Archive for May, 2011

Artichoke Pierogis

It feels a bit wrong to buy bags of frozen artichoke hearts when the fresh ones are falling off the shelves in their eagerness to go home with me at the grocery store. It isn’t that I’m afraid to cook a whole artichoke–I’ve done it many times–but I just don’t see the point. You throw 9/10 of it away. The heart gets mangled and overcooked (unless you severely undercook the leaves) and you get those thistly strings stuck between your teeth from that barbarian scraping of the 1/4 teaspoon of flesh from gargantuan, spiky leaves.

Mostly, though, I don’t like throwing food away, and I figure evil corporations want to milk every last penny from everything, so the inedible parts are probably being sold as cattle feed or a component of drywall or something, and I don’t have to deal with it. So I buy the frozen ones, even in springtime.

I saw this recipe ages ago, and ignored it because I was sulking about the tomato sauce. And because I’m afraid of making homemade pasta. Even though pierogis are basically homemade pasta and I can throw a batch together in less than half an hour, and I know hand-rolling the dough is easy as sin. So I took my sour cream pierogi dough and made Smitten Kitchen’s artichoke ravioli filling.

Yum.

Ingredients (serves 2, filling adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 recipe pierogi dough (make a whole recipe and freeze the rest. Or use it all and double the filling to serve 4. Whatever.)

2 T butter

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

8 oz bag of frozen artichoke hearts, rinsed and thawed

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 egg yolk

zest of  1 lemon

pinch salt

grated nutmeg, to taste

Directions 

Melt butter over high heat until bubbly.

The bubbles subsided while I was fumbling with my camera. So sad.

 

Plop your artichoke hearts and crushed garlic cloves in the butter.

Fry 6-8 minutes to brown well. Browning=Flavor.

Meanwhile, grate parmesan, lemon zest, and nutmeg.

Put the fried artichoke in the bowl of a food processor.

Add cheese and lemon zest and process.

Add yolk and nutmeg and salt and process again. It won’t get totally smooth. It’s okay. Texture is a good thing.  Flour your work surface and prepare the pierogi dough.

Roll the dough very thin and cut into 3 1/2 inch to four-inch circles.

Put 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle.

Fold each circle in half and pinch to seal the sides.

I had a few extra pierogi circles when the filling was gone, because Mr. B got hungry and scooped a giant spoonful of the filling into his mouth ten minutes before dinner.  I filled those with little squares of cream cheese.

Cook the pierogis in uncrowded batches for 3-4 minutes.

Serve immediately with sour cream, fruit and vegetables, or on their own if the other folks you are feeding just can’t wait another 45 seconds for dinner.  Honestly, it’s as though 11 P.M. were an unreasonable time to eat.

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Peanutbutterscotch Cookies. Peanut Butter and Butterscotch in One Sweet Cookie!

I have a bad habit of lusting after desserts I see on other blogs. In this case, these little darlings. And unfortunately, the only steps between seeing what I want and getting it are gathering a few ingredients and preheating the oven to 350°F. I made fewer changes than usual this time, and while they led to a tinner, crisper cookie with a chewy center, the original looks perfectly brilliant.

The only problem with these came from my co-workers. There’s a girl with gluten-intolerance, one allergic to peanuts, several on low-carb diets, and one who prefers not to eat refined sugar or gluten for some arcane reason. So I just had to eat four of them all by myself.

Ingredients (makes 30-36 cookies)

1 stick (8 T) butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup peanut butter

1 3/4 cups butterscotch chips, divided

1 egg

1 T vanilla

1 1/4 cup flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Measure out a cup of butterscotch chips and look how pretty they are.

Get Mr. B to melt them in the microwave because everything you’d normally use as a double boiler is in the broken dishwasher.

Cream butter and sugars together, then mix in the peanut butter and melted butterscotch.

Mix it up, then toss in the egg and vanilla.

Mix again, sift in the dry ingredients and mix well, then stir in the 3/4 cup of non-melted butterscotch chips.

Form into nice sticky balls of about 2 T each and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake 15-18 minutes at 350°F. They spread nicely and turn crisp and crackly on the outside. If you like a fatter, chewier cookie I recommend you use the original recipe linked to above. I wanted them as similar in texture as possible to my usual peanut butter cookies, so some changes had to be made.

If you can eat peanut butter/wheat/carbs/butterscotch, give these a whirl as soon as is reasonable. They will knock your socks off.

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Roast Cauliflower with Tahini

Sometimes I get into a vegetable rut of sorts. It’s not that I don’t eat veggies–I have steamed broccoli with my dinner about five nights a week–but sometimes I want something a little different. Of course, you don’t want to spend a lot of time on a side dish when you’ve also got a main course going. Or maybe I’m just lazy. But sometimes you’re braising or smoking your main course, which isn’t really any work at all and the thought occurs to you: tahini would really go well with these lamb shanks.

The good news is, roasting vegetables in tahini is really easy. The result is a soft and very moist vegetable coated in a slightly crunchy bitter sesame crust. A bit of extra lemon juice over the top makes these smoky bites absolutely to die for. Sure, they take about half an hour to make, but you get to ignore them for most of that time, and it is very much worth the wait.

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower (I used half a head of cauliflower and half a head of broccoli. The cauliflower was much tastier in this dish.)

2 T tahini

2 T olive oil

juice of 1/2 of a lemon (about 1 1/2 T)

2 t kosher salt

sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the cauliflower and broccoli into bite-sized florets and toss into a bowl.

Add the tahini.

Then add the olive oil.

And squeeze that lemon in. Then sprinkle with salt.

Toss all the ingredients to coat evenly and pour the vegetables into an 8×8 inch pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

These are amazing with honey braised lamb. I’ve also tried them as a side to simple pita with tzatziki. One thing about pareve sides is that I can eat them with anything I want. But honestly? They’re a perfectly good snack on their own, and completely guilt-free when you’re munchy after an hour at the gym.

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The Baked Brownie with Matcha Chips

I shared my matcha chip recipe yesterday. Maybe you were wondering what to do with them. Sure, you can eat them by the handful while messing around on the Internet, but honestly that’s a lot less fun than brownies.

These brownies. If you have this book, you’ll notice that my version of their brownie is heavily modified. If you don’t have this book, for goodness’ sake get it. I never think someone else’s recipe is perfect when I first make it. So as much as I drool over the pictures in Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, I couldn’t help thinking that the granulated to brown sugar ratio should really be 1:1, that it needed a touch more chocolate, and of course some matcha chips.

The results blew the original out of the water. The bitterness of tea and dark chocolate combine with the earthy sweetness of dark brown sugar and a touch of malt for brownie perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still more of a blondie girl, but if I’m going to eat a brownie it will forever be a variant on this. Maybe next time I’ll kick up the malt powder and throw in a pile of Whoppers. Malt makes everything better. Except Passover.

Anyway, these brownies are more of a hassle than most (and more of a hassle than blondies. Just sayin’.) but still under twenty minutes of active kitchen time even if you’re fussing with your sad, slow camera the whole time. (Seriously. I need a new camera. Recommendations?) The results are so rich and chocolatey that you will temporarily swear off cake. Don’t worry, though. That side effect last approximately two and a half minutes, at which point someone at work will remind you that you forgot to make his lemon birthday cake a month ago and you’ll be all over that idea.

Ingredients (Makes two dozen brownies in a 9×13 pan. People will want seconds.)

12 ounces dark chocolate (I used 8 ounces Baker’s semi-sweet and 4 ounces Scharffen Berger 99% dark chocolate, because that’s what I had on hand.)

2 sticks (1/2 lb, 16 T) butter

1 T matcha powder

1 C granulated sugar

1 C dark brown sugar

5 eggs

2 t vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup flour

1 t salt

2 T cocoa powder

3 T malt powder

Directions

Step one: use a bigger double boiler than I did. Seriously, use a nice big mixing bowl and set it over a big pot of simmering water. I used the smaller of my two fondue pots (no, I was not around in the seventies; I just really like fondue) and had to stir very carefully at the end.

Heat the oven to 350°F and butter a 9×13 pan.

Once your double boiler is simmering, toss in the butter and chocolate.

I made these immediately after the matcha chips, and I didn’t see any point in washing the chocolate melting pot in between because the next step here is to add matcha to the chocolate and butter.

Stir the mixture as it melts. Make sure it’s completely smooth.

Remove the chocolate from the heat and add the sugars.

Stir the sugars in and set the mixture aside to cool a bit.

Sift your flour, salt, cocoa powder, and malt powder into a separate bowl.

Go back to the chocolate mixture and add the eggs and vanilla.

Stir the eggs in. This was the hard part for me and my tiny fondue pot. I’m shocked that I didn’t get chocolate and egg everywhere.

If you used a good-sized pot for the chocolate, dump the dry ingredients on top and fold them in. Don’t over-stir. Fold in the matcha chips as well, and pour the batter into your prepared 9×13 pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350°F. Now, with matcha powder in the batter, and matcha chips dotting the brownies, there’s only one logical serving choice.

Matcha ice cream. Just a bit. After all, we wouldn’t want to overdo it.

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Matcha Chips for Matcha Desserts

I saw these almost a month ago and proceeded to forget about the idea for all this time, until I found myself sneaking a tablespoon of malt powder into my matcha tea one morning. The idea of a baked matcha dessert came back in force, and I had no choice but to make my own. You would not believe how easy these are, and how fun! Okay, so I didn’t make most of them very pretty or chip-like. How am I supposed to bypass the allure of the star tip for the humble round?

So easy. So full of bitter tea flavor, sweetened beyond all reason with the creamy tang unique to cocoa butter. I dare you to resist.

Ingredients

 

5 ounces white chocolate (I used Callebaut, because yum.)

1 tablespoon matcha powder

That’s it.

Directions

Bring water to simmer in a double boiler*. Chop white chocolate (because greater surface area to volume ratio leads to more efficient heat transfer into the chocolate) and scoop it into the double boiler.

Stir the  chocolate as it melts until it is nice and smooth.

Get out the gorgeous green powder. . .

. . . and dump it on top.

Stir it together. The green of the matcha will remain surprisingly undiluted by the chocolate.

Scoop the melted chocolate into a piping bag or one of these fun doohickies.

Pipe in itsy little bursts onto a parchment lined sheet. Most of mine came out sideways or too big or too small, but that’s okay; they’re getting put into brownies, anyway. No one will know. Unless you tell them on the Internet.

Put the sheet of matcha chips in the refrigerator or freezer to set while you make whatever cookies or brownies or quick bread you want to add matcha to. I made brownies. Banana bread would be unbelievably fantastic with tea in it, though, don’t you think?

*Alright. I know everyone and their mother, including my mother, uses the microwave to melt chocolate. I don’t. The reason I usually give for this is that I find the process of stirring delightful aromatic stuff and things relaxing. This is true. I like making polenta and risotto, too.

But there’s another reason.

When I was eleven, there was an incident with the microwave. I was for some reason left home alone. With most eleven-year-olds, this is probably safe behavior. With me, probably not. You see, I found myself alone in the house with a microwave and a bag of marshmallows.

Maybe you already know where this was going.

I put a marshmallow on a paper plate and nuked it. It expanded. It melted. It was delicious.

So I decided to go a little further.

I piled eight or ten marshmallows on my plate, and set the microwave again. For a long time. I think I decided that if one marshmallow needed X seconds to melt, then ten marshmallows would require 10X seconds. This is untrue in nearly all culinary situations, and disastrously so in this one.

Of course I left the room at this point, and of course when I returned to the kitchen and my brilliant creation, I found the microwave filled with a steaming substance I can only describe as marshmallow concrete.

I spent the next two hours alternating between chipping at the mess with a fork and scrubbing it with a very wet sponge to melt it. I somehow got the thing clean before my parents got home, which is especially shocking because as a young corvid I had the attention span of a grouse in a field full of grasshoppers, and usually had to be yelled at about half a dozen times before I would clean my own room. The intense focus of this instance came from utter conviction that my parents were going to eviscerate me or at the very least sell my organs to pay for a new microwave.

And I’ve never told them until now.

And yeah, I’m still worried I might be in trouble.

That is why I do not trust microwaves. I use them as little as I can get away with.

Sorry about the microwave, Mom.

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Red Wine Poached Salmon

I may have mentioned that I rarely eat fish. It’s not that I’m averse to fish, it’s just that I live in North Texas and I know that whatever fish I buy is not fresh. It bothers me. But salmon is frozen almost everywhere you find it in the States, and it is Mr. B’s favorite fish, so I try to indulge him.

And oh, my, is this an indulgence. The dark, rich sauce. The delightful, tender salmon flesh. The crunchy side of green bean fries that I am not going to share a recipe for today.

I don’t drink red wine. Honestly, I drink maybe twice a year, and always wish I had just stuck with juice or soda when I do.  But for cooking, I use about a bottle of wine a week. I cook with beer as well, and if we ever had liquor in the apartment I would bake with it all the time. But I digress. Red wine forms a deep, impressive glaze on the outside of the salmon, and even if it did nothing for flavor I would cook this again for the color alone. The flavor is surprising–almost (but not quite) sweet, assertive, and really tasted more of grape than wine. Maybe this effect comes from the particular wine I used, I didn’t drink any to find out, but I was impressed with the result.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1/2 bottle red wine

1 sprig rosemary

2-3 cloves garlic

2 T honey

1/2 t worcestershire sauce

pinch salt

2 (four to six ounce) salmon filets

2 T butter

Directions

Mix wine, honey, worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, rosemary, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

Add salmon filets, reduce the mix to a simmer, and cook, covered, for five minutes. Flip the salmon over and cook, covered, for another five minutes. Set the cooked salmon aside.

Add butter to the poaching liquid, bring up to a boil, and reduce by half.

Spoon the sauce over the salmon and serve immediately. This is good with steamed vegetables or a salad, but infinitely better with the delightful crunch of batter fried green beans. It’s a guilt-free meal you must try soon. It’ll make up for the guilt from the brownies I’m writing up tomorrow.

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Key Lime Pie Done Right

I make the best lime pie in Texas. And yes, I will fight anyone who challenges my claim.

I’m sorry, but I am a Floridian. We’re discarded at birth if our lime pie genes aren’t optimal, like weak and deformed Spartans.

By the way, even though I titled this post “Key lime pie,” I did not use Key limes. Unless you have access to a South Florida farmer’s market, neither will you.

“But wait!” you say. “They sell whole bags of Key limes at my grocery store!”

I’m sorry, but no, they don’t.

Well, maybe. I’ve seen them at Central Market in winter before. They are tiny and almost spherical and most importantly, yellow. Not green.

Averette at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons

Those tiny green limes that are advertised as Key limes in most of the country are Mexican limes. They are cute and tiny and make a nice garnish, but they do not have the thin skin (almost like a Meyer lemon) and extra sourness one finds  in a real Key lime. Since the Mexican lime and the Persian lime taste the same, and the little ones are way harder to juice, I’d just use Persian limes. Unless you’re going to a farmer’s market in South Florida. Then, get the good stuff (and send me some, too!)

There are three parts to a lime pie: graham cracker crust, lime filling, and whipped cream. Some people say a meringue topping is more traditional, and that’s probably true (the Key lime pie would never have been invented if fresh milk had been widely available in Florida in the 20’s; fresh cream would have been equally unavailable). However, I find that barely sweetened whipped cream offsets the tartness of the pie perfectly without adding the overwhelming sweetness of meringue.

We’ll start with the crust. Please make your own. It’s quick as can be and the taste is vastly superior to the premade cardboard-graham cracker crusts you’ll find at the supermarket.

Ingredients (makes one pie. I made three, and still ran out without feeding everyone who wanted some. It is that good.)

for the crust:

9 graham crackers

6 T butter, browned

3 T dark brown sugar

1/4 t salt

For the filling:

4 egg yolks

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cups fresh lime juice (I was testing that bottled stuff above, hoping for real Key lime juice. It isn’t, but it is a perfectly good bottled lime juice if you, like me, always have 8,000 cuts on your hands and it hurts to squeeze citrus)

zest of 1-2 limes

For the topping:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 T granulated sugar

1 t vanilla

one whole lime

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Crush the graham crackers into a fine powder. I used to put them in a bowl and smash them with my lovely beat stick rolling pin, but now I make the food processor do all the work. I love that machine. Add brown sugar and salt.

Add browned butter.

And stir the crust mix with a fork.

Press the crumbs into your pie tin using your fingers or a cup or ramekin. I only own one pie tin, so I used that and two 8-inch cake pans for my three pies. It works.

You’ll want to make sure the crumb is pressed in well, or it will crumble in the oven.

Bake 15 minutes until the crust just starts to brown.

Voila, a graham cracker crust! If you want, you can replace up to 1/3 of the graham crackers with walnuts or other nuts. I like it best plain, though.

While that’s baking, start on your filling:

Take your happy little yolks (remember, I made three pies. You only need 4 yolks per pie)–

–and add in the zest.

Mix well.

Add the condensed milk.  Order of operations is very important here. If you add lime juice before condensed milk, the acid chemically cooks the eggs. It’s not so good.

Mix it up, add your lime juice, and mix that up, too.

That's two quarts of lime filling. Om nom nom.

Pour the filling into the baked crust.

Bake the filled pie for 10-15 minutes. It should be jiggly but not liquid when you take it out. Do not let the filling brown!

Put the pie(s) in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at least.

When you’re ready to serve (or any time after it’s chilled; whipped cream stays good in the fridge) make the topping:

Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla and mix with a hand mixer on high until light and fluffy.

Spread whipped cream over the pie.

Now this part was once a secret. This is the part that makes people’s eyes go wide as they freak out about how perfectly limey your pie is.

Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the whipped cream. No, really.  Slice the other half for garnish–sometimes I candy the slices, but usually not. Even if they’re candied, no one but Mr. B and I will eat them.

This pie is best served on its own or with fresh raspberries. It needs no ice cream or sauces.

I do have a few warning notes. If you dishonor the lime pie, I will know, and I will be sad.

1: Make your own crust. I know I said it before, but it’s important. The pre-made ones are garbage.

2: Do not use food coloring. I mean it. Lime pie is supposed to be yellow.

3: Don’t put too much sugar in the whipped cream. Milk is naturally sweet, and you want the lime flavor to shine through.

4: Don’t worry about calories. You’ve just made the official pie of Florida. Relax and enjoy it!

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