Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies

This past weekend Diana hosted her 7th Annual D.C. Wine & Cheese Soiree. It is always a great opportunity to be classy in cocktail attire while trying new cheeses and wines and catching up with old friends. We used to end it early to go dancing in Adams Morgan but these days we linger at her apartment until late. It is hard to believe I've known Diana and the rest of the "Fab 5 (6-7-8...)" for 7 years. My time in DC is time I cherish more and more as the years go by...

I can't tell you a favorite wine from the night but Stilton with Lemon Peel was my favorite cheese. It was creamy, tangy and a little sweet. I also really enjoyed Deb at Smitten Kitchen's Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies that Rachel and I made for the party. These cookies are light and flaky on the outside with a subtle sweetness from the jam. The cheese flavor is not prominent, so even your cheese-hating (yes, these people exist) friends will enjoy these cookies.

Just be prepared to work for their deliciousness. Most brutal is pushing Farmer's Cheese through a fine mesh strainer though a closer runner up is cutting the rolled out dough into 3 x 3 squares (especially if you are a bit OCD like me) and then cleaning up the jellied pans! We had a LOT of ooze going on with our cookies as they baked. Clearly my sealing/rolling technique needs some work...and it will get it next time I make these (in a single batch as instructed below rather than a double)!

Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies
Reworded from Deb at Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of The Gourmet Cookie Book's recipe
Yields approximately 30 cookies

2 sticks (1 cup) Unsalted Butter, softened
7.5 ounces Farmer Cheese
2 tbsp Sour Cream
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Jam (We mixed it up with some marmalade and raspberry.)
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

1. Place butter in a large bowl and cream until smooth. Press cheese through a sieve into creamed butter and stir to combine. Add the sour cream and vanilla, stir again. Whisk together 2 cups of the flour and salt in a separate bowl, then add it gradually to the cheese mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours (longer is better; you will want it quite firm).
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle your counter with a dusting of flour from the remaining 1/4 cup. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut off 1/4 of it. Return the rest to the fridge, then roll the dough out very thinly on the counter (if you put wax paper on top of it you will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin).
3. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares and put a little less than 1/2 teaspoon jam  in the center of each square. Fold the dough in half on the diagonal, pressing firmly down to seal the two sides around the jam. Roll the triangle into crescents, starting at the wide end. Arrange crescents on a baking sheet (they won’t expand terribly much, so just an inch or so between them is fine) and brush them lightly with milk.
4. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Transfer them to a wire rack and sift powder sugar over top of them. Continue making cookies in the same manner until all the dough is used.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

Back in December I saw Jeanette's Healthy Living's Thai Coconut Curry Lentil Soup when Kayln she adapted it on her site. I looked at both options and decided to make my own variation on Jeanette's recipe as I don't own a slow cooker, I could avoid purchasing chicken broth (thrifty!) and I had similar ingredients on hand.

I dry toasted the spices before adding any liquids or fats to help intensify their flavors. Then I substituted green curry for red as it was in my fridge and replaced the red lentils with french lentils since they hold their shape better. I also added apple from some crunch. My soup was considerably less smooth than either of their versions but I liked the texture.

The resulting soup is slightly spicy, slightly sweet and very filling though not particularly pleasing to the eye. My Dad loves it and I suspect we'll be eating it all winter as it comes together so quickly! I've already made it three times.

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1.5 cup Onion, chopped
1.5 tsp. Ginger, minced
1.5  tsp. Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp. Ground Coriander
1/4 tsp. Turmeric
1 tbsp. Green Curry Paste
5 cups Water
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup French Lentils
2 small-medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces (yield 2.5 cups)
3/4 cup Coconut Milk (could use will just be a little less creamy)
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 large Apple, peeled cut into 1/2" pieces (yield 1 cup; I used Jonagold).

1. Heat a saucepan over medium. Add the cumin, coriander and tumeric and toast until aromatic. Push to the side.
2. Heat olive oil. Once warm add the ginger and garlic and toast until garlic begins to brown.
3. Stir in green curry paste and cook for an additional two minutes.
4. Add water, lentils and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 20-25 minutes or until lentils and sweet potatoes are soft.
5. Remove cover, add remaining salt, apple and stir in coconut milk. Cook five more minutes.
6. Serve.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

January 2011 Daring Cooks' Challenge: Confit and Cassoulet

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman. You can get the full scoop on their challenge and all the related recipes here.

Since I tackled this project on Wednesday night with Friday as the deadline, I made the Garlic Confit and Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet. As I type this out I realize I didn't 100% complete the challenge as I just have been eating the garlic confit on the side (of everything) rather than incorporating it but that is close enough for me. Hopefully our wise hostesses will forgive me for this oversight! This was a great challenge and I'm glad I followed through with completing it.

I see this cassoulet appearing again in my winter dining; it is very hearty and the aroma alone tells you something good is on its way.  I found it more filling than similar chicken and vegetable soups, which the ingredient list and flavor profile was reminiscent of in spite of missing meat. I used canned beans and some aging, ailing whole wheat pitas to make the crumb topping, which while nice won't be essential for my dining pleasure in the future. It seemed like a lot of fuss for a marginal amount of added flavor and texture to me.

As for the Garlic Confit, if you have the patience to peel lots of garlic cloves, or are willing to pay for the pre-peeled variety, and have an hour or so you can make it. To summarize, you poach garlic cloves in oil with some spices, which results in garlic infused oil you can use on its own and smooth, creamy garlic bulbs that are decadent smeared on bread, on their own and, I assume, in other things. This elegant looking blog has a shortcut for peeling cloves, so I might try that if/when I make this again to cut down on the time involved and the sticky fingers. Or I might just stick to roasting garlic since it is less fussy.

Vegetarian/Vegan Cassoulet
Adapted slighty from Gourmet Magazine, March 2008

3 medium Leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium Carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 Celery Ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
2 Fresh Parsley Sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California Bay Leaf
1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
3 cans Cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups Water
4 cups Coarse Fresh Bread Crumbs from a Baguette (I used whole wheat pitas.)
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Chopped Garlic
1/4 cup Chopped Parsley

1. Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.
2. Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350 degrees Fahrenheit with rack in middle.
4. Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated.
5. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
7. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

Garlic Confit Adapted slighty from Saveur, Issue #129
Yields approximately 1 cup

3/4 cup Olive Oil
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt (Note: use half this amount if using table salt)
5 Whole Black Peppercorns
2-3 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
32 Garlic Cloves, peeled (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 Dried Bay Leaf

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place ingredients in a 1/2 quart pot fully submerging the garlic in the oil. Cover pot. Bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 1 hour. Let cool.
2. Transfer mixture to a glass jar; cover surface of oil with plastic wrap and then close the jar. This can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

If you think the confit looks creepy here wait until you refrigerate it and the oil coagulates. 
Thank goodness it smooths back out quickly at room temperature and tastes better than it looks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Peas with Roasted Garlic Chicken and Whole Wheat Pasta

This was my first meal of 2011 and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it took me 10 days to post about it. Sorry! I was busy with last hurrah's in NYC before settling down in Virginia. I also wanted to make it again to be sure I really liked it. I was afraid I might have transferred the excitement over having the clarity of mind to put a meal together the morning of the first to excitement over this meal. I've had some brutal New Years Day hangovers in the past... *shudder*

Anyway, this dish kept things simple and was filling and flavorful. It also helped use up the remaining frozen items in Fort Greene, so no food was left behind when I moved. The peas and herbs give it brightness while the roasted garlic, the chicken and its broth are rich, rich, rich without being overly indulgent.

Unfortunately I followed it up with an obscene number of Pretzel M&Ms so getting back on track with better eating had to wait until the following day. But that's the joy of each day being a new one right? The opportunity to make different choices and have different experiences. Happy (Belated) New Year!

Peas with Roasted Garlic Chicken and Whole Wheat Pasta
Yields approximately 6 servings

5 Chicken Drumsticks, skin on
6-8 Garlic Cloves, peeled and halved
1 Small Onion, diced
Salt and Pepper

4-5 cups Frozen Peas (approximately 1.5 one pound bags)
2 cups Whole Wheat Pasta (I used leftover macaroni the first time and fusilli the second)
1/2 tbsp. Butter
1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 tsp. Rosemary, dried

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Dice the onion and place it in the bottom of a glass baking dish big enough to fit the drumsticks.
3. Peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half, removing the little green stem should it appear. Place these into the bottom of the baking dish as well.
4. Sprinkle the drumsticks with salt and pepper on both sides. Place them in the baking dish.
5. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until meat by the bone is no longer pink and the juices run clear.
6. In the meantime bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and when there is about 4 minutes left add the frozen peas. Your boil will die.
7. After the peas and pasta come back to a boil, turn off the stovetop and drain the mixture. Place it in a medium bowl and swirl in the bit of butter.
8. Once the chicken is done remove the chicken's skin and tear the remaining chicken into pieces, then add it to the peas and macaroni. Now add the garlic and drippings/chicken broth to taste. Add rosemary and thyme. Mix, then salt to taste. 

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