Archive | November, 2016

Prague- the Most Magical Place on Earth

21 Nov

For those of you seeking alternate countries of residence, please add the Czech Republic to your list. MrKef and I visited for a few days in late August, and every time we told someone about our upcoming trip, they responded, “Oh it’s so magical! You will love it!” At the risk of being trite, it was magical and we did really, really love it. So much so that I have 10,000 photos, so buckle up for a long post.

We got in pretty early and found our amazing AirBnB easily. We were thrilled to find it above a wonderful cafe and across the street from a concert hall, which meant that every morning there was classical music drifting up our one-way cobblestone street. Magic!

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As if the location wasn’t enough, the cafe was serving my favorite Ottolenghi recipe— eggplant with a tangy yogurt sauce plus pomegranates and balsamic vinaigrette.

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We moseyed allllll the way uphill to a monastery and stunning view:

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MrKef was loving it!

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We decided just to keep strolling and get the lay of the land. Of course, we found the Hop on Hop Off Bus:img_6401

and realized we were only a few blocks away from Prague Castle:img_6403which, in addition to its stylish guards, also boasts a beautiful view and… a Starbucks?

img_6405Because he is the world’s friendliest man, MrKef was making friends left and right:

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Prague is split by the Vltava River, and the city is crisscrossed by bridges. One of the many photo-op attractions of the city is the Charles Bridge, which has been open since 1402! We walked across and, even with all the other tourists and hawkers, it was spectacular.

The bridge opens right up into the Old Town, and we made no bones about sampling Prague’s famous gingerbread as we explored.

One of the most wonderful things about Prague is the river life– all along the river are these little beer garden-type establishments where you just post up with friends and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Some of them have live music, and a few have food– but mostly the idea is just to soak up the sun and enjoy the fact that you are alive. Bonus points if you’re with this guy:

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About 80,000 steps later, we were ready for dinner. We picked Vkolkovne, Pilsner Urquell’s restaurant. We were fans!

The next morning, I did what I do best: drink coffee, eat vegetables, and wait for MrKef to be ready.

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Eventually, we made it back up the monastery to check out the exhibits there. But don’t think it was all beautifully hand-pressed books, historic paintings, and beautiful architecture — our trusty Lonely Planet guide also alerted us to the existence of a calcified whale penis on display (not pictured here because you really couldn’t tell what it was)!

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I was ready for lunch and MrKef was ready for a beverage, but luckily we were in Prague so both could be taken to go! I found delicious zucchini noodles at this raw vegan cafe down the street from the monastery, and MrKef found JimBeam in a can. We were both in our own personal heaven.

Fueled by our favorite vices, we walked back over the bridge and toured the Jewish Quarter, which is by far one of the best in Europe (that I’ve been to, anyway). Apparently Hitler planned to turn the Jewish Quarter of Prague into the “Museum of the Extinct Race,” and so he carefully preserved the synagogues there and brought in many important Jewish artifacts from all over Europe. Luckily that’s now how things turned out and, in an ironic twist of “eff you, fascist mother effer,” it is now one of the most thriving centers of Jewish life in Europe, with 7 synagogues from various periods, a stunning cemetery, and lots of fascinating historical exhibits.

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From there, we went over to the main square to go to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower and see the famous Astronomical Clock.

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As you can see, the views were pretty stunning. Need some more Prague magic? There was this guy with the world’s biggest bubble maker down in the square, and you could hear kids’ gleeful laughter all the way at the top of the tower:

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Post-tower, we decided on a boat tour.

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Another 80,000 step day in. We tried to have dinner at this vegetarian-friendly place by our apartment but it was sadly closed (foiled again!), so we ended up in this total hole in the wall where pretty much the only vegetarian thing on the menu was Cider, so I drank dinner that night!

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Not sold on Prague yet? Hold on to your hats. They have this INSANE street treat called trdelnik. It’s grilled puff pastry filled with frozen yogurt and topped with nutella. Um, WOW.

As shown in the bottom right, MrKef was thrilled; I was petrified. We had a few more drinks on the square and called it a night–we were pooped!

We’ll save the second half of the trip for another day–too much magic for one post!

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A Cranberry Lime Pie to Unite Your Thanksgiving Table

16 Nov

America is more polarized than ever. We’re embroiled in an age-old Us vs Them battle that is steeped in tradition and intractable in scope.  This November, it’s more and more obvious that there are two kinds of people: Thanksgiving Purists and Thanksgiving Innovators.

I come from a family of Purists. We’ve eaten the same menu every year for as long as I can remember, with some slight changes here and there for family circumstance–the absence of marshmallow cranberries (…yes, cranberries) after my beloved grandmother died, the one-time-only addition of Tofurkey the first year I was a vegetarian (never again), and the re-imagination of MamaKef’s amazing corn casserole to suit a gluten-free, sugar-free crowd (best. sidedish.ever), to name a few.

Despite my traditional roots, I’ve always been drawn to the new-take-on-an-old-trick recipes. Luckily for HomeBrewKef, Purist in Chief, the danger of my taking over Thanksgiving and replacing all the onions with shallots has passed, as I go to MrKef’s family for Thanksgiving these days. But that doesn’t stop me from buying the November Bon Appetit the SECOND it hits newsstands and drooling over all the re-imagined favorites in absurdly-titled articles like “Have a Thai Thanksgiving This Year.”

In the spirit of compromise and reconciliation, today’s recipe is a wonderful blend of the familiar and the new. To please the old guard, we’ve got hallmarks of fall favorites in the gingersnap crust and luscious cranberry curd, while the idea of adding some citrus to an otherwise apple- and cinnamon-laden dessert table is catnip to those of us desperate for change. In short: this looks like Thanksgiving and tastes like Key Lime Pie, and that’s a ticket everyone should be able to get behind.

For once, my creation was extremely attractive and I was super excited to share a beautiful picture of my pie here… but your girl ChefKef lives in a small apartment with limited storage space and has only one pie dish, which just so happens to be the exact same beautiful shade of cranberry as this pie. Not ideal. Luckily, Bon Appetit staged an entire photo shoot just so I could share a picture of the pie–so thanks to them for this verbatim recipe and picture. Rest assured I used the SAME gold snake in my photo shoot, too.

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I made mine gluten and sugar free just to really antagonize the Purists out there– you do whatever will keep you sane and your close-minded Uncle Al happy this year.

Cranberry-Lime Pie

Ingredients

–For the crust

  • About 16 gingersnap cookies (For gf/sf: I made these with Cup4Cup and coconut sugar)
  • 1 c pecans
  • 4 TBS unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 TBS light brown sugar (I used coconut sugar)

–For the filling

  • 12 ounces fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries, plus 4 ounces (about 1¼ cups) for serving (bolded because I missed this and had to make a second trip)
  • 2.5 c granulated sugar, divided (I used coconut sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
  • 2 tsp lime zest, finely grated and divided
  • ½ c fresh lime juice (I used the stuff that comes in the weird plastic lime and it was fine)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • Whipped cream (for serving)

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse cookies in a food processor until very finely ground (you should have about 1 cup). Add pecans; pulse until finely ground. Add butter and brown sugar; pulse to combine. Transfer to a deep 9″ pie dish. Using a measuring cup, press firmly onto bottom and up sides of dish. Bake until firm and slightly darkened in color, 10–15 minutes. If crust slides down sides, gently press back up. Let cool.
  2. Bring 12 oz. cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Reduce heat; simmer until cranberries burst and most of the liquid evaporates, 12–15 minutes. Let cool. Purée in a blender/food processor until very smooth.

    3. Cook purée, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lime juice, salt, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tsp. lime zest in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (bowl should not touch water), stirring with a rubber spatula and scraping down sides of bowl often, until curd thickens and coats spatula, 8–10 minutes. (Ed. Note: this is no small arm workout, so get ready to sweat.) Let cool until just warm.

    4. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat curd, adding butter a piece at a time and incorporating after each addition, until curd looks lighter in color and texture, about 5 minutes. Scrape into crust and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

    For the beautiful garnish: Bring ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add remaining 4 oz. cranberries and cook until barely starting to soften, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Chill until no longer sticky, 20–30 minutes.

    Toss remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. lime zest in a small bowl. Toss cranberries in lime sugar. Top pie with cranberries; serve with whipped cream.

Mr Kef’s Crowning Achievement: Sourmilk Donuts

2 Nov

Better than the muffin man– I’m married to the donut man!

It’s no secret that MrKef is happier as the breadwinner than the breadmaker in this family. He doesn’t venture into the strange room with the oven and dishwasher often, but when he does, it usually makes for a good story. For some of his previous shenanigans, check out the hilarious crime scene I woke up to last time he cooked, and his Jamdown-wowing  goat stew.

Over the weekend MrKef realized he had let this fancy milk he buys at Jrink go one day too long in the fridge. It’s entirely too expensive to go to waste, so he did some googling and found that one can make all kinds of bready bakedgood with milk that’s gone bad. Who knew?

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These are the definition of easy- if you can stir ’em, you can make ’em. In case you don’t believe me, we made these after I had a full day of clinical, after I went on my first run in three weeks (#praiseHim), and before we went to Aar-zanaKef’s pumpkin carving party (and yes- if you were wondering- that is the first joint-couple Kef name to grace these pages).

We got the original idea from this recipe–what is reflected below are the few tweaks we made to thicken up the batter and speed the whole thing up by making them munchkins instead of full fledged donuts.

Sour Milk Donuts

Ingredients

  • 4 .5-5.5 c flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1.25 sugar
  • 3 TBS shortening
  • 1 c sour milk (use insanely fancy milk your husband didn’t drink , or put 1 TBS  vinegar or lemon juice in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add milk to fill. Let sit for 5 minutes and milk will sour.)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Oil- enough for deep drying
  • 0.5-1 c sugar
  • 2-4 TBS cinnamon, to taste

Assembly

  1. Mix together 4.5 flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl combine sugar, lard, milk and eggs. Add wet ingredients to dry ones, and mix well. Batter should be thick enough that it can be rolled into balls–if it’s not, add the remaining flour as needed, a quarter cup at a time. You’re in the ballpark when it the dough is a bit sticky but doesn’t make an absolute mess of your hands.
  2. Roll the dough into munchkin-sized balls. They will get expand in oil, so be judicious.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat–the oil should be at least 3-4 inches deep, so choose your pot accordingly. When oil is hot, add doughnuts and cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping over halfway. Cool on brown paper or paper towels.
  4. Mix sugar and cinnamon to taste and roll each donut in the mixture before serving. Serve warm or room temp.
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