Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Socca with Lamb & Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Have you heard of Socca?  I hadn't until maybe last year when I saw it on Fitnessista's blog.  It's basically a pancake made from chickpea flour, and is a popular street food in the south of France.  The recipe I had seen on blogs before was simply equal parts chickpea flour and water.  Didn't sound too exciting but I could see how it would make a great vessel for other foods and flavors.

I had sort of forgotten about Socca since then, but after seeing a beautiful version in my new cookbook, Plenty, I knew it wouldn't be long before I made it.  Plus I've had a bag of chickpea flour in the pantry for a while now anyways so there was really no excuse.

IMG_3621The recipe in the cookbook calls for the Socca to be topped with caramelized onions and oven roasted tomatoes.  I still want to try this version, but the version I wanted to make involved an idea in my head with ground lamb and a refreshing yogurt cucumber sauce.

I used the Socca recipe from Plenty, which had whipped egg whites in the batter along with the chickpea flour and water.  I imagine these are a bit more fluffy than the regular kind without egg whites.


For the toppings, I just sautéed some ground lamb, drained some of the excess fat, and seasoned the meat with salt, cumin, and fresh lemon juice.

For the cucumber-yogurt sauce I combined plain yogurt, chopped cucumber, red onion, fresh dill, fresh parsley, and lemon and let it sit in the fridge while I made the rest of the meal.

from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi

  • 1 3/4 cups Chickpea Flour
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1.5 T olive oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • pepper

Whisk together chickpea flour, water, oil, salt and pepper until smooth.  In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Fold egg whites into chickpea batter.

Heat oven to 325.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpats.  Use a non-stick frying pan with a diameter of about 6” at the bottom.  Brush with olive oil.  Heat to med-high heat, then add in 1/4 of the socca batter.  Just like a regular pancake, bubbles will start to appear on the surface after about 2 minutes.  Use a spatula to loosen around the edges and then flip!  Cook for 1 more minute and transfer to baking sheet.  After all 4 pancakes are cooked, bake for 5 minutes. 


I still need a little practice flipping a big pancake like that, but at least there were no casualties.


Cucumber Yogurt Topping

All quantities are approximate, adjust to your liking!

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 6oz container of plain yogurt
  • 1 T finely chopped dill
  • 1 T finely chopped parsley
  • juice from 1/4 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Mix all together.  Can be made ahead of time.  Chill until ready to use.



(makes enough for 2 servings, 1 socca pancake each)

  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt & pepper

Assemble like a pizza!  Socca, topped with lamb, topped with cucumber…


Fresh tomato and chunks of feta cheese really brought the meal together.  I loved the saltiness and bite from the feta!  I think crumbled feta would be great mixed in with the cucumbers as well.



It was a little messy to eat.  I tried picking it up like a wrap, and then breaking pieces off, but eventually a knife and fork was the weapon of choice.

IMG_3635 This was a great change from the usual dinners, and both Brian and I loved the flavors...we both love lamb so always looking for new ways to work it into the repertoire.


We had leftover Socca pancakes that were great

Plus the possibilities for the leftover socca pancakes were endless!  I used one as a “wrap” for a sandwich later in the week!

Try anything new-to-you lately??

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Shooting in Raw & Crab Cakes

Do you shoot in RAW??

On Saturday I attended the 1st (annual?) Blog Better Boston event put on by one of my blog friends, Amy, and her blog/friend/business partner Alana.  It was a conference type event especially for Boston area bloggers, with panels, workshops, and awesome sponsors.

Not gonna lie, I was most excited about just spending the day with some of my favorite bloggers, but I found a number of the speakers/sessions VERY helpful!

BBB Eliz Ali Me
Elizabeth, Ali, and Me!

Some of the sessions I attended were: Photo Editing, Awesome Metrics with Google Analytics, Wordpress Tips & Tricks, and Food Photography!

Some of the info, esp. on Analytics and Wordpress, was a little over my head, but I still came away with a lot more knowledge than I had before.

One of the terms that kept getting thrown around a lot during the two photography related sessions was shooting in "RAW".  I have heard this many times before but really didn't think much of it.  I also had no idea if I was shooting in RAW or not.  Well, I wasn't and had the instructor show me where that setting was. 

food photog

Basically if your not shooting in raw, you're shooting in jpeg... I still don't fully understand this, but as I was uploading my photos tonight I found out the hard way that I'm still such a newb! 

And if you have no idea what I’m even talking about, check out this webpage with a great comparison of Raw vs. JPEG.

So my new and improved "raw" photos needed a special plug-in on my computer to be able to view them! And now I'm converting them back to jpeg so that I can actually use them…oy.  Probably shouldn’t have just switched over so nonchalantly! 

Moral of this story is that I still have a lot to learn!  But I’m also super excited to apply all my new knowledge!!

I was able to try out the set up our Food Photography instructor had of some Pretzel Crisps (another sponsor!), using a wooden board and her Spider Light set up

pretzel crisp

Also applied some of my new editing knowledge, and I must say it came out pretty good!

Not sure if I see a Spider Light in my future…not exactly a small piece of equipotent!  But it was cool to see how it created such natural looking light!  That photo above was taken in a pretty dark room, lit by her spider light. 

And now that I’ve converted my files back to “normal” I can give you a brief overview of the delightful crab cakes I made tonight for my mom and Brian.

crab meat

That premium lump crab meat is actually pretty darn good!!  It was $8.99 at Trader Joes.  Pretty good for a when I have a crab craving :)

I used this Cooking Light Recipe, but halved it as I only had 8oz of crabmeat.

The recipe is for 4 servings as a meal.  I wanted these as an appetizer, so I made smaller cakes and ended up with 9, 1.5” diameter cakes.

crab cakes1

My changes to the recipe were:

  • using red bell pepper instead of green
  • I used the whole egg, instead of a half even though I had half the amount of crab
  • Used dried tarragon in the sauce, and half as much
  • omitted the ground red pepper (mom doesn’t like spicy), used some fresh ground black pepper though

crab cake mix

crabcake in panko

Prepped the cakes a couple hours before dinner

crabcakes precook

Then cooked them up right before serving

crabcakes cook2

I LOVED the Remoulade sauce!!  We had a panko crusted Cod for dinner and used this sauce for the fish too!

crab cakes     

And just for fun, some flowers…these were my 2nd “replacements” for my Valentine’s day flowers ;) 



Gorgeous spray roses!  $9.99 for a big bunch!!  So many that I had extra to fill two mini bud vases for the window sill!

So back to my camera issues…

Anyone have any tips about shooting in RAW and still being able to easily upload/use my photo files??  Something that can convert them to jpegs easier??  I had to save-as each photo!!  So annoying!

Is there a different setting on my camera I should use??  I have a Canon Rebel XTi if that helps. 

For now I’m going back to my old setting in jpeg until I really figure this out!

Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes – Egg Free!

Happy Spring folks!!

Sometimes I sit down at the lap top and just stare at the screen for a while…I hate that.

But that’s one great thing about having a blog!  It’s mine, and if I want to take a little break I can :)  Of course I miss it, but it’s not worth stressing over. 

Also, it’s pretty amazing how fast time flies…it does NOT feel like it’s been over a week since I last posted!  Craziness.

Now, where were we?

Let’s see, this past weekend was St. Patty’s day, and while I tried to avoid the craziness that ensues in Boston, I did spend it with friends and some delectable cupcakes! 

My friend hosted a housewarming/St Patty’s day party and I was in the mood to make some cupcakes.


I went with a popular combo: Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Baileys butter cream.  However, I opted to make an EGG-free version as my friend’s daughter is allergic!

I’ve made egg-free muffins before, but they are usually meant to be a “healthy” treat.  I still wanted these to taste like classic chocolate cupcakes!

Most egg-free recipes I saw didn’t call for an egg replacer, but I opted to add a flax-egg anyways.

Of course the real stars were:



You don’t taste the beer in the cake, but it does make for a super moist cupcake!

Egg-less Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Taste and Tell

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • scant 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 flax-egg (1 T ground flax + 3 T water)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 T vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350. 

Make flax egg and set aside.  Takes 15-30 min to “set”

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add stout and bring to a simmer.  Add cocoa powder and whisk together until combined.  Remove from heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. 

Once butter/cocoa mixture has cooled a bit, stir in sour cream, flax egg, and vinegar.  Pour this mixture into the flour mixture.  Mix gently to combine batter. 

Line cupcake tin, or MINI cupcake tin! 

Fill each cup about 2/3 – 3/4 full.

Bake mini cupcakes for 9-12 minutes, regular cupcakes for 16-20 min.

Once cool, I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe for the butter cream using salted butter (of course) and only 2 T of Baileys + 1 T of half and half.  You could definitely still taste the Baileys but I don’t like my baked goods overly boozy tasting. 



Not only does using a pastry bag + tip make them look prettier, but it is so much faster!





The cake and the frosting were such a delicious combination!!!  I LOVE butter cream :)

Didn’t miss the egg one bit!  These cupcakes still held together great. 


I think everyone loved them as much as I did :) 

I know cupcakes are like “so last year” but I still love making them…especially in mini sizes!

And somehow it’s already bed time ;)  I’m telling you…time is FLYING!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Remember when I went to Maine for a lovely weekend in February??  Well I mentioned it in my post but I had the most delicious salad that weekend at a restaurant called Walter’s in the Old Port. 

I’ve been wanting to re-create this salad ever since.

My grandmother’s birthday party was on Saturday!

Looking good for 87 right?? 

I wanted to bring a salad or some sort of veggie dish, as I knew we were having a Turkey-dinner-esque meal.  I wanted something fresh and light!

Plus there are so many great cooks in my family that there is always that unspoken pressure to come up with something different and delicious.

So I figured it was as good a time as any to try that salad!


If you’re making a large quantity of salad I highly recommend using a food processor with the slicing attachment to shred all the Brussels sprouts.  Otherwise, I’d just use a sharp knife and thinly slice them.

Another tip I learned after the fact was that you might want to cut out a bit of the core first.


I ended up with some of those thicker slices like in the photo above.  Not that you can’t eat it, but if eating raw they are better if that thick middle part is cut out.   

I prepped the Brussels sprouts the night before.

The next morning I cooked the bacon (in the oven), sliced the onion, made the dressing and assembled everything else when I got to the party.




Brussels, onion, and bacon ready to go!



When I arrived at the party, I added the almonds, cherries, and grated the cheese fresh on top!

Then tossed with dressing:


I left the nuts in a small dish to the side as some people can’t eat them.

I LOVED it!  I tweaked the recipe as written below to have a tad more honey and olive oil than what I had made.  Make sure to taste the dressing as you go to make sure it’s as sweet or sour as you like it!

Here’s what I did for a big party size salad:

Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 2 lbs (or just under) Brussels Sprouts, washed, stalks trimmed
  • 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 slices apple smoked bacon (nitrate free!)
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup Marcona almonds (or your favorite nut!)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, about 2 oz, grated
  • 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-4 Tbsp lemon juice (just from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Shred or thinly slice Brussels sprouts (use food processor or knife).  This can be done the day before.  Set aside in large bowl.
  2. Cook bacon until just crisp (I did this in the oven).  Drain on paper towels then give the bacon a rough chop.
  3. Thinly slice red onion and add to the Brussels sprouts.
  4. Prepare dressing in a small mason jar…easy to transport and then just shake it up real good.  Otherwise prepare in a bowl and whisk until combined and frothy.  Taste and tweak as needed.
  5. Pour dressing all over salad.  Add in bacon, cherries, almonds, and grate the cheese on top.
  6. Toss all together..SERVE!


Other goodies from the party…


Fresh Challah bread from the bakery!  No, my family is not even Jewish…we just love good bread!! 



Feast!!  Unpictured was also a HUGE platter full of twice baked potatoes!!!  Haven’t had one of those in ages and it was delish!!   

Hope you try the salad!  I want to try it again and maybe make it as a warm salad :)


It’s beginning to feel a lot like SPRING around here :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Owl Station: Sushi & Sake Bombs

This past Saturday night was yet another 30th birthday party to add to the list this year… but I think this one wins as most fun and possibly the  funniest night I’ve had in a while!!

My blog-friend-turned-real-friend Elizabeth turned the big 3-0 last week and her awesome fiancé, Nick, threw her a fabulous birthday dinner with friends, fun, and ridiculous cupcakes.

Oh and this…

but I think that was a spontaneous addition at the end of dinner ;)

The groups of us met at a new sushi restaurant in South Boston. 
Owl Station hasn’t been open for that long, but apparently Nick and Elizabeth are already frequent customers and now I can see why…the food was AWESOME! 

Since sushi is a great food to share, Nick went ahead and ordered a bunch of appetizers and rolls for the table to try. 

I was a little nervous at first because even though I love sushi…I’m still not too adventurous with the actual raw fish…aside from tuna and other common choices.  Lucky for me Nick went with an array of delicious, interesting, and what I would call FUN sushi!

We started with…



Gyoza…the pork and vegetable options.  These are the veggies ones:




There was also a delicious appetizer of thinly sliced rare beef and tuna…delish.

Oh and there were drinks…


They just kept arriving magically at the table!  That scorpion bowl was dangerously good.

Elizabeth, Tina, and I dominated the bowl…


And I discovered a Sake that I really love!


I sipped a small glass during the meal! 

Then the sushi train made it’s grand entrance…


Those amazing specimens were Volcano Rolls:  Deep fried seaweed wrapped crab meat, shrimp, avocado, asparagus, with spicy tuna & tobiko on top. 

I’m still dreaming of those volcano rolls!


On top is Vegetable Dreaming: sweet potato topped with avocado & mango

These were little bites of veggie heaven.  Mango, sweet potato, and avocado??  YES!

The bottom is Red Sox Maki: Lobster, asparagus, avocado, cucumber, lettuce, tobiko, & spicy mayo.

Almost like the lobster roll of sushi.  I was getting so full by the time those came out I only had a bite of one but it was very good!

Another favorite of the night was this masterpiece


The Phoenix: Soy paper wrapped with spicy soft shell crab, asparagus, avocado, toiko, and spicy crab stick on top.

The soft shell crab was incredible.  So flavorful!!

There was also spicy tuna rolls, a delicious one made with scallops, California rolls, and avocado rolls. 


But we weren’t done yet.



Sushi Cupcakes!!!


Nick ordered these adorable confections in three flavor options for the group: chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet.

Look at the detail!


the “rice” was coconut.

And if we weren’t stuffed enough…


Sake bombs for all.  I’m not even sure these are on the menu but our waitress was awesome and made it happen.  Nick and his friend assembled.

My first Sake Bomb!


Actually pretty good.  At least not as bad as I was thinking…I mean it’s not like a car bomb where there’s fear of curdling. 

IMG_0878 (900x675)

The night just got funnier from there, including lots of shenanigans… trust falls?

IMG_0898 (675x900)   

I’ll leave it at that ;)

I had such a fun time, but even more excited that I have a new favorite sushi place!!  I’m already dying to go back to Owl Station!! 

What’s your favorite type of sushi… are you a purist and stick to a variety of raw fish?  Or do you enjoy the “fun” stuff ;)