Thursday, April 30, 2009

Strawberry Tart with Port-Wine Glaze

Photograph by Romulo Yanes for Gourmet Magazine

I'm a sucker for the recipe on the front of the magazine. For my grandma's birthday this weekend, I was charged with making a dessert. There would already be cake, courtesy the local Costco, so my dessert was supposed to be creative and delicious. Feeling uninspired, I went for the tart on the front of Gourmet mag. The picture is above. I'm going to pretend that by crediting them, it's fair use.

So the tart was very easy and wonderfully decadent. The only problem was I put it out on the table with the rest of the food. So my cousin's children stole all the strawberries off and stuck their fingers in the cream before anyone got around to dessert. Naturally, no one really wanted to eat it at that point. By the time they were finished, though, all the strawberries had been eaten because strawberries covered in port = deliciousness. My brother - the only one who ventured to eat an entire piece - said the filling was a little too sweet. So I might recommend subbing a block of cream cheese for the marscapone. It would be cheaper anyway. Or you could just serve strawberries covered in port...

Unfortunately I didn't get to take a pic until after the two-year-old had his way with the tart.

Eat Rating: Great. (This is a guess based on the fact that all the strawberries disappeared)
Difficulty: Medium. Requires a tart pan. Also ruby port. And, as always, I used a food processor for the crust, but you could bulk up your arms by using a manual pastry blender.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, April 2009

1 1/4
cups all-purpose flour
tbsp sugar
tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
large egg yolk
tsp vanilla
tsp fresh lemon juice
tbsp cold water
1 1/2
lb strawberries (about 1 1/2 qt), trimmed and halved lengthwise
cup sugar
cup ruby Port
lb mascarpone - about 2 cups - or two blocks of cream cheese
cup powdered sugar
tsp fresh lemon juice
tsp grated lemon zest
tsp vanilla

Place the flour and 3 tbsp sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter, cut into pieces, and pulse until you have a coarse meal. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and water and mix until combine. Add to the flour mixture and pulse until a ball of dough begins to form. Roll the dough into a ball, then pat down into a disk. With your fingers, pat the dough into a tart pan until it covers the bottom and sides. Prick all over with a fork. Place the tart shell into the freezer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cover the tart with parchment paper or foil and place pie weights (or my ghetto version, a bag of black beans) to weigh it down. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and remove pie weights/beans. Return to oven to bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely, about 45 minutes.

While the tart is cooling, mix the cut strawberries with the 1/3 cup of sugar and let stand for 30 minutes. While the strawberries are sitting, combine the cheese, vanilla, zest, lemon juice and powdered sugar. The cheese mixture should be thick, but spreadable consistency.

After the strawberries have sat for half an hour, move them to a separate bowl and set aside. With a rubber scraper, move the remaining juice and sugar into a saucepan. Add the port. Cook over medium heat to boil, then reduce to 1/4 cup about 15 minutes. You want it to be more like a glaze consistency, so when you remove the spoon, the liquid should cling to the spoon.

After reduced, let cool for a few minutes. Spread the cheese mixture into the well of the tart, then mound the strawberries in the middle and pour the port glaze over. It will thicken a little as it cools. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spanish-style Pork Roast with Pan-Roasted Romesco Sauce

Juicy circles of pork.

Romesco is a tomato and red pepper sauce from Catalonia, Spain (or so Bon Appetit magazine tells me). All I know, is it looks real good in the picture. When my brother and sister-in-law came over for dinner last weekend, I made a pork loin roast with the sauce and, man, was it good. Bon Appetit tried to convince me that instead of buying pork at the store, I should buy something called heritage pork from one of these web sites. It was not exactly clear to me why buying pork on the Internet was better, so I just picked up a pork loin at the store. The recipe recommends you use a pork rib roast, but they were out at the store I visited. The pork loin worked just as well, same time roasting even. The recipe also calls for Marcona almonds - these are apparently roasted, salted Spanish almonds. My usual go-tos for random ingredients (Whole Foods, Trader Joes, random Hispanic grocery up the street) did not have them, so we subbed regular roasted almonds.

Eat Rating: Very good. Ours was a little too salty, so I recommend omitting the salt from the pork rub.
Difficulty: Medium. You need a food processor for the Romesco sauce. Also requires some random ingredients: Marcona almonds, smoked paprika and dry Sherry. I subbed for the almonds and sherry.

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, May 2009

2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp kosher salt (LN: I'd recommend omitting, otherwise the pork is really salty)
1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram (LN: I used 1 tbsp dried)
1 tbsp smoked paprika (Sometimes labelled Spanish paprika)
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 8-10 bone pork rib roast, or 6 lb pork loin
4 large roasted red pepper (about a 15 oz jar), drained
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 ripe Roma tomato, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Marcona almonds (or roasted, salted almonds)
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup dry Sherry (LN: Don't use cooking Sherry. It has extra salt added and is generally gross. I couldn't find any at my neighborhood package store, so I subbed 1 cup Ruby Port)

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and mix to form a paste. Rub the paste on the pork loin and let rest in the roasting pan for 1 hour. (You can do this up to a day ahead of time. Refridgerate and then let come to room temp for 1 hour before proceeding). Preheat oven to 425 and roast the pork for 15 minutes. While pork is roasting, combine the red pepper, 6 cloves of garlic and tomato in a pie dish and set aside. After 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Place the dish of red peppers in the oven with the pork and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the red peppers from oven and cool.

Continue roasting pork for another 1 hour and 15 minutes (2 hours total) or until meat thermometer read 140 degrees. Remove from oven. Transfer pork to a cutting board and tent with foil. Reserve any drippings from the pan (LN: To be honest, there were practically no drippings from the pork loin, probably because it doesn't have as much fat as a rib roast. But keep any you do have.)

Chop the almonds and bread crumbs in the food processor until you finely ground. Add the red pepper mix and blend until you have a rough paste. Spoon any reserved drippings into a saucepan and add the 1 cup of Sherry/Port. Boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Let cool 1 minute, then add to the sauce in the food processor. Mix until smooth.

Cut the roast into slices, about 1/2 inch thick if pork loin or between bones if rib roast. Serve with sauce.

With Romesco sauce.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Avocado goodness.

I made so much food this weekend between a dinner party for my bro and a birthday party for my grandma that it was hard to decide where to start. But I think this was my favorite find and it was so good I made it for both parties. Green Goddess dressing is a creation of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. I have never been there, but the Internet says it is the "birthplace of California cuisine." Anyway, this salad dressing is light but very flavorful. The base is an avocado and oil, plus tons of herbs, white wine vinegar, lemon and lime. The recipe calls for all fresh chopped herbs. The second time I tried it with all fresh and it was delightful. But if you can't find them, or don't feel like going to the store, dried will do. Just reduce by about half if you're using dry. The first time, we made with a fork and whisk. It turned out great, but with a couple lumps. For a smoother dressing, use a food processor.

Eat Rating: Awesome. I have a feeling this salad dressing is going to be making an appearance at many a dinner all summer long.
Difficulty: Easy.

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, May 2009 via Chez Panisse Vegetables

1 ripe avocado (about 7 oz)
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 oil-packed anchovy, finely chopped (LN: The first time we omitted. Feel free to leave out if you dislike fish)
Juice from one fresh lemon (about 1 tsp)
Juice from one fresh lime (about 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp sugar (LN: omitted)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh Tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped

In a food processor, mash avocado. Add vinegar, galic, anchovy, and juices and pulse to combine. Gradually add oil, blending well until fully incorporated. Mix in the cream, then add the remaining spices and shallot. Serve immediately or chill in the refridgerator to keep ingredients from separating. Re-mix with a whisk before serving.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gnocchi with Mushroom Sage Ragu

Gnocchi. Not as hard as you think.

Last weekend, I was flipping through the May issue of Bon Appetit (the "Travel the US" issue) when I came across a recipe for gnocchi. A perfect recipe for Meatless Monday, I thought. Then I noticed there was something a little strange about the recipe. For one thing, there was no picture. That's not enormously weird, after all only about half of the recipes in any given magazine have accompanying pictures. What was weird is that instead of a picture of gnocchi, there was a picture of a wine bottle and the words "EXPERIENCE ARGENTINA." This was not a recipe in Bon Appetit, this was an Argentinean wine advertisment. I was more than a little bit disappointed because I had gotten myself all psyched for making gnocchi. I looked around online for a different recipe, but then I decided it could be a little experiment to see how good the recipes are in random advertisments. Besides in tiny print in the corner it said "Recipe created by Bon Appetit Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Lindenauer for Trapiche," and he was wearing a chef coat and, according to the internet, he's an actual CIA grad even if his hair could use some work. So yeah, I made a recipe from an advertisement. And it was damn good.

Eat Rating: Absolutely awesome. It's a little heavy, so definitely break it into four or five servings.
Difficulty: Medium. The recipe calls for a potato ricer. I'm not even sure I know what that is (See Annie, I don't know everything). Instead I used the food processor.

From Trapiche adverstistment in Bon Appetit, May 2009

2 lbs russet potatoes (that's about 4-5 medium-sized ones)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup olive oil
4 cups wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
2 tbsp mince shallots
1 cup white wine (predictably they recommend Trapiche Torrontes. I used Chardonnay)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake potatoes on a bed of kosher salt for 45 to 50 minutes (I have no idea what the kosher salt is supposed to do except make a mess). Let cool a few minutes so you don't burn your fingers then, while still warm, halve the potatoes and scoop out the flesh. Pass the flesh through a "potato ricer" if you actually know what that is. If not, stick in the bowl of food processor and pulse a few times until the potatoes are mashed up. In a large bowl, add the egg yolks and spices to the potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined. With your hands, add the flour to the potato mixture. It will form a dough. You'll know it's ready once it no longer sticks to your fingers. Transfer the dough to a generously floured surface, then roll into a 3 inch thick log. Cut the log into eight pieces. Roll out each piece of the dough on the floured surface until you get a 1/2 inch thick tube. Cut up the tube crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces, about the size of a large cashew. You don't want them to be too big because they will expand some when boiled. Let dry at room temperature for 20 minutes. You can make the sauce while they sit.

Heat a large saucepan and add oil. Add the mushrooms and without stirring, cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the sage and shallot and cook for one more minute. Add the white wine and cook until the wine has reduced by about half. Add the cream and simmer until reduced to sauce consistency, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the gnocchi and continue to boil. The gnocchi is done when it floats to the top of the pot, about 1-2 minutes after added. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the pot. Pour sauce over gnocchi. Garnish with parmesan and parsley. Eat immediately. Makes 4-5 generous servings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sweet Oat Pie Crust

Ignore the lemon ooze. Gaze upon the flakiness.

For Easter, I bought a bunch of lemons to make a lemon tart. Then it turned out that you only need two lemons for a lemon tart, so I was left with many extra lemons. When I was picking out my lemon tart recipe, I also came across this other recipe for Shaker Lemon Pie. It essentially takes whole lemons, slices them up very finely, covers them in sugar and bakes them. I was intrigued and decided to experiment with my extra lemons. This might have resulted in a wonderful spring dessert, but for my two flaws: I am not a very patient person and I almost never read all the way through a recipe before I start. I know. It's a really, really bad habit. I have a tendency to skim, which often results in frantic grocery runs for ingredients I don't have or, in this case, realizing halfway through the recipe that you're supposed to let it sit for 24 hours. Twenty-four frickin hours. I didn't want a pie tomorrow, I wanted it now. So I sort of skipped that step. I only say sort of because I did let it sit for 20 minutes. I figured that was a decent compromise. It was not. Apparently if you actually let your lemons macerate for a whole day, the peels begin to breakdown into a sugary goo. When you only let them macerate for 20 minutes, that does not happen. So I ended up with a pie that had enormous chunks of unappetizing lemon peel.

Normally if I messed up a recipe that badly, I would not write about it on the blog. But it turns out my pie was not a complete waste. When I was making my pie crust, I decided to be a little bit adventurous and use oats. At the bottom of his "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" entry on pie crust, Mark Bittman has a little note that you can add oats to the mix for a little bit of added texture. I thought this was a good idea. It turns out this is not just a good idea, it's a freakin brilliant idea. The oats give the crust a richer flavor and make it even flakier. This is now my go-to recipe for pie crust. Despite the grossness of the lemon pie, CCO and I have actually been eating it all week by cutting pieces, pulling out the inside and eating the pie crust.

Eat Rating: Awesome. It would be glorious on a berry pie. Just thinking about it makes me drool a little.
Difficulty: Medium. You will need a food processor or blender and rolling pin. A pastry scraper would be nice, too.
Adapted from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
(Note: This recipe makes one 9 inch pie crust. If you are making a two-crust pie, just double.)

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
1 stick of cold butter, cut into pieces
3 tbsp cold water

Place the oats in the bowl of the food processor and pulse several times. You want the oats to be cut up into a chunky meal with pieces no larger than a grain of rice. Add the flour and pulse to mix. Cut up the butter into small pieces. I normally cut the butter into the 8 tbsp and then halve or quarter each tablespoon chunk. Add the butter to the food processor and pulse again. You should get a meally mixture that does not yet hold together. Add the water 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing between each addition. Eventually, the dough will form into a loose ball. Once you have a ball, lay out a piece of wax paper or parchment on the countertop and lightly flour. Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and roll in the flour to form a ball. With your hand, pat the top of the ball down so it forms a thick disk, then roll the disk on its sides to get a uniform edge. Fold up the sides of the parchment/wax paper around your disk and refridgerate for at least 1 hour. (If you're in a hurry, you can stick the disk in the freezer for half an hour. Just don't leave it in there longer than that or you'll need to defrost a little before using.)

When ready to use, remove the disk of dough from the fridge and unwrap. Generously flour your work surface. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is slightly larger than your pie dish. Move the dough to the pie dish (To keep the dough from breaking when you try to move it, roll the dough back onto your rolling pin. Use the pin to transfer over to the pie dish, then unroll off the pin into the dish. This is really a good idea for this recipe since it tends to be a little bit more crumbly than regular dough). Prick all over with a fork to prevent bubbles. Either blind bake or fill according to your recipe.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lemon Roasted Haricots Verts

Roasted Haricots Verts

That's a fancy way of saying "roasted string beans."

For CCO's birthday this year, my mom signed us up for a cooking class. I was pretty stoked - the last time I took a class, I end up with cool recipes. This one was at the Sur La Table in Pentagon City and the theme was "Date Night in Paris." Again pretty cool. All in all, I liked it. The guy who taught it was pretty neat, gave us some good tips on onion chopping, lemon zesting and other random cooking skills. But I had somewhat expected that the other people in the class would be cooking nuts like me who wanted to try something new. That was not the case. It was a lot of people who had never cooked before. I mean I knew those people existed, but I guess they don't often introduce themselves to me in that fashion. So, for example, I was the only one who had ever made a souffle before. Also, the only person who had ever made my own salad vinaigrette. My kitchen was amazed when I showed everyone the trick where you roll the pastry dough back on the rolling pin to transfer it from the cutting board to the pie dish...

Anyway, it was some pretty great French food and my favorite part of cooking class is you get to eat it all when you're done. Tart au chevre (fancy way of saying "goat cheese tart"), potato galettes (grilled "potato patties"), paillards of beef in port wine sauce. Mmmm. To recreate our fun Friday night, CCO and I remade the green beans to go with our meatloaf.

Eat Rating: Delicious. I am so happy it's spring.
Difficulty: Easy. Needs a zester or grater for the lemon peel.

Adapted from "Date Night in Paris," Sur La Table, 4/17/2009 with Chef Luke Taylor
(The recipe can be halved. But if you do, make sure to reduce the lemon juice or your string beans will be super tart)

2 lb of Haricots Verts (string beans), trimmed
1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
6 large sprigs of fresh marjoram (LN: you can also use about 1 tsp dried marjoram or fresh oregano)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel

Position racks in the oven so one is near the top and the other near the bottom. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with oil or line with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, combine beans, onion and majoram. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Lay out in a single layer on the cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes on top rack. Move the sheet to the bottom rack and roast 10 more minutes. The beans will be ready when they are beginning to brown in spots.

Remove from cookie sheet and return to bowl. Add lemon juice and zest and toss to coat. Serve warm.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Waffles

Banana Whole Wheat Goodness

My best friend recently got married and as a gift for being a good maid of honor, her mom gave me a waffle maker. It's pretty much the best present ever (along with the fancy garlic press she gave me, of course).


We decided to give the waffle maker its inaugural run this weekend. After a couple mishaps that involved me spilling batter on the floor, we succeeded. The waffles were pretty damn good too.

Eat Rating: Good. The two bananas give it just a hint of banana. CCO thought they could've used some more sugar, but I think that's what syrup is for.
Difficulty: Medium. Requires waffle maker, whisk.

Adapted from Alton Brown's Basic Waffle Recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, powder, salt and sugar. Stir until combined. In a separate bowl, add the remaining ingredients and whisk. You want the banana pieces as small as possible. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Let sit 5 minutes. Spray waffle iron with cooking spray and pour about 3/4 cup batter onto the iron. Cook according to the directions for your waffle maker (mine only takes about 2 minutes per waffle).

Serve with butter and maple syrup or fruit spread.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Almond-Vanilla Arborio Rice Pudding

I love risotto. It might be my favorite type of rice. I like its creaminess, the way the taste lingers in your mouth, and the way it looks as you cook it, absorbing all the juices and flavors from the other ingredients. So I immediately loved the idea of rice pudding made with arborio rice.

A note on vanilla: I often find when I am making desserts, recipes that call for using whole vanilla beans. Now I'm all for quality ingredients but vanilla beans are wicked expensive. I think the last time I looked at my grocery store up the street it was something like $16 for a tiny bottle that had one long bean. Being stingy, I cheated and used vanilla extract. But this is one recipe that when I make again I might actually splurge and buy that $16 bean.

Eat Rating: Awesome. Sweet and creamy, my favorite combination.
Difficulty: Very easy. (I think even Annie might agree with this one)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Food Network

1/2 cup arborio rice
4 cups milk (LN: Skim works fine)
1/4 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean, cut open lengthwise)
3/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup raisins, currants or cranberries (optional)
Pinch of cinnamon

Combine rice, milk, sugar and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. (If using vanilla bean, add it to the milk mixture now). Once its boiling, reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring ocassionally. You'll know its done once the rice has a sticky, risotto-like consistency. Remove from heat. (Don't forget to remove the bay leaf!) Stir in vanilla (if not using bean), almond extract and raisins, if desired. Spoon into dishes, sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baked Ziti with Walnut Sauce

Almost like an exotic mac n cheese.

I am a tomato and pasta kind of girl. I might consent to a creme sauce ala alfredo, but in general if it doesn't have tomatoes I wonder what's wrong with it. CCO, however, is an exotic sauce kind of guy. He's always trying to convince me to add strange things to our pasta like canned tuna or bacon (I'll admit that one was good). So when he said he wanted to make walnut sauce for pasta on meatless Monday, I balked a little. True I had a 10 lb bag of walnuts I bought at Costco on a whim, but still they didn't need to be used for pasta. He eventually wore me down and I consented to replacing tomato with nuts.

Eat Rating: Good, but not stellar. The walnut sauce is very subtle, you could almost miss it entirely. The dish overall ends up almost like an exotic type of mac n cheese, except it would need more cheese.
Difficulty: Medium. Requires a food processor or blender. Also a lot of cheese grating. Note: You can make the walnut sauce ahead of time, if desired.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

For the walnut sauce
1 slice of Italian bread
1/2 cup milk
1 cup walnuts
2 gloves of garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the baked ziti
1 lb ziti
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, grated or chopped
bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the milk in a small bowl and soak the bread in it. In a food processor, combine the nuts, garlic, cheese and marjoram. Gradually add the oil while the machine is still running. The mixture will form a thick paste. Squeeze out the bread and add it to the mixture, combining until the bread is completely diced. Add the milk. If your sauce is still a little thick (ours was) add a few tbsp of water. You want the consistency to be about that of thick tomato sauce, not like tomato paste.

Walnut sauce

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the ziti, about a minute or two less than the instructions on the box. (If you start this at the same time as the sauce, you won't have to wait as long).

Once the ziti is cooked, toss it with the sauce and half the mozzarella. Grease a baking dish and pour the ziti mix in. Top with the remaining mozzarella and bread crumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the top is browned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bouchons au Thons

In French, that apparently means "tuna corks." We already tried the cake that got Orangette a husband, so I figured I should try the recipe that got her a french lover. CCO said it wouldn't have to be too impressive since french men are "horndogs" but that is beside the point I think. The corks are very light -- just a hint of tomato and tang from the creme fraiche. They are hard to stop eating too. A batch makes about 8-9 corks, which was supposed to feed four people. Instead CCO and I ate them in one sitting. In all a wonderful spring-type dinner. I think I may make for an appetizer next time I host a dinner party.

The creme fraiche was the most difficult ingredient to find (they do sell it at Harris Teeter, maybe also Whole Foods. Check the fancy cheese section.), but I figured I should follow the recipe once before I started making changes. I might substitute full fat sour cream next time and see how they turn out. One other note, if you don't have a muffin tin, you can still make by filling disposable muffin cups and baking on a cookie sheet (I had to do this since I lent out my muffin tins). Make sure to buy the aluminum tins though. They hold the shape much better than the paper ones.

Eat Rating: Awesome. I sort of want to be her French lover now.
Difficulty: Easy (aside from finding creme fraiche)

From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

1 6 oz. can of tuna in water, drained
1 cup Gruyere, finely shredded (LN: I used my nun-cheese, which I still (!) have in the fridge)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup creme fraiche
3 eggs (LN: subbed egg beaters and it worked fine)
2 tsbp finely chopped Italian parsley (LN: couldn't find any, subbed 1/2 tbsp dried)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a muffin tin or line with disposable muffin liners.

Drain tuna and place in a medium sized bowl. With a fork, break the tuna up into small pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Divide the mixture evenly between 8-9 tins. Bake 20-25 minutes until the corks appear set on top. Let cool for 5 minutes. The corks will collapse a little, don't worry. Remove from liners or pan and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Frances O'Neal's Fig Cake

Frances O'Neal's fig cake

In this month's Gourmet, they had a feature on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I've never been and never really thought anything of the place (although those "OBX" stickers on the backs of cars are irritatingly ubiquitous). Apparently they have good food, though, lots of seafood, hush puppies and barbecue. I now somewhat want to visit, if only to eat Hatteras clam chowder. Fig trees are also, apparently, plentiful in Outer Banks, so they featured this fig cake recipe from the Back Porch Restaurant and Wine Bar on Ocracoke Island. There, it's served as a layer cake with cream chese icing. Gourmet turned it into a bundt cake, more like a spice cake with little bits of fig and nuts, a good cake for the fall season, I think. But definitely tasty and worth the effort. Next time I might try with cream cheese frosting, though, because that would definitely be yummy.


A note on finding preserved figs: You want a jar of figs in water or syrup, not dried. I found them at Whole Foods. The mag also recommends buying from the Ocracoke Community Store ( or Lee Bros. Broiled Peanuts Catalog.

Eat Rating: Delicious, although I think it would be better for fall rather than spring because of all the spices evoke apple and pumpkin pie to me.
Difficulty: Easy-to-medium

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, April 2009

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup preserved figs in syrup, drained and chopped
1 cups walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 35o degrees and generously grease a bundt pan. I mean generously grease. Otherwise your cake will stick (mine did a little on one side). Combine flour, salt and spices in a medium sized bowl. Mix well.

Beat eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer (or Kitchenaid) for 2 minutes until the eggs are foamy. Add sugar and beat 2 more minutes. Add oil and beat one additional minute. Your mixture should be a pale yellow. At low speed, add flour, alternating with buttermilk until both are fully combined.

In a small bowl, mix baking soda and warm water. Stir into cake batter, along with vanilla, fig chunks and nuts.

Pour into pan and bake about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely in pan, about 2 hours. Garnish with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

See, I meant generous...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fennel Rings

If I ever owned a bar, I wouldn't serve onion rings or fries, but fennel, fried with a lovely crisp coating. Unlike onion rings, the fennel doesn't lose its crunchy texture and doesn't taste so bland. It's spicier, with a kick of pepper. And it's full of fiber and potassium.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

1 bulb of fennel
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 lemon (or several tbsp lemon juice)
3 tbsp butter plus 3 tbsp olive oil

Clean fennel, trim and cut the bulb crossways into 1/4 inch thick slices. Squeeze lemon over the cut fennel rings and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Mix the flour and bread crumbs in a small bowl. In a second small bowl, beat the eggs. Dredge the rings one at a time in the egg then bread crumbs. Repeat a second time for each slice until thoroughly coated.

In a medium sautee pan, melt butter and oil. Cook the breaded fennel in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side until browned. After the fennel is cooked, transfer to a paper towel to drain. Serve immediately.