Wednesday, October 28, 2009
After flipping around for recipe inspiration, I concluded that there aren't really radical differences. So, I closed the computer and made up my own by drawing on whatever information had remained in my brain. The ones that recommended roasting squash first definitely sounded tastier, so I started with that. And peeling a whole squash was something I'd never done so I thought it was be good to mark that off my culinary checklist. I would have simply roasted the halves, which some recipes recommended, and I'm sure would be just fine.
The amount of other veggies are simply based on what was on hand. I mean, seriously, does anyone ever measure out "1/2 Cup diced onion?" I never do. Just cut it up and throw it all in. Unless, it seems to be in gross excess, then I'll still chop up the whole onion and put half in the fridge for something else. Though, I must confess, this approach of 'use what you have' ended up bitting me in the rear. I had half of a (4 C) container of chicken broth in the fridge which I discovered was not enough for a proper vegetable:liquid ratio to yield what one would call a 'soup.' It was more like a vegetable puree. It still tasted amazing, even if it the consistency reminded me of something I spooned into Charlotte's mouth as a baby.
Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from an assortment of recipes
1 butternut squash (2 lbs)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage (or 1 Tablespoon fresh sage)
4 C chicken broth
salt & pepper
1. Heat oven to 400. Peel squash and cut into 1" cubes. Toss with olive oil and roast for 30-40 minutes, until carmelized.
2. Sautee onion, carrot and celery in a pot on the stove over medium heat until softened, 8-10 minutes. Add roasted squash, sage, salt & pepper and stir. Add 3 C chicken broth and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Use immersion blender to puree until smooth. Adding additional 1C chicken broth as needed to yield desired consistency.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
4 cloves garlic, pressed or mashed
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
4-5 chicken thighs (with bone & skin)
3-4 chicken breasts (with bone & skin)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 teaspoon pimenton (or regular paprika)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 bay leaf
1 pound chopped tomatoes
1 12 oz bottle beer
1 1/2 C chicken broth
2 C long grain white rice
1/2 C manzanilla (green olives) with pimento, halved
1/4 C capers
1/2 C piquillo peppers, roughly chopped
1. Combine ingredients for marinade, then add chicken pieces to coat. I'd prefer to use all thighs, but some folks in this house prefer white meat, so I use both for this recipe. Set aside (in the fridge) for half an hour or so.
2. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and green pepper and cook until softened. Move veggies to the side, increase heat to medium-high and add chicken in a single layer on the bottom. Let cook, undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, then flip and leave for another 3-4 minutes. (I needed to do this in two batches because my pot is not wide enough.) Remove all chicken from pot.
3. Add pimenton, oregano, cumin and rice to the pot. Stir to combine so spices coat rice and vegetables. Add tomatoes, manzanillas, capers, piquillo peppers, beer and chicken broth. Return chicken to the pot and try to ensure it is covered by liquid. Add bay leaf, cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low.
4. After 20 minutes or so, remove chicken from the pot, (and the bay leaf if you can find it, if not don't forget to pull it out later.) If rice is too dry or sticky, add additional 1/4 C broth. Replace lid. Remove the skin from chicken, and remove chicken from bone by using two spoons to pull it apart into large, bite-sized pieces.
5. Return chicken to the pot and gently mix everything together. If rice is tender, turn off heat and let sit for five minutes before serving.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Babka is a dessert of Russian-Jewish origin made with a yeast dough that is rolled/layered with chocolate or cinnamon. Though, for this version, the chocolate and cinnamon are included together. Why be forced to choose between these two? Earlier this year, my sister and I were in NY for my grandmother's funeral (a wonderful lady of Russian-Jewish origin) and tried to decide whether we preferred the chocolate babka or the cinnamon babka that friends had brought from Susan Lawrence. I don't remember if we came to a conclusion, but I do recall how amazing they tasted.
Around this same time, I signed up to do some beta-testing, er, beta-baking, recipes for Peter Reinhart's new bread book. (My name is in the credits - buy a copy!) After completing my first 'assignment,' we were allowed to pick subsequent doughs from a list, and I was so excited to see babka! I confess, I was a bit daunted by the amount of time it took. I've made his recipe twice, and it is a two day process in our house. Or, I suppose it could be done in a single day if you don't have children, or if you strategically plan your time out of the house around the multiple rise times.
Chocolate Cinnamon Babka
Adapted from Peter Reinhart, though I'm also curious to try Martha Stewart's Babka one of these days, but am more than a bit scared by the pound of butter and more than two pounds of chocolate!
2 Tablespoons instant yeast
3/4 C milk, lukewarm
1 stick butter, room temp
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 egg yolks
3 1/4 C all-purpose flour
less than 1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 stick butter, cold
Streusal Topping (optional)
1/2 all purpose flour
1/2 C brown sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Sprinkle the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Stir to dissolve the yeast and set aside for about five minutes.
2. Cream the soft butter with the sugar using the paddle attachment on medium speed, until smooth. While the mixture is creaming, add the vanilla to the egg yolks and whisk lightly to break up the yolks. Slowly add the egg yolk/vanilla mixture to the sugar mixture in four installments. When all the eggs are incorporated increase the mixer to medium high speed and continue mixing for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy. Turn off the mixer, exchange paddle for dough hook and add the flour, salt, and lukewarm milk and yeast. Reduce the speed to low and mix for approximately 2 to 3 minutes to make a soft, supple, tacky dough.
3. Dust the work surface with flour and transfer the dough. Knead the dough by hand for an additional two minutes, adding more flour, if needed, to make the dough pliable. The dough should be a beautiful golden color and feel soft and supple, “like a baby’s bottom.” Form it into a ball and place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough ferment at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours. It will rise somewhat, but will not double in size.
4. While the dough is rising, prepare the chocolate cinnamon filling by grinding the frozen chocolate in a food processor until the chocolate is nearly powdered and add in the cinnamon. Cut the cold butter into 8 to 10 pieces, add it to the food processor, and pulse until the butter is evenly cut and dispersed into the chocolate mixture to make a streusel-like chocolate crumble. Set the filling aside at room temperature for later use.
5. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the risen dough into a 16” square, anywhere between 1/4” and 1/8” thick. Use a metal pastry blade or a plastic bowl scraper to lift and continually dust under the dough to prevent sticking. Sprinkle the chocolate/cinnamon/butter mixture over the entire surface, breaking up any clumps so that it covers the surface of the dough evenly (leave a 1/4" border around the full perimeter without chocolate). Roll up the dough like a jelly roll log and roll the log back and forth to extend its length a few more inches.
6. For coffee cake-style, grease a bundt with spray oil, wrap the log around the tube and press the dough into the pan to connect the ends of the log. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for two to three hours, until the loaf fills the pan or is about 1 1/2 times larger than when first formed. You can either refrigerate it overnight at this point or proceed to baking. If holding it overnight, remove the dough from the refrigerator approximately two hours before baking to take off the chill.
7. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Poke a few holes in the top of the loaf with a toothpick to eliminate possible air pockets between the layers of chocolate and dough. Brush the top of the loaf with egg wash and top the loaf with streusel. Bake for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan and continue baking until the top is a rich dark brown. The loaf will begin to brown quickly because of the sugar, but it won’t burn, so bake until it is golden on both the top and bottom, about 50 to 60 minutes total time. The center of the loaf should register approximately 190ºF and the sides of the loaf should be a rich golden brown, not white. The loaf will sound hollow when thumped. The sides may feel soft because of the air pockets caused by the spirals. The bread will soften as it cools. Allow the bread to cool at least 90 minutes before serving—best served at room temperature after the chocolate has had time to set.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Even without making your own cheese, this recipe is easy and delicious. It was the first time I made it in our home, but will definitely be adding it in to the rotation, even when it is not for a birthday dinner. If you are interested in making cheese at home, definitely visit the cheese queen where you can order supplies.
Adapted from an old newspaper clipping which mom scanned & emailed
1 lb ziti (seems that most pasta comes in 14.5oz boxes these days, that's fine. I used penne rigate as Barrilla doesn't make a whole grain version of ziti.)
1 lb ricotta cheese (again, hidden inflation means this is probably 15oz. Or make your own ricotta using 1/2 gallon of milk.)
1/2 C parmesan cheese
3-4 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
1/4 C parsley
1 qt jar pasta sauce
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cook pasta according to directions and drain. Mix ricotta, eggs, parmesan, parsley and tomato sauce. Add cooked pasta and combine. Transfer mixture to a greased (cooking spray) casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Stepping back and thinking about this dish objectively, it's really a dessert just masquerading as a side dish! Like apple pie without the crust. Fruit, sugar, juice... what's not to like? Use the varieties of apples best suited for pies and baking, as you definitely want these to hold their integrity and not turn into mush during the saute process. Whenever I make this now, I try to remember to buy a ridiculous amount of apples, because this goes so fast. For those who live near orchards now, or places where fresh apples are showing up at the farmers' markets, I'm quite envious.
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup white grape juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch dry mustard
Melt the butter in a clean skillet over medium-low heat. Add the apples and coat in the butter; cook and stir for 8 minutes to give them some color. Toss in the raisins and add the juice, stirring to scrape up the brown bits. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and dry mustard; simmer for 10 minutes or until the apples break down and soften.
Friday, October 16, 2009
We never ate ribs growing up, so I was a bit at a loss as to how to prepare them. When in doubt, Martha has the answers. Not only did her guidance produce perfectly cooked ribs, the homemade BBQ is amazing. Seriously. I served a platter of these ribs to guests this summer and they kept coming back for more helpings.
Homemade BBQ sauce is awesome. You get to decide what goes in and (more importantly) what doesn't. This recipe makes four cups, which is more than enough and means you'll be able to store additional sauce in the fridge for next time.
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons mustard powder
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
As for the frites, or fries, I don't own a deep fryer and nor do I want to own one. I do know the secret to really awesome fries is frying them twice - once at a lower heat to cook the potatoes through, and a second time at a higher temp to crisp up the outside. For me, oven roasting in the way to go for making fries at home.
Back to the mussels, the real star of the show! I think they tend to release easier from the shell than clams do, making this even more kid-friendly. A term I use for how little interaction is required on the part of an adult during mealtime. During cooking, the mussels give off their juices which combines with the wine and makes a heavenly liquid that pools in the bottom of your bowl. Wise Spencer knows this is the most amazing part of the dish. Be sure to serve with a crusty European bread to soak it up - usually I buy ciabatta, but this week I discovered a freshly-baked French batard just asking to be taken home and served with this meal.
Side note: I am continually amazed & impressed at what can be found at our local grocery store.
Side note #2: If you are anti-cooking with alcohol for your children, substitute either some seafood stock (from the soup aisle) or bottled clam juice (near canned tuna.) And when I get around to posting penne a la vodka, with a full cup of vodka, we'll talk about other substitutions.
no specific source
1 lb fresh mussels, scrubbed & cleaned
2 large shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2/3 C white wine
2T olive oil
Heat oil over medium heat and sweat shallots and garlic. Add wine and reduce for a few minutes. Then, crank up heat, add all mussels at once (try to get them in an even layer) and cover the pan. After 7-8 minutes, all mussels should be opened. If not, wait another minute or two, and any that still have not opened should be discarded. Remove from heat, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately with french fried potatoes (frites) or crusty European-style bread.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Now comes the funny part. Spencer climbed into his seat while I buckled Charlotte in the high chair. On the table was a lovely pile of crepes alongside a fragrant filling of shiitake mushrooms. I looked at the two plates, and realized that I was not actually sure the proper way to combine them! I could only remember eating a crepe one time before - at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas after taking break from playing craps, which was actually taking a break from playing hockey, and that crepe was a monstrous size, filled with gooey chocolate, folded in quarters on the plate and topped with whipped cream and more chocolate. But, thinking more about it, I don’t believe I’d ever order savory crepes in my life. Now that I have lived more than half of my years in Texas (gasp) I did what came naturally – placed the filling down the middle of a crepe, rolled it up, and handed one to each kid to eat with their hands like a taco. Spencer took a bite and commented “Oh mom! Did you realize it was going to taste this good?”
So, it turns out that crepes are easy to make. Who knew??
Crepe batter recipe followed exactly, and filling inspired from Mushroom Crepe Cakes
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
Butter, or spray, for coating the pan
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients (excepting the butter for coating the pan) and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
Heat a small non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling.
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 lb shiitake mushroom, cleaned & chopped
1 large onion, diced
1/3 C milk
3-4 oz shredded Gruyere
salt and pepper
In a large saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and sweat the onion. Add the mushrooms and additional 1 tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add the milk and reduce by half. Add the cheese and melt. The consistency we're looking for is similar to that of a potpie.
Note: The crepe batter recipe will yield about 20 crepes, and the amount of mushroom filling will fill about 10. Increase filling if desired, or use remaining crepes for a dessert application.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
My inspiration for making this dish came from some truly awesome-looking green beans at the market. Awesome enough to entice me put back the asparagus from my basket (that was on sale!) and the fact that Jim is still in Paris. After making Poule au Pot and Potatoes Lyonnaise on Sunday, I wanted to add something new to the table when serving leftovers for dinner on Monday.
I kept this somewhat simple so the green beans were the star, and included a few of my favorite ingredients commonly found in a green bean salad. For me, this meant shallots soaked in red wine vinegar for an hour or so beforehand to help mellow the bite (a technique I learned from my sister,) chopped walnuts (didn't get around to toasting them, which would have been preferable,) and some amazing artisanal hand-made herb chevre I found at the grocery story, called "Femme Fatale" from Austin-based Cheesy Girl. Who would have guessed that the shallots turned out to be the start ingredient? I must say, even though yelling at the table is generally not a good thing, it made me smile inside to hear not quite two-year old Charlotte demanding more "Shallots! Shallots!"
French Green Bean Salad
Adapted from a lot of similar recipes
1 pound green beans, or haricot verts if you want to play up the French theme
2 large shallots, sliced extremely thin
2 oz of your favorite chevre, crumbled
1/4 C roughly chopped walnuts, toasted
red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
Mix thinly sliced shallots with enough vinegar to cover, 2-3 tablespoons, and set aside. Wash green bean and trim ends. Steam (or boil) until crisp-tender, then plunge into ice water bath to stop cooking and set the bright color. Dry beans (salad spinner or towel) and toss with shallots, vinegar & oil (to taste) and plenty of salt & pepper. Top with toasted nuts and crumbled chevre.
Related, does anyone have experience with the new 'green' non-stick cookware that has emerged in the last year or so??
I bounced around between two recipes to arrive at my own combination, driven by quantities of ingredients on hand (a little less than 1/2 a 5 lb. bag of potatoes, and two large onions in the pantry) and trying to not use an entire stick of butter in a single side dish. The end result could have been more heavily salted, which also makes me lean towards trying a version of this with bacon next time! One recipe called for thick (1/2") sliced potatoes and the other for shredded. I met in the middle with thin (4mm) slices but whichever approach you choose, I highly recommend using a food processor. I've had my Cuisinart for 15 years and love it.
Adapted from Classic Lyonnaise Potatoes Recipe and Pan-Fried Potato Cake with Onions and Bacon
2 pounds baking potatoes, like russets, peeled and sliced
2 onions, julienne
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water. Bring the potatoes up to a boil and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, drain, and cool. Skip this step if you are using shredded potatoes.
In a large ovenproof saute pan, heat 2T butter. When the butter is hot, add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the onions until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Move the onions into a bowl.
Place the pan back on the stove and melt 2T butter. When the butter has melted, cover the bottom of the pan with 1/3 of the potatoes. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Cover the first layer of potatoes with 1/2 of the onions. Cover the onions with 1/3 of the potatoes. Season with more salt and pepper. Repeat the layering with final 1/2 of the onions and 1/3 of potatoes. Sautee 10 - 12 minutes until to bottoms are golden brown. If you are feeling adventurous, slide the potatoes and onions onto a platter, then place the inverted skillet (or oven-safe dish) on top and flip so the crispy side is on top. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.
Using a spatula, gently lift the potatoes out of the pan and place on a platter. Garnish with parsley.
Monday, October 5, 2009
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion , chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small stalk celery , chopped medium (about 1/4 cup)
5 medium garlic cloves , peeled and trimmed
1 bay leaf
1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
Friday, October 2, 2009
Jim is affectionately referring to this week as his European Death March. After two days in Paris, he'll end up traveling every night and working in four cities in four days. Ugh. Last time he was out of town for a week, the kids and I had a "Seafood Extravaganza" as that does not rank high on Jim's list of food prefences. I thought about doing S.E. Part II, as we didn't get around to linguini vongole or cioppino last month. But instead, decided that this time the kids and I would follow his travels through Western Europe via the culinary spectrum.
Paris, a city I've never visited as a tourist (and have avoided international routing through CDG) is almost too easy a location to begin with. So many choices for great French food. How to pick? Two main factors drove Saturday night's selection: 1) Charlotte attended a birthday party that wouldn't get us home until 4:00 and 2) leftover baby swiss cheese and applewood smoked ham from making chicken cordon bleu earlier this week. I have no idea why chicken cordon bleu has become my 'go to' meal for friends with new babies. I think the cheesiness and the wine, & just being happy to eat a meal that one wouldn't have time to prepare with a new infant around.
- Butter the bread, rather than putting butter in the pan itself.
- Use a big pan to make all of the sandwiches at once. I LOVE my big Calphalon griddle Jim bought for me about five years ago. I really have no idea how I made it so long without it.
- Dome it, baby.
Croque Monsieur (& Croque Provencal)
Too basic to site a source
6 slices whole wheat bread
6 slices baby swiss cheese
6 slices your favorite ham
sliced Campari tomatoes
Spread butter on three slices of bread and place on the griddle. Layer on a slice of cheese, two slices of ham, then tomato (if making Croque Provencal, which we highly recommend) and another slice of cheese. Put medium heat under the griddle and prepare the tops by buttering the remaining three pieces of bread and capping off the sandwiches. When bottoms are grilled golden brown, turn them over. Put a dome on top (skillet lids, metal bowl, whatever works to keep the heat in) until sandwich bottoms are golden brown and cheese is melted.