July 30, 2010

Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie

I was recently introduced to crème fraîche. I guess it's more popular in Europe than in the U.S., so it's hard to find in stores. However, you can make your own using whipping cream and yogurt or buttermilk. It's super easy. Basically it's a fluffy, tangy version of whipped cream and is very yummy. Because of the tang, no sugar is necessary to use it as a lovely topping for fruit or desserts.

Here's how to make your own crème fraîche:
1 cup whipping cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon buttermilk or yogurt or 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

In a jar with a lid, place whipping cream and buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream; cover securely and shake 15 seconds. Set aside at room temperature for 24 hours or until very thick. Stir once or twice during that time. NOTE: Cream will thicken faster if the room is warm.

Stir thickened crème fraîche well. Refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Now on to the pie:

This was very easy and a yummy, light summer dessert. I only used 2 Tbsp. of sugar to sweeten the peaches (see recipe for suggested sugar levels), and it was not sugary at all. I served it with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie
from Smitten Kitchen

One pie crust, homemade is best

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 to 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I needed the latter amount to get this into a crumble)
1/4 cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 pounds ripe (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons crème fraîche*

Prepare pie dough: Roll out pie dough to about 1/8-inch thick and fit into a regular (not deep dish) pie plate, 9 1/2 to 10 inches in diameter. Trim edge to 1/2 inch; fold under and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F right before you take it out.

Make streusel: Stir confectioners’ sugar, baking powder, salt and three tablespoons flour together in a small bowl. Add bits of cold butter, and either using a fork, pastry blender or your fingertips, work them into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add additional flour as needed; I needed to almost double it to get the mixture crumbly, but my kitchen is excessively warm and the butter wanted to melt. Set aside.

Par-bake crust: Tightly press a piece of aluminum foil against frozen pie crust. From here, you ought to fill the shell with pie weights or dried beans, or you can wing it like certainly lazy people we know, hoping the foil will be enough to keep the crust shape in place. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove carefully remove foil and any weights you have used, press any bubbled-up spots in with the back of a spoon, and return the crust to the oven for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until it is lightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.

Make the filling: Sprinkle quartered peaches with sugar (two tablespoons will make a just-barely-sweeteened pie; add the other two for a still not overly-sweet but sweeter pie) and salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. Spread two tablespoons crème fraîche in bottom of par-baked pie shell, sprinkle with one-third of the streusel and fan the peach quarters decoratively on top. Dot the remaining three tablespoons of crème fraîche on the peaches and sprinkle with remaining streusel.

Bake the pie: Until the crème fraîche is bubble and the streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with a strip of foil if it browns too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving.

Stored this in the fridge, due to the crème fraîche, and serve cold or room temperature.

July 29, 2010

CSA - Week 7

The CSA shares are coming in strong. This week included: garlic, radishes, onion, yellow squash, cucumbers, red potatoes, green pepper, green tomato, yellow beans, corn, eggs, banana peppers, blackberries, and a carrot.

I made potato salad and a lovely green garden salad as well as the following recipes.

There really aren't too many recipes for green tomatoes out there. I found this salad recipe and was very pleased. Actually, I think any salad with a good dose of cheese and nuts is always tasty. I used feta cheese and peaches instead of blue cheese and nectarines, because that's what I had on hand.

Caramelized Green Tomato and Nectarine Green Salad
from danazia.wordpress.com

For the vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
4 tablespoons of champagne vinegar or
white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of salt
Few cranks of black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a jar and put on the lid. (Important safety tip, make sure it is a tight fitting lid!) Shake it all up till well blended.

For the salad:
2 large nectarines or apples, cut into thin wedges
4 unripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
A few drizzles of olive oil
6 cups or so of mixed salad greens
1 cup of fresh basil leaves, shredded
½ cup or more of crumbled blue cheese
½ cup of chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts
Fresh cracked black pepper

In a medium bowl, toss the tomato and nectarines wedges with the sugar and the salt. Mix the salad greens and basil together. Arrange 6 salad plates with the greens. Heat up your favorite large skillet and add a few drizzles of olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, lower the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and nectarines, laying them on their sides. Try not to crowd them in the skillet and cook, without disturbing them till them begin to brown. Flip them onto their other sides and caramelize that side too.

Working quickly, remove the tomatoes and nectarines from the skillet and arrange them artfully on the greens. Sprinkle with the blue cheese and hazelnuts and drizzle with the dressing. Crank a bit of pepper on top and serve immediately.

Green beans are not my favorite...I actually don't really like them at all. But this salad is so zesty that the green beans are masked so I gobble this up like candy.

Green Bean, Feta Cheese, and Kalamata Olive Salad
from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook by Diana Schwarzbein

1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, sliced diagonally into
1-inch pieces and steamed until tender
½ thinly sliced red onion
2/3 c. pitted and diced Kalamata olives
2/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
¼ c. slivered fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil

Dijon Garlic Marinade
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 minced garlic cloves
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil

In a small bowl, using a fork, combine vinegar, garlic and black pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking until smooth and well blended. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

Combine all ingredients and mix with Dijon Garlic Marinade.

I have seen David Lebovitz's cookbook The Perfect Scoop mentioned all over the web. I borrowed a copy from the library and have tried several selections. He definitely is an ice cream master. This white chocolate ice cream is very rich and the blackberry swirl goes well. My only complaint is that the blackberries stay a little icy, so this is best served after sitting out for 10 minutes or so. Or if you're too impatient, stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds to start the melting process.

White Chocolate Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz via joelens.blogspot.com

8 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Put the chocolate pieces in a large bowl and and set a mesh strainer over the top.

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer over the white chocolate. Stir until white chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth, then stir in the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator overnight for flavors to meld.

When ready to prepare the ice cream, combine the berries and sugar in a bowl and mash slightly; set aside. Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and churn account to the manufacturer's instructions. After the ice cream has churned, alternately place the ice cream and a couple tablespoons of the blackberry mixture into your freezer container. Freeze overnight for ice cream to ripen before enjoying.

July 28, 2010

Waffles II

Since waffles are one of my favorite foods, I love trying out different batters. Here are two variations: multigrain waffles and spiced pumpkin waffles.

These multigrain waffles are from the awesome Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com. She is a great inspiration to me for trying new grains and incorporating more whole foods into recipes. These waffles are heavier than regular, but not too much. I didn't have any poppy seeds when I tried them, so I left them out. The overall flavor is subtle, so top them with whatever you like on regular waffles.

Multigrain Waffles
from 101cookbooks.com - with Heidi Swanson's suggested substitutions

1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar or Muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs, whisked
1/3 cup / 3 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit

If you happen to remember, soak the poppy seeds in the buttermilk overnight, if not, it's no big deal. Just add them to the wet mix later on.

Preheat your waffle iron. I set mine to medium heat, but you'll have to play around a bit with the settings on your particular waffle iron to settle on the right temperature.
In a large bowl mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs into the buttermilk mixture, then whisk in the melted butter. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined.

I use about 1/2 cup of batter per waffle. Close the iron, and resist the urge to peek for a couple of minutes, the waffle needs time to set and develop a bit of a skin. After that you can check to see how your waffle is coming along. Cook until deeply golden. If you aren't eating the waffles immediately, keep in mind they can get a bit soggy if you place them directly on a plate. I tend to set hot waffles on a metal cookie rack in a warm/hot place while cooking the remainders. Serve with syrup, preserves, or sprinkled with more Muscovado sugar.

Makes 6 - 8 standard waffles.

Spiced pumpkin anything floats my boat. Since these waffles are full of flavor, only a simple topping is needed. I prefer plain yogurt, but maple syrup pairs nicely as well. Don't peek before the waffle iron says the waffle is done baking as these tend to separate if the iron is opened before the batter is baked.

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles
from Pancakes and Waffles by Kate Habershon

1 ½ c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
A pinch of salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
¼ c. firmly packed brown sugar
8 oz. pumpkin puree
1 2/3 c. milk
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Freshly grated zest of 1 orange

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Put the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, milk, cooled melted butter, and orange zest into a second bowl and beat well. Gently fold in the flour mixture.

Pour batter into waffle iron and cook until crisp, about 4-5 minutes.

July 26, 2010

Favorite Pizza Topping - Edgar Allen Poe

So there's a great pizza place called Dewey's with awesome pizza and salads. I've actually only been there about 3 times total, but only because I don't eat out much. One of the best things about Dewey's is their creative pizza topping combinations.

The Edgar Allen Poe is my favorite combo. I don't know why it's so named, but it's soooo good: kalamata olives, roasted garlic, goat cheese, parsley, tomatoes, and mushrooms on top of a white sauce.

I found this crust recipe in the local newspaper; supposedly someone took a class from a Dewey's chef and shared the recipe. Really, most crust recipes I've tried all have very similar ingredients and in similar quantities. So if you have a favorite crust recipe, keep using it, but if you're looking for one, try this one.

I want to do an extensive pizza post someday, and when I do I'll tell you about some important lessons I have learned about making great pizza. One of the secrets is the high temperature, so I highly recommend trying the high temperature on any pizza recipe. You'll thank me. I thank my mom for finally figuring this out and sharing it with me. I loved my homemade pizza before, but since the high temp revelation, now I have pizza once a week. Is that bad?

Dewey's Pizza Crust

1 ½ c. of warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
4 c. flour

Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and yeast. Stir slowly until dissolved. Let sit to "mature' about 10 minutes or so. A foamy head will form.

Add the salt and olive oil and stir to combine. Mix in first cup of flour. Add second and third cups one at a time, making dough fairly thick. Add fourth cup and combine and knead with your hands.
Remove dough to a tabletop to knead it. Use dusting of flour to reduce stickiness. Knead for 8-10 minutes. When ball no longer sticks to hands, it is smooth-textured, and the size of a grapefruit, it is done.
Coat with a thin layer of olive oil, and place in large mixing bowl coated with oil. Stretch clear wrap over top and set in warm place, like unlit oven. Allow to rise, undisturbed, for 60 to 75 minutes, growing twice original size.

Take dough and cut in half. Roll each portion into balls. Press dough ball flat to squeeze and release any air trapped inside.

Pre-heat oven and pizza stone for 20 minutes at 500. Roll out dough on parchment paper, add sauce, cheese and toppings. Carefully transfer pizza on paper to something large and flat, like an upside-down cookie sheet. Carefully transfer pizza and paper from cookie sheet to hot stone in oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden. Makes 2 12-inch pizzas.

Edgar Allen Poe: top crust with olive oil and minced garlic, then mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, kalamata olives and goat cheese. Bake pizza, then add fresh tomatoes and parsley. (Roast whole garlic bulb in 450° oven. Slice off top ½ inch of garlic bulb and discard. Drizzle the bulb with olive oil. In a small baking dish, bake garlic until cloves pop out of their skins, about 15 minutes. When cool, squeeze cloves out of skins.)

July 23, 2010


I went searching for a recipe with Gruyère cheese since I had some leftover from Summer Squash Gratin. I had never heard of gougères before that. They are like a savory cream puff (but not filled with anything) - a light, airy center with a crunchy crust. They actually weren't too difficult to make either.

Adapted from Baking Illustrated via danatreat.com
Makes about 16

2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white
5 tbsp. butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tsbp. whole milk
6 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
Pinch cayenne pepper

1. Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl; you should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess). Set aside.
2. Bring the butter, milk, water, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucpan, about 3 minutes.
3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream, followed by the Gruyère and the cayenne pepper. When everything has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. (Can be made two hours ahead. Transfer to a medium bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray directly on the surface, and store at room temperature.)
4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large (18 by 12 inch) baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set the pan aside.
5. Fold down the top 3 or 4 inches of a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip to form a cuff and fill the bag with the paste. Unfold the cuff, lay the bag on the work surface, and, using your hands or a bench scraper, push the paste toward the tip of the pastry bag. Twist the top of the bag and pipe the paste onto the prepared baking sheet into sixteen 2-inch mounds spacing about an inch and a half apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the mounds.
6. Bake 15 minutes (do not open oven door), then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 12-14 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. With a paring knife, cut a 3/4 – inch slit into the side of each puff to release steam; return puffs to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Dry the puffs in the turned-off oven until center is just moist (not wet) and the surface is crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer puffs to a rack and cool until just warm. Serve warm. (Puffs can be cooled completely and stored at room temperature for 24 hours or frozen in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 1 month. Before serving, crisp the room temperature puffs in a 300 degree oven 5-8 minutes; crisp the frozen puffs 8-10 minutes.)

July 21, 2010

Pan Bagnat

I love a tasty sandwich on good bread. This is yet another sandwich that can be made on the easy baguette and is a good alternative to the traditional tuna sandwich.

Pan Bagnat
from mediterrasian.com

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ clove garlic—minced (crushed)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-sized baguette
6 oz (180g) can tuna in olive oil—drained and broken into chunks
¼ green pepper (capsicum)—diced
1 tomato—sliced
2 eggs—hard-boiled, peeled and sliced
10 half rings of red onion
6 pitted black olives—sliced

Place the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a jar with screw top lid and shake until well combined. Cut the baguette in half lengthways and remove some of the soft bread from the center of each half to hollow out a little. Arrange the tuna, green pepper, tomato, eggs, onion and olives on the bottom half then drizzle with the dressing. Top with the other baguette half and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Bring to room temperature before cutting in half to serve.

July 20, 2010

Orange and White Chocolate Petit Fours

My friend and I attempted petit fours - I'm not sure if we succeeded or not. This recipe is pretty basic: cake with melted white chocolate on top. Our only problem was that the white chocolate didn't melt quite right; it was a little clumpy. Oh well, they were still scrumptious. I love the flavor marriage of orange and white chocolate.

Partially freeze the cake before cutting into squares. This made cutting crumb-free.

Orange and White Chocolate Petit Fours
adapted from theforeignkitchen.blogspot.com

For the Cake:
1 1/3 cups of softened butter
1/2 cup of sugar
4 eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
1 Tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
zest and juice of one Valencia Orange

For Decorating:
9 oz. of white chocolate
orange zest from one orange

Split the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff and then set aside for later.

Mix together the softened butter and sugar until they have a creamy white color. Now add the egg yolks and vanilla to this mixture and blend together.

Fold the orange zest into the dough.

Combine all dry ingredients in a seperate bowl and then alternately mix in the dry ingredients and orange juice.

Now fold the stiff egg whites into the dough making sure not to beat them in, otherwise the egg whites will brake down. (By folding the egg whites in you are adding a little air and creating a light and fluffy texture).

Pour the batter into a buttered and floured cake pan and bake at 320 Fahrenheit until the top is a nice golden brown or a tester comes out clean.

After letting the cake cool for a few minutes it should have pulled away from the side of the pan; if not run a knife around the edge and then turn it out onto a cooling rack.

In the meantime melt the white chocolate on low heat in a double boiler (or very carefully in a small pot, if you don't watch it, it will burn and become clumpy). Stir in 1 tsp. orange zest.

As soon as the cake has cooled, drizzle it with the white chocolate and decorate as you like (more orange zest works).

July 19, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

While perusing This Week for Dinner, many a time I've seen Jane mention her Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe. Could it really be as good as she said? I finally decided to try it out - and it surpassed my expectations. This is very good, even on a hot summer day! I will be making this a lot.

The recipe is pretty forgiving, so use your own judgement and tastes to make it work for you. Here's what I did:
  • used fresh ear of corn instead of frozen
  • left out beans and avocado, just because. Both would be delicious in the soup, I'm sure
  • used chicken thighs instead of breasts and sauteed in cast iron skillet instead of grilling
  • made my own corn tortillas from instant corn masa flour (very easy and so much better than pre-made corn tortillas)
  • added a dash of ground chipotle chili pepper because I love the smoky flavor

Aaron and Lindsay’s Chicken Tortilla Soup Extravaganza
from thisweekfordinner.com

- 1 onion, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
- ½ bag frozen corn
- 1 large chicken breast
- 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
- 1 lime (one extra for garnish)
- 1 handful cilantro, chopped
- 4-5 corn tortillas, cut into strips
- 1 avocado, diced
- cayenne pepper
- chili powder
- cumin
- salt and pepper
- cheddar or jack cheese, shredded
- sour cream

Saute onion in olive oil until soft, then add garlic, green onions, cayenne, chili powder, and cumin. Saute until fragrant (a minute or two). Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Add tomatoes, corn, black beans.

Grill up chicken spiced with cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. (You can also pan-fry it, but it won’t add the smokiness that the bbq does). Cut up or shred chicken and add it to the soup. Try the soup and add more seasonings according to taste, if needed. Add lime juice, cilantro, and avocado.

In large fry pan over medium-high heat, crisp up tortilla strips. Add salt. You may do this with oil or cooking spray. (For a shortcut, use tortilla chips instead).

Serve soup garnished with cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, fresh cilantro, and a lime wedge.

July 18, 2010

Rhubarb Buttermilk Muffins

Lovely not-too-sweet muffins with some healthy ingredients: whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil, and rhubarb. These are surprisingly light in texture. The author of the blog I got these from, familybites.ca, has several recipes with wheat flour and olive oil in sweet baked goods (check these out from her previous blog, mixingbowlkids.ca: Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes,  Blueberry Yogurt LoafLemon Olive Oil Cake).
 I have enjoyed everything I have tried from both of this delightful cook's blogs.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Mini-Muffins
from familybites.ca as adapted from Canadian Living

2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups finely diced rhubarb

Crumble topping:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line or oil a mini muffin pan and set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl combine the sugar and oil and stir well. Add the egg, buttermilk and vanilla and incorporate into the sugar/oil mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the rhubarb and stir until just combined.

Spoon into mini-muffin tin. Combine the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle a small amount on the top of the muffin batter. Bake for 14 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown. Makes 32-36 mini muffins.

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

I was unsure if this would be tasty or not.  I loved it, but my husband was disappointed.  How could zucchini pie be dinner?  I loved it because it was very cheesy, the crust was very flaky and light, and all in all a delightful dish.

I made my own ricotta cheese for the first time.  It was very easy and yummy.  I ate the leftover cheese with blackberries and honey.

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette
from smittenkitchen.com
Serves 6

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Homemade Ricotta
from 101cookbooks.com

1 gallon good-quality whole milk
1 quart good-quality buttermilk
OR 4 parts milk to 1 part buttermilk

Combine both milks into a large nonreactive saucepan over medium high heat, preferably a thick-bottomed pan if you have one. You will need to stir occasionally, scraping the pan bottom, to avoid scorching. Once the milk is hot, stop stirring. You will start to see curds rise and come to the surface. Run a spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan occasionally to free up any stuck curds.

While the milk is heating, select a sieve or colander with a wide surface area. This will help your curds cool more quickly. Line the colander with a large piece of cheesecloth that has been folded numerous times - until you have about 5 or six layers. Place the lined colander over a large bowl or sink.

When the mixture reaches about 175F degrees, you will see the curds and whey seperate. The curds are the clumpy white mass. Now, remove the pan from heat, and gently begin to ladle curds into the prepared sieve. Pull up on the sides of the cheesecloth to drain off any extra liquid, but resist pressing on the curds. Gather the edges of the cloth, tie or fasten them into a knot and allow them to drain for another 15 minutes minimum. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate if you aren't going to use it immediately. Try to use or eat it within a few days, it really is best that way.

Makes about 4 cups.

CSA - Week 6

So it's a week after I received this share of corn, yellow beans, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, red potatoes, blackberries, sugar peas, eggs, and a cucumber.  I want to try and use it all up before I post, but I guess that's not an option now.  Otherwise I'll get behind.

Here are some of the highlights from this week:

Chile Rubbed Steak Tacos - I love spicy meat paired with fresh, crunchy vegetables.  I used the cucumber in the salsa for these tacos.

Pickled Sweet Wax Beans - Since I'm on a pickle craze, and I knew I'd never eat all the wax beans fast enough, I preserved some in a pickled state.  These weren't as good (and by good, I mean sweet) as the bread and butter pickles, but still are a good snack.

Peach cobbler with blackberries - I modified my mom's peach cobbler recipe by making individual cobblers in ramekins.  I threw in a few blackberries along with fresh peaches.  Blueberries would also be good with peaches.

Ricotta and Zucchini Galette - This dish was heavenly.  Not surprisingly, anything wrapped in buttery pie crust tastes heavenly.  Follow this link for more on the galette.

July 16, 2010

Chirashi Sushi

A friend originally from Japan brought Chirashi Sushi to a potluck reception after a recital. She gave me some basic instructions on how to make it, but they included using a chirashi sushi packet purchased from an Asian market. So I went searching for a recipe that didn't require the prepared packet and found a pretty authentic one from lafujimama.com. The recipe below is based off the online recipe with my Americanizing simplifications. I also added a few ideas from my Japanese friend's suggestions as well.

Chirashi Sushi
adapted from lafujimama.com and my Japanese friend
Makes 4 – 6 servings

2 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 carrot, sliced into thin matchsticks
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 ounces sushi vinegar
2 cups steamed short grain rice
handful of snow peas
nori seaweed, sliced thin
2 eggs, beaten and pan-fried into flat crepe shape, sliced into thin strips
cucumber, sliced thin
pickled ginger

1. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in water for 30 minutes. Drain the water and cut into small pieces.

2. Combine the chicken broth and sugar in a pot and add the shiitake mushrooms and carrot. Cook over low heat until the liquid is 2/3 of the original amount. Add the soy sauce and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. (Don’t add the soy sauce before this point, or it will make the mixture too salty.) Turn off the heat and let everything cool in the pot.

3. Add the sushi vinegar to the cooled ingredients in the pot and then fold everything together with the freshly steamed rice.

4. Put the rice mixture on a large serving plate, sprinkle with snow peas, nori seaweed, and then finish with the egg strips on top. Also garnish with cucumber and pickled ginger.

July 15, 2010

Broccoli Crunch Salad

This is a more natural version of the popular broccoli salad with bacon, raisins and sweet dressing, from, no surprise: 101cookbooks.com. The roasted shallots play the role of bacon, and apples fill in for raisins.

The quick blanch of the broccoli turns it bright green and lovely. I used a Granny Smith apple because that's what was in my fridge, but a sweeter, red-skinned apple would be a better contrast in taste and color. I successfully substituted homemade walnut puree for the almond butter (put walnuts in food processor until finely ground). I also used toasted walnuts, not candied. Candied nuts would be a good, especially if you want a sweeter version.

To make candied nuts, turn on a skillet on high heat. Test the heat of the skillet by adding just a pinch of sugar. You want the sugar to melt. When it does, add more, let it melt, and then add the nuts. Stir to coat the nuts, remove from heat. Move the nuts to a cookie sheet to cool. Break into pieces once hardened.

Broccoli Crunch Recipe
from 101cookbooks.com

4 -5 cups tiny broccoli florets (and chopped stalks if you like)
1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons hot water

2 small crisp apples, cut into bit-sized pieces (if you aren't going to use the apples immediately, let them sit in a bowl of water with the juice of 1/2 a lemon)

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted or candied walnuts or almonds
1/3 cup pan-fried crunchy shallots*
chives (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt as you would pasta water. Boil the broccoli just long enough to take the raw edge of - 10 or 15 seconds. Drain and immerse it in cold water (or let cold water run over it). At this point, I like to spin the broccoli in a salad spinner to get the water off, but a few good knocks against the sink in a strainer can do the trick pretty well. Set aside.

Make the dressing by sprinkling the salt over the clove of garlic. Smash the clove and chop, smash and chop - turning it into a paste. In a small bowl whisk the salty garlic paste with the almond butter, lemon juice, honey and olive oil. Add the hot water and whisk until light and creamy. Taste, make any adjustments and set aside.

In a large bowl gently toss the broccoli, apples, red onion, most of the shallots and nuts with a generous drizzle of the almond dressing. Turn out onto a platter and finish with the rest of the shallots and chives if you like. Serve family style.

Serves 4.

*Stir together the shallots, a splash of clarified butter (or olive oil) and big pinch of salt In a large skillet over medium heat. Stir every few minutes, you want the shallots to slowly brown over about fifteen minutes. Let them get dark, dark brown (but not burn), and if needed turn down the heat. Remove from skillet and onto a paper towel to cool in a single layer where they will crisp up a bit.

July 14, 2010

Lemon Pepper Chicken

I already raved about cast iron in a previous post. So when I saw a mention of a cast iron grill/griddle reversible pan in Everyday Food magazine, I knew I would love it. Since I can't grill at my apartment, I thought this might fill the void. It has lived up to my expectations so far, except that the kitchen gets a little smoky. After a few times of this happening, I've learned to turn down the heat on the burner (yes, it takes more than one incident for me to figure it out).

This chicken recipe is everything it was promised to be as indicated by the post title: Grilled Chicken for People Who Hate Grilled Chicken. Unprompted, when I asked my husband what he thought of the chicken, he said, "This chicken makes me like chicken again." Wow! It really was super tasty, and I only marinated the chicken for one hour instead of the recommended 3+ hours.

Lemon Pepper Grilled Chicken
adapted from dinneralovestory.com

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

½ cup plain yogurt
1 minced clove of garlic
2 tsp salt
Juice from two lemons
1 good squeeze of honey
1 tbsp olive oil
A very healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Carefully slice each chicken breast in half crosswise to create two, thinner pieces. Pound boneless cutlets between sheets of wax paper until thin. In a bowl, add marinade ingredients. Whisk together until emulsified. Pound boneless cutlets between sheets of wax paper until thin. Then, pour into Ziploc storage bag, drop in the cutlets, mush around until coated, and seal. Put in refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours. When grill is ready (and oiled), cook about 3-4 minutes a side until flesh is firm but not rock hard.

July 13, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes

I topped these classic buttermilk pancakes (with blueberries added after the batter was poured in the pan) with warm blueberry sauce and ricotta cheese slightly sweetened with sugar. The pancakes baked up a golden brown in my cast iron skillet.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
from Martha Stewart

Makes nine 6-inch pancakes.

2 cups all-purpose flour (or sub 1 cup with whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar or 1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle

Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps.

Heat oven to 175 degrees. Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter or reserved bacon fat onto griddle. Wipe off excess.

Using a 4-ounce ladle, about 1/2 cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.

July 12, 2010

Top 3 (okay, 4) Favorite Kitchen Items

The right tools/equipment in the kitchen can really alleviate unneeded effort involved to create a tasty dish and can help you create a higher quality dish. If I had to pick my top three most-used items, they would be:

Garlic Press

Microplane Zester

Cast Iron Skillet

Fresh garlic does so much for a savory dish. To me it is unsubstitute-able. Dried garlic powder and even pre-diced garlic in a jar tastes very different than fresh garlic. Peeling and chopping garlic is definitely a doable task, but what could be easier than adding a garlic clove (skin still on) to the press, and adding a little pressure to squeeze the pulp out? It takes 2 seconds from start to finish. My garlic press is a very old model from Pampered Chef, but they can be purchased lots of places.

I bought this zester last fall. I don't know how I survived without it before. Between grating Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and zesting lemons, limes, and oranges, (edit: I forgot about my favorite item to grate: ginger!) this tool is never clean by the time I need it next. I used other tools to accomplish similar results before, but none were as easy. Many others have raved about this tool, but until I tried it for myself, my skepticism was in tact. The Microplane brand is sold lots of places.

Not only is a seasoned cast iron skillet an excellent conductor of heat, able to go in the oven, virtually non-stick, heavy duty to last forever, but it actually makes your food taste better! I'm not exactly clear on how it all works, but I know it does.

Examples of this skillet's uses: stir-fries, any stove-top skillet cooking, as a griddle for pancakes, frittatas or other items that go from stove-top to oven, candies that need a heavy-bottomed pot, desserts, cornbread, eggs, stove-top pizzas, almost anything.  Target sells a Lodge brand one for less than $20.  Thanks to my mother-in-law for the recommendation.

I thought about this post for a while and was satisfied with my top three choices. Now that I'm putting the final touches on the post, I realized I left off something I've used for years. How could I leave my baking stone off of this list? I don't think I can. So I'll have to make this a Top Four list.

My large, round Pampered Chef baking stone is used almost every time I heat up the oven. Cookies and pizza top my stone most often, but also crispy potatoes, biscuits and rolls, roasted vegetables, and even meat and fish. The stone, like the cast iron skillet, has amazing, seasoning powers and doesn't require greasing. I never worry about burnt bottoms on a stone - it just doesn't happen. Cookies and biscuits turn beautiful golden brown all over. Recently I've learned how to properly make pizza (I'll share soon), and a stone is one of the keys.

July 11, 2010

Lemon Sherbet

This lemon sherbet is light, tangy, and refreshing. I ate it topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries - super summer treat.

UPDATE 6/10/13: Also works with Meyer lemon instead of regular lemon and full-fat coconut milk instead of cow's milk.

Lemon Sherbet
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 lemon
6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)

In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, mix 1 cup of the milk with the sugar. Grate the zest of the lemon directly into the saucepan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 cups milk, then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Stir the lemon juice into the milk mixture. If it curdles a bit, whisk it vigorously to make it smooth again. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

July 10, 2010

Zucchini Bread

My favorite zucchini baked good is this bread. From the amazing 101cookbooks.com, this bread tastes like traditional zucchini bread, but not quite as sweet and with some subtle surprise flavorings. As the recipe states, some of the ingredients are optional, but I love all the extras. I buy candied ginger at Trader Joes - don't skip this add-in!

Zucchini Bread
from 101cookbooks.com

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/3 cup poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder (optional)

Special equipment: two 1 pound loaf pans (5 x 9 inches)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. If you leave a couple inches hanging over the pan, it makes for easy removal after baking. Just grab the parchment "handles" and lift the zucchini bread right out.

In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling - if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

CSA - Week 5

This week's share included garlic, yellow squash, zucchini, red potatoes, popcorn, sugar peas, yellow beans, eggs, blueberries, banana peppers, and cucumbers. Now we're talking! Here it is a week later, and I haven't even used everything I received. I'm still waiting for some inspiration for my banana peppers (salad, sandwich?), my popcorn is piling up (that's ok, it will keep), and I still have some leftovers: sugar peas (I just snacked on them raw), yellow beans, and potatoes.

I made something special with the zucchini - but it deserves it's own post, so stay tuned.

I added the blueberries to plain yogurt every day for a mid-morning snack. I switched from sweetened yogurt to plain a few years ago and have never looked back. Well, occasionally I have had sweetened yogurt since the switch, but it tastes like candy. So once you get used to plain yogurt, it's fabulous! I've tried several brands, but the one that tastes the best to me is Dannon, full-fat of course. I enjoy yogurt plain, but often add fresh berries.

I made more bread and butter pickles to top off my hamburger.  The batch of pickles I made a few weeks ago was gone within a few days.  I ate them like candy.  I don't even like pickles!  Well, I guess I like them if they're homemade.

My hamburger was accompanied by grilled potatoes on my cast iron grill pan. To do so, boil the potatoes whole for 15 minutes or so (depends on the size of the potatoes) until a fork can be inserted, but with some resistance. You don't want to cook them all the way so that they'll be firm enough to be grilled. Remove from water, allow to cool slightly. Slice into wedges and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and other desired seasonings. Grill until crispy.

I roasted the yellow beans tossed with olive oil and coarse salt in a 450 oven for about 20 minutes (toss the beans halfway through) or until they become spotted and slightly shriveled. Green beans can also be roasted this way. If you don't like beans, try them this way and I guarantee you will eat them.

I love to saute zucchini in a pan, so if I haven't tucked the zucchini into a baked good, I never have a hard time using it up. Yellow squash is a different story, though. It tastes okay sauteed, but I'd rather not eat it. I made this squash gratin several times last summer. It is scrumptious. You can make it with a mixture of yellow squash and zucchini, but I prefer to just use the yellow. I've made it with both feta and gruyere cheese. The gruyere is more decadent, but also more expensive. I toasted my whole wheat bread and processed it to make the bread crumbs. Also this time I used homemade basil pesto instead of the sauce in the recipe, which worked great.

July 9, 2010

Asian Spinach Salad

I'm usually not impressed with pasta salads, but this one is a winner. It's super crunchy and fresh, and fairly healthy too. I even reduced the sugar in the dressing from the original recipe, and I don't miss it. My husband despises pasta salad and doesn't care for chicken, but he requests this salad.

This makes enough for two meals for us, so I serve the dressing on the side to keep the rest of the salad fresh.

Asian Spinach Salad
adapted from thisweekfordinner.com

1 small bag of spinach
8 oz. bowtie pasta (cook according to package, strain, cool)
2-4 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 can sliced water chestnuts
2 chicken breasts – (season with olive oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and grill or saute in pan. Remove from pan, cool. Cut into bite-size pieces.)
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 green pepper, diced
3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup Canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (unseasoned works too)
1 tsp grated fresh garlic

Combine dressing ingredients. Assemble salad and toss with dressing just before serving. Serve cold.

July 8, 2010

Blueberry Buckle

I went blueberry picking at a local farm.  The blueberries were very large and sweet and good to eat.  I froze a lot of the berries, as blueberries freeze well and can be used in most recipes calling for blueberries.

Blueberry buckle is like coffee cake.  This recipe was very easy, moist, and buttery.

Blueberry Buckle
from roxygirl on recipezaar.com

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, softened but still cool (1/2 stick)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool (1 1/4 stick)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 cups fresh blueberries, picked over (about 20 ounces)

For the streusel: In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt on low speed until well combined and no large brown sugar lumps remain, about 45 seconds.

Add butter and mix on low until mixture resembles wet sand and no large butter pieces remain, about 2 1/2 minutes.

Transfer streusel to small bowl and set aside.

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan (or springform pan) with 2-inch sides with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour and baking powder in small bowl to combine; set aside.

In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes; using rubber spatula, scrape down bowl.

Beat in vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds.

With mixer running at medium speed, add eggs one at a time; beat until partially incorporated, then scrape down bowl and continue to beat until fully incorporated (mixture will appear broken). With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat until flour is almost fully incorporated, about 20 seconds.

Disengage bowl from mixer; stir batter with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl, until no flour pockets remain and batter is homogenous; batter will be very heavy and thick.

Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries until evenly distributed.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; with rubber spatula, using a pushing motion, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface.

Sprinkle streusel evenly over batter.

Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Cool on wire rack 15 to 20 minutes (cake will fall slightly as it cools).

Cool until just warm or to room temperature, at least 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve.

July 7, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my current favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Everyone likes to claim their recipe as the best cookie recipe ever. I'm not going to claim it's that, as many factors come into play - altitude, cooking equipment (I use a Pampered Chef stone), individual preferences for what makes a good cookie, type of flour, etc. But for me, this recipe works perfectly.

Tips/ideas that work well with this recipe (can do any combination of these for added yumminess):

  • add 1 tsp. almond extract along with the vanilla extract
  • sprinkle formed, unbaked cookies with coarse sea salt
  • let dough sit in fridge, up to 72 hours, before baking
  • add 1/2 cup shredded coconut for added texture

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
from America's Test Kitchen

2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), 7 ounces
½ cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 – 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)

Heat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 for large cookies). Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.

For regular-sized cookies:
Using a medium cookie scoop (about 1-2 tablespoons), drop cookies onto baking sheet.. Bake in 350 oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to rack to cool.

For large cookies:
Form scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month—shaped or not.)

Bake at 325 degrees, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

July 6, 2010

Japanese Mum's Chicken

My parents went to visit my brother and his family when they were living in Europe a few months ago. I was video-chatting with my mom right before dinner. She mentioned that my sister-in-law had made some delicious-looking chicken in a balsamic vinegar glaze. I asked if it was Japanese Mum's Chicken, and she said yes! Amazingly I had made the recipe before as well.

It's called Japanese Mum's Chicken because a family in Great Britain got the recipe from their Japanese foreign exchange student.  So this recipe has made its rounds around the globe.  I guess they don't call it the world wide web for nothing.

I substitute a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes instead of the chili pepper. Serve with rice (or sushi!).

Japanese Mum's Chicken
from recipezaar.com

8 chicken drumsticks, skin on
1 cup water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised
1 small hot chili pepper, slit open, seeds removed or a pinch of red pepper flakez

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a high heat.

Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove any scum that rises to the surface.

Increase the heat, turning the drumsticks frequently in the sauce, and cook until the liquid has reduced to a sticky glaze, 20 - 30 minutes more.

Arrange the chicken on a serving platter, remove the garlic clove and chili from the liquid, and spoon the glaze over.

July 3, 2010

Pound Cake Perfection and Blueberry Sauce

A woman at work has brought her 7Up Cake to share several times. She has been making this cake for 30 years and it is pound cake perfection. She was so kind as to share the recipe with me! And she didn't leave out any key ingredients to sabotage my attempt, so I have to say mine is almost perfection too.

Actually this is the only pound cake I've ever made, but I don't think I'll need to try out any other recipes.

With the tangy lemon glaze, this cake stands alone. But it pairs nicely with fruit or a fruit sauce.

Since I'm rolling in blueberries, I couldn't resist serving the cake with blueberry sauce.

7Up Cake
from my friend (she didn't want to identify herself)

2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon extract
1 cup 7up soda

Cream butter, sugar, and oil together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Add flour gradually. Then add both extracts and 7Up.

Transfer to lightly greased pan(s): 1 large tube pan, 3 regular loaf pans, 5 or 6 mini loaf pans

Do not preheat oven. Place cake in cold oven and set oven to bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Do not open the oven door as long as possible.
Tube pan: 1 1/2 hours
Regular loaf pans: 45-50 minutes
Mini loaf pans: 40 minutes

When cool, drizzle with lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

½ teaspoon butter, melted
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Juice from half a lemon

Combine glaze ingredients. Adjust amounts of sugar and lemon juice to taste and desired consistency.

Blueberry Sauce

2 1/2 c. blueberries
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Simmer over medium-low heat for 12 minutes.

Garlic Bread

I have seen frozen garlic bread at the grocery store, but I don't understand why people would buy it. Making bread takes time, but even buying a loaf of bread and making it into garlic bread has got to taste so much better than frozen. This is super easy.

Garlic Bread

Sorry for the approximations in amounts. You really can't go wrong and it just depends on how much bread you are preparing (well, you might put in too much garlic and no one will want to talk to you for the rest of the night).

Baguette recipe (make the loaf as large or as small as you want)
2 - 4 Tbsp. salted butter (or use unsalted and add salt, to taste)
1 - 2 cloves minced garlic
1 - 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add garlic and remove from heat. Slice bread in half crosswise. Brush garlic butter on bread and sprinkle with parsley. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Turn on broiler, move bread to second highest rack level. Broil - watch carefully, as this doesn't take long - until bread is golden brown.

July 2, 2010

Fusilli Pasta with Zucchini and Butter

Some people are pasta lovers. I have one friend who claims she eats pasta everyday. I never quite understood this love until I had The Pasta Dish while in Rome that changed my life. I had this divine dish in a restaurant with no menu - you eat whatever they bring out, so I'm not certain what the name of The Pasta Dish is. However, after researching online to find recipes to recreate it, I'm fairly certain it was Pasta con Cacio e Pepe. As soon as I master The Pasta Dish, I will share the recipe. The Pasta Dish is very simple - cheese and pepper provide all the magic. So after experiencing The Dish, I was a little more open to other simple pasta dishes.

This pasta dish fits the bill. The zucchini is browned until mushy (but in a good way), garlic, and browned butter coat the fusilli pasta (I used gemelli - somehow my grocery store didn't have any fusilli) along with fresh Parmesan and basil. A very simple dish with quiet elegance.

Fusilli Pasta with Zucchini and Butter
from Rachel Eats as adapted from the River Cafe via the Guardian
serves 4

1 medium-large zucchini
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed with the back of a knife
4 Tbsp. soft butter
8 oz. fusilli
6 or 7 basil leaves torn into pieces (optional)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Wash and dry the zucchini, then cut them into 1/2-inch thick discs. Pat the discs dry.

Warm the oil in a frying pan which is large enough to accommodate all the discs in a single layer. Add the garlic to the oil and then, once the garlic is soft, add the zucchini. Season with coarse salt and stir until the zucchini are just beginning to turn golden brown.

Add half the butter, stir and reduce the heat. Continue cooking, adding ladleful of water to loosen the bits stuck to the pan. Stir and scrape until the zucchini are soft, creamy and starting to fall apart, which takes about 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter.

While the zucchini are simmering away cook the fusilli in boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Stir this into the zucchini to loosen the sauce.

Add the fusilli to the sauce, add the ripped basil leaves if you wish and toss very well. Serve with the grated Parmesan.

July 1, 2010

Banana Ice Cream

I saw an article about using just frozen banana slices to make 'ice cream'. I froze a banana to try it, but then found this recipe. Basically it's the same idea, but with a few added flavors. I made this with vanilla protein powder in place of the malted milk powder and drizzled caramel sauce on top. I loved this and it was soooo fast and easy. I prefer soupy ice cream, but you could throw it in the freezer for a bit to firm it up, if desired.

No Freeze Banana Ice Cream
from thestonesoup.com

2 bananas
3 Tbsp. malted milk powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream

Peel your bananas, break into chunks and place in a freezer bag. Freeze for at least 5 hours or up to a couple of months.

When you’re ready for dessert, place all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

Bacon, Mushroom, & Artichoke Hearts Frittata

I had Breakfast for Dinner on my menu plan this week. So I opened the fridge to see what veggies I could throw together for an omelette, when I realized I had the perfect scraps to make my most favorite frittata: some lonely mushrooms, bacon, an opened jar of artichoke hearts, and fresh rosemary.

This recipe is from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook by Diana Schwarzbein. She has several books and cookbooks that focus on a balanced diet with full, natural fats (skim milk - what's that?), lots of leafy green vegetables, no additives, and no refined sugar. Overall her approach to diet is common sense, but most Americans don't come anywhere near eating within her guidelines. A few recipes from her cookbook have become some of my standards. There will be more posts to come with Schwarzbein recipes.

This frittata is also delicious with dried rosemary, but of course fresh herbs aren't to be rivaled.

Bacon, Mushroom, and Artichoke Hearts Frittata
from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook by Diana Schwarzbein

4 eggs
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
freshly ground pepper
dash cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
4 slices bacon
2 Tbsp. butter
2 c. sliced mushrooms
½ c. diced artichoke hearts
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary, or other fresh herb
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside. In a skillet, cook bacon over low heat. Drain, crumble, and set aside. Wipe skillet clean. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. When butter is hot and bubbly, add mushrooms and cook until softened and liquid is absorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Add artichoke hearts, rosemary, and crumbled bacon. Mix well and set aside. In a 10-inch flameproof skillet, melt remaining butter over medium-high heat. When butter is hot and bubbly, add egg mixture. As eggs cook, lift edges to allow uncooked egg to seep underneath. When bottom is set but top is still moist, spread bacon filling over egg and place under broiler. Broil 1 to 2 minutes, checking frequently, until top is golden and puffed up. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.