Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holiday Treats 2009: Homemade Marshmallows, Part 2


CCO is from Boston and apparently in New England they love molasses. He really loves it when I make anadama bread and one time he actually put molasses in his coffee. So when I saw that Eileen Talanian had a recipe for molasses marshmallows, I figured I had to make some.

I'm very glad I did. The molasses marshmallows have a great spicyness to them and taste almost like gingerbread. You coat them in a mix of powdered sugar with ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

From Marshmallows by Eileen Talanian

Eat Rating: Awesome. I'm having a hard time picking whether the plain marshmallow or this version is my favorite.
Difficulty: Medium to Hard.

3 tbsp (or 4 packets) unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup molasses
2/3 cup marshmallow syrup (See this post for how to make marshmallow syrup)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

Coating:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup corn starch
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cloves

Grease a 9x13 glass pan with oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the 3/4 cup of cold water with the gelatin until all the granules are wet. Set aside.

Place the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes are over, remove the lid and do not stir the mixture. Insert a thermometer and continue boiling until it reaches 248 degrees. Once it has reached temperature, remove from heat and add the gelatin. The mixture may foam up momentarily. That's ok. Gently stir until all the gelatin is incorporated.

If using a hand mixer, do the next steps right in the pan. If you are using a stand mixer, attach the whisk-head to the mixer. Carefully take the pot over to the mixer and pour the liquid into it. Not a big deal if some clings to the side of your pan. No need to scrape. Be very careful not to get any liquid on yourself because it's super hot. Turn on the mixer to high and beat for 10 to 12 minutes. At first, the liquid will be a dark brown translucent color. As the mixing continues, it will gradually lighten in color and start to get fluffy. It should double or triple in size. Once the mixture is light tan shade and the blades from the mixer leave clear streaks that do not immediately reincorporate themselves, it is done.

Pour the marshmallow batter into your prepared pan. It will need to sit for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

While the marshmallows are cooling, mix together the powdered sugar and cornstarch for the coating. Add the spices and mix until well combined. Set aside until the marshmallows are dry.

Once your marshmallows are ready, set up a workspace. Sprinkle some of the spiced powdered sugar on a cutting board and flip the marshmallow pan onto it. You may need to use your fingers or a knife to separate the marshmallows from the side of the pan. They shouldn't stick to it. Once they are out of the pan, use a pizza cutter or large knife to cut the marshmallows into pieces. Alternatively, you can use cookie cutters (oil them first). Once the marshmallows are cut, roll each piece in the spiced powdered sugar.

Immediately dunk several marshmallows into a hot cup of cocoa.

The marshmallows will keep for up to 2 weeks in a sealed plastic container at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Treats 2009: Homemade Marshmallows, Part 1


In the winter, CCO loves to make cocoa almost as much as I love to drink it. My only qualm is that I am often so eager to drink it that I burn my mouth (I know. I'm such a child). But if you serve the cocoa at a cooler temperature, it's not warm enough to melt the marshmallow. They just bob around in the liquid until you give up and chomp them.

The best way to solve this problem? Homemade marshmallows. They melt much better than store-bought ones, giving you that delicious layer of foamy goodness on the cocoa that immediately gets all over your face. (I told you I was a child)

A couple notes: first, you really need a thermometer for this. You have to boil the liquid to a particular temperature in order for it to work. But you don't have to go buy a fancy candy thermometer. I actually just use a meat thermometer. You also really need a mixer. A hand mixer will work (though your arm will get tired). A stand mixer is preferable.

Second, this recipe uses gelatin so it's not vegetarian or kosher. (You'll want one box of Knox Gelatin per recipe. You can usually find it with the Jello at the supermarket). I read online that you can make vegan marshmallows using agar in place of gelatin. I meant to try it, but the only place I could find agar was at the organic market where it costs $14 for a tiny pack. So I decided to leave that for another day.

The recipes I used came out of a book: Marshmallows by Eileen Talanian. (Yes I did actually buy an entire cookbook devoted to marshmallows). The way she structures the book is not conducive to making just one batch -- basically she has you make 1 quart of marshmallow syrup to start and then each recipe uses about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the syrup. I still have a glass jar of marshmallow syrup on my counter even after making about 250 marshmallows, so I'm cutting down her initial syrup recipe here.

Part 1 is a recipe for traditional vanilla marshmallows. It makes about 50-60 medium-sized marshmallows.

Adapted from "Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats" by Eileen Talanian

Eat Rating: Awesome.
Difficulty: Medium to hard. Requires thermometer, mixer.

Syrup:
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar

Marshmallow:
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp vanilla extract (LN: The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tbsp. I ran out of vanilla, so I just used 1 and they taste plenty vanilla to me. Use your judgment)
3 tbsp unflavored gelatin (LN: She wants you to empty the packets and measure it out. I will not blame you if you find this a silly step. 3 tbsp = 4 packets or 1 box)
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup marshmallow syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Coating:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup corn starch
1 vanilla bean

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, place the 1 cup water with the sugar for the syrup and the cream of tartar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring as the sugar melts. Once the mixture is boiling, remove the spoon and place a lid on the pot. Allow to boil with the lid on for 2 minutes. This will remove any sugar crystals that may have stuck to the sides of the pot. (LN: Some other recipes you may see suggest using a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe the crystals off the pot. I prefer the boil-with-a-lid method because it's much easier)

After the two minutes, remove the lid. After this point, do not stir the liquid. If you do, crystals may form in the syrup. Place your thermometer in the syrup and continue to boil until it reaches 240 degrees. Once it reaches the temperature, remove from heat and take out your thermometer. (I also suggest you wash your thermometer right away lest the syrup get stuck on there). Let the syrup sit for 15 minutes to cool slightly, then pour into a clean quart-sized jar. Do not scrape the sides of the pot to get more syrup. Just pour.

The syrup can sit out at room temperature for up to 2 months, so this step can be done ahead. To keep it for another recipe, once it has cooled, cover loosely with saran wrap and a rubber band. In the meantime, set it aside.

In a small bowl, combine the 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water with the vanilla extract. Add the gelatin and stir with a fork until all the granules are wet. Set aside.

Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with oil (or if you don't have spray, put a little oil on a paper towel and wipe the inside of the dish. Set aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add 3/4 cup water. Return to your marshmallow syrup. If you just made it, the syrup should still be viscous enough to pour. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the syrup and add to the pan. (If you made the syrup ahead of time it will be a solid mass. In a separate saucepan, boil about 1 cup of water and then place the jar into the water for 1-2 minutes. This should heat the syrup enough so you can pour it). Add the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to melt the sugar. Once it boils, remove the spoon and place the lid. Continue boiling for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and do not stir. Place your thermometer in the mixture and continue to boil until it reaches 250 degrees. Once it's at temperature, remove the thermometer and turn off the heat.

Go get your gelatin. At this point, the gelatin will probably be a solid mass and smell pretty awful. Break it up into medium-sized chunks with your fork and then add to the sugar mixture. The sugar mixture will likely bubble up as you add the gelatin. Don't worry, it's just melting. Just your spoon to stir in the gelatin until no large lumps are remaining.

If using a hand mixer, do the next steps right in the pan. If you are using a stand mixer, attach the whisk-head to the mixer. Carefully take the pot over to the mixer and pour the liquid into it. Again, not a big deal if some clings to the side of your pan. No need to scrape. Be very careful not to get any liquid on yourself because it's super hot. Turn on the mixer to high and beat for 10 to 12 minutes. At first, the liquid will be translucent. As the mixing continues, it will turn bright white and start to get fluffy. It should double or triple in size. Once the mixture is bright white and the blades from the mixer leave clear streaks that do not immediately reincorporate themselves, it is done.


Pour the marshmallow batter into your prepared pan. It will need to sit for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

While the marshmallows are resting, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a sealable plastic container. Using a knife, cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the vanilla bean to the plastic container and close it. Shake a few times, then let sit until your marshmallows are dry.

Once your marshmallows are ready, set up a workspace. Sprinkle some of the vanilla powdered sugar on a cutting board and flip the marshmallow pan onto it. You may need to use your fingers or a knife to separate the marshmallows from the side of the pan. They shouldn't stick to it. Once they are out of the pan, use a pizza cutter or large knife to cut the marshmallows into pieces. Alternatively, you can use cookie cutters (oil them first). Once the marshmallows are cut, roll each piece in the vanilla powdered sugar.

Immediately dunk several marshmallows into a hot cup of cocoa.

The marshmallows will keep for up to 2 weeks in a sealed plastic container at room temperature.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lemon Dutch Baby


Last weekend, I ate my first Dutch baby. Jonathan Swift would be proud.

For those who've never heard of them, a dutch baby is half-pancake, half-souffle. You bake it in a warmed cast-iron skillet in the oven, then cover it in lemon and sugar.

Eat Rating: Awesome
Difficulty: Easy.

Adapted from Orangette

2 tbsp butter
4 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cream + 1/4 cup skim milk (LN: alternatively, you can use the 1/2 cup half-and-half, like the recipe calls for)
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat a cast iron skillet on stovetop and melt the butter, making sure it coats the sides and bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to warm and leave on the burner as you prepare the batter.

In a bowl, beat eggs, flour and milk with a whisk. Once thoroughly combined, pour batter into the skillet and place into the oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the sides have puffed up and browned and the middle is set.


Remove from the oven, admire its delicate sponge-y texture and top liberally with lemon juice and powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spaghetti Squash with Bacon and Turnip Greens


Spaghetti squash is a delicious and crunchy vegetable. Don't treat it like a low-carb alternative to pasta. That doesn't do it justice. When I was a kid, my mom always served spaghetti squash roasted with butter. That is a delicious way to eat it, but you can only do that so many weeks in a row before it becomes a little bland. So CCO and I tried this morrocan spiced spaghetti squash. Don't do it. For whatever reason, it was really bad. I mean immediately-into-the-trash-and-order-pizza bad. Undetered, I returned to the internet and found this recipe for spaghetti squash with bacon and turnip greens. I'm glad I did. Bacon makes everything better.


Adapted from Cooking by the Seat of My Pants

Eat Rating: Awesome. Just enough bacon for flavor, with a nice crunch from the squash.
Difficulty: Easy.

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 large bunch of turnip greens, ribs removed and chopped (or 1 package frozen chopped turnip greens)
1 small onion, chopped
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Prick the spaghetti squash all over with a fork, place on the cookie sheet and then bake for 1 hour or until tender. Allow to cool.

Once cool, cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds. Using a fork, pull out the strings of cooked squash and place in a bowl. Set aside.

In a medium-sized sautee pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and saute about three minutes, until slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add the greens and cook for about 8 minutes or until greens have wilted and cooked completely through. Add squash to greens and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in bacon. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wedding Cake Project: Chocolate Guinness Cake

My friend's camera phone takes surprisingly good photos.

I first made this cake last year for an office birthday. Like most office birthdays, we gathered in the conference room, made chit-chat about how old the person was and what she was going to do for her birthday. Then I told everyone there was a secret ingredient in the cake and passed out slips of paper for everyone to guess. The guesses were funny (someone actually guessed "pot") but no one could guess it was Guinness. It's one of those things that you don't actually taste until someone tells you it's there.

My co-worker Anne loved the cake and asked me every time there was a birthday whether I was making it. So for her birthday, of course, I had to make it.

If you click the link to the NYT recipe, you'll note it has some strange measurements (3/8 cup). I tweaked them a little so they work better with American measuring cups. I recommend trying to find European style cocoa, like Droste (King Arthur sells it also). Sometimes you can find Hershey's European Style Cocoa, but some stores don't carry it.

When you make this recipe, you heat the Guinness up in a saucepan to burn a little of the alcohol off, then mix in the chocolate. As it cooks, the Guinness mellows and ends up adding a nice complexity to the chocolate flavor.

The cake itself is very rich and a little fudge-y in the middle. Don't overcook it or it will come out dry. The recipe makes a little too much batter for a regular 9 inch round. You can either make a 9-inch round and then a smaller cake on the side, use a springform pan (since it has taller sides) or use a 10-inch round. The one pictured is a 10-inch round -- what will be the middle layer of the wedding cake.

The recipe also calls for a cream cheese frosting. You're supposed to swirl it on top to make it look like the head of a pint of Guinness. I'm not very good at swirling, though. If you want the cream cheese frosting, don't try to substitute something else for the cream. That gives you frosting that's way too thin. According to Gourmet and the guys at The Bitten Word, it's also lovely with a peanut butter frosting.


The last piece.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Cake:
1 cup Guinness Stout (LN: use the can! it's so much better than the bottle.)
10 tbsp. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

Frosting:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour your cake pan (see above for info on what cake pan to use).

In a small saucepan, heat the Guinness and butter until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and add in the cocao and sugar, whisking until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a Kitchenaid (or in a medium-sized bowl, using hand mixer), combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Mix for 2 minutes or until well combined. Add in the Guinness mixture (if using your Kitchenaid, put on the splash guard so it doesn't get everywhere when you turn on the beaters). Gradually add the flour and baking soda, mixing between each addition until fully incorporated and you have a nice medium-thickness cake batter.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I recommend baking 45 minutes, then checking every five minutes until a toothpick tester comes out clean. You don't want to overbake or the cake will be dry. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack in the pan.

Once the cake is cool, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a bowl and beat until well combined. Gradually add in the cream, beating until desired consistency.

Remove cake from pan and frost, swirling the frosting on top so it looks like the head on a pint of Guinness. Serve with a tall glass of milk or refrigerate until needed, then remove about 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce


Don't leave out the lemon juice. It adds a nice acidity to the otherwise very heavy cream sauce. (I followed the recipe exactly, so click the link to get it)

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Eat Rating: Delicious. Very heavy though, so prepare to be filled.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chard Sweet Potato Gratin


I like to pretend that root vegetables are just as healthy for me even when I slather them in cheese.

The only major change we made was the cheese. Deb calls for using gruyere cheese. I forgot to pick it up at the store, so we were stuck with what was in the fridge. Those choices were parmesan or smoked cheddar that I had picked up from our CSA. We went with the cheddar and it was a brilliant choice. The smokiness added a nice subtlety to the sweetness of the vegetables. We also cut this recipe in half since it feeds 12 and even if we included the dog and his massive appetite separately, we'd still only have four. CCO and I thought this would be lovely as a side at Thanksgiving dinner.



Eat Rating: This is what heaven tastes like.
Difficulty: Medium. It helps if you have a mandoline for slicing the sweet potatoes. Also a whisk for making the bechamel sauce.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 large bunch of swiss chard, leaves cut off the stalks and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 cup smoked cheddar, grated

Fill a medium-sized pot with water and add the sweet potatoes. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. You just want the potatoes parboiled a little.

After ten minutes, drain the potatoes and allow to cool until you can easily handle them. Using a mandoline, slice thinly, about 1/8 inch (Note: you can do this with a knife if you don't have a mandoline. Try to get the slices as thin as possible). Set aside.

In a medium saute pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the chard and cook until the greens have reduced by half. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining butter (1 1/2 tbsp). Add the garlic and sautee about 1 minute until browned. Using a whisk, add in the flour, constantly stirring until you have a light brown paste. Gradually add the milk to the flour/butter paste about a 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly between additions. You want a thick, gravy-like sauce to develop. Once it's sufficiently thick, remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Butter or grease a 8 x 8 square glass dish. Layer some 1/3 of your sweet potatoes on the bottom, then 1/2 of the chard on top. Spoon a few tablespoons of the bechamel sauce on top and sprinkle cheese. Repeat once more, topping with the last 1/3 of sweet potatoes. Top with any remaining bechamel sauce and cheese.

Bake for 1 hour until the cheese on top has browned and the liquid is bubbly. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and serve immediately with crusty bread for soaking up the leftover sauce.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Picture courtesy Bon Appetit

We started a baking club at my office. Every month or so, we have a theme and people bring in a dish along that theme. For our inaugural event, the theme was pumpkin.

Now everyone in the office knows I bake a lot, so I really had to bring it. Something delicious but not too fancy. Something sweet and fall but not too predictable. Something like a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie with Maple Cream Filling.

You can feel free to admit that you now wish you worked in my office.

Eat Rating: Most responses went something along these lines: "This is so wrong. But so good."
Difficulty: Medium

Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2009

Filling:
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
7 oz. marshmallow fluff (about 2 cups)
3 tbsp maple syrup

Cake:
3 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp ground cloves
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk

Combine and sift all the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). In a bowl or Kitchenaid, beat the butter with the brown and granulated sugars. Add in the oil, then the eggs one at a time, beating between each. Add in the pumpkin puree, then 1/2 of the dry ingredients, the milk and then the remaining dry ingredients. You should have a thick, cake batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of batter onto the parchment paper, fitting 12 cakes per sheet. Bake 20 minutes, or until tester inserted comes out clean. Remove cakes from cookie sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack. Repeat until you run out of cake batter. You should get about 46 to 48 small cakes.

Once the cakes are cool, make the filling. Add the sugar and butter to a bowl or Kitchenaid and beat until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the marshmallow fluff and maple syrup and then beat until well combined. Spoon 1 to 2 tbsp of filling onto a cake, then top with another cake. (Note: Don't try to put more than 2 tbsp of filling between the cakes. It will just ooze out and make a mess. You will probably have some leftover filling. Don't sweat it)

Serve to your friends and become instantly popular.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday Treats 2009: Dulce de Membrillo (Quince Paste)

You don't have to make the manchego. That you can buy at the store.

At my CSA, the last week of each season is "pick your own share" day. Instead of a pre-packed cooler, you get to pick out whatever you want from the farm's offerings. The last week of the fall season, I was a little torn. I love squash and brussel sprouts, but really there is only so much a person can eat of that in one week. But among the boxes of apples and pears, I found a heaping pile of quince, which reminded me of this post. So in addition to the pints of brussel sprouts and various squash, I filled my share up with golden orbs of quince.

Quince, in case you haven't heard of them, are a fruit relative of the apple and pear. Even before you cut them open, they have a lovely half-citrus, half-floral aroma. But quince are really hard and you can't actually eat them uncooked, at least not the modern day ones. Supposedly in ancient times, you could eat them just like an apple and according to some, Eve actually gave Adam a quince, not an apple, in the Garden of Eden. Anyway, today you most commonly see quince in some form of jam or jelly, or as dulce de membrillo, a Spanish delicacy often served with cheese.

Membrillo keeps for forever -- between two months and a year depending on who you ask. So I figured I'd do a test run in anticipation of holiday treats. I have yet to decide whether I should send out delicious blocks of quince paste or cut them into squares and send chocolate-covered membrillo.

(For more on quince and dulce de membrillo)

Eat Rating: Delicious. It has a slightly floral, slightly citrus taste, reminiscent of a good jam.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium. Requires a food processor or blender.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

5 to 6 quinces
Water
Juice from 2 lemons
4 cups sugar (more or less may be needed depending on the size of your quinces)

Peel, core and cut the quinces into large chunks. Place in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, then cook for about 30 minutes until the quinces are easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the quinces and allow to cool for 5 minutes. In batches, place the cooked quince pieces in a food processor or blender and puree. Measure the puree before returning to the large pot. Add an equal amount of sugar as you have puree to the pot. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook over medium heat. Your mixture will turn an orange-y color and begin to thicken. After about 40 minutes, it will get to the consistency of jam. Keep going. You want it a ruby red color and so thick that when you take your spoon out and turn it over, the paste doesn't fall off. Really, really thick. (LN: The first time, I didn't cook it long enough. So when I moved to the next step, it set around the edges but not in the middle. If in doubt, cook longer.)

Once it's thick enough, remove from heat. Heat your oven to warm or 250 degrees. Line an 8x8 square pan (glass or aluminum) with parchment paper, then pour the mixture into it, making sure to spread it out to the edges (it will set in whatever shape you leave it in. You could also use a cool mold for this part). Place the pan in the oven and let set for about 40 to 50 minutes. When you check it, shake the pan. If it jiggles a lot in the middle, keep going. It it doesn't and seems more like a solid mass of jello, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Place a piece of saran wrap on the counter and flip the quince paste onto it.

The paste will keep in the fridge, wrapped in saran wrap, for several months. To serve, cut off a small piece and eat with Manchego cheese or on toast.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Nothing says comfort like an enormous bowl of squash, butter and cheese.

Eat Rating: Delicious.
Difficulty: Medium. Be careful not to add too much flour or overknead. You want it to be light and airy, not thick and chewy.

Adapted from Apples and Butter

1 butternut squash, about 2 lbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 - 3 cups of flour
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds and membrane. Cut into 1 inch chunks, toss in olive oil and then place on a baking tray. Bake the squash for about 30 minutes, turning the pieces or tossing after about 15 minutes, or until the squash is easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. (This step can be done a day or several hours ahead of time)

Place the cooked butternut squash in a bowl and mash until you have a thick puree. Add in the nutmeg and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Gradually add in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the squash forms into a thick dough.

Flour a cutting board or the countertop and turn your dough out onto it. Divide into four pieces, then roll each piece into a long, thin cylinder. Use a knife to cut the strand into 1 inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the gnocchi into the pot of water. The gnocchi should drop to the bottom. When they are finished, they will float to the top.

While the gnocchi is cooking, melt the butter in another small saucepan. Once it's melted, remove from heat.

After gnocchi floats, remove from the water using a slotted spoon. Toss with butter and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Any uncooked gnocchi can be frozen for up to a month.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Sausage Apple Pilaf

Squash stuffed.

I made this recipe up on the fly for dinner a few nights ago. It turned out even better than I had hoped.

2 medium-sized acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1 cup of brown rice
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 lb sausage, removed from casing (LN: Italian or herb will do. I used Sage Sausage I picked up at the Farmer's Market)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the faces of the acorn squash with some olive oil and place face down on a cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until a fork inserted into the squash comes out easily.

While the squash is cooking, place 1 cup of brown rice and 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until rice is tender. (LN: Note, you can also do this in a pressure cooker and it will take half the time)

When there's about 15 to 20 minutes remaining on the rice, cook the sausage in sautee pan until browned. Add in the onion and apples and cook until soft. Remove from heat. Once the rice is cooked, mix the sausage/vegetable mixture into the rice. Once squash is done, remove the cookie sheet from the oven and carefully transfer a half squash to a place. Fill the center of the squash with the pilaf mixture.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's a Recession!: Easy Homemade Biscuits

You'll never buy a can of Pillsbury biscuits again.

When I was a kid, Sundays were reserved for church and biscuits. As soon as we'd get home after services, my mom and Dad would head to the kitchen to make brunch. My dad would cook the meat -- bacon, sausage, occassionally ham. My mom would cook the eggs. And I would make biscuits. This involved pulling a can of Pillsbury out of the fridge, cringing as it made the popping noise and placing them on a cookie sheet to bake for 10-12 minutes.

If I had known then how easy it was to make your own biscuits, though, I might have done that. Especially since it's so easy to customize with buttermilk, cheese or cinnamon and raisins.

Adapted from

Eat Rating: Awesome. You really won't need to buy canned biscuits ever again.
Difficulty: Easy. It's better if you have a pastry blender and a cookie cutter to cut the biscuits. But in a pinch, I've used two knives and the mouth of a glass and it works out fine.

2 cups flour (LN: You can use all-purpose or whole wheat. If you use whole wheat, you may need to increase the milk slightly)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter (5 1/2 tbsp)
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Take your butter and cut it in half lengthwise with a knife. Then cut into chunks. You want the pieces to be small, less than 1/2 inch at most. Once your butter is all cut up, add it to the flour then use your pastry blender or knives to cut it in. The butter will eventually become a mass of tiny particles mixed in with the flour. At this point, gradually add the milk a little at a time until the dough begins to cling together. You want it to be a dough that hold together but not too sticky. If you add too much milk, add a little more flour.

Knead on a floured surface about 15 times. With a rolling pin (or your hands in a pinch), roll out until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Use the cookie cutter (or the edge of a glass) to cut into rounds. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Variations:
Buttermilk biscuits: Reduce baking powder to 2 tsp and add 1/2 tsp soda to the dry ingredients. Replace milk with 2 cups of buttermilk. Proceed with the remainder of the recipe.

Cheesy biscuits: Add 1/2 cup of shredded cheese to the flour mixture in the first step. Proceed with the remainder of the recipe.

Cinnamon raisin biscuits: Add 1-2 tsp cinnamon to the flour in the first step. Cut in the butter, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of raisins. Proceed with the remainder of the recipe.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gingerbread Cake with Pears

Gingerbread, studded with chunks of pear.

This was in the October 2008 issue of Gourmet. I must have missed it, because when I saw someone post on it the other day, it immediately jumped to the top of the "Cakes to Try" list.

The recipe calls for one pear. I used two and I think that worked better. Make sure to check on it every few minutes as it nears the end. The recipe calls for it to bake for 35 minutes. Some other reviewers said it took less time, more like 30, in their ovens, but in mine it took 45. I really think I need to get that oven recalibrated.

From Gourmet, October 2008

Eat Rating: Delicious. Very subtle flavors of ginger, molasses and pear.
Difficulty: Easy

1 1/2 cups flour (LN: I used 1/2 cup whole wheat and 1 cup all-purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 large eggs
1/4 cup peeled, grated fresh ginger (LN: I ran out of fresh ginger, so instead used 3 tbsp of ginger paste)
2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

Combine the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, spice and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the water and butter until the butter is melted. Set aside

In a large bowl or Kitchenaid, beat brown sugar and molasses until well combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Gradually add the flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, beating well. Add the ginger and melted butter. Beat again just until combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle with the chopped pears. The pears will sink to the bottom of the cake while it cooks.

Bake for 35 minutes, checking frequently as it nears the end by inserting a toothpick. Once baked, remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan, cool completely. When ready to serve, you can warm slightly by placing in the oven for 5 minutes or serve at room temperature.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Programming: New Features

I have two exciting cooking projects coming up. First, as I do every year, I'll be baking holiday treats. The last two years I've made a variety of cookies. I haven't settled on my choices for this year, but I will blog about all of my picks and how they turn out. Posts about Christmas (and Hanukkah) treats will be labeled "Holiday Treats 2009."

Secondly, I'm getting married next year. I promise to avoid all the boring bride crap but I have decided to make the cake. Maybe also the pies, though that is currently being negotiated between me and my mom. In any case, I'll need to try out several recipes ahead of time. All posts about wedding cake, etc. will be labeled "Wedding Cake Project."

It's a Recession!: Homemade Butter (and Buttermilk)

Know what this is? Yeah, it's an actual butterball.

On occasion, when I need to bring baked goods in to the office, I get up at 5 a.m. and do my baking in the morning. One morning a few months ago, I thought I'd make some fresh whipped cream to frost a coworker's birthday cake. I put the cream in my Kitchenaid and walked into the other room. When I came back a few minutes later, the whipped cream was a disaster. It had separated into little beads of fat in a thin liquid. Disgusted, I threw it away and made a buttercream frosting instead.

Now I sort of wish I hadn't thrown it out. As I learned on The Kitchn a few weeks back, if I had let the mixer keep going I would have ended up with butter. If you keep beating the butter past the whipped cream stage, it eventually breaks down into the fat (butter) and what's left (buttermilk).

Buttermilk.

I've frankly become obsessed with making my own butter now. But beware walking away from this either, once it gets to the separated stage, the buttermilk is very thin and watery and will spray right out of your mixer all over the floor. (My dog Rex loves it when I make butter for this very reason.

The cool thing about this is, depending on what type of butter you regularly buy, making it yourself can be cheaper. A quart of cream at Giant runs between $4 and $5. By comparison, a pound of comparable quality butter, like Horizon Organic, is $6.

Eat Rating: Awesome. Imagine the best butter you've ever tasted.
Difficulty: Easy. Requires a Kitchenaid mixer or food processor. (You could also do this by hand by shaking a jug. But your arm would probably get tired.)

1 quart of cream

Place the cream in the bowl of the mixer and fit with the splatterguard (that step is super important if you don't want buttermilk all over your kitchen)

Turn the mixer to high.

The cream will begin to form soft peaks, then hard peaks of whipped cream. Keep beating and it will start to break down into little pieces. Continue beating. You'll know it's done two ways -- 1) the chunks will turn a golden yellow color and 2) you'll hear the change in resistance to the beater, it will sound sloshy.

Place a colander over a large bowl. Pour the butter mixture into the colander. Remove the colander. What's left in the bowl is your buttermilk. Pour it into a separate container, refridgerate and use within 1 week.

Turn on the sink to cold water and rinse the butter in the colander. Place chunks of butter in a clean paper towel and squeeze. You need to make sure all the whey is removed or your butter will go rancid. Rinse again in water and squeeze in a paper towel a second time.

Once the butter is clean, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze or refrigerate for up to a week.

For more storage tips and ideas for things to try with your butter, see this entry over at Brownie Points blog.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Minestrone

How could you not get off the couch for that?

Lately, in the war of Leah versus inertia, the inertia has been winning. When I get home at the end of my 10+ hour days, I just want to sit on my couch and stare at the wall. It's almost embarrassing to think about how much time I spend staring at the walls. And it's not as though I haven't been cooking. A girl does, after all, eventually have to stop staring at the wall, get off the couch and eat. But lately there have been a lot of meals of cheese and crackers. Or cheese and bread. Or sometimes just large chunks of cheese.

To get me out of the funk, CCO and I cooked up a batch of soup, minestrone to be exact. Minestrone is my absolute favorite soup. I don't really know why. Probably something to do with it having both pasta AND beans. Also it's one of the only foods (along with carrot cake) where I willingly eat carrots.

This recipe has sausage added in. You can leave it out to make it vegetarian. Use veggie broth in place of the beef broth if that's the case.

Eat Rating: Awesome.
Difficulty: Easy. You just need a big pot.

1/2 pound pork sausage, casings removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bunch of swiss chard or other greens, ribs removed and chopped
3 roma tomatos, chopped (LN: You can also sub a can of diced tomato with the juice)
2 cans of white beans (Navy or Small White Beans), drained
1 cup of small-shaped pasta (LN: I think I used orecchietti)
7 cups of beef broth (LN: I used better than bouillon)

In a skillet, cook the sausage until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the bottom of a large pot, heat the oil, then cook the onion, carrot and garlic until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes and cook until they release their juices. Add the chard and cook just until it begins to wilt. Add in the beans and beef broth and stir back in the sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the broth has reduced some. Add in the pasta and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is sufficiently soft. Serve with some crusty bread and red wine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rosemary Bread


I'm not ready to talk about it yet.

But no matter what else happens in life, I know that when I get home at the end of the day if I mix egg yolks with chocolate and sugar and a little butter, it will thicken.



The pictures are from a class I took on bread baking.

Eat Rating: Awesome
Difficulty: Medium

Adapted from Bread Baking Success class, September 2009

5 1/2 - 6 cups of flour (all-purpose preferred)
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 packets active dry yeast (that's 4 1/2 tsp if you're using the jar)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup olive oil or butter
2 tsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine milk and oil or butter. Heat until warm, bubbling around the edges but not boiling.

Add the milk to the flour and mix until combined. You should have a thick liquid. Add the rosemary and stir again.

Measure out the remaining flour in a separate bowl. Gradually add the flour to the liquid, stirring in between each addition. The liquid will begin to thicken, then become doughy. You want to continue adding flour until the dough won't take in any more. If should be doughy, but not sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured cutting board or counter. Knead for several minutes until the dough is consistent throughout. (Don't worry about overkneading. It's not really possible to overknead. I find it very relaxing to knead dough. I think I could do it for hours)

Lightly butter or oil the sides of a clean bowl. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Allow to rise for 1 hour.

After one hour, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from bowl and re-knead. Using a knife, cut the dough into two equal size pieces.

Grease two loaf pans, preferably metal ones. Shape the dough into loaves and place in the pans. Place on top of the warmed oven and cover with a cloth. Allow to rise for another hour.

After the second hour of rising, bake the bread for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Remove from pan, and brush the sides with oil or butter. Allow the bread to cool completely on a wire rack, laying on its side.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peach and Tomato Bread Salad

Peaches and tomatoes: a perfect summer combination.

My co-worker Kathy suggested this recipe -- a salad of fresh peaches and tomato. At first I found this idea weird. But after I thought about it, I decided to give it a try. I modelled it after the Cherry Bread Salad. So if you particularly like a certain ingredient you can add more or omit if you don't like it.

We skinned both the tomato and the peach. To do that, bring a small pot of water to boil. Once it's boiling, drop the peach or tomato in the hot water for about 30 seconds, then place in a bowl of cold water. The skin should slide right off.

Inspired by Kathy W.

Eat Rating: Delicious. Make sure the peach is very ripe for best results.
Difficulty: Easy.

1 peach, skinned and cut into slices
1 yellow tomato, skinned, seeded and cut into slices
1/2 loaf of day-old crusty French bread, cut into cubes
1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Mozzarella cheese, if desired


Place the tomato and peach slices in a large bowl and squeeze lemon over, tossing until coated.

Heat a skillet on the stove, then doss in the cubes of bread, coating lightly with olive oil. Continue cooking on the stovetop until bread has begun to brown. Once browned, remove croutons from pan, cook slightly and then add to the tomato and peach slices.

(If using cheese, add it now)

Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the croutons and fruit, tossing until well-coated. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tequila-Soaked Watermelon Slices

It looks like watermelon, but there's a "special" ingredient.

I first saw this while flipping through Martha Stewart Living. It seemed like a cutesy idea, but I probably wouldn't have tried it if The Bitten Word guys hadn't said it was delicious.

The dinner party verdict was the slices are addictive and delicious. You can't taste the tequila at all. Whether that's good or bad is anyone's guess...

From the July 2009 Martha Stewart Living, via The Bitten Word

Eat Rating: Awesome
Difficulty: Easy.

1 medium-sized watermelon, cut into wedges (LN: I used a sugar-baby watermelon since those are sweeter. You can also use seedless)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup triple sec
2 limes, cut in half
Coarse salt

Place water, sugar and booze in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute until sugar has completely dissolved, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Arrange watermelon slices in a large baking dish or cookies sheet in a single layer. (If you don't have a big enough pan, follow the steps for a single layer, then repeat) Pour the syrup over the watermelon, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready to serve, remove watermelon slices from fridge and place on a platter. Squeeze lime juice over each slice and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Melon Lime Popsicles

Super easy summer treat.

Sorry for the long hiatus. I have a good reason.

Well, it's not exactly good, but I do have a reason. You see I bought this melon at the farmer's market for a dinner party two weeks ago.

Melon with limes.

And I had no idea what kind of melon it is. But I felt duty-bound to figure out what kind it was before blogging.

I had gone to the market two weeks ago in search of a honeydew. CCO and I were hosting dinner club and it was horribly hot outside, so I had decided on popsicles for dessert. I found this recipe from the July 2004 Gourmet, which was very simple and easy. But at the market, there were no honeydews. Plenty of watermelons, tons of cantelope, but no honeydews. One of the farmer's told me this melon would work well as a substitute, so I bought two for popsicles but forgot to ask its name.

Well, I am happy to report back that it is, in fact, a canary melon. Don't be confused by the green streaks. It's not a christmas or a crenshaw. If you can't find a canary, you can sub a honeydew, since that was the original recipe anyway. The original recipe also calls for you to make a simple syrup to add to the melon/lime. But mine was sweet enough without it, so I stuck with straight fruit.


Eat Rating: Awesome
Difficulty: Very easy. Requires popsicle or lollipop sticks, popsicle molds or ice cube tray and food processor.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, July 2004

1 medium-sized canary melon (or honeydew melon)
2/3 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes worth)

Cut the melon in half and remove seeds. Cut off the rind and chop into chunks.

Place chunks in the food processor and pulse until the melon has liquified. Stir in lime juice. Pour mixture into popsicle mold or ice tray. If using ice trays, place immediately in freezer for about 1 hour. Remove from freezer and place sticks into each cube. Return to freezer and freeze for at least another 3 hours.

Serve within two days.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Carrot Cake

The cake only looks like its flying.

A carrot cake is a difficult thing. Invariably, half the people at any given party or dinner won't eat any because they hate carrot cake. And the other half is probably judging you. Or your cake anyway.

So I was a little nervous when one of my co-workers requested carrot cake for her birthday. I figured I'd just use my favorite recipe but then I remembered that involves a layer of strawberry jam in the middle with the frosting and sometimes purists react badly when you mess with dessert staples. (Just ask me about the pumpkin pie I brought to Thanksgiving one year.) So instead I used this one from Alton Brown. He's never led me astray. Even that one time he insisted I could not make an apple pie without buying an expensive bottle of apple whiskey.

My cake turned out a little bit on the dry side, probably because of the white whole wheat flour. If you want to use whole wheat, just sub out 1 cup and use the other 1.5 cups of all purpose.

Adapted from
Alton Brown, The Food Network

Cake:

2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (LN: I subbed white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup vegetable oil (LN: I used peanut oil, but canola would work as well)

Frosting:
1 8-oz. block of cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 9-inch round cake pan.

Place the carrots in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl (or your food processor) mix the dry ingredients -- flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Add the flour mixture to the carrots and stir until combined.

In the bowl of the food processor, whiz the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add the wet mixture to the dry, then stir just until moistened. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge, then remove from pan and let cool completely.

Once cake is cool, combine cream cheese and butter in a bowl. Blend with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the vanilla and blend again. Gradually add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it is completely incorporated into the frosting.

Using a large, serrated knife, cut the cake into two layers. Place the bottom layer on a plate and spread half the frosting on top. Gently add the top layer and then frost with remaining cream cheese mixture. Garnish with walnuts, if desired.

Keep the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Allow the cake to sit for about 10-15 minutes out of the fridge before serving.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Peach Butter

Like apple butter, but sweeter

Of the various jam recipes, this one is probably the easiest (you make it in a crockpot, thus relieving the need to stand over a hot stove), but it takes the longest. The recipe said it should take 6 to 12 hours to cook. My crockpot must not be as hot because it took me nearly 24 hours.

Eat Rating: Awesome. Sweeter than apple butter, but just as spicy and delicious.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium. Requires food processor, crockpot and canning equipment.

(For a refresher on canning jam, see previous post on Strawberry Jam or check out this site from the USDA.)

Recipe makes about 5 pints or 10 half pints.

Adapted from Pick Your Own

10 cups of peaches, peeled and pitted (about 30 peaches)
4 cups of sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

Puree the peaches in the food processor. You want the peach mixture to be as smooth as possible to make smooth butter.

Add the peaches, sugar and spices to the crockpot. Stir until combined. Turn the crockpot up to high. Cover with the lid ajar so that there is some room for steam to escape. (LN: A good way to do this, as the recipe suggests, is to take two butter knives and lay them across the top of the crockpot. Then set the lid on top of the knives. Just a warning, though, the heat oxidized the metal in one of my knives so now it has all these dark gunmetal-gray splotches.)

Cook the peach mixture for 6 to 12 hours. You want the mixture to reduce by about half. To test if it's ready, stir and then pull out the spoon with some of the peach butter on it. Let cool for a minute then turn the spoon over. If it's ready, most of the butter will stick to the spoon. You want it thick, the consistency of natural peanut butter. If it's not thick enough, continue to cook for another hour, then test again. It if gets too thick, add a little water.

Pour hot peach butter into hot jars, top with lids and rings. Water bath can for 5 minutes.

The butter will keep unopened for up to a year. Once opened, eat within 2-3 weeks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vegan Maple Banana Ice Cream

Easiest ice cream ever.

I found this on Apartment Therapy The Kitchn and frankly its pretty damn genius. As I mentioned before, I always get sad when I come across ice cream recipes that require an ice cream maker because I don't have one. But this recipe for banana ice cream doesn't require an ice cream maker or even dairy products. Just frozen bananas and any extra flavorings you might want. I added some maple syrup but CCO's brother suggested it might also be good with a little bit of bourbon.

Eat Rating: Awesome. Deliciously smooth with a very real banana flavor.
Difficulty: Easy. Requires a food processor or blender.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Adapted from The Kitchn

5 medium-sized bananas, frozen
2 tbsp maple syrup

Peel the bananas and place in a food processor. Pulse several times to break up. Through the feed tube, add the maple syrup. Pulse again until smooth. Place the banana mixture into a plastic container and freeze at least 1 hour before serving.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peach Ginger Jam

CCO says this picture reminds him of those faces on Easter Island.

My mom was skeptical about this recipe. But she was similarly skeptical of the Strawberry Balsamic and that one turned out awesome. I think I won her over.

This jam takes 3/4 cup of fresh ginger. You could probably use ginger paste, the kind you find at Asian grocery stores if you didn't want to do all that peeling. The ginger gives the jam a big kick. No subtlety here.

Eat Rating: Awesome. (Only if you like ginger, though)
Difficulty: Medium. Requires a food processor, canning equipment.

(For a refresher on canning jam, see previous post on Strawberry Jam or check out this site from the USDA.)

Recipe yields about 3 pints or 6 half-pints.

Adapted from Mimi's Cyber Kitchen

3 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and diced (LN: I recommend using the food processor)
1 lemon juiced (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup water
1 box pectin (1.75 oz or about 3/8 cup)
6 cups of sugar

Take the largest pot you own, fill halfway with water and set on a back burner over medium heat. You will use this later. Place your jars on a cookie sheet and slide into a cold oven. Turn up the heat to 250 degrees. Once it reaches temperature, turn off the oven but leave the jars inside. Place the jar lids and rings in a bowl and set aside.

Combine peaches, ginger, lemon juice, water and pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Add the sugar, then return to a boil. Cook 1 additional minute.

Use a ladle to pour some of the hot water from the large pot into the bowl with the lids and rings. This will sterilize them.

Remove a few jars from the oven with a clean dish towel. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, wipe clean the lip of the jars and affix a lid. Twist on a ring till finger tight, then place the filled jar in the large pot of hot water.

Repeat until you run out of jam. You want the jars in the large pot to be completely submerged in water. Add more water if necessary. Return water to a boil, then boil the jars for 10 minutes. Remove jars from pot. The tops should pop as the jars return to room temperature. If any of the jars have not popped within 24 hours, reboil.

The jam will keep unopened for up to a year. Once opened, finish the jam within 2-3 weeks.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers

The reason I didn't have enough peppers to pickle.

I liked this recipe but I shall share a secret: I don't actually like stuffed peppers. The fillings are definitely good. I always feel like the peppers get dried out, though, and taste somewhat leathery. Half the time I just end up eating all the filling out. But this filling was so delicious, I've made just the filling another half dozen times and eaten it all by itself. If you want to do that, just skip the part about baking the pepper shells and chop one to add to the onion/zucchini mixture.

Eat Rating: Delicious, though better without the outer-pepper shell.
Difficulty: Easy.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup of dry couscous
5 bell peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chickpeas, either canned or soaked overnight then cooked (LN: CCO liked them, but I've omitted them subsequent times)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp fennel seeds (can omit if you don't like the taste of fennel)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off the bell peppers and pull out the seeds and membrane. Place the peppers cut side up on a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the peppers are baking, in a small saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Remove from heat, add the couscous and stir just until combined. Cover and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

If desired, cut the stem out of the middle of the pepper tops and chop the leftover peppers.

In a large saute pan, heat oil then add the onions, zucchini and pepper if using. Saute for about 5-7 minutes until softened. Add the chickpeas, fennel seed and tomato paste. Cook another minute. Remove from heat.

With a fork, fluff the couscous, then add to the vegetable mixture. Stir well, then add the feta cheese and mix until well combined.

Fill the pre-baked peppers with the couscous mixture. Return the peppers to the oven for 5 minutes until cheese has softened. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Peach Vanilla Jam

Peach vanilla

It is finally August, which means two things: 1) Congress go away for five weeks and 2) I am finally allowed to go on vacation. Or in this year's case, staycation. My mom and I decided a great way to kick off my staycation would be to do an enormous canning project. On Saturday, we'd pick up a bushel of peaches and make jam and Sunday we'd do the same with tomatoes. We are nothing if not ambitious.

I realize now this was insane. We accidentally chose the hottest weekend in the year. Also canning requires a lot of standing. By the end I thought I might collapse. But I did end up with:
- 5 pints peach nectar
- 5 pints peach butter
- 5 pints peach jam
- 6 pints peach-ginger jam
- 4ish pints peach-vanilla jam
- 3 quarts peaches in rum

To avoid boring everyone, I'll post one recipe a week about Leah's adventures in canning. First up, peach vanilla jam.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading the Washington Post Food Section blog and saw this post on vanilla. I've always avoided cooking with vanilla beans, not so much because they are difficult but because of the expense. At my local grocery store, a bottle of one or two vanilla beans runs about $8. In the blog post, Monica Bhide mentions that vanilla beans are a lot cheaper if you buy them online. I looked at Saffron.com like she suggests and 1 lb of vanilla beans (that's 100-120) runs $20. I bought 1/2 lb of two types: Tahitian vanilla and Vanilla planifolia. (Vanilla Garlic has a good post on the different varieties of vanilla if you're interested.

Vanilla Beans

In this French-enclosure jar I bought specially of them, they'll keep forever. (Alright, maybe not forever but at least a couple years)

The Post had also done a big story complete with recipes on jam-making a few weeks back. Sadly it wasn't in time for my first jam session of the year, but I was intrigued by the recipe for Strawberry Vanilla. I googled, and came across this recipe. The jam is mostly peach with just a hint of vanilla. I think it's my favorite find so far. The recipe recommends starting 48 hours early and letting the vanilla beans sit in the sugar. You can obviously do that, but it didn't seem that necessary. I let my beans sit in the sugar for about 2 hours and the taste is plenty vanilla.

Note: For all the peach recipes, you will need to peel the peaches. To do this easily, boil water in a medium saucepan. Drop in a peach for about 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. The hot water loosens the skin from the fruit, the ice helps it separate even more and keeps you from burning your hands. The skins should easily slide off.


(For a refresher on canning jam, see previous post on Strawberry Jam or check out this site from the USDA.)

Recipe yields about 3 pints or 6 half-pints.

Eat Rating: Awesome. I had intended to give away some of my jam, but now I just want to keep it for myself.
Difficulty: Medium. Canning equipment needed.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, August 1997

2 1/2 lbs peaches, skinned, pitted and sliced
5 1/2 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 box pectin (1.75 oz -- about 3/8 cup)
1 tbsp bourbon

Measure sugar into a large bowl. Cut open the vanilla beans (for an example, see here) and let sit in the sugar for 48 hours. (LN: I let mine sit covered for 2 hours.)

When you are ready to begin cooking, take the largest pot you own, fill halfway with water and set on a back burner over medium heat. You will use this later. Place your jars on a cookie sheet and slide into a cold oven. Turn up the heat to 250 degrees. Once it reaches temperature, turn off the oven but leave the jars inside. Place the jar lids and rings in a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the sliced peaches, lemon juice and pectin. Heat, stirring constantly, until the peaches begin to boil, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla beans. Return to a rolling boil, then cook about 1 additional minute. Remove from heat, stir in bourbon. Fish out the vanilla beans. (You can save these to use again, but you might want to rinse to get the peach stickiness off).

Use a ladle to pour some of the hot water from the large pot into the bowl with the lids and rings. This will sterilize them.

Remove a few jars from the oven with a clean dish towel. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, wipe clean the lip of the jars and affix a lid. Twist on a ring till finger tight, then place the filled jar in the large pot of hot water.

Repeat until you run out of jam. You want the jars in the large pot to be completely submerged in water. Add more water if necessary. Return water to a boil, then boil the jars for five minutes. Remove jars from pot. The tops should pop as the jars return to room temperature. If any of the jars have not popped within 24 hours, reboil.

The jam will keep unopened for up to a year. Once opened, finish the jam within 2-3 weeks.

On toast

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella

Better than tomatoes.

In a fit of inspiration (insanity?), I bought five pounds of peppers at Eastern Market the other day. The intention was to pickle them, but then a recipe for stuffed peppers struck my fancy. After I made those, I was one pepper short of the pickled peppers recipe. Instead I roasted them and left them in a jar of olive oil in my fridge for a few days. I thought I might try making a red pepper pesto to use up the leftover pine nuts, but then I found this recipe, which seemed perfect. Pine nuts and red pepper might be weird anyway.

The recipe calls for you to use store bought roasted red peppers. You can obviously do that, but to roast your own, heat the oven to 450 degrees and place two red peppers on a baking sheet. Cook 10 minutes, flip over and cook 10 more on the other side. You want the skins to be blackened and shrivelling. Remove from the oven and use tongs to place in a bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap. The skins should slide off easily. Tug the stem and the top and seeds should also remove easily. Use immediately or pack in oil in a jar and refrigerate.

Eat Rating: Awesome.
Difficulty: Easy. Requires food processor or blender.

Adapted from Food and Wine February 2008, via Kate in the Kitchen

1 lb dried gemelli (LN: I'm not even sure which one that is. I used penne)
2 roasted red peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic
2 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (LN: Omitted. I was out.)
9 fresh basil leaves, divided
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions.

While pasta is cooking, place the peppers, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, tomatoes and 3 basil leaves in a food processor. Pulse to combine.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and toss with the sauce and mozzarella. Tear up the rest of the basil and add to the pasta. Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Programming Note

If you read I Like to Eat via an RSS feed, you may have noticed some changes today. I wanted to make my feed a little sexier by adding the photos from my posts, so I switched to FeedBurner. Sadly I couldn't actually figure out how to do that (yet). But it did let me add my "Recipes to Try" delicious feed. So in addition to seeing my realtime list of awesome looking recipes on the sidebar of the blog, you will now get a daily summary of anything I've added to Delicious in your RSS. Let me know if you hate it and I'll consider removing it. Right now, I sort of like it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's a Recession! Canned Peaches

Peaches come in a can.

Eat Rating: Delicious. Very light syrup.
Difficulty: Easy to Medium. You will need one very large pot, big enough for the jars to stand straight up submerged in water.

Makes about 6 quarts.

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Canning

1 peck (about 11 to 12 lbs) freestone peaches, any variety
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup lemon juice

Take the large pot and arrange some extra rings along the bottom. Fill the big pot with water about halfway full and begin to heat. Get out two large bowls. Fill one bowl with ice water and the other with lemon juice.

Place the jars on a cookie sheet and place in a cold oven. Heat the oven up to 250 degrees, then turn off, leaving the jars inside.

Once the water is boiling, dunk the peaches one by one in the hot water for about 30 seconds, then place in the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

Once all the peaches have been dunked, pour some of the hot water into a small saucepan and place the tops and rings into it to sterilize. Set on a back burner on low. Keep the rest of the water in the large pot hot. You will need it later.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and 5 1/2 cups of water, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.

Once the peaches have been dunked, the skins should slide off easily. (Keep the skins to make peach honey or discard.) Place the de-skinned peaches in the bowl with lemon juice, making sure to get some juice on all sides to prevent browning.

Remove a jar from the oven using a clean kitchen towel.

With a paring knife, cut the peaches in half all the way around, then twist off the pit. Remove the pit and discard. Make sure to dunk the inside of the peach in the lemon juice to prevent browning. Place the peach halves (or quarters if you'd prefer) in the hot jar. Fill it up until there is only about a 1/2 inch below the top. Slowly pour some of the water-sugar liquid into the jar until it completely covers the peaches and reaches about 1/4 inch below the lip. Wipe down the lip of the jar. Remove a lid and ring from the water and place the lid on the lip of the jar. Twist the ring until finger-tight. Using the jar lifter, carefully place the filled jar into the largest pot of water on top of the rings, being careful that it does not touch the sides of the pot.

Fill the remaining jars. You might run out of syrup before you run out of peaches. If that happens, just make another batch -- 5 1/2 cups water to 1 1/4 cup sugar.

Once all the jars are filled and in the large pot, add more water so that the jars are completely submerged. Heat until the water reaches a boil, then cook the canned peaches for 30 minutes.

Remove from the pot and allow the jars to come to room temperature. As they cool, you should hear the popping noise as the jars pressurize. Once the jars are room temperature, check that they have all sealed properly. If any have not, reboil for another 30 minutes.

The canned peaches will keep unopened for up to a year. Once opened, eat within a week. The peaches can also be drained and used in any recipes substituted for fresh peaches.