February 22, 2012

Almond Poppy Seed Cake

I love this classic cake which combines almond extract with poppy seeds for amazing flavor. The texture is thicker, like pound cake, and the bundt pan shape makes a lovely presentation. This is a super easy cake to make anytime. Well, anytime except right before a drug test.

Almond Poppy Seed Cake
from my mother

3 c. flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
2 ¼ c. sugar
1 1/8 c. oil (canola, grapeseed, vegetable)
3 eggs, beaten
1 ½ c. milk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. poppy seed

1 c. powdered sugar
¼ c. fresh orange juice
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract

To prepare cake combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in oil, milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extract and mix until smooth. Add poppy seed. Pour into lightly greased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 350˚ for 1 hour. Cool in pan for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and glaze. To prepare glaze mix all ingredients until smooth. Pour over warm cake.

February 18, 2012

Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

The other day I had what I'd guess you'd call a craving for a dish like this. That motivated me to take the effort to make the enchiladas. They really weren't too hard to make, but just took a little time. Since this recipe makes a large pan, there was plenty for dinner the next day, so it was time well spent.

Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
1 teaspoon canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons sugar
2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large chicken breasts)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas (fajita-size for flour tortillas)
cooking spray
salt and ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the onion, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer.

Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12-20 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts you are using. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the leftover onion mixture from the strainer to a large bowl and set aside.

Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture in the large bowl. Also stir in 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese and the cilantro. Toss to combine.

Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

Heat oven to 400 F. Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, if desired.

February 16, 2012

Oatmeal Scotchies with Coconut

Cookies with whole oats ease my conscience slightly. Whole oats are very nutritious, but the butter and sugar probably cancel out any benefit. I really liked the combination of butterscotch chips and coconut. So good.

Oatmeal Scotchies with Coconut
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups butterscotch chips
1 cup shredded coconut

Beat the sugars and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Beat until creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter and egg mixture slowly beating on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the butterscotch chips and coconut.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

February 11, 2012

How to Make Ravioli

A while ago I posted a recipe for Five-Cheese Ravioli. I recently made these ravioli again and feel like I have somewhat got the hang of forming the ravioli. Here's a photo tutorial!

First of all, when rolling the pasta dough (I use a pasta maker, but you can also do it by hand), don't roll it too thin. My machine has 7 settings, I start at 1 and go up to 4, sometimes 5. While rolling, keep dusting the dough with more flour.

After reaching the desired thickness, lay the sheet of pasta dough on a well-floured surface. Gently place the ravioli mold on top to see if the pasta sheet is the right size. The pasta needs to hang over the sides of the mold slightly. My machine was a little thinner in width than my ravioli mold, so I used a rolling pin to add a little more width to the pasta sheet. Once ready, lay the pasta dough on top of the ravioli mold. The mold has crimped edges, so align the dough with the mold and then gently press the dough onto the crimped edges to keep it in place. Add a small spoonful of filling to each mold, like this:

Then lay a second sheet of pasta over top. My mold came with a mini rolling pin to roll over the mold to help the crimped edges cut the pasta. You can see it starts to separate into separate raviolis:

Carefully trim the edges of the pasta and remove each ravioli from the mold. Put on a floured surface and cover with a towel until ready to use.

Here are the raviolis after boiled for a few minutes, drained, and topped with homemade tomato sauce:

An alternative method for shaping the ravioli if you don't have a mold, is to use a small biscuit cutter. Roll out a sheet of pasta, add dollops of filling carefully spaced on the dough. Lay another sheet of pasta dough on top. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out the ravioli:

February 5, 2012

Quiche Lorraine

I was able to co-host a baby shower for a friend. Held in the morning, we spread a simple brunch - baked goods, fruit salad, and this quiche. Good thing the quiche turned out, as I made it that morning for the first time. This quiche was amazing, really, but I owe it all to Deb at Smitten Kitchen. She is amazing.

Quiche Lorraine
from Smitten Kitchen

1 3/4 cups diced leeks, white and light green parts only (about 2 large leeks)
3/4 cup diced onion
2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons butter, diced
4 eggs, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups diced ham (about 1/2 pound)
3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

UPDATE: Because sour cream is not something I often have on hand, I tried a new batter.  Instead of using 3 eggs, 1/2 c. cream, and 1 c. sour cream, I used: 4 eggs, 2 yolks, and 3/4 c. cream.

1. Heat a large sauté pan over low heat. Sauté the leeks and onions in the olive oil 30 to 40 minutes until caramelized, occasionally stirring. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg (a fork works great for this) and mix it until a dough forms.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or 8-inch deep tart pan, and press to remove any air bubbles. Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. While the quiche shell chills, mix the heavy cream and sour cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining three eggs. Add a pinch each nutmeg, salt and pepper and combine to form a batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Remove the quiche shell from the refrigerator and spread the leek and onion mixture evenly over the base. Sprinkle the ham and then the cheese over the leeks and onions. Pour in the batter and place the quiche in the oven.

6. Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes (a deeper pan may take up to 50 minutes baking time). Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

February 3, 2012

Sfiha on Pita

So why did I finally get inspired to make pita bread? So I could try out this recipe - a spicy ground beef mixture atop pita bread. The day all this occurred was a Sunday, and I don't shop that day. So I was left to make pita bread myself.

This recipe is Mediterranean, and after a life-changing visit to Istanbul, I stocked my pantry with sumac and pomegranate molasses. I realize the average American cook may not have these on hand. Pomegranate molasses is used in a variety of dishes, but if you can't find any, try reducing pomegranate juice to use as a substitute.

I really liked this dish - the crunchy, hot pita with spicy beef and the fresh, cold salsa make an amazing pair. I prepared it for dinner, but really it's probably best as an appetizer or snack. The beef needs to be spread thinly on the pita so that it cooks all the way through. So you'd have to eat way too many of these to get full.

Sfiha on Pita
adapted from Creative Culinary

1 pound lean ground beef
4 ounces chopped onion
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley
3 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp labneh (yogurt cheese) or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Arabic seven-spice (recipe below)
1 teaspoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes or chili powder
at least 20 small pita bread rounds

Chop the onion fine and combine with some salt; place it on a sieve lined with a paper towel and let the onion drain its juice for 30 minutes or so.

Place the meat, spices, drained onion, chopped parsley, tahini, pomegranate molasses, labneh and minced garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes or until the mixture turns pasty. Transfer to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375F and line a few baking sheets with foil. Place a pita on the foil and slather about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the meat mixture (depending on the size of the pita) on the pita, using a spatula to spread it as evenly as possible. The meat should be a fairly thin layer so that it cooks all the way through. Continue with the rest of the pitas.

Bake for 7-10 minutes, checking halfway through. When the meat looks cooked, remove from the oven. Serve warm topped with the salad mixture.

Arabic Seven-Spice Mixture
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves
1/ tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Mix together. Store in an air-tight container.

Salad Mixture
2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped Italian parsley
1 cup chopped onion or green onion
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp salt
a dash allspice

Mix salad ingredients together. In a separate bowl whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss dressing with salad.