Sunday, January 31, 2010

Date Anise Scones

Around Christmas I made a variety of cookies to give away to friends and family which included Anise-Scented Fig & Date Swirls that I got from my favorite Gourmet cookbook. They were the most complimented out of all the cookies I made. My friend Scott went so far as to say that he wanted to eat them every day for the rest of his life which, really, there's no higher praise than that.

I was inspired to make these scones based on some of the flavors in those cookies. The dates and anise just go so well together. The scones are made with all whole wheat pastry flour and are hearty with oats and walnuts yet remain tender from the addition of buttermilk and butter.

As these scones were baking I decided that the addition of anise seeds in any baked good really ups the fragrance ante. It smells warm and sweet and ultimately comforting.

For 8 scones:

  • 1¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon anise seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar & pestle
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons demerara sugar for sprinkling

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, anise seeds and salt. Cut the butter into 8 cubes and sprinkle over the flour mixture. With a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until pea-sized crumbs form. Stir in the brown sugar, dates, and walnuts.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and with a spatula, fold together until just moistened. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet in a mound. With lightly floured hands, pat the dough into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Mark the dough with a knife into 8 pieces. Brush the top of the dough with the milk and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and slightly puffy. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Asian Pear Slaw

A lot of times I develop recipes based on one ingredient I randomly buy at the store. In the last post, it was golden flax seeds and this time around it was a perfectly round and golden Asian Pear. I walked around the store with the one pear in my basket wondering what to do with it. The flavor is so mild, the texture so crisp that I thought it might make an interesting slaw, enhanced with Asian flavors, of course.

All this slaw takes is a little chopping, a little whisking and it's contrasting colors and flavors are mixed together in no time at all. I was going to make a straight cabbage/pear slaw but really emptied out my pantry and fridge utilizing a lonely serrano pepper, some zippy candied ginger, a handful of peanuts, and a small shallot. I seared a fillet of salmon and served it with this slaw which was a great accompaniment.

It pained me to buy out of season, overpriced mint but I felt like the slaw needed it. Besides, having the mint on hand allowed me to make a much-needed cold-weather mojito. Nothing brightens up an 11 degree day more than a summertime cocktail.

To serve four, as a side-dish:
  • 1 slightly underripe Asian Pear, cored and julienned
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage (I used a coleslaw mix containing carrots & cabbage)
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts
  • 2 teaspoons candied ginger, finely chopped
  • 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt

In a large bowl, mix together the pear, cabbage, pepper, shallot, peanuts, ginger and mint. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut oil, rice vinegar, lime juice sugar and salt. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss the ingredients so that everything is thoroughly combined. Serve.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Whole Grain Golden Flax Bread

Even though there's almost nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house, I really have to work up the motivation to bake some because it certainly seems like so much damn work, doesn't it? Once I get going though, it's ultimately a comforting task, particularly when frozen rain is glazing every surface outside and there is no sun to speak of.

This recipe started with some golden flax seeds I bought at the store. I'm not sure why I bought them except that I hadn't ever seen them before and I was intrigued by the fact that they were more expensive than regular flax seeds (hi, I'm a total sucker). I then paged through my cookbooks and found a recipe from King Arthur Flour for a whole wheat bread that utilized seeds and molasses. I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding in some rye flour and a different combination of seeds.

It really turned out nice. Golden brown in color and flecked with poppy, sesame and golden flax seeds, the texture is soft but hearty with a nice chewy crust. It has a touch of sourness to it (in a good way) that I enjoy. I've been toasting it each morning and spreading it with butter and honey.

For one loaf:
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rye flour
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon absorbic acid (such as Fruit Fresh - this will help with the rising)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons golden flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses

Combine the water and milk in a measuring cup and heat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds so that it reads about 105-110 degrees on a thermometer. Pour about a 1/4 cup of the mixture into a bowl and stir in the yeast. Set aside for 10 minutes until frothy.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the white whole wheat flour, rye flour, 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and the melted butter. Add the milk/water, yeast mixture, absorbic acid and salt. Beat for a couple minutes. Add the seeds and molasses beating until well-combined.

Switch to the dough hook and add the additional cup of flour. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if needed to prevent sticking. When the dough is smooth, a little sticky, and elastic remove from the mixing bowl and form into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 1½-2 hours until doubled in size.

Squeeze the dough to deflate it, form it into a loaf size and place in a lightly greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside. Now, this part is important: You want the dough to rise until it is 1-inch above the rim of the pan. This can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes. If it rises too much, the dough won't rise properly in the oven and the texture will be off. So, keep an eye on it.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes until it is browned on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, remove from the pan, and let cool for 30 minutes more before slicing. Store in a sealable plastic bag.

Adapted from a recipe from King Arthur Flour.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Roasted Yukon & Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes and rosemary are such a perfect combination, but the surprise addition of a sweet potato is a welcome addition. I use a Jersey Sweet Potato, a yellow-fleshed variety that is similar in color to the Yukon Gold Potato so with each bite, you don't know what you're going to get. The heat oven crisps up the skin and exterior of the flesh nicely while the interior becomes deliciously creamy.

Not only are these a favorite side dish for any number of Winter dinners, but they are also just the right thing for a brunch. A poached egg on top of these is excellent breakfast comfort food.

A pinch of sugar and paprika not only enhances the flavor but also results in better caramelization and color when they come out of the oven nicely roasted. You can use a bit less olive oil if you'd like but I have found that the potatoes tend to stick to the pan.

For 3-4 servings:
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (about 1 sprig)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the potatoes of any dirt and dry them. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and then cut the halves in half lengthwise. Cut each quarter into 2-inch wedges.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over them. Scatter the rosemary over the potatoes, then, sprinkle the salt, sugar, pepper and paprika over them as well. With your hands, toss everything until well coated. Place the pan in the oven.

Roast for 20 minutes. With a spatula, give the potatoes a toss and return to the oven. Roast for 15 minutes more. Toss again and roast for 10 additional minutes. Serve.

These potatoes reheat well and can be reheated in a warm oven or in the microwave.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Barley Salad with Curried Yogurt Dressing

I think barley might be underrated in my world. Whenever I eat it, I enjoy it immensely but tend to choose quinoa or rice much more often. Barley is super-nutritious and fairly quick-cooking needing only a 20-minute simmer. It also has that satisfying chew to it.

Besides the healthy whole grain of the barley, this salad is chock full of good things. You've got the one-two soy punch of edamame and tofu along with pretty red bits of bell pepper, golden apricots and toasty almonds. The whole thing is cloaked in a creamy curry dressing.

It might just be my personal preference but I think this salad is best when served slightly warm. If all the ingredients are prepped, and all that's left to do is cook the barley, stir it all together and the warmth of the barley will heat everything perfectly.

For 4-6 servings:
  • 6 ounces fried or baked tofu, cubed
  • 1¼ cups pearled barley, rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked, shelled edamame
  • 6 dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 6 tablespoons plain, Greek-style yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Juice of half a lemon

Rinse the barley several times in cold water. Place in a saucepan and cover with 3-4 inches of cold water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Taste the barley, it should be soft but still chewy. Drain in a colander and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayo, curry powder and lemon juice. Add the barley, tofu, edamame, bell pepper, and apricots and stir so that the ingredients are thoroughly coated with the dressing. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir again, sprinkle with the almonds and serve.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sesame Lime Salmon & Bok Choy

New Year's Resolutions: eat more vegetables, throw out Hershey's kisses, start doing yoga (again), drink green tea every day, stop finishing a bottle of wine just because it's there, and eat more healthy fish and seafood. Which brings us to this weeknight dinner I made myself.

I was scouring through my big binder of recipes I've torn out of magazines over the years and came across an article in an old Martha Stewart Living about cooking in parchment. The method was essentially the same no matter what you filled the parchment pouch with so I bought some salmon and improvised with ingredients I already had on hand.

It turned out really nice and was a snap to make. There was hardly any clean up too. I just plopped some steamed brown rice in a bowl and transferred the salmon, bok choy, and juices from the parchment to the rice and it was a perfect, healthy meal.

For one serving:

  • 4 ounces salmon, skinned
  • 1 baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 very thin lime slices
  • 1/2 a Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of black sesame seeds
  • Avocado slices
  • Steamed rice or rice noodles, for serving
Place a baking sheet in the oven and heat it to 400 degrees.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and honey. Combine the bok choy with 2 tablesoons of the sauce and set aside. Place the salmon in the bowl with the remaining sauce and turn to coat. Set aside.

When the oven is heated, tear off a piece of parchment about 17-inches long. fold it in half and then spoon the bok choy up against the crease. Place two lime slices on top of the bok choy. Remove the salmon from the marinade and place it on top. Top the salmon with the remaining lime slice. Sprinkle the pepper slices over the salmon. Making small folds, fold the parchment into a half-moon shape. Place it in the oven on the pre-heated baking sheet.

Bake for 12-17 minutes depending on how done you want your salmon. Remove from the oven, and serve over the rice or rice noodles. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top and garnish with the avocado slices. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Blood Orange Frozen Yogurt

I was talking to Guestblogger Eric M the other day and he mentioned he was going to the mall. Now, whenever I hear the word "mall", my Pavlovian response is to yearn for an Orange Julius because that is what I get whenever I find myself mallbound. For those of you who aren't in the know, an Orange Julius is basically a dreamsicle that has been put into a blender--creamy, orangey vanilla goodness.

I set off, determined to make a Julius-like confection for myself and grabbed some thick, plain Greek yogurt and a handful of beautiful blood oranges. After mixing the yogurt with the juice, I was excited to use some of my special Fiori Di Sicilia extract which is a ingredient commonly used in pannetone. This citrus-vanilla extract is sold at King Arthur Flour and I've used it in pancakes and orange sable cookies I make each year around Christmas.

I can't say that this frozen yogurt turned out better than an Orange Julius, but with its rosy shade from the blood orange juice and the clean yogurt flavors, it got the job done.
For about 1 quart:
  • 21 ounces plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
  • 3/4 cup strained blood orange juice (about 3 small oranges)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fiori Di Sicilia Extract
  • 1 tablespoon triple sec

In a bowl, stir together the yogurt, juice, sugar and extract until the sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate until the mixture is cold, about 30 minutes. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until it is thick and almost frozen, pouring in the tablespoon of triple sec at the end. Serve immediately or transfer to a quart-sized contaner and freeze. Let the container thaw for 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mediterranean Chop Salad

This past week, the arctic cold has flooded the region so that the temperatures hover at say, -2, all day. -2, without the wind chill mind you. I put on layer upon layer of clothing to take the dogs for a walk as if I am dressing for some sort of North Pole expedition from which I may never return.

Most of the time I crave comfort foods during this frozen insanity but I also feel the need for something healthy, something sunny tasting to remind me of warmer times ahead. I definitely hate picking over winter produce to try and pretend the veggies are something they're not, but this salad makes good use of all that is available, and tasty, right now.

The roasted cherry tomatoes are a key component of this salad so don't just toss them in there unroasted. I like to assemble the salad ahead and then when the tomatoes are ready, add them straight from the oven so that they are warm and soft. Save the remaining tomatoes for a baguette sandwich with some mozzarella and balsamic or throw them into some pasta. Delicious.

For 2 Main Course Salads:

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cups Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1/3 cup chopped cucumber
  • 8 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat pita chips
  • Red Wine Vinaigrette*

Heat the oven to 250 degrees. On a baking sheet, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, a grinding of black pepper, and a sprinkling of sugar. Shake the pan to coat them and place in the oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lettuce, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, cucumber, olives, and feta, tossing to combine. When the tomatoes are done, take them out of the oven and add them to taste to the salad. Add a tablespoon or so of the vinaigrette, lightly toss the salad again and then crumble the pita chips over the top. Serve at once.

*To make the red wine vinaigrette, whisk together 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and a pinch of dried oregano. Store the remaining vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Favorite Cookbooks: Winter 2010

If you're reading this blog than I can only assume you might be the type of person who has a shelf overflowing with cookbooks or who reads cookbooks before they go to bed at night. I have my favorites that I return to over and over again but this year I am determined to crack open the books I have never quite gotten to yet, or at the very least, haven't paid enough attention to. This is my list of books I am determined to cook with this winter.
  • The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein: I am shamed to admit that this is one of the books I bought over a year ago and I haven't made a single thing from. Ms. Goldstein cooks with a bit of a Russian flair and, as the title suggests, the recipes seem hearty and satisfying. Recipes I want to try include Spicy Squash Turnovers, Cornmeal Souffle, White Bean and Potato Pie, Millet Pancakes, and Pulla (Finnish Cardamom Bread).

  • A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds: Now this book I got fairly recently and already love it. Besides some enticing, simple Asian-inspired recipes, it has a great deal of information on Chinese medicine including some mysterious sounding herbal tonics that a well-stocked Asian market could put together for you that apparently cure things like toothaches, hangovers, and high blood pressure. I have already made the Cantonese-Style tofu in Black Bean Sauce and have my eye on the Clams with Basil and Garlic, Curried Coconut Green Beans and Braised Cinnamon Tofu.

  • Well-Preserved by Eugenia Bone: Ms Bone makes it sound as if anyone can be a canner. She has an easy-going writing style that instills confidence in tackling her various projects. This book isn't only about canning jams and jellies. She teaches us how to pickle, freeze, pressure can, preserve in oil and even cure and smoke. I've made her Spicy Pickled Cauliflower and Figs in Brandy as gifts for Christmas this past year and am planning on canning her Three-Citrus Marmalade very soon. If I can get my hands on a pressure canner, I'd love to try making my own canned tuna too. The really nice thing about this book is after every canning recipe, she includes recipes for using the canned product.

  • Feast by Nigella Lawson. Offering up recipes for all holidays and celebrations, this is my favorite Nigella book and I'm not sure where I would be if I didn't have her recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cake that graces my table a couple times a year around St. Patricks Day. It is a perfect cake. This year though I am going to expand my Nigella horizons and hopefully make her Hot Cross Buns, Ham in Cherry Coke, and tackle her Georgian Feast for Eight since I know virtually nothing about Georgian cuisine.

  • Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless: I love him. I love eating at Frontera Grill in Chicago, I love his salsas available at the grocery store, and I love his cookbooks. This one has easy-sounding weeknight recipes in it that are inventive and oftentimes healthy. I love making his Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos in my slow-cooker. I'd also like to try the Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds as well as the Crusty Black Bean Chorizo Subs and the Trout with Macadamias, Serrano and Green Beans.

  • The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: I have had this beautiful book for years now and have made absolutely nothing out of it. That is going to change in 2010. This book is all about eating for health but besides that, the photographs are gorgeous and the recipes inventive and not at all "diet" in a gimmicky way. On my list to make are the Sweet Potato Waffles with Blueberry Syrup, Shrimp & Mango Curry, and the Date Walnut Cake with Warm Honey Sauce.

  • King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: If you want to learn about baking with whole grains, this book is a gem. It's quite large with recipes for just about every baked good you can imagine. I have made the Toasted Sesame and Sunflower Loaf which was super tasty. There are really too many recipes to list that I would like to try but some highlights would be the Buttermilk Rye Bread, Cheese Crackers (Cheez-Its!!), Sprouted Wheat Sandwich Bread, Caramel Rum Squares, and Yeast-Raised Beignets.

  • Galatoire's Cookbook by Melvin Rodrigue with Jyl Benson: The times I have spent in New Orleans have been magical and nothing tops when we ate at Galatoire's in the French Quarter. I had Soft-Shell Crab Two Ways, Crepes Suzette and memorably the Creole Fried Eggplant that is dipped in powdered sugar and Tabasco which appears in this book. You must just try it. When Mardi Gras comes around this year I want to try my hand at the Crabmeat Sardou, Crawfish Bisque, Crepes Maison, and the Brandy Milk Punch.

  • Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss: I love my slow cooker in the cooler months. Whatever goes into it comes out as the perfect winter dinner. This book is unique because the recipes revolve around a slow cooker as a method, not as a convenient kitchen appliance. This may turn people off because there are sometimes many steps to do before putting the ingredients in it. I have found that the recipes are better for it and are worth the extra bit of effort. I have made the Beef Stew Provencal and the Marrakech Chicken Stew with Lemon and Olives, both delicious. I'd like to try the Oxtails Braised in Fragrant Coconut Milk, Braised Turkey Thighs with Posole and Lime, and the weird-sounding Candied-Clementine and Kalamata Compote.

If you have any input on these books, or any other winter favorites, please share!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Winter Ambrosia

Happy New Year! One year ago today I started this blog and it has brought me an incredible amount of satisfaction in my life. Thanks to all of you who have become followers, fans on facebook, and who send me such nice comments and emails. Of course, I must also thank my guestbloggers who make my life much easier and who teach me so much.

I know it's officially winter once I bring my first box of clementines home. They have that great seasonal charm that certain fruit has like rhubarb in the springtime and peaches in the summer. Now I know for a lot of people the word "ambrosia" conjures up visions of canned fruit, marshmallows and fluffy clouds of Cool Whip...which may not be a bad thing. This version is definitely a departure and although I missed the marshmallows a little, my ambrosia was just the thing to brighten up my winter morning breakfast.

I served the ambrosia parfait-style layering the fruit with toasted coconut and a spoonful of the creme fraiche which I perked up with a little honey and a pinch of cardamom.

For 6 servings:

  • 4 cups cubed pineapple (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 4 clementines, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted

  • In a large bowl, toss together the pineapple, dried blueberries and clementines. In a small bowl, stir together the creme fraiche, honey and cardamom.

    Spoon some fruit into the bottom of a parfait glass, drizzle a couple teaspoons of the creme fraiche dressing over it, sprinkle some coconut over it, and then repeat the layer one more time. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.