out to dinner at a sushi joint with some friends. This experience sort of reiterate to me how service plays just as an important role as the food when it comes to dining out.

Sushi Domo in Arlington: new, modern, fusion. The décor was absolutely lovely with different textured art works on the wall, dark wood furnishings, and colorful pillows on the wall seating. The dim lights add a nice ambiance and relax the mind.

As a group we opted for a “family style” dining experience as suggested by our server for the evening, Tammy. The technical term slips my mind at the moment. Essentially, a dollar limit is set and the chef decides what would be best to serve; up to the set limit. Tammy explained that it would be a cheaper way to experience sushi as a group plus the chef would also creates items that are not available on the menu.

Limit set: $150. Stomachs are rumbling. Mouths are watering.

For our meals, 14 dishes, sashimi and rolls, were brought out. Overall, the presentation were dead on and creative (Volcano roll was pure theatrics), but there hit and misses. There are some pictures this time (courtesy of Jacob) so do enjoy!

The first 2 dishes were tataki, albacore and tuna. The albacore was thinly sliced and marinated in soy, ponzu, and oil; while the tuna was wrapped around alfalfa sprouts then marinated in just ponzu. A heap of thinly shredded dicon radish donned the center of each plate. The soy in the marinade really brought out the sweetness of the albacore and the nuttiness from the oil complimented it well. I loved the contrast of the peppery sprouts with the tuna, but the tartness of the ponzu overpowered the tuna.

A sushi tower, was also brought out, but it was forgettable. The tower was stacked with rice, spicy tuna, crab, av

ocado, 3 different types of caviar, and topped with sesame, wasabi

sauce, and the mayo sauce. The spicy tuna adds a great punch to the entire dish along with the caviar, but sadly the mayo sauce covered the taste of the entire dish. I think if it was B

lue Fish vs Sushi Domo for the tower, Blue Fish would take the cake.

Theatric prize of the night went to the Volcano Roll! A California roll is topped with crab, crawfish, and scallops mixed in a mayo based sauce. All of this sat snugly in a large oyster shell that was engulfed in flames. It was a Cirque de Soleil act minus the acrobats. We were warned not to touch the plate nor was it a good idea to eat anything that falls onto the plate since the alcohol taste bitter. My eyes were wowed, but my taste buds were not. I just tasted imitation crab and mayo with every bite. The fum es from the burning alcohol lingered in a piece that Jacob had, causing him to say several times it just tasted like fuel.

The special roll for the night was the Monkey Brain. Sounds like something from Indian Jones, but I don’t think Indian Jones would have approved of the roll. Spicy tuna in stuffed into half

an avocado which was lightly battered and flash fried. It was topped with what tasted like an eel sauce. It looked great, but again: not enough flavor. The avocado in this case over powered the fish. Sushi is great when the fish can shine through all of

the complex flavorings.

The Razzie Award went to the roll that ended our meal, the Jalapeno roll. Somehow the chef was able to work a fish stick into a roll and call it sushi. The menu states: chopped yellow tail, cream cheese, smelt eggs, than batter fried with ponzu sauce. The roll looks like a jalapeno popper, but I would take the Chili’s popper over this one. The initial bite gives a very greasy fried taste which followed by the cream cheese and finished off with a fish stick taste. Not recommended for anyone with tongues. Jacob couldn't even take a picture of it. Just imagine a cut up jalapeno popper.

There were plenty of great creations like the Cutie Domo roll (salmon, tuna, yellow tail, crab, and asparagus wrapped in cucumber), Dancing Eel roll, and the Fire Cracker. These were good (not great) plays on the shrimp tempura rolls.

The Dancing Eel consisted of shrimp tempura, avocado, and cream cheese inside, topped with eel. Fried noodles covered

the plate. The creaminess of the avocado balanced well with savory tastes the shrimp and eel. Every bite should also have the crispy noodles since it adds a wonderful nuttiness as well as a good contrast to the softness of the roll.

The Fire Cracker takes the Oscar for texture. Texture is very under-rated in American cuisine, but more on that later. The Firecracker is actually very similar to the dancing eel but it also has crab inside. Spicy tuna tops the roll as deep friend panko buries the roll under its golden deliciousnes

s. The panko did not soak up as much oil as I thought it would so it just adds the extra crouch to the otherwise, boring roll.

Overall, the food was very pleasing and our senses were tickled. Each dish had its own personality that adds to the experience; the excitement of the fire, the interest of the brain-like mass, the colors of the tataki. Our server very much attentive to our drinks and another server brought the food out the minute it was ready. The beers were always offered as each bottle emptied. Tammy was great until just before we were ready to leave.

When the check came, we were going to split the food evening, but pay for the drinks separately since the girls chose not to consume. Before we were able to even calculate anything, Tammy suggested that we should just split the check evenly since everyone “ate and drank about the same”. A friend of ours bluntly asked if she was trying to avoid a difficult split, she concurred. Added to the insult, the ticket stated a 17% charge for the group, yet when calculated, it was a 20% charge. When brought to Tammy’s attention, we were told that it was suppose to be 20%, but the machine printed 17% in error. Ouch. The manager did little to fix the situation when I called back the next day, so diners beware: if you are unhappy here, you are unlikely to have it resolved.

A harsh taste replaced the pleasant sushi as we paid the bill. The price was reasonable but machine errors should have been disclosed when the ticket was given.

Ambiance was great. Food was fun. At restaurants, you pay for the experience. The food can be amazing, but that can change when the service doesn’t match the taste.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Recipe for Lemon Cake

Here is the recipe for the lemon from the earlier blog. I kept the cake recipe alone since baking is a science. I take that back, I did not have whole milk like it asked for so I used, 3 parts low fat milk and one part heavy cream.

On the icing/frosting, instead of the 1 1/2 stick of butter the recipe calls for, I used 1 stick of butter and 1 package of cream cheese. With the increase in fat, I had to increase the powdered sugar from 3 1/2 cups to 4 1/2 cups. Also, I omitted the lemon extract since I just did not have any.

If you missed the previous blog, read about the lemon curd episode, click HERE

Make sure to use shortening when you grease and flour your pan OR line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

The recipe can be found at the Food Network's website:

Lemon Layered Cake


  • Lemon Cake
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Lemon Filling
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Lemon Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


1. To make the lemon cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust the pans with flour and tap out the excess.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir together the dry ingredients with a whisk. Set aside.

3. In an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, increase the speed to medium-high, and continue to beat until the mixture is light, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in he lemon juice (the batter will appear curdled at this point smooth out after you add the dry ingredients). Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another 10 seconds. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.

5. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rakcs and cool completely.

6. To make the lemon filling, in a medium nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the yolks and sugar until combined. Whisk in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture turns opaque, thickens, and coats the back of the spoon. Do not let the filling boil, or it will curdle. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and allow the filling to cool.

7.Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the surface, and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until chilled.

8. In a clean bowl of the electric mixer, using the whisk attachment or beaters, beat the heavy cream on high speed until soft peaks form. Remove the lemon filling from the refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the filling. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the filling until ready to assemble the cake.

9. To make the lemon frosting, in the large bowl of the electric mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar on low speed. Add the cream, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat for about 3 minutes, or until the frosting is light and fluffy.

10. To assemble the cake, place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Pile the lemon filling onto the center using a small offset metal spatula, and spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge of the cake layer. Top with the second cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the lemon frosting. (If some of the filling oozes out from the middle, just blend it with the frosting around the sides of the cake.) Serve the cake immediately, or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Caking It

"Recipes should always be tested before it is presented," a wise woman once said. Heed those words, I tell you, and it will save you a few gray hairs. Those pesky grays never will go away.

For the last week or so, I've had this intense craving for something lemony. May this be
custard, a curd, a cake, or just a slice of lemon pie heaven, I did not care. I wanted a taste of sunshine goodness on my tongue and nothing was going to stop me. It's always at these crazy moments that the best recipe or concoctions are whipped up in any cook's mind. In my case, baking has not always a strong point for me, but I've been able to ring up a few goodies here and there. I turned to my good, trusted friend, the Internet, to find a base recipe to work off of since I'm not someone who always follows the recipe exactly. I find a recipe I like and alter it to my liking. The number of recipes out there for lemon cakes are endless; some call for 5-8 ingredients while others call for ingredients I really do not want to splurge on (cooking should not cost a fortune).

Before I even started looking, I already knew what I want the end product to look like so I had to find a recipe to pair it up with. I needed a layered cake with a nice filling and non-butter-cream icing. After reading dozens of recipes from various websites, I settled for a wonderful lemon layer cake with a lemon curd recipe from It had almost the entire criterion that I needed. Nice cake recipe, check. Good filling, check. Frosting... Eh. It’s workable and adjustable. The gears in my head are just turning as I try to make this work for me. I am petrified of curds since vanilla flavored scrambled eggs have emerged from my kitchen when I did not pay attention to the heat. A mental note was made to buy instant lemon pudding just in case the curd did not turn out well.

As much as I wanted to eat a lemon cake, I had to refrain from busting out my measuring cups and mixer since there wasn't going to be enough people around to enjoy a cake. It is a sin to waste food, especially when it is dessert. Luckily, my boyfriend's parents had just moved into a new home and they were going to host the family's Easter gathering the upcoming weekend which was more than just a family gathering. It was the Easter party as well as a home warming for them, and last but not least, an informal wedding reception for my boyfriend’s cousin. Lots of people mean lots of mouths to eat and I will provide cake for those cavernous mouths.

The Plan:

2am, we get together the game plan for Easter Sunday:

Bake and decorate cake.

Take a shower, and glam up before the guests arrive at 2pm.

By now, we also realize that because of the 70 odd cupcakes we’ve been baking all night, we’re low on eggs, cream, and other essential ingredients. Seems like a store run is in order after a couple of hours of sleep.

7am, Sunday Morning: Jumped out of bed, brushed teeth.

7:15am: Ran through rain and off to the grocery store.

8:30am: Arrived home and then the baking began.

Jacob involuntarily became my assistant. He had the recipe on the laptop nearby since neither one of us wrote the recipe down nor did we glance at it more than 2 times. Like a pro, he measured out all of the ingredients for the cake and curd and placed them in bowls for me as I greased and floured the pans. I didn't have shortening so I used butter.

Jacob definitely gave the Food Network’s behind the scene crew a run for the money. I felt like Paula Dean, minus the silver mane, but with a touch of Texas twang. Within 15 minutes or so, 2 cake pans were in the oven.

Hurdle #1, done. On to the curd.

I found a saucier in the kitchen and glanced at the instructions for the curd once more. Combine egg yolks and sugar. Mix in lemon juice and zest. Cook over med-low heat. And add butter.


I whisked the yolks and sugar, add the liquids and started stirring the curd over the heat. My eyes during the whole process are still looking at the oven to check on the cake. The aroma emitting from the oven was heavenly. Ladies, if you need to seal the deal on the ring, this cake is the way to go. I’ve never seen so many guys huddled around something hot, that wasn’t in a bikini. The cake needed another 15 minutes or so in the oven so the curd should be done around the same time. They could cool at the same rate and then assembling time!


I worked intently on the curds for 10 minutes and nothing seemed to happened. The mixture was too thin and runny. Frustration beaded down my forehead as I continue to work on it. Maybe if I cooked it a little bit longer it might set up?

Ding! The cake is done, but the curd is still looked more like runny egg yolks than a nice thick curd. I dipped a spoon into the mixture and had a quick taste to see if it was salvageable flavor-wise.


It tasted like someone melted a aluminum pan and added a squeeze of lemon juice. *Note to self* When cooking with lemon, use a non-reactive pan and utensil. Why did I not remember that?

Curd, round 2. I found a glass mixing bowl and made a double boiler. Jacob's aunt graciously gave me another recipe that she swears by. She's a wonderful cook so I took the recipe and ran with it. Ingredients were put in the bowl; I crossed my fingers, and stirred away. I literally prayed to the Lord as I whisk the mixture because the curd is what makes the cake! After 15 minutes, God forbid, the lemon curd still did not set. I felt a panic attack coming on, but there was no time for one. At least this batch did not taste like a metal pan. Jacob's aunt came by again to check on the curd and suggested that perhaps I may have over stirred the darn thing... which is totally possibly with a whisk and not a wooden spoon. We scoured the kitchen looking for cornstarch to thicken the curd, but the only starch to be found was in the laundry room. At this point I was ready to let the curd meet the trash and call it a day.

Curd, round 3. I dove into the pantry and grab the instant lemon Jell-o pudding and measured out 2 cups of milk. Success! I jumped for joy. I'm in the home stretch now.

My cake-stand stood there longing to have a cake placed upon its waiting platter. I was so distracted by the curd that I hadn’t even de-panned the cake yet. Like a trained pastry chef, I ran my butter knife around the cake’s edge. I placed a small plate over the top and flipped it. I tapped the pan to loosen the bottom off the pan. I pulled the pan off and lo and hold, my plate was empty and the pan is still full. I shook the pan and tapped it a couple more times. Still, no luck. I moved on to the second pan. As before, I ran the knife, tapped, and flipped. Again, no cake on the plate. My knees became Jell-O.

I took the knife and started pushing the edge of the cake towards the center trying to loosen up as much of the cake as possible. I even try to get my fingers under the cake and try to lift it out. After some careful maneuvering, I had the top half of the cake on the plate, and most of the center on the cake still remaining in the pan. Woohoo! I had at least one usable layer. The second pan yielded two semi-usable layers! Frosting will disguise all mistakes, right?

The pudding was the best mortar on hand to hold my crumbling layers together, but it was pretty obvious the cake was missing pieces. I slapped the frosting on as quickly as I could to hide the cake from my sight. I now had a lopsided igloo on my hands. Tears wanted to gush out of my eyes, but even my tears did not want to meet the atrocious looking thing I called a cake.

I placed sliced strawberries on top of it in attempt to distract from the numerous flaws. Once they were on, the cake was tucked to the very back of the refrigerator in hopes that no one would remember that we had even baked it.

I could feel the newly formed wrinkles comfortable taking their places under my eyes and the grays throwing a party for their newly arrived cousins. My knees slowly recovering from the episode, I just wanted to jump back into bed and wished the day never happened. Ladies and Lads; test your recipes and test them well before creating it for a crowd.

In the end, someone found the cake and fortunately, there was not a slice to be spared.