Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Risotto with Brussels Sprouts, Sausage and Feta

You know what I love? Risotto. Especially the muy rico kind that my friend Charlotte makes that has tons of Italian sausage, parmesan, butter, and wine. Yum.

You know what's not half bad? Makeshift risotto incorporating those CSA brussels sprouts you cooked and froze last fall, a bit of the white wine that you happen to be drinking at 4 p.m. during your daughter's third nap of the day, the smoked chicken sausages that you always have on hand for makeshift meals just like this here one in question, and of course feta, because feta kind of makes everything better.

If you were going to make this tomorrow, you might also add juice from half of one of those lemons in your refrigerator.

I sure would.

Otherwise it's pretty darn good as written. A good weeknight meal, easily modifiable in order to use up whatever vegetables you have in that freezer of yours.

Just don't skip the sausage. Unless you're using bacon instead.

Risotto with Brussels Sprouts, Sausage, and Feta
Cake and Edith Original
Yield: 6 servings

1 medium red onion or 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon bouquet garni or other dried herb mix
salt & pepper
2 cups arborio rice
2 more tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 cups brussels sprouts, fresh or frozen and thawed
½ pound smoked chicken sausage, preferably an herby kind, like sage, cut crosswise and sliced
2 oz feta

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute red onion in 2 tablespoons of butter or oil until soft. Add minced garlic, dried herbs, ½ teaspoon salt and a good amount of freshly ground pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add white wine, increase heat if necessary to bring it to a quick boil, and then simmer for about 3-5 minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half. Add arborio rice and 2 cups of the broth and stir for about a minute. Let mixture come to boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, adding additional broth whenever the rice starts to look dry. If you ultimately need more liquid than 3 cups to reach your preferred consistency, use more broth if you have it or just add water, about ¼ cup at a time, stirring the mixture and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon each time you add more liquid.

Meanwhile, once the rice has been simmering for about ten minutes, put your other 2 tablespoons of butter or oil in a large skillet. Saute the brussels sprouts and sausage in the butter over high heat until both are warmed through and browning a bit, about 6-8 minutes.

Once rice is cooked through and the consistency of the risotto is to your liking, pour the risotto into a large serving bowl. Add the browned brussels sprouts and sausage to the bowl and crumble the feta cheese on top. Serve as is or garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

This is good the first day but even better the second. To reheat leftovers that have dried out a bit, sprinkle with a little water or broth before placing in microwave.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rustic Raspberry Cakey Pie

I was so excited about this pie. It was not too sweet, not too tart. It had a great texture. It was relatively simple to make, especially for being a pie. And I kind of thought that my modifications to the recipe on which it was based (which called this dessert a cake rather than a pie) were substantial enough to make it a Cake and Edith Original. But then, literally the day after I made it, an uncannily similar pie recipe was posted at Smitten Kitchen (where the dessert was called a tart rather than a pie).

So the only thing original about my creation, evidently, is that I consider it a pie. It involved two layers of crust, a fruit filling, and it lived in a pie dish before it was devoured. Hence, pie.

I fancy myself quite fancy for making a homemade pie.

Having said that, the crust isn't flakey or buttery like a regular pie crust. It's softer and more cake-like than the typical old-fashioned pie crust, plus I included coarsely ground cornmeal in my experiment, which made it a little crunchier than the usual. That's why I'm calling it a cakey pie.

Also, like cake, it goes v. well with vanilla ice cream.

Rustic Raspberry Cakey Pie
Yield: 8-10 servings

For crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup stoneground cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk

For filling
2 cups fresh or frozen, thawed raspberries
1/4 cup sugar (or more, up to 1 cup, if you want a sweeter pie)

To finish
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
Cinnamon-sugar, for dusting (about 5 teaspoons sugar + 1 teaspoon cinnamon)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch pie plate with butter or spray.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, 3 tablespoons sugar, and baking soda. With fingers, rub in butter until mixture is sandy. Add the egg and stir to incorporate. Add the buttermilk and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until dough comes together. Form into two balls and roll each piece, using a floured rolling pin, to fit a 9-inch pie plate. (The dough will be pretty sticky, but not unmanageable.) Line the bottom of your greased pie plate with one of the rounds. Pinch together any tears or patch up holes - it's supposed to be rustic!

Evenly distribute the raspberries over the bottom layer of pie dough. Sprinkle at least 1/4 cup of sugar over the raspberries. Place the second sheet of dough on top and pinch the edges together. (If you'd like, use a fork to do this, like in the picture above.)

Beat remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush it on dough. Generously dust with cinnamon sugar.

Place the baking dish in the oven and bake until crust is golden, about an hour. For even browning, rotate the pie 180 degrees after a half hour. The Wednesday Chef says to cover the cake with a piece of aluminum foil if the crust browns too soon, but I did not encounter that problem.

Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream. Great for dessert, and certainly not bad for breakfast.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Udon & Tofu with Peanut Sauce

This is another favorite of mine adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance. Since it's comprised of a lot of things that I typically have in my kitchen (and maybe you have in your kitchen) and can be easily modified to include whatever random vegetables you have in your refrigerator, it ends up being a fairly inexpensive weeknight dinner. And it's delicious. Likely because the main ingredient is peanut butter, God's greatest gift other than family and 30 Rock and shoes. And then as if peanut butter weren't enough, it's blended with a whole host of other delicious things, including fresh (i.e. jarred) ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup, and toasted sesame oil (if you have it).

As stated in the recipe, the veggies I included are pretty unimaginative: celery, carrots and green onions. That's what I had on hand, however, and the whole point of this meal was to work through our perishables before, well, you know. I think it would be great with cucumber and bell peppers and mung bean sprouts (or any bean sprouts), as the original recipe suggests, or with edamame, baby spinach, and something crunchy - sugar snap peas or broccoli or cabbage, maybe. The sauce is so freaking good in and of itself, you could really try anything and it'd be hard to ruin.

Finally, I used the tofu that you buy already baked. Mine was sesame-flavored and it was great, and the Trader Joe's teriyaki- or thai-flavored baked tofu would be great too. But regular firm tofu or shrimp or chicken or seitan (which the original recipe calls for) would work, and, come to think of it, the peanut sauce would be a great dipping sauce with any of those items as well as with veggies.

Udon and Tofu with Peanut Sauce
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance
Yield: 6 servings

Peanut Sauce
2 teaspoons oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh (jarred) minced ginger
1 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder or lime zest (optional)
2/3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Sriracha (or less if you are a spice lightweight)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)

10 ounces udon noodles
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
4 green onions, sliced
6 ounces baked tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes

Optional garnishes: sesame seeds, coarsely chopped peanuts, fresh chopped mint, parsley, thai basil, cilantro, lime wedges

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. (Actually, check them after about half the time has gone by that the package instructions specify. Mine were done after about 7 minutes, and the package said 13. This has happened before too.) Once done, pour the udon into a strainer and run cold water over the noodles. Set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, in a small or medium saucepan, saute the garlic and ginger in the oil over low-medium heat. Once the garlic is soft, fragrant and starting to toast a bit, add the water, soy sauce, curry powder, amchur powder or lime zest (if using), and bring to a boil. Add the peanut butter and turn the heat to low. Whisk or stir until well-combined. Mix in the maple syrup, vinegar and Sriracha. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil, if using. Set aside.

In a skillet or the pan you used to cook your noodles, saute the tofu until warmed through and browning a bit.

In a large bowl, combine the noodles, chopped vegetables, and tofu. Dress with the peanut sauce and toss until everything is well coated. This is good at room temperature, but the cold leftovers were great too. Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to four days.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Flash Smoothie

In addition to being inspired by cookbooks, magazines and food blogs, I often find myself wanting to recreate things I've eaten at restaurants. In fact, I do this so often that, lately, I only like to go to restaurants where they offer things that I know I can't recreate (e.g. Bar La Grassa's Calamarata with Raw Tuna and everything else on the establishment's fantastic and mysterious menu) because then I feel like it's worth it because I am savoring something special rather than thinking, "this is good, but I could probably make this at home" and then being preoccupied with just how exactly I could do that for the rest of the meal. It's stressful being me. You have no idea.

(That was a joke. I live about the least stressful life of anyone I know. (Knock on wood.))

So what I'm sharing today is one of the little gems I have crafted in an effort to imitate a restaurant offering. Even if I didn't mind eating things at restaurants that I could make at home, I'd be in a bit of a pickle trying to eat this particular treat from its restaurant of origin because the restaurant is on the Big Island of Hawaii, where my husband and I babymooned last March and where we are unlikely to go again in the foreseeable future. (Yep. I said babymooned.) The menu item and restaurant in question: a Green Flash Smoothie from a tiny, lovely little coffee shop called Green Flash Coffee, offering tons of smoothies and a croque monsieur sandwich made with French toast (kind of like a Monte Cristo but better) and named after Hawaii's Green Flash phenomenon, which I have only seen pictures of and is described here. As I understand it, when certain conditions are met (and I think they are only met in Hawaii), a sunset can create a mirage effect resulting in the appearance of a green flash of light above the ocean right where the sun has just set. I bet it's wonderful, but I'm in no position to say whether it's as impressive as the drink which is its namesake.

I just found the list of ingredients on the coffee shop's website, and apparently I'd not committed the list to memory with the level of accuracy that I'd thought. (I was 5 months pregnant at the time. We can blame it on that.) For what it's worth, I make this smoothie a lot (like, a lot) and I frequently mess with the juice and fruit additions and it pretty much always tastes the same. Tropical and refreshing and healthy.

Green Flash Smoothie
Yield: One 16-oz smoothie or two small ones (for those of you who care: only 200 calories in the whole thing and quite a filling breakfast)

1/2 banana (ideally from freezer or refrigerator) or apple
1/2 cup frozen pineapple or mango chunks
large handful fresh spinach* (about 2 cups)
about 10 leaves of fresh mint
small handful fresh parsley (about 1/3 cup) (optional)
1 cup juice, using one or a combination of the following: mango, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit (or Mango Good Belly if you like probiotics in your smoothies)

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. If your banana or apple is not cold, add a couple of ice cubes. Sometimes I add flaxseed oil just for a nutritional boost. It doesn't add anything in terms of flavor, but it makes it a little bit creamier.

*I have substituted swiss chard, all kinds of lettuce, and watercress for the spinach. They all work fine. What does not work fine is KALE. Too damn bitter. But don't you worry... when kale season comes around, I have a kale smoothie recipe to share as well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Curry Tuna Burgers

I think in my "about me" page or maybe in a previous post, I've mentioned that my greatest asset in the kitchen is my resourcefulness. Although I like me a good recipe, and most of the treats I post on this blog start with some kind of recipe, at least half the meals I prepare for my family start with an ambitious effort to use up the random things we have in our kitchen. Most of the time, dinners are okay, even good. (It helps that the random things we generally have in our kitchen are pretty tasty to begin with.) But occasionally, like last Monday, I actually hit the jackpot. In my ambitious effort to work through our produce drawer and pantry...

I ended up making what I think might be the newest "regular" dinner in our house: tuna burgers with a whole lotta curry. (Because, as I noted recently, we LOVE curry in this here household.) In addition to curry and mustard and the usual things you see in a curry recipe, I also used amchur powder, one of the tasty randoms in our cupboards.

It's dried mango powder, I believe, and it adds a tart, bright flavor to a dish, in the same way a squeeze of lime or some fresh lime zest would do. So if you don't have amchur powder, just substitute either of those (approximately half a lime's worth of juice or 1 teaspoon lime zest).

The recipe below is the exact recipe I used to make the burgers, typed after the fact. But before we get there, let me suggest some ways to modify it so that YOU can be resourceful, in the event that you don't have all of the seventeen (yikes!) ingredients listed below. I think the only absolute essentials are the tuna, curry, eggs, lemon juice, and cilantro. Other than that: you could substitute plain yogurt for mayonnaise; the jalapenos could be omitted entirely (but they do give the burgers a nice spice) or substituted with a teaspoon of Cholula or Sriracha; diced bell peppers could replace all or part of the celery and carrots; any kind of onion could be used in lieu of the scallions and/or shallot; in place of the bread crumbs, you could use a little flour or cornmeal - I'd start with two tablespoons and go from there.

Curry Tuna Burgers
From Yours Truly Thank You V. Much
Yield: about 10 burgers (but we each ate 2)

1 lb tuna (two 12 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
½ cup mayo
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons curry (I used muchi, but any kind you like will do)
1 teaspoon dry yellow mustard
1 teaspoon amchur powder
2 scallions, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped celery (2 ribs)
½ cup finely chopped carrots (about 1 medium)
1 shallot, finely chopped
½ cup sprouts, chopped (optional)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped parsley (or more cilantro)
1-2 jalapenos, seeds removed and diced
2 eggs
½ cup panko bread crumbs or toasted bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients except bread crumbs until well-combined and still quite wet. Add just enough bread crumbs to make the tuna mixture tacky rather than wet. Form into patties about 4-5 inches in diameter. (My mix made ten burgers.) In a nonstick skillet coated with oil, in two or three batches, cook the patties over low heat and for 5-6 minutes on one side, or until starting to brown. Gently flip the burgers and cook them for 3-4 minutes on the other side, until browned and cooked through.

Serve with mayonnaise or plain yogurt on English muffins or hamburger buns or maybe homemade whole wheat bread (yum). Lettuce, sprouts, tomato and avocado would all be good additions. Seriously, these are curry-mania-delicious. I want one right now.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

OMG Cookies

I am about to share something incredible with you. It's so incredible that pretty much every person I've watched taste the treasures described below has said - mouth full, eyes wide - "Oh my God." That's because these cookies are OMG good. Hence the name I've decided to give them.

The picture doesn't really get across the OMG-ness of these bad boys, does it? The recipe does, however. You see, these seemingly innocent chocolate-chippy-types have some hidden ingredients. There are the usual players of course...

Butter, sugar, flour, vanilla. Corn syrup even, for whatever reason.

But there are also surprise guests.

And these are the guests that really get the OMG-party going, if you know what I mean. Oh yes. In addition to the chocolate you'd expect to see, there are also potato chips, pretzels, and - flown all the way from Israel yet available at a grocery store near you at post-Passover clearance prices - toasted coconut covered marshmallows.

This recipe is based on the Momofuku Milk Bar's Compost Cookie, which is apparently v. popular among food bloggers and New Yorkers. I got the recipe from The Amateur Gourmet, who got it from Regis and Kelly. (I didn't even know they featured recipes!) The only ownership I can really take over what I'm sharing with you folks is the marshmallows. I thought of them as an ingredient all on my own, I put a third more of them in than the recipe requires because I anticipated that they'd melt into the cookie and prove to be more of a batter addition than confection, and OMG they did everything I hoped for and more in these OMG cookies - they melted and oozed and crisped and made the cookies gooey and candy-like and crunchy around the edges and OMG perfect. These are up there with my husband and his brioche: absolutely irresistible.

You are about to be - OMG - so so so lucky.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie
Recipe by Christina Tosi, via Amateur Gourmet
Yield: about 30 store-bought-sized cookies (I only put 6 on each cookie sheet)

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups baking ingredients (I used marshmallows and chocolate)
2 cups snack foods (I used crushed potato chips and pretzels)

In a mixer using a paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Lower the speed and add eggs and vanilla just until incorporated. Increase the mixing speed up to medium-high again and start a timer for 10 minutes. The mixture will become v. pale and it will increase significantly in size and the consistency will become more like candy than the cookie batter you're used to.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and soda, and crush or chop the baking ingredients and snack foods if you have not yet done so.

Once the 10 minutes are up, lower the speed, gradually add the flour mixture, and mix until incorporated (about a minute). On the same low speed, add in your baking ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Then add in your snack foods, mixing until just incorporated.

Cover the batter in the mixing bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to one week. (Note: this batter will NOT last in your refrigerator for one week unless you live alone and are extremely disciplined. It is the best cookie batter EVER.)

Once the batter is chilled and a bit hard, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Spoon the batter using an ice cream scoop and place golf-ball sized cookies onto covered cookie sheet. Cook for about 9 minutes, or until brown on edges and just beginning to brown in the center. They will make wonderful snap-crackle-pop noises while they bake.

Once cooked through, cool the cookies by putting the cookie sheet on a cooling rack. They are extra delicious warm with milk, but they weren't bad the next day either. In fact, they were OMG delicious still.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spinach and Bean Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

Today's post is a healthy one. (The kind of healthy that your body craves after a night out with friends, liters of beer, meters of sausage, unquantifiable amounts of spaetzle, and three kinds of fried meat.) And while that thrills me, the real reason I'm excited to share it is that it is also delicious and filling and springy. Greens are just around the corner here, which means our overwhelming, overflowing CSA boxes will start arriving in just over a month, so there will likely be more produce-centric recipes like this throughout the next six months. (Amidst the decadent dessert posts, of course.)

This salad is based on a recipe from 101 Cookbooks, a food blog first introduced to me by my friend Alicia several years ago, and now probably my favorite. I think the reason it's my favorite is that its creator, Heidi Swanson, appreciates a lot of the ingredients that I love and rely on most: legumes, greens, feta, avocado, miso, curry, fresh herbs, eggs, olive oil, and lemon. If you follow her blog regularly, you'll notice that these ingredients are frequent players in her super healthy kitchen, but her recipes don't seem repetitive or boring. She does an excellent job of using a finite array of healthy foods to make new, creative dishes over and over again. She's really quite inspiring to me - if you haven't consulted her website and you are interested in preparing simple, inexpensive, vegetarian meals, get to it!

I'm also excited to share this recipe because I got to use two kind of cool ingredients: Black Kabuli Chickpeas, which are available at our co-op and which taste just the same as regular chickpeas but are a little sexier; and Muchi Curry, which is sold in bulk at our co-op and which is a little sweeter and brighter than other curries I've had. It's a new staple in our home. (Stay tuned for Curry Tuna Burgers, which might be the best thing I've ever made!) The salad would be just as good with regular chickpeas, or any legume really, or with a darker or hotter curry, but I'm mentioning my specs here because I loved this salad just the way it was, and I feel like it is only fair to equip you, reader, with all the tools and tricks necessary to replicate it if you so desire.

Spinach and Bean Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yield: about 6 servings

2 cups baby spinach
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or other beans)*
2 cups edamame (I used one bag of frozen, just cooked through and drained)
1 shallot, finely sliced (or 2 scallions would be fine, both white and green parts)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons (or more) freshly chopped cilantro

Curry Vinaigrette**
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain salt
2 teaspoons curry (ideally Muchi!)
1 heaping teaspoon fresh grated ginger
juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup olive oil

Layer the salad ingredients in the bowl in which you intend to serve the salad in the following order: spinach, beans, edamame, shallot, celery, cilantro. (Having the spinach leaves on the bottom allows them to catch the dressing so that none of it ends up wasted in the serving dish. The other ingredients wouldn't do as good a job catching.)

Using a mortar and pestle if you have one, or just a good, plain old fork and plate, mash the garlic with the salt until it forms a paste. Put the garlicky paste into a jar or measuring cup and add the remaining dressing ingredients. Shake or whisk until well-combined.

Pour about half of the dressing on top of the salad and toss gently. Add additional dressing and/or salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: We were happy with just half the dressing and no additional salt or pepper, but I really like a lightly-dressed salad and my husband is too respectful of my feelings to add more, even if he thinks it is underdressed. The following day, when I wanted to eat leftovers, some of the dressing had been absorbed a bit, so I added a little more and tossed the salad with some alfalfa and onion sprouts and ate it cold and it was great. The third day, I added some yogurt to the remaining curry vinaigrette and used it as a condiment for tuna burgers.

* To cook dry chickpeas without soaking overnight, I do the following: cover beans in a large pot with twice as much water as there are beans. Bring to boil over high heat. Let boil for two to three minutes and then turn off the stove. Let the beans soak in the hot water for 2 hours. Drain the beans. Add them back to the pot with a new batch of water (enough to be about 2 inches above beans, which ends up being about same 2:1 ratio as before) and bring to boil. Simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until chickpeas are al dente. (I'm not sure if al dente is an appropriate word to use when talking about legumes, but you know what I mean - nobody likes a mushy bean!) I think perfectly cooked (no pressure!) dry beans work best in salads, but well-rinsed, canned beans would probably be fine too. Even Heidi Swanson says so.

** What's the deal with "curried"? Why is that a frequently used word in recipes with curry? It's an ingredient, and I can't off the top of my head think of any other dish in which you make an ingredient a verb. Braised or scalloped or poached, sure, those refer to ways of preparing a dish, but egged or milked or basiled? No. Okay I just thought of one more example though: salted. Wait, two: buttered. Like buttered rum and salted caramel. I still don't like "curried" so much. Hence, "curry vinaigrette" rather than "curried vinaigrette."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Super Stew

The pictures we took of this meal do not do it justice. Incidentally, neither do Jamie Oliver's pictures of the meal on which this recipe is based, "Jools's Favorite Beef Stew" from Jamie's Dinners.

The smells, however, are a whole different story. And the taste -- well, obviously this is an extremely flavorful dish, or I wouldn't bother documenting it here. It's complex and yet comfort-food-esque. It's savory and stick-to-your-ribs-y, but the wonderful lemon-garlic-rosemary mixture that goes on at the end rounds the dish out with a bright, herby finish. (Jamie says the following about how important this mixture is: "Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference - as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance." It's true. It adds something incredibly, indispensably special.) It's got a lot of ingredients, but I think each one of them is crucial to how satisfying this one-pot (several-hour) stew is. If it didn't take several hours to make and if it didn't require so many ingredients (or at least so many ingredients that are not readily and inexpensively available year round in Minneapolis, Minnesota), I might eat this once a week. It's fantastic. So hearty. So rich. And, really, so different. This is not your average stew. This is your valedictorian of stews.

Super Stew
Adapted from Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, coarsely chopped
handful of fresh sage leaves
2 pounds stew meat of your choice, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
2 sweet potatoes, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 a butternut squash, halved, deseeded, and diced into 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 pound small potatoes (that are about 2-inch in diameter - in case you haven't noticed the trend, this turns out best if all the pieces are about the same in size; or, bigger, firmer potatoes, like Yukon gold, cut into 2-inch pieces)
1/2 cup tomato sauce or 2 tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 bottle of red wine
1 1/4 cups beef or vegetable broth
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put oil and butter into a large (like the largest you have) dutch oven or casserole pan. Add onion and all the sage leaves and fry over high heat on your stove for 3 or 4 minutes. In a bowl, toss the meat with the flour and some salt and pepper. Once well-coated with the flour mixture, add the meat to the pan, and then add all the vegetables, the tomato sauce or puree, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt (this dish is super flavorful, so no need to go crazy with the salt - yes, even yours salt-loving truly found this to be the case!). Bring the mixture to a boil, place a lid on top, then put the pot in the preheated oven. Cook until the meat is tender, about 3 hours or slightly more, depending on what meat you use and how fresh it is. (I used "tenderized round" from my freezer. I thawed it in the refrigerator over night. It took 3 hours.) In Jamie's words, "The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it's ready." Once it's cooked through, you can keep the stew warm by leaving it in the oven, covered, at about 225 degrees.

Just before serving, mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary, and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew. We took Jamie's advice and ate this in big bowls, accompanied by French red wine and my husband's homemade whole wheat baguettes. It was pretty much perfect.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Most of you know that, just over two months ago, I quit my job to stay home with my baby. Most of the time, I am 100% thrilled about the fact that I am fortunate enough to be with my daughter all day. But then other times, I fiercely, painfully miss my former coworker - I had the kind of job where you spend A LOT of time with your coworker, and we were lucky enough to like each other a great deal, so that job aspect was really wonderful. I also miss feeling like I really helped someone on one of their worst days. That was a draining, yet rewarding part of the job. Finally, the last thing I miss about work is the Mocha Java Chip Muffins from the Sisters Sludge coffee shop next door to our building. They were so good. And since I was pregnant or breastfeeding the whole time I worked in that particular building, I felt like it was acceptable to eat one of them at least twice a week.

So, muffins are not hard, and I have had great success making muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, even though I am (obviously) not vegan. As I was missing the Mocha Java Chip Muffins last week, I remembered that there was a mocha chocolate chip muffin recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance and was instantly motivated to make some.

And I did.

And oh my gosh they were so good! And moist! And chocolatey! And easy! And vegan! I love them. So did the six others who were privileged to taste test. Man those guys were lucky.

So, this will be a short and simple post because the recipe is short and simple, but I just want to mention that, in making this recipe, I used one of my recent favorite beverages as an ingredient, and I feel it is worth highlighting. The beverage is Pacific Natural Foods Vanilla Oat Milk. I started drinking this as a milk substitute because I was nursing and we thought my baby was maybe allergic to dairy. I don't like to eat tons of soy either, so I was rotating between rice milk, soy milk, and this little treasure. It's reminiscent of oatmeal the way rice milk is reminiscent of rice pudding. It's got a fair amount of sugar calories, but it's also calcium-fortified, so I'll take it. In short, baby no longer has any food issues, but I keep on drinking vanilla oat milk. This stuff is delicious. And, evidently, it makes good muffins.

Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Yield: 12 regular sized muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 cup vanilla oat milk*
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other mild-flavored vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons plain or vanilla soy yogurt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
powdered sugar for dusting
spray, shortening, or margarine to grease muffin tin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until there are no large lumps. Mix in the coffee powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oat milk, oil, and yogurt.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill the muffin cups evenly (I used about 1/2 cup batter per cup) and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (or at least only with melted chocolate chip!).

Let cool on wire rack. Once the muffins have cooled, remove them from tin and dust them with powdered sugar.

*Instead of oat milk, you could use vanilla soy milk or any other plain non-dairy milk, or even regular milk. If you use regular milk and regular yogurt, or if you use a plain non-dairy milk or yogurt, just add 1 to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to the wet ingredients before mixing them with dry.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Catfish Sandwiches with No-Mayo Tartar Sauce

First things first: while I'm not a total hater when it comes to mayonnaise, particularly when either (a) it's homemade, or (b) it's mixed with so many things you can't actually taste it, I don't love it, I frequently don't have it on hand, and if a recipe allows for it, I'll substitute olive oil, yogurt, or cream cheese. Generally I really like housemade tartar sauce at restaurants, however, so I figured I'd go ahead and follow this four-fork-winning mayo-based tartar sauce recipe from Epicurious.com. But then I didn't have mayo. And I didn't have like half the ingredients. So the tartar sauce recipe that I used and which is typed up below is really the result of necessary resourcefulness, not an attempt to improve the original, which is, quite frankly, probably better. Having said that, my yogurt version was not bad. So if you're out of or oppose mayo, this is for you.

Anyway, this was a good weeknight meal. There's nothing sensational about catfish, but it's inexpensive and I wanted fish the night we made these. I cleaned my plate and MC went for seconds.

Those are its selling points. It's good in a simple way. But not exceptional a la chocolate caramel tart or best-ever nachos.

Cornmeal & Potato Chip Crusted Catfish
Adapted from Kitchen Sense by Mitchell Davis
Yield: enough catfish for 3-4 sandwiches

3/4 to 1 pound catfish (2 medium sized fillets)
1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup potato chip crumbs (mine were salt & pepper flavored and I think that added something)
Salt & pepper (I omitted this because of flavored chips)
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup bacon fat, lard, unsalted butter, vegetable oil, or combination (I used the rest of the sausage drippings from brunch and some butter)

Rinse the catfish with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. (Unless you don't have paper towels, then you can just skip this step...) On a plate, combine the cornmeal, potato chip crumbs, salt and pepper (if using), and mix well. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon cold water and a pinch of salt. On another plate, pour the flour and spread out so it covers most of the plate. Dredge the catfish fillets in the flour and tap off any excess. Dip them in the egg and then coat both sides in the cornmeal mixture. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the fat over medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the catfish. Fry until the undersides of the fillets are nicely browned around the edges and crisp, about 6 minutes. With a large spatula, carefully flip the catfish and fry until brown and cooked through, another 5 minutes or so. When done, let cool on a plate for a minute or two before assembling your sandwiches.

Yogurt-Based Tartar Sauce
Adapted from Epicurious
Yield: about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped pickles
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce and dash of Sriracha
salt & pepper to taste

Mix everything and adjust salt & pepper to your liking. Place in refrigerator for an hour or more to let flavors marry a bit.

For sandwiches
White bread or hamburger buns
Tomatoes, but only if they are really fresh and delicious
Pepper jack or other cheese of choice or convenience

Assemble and enjoy!

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Experiment in Decadence: Chocolate Caramel Tart

For my husband's birthday dinner last week - remember that? the one where we ate nachos? again? with homemade refried beans? yes, that one. - I wanted to make a fancy dessert. The dude doesn't need much to be impressed, and he would have appreciated some brownies if that's all I could throw together that day. But I really like him. And I wanted him to know that. So I tried something fancy. And I'm so glad I did.

That there is chocolate caramel tart. An experiment in decadence. An exercise in ambition and patience. A labor of love. Heaven with a side of wholelottasugar and sprinklingoffleurdesel.

Or, more aptly: YUM.

It was great. You should all make it if you like rich, super sugary desserts with a little salt to temper the sweetness, in fashion of 112 eatery's infamous, spectacular, and controversial Butterscotch Budino. It takes a long time because there are several steps and my caramel didn't really turn the amber color it was supposed to, but the recipe is unexpectedly forgiving in several respects, and the end result, even with a light-colored, somewhat crystallized caramel filling, was delicious.

But before we get to the recipe, let's talk a little more about "fancy" baking. I'm not a baker. I am afraid of yeast and springform pans and cold butter cut into small pieces and frosting that does not involve cream cheese and powdered sugar and recipes that require you to gauge doneness by a change in color or approximate temperature. You can never trust the example colors in a jpeg and my wrist can handle hotter substances than most people's wrists can. (And anyway what is the appropriate means of testing warm milk from a measuring cup with your wrist? It's not like you can dip.) The precision and carefulness that baking requires is sort of at odds with my kitchen style (and personality, for that matter). So I generally stick to easy, reliable cakes, brownies, cookies, muffins, et cetera. Furthermore, my experimentation with caramel - the most important aspect of this tart! - has had mixed results. See Sticky Toffee Pudding post. So this recipe was a big risk for me, what with its multiple steps, including rolling, chilling and caramelizing. Hence my referral to it as an experiment in ambition and patience. It took me half a day. It is not like baking a cake or cookies. Having said that, there is more room for error and modification within this little recipe than I anticipated, and who knew that chocolate ganache was like the easiest thing ever, and, even though I don't have a tart pan (I do, however, have an Amazon wishlist!), the tart was still attractive, albeit slightly more rustic than what I was going for. (Note in the third picture below the creases in the crust from my makeshift tart pan: a springform pan lined with foil on the inside. Why I didn't I line it on the outside instead? No idea. Hindsight is 20/20, eh? Thank heavens we have charming euphemisms like "rustic" in our vocabulary when things end up a bit sloppy!)

I got the recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Lottie + Doof. I am going to reprint his recipe pretty much verbatim, as that's what I used, but I've included a few additional comments based on my experience with this thing of rustic beauty.

Chocolate Caramel Tart
Adapted (barely! unintentionally!) from Lottie + Doof > Claudia Fleming > Marlow & Sons > Saveur
Yield: a big tart which you will want to slice v. thinly (I'd say about 12-14 slices)

For chocolate crust
1 stick (1/2 cup / 8 tablespoons / 4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For caramel
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick (1/2 cup / 8 tablespoons / 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few chunks
2 tablespoons crème fraîche

For ganache - the easy part!
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces extra bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used the whole 4-oz Ghirardelli's 70% cacao bar, while the original recipe called for only 3.5 oz chocolate - seemed to work fine)

Also: extra flour for rolling and fleur de sel for sprinkling

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using paddle attachment, cream butter and powdered sugar until combined, about 1 minute. Add egg yolk and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Sift in flour and cocoa powder and beat on low speed until just combined. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk. Wrap disk and chill for about an hour.

After chilling, preheat oven to 325 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the tart dough into a large circle that will line your entire tart pan. Transfer the dough to a 10" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (or whatever else you have to work with) and press into pan. (E-N commentary: Tim from Lottie + Doof says that you can just push the dough back together in the pan if it falls apart. I just want to clarify that, since he went ahead and mentioned this, I feel like the fact that my dough fell apart completely is not an indication of a misstep on my part. It is just not a v. tacky or sticky dough, and it's chilled, so it's hard, and thus hard to work with. Mine was totally patchworked together. I was nervous that it wouldn't work or that it would fall back apart once baked, but it didn't. It was a wonderful, cookie-like crust and I am going to make it again and try it with all kinds of other fillings.) Chill the crust in the tart pan for 30 minutes. (This makes me wonder if the first hour of chilling was necessary at all. Any insight would be much appreciated.)

Remove crust from refrigerator and prick all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper filled with dried beans (or pie weights if you're fancy) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans and bake until the pastry looks dry and set, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool.

Now on to the caramel... Place 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Add sugar and corn syrup, and cook mixture over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally until it becomes a dark-amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and carefully add the heavy cream, followed by the butter and crème fraîche. Stir until smooth. Pour the caramel into the cooled tart crust and allow to set, first at room temperature and then in the refrigerator. (E-N: This whole process looked a lot different in my kitchen. There was no darkening within ten minutes, or even fifteen minutes. I suspect, in retrospect, that I did not have the heat high enough. Because the recipe did not expressly mention that it was okay for the mixture to boil, I deliberately kept the heat low so that it did not boil. Amidst what I thought was going to be a terrible failed attempt at making caramel, I did a bunch of e-research and learned that boiling is (at least in some recipes) integral to the caramelization process. (So is a candy thermometer, evidently.) I stopped cooking my water-sugar-syrup mixture as soon as it was beige, basically, and added the other ingredients. The mixture was pale and slightly lumpy, completely unlike the pictures, and I was certain it would never solidify enough to be topped with ganache. So I put the whole thing back on the stove and cooked and boiled and vigorously stirred the mixture for about thirty or forty minutes, until it was what I'll call "light amber" in color and my arm was v. sore. At that point, I was tired and frustrated, and the caramel had thickened to a nice-enough consistency, so I decided I was fine with my work product and went ahead and dumped it into the crust. It set quickly and I moved it into the refrigerator within about fifteen minutes.)

Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for a minute or two. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. (E-N: The ganache, following the caramel debacle, was refreshingly simple. Why don't we eat ganache more often?) Pour the ganache over the cooled caramel filling and refrigerate until set.

Remove the tart from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before serving. Cut the tart into slices and sprinkle each with fleur de sel (or whatever inexpensive substitute you are comfortable using).

I hope recounting my caramel experience did not in any way undermine how excellent this recipe is. I loved it and will make it again. Next time, however, I will have a candy thermometer nearby and will be unafraid of high heat.