Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

Do you remember how I mentioned that I made an ice cream bar for Zuni’s birthday party back in May?  Well, this Vanilla Bean Caramel was one of the components of said bar.  I used the basic recipe from my trusted ice cream source, The Perfect Scoop, and added a vanilla bean to take it over the top (much thanks to Annie’s Eats for the idea!).  The result is a luscious sauce that is amazing poured over ice cream, stirred into coffee, used sandwiched between cookies, and even eaten directly from the jar (hey, don’t look this way, it was just a suggestion) ;)

 

VanillaBeanCaramelPic

 

Vanilla Bean Caramel

Yield: 1 ½ Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions:

Spread sugar evenly at the bottom of a large saucepan. Place over medium-low heat. When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center. Continue stirring very gently until all of the sugar has melted, making sure not to over-stir.

Measure out the heavy whipping cream into a small bowl, and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into it. Add the bean itself to the cream as well. Set aside.

Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove from heat. Whisk in half of the cream mixture, making sure to work carefully as the caramel will bubbly and steam violently. Once the cream has been incorporated, stir in the remaining cream and mix well. Stir in vanilla and salt. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth.

When cooled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The vanilla bean can stay in the caramel or be thrown away, according to preference.

 

Ricotta and Zucchini Galette

There was a lonely zucchini hanging out in the refrigerator, totally on the verge of going from edible to non-edible. I hate throwing food out, so I set out to find a recipe that would please all of us. I stumbled upon this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which I have been eyeing for what seems like ages, and set out to work. I made my own ricotta (hopefully I’ll be able to do a post on that soon. It is so easy to make!), prepped the dough and filling, and ended up with a galette worthy of being the centerpiece of any meal.

It looks like I’m going to have to buy more zucchini, because we cannot seem to get enough of this :)
RicottaZucchiniGalettePic

 

Ricotta and Zucchini Galette

Yield: 4 – 6 Servings

Ingredients:

For Crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For Filling:

  • 1 large zucchini, sliced thinly
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

For Glaze and Topping:

  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water (egg-wash)
  • 1 tablespoons slivered basil

Directions:

Make Crust:

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all-purpose flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles course crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, water, and lemon juice. With the machine running, add the mixture through the feed tube in a slow and steady stream, just until the mixture holds together. Remove dough from food processor and pat into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Note: If dough has gotten too soft from the food processor, simply wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. It will harden and become easier to roll the following day.)

Make Filling:

Toss zucchini with salt and spread out on paper towels. Allow it to drain for 30 minutes, then wipe the tops dry with a paper towel before using.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil and garlic.

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil mixture to the cheese mixture and mix well.

Prepare Galette:

Preheat oven to 400˚F and set aside a parchment lined baking sheet.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll chilled dough out into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to baking sheet. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Place the zucchini over the top, and drizzle with olive oil mixture. Fold the edges over, pleating as needed. Brush the edges with prepared egg-wash.

Bake the galette until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with basil. Let it stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Galette can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Banana Cream Pie

I would like to thank everyone for the support they’ve given to me and my family over the course of the past several weeks.  The road is long, but I hope that with time we learn to deal with our pain in a healthy and positive manner.

 ***

This Banana Cream Pie is one that is very special to me.  We celebrated my parents 35th wedding anniversary last year, and I had prepared 2 pies similar to this for the event.  They were received  with great praise, and more important, Mummi and Papa both enjoyed them.

Last week my close childhood friends came to spend the day with me (our group of friends were all together under the same roof for the first time in 6 years!).  They brought along a delicious lunch of Caesar Salad,Garlic Bread, Buffalo Chicken Pasta (recipe which I’m dying to get from my friend), and Sticky Date Pudding (totally delish!).  I decided to bake this pie for the occasion, considering how close it is to my heart, and these friends of mine are too.

Just a note about the recipe- I am a totally low maintenance kind of cook, but with that being said, the use of vanilla beans in the pastry cream really makes this pie shine.  If you are unable to use vanilla beans for whatever reason, just add 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract to the cream after it’s done cooking.  Also, the decorative border around the edges of the crust are actually just spoon indentations!  Totally simple!

 

BananaCreamPiePic

 

Banana Cream Pie

Yield: 1- 9” Pie

Ingredients:

For Pie Crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cold, but into small pieces
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

For Filling:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and beans scraped
  • 3 to 4 bananas
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

Directions:

Make Pie Crust:

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.

With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Shape into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round, a bit less than ¼-inch thick. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, trim crust so there’s a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Fold under overhang so it extends slightly beyond edge of pie plate. Crimp edge as desired. Prick dough all over with a fork. Brush pie crust with beaten egg. Chill pie shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375˚.

Line chilled pie shell with a round of parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges of crust just turn golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment. Return crust to oven, and continue baking until golden all over, 20 to 25 minutes more. Place pie shell on a wire rack to cool completely.

Make Filling:

Prepare an ice bath; set aside. In a bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks; set aside.

In a saucepan, whisk together milk, granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer (do not boil), and cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Once the milk begins to simmer, slowly drizzle it in a thin stream into the egg yolks, whisking all the while to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Transfer the custard to a heat-proof bowl and cook over a saucepan of boiling water (a double broiler), whisking constantly, until the custard is thick and bubbles begin to form in the middle. Remove from heat and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard so that a skin does not form. Set in the ice bath and cool completely.

Cut the bananas into ¼-inch slices, slightly on the bias. Beginning at the edge of the piecrust, arrange the slices in slightly overlapping rows. Cover with custard, using an offset spatula to smooth it into an even layer.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine cream and confectioners’ sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Using a small offset spatula, spread the whipped cream on top of the custard.

Refrigerate pie, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Papa

“Surely, To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return.” Quran, 2:156

My father passed peacefully from this world Saturday, July 26, 2014 (Ramadan 28, 1435).

My favorite photo of Papa (Courtesy of the Contra Costa Times)

My favorite photo of Papa (Courtesy of the Contra Costa Times)

 

Although my Papa may have left this world physically, his personality and character will live on forever through those whose lives he touched.

The past two weeks have brought forward countless stories about the ways in which he has touched both friends’ and strangers’ lives. I pray that I am able to carry on his legacy. If I am ever even half the person he was, I will be content.

An update…

Hello Friends!  It’s been a while, huh?

I owe you an explanation for disappearing for so long, but before that I want to wish all those observing Ramadan a peaceful and fulfilling month.  May all of our prayers be accepted, and may we leave the month spiritually and mentally renewed.

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to visit California for my brother’s graduation.  Well, my brother graduated with a double major in Economics and Communications (we’re all so proud of you Ammu!), we celebrated Father’s Day with my dad and husband, and I was able to spend my birthday with my family.

We returned home on Tuesday, June 24th.  The following evening, Wednesday, June 25th, my father had a mild heart attack.  My husband, my son, and I traveled back to California the next day, Thursday, June 26th.  Everything since then has been a blur.

Praise be to God, my father is in stable condition now.  Things have been rocky, including my father needing dialysis at the moment and an extended hospital stay (thanks, but no thanks Insurance).  But through all of this I have nothing but gratitude.

When my father was initially admitted, things were going down really fast.  We weren’t being given much hope, and things looked very bleak.  My father’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle. And for that I have all of our well-wishers to thank.  Family, friends, and strangers all banded together to pray for Papa.  In the first 2 weeks of Papa being admitted, we had over 250 visitors come to see him and wish him well.  The show of support has been overwhelming, to say the least.

This time has also proven to me that the connections I’ve forged through the course of blogging have been invaluable.  Some of the friends I’ve made through blogging were literally the first ones I turned to to share my heartbreak and fears, to be the ones I was able to pour my heart out to.  I’ve had a number of bloggers reach out to privately to wish us well and to offer a shoulder to lean on.  You guys, I will forever be grateful.  Your show of support means so much to me, and I will never ever be able to show and tell you thankful I am.  The only thing I can say is that I pray that God rewards you for your goodwill and for being there for a friend.  God bless you, and may you be rewarded by the Almighty in this world and the next.

 

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I would love to get back to blogging regularly.  I’ve come to realize over the course of these past few weeks that blogging is very therapeutic for me.  It’s a window of time that I use to block out all my problems and be able to focus on something I truly enjoy.  Although it’s unlikely that I will be posting as often as I was before, I hope to post occasionally.  I also want to apologize to my friends whose blogs I’ve neglected (although I must admit that I have been reading your posts as I hang out at the hospital with my dad :) ).  InshAllah, God willing, it won’t be long before things are calmer and I’m back to my old self :)

Once again, thank you for all of your support.  My blogging buddies, my family, my old friends, my new friends, and all of our well-wishers, thank you.  I will never forget the support you gave to me and my family during these hard times.