This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

This was probably the easiest challenge yet. But the object of the challenges is teach you something new, and this did.

Most people will probably be familiar with tuiles as the Pirouline cookies you get in tins at Trader Joes. The cookie dough is baked and then, while it is still warm, shaped. Piroulines are rolled into 'cigars' and are filled or dipped in chocolate.

For the challenge we could make any shapes we wanted and could choose between sweet or savory. Sweet tooth me, I chose sweet.

After making the batter you needed to make a stencil of the shape you chose. Then you spread the batter in a thin layer over the stencil to get the shape.

After it comes out of the oven you need to shape it while warm. The simplest thing is to lay it on a rolling pin as I did here or around a pen, which is what I did to get my 'cigars'. You can also shove them into a cup or muffin tin to get a bowl shape.

I found this to be an interesting challenge and certainly open to creativity. The batter recipe that I chose was OK. Standing alone it is pretty bland. I guess it's all about presentation. I may choose to do it again someday.
Cafe Morocco on Urbanspoon

Having grown up in Saudi Arabia I can be pretty picky about Mideastern food. Cafe Morocco gets my overwhelming support and recommendation. I've been going there for years and it is always consistent.

I do tend to go for weekday lunch. They have a more extensive menu in the evenings, but I cannot comment on that. I can only tell you some of my favorite dishes from lunch.

Ninety percent of the time I order the Kufta Hummus. This is a plate with a layer of hummus spread across it and then kufta served on top and pita bread on the side. Kufta is a spiced mix of ground beef that is often shaped onto skewers or into small balls or rolls. On this dish they are just in small lumps of ground beef. I scoop up hummus and meat onto the pita wedge and chomp away. But you have to add the pepper sauce! In the middle of each table, next to the salt/pepper, is a small container filled with their pepper sauce (for lack of a better word). It's chopped up peppers in olive oil with some additonal spices. They have to make a huge batch once a week. Sometimes it is spicier than other times. Yesterday it was quite hot. I take spoonfuls of it and mix it into my hummus. Yum!

Once in a while I feel a need for my veggies and so I'll order the Hal Salad. It's made with lots of chopped romaine, red onions, tomatoes, grilled veggies,feta cheese, olives, toasted pita chips as croutons. You can choose to add chicken, lamb, or beef on top. Then they top it with a special garlicy dressing. This is a great salad! My only complaint is that I think they put on a little too many pita chips. But it is a huge salad and very satisfying.

Another occassional item I will order is their Bell Pepper Mahshi. They call it their low carb special. You get a cooked green pepper filled with a mix of ground beef, tomatoes, onion, corn, peas, mushrooms, pine nuts, carrots and middle eastern spices. Then they drizzle over it that same great garlicy dressing. This item comes with your choice of soup or small Greek salad.

If you get the soup, it is the Harira soup, made with rice, lentils and garbanzo beans prepared in a tomato base with Moroccan spices, cilantro and cinnamon. Super thick, hearty, and filled with flavor. I would love the recipe for this and for the dessert.

If I order dessert it is always the Aish Essaraya, or Rich Man's bread. They soak bread in sugared rose water and then on top of that is a light custard topped with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios. Wonderful and different.

I always leave Cafe Morocco completely sated and happy. They are one restaurant that I return to again and again and again.

As we await tomorrow's historic event I thought I would share some pictures from the Reagan inauguration in 1981.

I often think about how children never seem to care about temperatures. They'll swim in ice water without a care. And yet, having grown up in Saudi Arabia, I know I had to have been cold. After all, standing outside all day in Washington on the 20th of January is not exactly balmy. I look at the weather report for tomorrow's events and I think how cold it must be and also that students from my school are probably going to have to endure it. I don't see snow on the ground but do remember a light layer of snow and frost when I was there.

I went to The Madeira School starting in my sophomore year. It was 1980 and Reagan was elected in November. My school is in Virginia and many politician's and dignitaries' daughters went there. Our junior year we were required to work on Capitol Hill, so we had many connections.

We were bussed to the Mall and got relatively close to the Capitol. Close enough to see them as small figures on the stage and within a protected area. I really don't remember much about the swearing in except for having to make the long walk afterward across the Mall to Pennsylvania Ave. to find our bleacher seats for the parade.

We were lucky to have bleacher seats and thus great views of the parade. The one thing I remember the most is Bush's car. We didn't really like Reagan that much and preferred Bush for some reason. So when Bush's car came by we screamed twice as loud as we did for Reagan's. We were so loud that Bush heard us, turned our way and waved in recognition of our support, even jumping up and down a bit to cheer back at us.

I know that there are millions of people who will be tuned in tomorrow. Too bad it's a work day. I'll be watching via the internet. I'm glad I got to go to an inauguration and can understand how much bigger this one is, but I'm happy to watch from afar, not battle the crowds, have a bathroom close by, and be warm!
Enotria Cafe & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

It's amazing how much Sacramento has changed over the last 20 years. I arrived after college in 1987 to a town that my California collegemates referred to as the armpit of California (along with Stockton and the whole central valley). I fell in love with Sacramento because of its size, location, and weather. During the last two decades I've seen the restaurant scene grow and then explode. Some restaurants have survived through the ups and downs and the competition. We had visited Biba a couple of months ago and now I went to Enotria for another visit.

Enotria has always been an enigma. A high end restaurant in one of the lesser Sacramento neighborhoods. Del Paso Blvd. has seen its own share of changes and improvements. At least these days you don't feel as uneasy visiting there.

We had actually gone to Enotria last Sunday to find out it was closed. I thought it might be due to the economy. Turns out they are now only open Thursdays thru Saturdays.

As far as I can tell/remember, Enotria has not remodeled at all. It still looks the same. We were seated a small two-top in the middle of the restaurant and looked upon the walls shelved with bottles of wine. The waiter says they have 1000 different wines and they have been noted in national magazines for their selection. Enotria is known for their ten wine flights if you want a little variety in your beverages. You get three small glasses that equal one regularly poured glass. My friend is a newly converted wine drinker and opted for the California Reds flight.

Our waiter has served me a couple of times. He has been working there for the last seven years and is what a good waiter should be - knowledgeable, friendly, attentive, but not overly so. His only misstep was forgetting my lemon wedges for my water. But he cleverly covered by thanking me for my reminder.

We were brought a basket of dark colored bread with what looked like olives in it. I questioned the busser because olives are another item on my 'do not like' list. Turns out it was a cranberry walnut bread. I thought it a nice change to have a sweetbread and did enjoy it. It was a moist, dense bread with a generous amount of plump cranberries. I don't think I agree with having it in my bread basket before dinner, though. I want my sweetness after my meal, not before.

We were offered the menu and I was tempted by the prix fixe menu. You got four courses for $45. But that was a bit beyond my capability in these economic times.

We started with the short rib raviolis. We received a bowl of four large raviolis well stuffed with a shredded, savory meat. They were covered in a light cream sauce and we enjoyed them immensely. Interestingly they say that their menu is changed weekly. Apparently the raviolis are either popular or a staple because Kate Washington mentions them in her SNR review back in March of '08.

My friend's entree was Pine Nut Encrusted Halibut, toasted parsley cous cous, citrus and fruit chutney, cauliflower curry broth. The halibut was cooked well but I did not care for the overall flavor combination. The sweetness of the chutney was in conflict with the curry soaked cous cous. I was happy it was not my selection.

This time I won the 'I got the better dish' contest. I had selected the Braised Pheasant, Tuscan bread pudding, winter greens, natural pan jus. My boned pheasant was moist and flavorful and I enjoyed the bread pudding, especially the bitefuls that were soaked in the au jus. The bread pudding had been baked in individual ramekins or tins and so it had a lot of nice crunchy crust to it.

We were unimpressed with the dessert menu. It just contained some standards: lava cake, creme brulee, sorbets and gelatos. We decided to save a few calories and skipped it.

For the most part Enotria still does a good job. Although we were disappointed in the halibut, other dishes we've had over the last couple of months have been very good. I think Enotria will continue to survive and hold it's place as a Sacramento staple.
Aioli Bodega Espanola on Urbanspoon

Hmm. I hope that my Spanish is right. Gotten a little rusty and need to brush up before I go to Guatamala next month. Meanwhile, we had a 'trip' to Spain by stopping at Aioli Bodega for dinner. We decided upon it by default - it was Sunday and all the restaurants we had gift certificates for were closed. After three attempts we ended up by Aioli, saw they were open, and settled in out of exhaustion.

It's been years since I last paid them a visit and it's been years that they've been there. My recollection was they've been there as long as I've been in Sacramento, which is 20+ years. Turns out that's pretty much right. They've seen Sacramento grow up and around them. Although all those years have rolled by, I don't think their interior has really changed at all. The simple, linen draped tables with votives were mostly empty and a lone gentleman sat at the bar.

We were handed a lengthy menu. There was the standard menu of tapas, a entree specials menu, and another specials of the day with a mixture of entrees and tapas. We decided on variety and selected four hot tapas plates which were followed by two desserts.

We were given a bowl of crusty bread cubes to dip into the house aioli. It was a creamy, mayonnaise-like version tinted with pimento. My friend enjoyed it as something different than butter or oil/balsamic but I thought it lacked any zing and ended up dipping in aioli and then into salt to bring out more flavor.

Our first appetizers came out as two of the four. We had each selected two. His was the Pollo Andaluz, chicken in a paprika and garlic sauce and mine was the Bourek de Casa, pastry triangles filled with ground beef.

The chicken arrived as a brothy bowl of bites of chicken breast that were tender versus dry. I've been having a bad streak with paprika, though. I just don't get the appeal of that spice and always feel that paprika based dishes are lacking any real flavor. Still, the broth was a great one for soaking the bread cubes in.

Out of the first two I preferred my choice of the meat pastries. We received three medium sized pastries. I bit into one and the pastry was flaky and light so that it melted in my mouth. The ground meat was lightly seasoned and simple and yet, with the awesome pastry, was a perfect morsel.

We had a short wait and a change of fresh plates and silverware (rather unnecessary) and then the beef short rib(s) with chimichuri and side potato salad came out. I put the 's' in brackets because I thought we were getting a couple of ribs and only a single one came out. The rib was grilled and super tender, but probably due to it being very fatty. What made it was the chimichuri, a condiment that I enjoy for that added zing of flavor. I just wish it had more of it. My friend did not care for it but did enjoy the side scoop of potato salad that was full of chopped onion and parsley and with plenty of garlic.

We had a rather long wait between three and four. This would be my only complaint about the service. Why were the four tapas served so spread out? And why was our last plate, of Ravioles de la Moda, so delayed? I decided in the end that it was because they were making the raviolis for us to order. They were spectacular and worth the wait. The raviolis were made of giant squares of homemade pasta, stuffed with herbs & cheese, and drowning in a fresh mushroom brown butter sage sauce. I don't care for mushrooms so I grabbed two of the three raviolis and allowed my friend to scoop up all the mushrooms and sauce. Mushrooms may not be my thing, but I don't mind them used as flavoring and the sauce was full of mushroom flavor that was balanced perfectly with the right amount of sage. (And I would know because I had sage overload last week in an experimental dish I tried at home - ick.)

We were stuffed by this time but had eyed the flan on the menu from the get-go. I had made my friend a flan convert a few years ago and they just couldn't say 'no' whenever they saw it on the menu. I opted to try something new and different and ordered the Pastel de Almendras, almond cake with honey and orange flower water. My friend won on 'who picked the better dish'. The flan was good, but on the light side. This is definitely a matter of personal preference, though. I happen to like a heavier, denser flan. It was definitely creamy, almost more to a creme brulee consistency than custard. Both desserts came out as generous large servings that could have been shared between two people. My almond cake was, in fact, too much. We had two wedges soaked in honey and sauce and topped with a large dollop of unsweetened whip cream. The almond cake seemed to be home-milled almonds as the cake was noticeably on the gritty side. I found it oversoaked and only took a few bites and left more than half behind. The flan, on the other hand, was completely devoured.

We were happy with our default dining pick and to be reminded of this long surviving Sacramento gem. I think I will be back again sooner rather than later.

Flan is one of those recipes that is really very easy, but I had never bothered to make it. I found this recipe on and liked that it had the addition of coconut. It also used a combination of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. It came out very good, although I'm not sure I'm liking having coconut in my flan.

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk
6 eggs
1/2 cup fresh shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Place sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook gently, without stirring, but shaking occasionally until the sugar has melted. Continue cooking until the sugar has completely melted, and turned golden brown. Pour into a large, glass baking dish. Spread the caramel evenly over the bottom of the dish, then set aside to cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.
3. Once the caramel has hardened, pour the condensed milk, evaporated milk, milk, eggs, and coconut into a blender. Blend for 3 minutes until smooth. Pour into baking dish over the caramel.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes until set. When done, remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the dish to separate the flan from the sides. Refrigerate overnight.

Coconut Milk