Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lemon Quick Bread with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

I really enjoy making quick breads. Mostly because they're easy, but also because they lend themselves to so many possibilities. Not to mention the fact that you can serve them for breakfast or dessert. This lemon version fills all expectations-- easy, tasty and versatile. The recipe I used is from the website Epicurious, but I tweaked it a bit with the addition of ginger in the glaze.



Lemon Quick Bread with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

1 and 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
zest from 2 lemons
1/2 cup milk
juice from 2 lemons
1 tablespoon ginger, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl using an electric mixer cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter and sugar. Add in the lemon zest.


Add the flour and milk to the butter and sugar mixture, a little at a time, until incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, lemon juice and ginger in a small sauce pan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside (don't remove the ginger slices until right before you glaze the bread).


Once the bread is done move it to a wire rack. While it's hot brush the glaze over the top in batches. Allow the glaze to soak into the bread before adding more.


Allow the bread to cool completely in the pan before removing and slicing.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pan Seared Chicken with Pluot Sauce



Every once in a while I get really brave in the kitchen. Case in point: we got some pluots (a plum-apricot hybrid) in our CSA basket and, to be absolutely honest, I had know idea what to do with them. Sure, I could have just eaten them as is or maybe turned them into some kind of dessert, but I felt like I should be more adventurous, which meant I had to summon up my courage and turn on the creativity.

I know that I'm not the first person to think about using fruit in a sauce-- it's been done over and over again. However, this was the first time I ever made my own savory fruit sauce so it was a pretty exciting night in my kitchen. The fact that it turned out and I am now writing about it is reason for even more celebration-- trust me, quite a few "experimental" recipes don't make it to the blog so it's very exciting when it happens.


Pan Seared Chicken with Pluot Sauce
Serves 2
If you can't find pluots try apricots or plums (or both together) and let me know how it goes!

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pluots. seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
salt
pepper

In a medium pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until fully cooked. Remove from the pan.

In the same pan add in the garlic and cook about 2 minutes. Add in the chopped pluots and allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in about 1/4 of cup of chicken stock and, using a spatula, scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the brown bits. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer until it reduces by 1/3 or so (about 3 or 4 minutes). With about a minute left stir in the fresh basil.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the mixture into a bowl. Slice the chicken and drizzle the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and more fresh basil, if desired.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rosemary Potato Pancakes


If you've had the chance to peruse the "breakfast" category on this blog you probably already know that I have penchant for savory breakfasts, especially on the weekends. Sure, I enjoy muffins, pancakes and other sweet starters, but my most favorite way to start the day usually includes eggs, potatoes and bacon.

The first time I ever had potato pancakes, or latkes, was at my best friend's apartment when I was in college. I remember walking in to find her husband (well, back then he was her boyfriend) elbow deep in grated potatoes. I have to admit I was a little put off initially by all the oil popping and spattering all over the stove, but after my first bite I was in love.

Despite falling instantly in love with potato pancakes I have never tried to make them myself. So this past week, after getting quite a few potatoes in our CSA box, I decided it was time to try out potato pancakes-- for breakfast, of course.

After a little research on All Recipes I came up with this recipe, which makes about a dozen. You can easily cut the recipe in half if you don't want to make as many.


Rosemary Potato Pancakes
Makes approximately 1 dozen pancakes

1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 small to medium potatoes, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, grated
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
2 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
A few pinches of salt and pepper



After grating the potatoes wrap them up in a clean towel and squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible. In a large bowl combine the grated potato, onion, rosemary, salt, pepper and eggs. Add in the flour and stir to combine.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Drop approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of the potato mixture in to the hot oil. Using the spoon pat down the potatoes to form a pancake. Allow to cook until the first side is golden brown before flipping. Once cooked drain on a paper towel. Keep them in a warm oven until ready to serve.

I served mine with crispy bacon and a fried egg with a runny yolk (after trying unsuccessfully to poach an egg. Need to keep working on that one...).


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eggplant Casserole



I had a huge change in my routine this past week with the start of a new job. Prior to this week I was fortunate to work most days from home, which meant at five o'clock every evening I embarked on a short, ten foot commute to my kitchen to cook dinner. My new job requires that I leave the house every day, which has added considerable time to my kitchen commute.

In the midst of all the change cooking definitely fell to the wayside this past week as evidenced by all the unused produce in our refrigerator.



By midweek I knew I needed to make something that included a lot of veggies because I really didn't want our beautiful CSA produce to go to waste. Every morning, while enjoying my coffee, two eggplants stared forlornly at me just begging to be used. It wasn't until Thursday evening that I finally came up with a plan to use, not only the eggplant, but quite a bit of fresh produce we had on hand.




I consulted the Internet and found the perfect solution for the problem-- eggplant casserole. The name really doesn't really do the dish justice, though, because the eggplant really is part of an ensemble cast that includes peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh herbs. It's a bounty of veggie goodness and was the perfect solution for my problem.



Because there's a lot of fresh ingredients it does require some prep time, but I happen to be a person who finds chopping veggies a very relaxing activity. Not to mention the fact that the result is definitely worth the effort.

Eggplant Casserole
Adapted from a recipe at Eggplant Recipes
As a main dish serves 4
As a side dish serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 portabello mushroom caps, sliced into bite sized pieces
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium eggplants, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet heat the butter and olive oil over medium low heat. Add in the onions and cook for 3 minutes or so (don't let them brown). Add in the peppers and garlic and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add in the tomatoes and herbs and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.




In the same skillet, heat the vegetable oil and then add in the eggplant and salt. Allow the eggplant to cook until it's browned, stirring frequently. Once browned add in the flour and stir. Add the tomato mixture and stir everything together and allow it to simmer for 2 minutes.


In a 2 and 1/2 quart baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray, spoon in 1/3 of the vegetable mixture. Top it with some Parmesan cheese and a few slices of mozzarella. Spoon more of the veggies on top of the cheese followed by more cheese. Spoon in the last of the mixture and top it all of with a layer of cheese on top.



Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Allow to stand a few minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Mushroom Sauce


Imagine you are driving home from work thinking about the ribeye steak you want to make for dinner. It sounds really good, but you're tired and don't want to make a big fuss of it so you decide to just grill the steak and maybe do a simple side salad.

After arriving home you go to the refrigerator and discover some mushrooms that need to be used. You sigh knowing that you should use them lest they go to waste. So you slice them up before going outside to preheat the grill.



While waiting for the grill to preheat you surf through some favorite food blogs and discover a roasted carrot dish from Stumptown Savoury. Hmmm, you think to yourself, I just got some carrots in the CSA box. You read through the recipe and decide that it's the perfect side dish for the steak. You go right to work prepping and roasting the carrots, which, happily, is very easy to and quick to do.



Once the carrots are roasting you rub the steak with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss it on the grill and shut the lid.


Upon entering the kitchen you remember the sliced mushrooms. The carrots are done so you remove them from the pan and, using the same oil and butter, add in the mushrooms. You think some fresh rosemary and garlic would be nice so you toss those in, too. Then you add in a tablespoon of butter and flour and mix it around before adding in about a 1/3 cup of chicken stock. You keep stirring until the sauce starts to thicken.

While the sauce is coming together you dash outside to flip the steak, cooking it until it's a nice medium rare. Once it's rested you slice it and top it with the mushroom sauce and plate it alongside the roasted carrots.

Now, imagine cutting into the perfectly cooked steak topped with the velvety, rich mushrooms. You try the carrots and discover they are sweet and buttery and the perfect steak companion. The dinner is so good you decide to write it up on your blog, which makes you laugh because 45 minutes earlier you were too tired to do anything special-- what a difference a few simple ingredients make!


Grilled Ribeye Steak with Mushroom Sauce
Serves 2

2 boneless ribeye steaks
1 and 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 sprig rosemary
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
salt
pepper

Rub the steaks with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat to desired doneness.

In a medium pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms for 3 minutes or so before adding in the garlic and rosemary. Continue to cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Add in a tablespoon of butter and the flour, stirring to combine. While stirring, add in the chicken stock. Allow the sauce to reduce for 2 or 3 minutes, until thickened. Remove the garlic and rosemary before serving. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper.

Visit Stumptown Savoury for the roasted carrot recipe.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake



When you invite friends over to celebrate it's important that the meal end with a special dessert. To me, special means something rich and chocolaty, which is why I made this flourless chocolate cake. It's my special cake that I make for very special occasions.

I discovered this recipe in a former life when I was working crazy hours at my job. And by crazy I mean that I went to work at three in the afternoon and arrived back home around midnight. I was often too wound up to go to bed so I would watch TV until wee hours of the morning, which is how I discovered reruns of Wolfgang Puck's Cooking Class.



I loved that show because you actually learned something. Every episode focused on a specific ingredient or technique or both. When I started watching it I didn't know much about cooking and I credit a lot of what I've learned to that show. I wish they still made new episodes.

I have to say the only good thing that came out of working that crazy schedule was all the things I learned from Wolfgang Puck. I've made many things from that show, but, by far, my most favorite is the flourless chocolate cake. I've made it many times and it's my go-to dessert for any special occasion.



Wolfgang Puck's Flourless Chocolate Cake

4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
8 ounces, bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
5 eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup of sugar
Powered sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl by microwaving it in 30 seconds intervals. At the end of each 30 second interval stop to stir. I'm sure Chef Puck would be very upset that I don't melt my chocolate using the double boiler method, but I have found that it works just as well in the microwave. Just be careful not to cook it too long and stir frequently. In my experience I have found that it usually takes 2-3 30 second intervals for it to melt.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs yolk and all but 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Stir the melted chocolate into the yolks until combined.

As I mentioned, I've made this cake quite a few times and have discovered there are two critical steps in the recipe. The first critical step is whipping the egg whites to the right consistency. First, beat them on medium speed with an electric mixer until they are stiff enough to hold a soft peak. Then slowly add in the 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat them just until they tighten up, but are not dry. If you over beat them your cake will be too dry. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until combined and then pour all of it into the cake pan.

The second critical step is baking the cake. The original recipe says to bake it for an hour and fifteen minutes, but I have discovered it takes less time. Every oven varies, so I recommend baking it for 45 minutes to an hour. Start checking it at 45 minutes and, if necessary, continuing baking it until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove it from the oven and turn it out onto a wire rack to cool. The center of the cake may sink a bit, which is fine. Once cooled, place the serving platter on top of the cake and, holding on to both the dish and the rack flip the cake over. Garnish with powdered sugar before serving.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spicy Sweet Corn Relish




I guess I should have declared this Green Chile Week because I am posting yet another recipe that includes green chile. And, yes, corn is making it's second appearance but only because I had so much on hand, even after the corn cupcakes.

In deciding what to do with all the corn I thought about a really good corn relish that Trader Joe's sells. My in-laws had given us a jar a while back and Dan and I loved it so much we ate all of it in one sitting.




Since I had never made relish I did some research and adapted a recipe I found at All Recipes. I was doubtful that my version would stand up to the Trader Joe's version. I think Dan was skeptical, too, because when he asked "what's that smell?" it wasn't in the mmmm, that smells so good way it was more like the ummm, that smells weird way. I had to agree.


Despite the worry the relish came out great. It had a nice balance of sweet and spicy and was just as good as the Trader Joe's version. I think the secret is to let the relish simmer on the stove for at least an hour and then store it in the fridge for at least 8-12 hours before serving. That way all the flavors get plenty of time to meld before serving.

Dan and I enjoyed ours as a dip with tortilla chips, but I also think it would be great spooned over grilled chicken.



Spicy Sweet Corn Relish

3 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup onion, chopped
1 whole yellow pepper, chopped
1/4 cup roasted green chiles, chopped
1 lb tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot. Bring it all to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for at least one hour. Store in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours before serving.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fresh Corn Cupcakes with Brown Butter Honey Frosting



At first glance these may appear to be plain Jane lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting. However, these little cakes include a secret ingredient that some might find surprising: fresh corn.

Or maybe I'm the only one that is surprised. If you google 'corn cupcakes' lots of results pop up, which means I'm probably a little bit behind the curve when it comes to corn in my cupcakes. I wouldn't have even known about it if David Lebovitz, one of my favorite food writers, hadn't posted a link to the recipe on Facebook (thank you, David!).

After reading the recipe it really started to make sense. Corn is naturally sweet so why not make cupcakes with it? I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. My initial assumption was that it would go one of two ways: either the cupcakes would end up tasting like corn muffins or the corn flavor would be nonexistent.

Well, I was wrong and am happy to report that these cupcakes are moist and tender with just enough corn flavor to make it interesting and different. The frosting is very rich and buttery and makes the cupcakes super decadent, although I would be happy to eat the cupcakes just by themselves.

I've included the recipe, but be sure to visit the original article if you've never made brown butter before. You will find steps for that as well as other great corn recipes.

Fresh Corn Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting
Recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle

The cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup fresh corn kernel (from 1-2 ears)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The frosting:
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces browned butter, cooled and softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh corn kernels, for garnish

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Using a mixer cream the butter and sugar together until it's nice and fluffy.


Using a food processor or blender pulse the sour cream and corn kernels together until smooth. Most likely there will still be bits of corn, which is fine.


Add the eggs, vanilla and sour cream mixture to the butter and sugar. Then add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tin .


Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting first cream the two butters together with the honey in a medium bowl. Add in the lemon, vanilla and salt. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, using a slow mixing speed, until combined. Turn the mixer to high and whip until light and fluffy.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chorizo and Goat Cheese Pita Pizzas


It's been a while since I've attempted grilling pizza. Ever since the grilled pizza disaster I have haven't had the desire to make my own dough and cook it up on the grill. I have, however, been craving pizza so I picked up some pita bread to serve as crust, thus avoiding the potential any repeat dough-making catastrophes.



Pizza is such a great way to use up leftovers since the flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I had leftover chorizo and some green chiles that I had roasted the day before...





To offset some of the heat from the chorizo and chiles I decided to use goat cheese.



I added in some roma tomatoes, from our garden, to add some freshness...



Over medium heat I first grilled one side of the pitas before flipping them over and brushing them with olive oil. I topped them with the chiles, chorizo, goat cheese and tomatoes and allowed them to cook for about 5 or 6 minutes.

The result was a pizza with a very crispy crust and the creamy goat cheese balanced nicely with the heat of the chorizo and chiles. A glass of wine and a beautiful summer evening rounded out this easy and light dinner...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Roasted Green Chiles

This past Sunday was a really great day. With the luxury of a leisurely morning I took the time to make breakfast burritos, which are a great start to any day. After breakfast, Dan suggested we catch the early showing of Julie & Julia, which is the perfect movie for a Sunday afternoon. After the movie we made a quick stop by our favorite market and, upon walking in, we were greeted by something that took our pleasant day to the much higher level. There, in a giant bin marked 88 cents a pound, was a mountain of Hatch green chiles. Green chile season has arrived!

New Mexicans are passionate about green chile and Dan and I are no different. August is the kick-off of the green chile season and everywhere you go the smell of roasting chiles is in the air. Every city and town in New Mexico hosts some kind of festival celebrating all things hot and spicy, and at the center of it all is the Hatch green chile. So, with chiles in hand we hurried home to fire up the grill and roast our first of the season.

There is nothing better than roasting your own. Sure, during this time of year you can find someone on every street corner willing to sell you freshly roasted green chiles, but then you would miss out on the experience of doing it yourself. There are few things that rival the aroma of roasted green chiles which is why I prefer doing it myself.

I like to roast mine low and slow, which maximizes the smoky taste. I tossed them on the grill at about medium low and closed the lid.


While I waited for them to roast I took some pictures in the backyard.

Here's our one and only sunflower that popped up in the garden out of nowhere this year...


Here is Pepper (aka Baby Cat) playing her game, Great Cat of the Serengeti, in the cool shade of our hops plants...


Back to the chiles...
I roasted the them for about 45 minutes, turning them every once in a while, until the skins were blistered and blackened.


Once roasted, I put them in a brown paper sack to steam. The skins can be a bit stubborn to remove sometimes so I let them sit in the bag for almost 30 minutes, shaking it up a few times.


See how nice and steamed they are?


I peeled them, removing the tops and seeds as I went, and sliced them into long strips. I highly recommend wearing gloves when peeling unless you want your hands to be on fire. In my excitement I forgot the gloves and spent the rest of the day with my right hand on fire. Oh, and whatever you do, don't touch your eyes!

Green chiles are so important to us that I had to dedicate one entire post to just roasting them. There are so many ways to use them that I'm sure they will make appearances several upcoming posts. Stay tuned...


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