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Archive for April, 2008

 

I was on vacation last week, which meant bike riding and exploring during the day and going out to eat every night with friends.  We went to some great restaurants and even discovered a new food – ramps.  They look like a scallion but taste more like garlic.  I loved the ramps and maybe they will make their way up here so I can attempt to cook them.  But besides the ramps, one of the favorite foods I had was the crackers – sunflower seed tuile – that were put on the table to begin our meal at Pazo in Fells Point, Baltimore.  I spent lots of time trying to figure out what could be in them – making them savory but also a tad bit sweet.  I was thrilled to find that they posted the recipe on their website.  I’ve only been back for one night and making these delicious crackers was my first priority. 

 

The recipe isn’t too specific – it doesn’t give measurements for the size of the pan, nor does it tell how long to make them.  I also don’t have a silicone baking pan so I used a metal baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  You need to cook the tuile longer than you would think – till they get dark brown.  I took them out when they were not quite done, tasted them, and then made the good choice to put them back in.  They get sweeter and the flavor is enhanced the longer you cook them.  But of course, don’t let them burn.  Also, the more evenly you spread the batter, the more evenly they will cook.  For the same reason, I would suggest rotating the pan while it’s cooking.  The end result is really tasty – you can serve them as an appetizer or as a snack.

Sunflower Seed Tuile

Adapted from Pazo Restaurant

 

  •      1/4 cup egg white (it is better to measure eggs by volume as it eliminates size of egg as variable)
  •       1/4 cup sugar (ordinary, granulated white sugar)
  •       1/4 cup all purpose flour
  •       1/4 cup butter, melted
  •       A pinch of salt
  •       3 cups sunflower seeds, shelled and shaken gently in a collander to remove the finely ground      sunflower seed dust that often accompanies the whole seeds at the bottom of the bag.

1.    Whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Add the egg whites all at once while continuing to whisk. Add the melted butter in a slow stream while continuing to whisk. For the smoothest and finest texture you can then pass this mixture through a fine sieve.  (This step can be ommitted if time and equipment do not allow for it.)

2.    Chill batter in the refrigerator for an hour or two.  This will firm it up and make it easier to spread.    

3.    After chilling, spread the mixture across a silicone baking sheet (Exopat and Silpat are common brands) or a metal baking sheet lined with parchment paper in thin, even layer (a bit less than 1/8″). Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

4.    Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-25 minutes or until brown but not black (you will smell the sunflower seeds toasting).

5.    Allow to cool for a few seconds and cut into squares directly on the silicone baking sheet using the round end of your pallete knife. Allow to cool completely then break the squares apart. Or for a more rustic look, break them into squares.

 

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I bought a box of quinoa a few weeks ago and it’s been sitting in my pantry.  I’ve never cooked or eaten quinoa and I still haven’t learned how to pronounce it.  But I found this recipe from the Mayo Clinic, built up some courage, and adapted it for the ingredients that I had in my kitchen.  It wasn’t a difficult dish to make but I haven’t made up my mind about how I feel about quinoa.  It has some subtle nutty flavors with a slightly crunchy texture but it’s still a little weird and different.  Let’s just say that it doesn’t thrill me.  I would suggest adding whatever veggies to the risotto that you would enjoy – I did roasted red pepper and arugula.  I’m sure any kind of mushroom would also be delicious.

Quinoa Risotto with Roasted Red Peppers & Arugula

Adapted from the Mayo Clinic

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 onion, chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed

  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth

  • 2 cups chopped, stemmed arugula
  • ½ cup of roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Sea Salt & Freshly Ground pepper to taste

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and quinoa and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the garlic brown.

2.  Add the stock ½ cup at a time until absorbed by the quinoa and then continue to add the stock ½ cup at a time until all the stock has been added.  Cook at medium heat until the quinoa is almost tender to the bite but slightly hard in the center, and once all the stock has been added, about 12 minutes. The mixture will be brothy. Stir in the arugula and roasted red peppers and simmer until the quinoa grains have turned from white to translucent, about 2 minutes longer.

3.  Stir in the cheese and season with the salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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I did it.  I made my own homemade pasta.  It wasn’t impossible and it tasted really good.  We had friends over for a casual dinner so of course, since they are good friends, we decided to experiment on them.  I had some dry pasta waiting in the pantry in case the homemade pasta was a disaster but we never needed it.  The difference between homemade pasta and dry pasta was astounding.  The homemade makaruni had it’s own taste and flavor.  I also like it’s rustic look because you don’t need to obsess about making it look perfect, it’s supposed to be rustic and rich.  And so very homemade.

If you are thinking of making homemade, fresh pasta but don’t have a pasta maker, this is a perfect starter recipe.  It’s also fun to have others help with hand-rolling the makaruni.  I recommend getting the makaruni as thin as possible, the smallest, thinniest ones tasted best.

 Homemade Makaruni Pasta with Baby Bella Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light April 2008

Homemade Makaruni Pasta:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 tablespoons of water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil
  • 5 large egg yolks
  1. To prepare pasta, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour and dash of salt into a food processor.  Combine 6 tablespoons of water, 1 ½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and egg yolks in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. 
  2. With food processor on, slowly pour water mixture through food chute, processing until dough forms a ball.  Turn dough out onto ad lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 times.  Shape dough into a disk.  Dust dough lightly with flour; wrap in plastic wrap.  Let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Pat dough into a 3 X 8 inch rectangle 1 inch thick.  Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (cover dough to prevent drying), divide dough into 14 equal pieces.  Roll each piece between your palms back and forth, into a strand about 2 inches long.  Place strands on a well-floured jelly-roll pan.  Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions to form 112 strands.
  4. Cook pasta in 6 quarts of boiling water for about 2 minutes or until pasta is done.  Drain.

 

Baby Bella Mushroom Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 cups of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 cups of chicken broth or stock
    • 2 tablespoons of fresh-flat leaf parsley
    • 2 tablespoons of chives
    • ¼ cup of grated fresh Parmiggano-Reggiano cheese
  1. To prepare sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on med-high heat.  Add onion to pan, sauté for 3 mins, stirring frequently.  Clear a spot in the bottom of the pan, add the garlic and shallots and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add salt and pepper, sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.  Add mushrooms, reduce heat, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add 2 cups of chicken broth, increasing heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally, allowing the sauce to thicken for 8 minutes. 
  2. Add pasta, parsley, and chives to the mushroom sauce.  Toss well.  Serve sprinkled with parmiggano-reggiano cheese.  

 

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We were having dinner guests and I wanted to celebrate the first beautiful sun-filled weekends we’ve had around here.  That meant some kind of dessert with strawberries.  I saw this Strawberry Panzanella recipe on 101 Cookbooks this week and was intrigued.  I’ve made traditional panzanella, a bread salad, with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and onions but never had I thought of a sweet, fruity version.

 

The result was a twist on strawberry shortcake.  The bread was caramelized and crunchy and the soft, mushy strawberries were a good complement.  In hindsight, I would have cut my bread cubes even smaller because they get so crunchy that smaller is better for eating.  I also think I overcooked the brown sugar so it became lumpy as you can see from the spotty coverage of the bread in the pictures.  It was still really tasty but it would have been better if I removed it from the heat once the brown sugar dissolved.  Regardless of my several shortcomings, I really enjoyed my first strawberry panzanella and so did my guests!

 Strawberry Panzanella (Crunchy, Caramelized, Strawberry Shortcake)

Adapted from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 
couple pinches of fine grain salt

  • 1 pound loaf of hearty, substantial day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1+ pint basket of ripe strawberries, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
  • a 7 or 8 ounce container of plain (Greek) yogurt

  • poppy seeds for garnish

1.     Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a large pot melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Add bread cubes and toss, coating the bread cubes. Toss for a minute or so to get decent coverage.

2.    Pour the bread out onto a baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer. Toast for about 15 minutes or until bread is well toasted, tossing every 5 minutes to make sure all bread surface areas get golden and crunchy.

3.     In the meantime, place half the chopped strawberries in a small bowl and mash them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. I found a potato masher works well for this. Keep mashing until berries are super juicy and appetizingly chunky – this is your dressing.

4.     When the bread cubes are done toasting (and have had a few minutes to cool and crisp up), toss them in a big bowl with the mashed berries. Add the remaining chopped strawberries and toss a bit more. Give the yogurt a good stir, and serve on the side garnished with poppy seeds (feel free to sweeten it a bit to your liking).

 

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I first thought of this idea for homemade pop-tarts when I was putting together a bunch of care packages for college kids.  I wanted to do something homemade and special but brownies and cookies seemed so ordinary.  Pop-tarts feel vintage and funky to me, especially ones that are made from scratch.  

These are so easy – they are made with piecrusts.  You can buy your pie crusts from the grocery store make your own pie dough.  But either way you roll out the pie dough very thin, cut into rectangles, put your favorite jam or jelly in between two pieces, crimp the edges and bake!  It would be a really fun project with kids.  Once the pop-tarts have completely cooled, top with the glaze, add some sprinkles, and they are ready to eat.

 

Raspberry Lemon Pop-Tarts

  • Pie Crust (packaged or homemade)
  • Jam (your choice –  I used a mix of raspberry jam and lemon curd)
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp of milk
  • Sprinkles
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roll dough out into a large square/rectangle; about 1/8 inch thickness.
  3. Cut rectangle strips 2 inches wide and 3 inches long.  Repeat until dough runs out.
  4. Take one rectangle strip and put 1 tsp of jam in the center, cover with another piece of pie crust and then crimp the edges with a fork.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  5. Place pop-tarts on a greased baking sheet and bake for 7-8 mins.
  6. While pop-tarts are baking, make the glaze.  Slowly add small drops of milk to the powdered sugar while stirring with a spoon.  Desired consistency should be thick like paste.
  7. Once pop-tarts have cooled completely, top with glaze.  Decorate with sprinkles, as you’d like.

 

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Basic Hummus

Hummus is one of those classic Middle Eastern standards that’s become so commonplace in restaurants (many are doing hummus with bread rather than extra virgin olive oil to cut down on costs), in sandwiches (especially veggie ones), and of course, in my kitchen.  So instead of buying another tub of hummus from Trader Joes when I had none left last week, I decided it was time that I made it myself.  I was tainted from my first attempt at making hummus a few years when I didn’t own a food processor and I couldn’t get the chickpeas to a smooth puree.  But this time was much better and I attribute it to my food processor (let me know if  you’ve found a way of making hummus without one).

 

I made a garlic hummus and a roasted red pepper hummus but there is endless variations, depending on your taste and creativity.  Some suggestions would be parsley, chive, basil, cilantro, roasted red pepper.  You can make with or without the tahini.  I personally love tahini so I wouldn’t choose to leave it out but it would reduce the fat of the recipe. 

Hummus

  • 2 cups of chickpeas well cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup of tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, or to taste
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
  • Paprika or ground cumin, to taste and for garnish
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.

2. Taste and adjust the seasoning (I often find I like to add much more lemon juice or water). Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.

 

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So these appear complicated and like something you might find in a French patisserie – but have no fear – they are so absolutely simple!  Two ingredients.  That’s it.  All I needed to buy for this recipe was puff pastry and the cane sugar was already in my kitchen. 

 

This is a simple but beautiful cookie that you can make very quickly and easily.  I kept mine very minimal but you can add spices such as cardamom, vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon.  If you are in the mood for chocolate, add some chocolate chips before rolling up the dough.  Palmiers, due to their simplicity, are paired nicely with coffee, tea, or espresso.  They would also go well with another dessert.  If you want a savory appetizer, replace the sugar with Parmesan and roll into it a very thin layer of pesto.

 

Palmiers (Elephant Ears)

Adapted from Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic at Simply Recipes

           Lots of granulated sugar (I prefer to use cane sugar)

           Puff pastry

           Parchment Paper (aka baking paper) or a Silpat baking mat

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of sugar over your workstation. Roll out the puff pastry to about 10X12 inches. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of sugar (and spices or chocolate chips if using) over the dough.

2 Roll up the left vertical side inward, stopping in the middle of the dough. Roll up the right side of the dough. The two rolls should be meeting at the middle and touching. Press the two sides together gently and let the dough chill in the fridge for at least half an hour or in the freezer for 20 mins. Repeat with any more puff pastry you may have.

3 Starting at one end, cut off pieces of the log, in slices about 1/2 inch in thickness. Lightly sprinkle sugar onto each side. Pinch and press the sides of the two rolls together to ensure that they don’t unroll during baking. Place on large parchment lined baking sheets, or a baking sheet lined with a Silpat. They will increase size dramatically, so leave plenty of room between each cookie and only bake a dozen at a time.

4 Set the tray in the middle of the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the sugar has caramelized. Allow them to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

 

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