Rijsttafel at Tempo Doeloe in Amsterdam

Appetizers, including prawn crackers

S. and I wanted to eat at an Indonesian-influenced restaurant during our time in Amsterdam.  After a little research, we decided on Tempo Doeloe, not far from Rembrandt Square.  Rachel from our hotel made us a reservation and to our pleasure, all the had available that night was the table in the back by the bar.  What a treat it was!  It was almost like we had our own private room and I had a straight view of the kitchen and all the goings on.  I knew I wanted to order the rijsttafel (rice table in Dutch) which is essentially many small dishes that are to be eaten one at a time (from mild to spiciest) with rice.  S. found a chicken randang item on the menu that called out to him.  It had +++ next to it, meaning very spicy. We thought nothing of it, since we've been raised on spicy food due to our Tunisian heritage, but I suppose we should have known when our Indonesian waiter asked, "Are you sure?" not once, but on two separate occasions before he finally brought the plate out.  It was a zinger- by far the spiciest thing either of us had ever eaten in a restaurant.  While S. later admitted to me that he was suffering the entire meal, he finished the dish, and we now have a story to tell.  I have more respect for him since that night for sure.  I snapped some quick pictures but they are blurry because I took them quickly as not to be a distraction in the small restaurant.
My rijsttafel
The spiciest chicken I've ever tasted
The best cinnamon ice cream and chocolate sauce, mixed fruit, whipped cream
Amazing dessert- mango trio (sorbet, mousse, and fresh) topped with passion fruit

Tempo Doeloe is located at Utrechtsestraat 75 in Amsterdam


Morning Sunrise

These past few days, I've been pulling myself out of bed around 6 to see the beautiful sunrises we've been having.  The bird songs are at their peak (the sounds of cars, lawnmowers, and other engines haven't started) and the air is cool and fresh.  I still get amazed that this backyard is in the middle of a city.  Have a great day.


Fannie Farmer Strawberry Shortcake

For Easter, I decided to make an old family favorite from the recipe box- Fannie Farmer's Shortcake.  This used to be our annual fourth of July dessert and now I see why.  It's easy, delicious, and you can add blueberries to complete the colors of the American flag.  Since it was Easter, I kept it simple with just the pop of red from the strawberries.  It was the perfect follow-up to a wonderful dinner of eggplant parmesan and a mixed green salad.  

Recipe for Fannie Farmer Rich Shortcake 
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons tartrate baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
few grains nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425 F.  In a food processor, put flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and nutmeg.  Work in 1/3 cup butter, then add 1 well-beaten egg.  Gradually stir in about 1/3 cup milk.
Add enough milk until dough holds together but is still soft. 
Turn out dough on floured board and divide into 2 equal parts.  Pat or roll into 9-inch rounds.  Put one round in the buttered 9" round cake pan.  Spread lightly with 2 tablespoons melted butter.  (This will allow you to cook the two halves in the same pan, without sticking- great trick!)  Place other half on top of melted better.  
Bake for 12 minutes or until done.  Split carefully.  Shh don't tell anyone but the top half broke apart.  Best part about this cake though?  Just cover it all up with whipped cream.  Place on half of cake on plate then cover with layer of whipped cream.  Place other half on top and spread again with whipped cream.  Top with strawberries or any fruit of your pleasing.  Enjoy!
Note: You can also make individual round cakes with a biscuit cutter.


The Bread Chronicles- Cuban Bread

I've always enjoyed cooking and baking but there's one thing I've been afraid to try- baking with yeast.  I decided I should get over that fear with a new series on the blog, the Bread Chronicles.  Recently, my mom shared with me her trusted book, The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, and introduced me to one of her old standbys and the perfect introduction to bread-baking: Cuban bread.  She's not one for unnecessary work, so she tended to stray from the directions saying, "Why knead by hand when you can let the Cuisinart do the work for you?"  I'm not going to argue with that.  This bread is absolutely fabulous.  I made the dough in the evening, and popped it in the oven in the morning so I could have fresh-baked bread for breakfast.  Recipe below.
Dough after rising
After punching it!

Recipe for Cuban Bread, adapted from The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Farrar Capon
4 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
6 cups flour (approximately)

Put 4 cups of flour in food processor (make sure you have the dough knife on).
In the meantime, put roughly 1.5 packs of yeast, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of salt in a bowl. 
Measure 2 cups of lukewarm water.  Slowly mix very little into yeast mixture and stir until combined.  Gradually add the rest of the water and continue to stir until combined.  Let sit for a few minutes.  (The yeast mixture should be bubbling and active.)
Pour yeast mixture into food processor.  Add more flour slowly (about 1-2 cups) until dough turns into a ball.  Use the pulse setting a few times to allow the food processor to knead the dough for you.  Flour hands, then place ball on a wooden floured surface.  Knead into a ball.  (Pull up the top of the ball with your fingers to make it smooth and lump-free.)  Place ball in oiled bowl (you can use non-stick cooking spray or olive oil), then turn ball so both sides are coated.  Cover bowl with towel and let sit in warm place and rise.  If you want to bake the dough in the morning, place bowl in fridge (this will stop the rising process).  When the dough has about doubled in size, punch down the ball a few times.  It shouldn't pop back up.  Knead slightly and cut in half.  Form two balls. Place on cornmeal-lined tray and let rise again.  Put in oven at 400 F for about 30-40 minutes.   


Joan's on Third: Roof Picnic in LA

Last month we went to Joan's on Third and took it back to T.'s apartment for a rooftop picnic before heading to the airport.  The moment I walked into Joan's, I was in foodie heaven.  It was almost too much to handle it was that amazing.  Yes there were long lines, but the service was so professional, efficient, and helpful that everything moved smoothly.  I recommend getting the focaccia- there are three great flavors: grape, lemon zest w/ salt, and cherry tomato.  We also indulged in the delicious made-to-order sandwiches.  Since it can be crowded during certain hours, I think Joan's is best enjoyed as take-out, although there are tables both inside and on the sidewalk.  They have every drink you could imagine, so we picked up some fun bottles of sparkling lemonade since it was a picnic afterall.  
And as it was our last afternoon before heading back up north, we had to have some Pinkberry since the flavor was blood orange!!

Joan's on Third is located at 8350 W 3rd St. in Los Angeles
Joan's on Third on Urbanspoon


Hotel Misc in Amsterdam

On my first trip to Amsterdam, I decided to stay at the Hotel Misc (Eat Drink Sleep) after reading about it online.  The location was great- it was a relatively easy 10 minute walk from the train station to the hotel.  My three favorite things about the hotel were: the breakfasts, overall comfort, and the location.
Insanely comfortable beds
 Unlimited complimentary mini-bar
Peaceful garden view
 Delicious daily breakfasts (amazing granola, toast and jam, cheese and meat, croissants, bacon and eggs, fruit, fresh-squeezed OJ, etc.)

Hotel Misc is located at Kloveniersburgwal 20 in Amsterdam


L'as du Fallafel

One of my favorite places to get a quick bite to eat when I was living in Paris was L'as du Fallafel.  When I was there last month visiting, I decided to grab a sandwich but I picked the wrong day- it was the half marathon and I literally couldn't cross the street.  I went back to the apartment and ventured out after the race was over.  
It closes Friday afternoon for Shabbat, reopening on Sunday, which makes it a perfect pit stop for Sunday lunch.  Much of the Marais in fact, is the place to be in Paris on Sunday, as many other parts of the city (shops, bakeries, etc.) shut down.  There is often a line but it moves quickly as you pay while you're queuing.  While they have more to offer than just falafel, I recommend the falafel sandwich with all the fillings (cabbage, cucumber, onion, fried eggplant, creamy white sauce, etc.) and sauce piquante (though it's not at all spicy).  It all comes together nicely in a messy street-food kind of way.  Take it to go and enjoy it (start with a fork, then eat it like a sandwich) in the street walking through the Marais or find a nearby park bench to savor it.

L'as du Fallafel is located at 34 Rue des Rosiers in Paris


Cooking with the Barefoot Contessa: Perfect Roast Tomatoes

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use, pardon my French, crap tomatoes.  Ones that would even taste bad raw.  Because the time spent in the oven transforms these tomatoes into perfect, bite-sized tastes of the Mediterranean.  In fact, save the fragrant juicy tomatoes from your garden and those colorful heirlooms from the farmer's market for a fresh salad where you can really feature the flavor.  I've roasted tomatoes many, many times but have often stuck to cherry tomatoes.  They taste yummy but after trying Ina Garten's recipe, I'm sticking to roasting these kinds of tomatoes.  Want to know the secret?  Sugar!  Yes, not only do you sprinkle salt over the tomatoes, but 2 teaspoons of sugar.  It makes all the difference.  Recipe below.

Roasted Tomatoes from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa show
Ingredients (serves ~4)
10 plum tomatoes (I used roma tomatoes, they have a prettier shape and were easy to scoop out)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground pepper, to taste
good balsamic vinegar (I used my favorite vinegar that we got in Modena on our tour of the acetaia)  

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Slice 10 Roma tomatoes in half and scoop out the insides (seeds, etc.) so that all your left with is the shell.  (You can save the insides to use in a sauce later).  Place all 20 hollowed-out tomatoes on a pan.  Mince the garlic and sprinkle evenly over tomatoes.  Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil.  Sprinkle sugar and salt evenly over the tomatoes.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar.  Place in oven for at least 25 minutes or until done.  The longer you leave them in, the more they develop a sun-dried tomato consistency- it's delicious!  Chiffonade some basil and sprinkle over the cooked tomatoes.   


Al Bahria in Marrakech

Although they now live in Rabat, N.'s mom is originally from Marrakech and we were able to stay in an apartment they own when we went down there to visit.  N.'s mom had told her that we must eat lunch at her favorite fish place in town so we started to walk near the area it was in.  When we couldn't find it, we asked someone and he guided us down the right road and told us we would be able to smell the fresh fish.  He was right.  We followed our noses until we were led to Snack Bar Al Bahria.  The outdoor patio was jam packed with (mostly) hungry Marrakechi and a few tourists and their Lonely Planet guidebooks.  I couldn't quite figure out the "system" to get a table, but eventually we were seated when an outdoor table opened up and we were in for a treat.  We ordered four fish platters that come with all types of seafood including shrimp, calamari, and two types of fish- all simply breaded with a wedge of lemon on the side.  Each order also comes with fragrant yellow rice, salad, olives, and bread.  It's a fun place to sit outside, enjoy some unexpected fresh fish in the desert of all places, and watch the busy happenings going on in the street.

Al Bahria is located on Boulevard Moulay Rachid and the corner of Rue Mauritanie not too far from the train station  (but if you find yourself lost, you can always follow your nose)


Ba Bar Restaurant in Seattle

beef ball pho

Yesterday I got to check out a Vietnamese restaurant in the Central District, Ba Bar.  Their claim to fame is the pho, as they cook the broth for days.  According to their website, they believe that "life is too short for five dollar pho."  I definitely noticed a difference in the broth; it was rich and not watered down like some of the cheaper joints around town.  And Ba Bar's beef ball pho still comes out to a reasonable eight dollars.  But in the end, to me pho is still pho, and I like my food to fill me up.  Enter the next dish, which was a real winner: the grilled prawn vermicelli.  It was hearty, the prawns were meaty and grilled to perfection, and the crispy imperial roll was the perfect contrast to the soft vermicelli noodles.  I slathered my noodles with the delicious sauces that came with the meal; one a bright hot sauce, and the other a sweet plum. 

grilled wild-caught prawn, crispy imperial roll, vermicelli, peanut, mint

We closed off our meal with key lime macarons baked daily by their pastry chef.  The key lime was a refreshing end to a excellent, affordable meal.

 key lime macarons

Ba Bar is located at 550 12th Ave. in Seattle

Ba Bar on Urbanspoon


Cooking with the Barefoot Contessa: Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I've always felt indifferent when it comes to banana bread.  You can count me out if it's chock-full-o nuts, and even when it isn't, I find it dry, flaky, and blandish.  But as usual, the Barefoot Contessa makes things right-- with banana cake.  It's super-duper moist, intensely decadent and filling, and the perfect way to win over banana 'bread' haters like my former self.  Can it still classify as a breakfast food if it's cake?  Well, I can make my own rules.  Recipe below.
Recipe for Banana Cake from Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?
Ingredients for Cake
3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I left these out)

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

Directions for Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour a 9" X 2" round cake pan.  (I used a spring form pan which worked great).
In your electric mixer bowl with paddle attachment (I couldn't find mine but the regular whisk worked fine), mix bananas, sugar, and brown sugar on low speed until combined.  Add oil, eggs, sour cream, zest, and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.  

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  With mixer on low, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Stir in walnuts at this time if you choose to add them.  Pour batter into floured pan and bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until done.  Do the toothpick test (it should come out clean).  Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove.  Frost the cake with cream cheese frosting.

Directions for Frosting
Mix together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in clean bowl in electric mixer w/ paddle attachment on low speed until just combined.  (You don't want to whip it).  Add sugar and mix until smooth.