koshercorvid

A kitchen scavenger and general force of chaos and destruction which somehow leads, in the end, to dinner.

Homepage: http://fourntwentyblackbirds.wordpress.com

Lemon Cookies

Last week I made cookies.

I don’t mean I made a batch of cookies last week, or two, or even three. I mean that last week, aside from the hours spent at the local food bank, all I did was bake cookies. Cookies to give to friends here, cookies for Mr. Blackbird’s lab, cookies to ship across the country. And still I’m not done. I have about three batches to send to Texas after Christmas, a few to bake today to bring to Florida, and I really should bake a batch for the lovely friend who’s feeding the cats while we’re gone.

If I’ve ever said that there’s no such thing as too many cookies, I take it back. I’m not going to want to see another cookie until after Passover. Or at least tomorrow when I get bored and hungry during the twelve-hour drive home.

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These cookies are adapted from Perfect Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri, which is bizarre for several reasons. First of all, I don’t own this cookbook. I don’t own any specifically healthy cookbooks. Secondly, long ago I had a copy of Cookies Unlimited by the same author, and I swear not a single recipe that I tried from that book came out well. But a year or so ago, a friend on a low-cholesterol diet asked if I could make healthy lemon cookies. I said no (cookies aren’t healthy, guys) but that I would try to find a recipe that wasn’t quite as guilt-inducing as most. This one has half the butter of your average cookie recipe, and uses only the white of the egg.

Don’t let that scare you off, though. These cookies are amazing. They’re moderately lemony, about two steps above lemon pound cake but still well below lemon bars. If you want to kick up the lemon flavor, a simple glaze of lemon juice, cream cheese, and powdered sugar would go nicely, or you could just brush the tops with a little lemon juice when they come out of the oven. Their texture is spongy enough to absorb it.

Best of all, they put an assertive citrus flavor (the most virtuous of all dessert flavors) into a cookie form. This means that I could ship them to my lemon-addicted friend in Dallas without the hassle of shipping lemon bars or lime pie or any other nonsense that requires chilling.

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Ingredients (makes about 24 cookies)

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4 T unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg white

1/4 cup lemon juice

zest of one lemon (optional)

1 1/3 cups  flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together.

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Add the egg white, lemon juice, and zest if using and mix well.

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Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

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Fold the batter just until it comes together.

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Drop batter in scant tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will be very pale, especially if you ran out of fresh lemons before baking and therefore didn’t use any lemon zest.

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Chicken Liver Pate

So, odds are if you’re reading this you have at least one holiday party or New Year’s Eve party to go to. If you’re lucky, this means small, intimate dinner parties with family or friends, the kind where everyone brings a dessert or a bottle of something in spite of the host’s protests that there’s already too much food. It’s the end of the year, and we’re all breaking out recipes that we’d never make without the holiday excuse, because they’re fancy or time consuming or expensive to make.

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Pâté is neither time-consuming nor expensive, but jaws will drop every single time you tell anyone you made it at home. It can be added unobtrusively to the appetizers present at most parties, or you can keep it to yourself and use it to round out a simple lunch of a cheese plate and salad.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups, which is more than anyone needs)

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about 1 1/4 pounds chicken livers

2 T butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup wine or brandy

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 T apricot jam

1/2 t salt

1/4 t white pepper

mustard seeds to taste

Directions

Melt butter over medium-high heat.

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Mince or press garlic and cook until translucent.

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Add the chicken livers. Cook briefly–not more than 2-3 minutes per side.

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You still want to see some pink when you chop the livers with your spatula.

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Scoop the livers into the bowl of a food processor or blender.

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Clean your pan and add the wine or brandy to it.

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Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by about 1/2. It is okay to estimate this.

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Add the reduced wine, whipping cream, salt, spices, and jam to the bowl of the food processor.

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Puree until smooth and creamy. This takes about 1 minute.

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Scoop into ramekins or old mustard jars or whatever dish you plan to serve it out of.

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It needs to chill before serving. Once it is cool, pour enough clarified butter to cover the surface over the top and return to the refrigerator. This serves the dual purpose of adding delicious fat and keeping the pâté from drying or discoloring.

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Serve with salad, crackers, crudités, fruit, or a cheese plate.

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Watch everyone marvel at your culinary genius, even though you and I both know it wasn’t hard at all.

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Not Fish and Chips

On the rare occasion that I ordered fish in Dallas, it was always at a pub, and it was always fish and chips. Everything is delicious deep-fried and served with fried potatoes, and since I was eating fish at most once or twice a year there, it really didn’t feel like an overindulgence to have fish in its most unhealthy form when I did decide to be in a fish mood.

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I should probably add that being in the mood for fish only ever happened in pubs (particularly one pub) for a reason. I have a psychological block against eating seafood when I am nowhere near the sea. I know the fish is safe, that it’s transported frozen and often quickly but I just can’t do it.

After four or five shots of whiskey, I can happily store all thoughts of seafood safety elsewhere. And after four or five shots of whiskey, any pretensions to a healthy dinner plan have long since scurried off leaving only a choice between a reuben sandwich (delightful, except that it always comes with too much dressing, and no amount of explaining the proper dressing/sandwich ratio or wheedling to leave it on the side will sway the bartender one whit) and a plate of fish and chips with a mild, earthy curry sauce to dip them in.

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Here, I am not afraid to eat the fish. Even the fish that originated in the Honduras and therefore, one can safely assume, has undergone just as much transport and freezing and potential issues as any trout sold in Texas. Like I said, it was a psychological block, not a sensible one. So here, we eat fish, often tilapia, often Honduran, about twice a week. Fish and chips are lovely for tipsy bar nights (of which I have enjoyed none since the move) but rubbish for reasonable weeknights on days when I want to feel a net benefit from my cardio routine. But fish and potato remains a sound and worthy combination, and crisp textures will win in any kitchen, any time. What is a cook to do?

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Luckily, I have a cast iron skillet. It turns out that crispy baked potato and fish are just as tasty as fried ones. Probably tastier, in fact, because enjoying them in my own dining room obviates the need to breathe in all that not-so-lovely bar smoke while eating.

Ingredients (serves 2)

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1/2 lb white fish fillets

1 largish baking potato

1-2 T olive oil

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/2 t lemongrass

1/2 t salt

white pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in an 11-inch cast-iron skillet (or other large, heavy metal pan).

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Cut the potato into about 1/8 inch slices. You could use a mandoline. I hated my mandoline, so I gave it to a friend back in Dallas. A sharp knife does the job nicely.

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Arrange the slices in concentric rings in the skillet. Look how pretty!

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Brush the tops of the potatoes with just a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, white pepper, and lemongrass.

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Bake for 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not yet crisp or brown. Place the fish on top of the potatoes and return the skillet to the 400-degree oven for another 10 minutes.

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Serve with steamed asparagus or something else lovely and green.

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I always intend to zest the lemon over the fish just before baking, but it never seems to happen. Nevertheless, this is a mild, lemony, healthy way to enjoy fish.

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Spinach and Potato Quiche

The quiche is a dish that I always struggle with. Not because they’re difficult to make, but because I always want it to be something new and different and interesting. I’m happy to throw together a plain cheese quiche if I want to play with a good strong cheese, but since I have a bad habit of just snarfing down good strong cheeses with apple cider and maybe a few crackers, this is rarely an option.

Adding Indian spices and a great big heap of spinach, on the other hand, is always an option. As usual, I tailor the tart crust to the filling, so the dough is made with garam masala. Chile powder would be a nice addition as well.

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 t salt

2 t garam masala

8 T (1 stick) cold butter

3 T ice water

 

For the filling:

1 large potato

2 cloves garlic

about 4 cups spinach leaves

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

6 oz mozzarella cheese

1 T garam masala

2 t turmeric

1 t salt

1 T dried chiles (pequins, or chopped other peppers, optional)

Directions

For the crust:

Combine the flour, salt, and garam masala in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the dry ingredients briefly to combine. Add the butter in chunks.

Process the butter and flour mixture until it looks like damp sand. Add the water bit by bit and process just until the dough comes together in a ball.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the dough and press it  into a buttered tart pan.

Bake, lined with foil and pie weights, for 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling:

Chop the potato into bite-sized pieces and boil them for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet (I love cast iron) over medium heat and cook the garlic until it is aromatic and toasty.

Add the spinach and spices and cook 5-7 minutes.

You’ll know it’s ready when it has cooked down thoroughly.

Add the potatoes and toss to coat with spices and add just a touch of crispiness to the edges. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs and milk.

Whisk to combine, and stir in the cheese and salt.

Add the potato and spinach, and peppers if using.

Stir to combine.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I know it’s not traditional to any cuisine. It’s fun and delicious. Mr. B slathers his with Sriracha and has cold leftovers for breakfast. I can’t stand a cold quiche (or pizza or anything else meant to be served hot) but apparently this is just a guy thing that I have to get used to.

In any case, this was a fantastic experiment. I’ll be making it again soon.

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Maple Pumpkin Cornbread

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Normally this means a two-hour drive to see the in-laws, but we’ve moved now. I suppose if we were diligent young people we would make the drive this year as well, either back to Texas for his family or down to Florida for mine.

We are staying in New Orleans. The original plan was a low-key Thanksgiving dinner at home, just us corvids and our cats. But people are really nice here. A pair of our new friends discovered we were planning to spend Thanksgiving alone and invited us to join them.

Obviously we’re bringing food. Lime pie. Biscuits. And this corn bread.

The best thing about this is how moist the pumpkin makes the finished bread. I wasn’t even remotely tempted to add butter or more maple syrup to serve. It’s also unbelievably easy to put together, but don’t tell our new friends that. I want them to be impressed.

This recipe is adapted from the Comfort of Cooking.

Ingredients (makes two 9-inch round loaves. serves 12-16)

8 T butter

2/3 C sugar

3 T maple syrup

2 eggs

3/4 t baking soda

1/2 C milk

2/3 C pumpkin puree

1/2 t salt

1 C corn meal

1 C flour

Directions

Melt the butter.

Add sugar and maple syrup to the butter.

Whisk to combine.

Add milk and eggs.

Whisk again and add the pumpkin.

More whisking. Such a lovely shade of orange.

Add the dry ingredients.

Do not whisk. Fold the flour and corn meal and baking soda salt into the batter. Do not over-mix.

Scoop the batter into two buttered 9-inch cake pans.

Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

This is perfect unadorned. Mr. B likes to dunk his cornbread in milk. I like mine with a side of simmered greens. And of course it goes perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner.

 

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Succotash

Every time I drive down to New Orleans proper, I regret leaving my camera at home. I’ll find myself pulling over to write down the intersection of a building whose cracks seem held together only by the lacing shut of climbing ivy, another house so splintered and broken it’s hard to imagine people once lived there. I have always been fond of broken things, and a great deal of the city is just that. In less broken places, I stare at trees. There’s so much green here. Combine the effects of general clumsiness (made worse by my petulant insistence on wearing heels), the crevasses and undulations of local sidewalks, and this new habit of staring up to follow whorls of bark and twists of branches, and there’s no doubt I’m going to end up falling rather horribly one of these days. But somehow, whenever I step out I think I’ll be too busy to take pictures; better leave the camera at home till next time.

Yeah. That needs to stop.

 

Succotash is a simple Southern dish. I like to pair it with black bean burgers, using the same spices for both and letting the sweetness of the corn balance the savory burgers.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)

2 T butter

1 cup frozen lima beans

1 cup frozen corn

2 T mustard

2 t paprika

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup cream

Directions

This is so easy. Pop the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Melt it.

Add the lima beans and corn.

Then add mustard, paprika, and lime

Stir and cook for 5-7 minutes to ensure that the vegetables are no longer frozen. Add the cream and stir briefly.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has reduced and the lima beans are tender through.

Serve with black bean burgers.

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Black Bean Burgers

I love cheeseburgers.

For those of you blinking in surprise, or perhaps double checking that this is in fact a kosher blog, don’t worry. They’re vegetarian.

See, black beans make even better patties than meat. They’re flavorful and moist and not at all chewy. I can’t be the only person in the world who thinks that ground beef has a slightly unpleasant texture, can I? Surely someone else has noticed this. Black beans, though? Sublime.

This is one of those things that I just throw together in my poor, overworked food processor. I’m sure it would be possible to make without a food processor, but I have not done it any other way, so all directions are going to assume you have one.

Okay. It’s burger time.

Ingredients (makes about 6 sliders or probably 3-4 regular burgers.)

1 slider bun, either left on the counter overnight or slightly toasted

1 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 egg

zest of 1 lime

cilantro (fresh or dried) to taste

1/2-1 t mustard powder

1 t chile powder

1/2 t paprika (not shown)

1-2 t salt

Directions

Tear up the bun and put it in the bowl of your food processor.

Pulse until you’ve got crumbs no larger than peas.

Add lime zest, cilantro, chile powder, paprika, mustard powder, and salt.

Pulse just to combine.

Add black beans and egg.

Pulse a few more times to break up the beans and make a paste.

Form patties with your hands and fry with a little butter or oil (except really, you’re going to use butter, right? Butter is better.) in a skillet over medium-high heat. The sliders took about 3-4 minutes a side to crisp up nicely and cook through. I did not take pictures of this step because my hands were covered in bean paste and I prefer my camera to be not-covered in bean paste.

Add cheese and buns and all your favorite burger toppings.

Serve with succotash. You may have thought fries would be more appropriate, but no. Burgers are meant to go with succotash.

Enjoy!

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