Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seeded Lavash Chips

Lately I've been taking a stand on purchasing hummus. Week after week I buy it at the store and vow to quit it because it's overpriced and never as good as I know it can be and when I look at the few ingredients it just seems logical to make my own. Certain things really irk me to pay for like chai tea, most pasta dishes, and apparently hummus so I make resolutions about never shelling out money for them again. Ever! Or at least until it re-happens and I have to re-declare.

I rounded up some chickpeas, tahini, lemons, garlic and olive oil and followed Cook's Illustrated's recipe for making the "best" hummus. It wasn't hard and I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner. While I was at it, I also made these easy, tasty chips from large rounds of whole wheat lavash. Crisp and golden after a blast in a hot oven, they came out with great crunch from the seed mixture.

The chips were perfect with the hummus and were addictive enough to eat on their own too. Although lavash is similar to pita, I thought these were better than pita chips I've made in the past. Lavash is softer and thinner which makes them crisp up perfectly with very little oil needed. They undoubtedly can handle endless variations of spices, seeds, herbs and oils. 
  • 3 round whole wheat lavash breads (10-inch size)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
Heat the oven to 400f (200c). Stir the seeds and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the breads into thin wedges. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the seeds over the tops and place in the center of the oven. Bake until the chips are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool before serving. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Raspberry Bittersweet Friands

Since moving to Australia I've been eyeing up all the desserts here which tend towards the small, individual, pretty kind. There are tiny tarts, coconut covered lamington squares and a variety of "slices" which are bar cookies to Americans. As much as I love a giant frosted cake - especially if people are standing around it singing happy birthday to me, I've become taken with a dessert that can be enjoyed in a few bites.

I discovered friands one day when I was grocery shopping. As I was passing by the section with various baking sheets, utensils and things I spotted an odd-looking muffin pan. It simply said "friand pan" and so I went home and googled it. It seems that friands are a thing here and in New Zealand and are closely related to the French financier.

Although I looked at 10 different recipes, they were all essentially the same. Egg whites, almond meal, confectioner's sugar, melted butter and a touch of flour are combined and baked in the special oval-cupped pan. At first I was going to make a batch with just raspberries but I spied a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips in the cupboard and decided it wouldn't hurt to add those in too.

I love everything about these cakes. They are buttery with a crisp exterior and tender, cakey interior. Serve them warm so that chocolate oozes and mixes with the raspberries. A final dusting of sugar is all they need.

For my friends outside of Australia, a regular muffin pan can be used to bake these.

For 8 friands:
  • 7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup almond meal*
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup confectioner's (icing) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Extra confectioner's sugar for dusting
Heat the oven to 350f (180c). Grease 8 cups of a friand or standard muffin pan. Melt the butter and then set aside to cool.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk until foamy, about a minute. Change to the paddle attachment. Sift the flour, sugar and almond meal over the whites and beat on low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl if necessary. Add the raspberries and chocolate chips and beat for 30 seconds more.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, divide the batter amongst the 8 cups. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the cakes are puffed and the edges are golden, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. After 15 minutes, remove from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Lightly dust with the confectioner's sugar right before serving.

*To make your own almond meal, place a cup of whole raw almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are very finely ground. Be careful because if they are ground too much they will become almond butter. Sift the almond meal, setting aside the large pieces that wouldn't sift and measure out 2/3 cup for this recipe. Reprocess any larger pieces and store the extra almond meal in the refrigerator or freezer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roasted Pepper Salad

We made an Italian-style feast the other day that consisted of some ultra-rich macaroni and cheese, green beans in a tomato/Parmesan sauce, and this salad. I thought that we needed something light and fresh to offset all the heavier cheese flavors of the other dishes and this really was just the right thing to serve.

I started by roasting red and yellow peppers and then added layers of flavor on top of them. Orange, hot chile, toasted almonds, raisins and plenty of fresh oregano were laced through the peppers. A drizzle of high-quality olive oil and a touch of sea salt finished it.

This salad, with it's bright red colors and flecks of green and orange, is gorgeous. I served it at room temperature and tossed all the ingredients at the table right as we were sitting down to eat. We ate the leftovers the next day for lunch and it was just as good so feel free it to make it ahead of time too.

For 4 Servings:
  • 3 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 1 small hot red chile pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Fresh orange juice, sea salt and olive oil to taste
Set the peppers on a hot grill or place under the broiler. Roast, turning occasionally until the skins are blackened and blistered on all sides. Place the peppers in a large sealable bag, seal, and set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the skins. Carefully pull or cut out the core and seeds and discard. Cut each pepper into 6 slices and place on a platter.

Scatter the chile, oregano, almonds, raisins, zest and salt over the peppers. Give them a squeeze of fresh orange juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss the salad before serving and adjust with additional salt, oil or juice if needed.

The salad will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a few days.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hazelnut Honey

A couple months ago, M and I went on a wine tour of the Swan Valley which is about an hour drive Northeast of where we live. I had never been on a proper day long tour before of any wine region and I loved it as much as I always figured I would. We were chauffeured around wine country, passing by row after symmetrical row of grapes, learning about the local varietals and tasting an abundant amount of wine. There was such overwhelming natural beauty there. I found myself standing under a grape arbor, glass of wine in one hand, reaching up to pluck a grape with the other hand, and thinking that nothing could be better than that.

Amongst the many things I learned that day was that wine tours equal all sorts of other culinary indulgences: chocolates and nougats, locally sourced olive oils, rich tawny ports, jams, and cheeses. At one winery they had sparkling jars of canned chutneys, relishes, and jams using different wines. I noticed a jar of honey with hazelnuts suspended at the top. The ingredients just said honey, hazelnut liqueur, and hazelnuts. Easy enough. I set the jar back down and have finally gotten around to making a batch of it myself.

This required buying a bottle of Frangelico which I was hesitant to do because of the hefty price tag. I figured that it would last forever like so many specialty liqueurs do. However, after perusing the Frangelico website and seeing a cocktail that was simply Frangelico, soda and lime my bottle is now half empty. It is delicious - make one now if you can.

But back to the honey...this is officially my new favorite homemade gift. Although simple, it's quite special. I drizzled it over some roasted pears for a quick dessert and imagine that it would shine on a cheese platter, perhaps alongside some pungent blue cheese.

For 1 cup:
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico
  • 10-15 hazelnuts
In a small saucepan, combine the honey and the Frangelico over medium-low heat. When the honey is warmed through, turn up the heat until it just starts to boil, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Carefully pour the hot honey into a sealable glass jar. Set aside, uncovered, while toasting the hazelnuts.

Heat the oven to 350f (180c). Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed sheet and bake until just golden, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven, place in the center of a kitchen towel, and rub together until their skins come off. Put the hazelnuts in the jar with the honey and seal. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brazilian Shrimp Stew

There is this very lovely small grocer in Fremantle, Australia called Kakulas Sister where shoppers need to squeeze through aisles that are stacked high with almost any international food that one could ever be looking for. A strong coffee scent hits you when you walk in and I try and practice buyer's restraint as I weave through the vinegars, honey, rich yogurts and cheeses, meats, barrels filled with grains, rice and flours, bags of dried chiles hang from the ceilings and little pastries lined up next to the register.

My last trip there I spotted a Pan de Queso mix, a Brazilian cheese bread, and bought it thinking I'd make some sort of South American meal. I had actually eaten these years ago when Guestblogger Alita's family had a Brazilian foreign exchange student who made them for everyone. I knew M would love them and they really are a fun, tasty little bread - chewy, cheesy and slightly exotic.

I paged through my cookbooks wondering what to make with them and came across a tasty-sounding stew that is apparently quite traditional in Brazil. I had some shrimp in the freezer and supplemented what I had with some dark chicken meat. The shrimp and chicken are bathed in a tomato coconut sauce and seasoned with a hearty dose of lemon juice and peppers.

I cooked the stew and baked the bread on a sunny Sunday. We took our plates out onto the balcony for a leisurely lunch and about 10 minutes later we laughed at how quickly we had cleaned our plates. M and I agreed that this was one of our new favorite meals.

For 4 Servings:

  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into small pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed and minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 15 ounces whole tomatoes in juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
In a large ziploc bag combine the shrimp, chicken, garlic, jalapeno, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Seal, pressing the air out, and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender until smooth and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree and another 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes. 

Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Stir in the shrimp, chicken, and all of the marinade allowing to simmer until the meats are just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with the chives and serve with steamed white rice and the warm pan de queso.