Thursday, December 29, 2011

I can't spell Prosciutto


I've always been a fan of foods that walk the fine line between savory and sweet. I love pulled pork, salted caramels, chocolate covered pretzels. One of my favorite combinations is fig and prosciutto on a crispy flatbread. Usually billed in a restaurant as an appetizer, this pizza never fails to deliver all the sweet and salty goodness you could ever want.

I decided to try my hand at recreating the goodness at home with Todd English's recipe which includes a healthy quarter pound of tangy Gorgonzola and a sprinkling of minty rosemary. I will definitely be making this recipe again and again.


Fig-and-Prosciutto Flatbread (inspired by Todd English)
Serves 4

Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (120-130 degrees)
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
Pizza
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fig jam
  • 1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 3 ounces sliced prosciutto
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts thinly sliced
Directions

Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°. Allow at least 45 minutes for the pizza stone to heat thoroughly.

Mix flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together in a mixing bowl. Add water and olive oil and stir till a ball of dough is formed. With a mixer or on a floured surface, knead dough for 10 minutes. Place dough in a medium mixing bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray or coated in olive oil. Cover with a dish towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

When dough has risen and oven has preheated, roll out one piece of the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal and slide the dough onto it. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Slide pizza on to the pizza stone and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Dollop fig jam all over the crust, being sure to leave a 1-inch border of dough all around. Scatter the cheese and prosciutto over the dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Transfer the flatbread to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with the sliced scallion and serve.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Catch Up

If there is a nice list and a naughty list this holiday season, I'm definitely on the bad one. Call it a break, a temporary hiatus, or just plain abandonment; I have been a very bad blogger. Between winning massive and awesome new projects at work and holiday shopping, I've been busy and absent from my favorite culinary pastime.

So, here is a quick catch up on the holidays and a favorite Christmas Cookie Recipe. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and is looking forward to a great New Year.


Early in December, Alex and I got into the Christmas spirit with a quick trip to the National Christmas Tree on our way to dinner at Cava, a delicious Greek mezze restaurant in Capitol Hill. Though it was pretty tiny and unimpressive this year due to a run in with the hurricane in September, it was still fun to see.


I got some practice in taking night time pictures of the U.S. Capitol.


Then on to Cava where we shared a bottle of Assyrtiko, tons of great food, and some Greek Vin Santo dessert wine, or as I like to call it, heaven.

Later in December, we trimmed a tree and hung our stockings with care.


And even hung a few old ornaments this year that my mom let us take home from including our ugly angel tree topper who sports a horrifyingly tacky light-up face and light up hands



Lastly, we spent the holidays with both our families in New Hampshire and Maryland. Christmas Eve dinner at my mom's consisted of salad, garlic bread, lasagna, meatballs, broccoli and birthday cake, for Jesus. We aren't super religious or anything, it was just a good way to introduce us kids to the real meaning of Christmas.


Dinner at Alex's mom's consisted of roast beef, roasted root vegetables, green beans, baked potatoes, twice baked potatoes, pop-overs, and chocolate peppermint cake. Delicious.

More things to come this week as I get to start using my kitchen Christmas presents, but for now, a perfect sugar cookie recipe, made with love, by mom.


Mom's Sugar Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sprinkles in assorted colors
Directions

Mix together all ingredients, except sprinkles, using a stand mixer. Mixture should come together as a dough ball. Roll into 4 equal size balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take one ball of dough out of the fridge and roll to 1/8 of an inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut dough into desired shapes and transfer to cookie sheet. Sprinkle cookies with sprinkles and bake for 7 minutes. Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Assalted


I find baking desserts like cakes and pies very intimidating. 

I'm much more comfortable baking cookies, cupcakes, whoopee pies, and other desserts made in batches. Making things in batches allows the cook to make slight adjustments so that by the end, the dessert is baked to perfection. With cake or pie, you just don't know what you are going to get. In addition to not being able to make adjustments, you also can't taste it ahead of serving. So, say you are bringing dessert to a friend's house, there is a chance it might be terrible, and you won't know till you get there and serve it to your unsuspecting friends. I find it all very intimidating.

Thankfully, this super easy and totally delicious Salted Caramel Cheesecake Pie didn't disappoint at a dinner with our friends, Christianne and Chris.


Salted Caramel Cheesecake Pie (from Joy the Baker)
Makes one 9-inch pie

For the Crust
  • 2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake
  • 1 pound (2 blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
For the Caramel
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place two rack in the upper and bottom third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  You’ll need a 9-inch pie plate and a 9×13-inch pan for boiling water.

To make the crust, place cookies in the bowl of a food processor and grind to a fine crumb.  If you don’t have a food processor you can crumble cookies in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin.  Once you’ve created a fine crumb, add brown sugar, salt, and butter.  Toss together, moistening all of the ginger snap crumbs.  Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and press with fingers until sides and bottom are evenly coated with crust.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you make the cheesecake filling.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.  Place a tea kettle of water on the stove top to boil.  We’re going to add hot water to the 9×13-inch pan to place under the baking cheesecake.

To make the cheesecake filling:  In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together cream cheese and granulated sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in salt and vanilla extract until well incorporated.    Add eggs, beating one at a time between each addition.  Once creamy and smooth, slowly beat in the cream, beating on medium high until creamy and luscious.  Add lemon zest if using.

Pour cheesecake mixture into the prepared cheesecake crust.

Place 9×13-inch pan in the bottom shelf  of the hot oven.  Carefully pout in hot water, and fill to 1/2 full.  Push into oven.

Place cheesecake on the upper oven shelf.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until cheesecake is browned and puffed.  When cheesecake is puffed and doesn’t have  loose giggle in the center, turn oven off and use a towel to prop the oven open slightly.  Let cheesecake rest for another 45 minutes in the cooling oven.  Remove from the oven and cool completely, for at least 4 hours.  Overnight is best.

While the cheesecake cools, make the caramel so it can cool as well.

To make the caramel, add sugar, water, and corn syrup to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice.  Bring to a boil and allow to brown.  Once sugar has browned to a medium amber color, remove from heat and immediately add heavy cream and butter.  Mixture will boil and foam.  Stir well.  Add salt and stir well to incorporate.  Caramel may seem thin… that’s ok.  Place in a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.

Pour the cooled caramel over the cooled cheesecake,  return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt then slice and serve.


For a potluck dinner at friends, what do you bring for dessert?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I can tell you once were pretty


We all know that cherry is one of my favorite food flavors. Tart, sweet, juicy, cherries just make an incredible addition to any dessert. Ever since I received a copy of Bon Appétit Desserts from my mother-in-law for my birthday, I've been eyeing the Triple Cherry Streusel Bars. Cherries, in triplicate, yes please. I finally got down to making them over the weekend and they are fabulous little bites of sweet, brandied goodness.

Triple Cherry Streusel Bars (From Bon Appétit Desserts)
Makes 2 dozen bars

Filling
  • 1 cup dried Bing cherries
  • 1 cup tart red cherry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy)
Dough and Streusel
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2⁄3 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
  • 1 3⁄4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 cup (packed) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3⁄4 cup sliced almonds
Directions

Combine cherries, cherry preserves, and kirsch in processor; blend to chunky puree.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 13×9x2-inch metal baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving overhang on both long sides. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Blend flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in processor. Add butter, vanilla, and almond extract. Blend, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and blend, using on/off turns, until mixture comes together in small clumps. Transfer 1 cup (packed) mixture to medium bowl and reserve for streusel.

Blend remaining mixture in processor until large moist clumps form. Gather dough together in large ball. Press dough over bottom of prepared pan; pierce all over with fork. Bake dough until golden, about 22 minutes; cool crust 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.


Add coconut and almonds to reserved 1 cup dough. Mix with fork, breaking streusel topping into small clumps.

Spread cherry filling over baked crust. Sprinkle streusel topping over. Bake cookie until cherry filling is bubbling and streusel topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool cookie in pan on rack. Using foil as aid, lift cookie from pan. Fold down foil sides. Cut cookie into bars.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No, I mean break-dance fighting


Up until about a week ago, canned pumpkin has been no where to be found in DC. Okay, I'm being a little dramatic, I couldn't find it at either the Harris Teeter or the Safeway supermarket near my house. So, craving all things pumpkin, I decided to go to the extreme. I went out, I bought a pumpkin and I made my own puree.

Did you know how easy this was to do? It was super easy. First you go out and buy a "pie" or "sugar" pumpkin. I'll let you in on a secret, I bought mine at Home Depot. Yep. Then you split it down the center, scoop out its guts, and place it face down in a glass baking dish. Stick it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour and you are done. Let it cool, scoop out the soft pumpkin goodness and mash. Nothing to it.

Though not quite as quick and easy as popping open a can, it is less processed, tastes fresher and you get about twice as much. When I was done, I made my favorite pumpkin whoopee pies and pumpkin hummus. Yum. I also roasted the seeds for garnish and to snack on.

Pumpkin Hummus (inspired by Running to the Kitchen)
Makes about 2 cups
  • 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
Directions

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds and pulse until coarsely chopped.


Slowly add olive oil in small increments as food processor is running until it reaches desired consistency. You may want to scrape down the sides once or twice while processing.


Have you ever made your own pumpkin puree?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Love is a Crock Pot


Lately, I've been super into my Crock Pot. It's not flashy, not exciting, but it cooks at a low heat day in and day out and won’t fade.

We've also been watching a lot of Party Down.

If you've never seen Party Down, you should start tomorrow. Here's what you should do. Step one, wake up,  head to your kitchen, and quickly throw all of the following ingredients in your Crock Pot. Step two, go to work then come home. Step three, drop your bags, wash your hands, and toast some tortillas. Step four turn on your TV, start up your Netflix Watch Instantly, and find Party Down. Step five, top your tortillas, grab a fork, and get ready for a long night on the couch. Best grab yourself a beer or two also because you aren't going to want to get up and miss a moment of the hilarity about to ensue.

There is no rule that says you can't have fun on a Tuesday night.

Oh and thank you to Allie and Tyler for helping me fall in love with Adam Scott again and again.

Crock Pot Tostadas (adapted from A Cambridge Story)
Serves 4-6
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 16-oz can black beans
  • 1 16-oz can kidney beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3/4 lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed lean
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 ounces light cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 4 tortillas for serving

Directions

Combine onion, beans, tomatoes, corn, taco seasoning, and pork in a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred pork using a fork and stir gently to combine.

Toast tortillas in a dry skillet until crispy and brown. Top with pork mixture, cilantro, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I like pizza too, but I'm not gonna marry one.


Growing up in New England, the seasons are everything. Spring, summer, fall, and winter dominate everyday from wardrobe to outlook on life. They especially play a role in food choices. Whether it's what produce is in the store or what ingredients you can afford to buy, the seasons really affect how we eat.

As fall turns to winter in November, soups and stews dominate menus everywhere. In the summer, fruits and vegetables need very little help to taste vibrant and fresh. When cooler temps prevail, seasoning, blanching, boiling, and braising become necessary to create the flavors of fall.

With the winter months fast approaching, this potato, leek, and broccoli soup really hit the spot. Creamy, salty, and packed with wintery vegetables. Plus, who doesn't love crunchy bits of pancetta and toasty bread.

Potato, Leek and Broccoli Soup with Pancetta Crumbs (from Food and Wine)
Serves 6
  • 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3 small leeks (about 2/3 pounds), white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli—florets coarsely chopped, stems peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 cups fat free half-and-half
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • One 6-oz loaf of sourdough bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoons chopped sage
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Directions

In a very large pot, melt 1 stick of the butter. Add the leeks, potatoes and broccoli and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock and 6 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until all of the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, puree the soup until very smooth. Return the puree to the pot and stir in the half-and-half. Season the soup with salt and white pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, pulse the bread cubes in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. In a large skillet, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in the oil. Add the pancetta, sage, rosemary and bread crumbs and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the crumbs and pancetta are browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the pancetta crumbs and serve.


What's your favorite winter dish?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Party Down


There are quite a few foods that I wish I liked, but I don't. Do you know how much easier breakfast would be if I liked eggs? Or coffee for that matter, which I can't stand at breakfast, or as a pick me up, or to sip during a casual meeting with a friend. I don't like tea either. I don't like mushrooms, or artichokes, or kale. I don't like rosemary, thyme, and nutmeg has always turned me off. Worst of all, I don't like olives.

In theory olives sound great. They are a fruit, usually from the Mediterranean, that has been cured in salty brine. Yep, that sounds pretty good to me. But put them within smelling distance, and my stomach turns. Even some olive oil bothers me, especially the dark extra virgin kind. It's really a pity because olives seem like the perfect snack.

A few months back, okay quite a few months back, Lindsay Olives was nice enough to send me a few samples of their California Green Natural Olives. Now while I don't eat olives, Alex is a huge fan, so I happily accepted their generous offer and told Alex this was his chance to write his own blog post. Well months have gone by, and there are still four cans sitting in my pantry.

This weekend, I hosted a clothing swap at our apartment and decided it was time to break out most people's favorite snack. While I didn't try any of my creation, they got a lot of rave reviews from my party guests. Most notably, guests were surprised that they came from a can instead of a jar. So props to Lindsay Olives and the New York Times. Thanks for making my hostessing job a success. I'm sure they were delicious, you know, to people that like olives.

Marinated Olives (from Lindsay Olives and The New York Times)
  • 2 cups Lindsay Olives California Natural Olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, cut in half and segmented like a grapefruit
Directions

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Marinate for an hour or longer at room temperature. Refrigerate overnight if not using immediately. (Remove from the refrigerator an hour or two before serving.)


What are some of your least favorite foods that you wish you liked?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Suzanne, you're all that I wanted of a girl


I've always preferred white chocolate to dark chocolate.

It started when I was little and my mom used to get my sister and me giant milk chocolate Easter bunnies and put them in our Easter baskets. Okay they weren't giant, but they seemed that way when I was little. She'd always put smaller white chocolate bunnies in our baskets as well. I knew, even at a young age, that it was more socially acceptable to want the milk chocolate bunny, it just wasn't my favorite. The white chocolate bunny was always gobbled up first. The milk chocolate bunny just couldn't compare.

When searching for a dessert to bring to a work cookout, I began leafing through my Bon Appétit Desserts cookbook and found White Chocolate Suzette Brownies. Inspired by famous Crepes Suzette, these brownies are full of sweet citrus and white chocolate goodness.

The recipe calls for a glaze, but I thought it would be too much and just stuck to eating them plain. Plain is exactly the opposite of how I would describe this treat.

White Chocolate Suzette Brownies (inspired by Bon Appétit Desserts)
Makes 12
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 2 pieces
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Directions

Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter the sides of a 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Line pan with foil, leaving overhang on 2 sides. Butter foil. Dust pan and foil with flour; tap out access.

Mix apricots, orange liqueur, orange juice concentrate, orange peel, lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla in medium bowl. Melt butter and cream cheese in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add finely chopped white chocolate and let stand 5 minutes. Stir gently to combine. Cool.

Sift flour, salt, and ginger into a small bowl. Whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thickened, about 1 minute. Whisk in cream cheese mixture. Fold in apricot mixture and coarsely chopped white chocolate. Fold in dry ingredients. Spread batter in a prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pan to rack and cool.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Turns out, fennel is pretty good


For the longest time, people used to tell me that I didn't like sausage because I didn't like fennel. I'd never had straight up fennel before. So when I was told fennel was a main ingredient in sausage, and that I must be the reason I didn't like it; It made sense I guess.

Except, as I got older, I found out that fennel tastes similar to anise or licorice. I love licorice. Always have. I've always been a fan of anise too. I love a good biscotti and the smell always reminds me of a potpourri decoration that my Nana used to have in the hallway between her bedroom in the living room. So, I thought, this can't really be the reason that I don't love sausage.

Turns out that fennel is not the reason that I can't stand sausage. I'm still not sure why I don't like sausage, but it's not the fennel. Fennel is delicious. Cool, crunchy, with a hint of sweet licorice flavoring. Yum.

Paired with sweet gala apples, crisp celery, and tangy lemon juice, this fennel apple slaw a refreshing take on a traditionally heavy side. It perfectly pairs with barbecue and can even be eaten by itself as a salad, which happens to be how I ate it...all of it.


Celery, Apple, Fennel Slaw (From Bon Appétit Test Kitchen)
Serves 6
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala, or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds, and apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Morning Pumpkin


Well, it's finally fall. The leaves here are starting to change from green to gold, orange, and brown. The air has turned crisp, and even sunny days don't reach warm weather temperatures. And, cans of Libby's pumpkin puree have hit the grocery stores in full force. Yes, fall is finally here.

On days like today, it's nice to start the morning off with something sweet and filling. So over the weekend, baked up an tin of pumpkin bread to get Alex and I through the chilly mornings with a bit of love. The warm weather is gone, but sweet, buttery pumpkin bread should help ease the transition just a tiny bit.

Pumpkin Coconut Bread
Serves 8
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, shredded

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Set aside. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the brown sugar and egg on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. On a low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil.. Don't pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn't deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding it should take about 1 minute.

Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Mix together sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, pecans, and coconut flakes on top of the batter.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until golden brown on top and the center springs back when you press it. If your finger sinks when you poke the bread, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, and then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Faker


Alex and I love hamburgers. We really do. Beefy, meaty, dripping with juicy goodness, hamburgers are one of our favorite meals, by far. I don't make them at home very often, but when I do, I try to go all out with the soft potato hamburger rolls, sour dill pickle chips, sweet barbecue sauce, and melty cheddar cheese.

And this looks like one of my homemade hamburgers, except its not. It's a total faker.

Every once in awhile I forgo the beef and get a veggie burger. I've never thought to make them myself before though. They are actually really easy to make if you've got a good food processor. I do not, so they were a little more challenging, but ultimately worth the struggle because they make one fantastic meal.


Perfect Veggie Burgers (from Food Network Magazine)
Serves 6
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 1 cup canned pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 soft buns, split
Directions

Prepare the barley as the label directs. Let cool completely.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Add the garlic, 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce and the carrot; cook, stirring, until the mixture dries out slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and let cool completely.

Add the barley, beans, breadcrumbs, walnuts, soy sauce, egg whites, parsley and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the food processor. Pulse until finely ground with some chunks. Form into six 4-inch-wide, 1/2-inch-thick patties and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and refrigerate until firm, 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat the broiler. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the patties until golden brown, about 6 minutes per side. Meanwhile, place the buns, cut-side up, on a broiler pan and broil until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the patties on the buns; top with the remaining 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Where business gets done


Believe it or not, I've never had a bowl of chili before. Yea, I know, totally weird, right?

Chili has always been one of those dishes I figured I wouldn't much like. Beans are okay, but the idea of creating a dish where they are the star, always seemed kind of boring to me. Spicy food is not really my thing. And, is chili a meal, or is it soup? I've never really been able to tell. From what I know it's just an ingredient in nachos, one I sometimes opt to have put on the side.

But, boy, have I been missing out...


Smoky Slow Cooker Chili (from Cooking Light)
Serves 8
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup lager-style beer (such as Budweiser)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans plum tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (7 3/4-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar
  • 8 lime wedges
Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add ground pork to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to slightly crumble. Drain well. Transfer pork to an electric slow cooker.

Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add pork shoulder; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning occasionally. Transfer pork to slow cooker.

Recoat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, bell pepper, and chili pepper; sauté 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in beer; cook 1 minute. Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker. Add chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground black pepper, tomatillos, bay leaves, plum tomatoes, pinto beans, tomato sauce, and ham hock to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaves and ham hock; discard. Stir in sugar. Ladle about 1 1/3 cups chili into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 tablespoon green onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese. Serve each serving with 1 lime wedge.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Millions of peaches, peaches for me


This summer was all about peaches, plums, and nectarines. Every week we bought what seemed like bushels of them and ate them fresh. But with the cool weather sweeping in, they've all but disappeared from our local super market. On a quick lunch break at Trader Joes, I spotted a last container of peaches hidden behind the apples, pears, and other fall fruits. I knew I had to have just one last week of summer produce before the season ended.

Like any other produce purchased in the District of Columbia, the peaches were as ripe as ripe could be the day that I bought them. So, I decided to eat one fresh, chop one up in a salad, and make something sweet with the remaining three.

Over the summer I had cut out a recipe for Fresh Peach Cake from my Food Network Magazine. I seized it, prepared my ingredients, and baked a cinnamon-sugar coated treat. Maybe I'll have to rethink my dislike of the Barefoot Contessa. She didn't steer me wrong on this one.

Fresh Peach Cake (by Ina Garten)
Serves 12
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.

Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More masculine than a macaroon


Sundays are meant for cooking. No matter how beautiful a day out it happens to be, on Sundays, I just want to stay in and cook, do laundry, clean the house, and catch up on my DVR. We had grand plans this weekend to finally check out the Holocaust Museum, walk across the city to Eastern Market, and have dinner at Cava, the last restaurant in DC on my list of places I'm dying to eat at.

We went out and about on Saturday for a hike down the Rock Creek Parkway and the C&O Canal, even grabbed drinks at the Wonderland Ball Room with a friend; but when Sunday rolled around, I canceled all of our other plans for a day in the the apartment cooking, baking, and watching trashy action movies.

Having the windows open qualifies as being outside, right?

Beef Tenderloin with Tomatoes, Shallots and Maytag Blue (by Marcia Kiesel from Food and Wine Magazine)
Serves 2
  • 1 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 pounds medium shallots, peeled
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 1-pound, center-cut beef tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ounces Maytag blue cheese, crumbled into 1/2-inch chunks
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the tomatoes and shallots on separate rimmed baking sheets. Add 1/2 cup of the wine, 2 tablespoons of the oil and 2 thyme sprigs to the tomatoes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 thyme sprigs to the shallots. Season the tomatoes and shallots with salt and pepper, toss well and spread in even layers. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the tomatoes and shallots are very tender. Discard the thyme.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the tenderloin and cook over high heat until browned, 4 minutes. Turn the tenderloin and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the tenderloin and roast for 10 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 125° for medium-rare. Transfer the tenderloin to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pour off the fat in the skillet. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine and boil until reduced by half, scraping up the browned bits, 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the tomatoes, shallots and their juices.
Slice the beef 1/3 inch thick and transfer to plates; spoon the tomatoes, shallots and sauce on top. Dot with the cheese and serve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I shall stay the way I am because I do not give a damn


I always find that buying fresh herbs to be a little painful. You have to purchase them in large bunches. They inevitably go bad before you have a chance to use them all. You end up feeling frustrated, defeated, and utterly guilty. I also feel this way about purchasing large containers of chicken stock. Yes, I know you can freeze chicken stock, but I never remember to do it. Sunday night roles around and the chicken stock from last week is still sitting in the fridge and I end up pouring and entire container down the drain feeling like a total loser.

I must be stopped.

I've decided my new mission in the kitchen is no man left behind. At the end of the week, this week, I froze my leftover wine in ice cube trays; butchered my own six pound raw pork shoulder into small portions, wrapped them, and stuck them in the freezer; and I made loads of cilantro pesto.

If you've never tried cilantro pesto, I urge you to give it a shot. It's a little different than traditional basil. So super fresh, a little tangy, and it will make you feel like summer never left, especially when paired with pasta and lemony chicken. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Cilantro Pesto Pasta with Lemon Grilled Chicken
Serves 2
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Lemon, zested and quartered
  • 1/4 lb thin spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 2 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil over medium high. Generously sprinkle salt, pepper, and lemon zest on each side of the chicken breasts. Add the chicken to the pan and cook on each side 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Remove pan from heat. Juice lemon into the pan. Then, place the pan directly into your hot oven for 20 minutes.

Boil water in a medium saucepan. While the water is boiling and the chicken is cooking. Whiz cilantro, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and kosher salt in a food processor or Magic Bullet until smooth.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until preferred doneness. Once cooked, place pasta and cilantro mixture in a medium mixing bowl. Toss pasta to coat and divide in two bowls. When chicken is done, remove pan from the oven, slice and place over pasta.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken or Beef?


I have owned a slow cooker ever since the Christmas after I moved out of my parents house. It was a gift from my sister, who probably foresaw my eventual spiral into domesticity. Though at the time, I had no use for cooking gadgets, it remained on my counter for many years just waiting for the day that I would appreciate it for the convenient, easy, and generally wonderful cooking appliance that it is.

At work the other day, my coworker mentioned that slow cookers were great for cooking pot roast. I wasn't so sure. Pot roast happens to be one of my favorite foods in the world. So, I decided to see how using a slow cooker compares to the oven for such a classically delicious dish using Martha's recipe.

Though you don't get quite the variation in texture that you do with a traditional oven, the crock pot does a nice job creating a juicy, fork tender roast. Plus, it was wonderful to come home to a fully cooked meal, served only 15 minutes after Alex walked in the door. Our dinner was done by quarter past 7 and the kitchen was clean by 7:30. What a great way to start an evening.


Slow-Cooker Pot Roast (by Martha Stewart)
Serves 4
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 medium carrots, cut into thirds
  • 2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 beef chuck roast (3 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Directions

In slow cooker, stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Add carrots and onions; season with salt and pepper, and toss. Sprinkle roast with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; place on top of vegetables, and drizzle with Worcestershire. Cover; cook on high, 6 hours (or on low, 10 hours).
Transfer roast to a cutting board; thinly slice against the grain. Place vegetables in a serving dish; pour pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. Serve roast with vegetables and pan juices.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Dish Worth Driving For


Whenever Alex and I visit Provincetown, Massachusetts, we always head to the very end of Commercial Street at dinner time for a meal at Lorraine's Restaurant. It's my favorite, and has become quite the tradition whenever we make it out to the tip of the Cape.

I've tried a few dishes on their menu, and they are all quite good, but one always stands above the rest. If you ever visit Lorraine's, you must try the Chicken La Paz. Sautéed chicken breast with spinach, tomatoes and topped with feta, then simmered in a citrus broth; it sings.


For some time, I've wanted to try to recreate the dish in my own kitchen, but I've never quite gotten up the nerve. Seeing as Provincetown is now 10 hours away from where I live, I decided it was time. Warning, these flavors may be too delicious for the average foodie. Be prepared, you may want to have a full tank of gas and a map of the Cape on hand after reading the ingredient list.


Chicken La Paz (inspired by Lorraine's Restaurant)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 14oz can chicken broth
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thickly
  • 1 cup of white rice, prepared
  • 2 oz feta, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups spinach

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute till light brown. Add chicken and cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Add chicken broth and juice from the orange and lemon to the dutch oven, reserve the rinds.

Bring broth to a boil. Reduce broth to a simmer and add chicken and citrus rinds. Cover and bake for 10 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven, uncover, remove citrus rinds, and add tomatoes. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 more minutes.

Remove from the oven again, add rice and top chicken with feta. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from dutch oven and let rest. Add spinach to the broth mixture and swirl until wilted. Spoon broth mixture onto plates and top with chicken.