Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tomato Basil Rolls...A Video for You...and an Interview with 'Thyme"




Photography by Marcie Scudder of "Daily Walks" Photoblog


Isn't this such a lovely and dreamy photo?  It was taken by a photographer that I have been following for some time now.  Her name is Marcie Scudder and her site is called "Daily Practice". She was the 2011 winner for "Best American Photoblog".  Not only do Marcie's photographs transport you to a mystical and ethereal world but the words that accompany them speak straight to my heart and to my inner thoughts.

Remarkably, Marcie also visits my "Thyme" blog and has asked to interview "Thyme" over on her site.  So, if you would like to learn a few snippets about the inspiration behind "Thyme", slide over to "Daily Practice" by Marcie Scudder and read my interview.  But, what will transfix you, will be the daily escape she provides into her world of transparent beauty and thought.  There isn't a day that goes by when I don't sit back, take warm sips of my coffee and enter her world of calm thoughts and pure visions.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today, on "Thyme" I have a little something special.  I often talk about how much we just love rainy weekends when we can move slowly, cook wholesome meals, and listen to the beautiful sound of rain. So here is a little video gift...enjoy.


Tomato Basil Bread Rolls from Snippets of Thyme (Sarah) on Vimeo.






It's these spontaneous kinds of weekends when rain storms patter on all day long drawing us closer to the kitchen for our source of entertainment and amusement.



P. has no hesitation about jumping into a baking project whereas I am usually looking for structure and organization.  In trying to eat healthier, we planned on simple spinach salads for the weekend.  Of course, what would taste so delicious with a nice spinach salad?  Bread...straight out of the oven with aromas of basil and tomato.


One of my most favorite times to get out on one of my walks is right after a good rain.  Everything is glistening, wet, and heavy.  This is the time to move close into nature and see life in a whole new dimension.


The tiniest of dragonflies are moving about right now.  Just one hanging drop of rain looks like a pool of nourishment for the entire little dragonfly family.  




Patrick is our scientist in the kitchen. He understands the ratios, portions, and chemical roles of ingredients better than I do.  Although, this aspect of recipes is beginning to intrigue me more and more.  As I fail in one recipe, I want to know "why" and "what if...".




Rainy weekends make being in the kitchen so cozy and ...yes, rather romantic.  I readily admit, a man in the kitchen is oooh, la, la...very sexy.  






We've actually had our windows open since last fall.  I enjoy hearing the sound of rain playing its delightful tunes inches away from us indoors.  The yeast of these bread rolls is heady combined with the wet scents from the storm.





A warm cup of wild rose flavored tea, a deeply hued green salad with soft buttery boiled eggs, and these aromatic, earthy tomato basil bread rolls make for a deliciously tranquil and soothing rainy day meal.










Tomato Basil Rolls
(from the adorable blog Yammie's Noshery)


2 tablespoons yeast
1 cup hot water 
6 oz. tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 3/4 cup bread flour
A beaten egg and freshly grated parmesan for garnish (optional)


Mix together the yeast, water, tomato paste, basil, oil, and butter. Let sit for 3 minutes or until the yeast is dissolved. Add the sugar and then the flour and mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment for 10 minutes. Add the salt in while it's mixing. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm moist place for about 1/2 hour or until doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease it. Form the dough into balls and place on the baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for fifteen minutes more. Brush with egg and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 425º for about 10 minutes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weekend Homemade Lasagna with Italian Bechamel Sauce



As I snuggle under my duvet tonight to write these memories, I am a mother whose heart is swollen with pride.  I have so many emotions coursing through my body at this moment that I can barely contain myself.  I must tap out my emotions in order to breathe in and out the thoughts that fly through my mind.   The college responses are coming in...and the news is favorable.


I must confess that I have the most delicious caramel filled milk chocolate bar from Lake Champlain Chocolates sitting by my bedside helping me to tap out my joyous news.  I am savoring every gooey milky morsel.


Anyone who has gone through the teen years with their children understands the wrenching pains and uplifting joys of watching their children stumble, struggle, hurt, succeed, and then celebrate their first tastes of success in life.





Just the other weekend, we were moving through our leisurely Sunday trying to be carefree and relaxed while  flipping pancakes like always, listening to the sizzle of sausages on the stove, and sliding an egg onto each person's plate.

Knowing our daughter is daily glancing out the window to see if the mail has passed and anxiously checking e-mails to see if "the news" will be that day, can make parents feel so helpless.  It's time.  It was time for the "acceptances" and "rejections" from college applications.  Would we say the right words?  Would it be rejections?  Would we comfort or help celebrate?



We want nothing more than to assure her she will be alright. That she is worthy.  That she is valued.  But, this is one of those momentous turning points in life.  This is the beginning of the 'hills' and the 'valleys' that weave the tapestry of a life that will be beautiful at times and painful at others.  This feels like so much more than a scraped knee, a bee sting, or a bad dream.


We are not parents filled with gloating pride of accomplishment.  Seriously and honestly, that isn't it.  But, rather we are celebrating the joy bestowed on us as parents to watch our child be joyous and uplifted for these precious moments in her life rather than be anxious and distressed.  


To manage these interim weekends of waiting and wondering what life will bring our first born, we've kept busy on weekends creating, stirring, rolling, and mixing recipes in the kitchen.  


Patrick is still happily tickled to pull out his Father's Day gifted pasta maker.  Last weekend, he suggested we tackle lasagna...from scratch...bechamel and tomato sauce and all.  




Rolling out pasta dough has to harken back to playdough playing days of pre-school.  Remember taking clumps of playdough and squeezing it through those little molds to make all sorts of shapes?


One of the cutest items we bought when we lived in Japan was this little playdough "sushi" maker kit.  You could squeeze though little rice mounds, sheets of nori, and all sorts of raw fish toppings to create 'obento' boxes.  We had countless Japanese tea parties.



Bechamel sauce in lasagne brings this traditional pasta dish to new levels.  I'm not sure what was more sensual...the aroma while cooking the sauce or indulging in the final result.  I would have been willing to imbibe the sauce by the spoonfuls with morsels of dense Italian bread and flakes of pungent crumbly Parmesan cheese.



Hearty, thick, chewy, Italian bread is compulsory for this Northern Italian lasagna indulgence.  I realize that this requires doubling up on those evil carbs, but ...just don't eat lunch...is all I can say!  I usually put out a cheese tray with fruit mid-afternoon so I can concentrate and save my appetite for a Sunday dinner.



One of the beneficial side effects from the labor of stirring the sauce, squishing the tomatoes, cranking through the pasta dough, and layering this heady goodness on top of each other is the assured knowledge of ...leftovers.




My heart as a mother is singing with joy (and relief) for the happy news that our daughter is receiving from the colleges of her choice.  I've been through many of life's 'ups' and 'downs'.  I know I can handle disappointments and failures that come my way.  


It is truly heartbreaking to watch your children struggle through these moments in life when they are fraught with self doubt and uncertainty.  You, as a parent, know they do not quite have the perspective to foresee that they will survive and be stronger in the future.


Tonight, we are thankful for the strength and joy that comes this time with good news. 


Furthermore, delicate nibbles on caramel filled milk chocolate squares do wonders to promote those celebratory moments.


Weekend Homemade Lasagna with Italian Bechamel Sauce
(recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis)


Ingredients:


Bechamel Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, (recipe follows)
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound thick lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:


Preheat oven to 375˚ degrees F.
Bechamel sauce:
In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. (Be sure that you don't make your pasta sheets too thin.  They will get lost in the thick layers of filling. We made ours too thin.) 

Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.

Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

(**We made our sauce the day before and that helps with time constraints)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot or Dutch over, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. 

Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.
Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.
If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Campanelle Pasta and Peas in Broth with Smoked Ham...and seasonal doldrums


Spring is being marked all over the country.  We have certainly noticed all of the lovely telltale signs here in the south.  But, as the little roots are pushing their way up through the cold soil, the grass is changing from a wintry umber to a soft pale green, and the beautiful tiny cherry blossoms are about to spring open, this inbetween time feels like a challenge this year.


Everyone is waiting for time to reveal plans for our family.  Everyone is fidgety ~ to get outside to plant, move, travel. It seems we each have some events in our lives that are keeping us watching the clock and trying to nudge the time on a bit.



I have definitely fallen into the doldrums of early Spring.  I am impatient at this time of year.  I yearn for something to happen...for change...for new challenges to throw my raw energy into with fervor.


We've had recent colds that have kept us under the weather ~ adding to the tick tock of the clock.  A fair share of hot chocolates (with a few marshmallows to sweeten those doldrums) have been poured out.


It was Patrick's turn to pick out a soup from "the big soup book".  We were all certainly grateful for his choice of a nice pasta soup with peas in a light broth flavored with ham.


Soups always seems to cure the doldrums as well as the sniffles.



We're doing a fair amount of waiting around here.  M. is waiting for news on colleges.  P. is waiting for news on hopeful career positions.  And I am hit strongest at this time of year to ...travel.


Not another bath time!  No!
The doldrums even hit poor little Chester.  This little guy is getting a few more baths at this time of year than he would prefer.  With the periods of on and off rain, he is also waiting ~ for the end of so many recurring bath times.


We have a new baby to see.  We have a niece who will marry.  Exciting travel ahead of us in a few months to celebrate these occasions.






But destinations like Istanbul and Morocco are tugging at my adventure loving side.  It seems like every other email in my 'inbox' is touting travel specials and spurring on my desire to travel.

I want to stop watching documentaries about tea farms in China and soups in small villages in Bulgaria.  I want to experience these places first hand, peer into the faces of the people who live there and search for whatever it is that I am searching for that makes me fidgety and restive.

Restless.  Always restless I am...to see and experience the world as it spins on.  


Campanelle Pasta and Peas in Broth with Smoked Ham
(serves 4-6)

2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup roughly chopped smoked bacon or pancetta
1 small onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
3 1/2 cups peas
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 quart chicken stock
11 ounces campanelle pasta
about 1/3 cup chopped smoked ham
salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the pancetta or bacon, onion, and celery and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Add the peas and cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, parsley, stock, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.  Cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.  

Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.  Drop in the pasta, stir, and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.  Stir in the smoked ham.  Serve hot in warm bowls, with grated Parmesan handed around.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Honey Dew, Cucumber, Mint Mojito for St. Paddy's Day...and thunderstorms





As the day unfolded, increasing humidity slowly saturated the air.  The heaviness muffled the cool breezes that had been flowing through the open windows in recent weeks.


Storms and cooler weather were forecasted, so relief would  eventually be in sight...hopefully. 


The icy coldness of this delicate honey dew and cucumber flavored drink, inspired by St. Patrick's Day, offered a timely relief for this first sultry taste of what is to come.



The last of the Valentine's Day flowers from P. glowed in the heaviness of the air.  "Mom, let's turn the air on," the kids suggested as we inched closer and closer to open windows.


Storm clouds were sweeping over the vast Texas sky, swinging their dark capes wildly overhead.  "Let's try to wait it out," I replied without much enthusiasm.  When the storms come in, the air is going to cool down."




There was one treat that I could offer to make the day more bearable.  Honeydew, cucumber, and mint... all flavoring tall icy glasses of bubbling ginger ale.  The thought of it made my mouth water with  anticipation of relief from the thick air.





R. and I have been studying pieces of literature known for creating certain tones and moods.  We recently finished The Birds by Daphne du Maurier.  Just as this story made my skin crawl when I was a teenager, he, too, had the same grim reaction.


Not only was the air heavy with dampness and our moods irascible with the heat, but these great swarms of black birds have been swirling into the field behind us.  They duck into the tall grasses and become invisible.  Moments later, they surge into the air once more, their shrieks adding to the ominous mood of the day.



I snipped little bunches of mint from my potted herbs, slightly squeezing them to breathe in their fresh scent. I sliced the tiny little limes that P. likes to keep handy to flavor his beer.




The bubbling and hissing of the cold ginger ale flowing over crackling ice was a delightful sound that promised of long summer days to come.



The anticipated storms will certainly lift the heaviness from the air, usher back the cooler temperatures and we can  return to sweeping breezes blowing through the house. 


As the rain drops  begin to fall one by one with heavy plops and thuds, I wonder where all of those birds will go.  


Polly and Chester are torn between racing to the back windows to watch the birds soar into the sky and following us everywhere in the house...searching our eyes for comfort and security from the impending storms.



Honeydew is such a beautiful melon.  Is there anything so soft and pretty as that sweet baby shade of pale green?  Honeydew and mint give this drink such a gentle flavor that tastes cooling and light.


The humidity slowly lifts its weary head and the gentle wings of cool billowy air slide in through the windows once more.  The hoards of black birds flapping and shrieking are again giving us goosebumps; Polly and Chester scampered off again dreaming of which bird they will snag, and the impending dog days of a southern summer are put off just a little longer.


Honeydew, Cucumber and Mint Mojito
(adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine)


**To make the garnish, cut a shamrock from a slice of cucumber skin using a shamrock cookie cutter.


Serves 1 (just double or triple, etc. for more servings)


Ingredients


1/4  lime wedge
2 sprigs fresh mint
cucumber slices
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 cup crushed ice
3/4 cup fresh honeydew melon juice (from half of a melon)
Club soda (I used ginger ale), fresca, or Sprite
1 Tbsp rum (optional)
Cucumber skin "shamrock," for garnish


Directions:
Place lime, mint, cucumber slices, and sugar in a tumbler or highball glass and muddle. Add ice to glass; pour honeydew melon juice over ice. Top with club soda or flavored carbonated drink. Stir and serve immediately garnished with cucumber  "shamrock."



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Riesling Poached Pear Tart with Chai Spiced Custard & Almond Crust





P. came home from work the other day with the tiniest most adorable little pears for me.


"A co-worker enjoys your blog and picked these for you." he smiled as he held them proudly for me to admire.

"Really?" I asked incredulously.  "I've never  met this person and they thought to bring  some pears for me?"



Is that not what just makes all those small moments of life so curiously entertaining and heart warming?  Isn't that just the best of human nature?


With these little graceful pale green pears in hand, I wondered what I might make that would  celebrate these little gifts.



In mere minutes, my mind travelled through the world of recipes and photos in this marvelous family of food photographers.  I easily landed at this visual gift of a blog here.  I'm sure most all of you have seen this most serene and ethereal of food blogs ~ Roost.  


A sweet petite poached pear tart with Chai spiced custard it would be.  Something whimsical and pretty.




Have you peered at pear leaves up close?  They are beautiful little pieces of art work...with little shimmers of stained glass texture.  Next time you see some pears, look closely, you'll be surprised at the beauty discreetly woven into  the tiny slender leaves.



What an interesting recipe this turned out to be.  The almond crust forms wonderfully to the tart mold and bakes beautifully.  The aroma of toasting almonds is a heady scent.


The pears steeped in Riesling wine and poached with vanilla, cinnamon, and honey also have to be one of the most lovely scents that can fill a home. 


The Chai custard presented gentle and exotic  flavors for us.  My local Whole Foods was out of the ingredient 'cocoa butter' that day so I used butter.  I am curious to make the custard with it to know how different it would be in texture and taste.


Enjoy!  I know we're on the opposite side of fall but I couldn't resist!





RIESLING POACHED PEAR TART WITH CHAI SPICED CUSTARD & ALMOND CRUST
(adapted from the lovely Roost blog)



Almond Tart Crust

3 cups Almond Flour
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted ghee (or butter or oil of your choice)
2 TBSP water
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Grease a 13x5 rectangular tart pan and form the crust with the dough. 


Bake at 350˚ F for 15 minutes or until edges are slightly golden brown.


Riesling Poached Pears


5 cups water
3 cups Riesling, or sweet white wine of choice
3 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod (reserve seeds for chai custard)
1/2 cup honey
4 slightly firm but ripe Bosc pears (you could use any pear of your choice)


Place all ingredients except for pears in a stock pot and bring to a bowl. Meanwhile peel the pears (I left the stem on for presentation) and cut in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife remove the core and bottom. Once liquid is to a boil carefully place pears in liquid and reduce to medium heat. Cook pears for 45 minutes to an hour or until very tender. 


Chai Custard


6 TBSP cocoa butter ( Roost recommends:  Artisana Raw Cacao Butter at Whole Foods. Each block is 3 TBSP. DO NOT USE the cocoa butter found in the lotion/beauty aisle)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
2 whole star anise (I searched but couldn't find whole anise so this was omitted from my recipe)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves
pinch of ground all spice
5 egg yolks
vanilla seeds (scraped from the vanilla pod used in the poached pears)


Place honey and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add cocoa butter, star anise and spices. Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Discard star anise and return pot to heat. Bring to a simmer and add the egg yolks stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Stir and stir some more until the custard coats the back of the spoon and when you run your finger across it leaves a streak. Be sure to not overcook!!


Remove from heat, pour custard into a metal or glass bowl, stir in vanilla seeds and place in the fridge (the freezer will expedite this process). The custard will thicken significantly as it cools. After 30-45 minutes or so the custard should be set (less time if put in the freezer). When serving you do not want the custard to be super cold and definitely not frozen so as soon as it thickens take it out and pour in tart shell. 


To assemble:


Fill tart shell with custard and place the poached pears on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Restaurant Review: Café des Amis...gateau love!


I have discovered my all time favorite dessert.  If I had just one last dessert wish, this would get the call.  This gateaux won't win any beauty contests but the flavors of it are amazing. It is...Gateau de Sirop.  


I could wax poetic about the beautiful molasses and spice flavors in this somber and humble looking cake.  Before it even went into the oven, the heavy aromas of molasses, cane syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla steeped the kitchen.


We filled pantry containers with  slices of this gateau.  Therefore,  I will, most assuredly, be tucking into a slice every afternoon this week with my afternoon cup of tea.


This dessert hit my culinary radar because it carries a story with it.  It's probably evident that most dishes I cook arrive in my kitchen attached with  memory or experience...a story.  On our weekend away to cajun country, I ordered it for dessert at a little jewel of a local family owned restaurant. 


I not only fell in love with the dessert but also with the entire restaurant.  I decided this restaurant stop would most assuredly be shared on "Snippets of Thyme".


I am truly pleased to introduce a most authentic cajun restaurant tucked away in the tiny cajun town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana- Café des Amis.



Café des Amis is an airy and artsy restaurant that hums with a definite urban vibe.  


However, it is situated right in the core of a quaint old-fashioned downtown street that could have been the filming location for Mayberry in the old T.V. program "The Andy Griffith Show".




I have not been this delighted by a restaurant for awhile.  Before deciding on where we should stay for our weekend away, I browsed the online menu  of Café des Amis.


One quick glance at the menu had me intrigued and my taste buds tingling, so we booked ourselves into a B&B right around the corner  that I highlighted here.




It's not that easy to find quality cajun food outside of a home kitchen.  There is the "blackened this...and overly spiced that" that has become the popular notion of cajun food.


But, then stands this wonderfully authentic cajun restaurant that serves dishes untouched over time.  The menu that  is served at Café des Amis  carried me straight back to the foods as I remembered them from my childhood growing up in Louisiana.

When plates arrived at the table, the first dish my fork wandered to was the 'rice dressing' side dish.  It is imperative in cajun cuisine that the rice dressing taste spot on.


First bite... I sat back and congratulated my taste buds.  Perfect blend of gaminess, spices, and herbs.  If they can get rice dressing 'right', then this was going to be a gratifying and delectable gastronomic holiday for me.


I ordered one of the appetizers on the menu.  It was a round of crawfish cornbread sitting in a pool of spiced creamy crawfish sauce.  The cornbread was moist with just the right amount of spicy 'kick'.  It was a wonderful cake-like consistency for scooping into the creamy crawfish.


One of my favorite parts of traveling is hearing the stories behind the people who are local.  Nothing gives me more pleasure than eating good food and hearing someone tell a local tale from their part of the world.



So, here is where I met Logan.  Logan is a bright eyed-cheery girl who made me feel completely at home in this restaurant.  As I was commenting on the fun and whimsical artwork on the wall - she quietly informed me that she was the artist behind them.


"You painted everything in this restaurant?" I asked wide-eyed.  "Most of the animal and city-scape paintings" she answered with a sweet and unassuming smile.


We chatted away while I tucked into the delicious rice dressing, cornbread, crawfish sauce, and bowl of shrimp and okra gumbo.


Her paintings would be fun additions to a kid's bedroom or a funky  ice cream or coffee shop.  I asked her where they could be purchased and she lead me to her site here




The dish I ordered for lunch was a layered crawfish medley inbetween fluffy puff pastry.  The presentation of this dish was fun and attractive.  However, I was still happily lingering over the wonderful flavors of that rice dressing, as well as the deliciousness of the crawfish cornbread...and the perfectly flavored maque choux corn.


Café des Amis has all sorts of amusing stories to add  to its quirky stylishness.  In the late 1800's, the building that now houses Café des Amis had one of the first hand cranked elevators in town.  


The restaurant managed to preserve a portion of  the elevator crank shaft.  Its heavy black iron structure towers above the hostess station right when you enter the restaurant and makes a wonderful presentation.



So, dessert rolled around.  I was really so pleased with the savory menu that I planned to pass on anything sweet.  But, the Gateau de Sirop caught my attention so I chatted with Logan about it.


As she brought a piece to the table, I noticed the intriguing darkness of the cake.  The molasses and cane sugar make this dessert an almost black color.  The aroma of the spices immediately tickled my nose.  I was thrilled that I had not passed on it.


Breaux Bridge is as classic a small cajun town as it gets.  Country living is at its truest.   This is a small friendly chatty community that  loves their heritage and good cajun food.


I returned home inspired to recreate their gumbo here, but what most intrigued me was trying my hand at making that gorgeous and delicious Gateau de Sirop.


I saw these Pomegranates at the market and thought how well their shimmering ruby colored seeds would pair nicely with the cinnamon/molasses/syrup infused blackness of this simple cake.


The cane syrup that I used came from another small cajun town called Abbeville.  This and the molasses are what give the cake its stunning dark color.



The recipe calls for Crème Anglaise.  I did make this deeply flavorful bourbon kissed cream, but I also made a whipped bourbon laced cream. (for photographic purposes!).  Both are delicious but Crème Anglaise is "over the top" good.



It's forecasted to rain all week.  I've been busy planting my summer herbs.  So, with this deliciously spiced molasses cake, I'll sit back in the afternoons with a hot cup of tea, watch my herbs grow, 


and indulge in a beautiful slice of this french cajun inspired Gateau de Sirop.








Cafe des Amis Gateau de Sirop with Creme Anglaise


(adapted from Judy Walker, The Times-Picayune from the restaurant owner Dickie Breaux)




This recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen large muffins.They also freeze beautifully.  If using a round cake pan, makes 8 slices.




1 cups canola or peanut oil
1 3/4 cups pure cane syrup
1 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup dark molasses
1 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans (if desired)
Pomegranate seeds (garnish)


Preheat the over to 350˚ F degrees. Combine the oil,  cane syrup and molasses in a bowl.


In a separate bowl,  stir baking soda into boiling water. (Snippet's Notes:  be sure the baking soda is dissolved in the hot water) Add to the oil,  syrup and molasses mixture. Add all other remaining ingredients and beat well at medium to high speed with an electric mixer. Be sure that everything is mixed in really well before pouring into baking pan.


Fill large muffin tins,  sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray,  about three-fourths full. (Snippet's Notes:  the first time, I filled them too high and the batter spilled over the tins.) Bake at 350˚ F degrees until they almost set,  about 15 minutes. Add the chopped pecans on top (if desired) and continue baking until the muffins are completely set.




   Crème Anglaise


   (Makes about 1 cup)
   1/2 cup whole milk
   1/2 cup heavy cream
   3 egg yolks
   1/4 cup granulated sugar
   1/2 tablespoon bourbon


Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring just a boil.


Meanwhile,  combine the egg yolks and the sugar in a mixing bowl and beat well until light yellow and slightly thickened. Gradually pour the milk and cream into the egg mixture,  whisking constantly.


Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and stir over very low heat with a wooden spoon. Cook,  stirring,  without boiling until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Do not over cook or it will curdle. Stir in the bourbon. Serve warm or chilled.