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May 14, 2009

DARING COOKS FIRST CHALLENGE - RICOTTA GNOCCHI

For those of you who follow my blog, you probably know that I belong to Daring Bakers. This is an International group that bakes a monthly challenge we are presented with, then we post our results on our blog on a given date. The challenges vary in difficulty, and have been a lot of fun. They often move you outside of your comfort zone into something new to try that you probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

The Daring Bakers have evolved, and their website is now The Daring Kitchen. Check it out-it's a great site. And now, in addition to the Daring Bakers, we have the Daring Cooks. It will work in the same way-one of the members chooses a recipe for us to make that month, we are given the rules of what we can change and what part of the recipe has to stay the same, then we all post on our blogs on the given date.

The first month's challenge was chosen by the 2 ladies who started the Daring Bakers 2 1/2 years ago. Ivonne, of Cream Puffs in Venice, and Lisa, of La Mia Cucina. For the first ever Daring Cook's Challenge, they chose...

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

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They chose a recipe from the cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook. They say that on the surface, it's a very straightforward recipe. The challenge is in the forming and handling the gnocchi. What we do to the gnocchi, and the sauce we use is totally up to us.

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July 17, 2009

CHINESE POTSTICKERS (A DARING COOKS CHALLENGE)

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Those of you who read my blog know that I participate in Daring Bakers. A few months ago I also joined Daring Cooks. I was not able to participate in last months challenge. That was when I had my foot surgery, and couldn't be on my feet long enough to get these made. But I knew that I wanted to try the recipe, because the comments that all of the participants made were all so positive.

I'm so glad that I made these, because they were SO GOOD! If you've made them using wonton wrappers, try making this dough. It was easy, and so much better. The longest part of making this recipe is mincing all of the ingredients. But it was so worth it. I had a lot of filling left over, so I made them into little meatballs, froze them, then later added them to a basic soup of chicken broth, ginger, soy, chilie paste, and vegetables like bok choy, carrots, and broccoli.

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August 14, 2009

DARING COOKS AUGUST CHALLENGE -

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It's August,so time for a Daring Cooks Challenge. This month's challenge was chosen by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. She chose a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment. He trained under well-known Ferran Adria at his three Michelin star restaurant El Bulli. José Andrés lives now in Washington DC and he owns several restaurants in Washington DC area (El Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel…). This recipe is from his US TV show Made in Spain.

While I enjoyed this dish, I thought it lacked a little in flavor. I would suggest using all of the Sofregit, not just a tablespoon or two. Also, be sure and make the aioli-it also adds a lot of flavor. And you also might try adding a spicy sausage, such as Chorizo. I used frozen artichokes in mine, and used squid as I couldn't find cuttlefish. Most of my squid was previously frozen squid steaks, then I bought a couple of fresh squid to have the experience of cleaning them and to have the tentacles to make the dish look nicer.
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September 14, 2009

SEPTEMBER DARING COOKS - INDIAN DOSAS

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It's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge.
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This months challenge was brought to us by Debyi from http://www.healthyvegankitchen.com. Here's what she had to say about the recipe she chose: "I am so excited to be your host for the September 2009 Daring Cooks challenge. It took almost a month to decide which recipe that I wanted to do. I wanted to choose something that could be easily adapted for our GF'ers and other Alternative Cooks, as well as still being tasty for everyone else. So, I finally decided on Indian Dosas from the refresh cookbook by Ruth Tal. My hubby and I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting one of the Fresh Restaurants (www.freshrestaurants.ca) in Toronto, Canada during a business trip. We ate 3 out of our 5 meals there, it was that good. If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it, they have 3 locations in Toronto. If not, their cookbooks are amazing, everything we have tried has been great."

Here's what our requirements for the challenge were-Must be free of animal products. That means no cows milk, butter, meat, poultry, fish, chicken/beef broth, etc. This dish is also 99% oil free, using only what you need to keep the dosas from sticking (I used a quick spritz of cooking spray on the first dosa only), which isn't too bad with a nonstick pan. (I did use a little olive oil when sauteing the onions, because my pans are not non-stick.) We could use a different filling/sauce if we wanted , but it had to be free of animal products.

I chose to make the recipe almost as written. I did add some zuchhini to the garbanzo bean filling. The curry powder I used is Sri Lankan curry powder. It's wonderful tasting, but very hot. So I did use a little less than called for.

This was an interesting challenge. I've cooked with many of the flavors before, so that wasn't new to me. But I had never made the dosas. The dosas were easy to make and tasty, and it was nice to know that this was a healthy meal. I can't say it was low in fat because of the coconut milk, but I used light coconut milk, so that helped. I served the leftovers over rice, and that was also good.

If you're looking for an interesting, authentic Indian dish, give these Dosas a try.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with all of the leftover spelt flour...

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October 14, 2009

OCTOBER DARING COOKS - VIETNAMESE PHO

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It's October 14th, and time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

I was really excited about this month's challenge, as I love Pho. If you don't know what Pho is, it's a Vietnamese noodle soup. The broth is simmered for hours with either beef knuckle/leg bone or with a whole chicken. The broth is unique in that it is simmered with warm spices like coriander, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Accompaniments include cilantro or basil, a wedge of lime, fresh bean sprouts and sometimes fresh sliced chilies.

I have only tried the beef version of Pho. Jaden gave us two options for this challenge-use the quick version she developed, which uses store-bought chicken broth, or use the recipe on her blog for a slow-cooked version. I opted for the slow-cooked version of her Beef Pho. You can view the recipe on her blog here.

I made a double-batch of broth, which I would not do in the future. It was a HUGE pot of broth, almost unmanageable. But I now have a freezer full of spicy broth, just waiting to make me a steaming bowl of Pho in the future. And I will make this in the future. The warming spices, mixed with the tender beef, and the punch of the basil and cilantro, makes a great bowl of soup. Don't forget the bean sprouts either, as the crunch they provide is really good.

Take a look at Jaden's book for the quick recipe, or go to her blog and try the long version, or if you're not up to making a big pot of soup, then get yourself to your nearest Vietnamese restaurant and try a bowl of Pho for yoursel.

December 14, 2009

DECEMBER DARING COOKS - SALMON EN CROUTE

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It's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute from Good Food Online.
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The challenge of this recipe was to make Salmon En Croute. There was a recipe given for Shortcrust Pastry. This was not mandatory to make. Since I've made it before, and was short on time, I used homemade frozen puff pastry.

Since I live in Alaska, have a boat, and catch a lot of salmon that we vacuum pack, it was nice to find a new recipe I haven't tried. This entree was very quick to put together, and was very good. It's also impressive to look at, so it would make a good dish for company. I used arugula in my sauce, and if it had been available, I would have liked watercress even better. I seasoned my fish with a spice blend that's similar to a lemon pepper.

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February 6, 2010

FEBRUARY DARING COOKS - MEZZE

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I haven't been participating in Daring Cooks recently, but decided this month to try to begin participating again. The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

If you don't know what Mezze is, here is what Wikipedia says: "In Eastern Mediterranean it is a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs such as arak, ouzo, raki or different wines, similar to the tapas of Spain or finger food". Our challenge was to create a Mezze table. Our requirements were that we had to make Pita and Hummus using the given recipes, and we could make anything else we wanted to accompany that. I made a rather large feast. We started with Pomegranate Martinis. Then the spread included Pita Bread, Hummus, Muhammara(roasted pepper & walnut dip), Lavosh Crackers, Cucumber Raita, Feta Cheese, Olives & Caper Berries, Roasted Red Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Lamb and Feta Patties with Red Pepper Relish and Baked Meatballs from Syros with Walnuts, Almonds and Prunes. What I thought would be an easy meal to throw together ended up taking all day to make. But it was worth it.


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March 14, 2010

MARCH DARING COOKS - SHRIMP RISOTTO

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It's time for the March Daring Cooks Challenge. The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I've made risotto several times before, and as I really enjoy it I thought it was a great challenge. For this challenge, the requirements were to make our own stock and the risotto base. Then we could flavor the risotto in any way we chose.

I decided to make Shrimp Risotto, as I have a lot of shrimp in the freezer. I made my shrimp stock with the shells, and it was very flavorful. I followed the recipe as noted, except that instead of removing the onions I kept them in. And I added a little thyme. A couple of minutes before adding the butter and the last of the stock, I added uncooked shrimp. They only take a few minutes to cook, so it all finished at the same time. When I went to serve the risotto, I topped each serving with a drizzle of Truffle Oil and a shaving of lemon zest. It was a very flavorful, creamy risotto that I'll be making again.

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April 14, 2010

APRIL DARING COOKS CHALLENGE - BRUNSWICK STEW

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Are you looking for a flavorful soup that's a little different from the soups you make all of the time? I have one for you to try-Brunswick Stew. It's April, so it's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

I had heard of Brunswick Stew, but had no idea of what it was. I am going to quote Wolf here because she gives a wonderful history of the stew. "Brunswick Stew has a long, and oft debated history. Brunswick, Georgia claimed that the first Brunswick Stew was created there in 1898. There is, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on Interstate 95, a bronzed stew pot with a plaque proclaiming this fact.

However, Brunswick, Virginia claims that the first Brunswick Stew was created there by a camp cook named Jimmy Matthews in 1828, for a hunting expedition led by Dr. Creed Haskings, a member of the Virginia State Legislature for a number of years. He was said to have used squirrel in the original Brunswick Stew created for the group when they returned. The hunters were at first skeptical of the thick, hearty concoction, but upon tasting it, were convinced and asked for more.

Every year, there is an Annual Brunswick Stew Cookoff that pits ‘Stewmasters’ from both Virgina and Georgia against their counterparts, and takes place every October in Georgia.

In the early 20th Cent, the rivalry of the two Brunswicks helped make this dish as popular as it is today, and it quickly became a pan-Southern classic. Some recipe call for the original addition of squirrel, but most allow for chicken, turkey, ham, or pork, even beef on occasion. Rabbit is also used. The vegetables can vary widely from variation to variation, however, the Brunswick Stewmasters recipe says *exactly* what is used in competion stews, and states that “Adding any additional ingredient(s) will disqualify the stew from being an original Brunswick Stew.”

As Daring Cooks, we had two choices of recipes to make. One was a much longer version than the other. I chose the long version, but did make one exception-I used Swanson's Chicken Broth instead of making my own. I figured if the stew was going to cook for over 3 hours, it would be flavorful enough, and I was right. When I tasted it, I would have thought for sure I had used home-made broth. In my version, I used rabbit and chicken. I only had boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so that's what I used. I was afraid they would be dry and unflavorful, but that wasn't the case at all. When I make this again, I'd use a whole chicken, but if you're like me and need to use what's in your freezer, the chicken breasts worked just fine. But also know that I had a whole rabbit in the freezer, so the dark meat and the bones of the rabbit really added to the flavor here. Don't skip the rabbit and use only boneless chicken breasts, or you'll have no flavor. For the vegetables, I used potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, frozen corn and frozen lima beans.

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May 14, 2010

May Daring Cooks - Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

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It's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

There were quite a few elements this month that we were allowed to change, but the one requirement was that we make a homemade Mexican-style enchilada sauce. I decided to follow the recipe exactly this month.

The enchiladas turned out very good. They are not spicy at all, so if you spice, you need to add hot sauce to your sauce. I really like the grilled chicken in them, and the tomatilla salsa was very good.

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July 19, 2010

July Daring Cooks - Nut Butters

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It seems like I've been late on many of my challenges lately, and this one is no exception. Time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I chose to make peanut butter and use it in the Asian Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing. It was delicious. First of all, I guess I never really thought about how easy making nut butter is. Put the nuts in a food processor and whirl away. That's it. I followed this recipe as written and added a little thinly sliced cabbage to it. You can also make it using cashews instead of peanuts.

I was glad that I made this late for one reason-I made it on a day when my husband had been out shrimping, and I used shrimp that had just been pulled from the water a few hours earlier. They were sweet and delicious.

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