Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, October's Pasta Night and a Troubled Spaetzle Attempt

As Britt sings when I'm lucky, Happy, Happy, Happy Turkey Day! If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you've all found many things to be thankful for and that you are enjoying time with your family,  biological or chosen. My family is feasting on Friday and Sunday, so I am not indulging yet but there's no reason not to be thankful in advance of the trimmings. I am grateful to my family and friends for their ongoing love and support, the experiences I have had this year including visiting Lizzie in Minneapolis and checking out the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens, touring Glacier National Park and attending fun weddings among others. 

One of my favorite things in NYC has been thematic cooking events. First there were Dana's where my urge to share my cooking trumped my nervousness about being somewhere surrounded (mostly) by strangers. Then there has been the new version organized by Meg. Our most recent was Pasta Night i.e. making use of her Kitchen-Aid Mixer's Pasta Roller. Everyone contributed something - Leslie's awesome meat ragu was the star in my opinion - and we learned that there is a limit to how many times you can run pasta through the roller without losing its tenderness while chatting, eating and drinking. Perfection.

My contribution was freshly grated Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo sauce, my favorite childhood food other than ice cream. I returned to All Recipe's Fettuccine Alfredo V something I made in college with these notes "a little buttery, use less margarine (what I substituted), rich enough to give a little stomachache, it got rave reviews from my roommates and sisters, possibly could use a bit more garlic and have to stir upon reheat then it is a bit grainy but still flavorful. That also mixes the butter back in" for the occasion. I'm pleased to report it no longer gives me a stomachache, even though I traded up to butter. It is just delicious. If you like Fettuccine Alfredo when dining out, trust me, the linked version beats it.

The following Monday I used the leftover Fettuccine Alfredo sauce, blanched zucchini, basil chiffonade and spaetzle with lemon zest to create something similar to my memory of a dish I ate at B-Bar in May. The flavor was good, but I learned the hard way that a potato ricer does not work to make spaetzle. Mine did not cook as evenly as April's and looked a bit like brains, if their tissue were white.

Vanessa and Meg made the pasta from scratch.

We all took turns running the pasta through the pasta roller. 

Erin made lovely bow ties.

The rest of the dough turned into fettuccine.

Bow Ties with Leslie's killer ragu. This was only the start of what I ate.

My attempt at spaetzle, though not lovely, was delicious.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé and Pepper Jicama Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website. You can find their recipes and tips here. You can find Audax's always amazing additional tips and results here.

This month I was not only late but I also was very daring. I reviewed the provided recipes and those in my Fine Cooking I binder, then I created an Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé. I'll walk you through the steps I took but I can't say I would recommend that you try it since it's flavor improved as it cooled and soufflés are meant to be served HOT! If you do try it, add salt to the avocado mixture and keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn't overcook. Mine rose beautifully only to collapse after I overcooked least the internal texture was right nevermind the rest of it.

I served the Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé with Sweet Potato Fries, a simple Pepper Jicama Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette (that you should make) and some Foreman'ed Pork Chops (courtesy of an assist from my Mom when I ran out of steam) topped with Caramelized Onions. Being home for Thanksgiving and having Mom's Kitchen-Aid mixer and dishwasher made this whole process so much easier!

Thanks to her, Dad and Jarrett for being so patient while I put our meal together and for bearing with the experimental soufflé.

Avocado-Cilantro Soufflé
(enough for a 1.5 quart dish; serves 4 people)

1 Tbsp. Butter
Crushed Doritos

1 Haas Avocado
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. Coconut Milk (Regular Milk or Cream would be fine)
1 Tbsp. Butter
1/8 cup cheddar cheese

4 egg yolks, at room temperature
8 egg whites, at room temperature

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in oven-proof dish with high sides. Coat the interior of the dish with the butter, then coat it with the crushed Doritos.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Halve the avocado, remove its pit and scoop the flesh into food processor. Rinse and dry the cilantro, pluck off the leaves and chop enough to add 1/4 cup cilantro to avocado. Add 2 tablespoons of coconut milk to the food processor to facilitate pureeing. Puree the mixture until smooth.
4. Melt the other tablespoon of butter into a pan on the stove. Transfer avocado-cilantro mixture to the pan, add the grated cheddar and warm the mixture incorporating the cheddar. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
5. Temper the 4 egg yolks with a little of the avocado mixture, then incorporate them into the avocado-cilantro mixture. Transfer to a medium bowl.
6. Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage and fold them into the avocado-cilantro mixture. Be careful not to overmix and deflate the egg whites.
7. Transfer the mixture into oven-proof dish, wipe the edges clean and smooth the top. Bake until puffy, serve immediately. 40 minutes was way too long of a baking time; maybe try 22 minutes as that is when my souffle was elevated and starting to turn golden.

Pepper Jicama Salad with Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette
(an approximate recipe to serve 4-6 people)

5 Ounces of Baby Spinach
1.5 Red, Orange and/or Yellow Peppers
1 Medium Jicama
1 Lime, juice only
1.5 Tbsp. Canola Oil
1 Tsp. Cumin
.5 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
Salt and Pepper

1. Retrieve a large bowl. Place the spinach in the bowl.
2. Wash the peppers and cut them into small dice. Place the the diced pepper in the bowl with the spinach.
3. Peel the jicama using your knife. Cut it into small cubes. Add these cubes to the bowl.
4. Juice the lime into a jar with a lid. Add the canola oil, cumin, agave nectar and salt and pepper to taste. Shake vigorously. It should still be slightly tart in my opinion for a bright contrast to the jicama and pepper's sweetness.
5. Pour over the salad and serve.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas

Clearly I am on a roll... I have been eating pumpkin spice again thanks to Sarah of Peas and Thank You's Pumpkin Spice Chick Peas, which I've made twice now. They are easy and addictive with their crisp exterior and slightly sweet flavor. For my second batch I added a bit of cayenne pepper and halved the maple syrup to up the savory factor. We'll see what happens next time.

To keep things simple, this time I also just mixed my salad (spinach, carrot shreds and a little bit of cheddar cheese) in the bowl I mixed the chickpeas in prior to roasting them. I only needed a touch more apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to have it ready for the finished chickpeas. No waste and no extra bowl...also not vegan...but we'll tackle that some other time. The sweet and savory combo can't be beat.

Mama Pea's Pumpkin Spice Chickpeas
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 T. maple syrup
1 t. canola oil (or oil of your choice)
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ginger
3/4 t. cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir them until evenly coated.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and spray it with olive, canola or another oil.
3. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 25 minutes. Be sure to wiggle them periodically to encourage even crispness.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread

One of my favorite treats growing up in Richmond, Virginia was fresh bread from Montana Gold Bread Company in Carytown. Going to get new pointe shoes at Ellman's inevitably ended with a thick, sample slice and a few loaves coming home. When I saw Cassie from How To Eat a Cupcake and Flour Child Bakery post this Cinnamon Swirl Bread I was brought back to their Cinnamon Swirl Bread and bookmarked the recipe confident that I could bring a version of Montana Gold's bread to my Brooklyn kitchen.

My only changes to the recipe were spreading a bit of canned pumpkin between layers in lieu of raisins  (because what isn't pumpkin good in?), rolling it up without the topping and having to unroll it (oops) and letting it rise overnight in the fridge, which didn't hold it back in the least as this bread was a prodigious riser. I'm not kidding. It's strength buckled my silicon loaf pan.

The resulting loaf was an excellent likeness to the one in my memory -- light and fluffy in texture and slightly sweet. It was great on its own fresh or toasted with a bit of butter later in the week. To get a feel for it imagine the texture and size of Texas Toast only replace the garlic and butter with a sweet swirl. My only change next time will be having more space to roll out the dough, so there will be more of a swirl in my end result! You've got to try it.

Other excitement: I have two new readers! Thanks for signing on y'all. I also ran my first 8k this past weekend; thanks to a friend's pace setting skill there were no stops or walking breaks and we finished in 58:20. I didn't think a 5k outside was possible much less an 8k. :)

Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread
From Joy of Cooking via How To Eat A Cupcake
Yield: 1 loaf

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
3 tablespoons Warm Water (105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 cup Milk (full fat or nonfat both are fine, heat to  low-fat milk, warmed 105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
6 tablespoons Melted Unsalted Butter (keep one tablespoon for finishing)
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 large Egg
1 teaspoon Salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup Pumpkin
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1 Egg
1. Combine yeast and water in a large bowl or bowl of mixer and stir. Let stand for five minutes until yeast dissolves. Meanwhile, oil a large bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the flour and the aforementioned teaspoon of butter, and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the 3 1/2 cups of flour a 1/2 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl yet sticks to its bottom. If needed, continue adding a tablespoon of flour at a time until you reach the right consistency.
3. If using a mixer with a dough attachment, switch to it and knead for about 10 minutes on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, sprinkle the counter with flour and knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
4. Place the dough in the prepared bowl and turn it over once to coat. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
5. Open the can of pumpkin and scoop out 1/2 cup in a small bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar for the filling.
6. Grease an 8 1/2” x 4 1/2” loaf pan. Melt the reserved butter. Punch dough down. Roll the dough into an 8” x 18” rectangle about 1/2” thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the 1 teaspoon of the melted butter. Sprinkle all but 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon sugar over the dough and spread the pumpkin as evenly as you can over the surface. Starting from one 8” side, roll up the dough and pinch the seam and ends closed. Place seam side down in the pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk egg and salt together and gently brush over the top of the loaf. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and the bottom of the sounds hollow when tapped, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove loaf from the pan onto a cooling rack. While the bread is still hot, brush the top with the remaining melted butter, then let it cool.
8. Once cool, slice and enjoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Root Vegetable Risotto

As I threw this together I was calling it “Going to Richmond Risotto” in my head since I just was cleaning out the fridge for my trip home tonight (!) when I came up with the ingredients. I can't wait to be home, to have time to think and to catch up with my often too far away family.

The risotto ended up looking so festive that I decided to share. Plus it tastes delicious. It is warm, filling and comforting -- perfect for Fall and perhaps Thanksgiving? I bet you could throw Turkey Day leftovers into a risotto for a tasty result too. Hmm.  Anyway, the parmesan makes the risotto tangy and rich while the root vegetables add sweetness and the beet greens spice things up a touch.

This is the first time I’ve enjoyed beet greens too, which is a serious accomplishment. I didn’t have to feel guilty for discarding them. Finally. Here’s hoping to many more…maybe one day even without cheese.

Root Vegetable Risotto
Yields approximately 5 cups

1.5 Tbsp Browned Butter (or Regular)
3 Leeks
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
1/4 cup Dry White Wine
4-5 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt

1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Potato
2 Small Red Beets
1 Large Golden Beet
1-2 Bunches of Beet Greens
Salt and Pepper

Directions (as usual adapted slightly from Sally Schneider’s A New Way To Cook)
1. Heat 4-5 cups of chicken broth in the microwave until warm. In the meantime, cut the leeks in half, trim down to the white portions and slice into 1/8” pieces.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and a little salt. Sauté for 5 minutes until tender. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains look chalky with a white dot in the center of each, about 5 minutes. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
3. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed by the rice. Stir in 1/2 cup of the broth. Cook at a very low boil, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the broth in this fashion, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking and stirring until the grains of rice are tender yet still firm in the center and the risotto is creamy but not soupy.
4. While the risotto cooks…. Put olive oil into a large bowl. Trim beet greens, rinse and dry. Set aside. Peel sweet potato and beets. Slice into 1/4” thick slices, and then cut into 1/4” slices. Toss with olive oil in the bowl.
5. Lay the beets and sweet potatoes out on the tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the sweet potatoes, red beets and golden beets in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.
6. While they roast and the vegetables roast, slice the beet greens into ribbons.
7. Add the beet greens to the risotto with the last 1/2 cup of broth and stir.
8. Remove the root vegetables from the oven and cool. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the Greek yogurt and Parmesan.
9. Add the root vegetables in and stir the mixture together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whole Wheat Pita Pizza with Roasted Apples, Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion

Though I don't feel compelled to become vegan it intrigues me, so when The New York Times referenced vegan Thanksgiving dishes I clicked over to Chef Chloe's Web site to check them out. What really caught my eye once there was her Flatbread with Roasted Apples, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion. I knew I had to make it immediately.

I wasn't disappointed by this decision in the least; it is seasonal and satisfying with the crunchy crust, garlic's bite and sweetness from the caramelized onions and roasted vegetables. This flatbread can be a meal on its own but I presented it as a first course and suspect it would also make a great appetizer.

I didn't follow Chef Chloe's recipe exactly as I was feeling lazy but I didn't change it substantively either. I substituted whole wheat pitas for pizza dough and a diced large sweet potato for butternut squash as they are a bit easier to handle. To make up for using pre-baked bread, I roasted my vegetables on their own while the onions caramelized, then topped the pita with everything and heated it for approximately 5 minutes.

Having prepared the components separately enabled me to enjoy fresh flatbread several days in a row, which is a plus! I managed to eek out 7 pita flatbreads from the ingredients. I highly recommend that you try this recipe out.

Whole Wheat Pita Pizza with Roasted Apples, Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion
Adapted from Chef Chloe's recipe

Whole Wheat Pitas (alternately you can purchase or make pizza dough)
Garlic White Bean Puree
    1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
    1/4 cup Olive Oil
    2 tablespoons Water
    1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
    2 Cloves Garlic
    1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
    1 teaspoon Sea Salt
    1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pizza Topping
    4 tablespoons Olive Oil
    1 Onion, thinly sliced
    Sea Salt
    Freshly Ground Black Pepper
    1 large sweet potato, diced
    1 cup spinach
    1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sprinkle them with salt. Saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. If they are getting dry, yet haven't browned, you can add a tablespoon or two of water at a time instead of additional oil.
3. While the onions caramelize, toss remaining 2 tablespoons oil with sweet potato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes until squash is fork tender, turning once or twice with a spatula.
4. While the onions caramelize and the sweet potatoes roast, place all the garlic bean puree ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. If you don't have a food processor, you could put them in a bowl and use an immersion blender. You probably could use a regular blender too.
5. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and set aside. Place the whole wheat pitas on a baking sheet and spread a thin layer of the puree over each one's surface. Place the spinach, caramelized onions, sweet potato and apple slices on top.
6. Bake for 5 minutes, rotating midway, until the pitas warm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Butter

Much better than the doughnuts was my first batch of Pumpkin Butter! It not only dressed up/salvaged the doughnuts but it also tastes great on its own, spread on bread or stirred into yogurt for breakfast. Plus it is full of that pumpkin pie spice everyone craves this time of year.

I started from Sarah's recipe using the white pumpkin I picked up during a girl's weekend in the Catskills. I hadn't seen a white pumpkin before but I found its flesh to taste the same as an orange one though it had more of a brown tinge. My changes to her process were substituting maple syrup for white sugar, amping up the cinnamon and cloves and cooking the butter for a mere hour or so over on low on the stove instead of for 8 hours in a slow cooking. The result was lightly sweetened, super smooth bliss. No question this project is worth the time it takes!

When you scoop out the pumpkin's insides be sure to save and roast the seeds for a salty, crunchy and, somehow, healthy snack that will have you wishing you ate whole pumpkins and squash more often. I used Mama Pea's recipe this time and found the addition of vinegar to the usual mix of olive oil and salt to be a good one. 

Pumpkin Butter
Slight adapted from Sarah at All Our Fingers in the Pie

1 Pumpkin
Maple Syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking sheet with olive oil.
2. Cut the pumpkin in half and use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and pith inside. If you want to roast the pumpkin seeds, save them.
3. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a baking sheet and roast until soft, approximately 30 minutes.
4. Scoop the cooked pumpkin flesh into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add flavorings to taste.  I went with 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/8 teaspoon each nutmeg and ginger for each cup of pumpkin. 
5. Transfer the seasoned puree to a large pot and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour (or until it reaches the desired texture).