Friday, July 30, 2010
Last night, I decided to bake a lemon pie for my co-workers. After some deliberation, I decided that I should really make two pies, to ensure plentiful servings for everyone. Now, most reasonable people would simply commence from there and bake two pies. If you're me, however, you decided that if you're going to double the recipe anyway, you may as well quadruple the recipe and bring pies to other friends as well. Midway through the whipping and stirring process, you will discover that you have entirely too much custard even for your nearly industrial sized stand mixer, and will wind up standing on a chair for leverage while stirring pie filling in your largest salad bowl. You will then soon realize that hand beating is not achieving nearly the required degree of smoothness for the custard, and will have to employ your immersion blender, in a vague attempt to use every conceivable power tool in the preparation of an otherwise very peaceful dish such as lemon custard.
A similar issue occurred just last week, when I accidentally doubled the recipe for my beloved beer bread from Farmgirl Susan's Farmgirl Fare blog (how does one accidentally double a recipe?), and then felt very much like Lucille Ball in the I Love Lucy 56 packets of yeast bread baking episode as I attempted to pour this suddenly massive amount of dough into a single diminutive loaf pan.
What is one to do in such situations? Why greet the unexpected arrival of extra dough with great joy, bake one loaf for yourself, and another for a friend! Such a blessing, this abundance of lemon custard and homemade whole wheat bread!
Garlic and Herb Whole Wheat Beer Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1 T raw turbinado sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder
12 oz beer (I used Trader Joe's Simpler Times Lager)
2 oz water
2 T olive oil
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9X5" loaf pan with cooking spray
~ Stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, rosemary, oregano, garlic, turbinado sugar, salt, and baking powder.
~ Pour in the beer and the water, and stir until combined, but taking care not to over-mix.
~ Scoop the dough into the loaf pan.
~ Drizzle the top of the dough with the olive oil, and some sea salt.
~ Bake for 45 minutes - until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cool the rest of the way on a wire rack or serve warm!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I seem to have lapsed in my Singular Gourmet ambitions. Zach is still in on base in Texas but will return home in exactly one week, to my intense relief and joy, and thus my thoughts have turned recently to the dishes I might prepare for Zach's homecoming, with significantly less attention to actually cooking for myself in the evenings. You may have noticed that my latest few blog posts have been devoted to dishes cooked while Lisa and Emily were in town, or dishes baked for my co-workers, not what I've actually been eating. Steamed broccoli and oatmeal (in separate bowls, as I still haven't become enamored of savory oats) does not exactly count as a particularly balanced or memorable meal.
And while last night's supper, prepared with the cozy feel of a fierce storm raging around the snug house, isn't any more complicated than the above mentioned combination, it at least feels a little more, well, contemplated.
And so, I share with you the little dish I prepared last night, not because it's gourmet, not because it even needs a recipe, not because it's anything you haven't already thought of yourself, but because it's comforting, warming, healthful, and nourishing. Because, on a stormy night in our too-empty house, it made me feel cared for, and a little less alone.
Astra's Stormy Night Scrambled Eggs for One
1 cup shelled green peas, fresh or frozen
3 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp water
2 T shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium-high heat. Add the peas to the skillet, and saute for just 30 seconds or so.
~ Beat together the egg whites and the water, then pour the mixture over the peas. Scramble vigorously, stirring constantly, until the eggs are rather dry and have reached the consistency of rice.
~ Remove from the heat, and stir in the cheddar cheese until melted.
~ Season liberally with Cajun seasoning - I like everything a bit spicy...
~ Serve with whole grain toast for a balanced meal!
Monday, July 26, 2010
When you have a job you truly enjoy, made even better by wonderful co-workers, and you absolutely love to bake (hmmm, we couldn't possibly be talking about me, could we?), baking birthday cakes to celebrate co-workers' birthdays seems the natural outcome of this blissful combination! Last week I had an especially exciting challenge: baking with Splenda for the first time. I wanted to make sure that a co-worker of mine, who's diabetic, could have a completely decadent birthday treat without any added sugars! I'd never baked with Splenda before, though, so what possessed me to try to attempt a three-part dessert, complete with a brownie base, cheesecake topping, and a chocolate ganache, truly, I'll never know... but luckily the entire dessert was a magical success! For those of you who prefer to bake with regular sugars, I know this treat would work just as well with my beloved raw turbinado sugar too. For this occasion, though, I was so happy to be able to send my friend and co-worker home with a baking dish full of diabetic-friendly deliciousness she could safely enjoy with her family all birthday-weekend long!
Cheesecake Brownies with Chocolate Ganache
(with sugar-free option)
10 T light, nonhydrogenated vegan margarine or butter
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter 1 1/4 cups sugar 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 cold large eggs 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup splenda or raw turbinado sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 T Dutch process cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
2 T splenda or sugar
8 oz sugar free-chocolate chips (such as Hershey's) or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
~ Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, then coat the lining with cooking spray.
~ Stir together the vegan marg or butter, splenda or sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a saucepan over low heat, continuing to stir until the marg or butter is melted. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool until just warm, not hot.
~ Stir in the vanilla.
~ Beat in the eggs one at a time.
~ Add the flour, and stir until well-combined.
~ Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
~ Now, it's time to make the cheesecake topping! Simply whisk together the softened cream cheese and the splenda or sugar until light and fluffy. Dollop the mixture by teaspoonfuls across the top of the brownie batter.
~ Bake the brownies for 20 to 25 min, until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan.
~ When the brownies have cooled, you can make the ganache! Per Alton Brown's method, place the chocolate in the food processor! Heat the cream in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, until not quite simmering. Pour the ganache over the chocolate, and allow it to stand for 2 minutes, then pulse in the food processor until the mixture is smooth. Immediately pour the ganache over the top of the brownies in the pan. Allow to cool before serving, and store the brownies in the fridge...
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Going to a farmers' market is, without a doubt, my foodie equivalent of a fashionista suddenly finding herself on Worth Avenue.
Going to an abundantly equipped farmers' market while in the midst of a reunion with my two college roommates? Definitely my idea of the perfect girls' weekend.
We found a stall with both purple okra (purple okra!! How cool is that?!) and heirloom tomatoes... (some of each followed us home, of course...)
Dancing bouquets of flowers...
Unusual evergreens from a local organic nursery...
and nearly every other vegetable imaginable!
Back home, the three of us began planning our evening's menu, while Emily's creative talents also shone as she artfully arranged and photographed a sampling of our morning's bounty...
We each had our aesthetic favorites: Emily fancied the white patty pan squash, I was still enamored with the purple okra, and Lisa was drawn towards the heirloom tomatoes. How fortunate that we were blessed with an evening meal containing all three, plus zucchini, sweet potatoes, and toasted slices of Ezekiel bread, yet another treasure from the farmers market.
Our menu consisted of an orange glazed chicken, most impressively prepared by Lisa, Madhur Jaffrey's Dry Okra, a collaborative effort by Lisa and Emily, and my Chili-Rubbed Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Summer Squash with Rosemary.
(Lisa and Emily, cooking purple and green okra!)
And a farmer's market-worthy dessert? The subtle sophistication of berries with lemon zabaglione, courtesy of Lisa and Cooks Illustrated...
Berries with Lemon Zabaglione
* Adapted from the July 2009 edition of Cooks Illustrated *
3 cups mixed fresh berries (we used raspberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries)
2 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
3 T sugar
2 T dry white wine (we used a Sauvignon Blanc)
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp raw turbinado sugar
3 T chilled heavy cream
~ Toss the berries, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl. Divide the berry mixture evenly among four 6-ounce gratin dishes set on a rimmed baking sheet. Set berries aside to release their juices while preparing the zabaglione.
~ For the zabaglione, whisk egg yolks, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium glass bowl until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl) and whisk constantly until the mixture is frothy. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened, creamy, and glossy, about 5 to 10 minutes (the mixture will form loose mounds when dripped from the whisk). Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whisk constantly for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill until the egg mixture is completely cool, about 10 minutes.
~ Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack 6 to 7 inches from the heating element and heat broiler.
~ Combine the turbinado sugar and remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar in small bowl.
~ Whisk the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks, 30 to 90 seconds.
~ Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled egg mixture.
~ Spoon the zabaglione over the berries, and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the zabaglione. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves into the zabaglione.
~ Broil the dishes until the sugar is bubbly and caramelized, usually just for 1 minute. Serve immediately...
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Many apologies for my extended absence, which extended far longer than I had anticipated. I was truly swept away on a glorious wave of wedding planning, followed by a visit this past weekend with my college roommates, Lisa and Emily!! I have much to share about our blissful times browsing farmers' markets and cooking companionably...
Returning to the week previous, though, I have quite a bit of news as well... Indeed, the past week was very exciting. I drove past a strange, space-shuttle looking Thing on the side of the highway that I simply had to photograph...
I spotted a happy family of pigeons perched atop some lovely architecture, also photograph inspiring...
and I know I did something else two weekends ago... Hmmm... Let me think for a bit... Oh yes, that's right, I ordered my wedding dress!!! ;-) (and I simply couldn't resist making the news a bit more dramatic by prolonging the announcement with everyday things such as pigeons... ;-)
Of course, I can't post pictures of the dress yet, since Zach would then see them and the element of surprise would be lost, but I promise lots of wedding photos to come in May! Until then, I can at least share a few of the other things we've decided upon for our wedding thus far... :-)
Mountain views for the backdrop...
Hydrangeas for the bouquets...
and a Bed and Breakfast or lakeside cottage setting for the reception!
I can promise plentiful more wedding-planning details to come... I'm just a little bit excited, as I'm sure you can tell... ;-)
In the meantime, as a first taste of the delicious dishes I learned from Lisa during her visit, I am so excited to share a refreshing, wonderfully versatile sauce that Lisa whipped up impressively to top swordfish steaks, and which I just recreated as a delightful salad dressing - perfect for the farmer's market bounty surrounding us!
Peach Salad with Smoked Paprika Mojo Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Several cups of romaine lettuce leaves, coarsely torn (quantity to depend on how many salads you're serving at once)
1 peach per person, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 small tomato per person, diced
~ Whisk together the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. This will make a nice quantity of the dressing for future salads, fish, tofu, or anything else you'd like to marinate, drizzle, or dress.
~ To assemble the salad, place a nice quantity of romaine lettuce in each bowl or plate. Top each plate with a cubed peach and a diced tomato, then drizzle with the dressing!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
It's time to cast off the gloom of my previous post, and talk about chocolate cake! Chocolate Guinness cake, to be exact... I've been intrigued by the proverbial Guinness stout cake ever since my college roomies and I tried our first Guinness desserts - Guinness ice cream floats, to be exact - and while Guinness and caramel moose tracks ice cream might not be the ideal combination, I was quite confident that Guinness and chocolate cake would be transcendent. Still, the cake slipped past with the years for various reasons (beer usually isn't appropriate for a child's birthday cake, for example...) until I read about an incredible-sounding chocolate cake made with ale and oatmeal on Choclette's Chocolate Log Blog. I didn't have any ale in the fridge right then (right then happened to be a few weeks ago, although, shockingly, I still don't have ale in the fridge, just stout and Belgian white beers, but I assure you this is not due to a lack of fondness for ale), but I did have Guinness, and the earthy, nutty tones of oatmeal combined with the richness of Guinness appealed to me immensely.
I baked this cake when Emily came to visit several weekends ago (which is why I was reminded last week, when Em and her husband Aaron spent July 4th with us, that I still haven't posted about this cake, a true travesty indeed!) For while the cake was delicious upon first samplings, the day it was baked, after close to a week in the fridge something magical occurred - the intensity of the Guinness flavor deepened, the texture became gloriously akin to fudge, and we discovered the richest, most decadent chocolate cake imaginable... Never would I have dreamed a cake made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal could taste so sinful! In the best possible way, of course...
Chocolate, Oatmeal, and Guinness Stout Cake
*Adapted from Choclette's gorgeous recipe*
12 oz Guinness Stout
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup light vegan margarine
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/8 cup raw turbinado sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
~ Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F. Coat an 8X8 baking dish with cooking spray.
~ Pour the Guinness into a saucepan, and add the oats and cocoa powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 1 minute.
~ Remove from the heat. and stir in the vegan marg and 4 oz chocolate chips, stirring until the chocolate chips are melted.
~ Stir in the turbinado sugar.
~ Beat in the egg and vanilla.
~ Stir in the whole wheat flour and baking powder.
~ Fold in the 1 cup chocolate chips.
~ Pour the batter into the baking dish, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes - until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan before slicing, and, if you like, store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Yesterday afternoon I drove Zach to the Atlanta airport, from where he'll travel to Texas for a month at Lackland Air Force Base. I know, as Zach's medical and military careers continue, that I'll have to cope with much longer separations, but at present a month is sufficient to completely dishearten me.
I tell myself we will both have glorious adventures to share with each other at the end of the month. I know August will bring a beautiful reunion. I'm blessed to already have planned visits with friends, wedding dress shopping, and other such delights to keep me occupied as I count down the days of this suddenly very long month. I know you, my wonderful blogger friends, and I, here in my kitchen, will continue to cook, explore, and savor every weeknight supper and weekend feast alike.
But through it all, most of all, I still miss him. This fact, too, is undeniable.
Fortunately, though, I at least have rice. And vegetables. And spices. And most important of all, friends willing to come join me as I place the dishes on the table...
Curried Rice with Bok Choy
3 T canola oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 lb bok choy, stems and leaves both chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 tsp ground ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz tofu, pressed dry and cut into 1" cubes
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp sweet/mild curry powder
4 cups cooked brown rice
2 T low-sodium soy sauce
~ Heat 1 T of the oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until translucent.
~ Add the bok choy, and stir-fry for 2 more minutes.
~ Add the bell pepper, ginger, and garlic, and stir fry for 4 more minutes. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl, and set aside.
~ Add 1 T of the canola oil to the wok, add the tofu, and cook until lightly browned. Transfer the tofu to the bowl with the veggies.
~ Add another 1 T of canola oil to the skillet, add the beaten eggs, and scramble quickly until the eggs are just set. Transfer the eggs to the bowl with the veggies and tofu.
~ Add the 1 remaining T canola oil to the skillet along with the curry powder, and cook just until fragrant (approx 30 seconds). Stir in the cooked brown rice, toss to coat evenly with the curry powder, then let the rice sit undisturbed to toast a little for 3 minutes.
~ Return the veggies, tofu, and eggs to the skillet, stir in the soy sauce, heat through, and then serve warm!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Perhaps it was the somewhat stressful week, or perhaps it was simply inspiration, but something compelled me last night to turn off all the electric lights, illumine candles throughout the kitchen, and cook paella.
Ever since I visited Spain years ago, I've naturally intended to fix paella here at home. However, I was continually intimidated by my lack of a paella pan, and set my paella ambitions aside until the future day "when I owned a paella pan." Recently, though, it dawned on me one day at work (because yes, I do daydream about paella pans at work, a fact which I can only confess to my foodie friends...) that the reason a paella pan is still absent from our kitchen might be primarily due to economics, but is also because I've come to realize I don't long for the sort of kitchen that houses every imaginable form of crockery, gadget, or utensil. I value my counter space, my (relatively) organized cabinets, and the precious ability to be able to remove anything from a cabinet without pulling out 5 other things first. I cherish the sort of kitchen where all the appliances I own are permanently housed within easy reach on a counter-top, while still leaving abundant workspace. Within arm's reach, I have our KitchenAid mixer, food processor, and rice cooker, and, I've come to admit, I can live without a paella pan - but not without paella.
Inspired by the skillet-based paella recipe in Bon Appetit, I decided to use Zach's grand, romantic, bright red Dutch oven and create a Dutch oven paella! The results, were, well, I have to be honest. This paella was sexy. Somehow, the simple mixture of rice, protein, and vegetables became totally sexy. And yes, because I know you were wondering, I was completely sober - just incredibly happy to be home, with my true love, cooking paella.
Today, July 4th has arrived, and we're celebrating with lots of grilled veggies, lemonade with a splash or two of vodka, and the cherished company of our friends Emily and Aaron. Tomorrow, Zach has to fly to Texas for a month-long military rotation, but for tonight, we have a reason for joy and festivities, and the memory of an alluring, candlelight paella...
Dutch Oven Paella
* Inspired by the April 2010 issue of Bon Appetit *
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp saffron
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
6 skinless & boneless chicken thighs, each cut into thirds OR 2 lb firm tofu, pressed dry and cut into 1" slices
4 oz chorizo, thinly sliced OR 4 oz soy "chorizo style" sausage, thinly sliced
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 1/2 cups shelled peas, either fresh or frozen
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
~ Mix together the wine and saffron, and set aside.
~ Stir together the salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper, and rub the spice mixture over the chicken or the tofu slices.
~ Coat a large Dutch oven or other oven-friendly skillet or pot with cooking spray, then brown the chorizo or soy-chorizo slices over medium-high heat for around 3 minutes. Transfer the chorizo or soy-chorizo to a plate.
~ Add the olive oil to the Dutch oven, then add the chicken or the tofu and cook until browned - approx. 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken or tofu to another plate.
~ Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook until translucent.
~ Add the garlic, and stir for 30 seconds.
~ Add the brown rice, and stir to coat.
~ Add the wine-saffron mixture and bring to a boil, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
~ Add the vegetable broth, the tomatoes with their juice, and the sun-dried tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then stir in the chorizo or the soy-chorizo.
~ Place the chicken or the tofu gently atop the mixture in the Dutch oven.
~ Cover the Dutch oven, making sure the lid fits snugly, then transfer to the oven and bake until the rice is tender and most (but not all) of the liquid is absorbed - approx. 40 to 50 minutes.
~ Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, transfer the chicken or tofu back to a plate, and stir the peas into the rice mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
~ Return the chicken or tofu back atop the rice mixture, then return the Dutch oven to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes. Serve warm!