Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Apple Banana Breakfast Muffins

This is the only baking post you will ever see on this blog. I do not bake. It just doesn't work for me. There are too many... rules. I can't measure things like flour and baking soda. Most of the recipes on this blog are really approximate measurements, for that matter. Anyway, this recipe came about because I drink a smoothie every day, so I always have bananas on hand, and often two leftover that get too spotty to eat (I think they're too sweet, even for smoothies, when very ripe). I started throwing them into banana bread (my grandma's recipe), but an entire loaf was too intimidating, so I turned them into muffins, and threw in some apples for texture... and then decided to try to make them healthy, and added flax seed meal in varying amounts until I found a balance that still tasted good. Here is the result of many, many batches.

enjoy with earl gray tea with lavender

You'll need (makes 2 trays of muffins):

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2c sugar
2 eggs
1/2c applesauce + 1T neutral-flavored oil (canola, grapeseed) OR 1/2c oil
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1t vanilla
a scant 1/3c buttermilk or yogurt

1 1/2c whole wheat flour
1/4c flax seed meal
1t baking soda
1t salt

Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then mix them together. Spoon into baking cups (fill only halfway-- 1 heaping tablespoon per muffin). Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown (test doneness by sticking a thin sharp knife in the middle of a muffin. If it comes out dry, they're done).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Milk-braised Pork Chops with Herbed Spaetzle

Ever since Jesse & I had the braised rabbit spaetzle at The Alembic, we've been craving its luscious dumplingness. Spaetzle, or spatzle with an umlaut over the a (which I can't seem to type here), is a tiny dumpling-like egg noodle. They're surprisingly easy to make, but are usually made with a spaetzle maker, and are named for their characteristic shape (spaetzle means "small sparrow"). But we just used a ricer, and got great results.

There are a lot of recipes floating around the internet; we used this one, adding fresh thyme & sage to the basic batter. (Jesse said he'd add another teaspoon of salt to the batter next time.) We "riced" the batter directly into boiling water, then scooped them out with a slotted spoon into a buttered bowl (they cook pretty instantly-- they'll float to the top when they're done). Before serving, we heated some butter, tossed in 1 large shallot, minced, then added the spaetzle and cooked, stirring, until the pieces were slightly browned. This goes really well with parmesan. Or braised rabbit. It was a good match for the pork, too.

The pork chops were inspired by this recipe. I browned the pork chops in some of their own fat that I'd trimmed off, rendered with the heating oil & butter, then removed before adding the meat. I also seasoned the flour with cayenne, onion powder, and some other spices I had lying around... they were very good but I think brined are better. Also, this might be the most unkosher recipe I've ever seen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Roasted Salmon with Zesty Relish, French Fingerling Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts

I am now the proud subscriber of Cook's Illustrated, possibly the best cooking-basics magazine out there. The current issue discusses the roasted salmon dilemma: either you go for crispy outside or soft, silky insides. Their solution gives you both. Here's my take on it (well, the relish is my take-- the recipe is theirs).

You'll need:

1 salmon fillet per person-- skin on, pin bones removed with tweezers
olive oil

for the relish:

1 lemon
2T capers
6 olives, Greek mix

Preheat oven to 500 degrees with the baking sheet inside that you'll use for the salmon. This is the key to the crispy skin part. In the meantime, wash and dry the fish, remove the bones, and slit the skin diagonally with a sharp pointy knife (about 5 slits, 1 inch apart from each other). Be sure not to cut into the fish itself. Rub the fish all over with oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place on heated baking sheet, turn oven down to 275 (this is the key to the silky interior), and put the salmon on the lowest possible oven rack. It'll cook for about 10 minutes. While it's cooking, make the relish.

Chop capers and olives finely. Grate lemon zest, preferably with a microplane. Mix.

Serve salmon topped with relish. I ate my salmon with roasted Fingerlings and balsamic brussels sprouts (as you can see above in the rather crappy picture). Enjoy!

Walnut Chicken with Creamy Pasta, Take Two

This is essentially the other night's dinner, but I'm posting it 'cause all mixed up, it was sooo good. I took the leftover walnut chicken, chopped it very fine, and mixed it with the pasta in a frying pan (be sure to add a little water whenever you reheat pasta). Then I covered to steam, stirring occasionally, and, with a little help from parmesan, ended up with the delicious lunch you see above.

Kohlrabi: From Greens to Bulb

I bought some beautiful purple kohlrabi at the Farmers' Market last Saturday, only to find that most people have never heard of it, which is a shame. It is not only purple, it is delicious and generous: you can cook the greens like kale, eat the bulb in salad (like radish-meets-apple), or cut the bulb into chunks and roast it like any roasted winter veggie.

Here (above), I've peeled a bulb (the purple part is only on the outside-- the inside is light green) and julienned the flesh, then mixed it with purple savoy cabbage and red radishes, dressed with red wine vinegar and Bariani olive oil, for a quick salad.

Here, I heated some olive oil in a pan and sauteed some sliced garlic and a couple anchovies; then I added the kohlrabi greens (remove the stems, as you would with kale) and sauteed until bright green (about 5 minutes). These would be delicious plain, but I had some leftover pasta, so I put that in as well, with a little water, and steamed it all until the flavors had combined.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Walnut Chicken with Creamy Roasted Garlic Black Pepper Rosemary Pasta

I must admit that 1. marinating chicken in buttermilk & 2. using Phoenix Pastificio pasta, you basically can't help making something delicious. I did both here. It was kinda like cheating.

Walnut Chicken

You'll need:

chicken breasts (I used 3 for 2 people + leftovers)
1/4c buttermilk
1T allspice, freshly ground if possible
1T coriander, freshly ground if possible
1T cayenne pepper
1/2c walnuts, roasted for more intense flavor
1/4c grated parmesan
1.5T paprika

Slice chicken across the grain into 1/2" thick slices (or make them however big or small you want-- I like a high crispy nut coating-to-chicken ratio). Place chicken in tupperware or bowl; add allspice, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper, and buttermilk just to cover. Let sit 8-24 hours, refrigerated, of course.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grind walnuts, parmesan, paprika, salt and pepper in a food processor until the mixture is the consistency of fine dry breadcrumbs. Pour out onto a plate. Take the marinated chicken, letting marinade drip away, and dredge in walnut mixture, then place directly on an oiled baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and coating is golden brown. IF you don't care about the fat content, fry the chicken pieces in a little oil instead of baking them and serve immediately.

This chicken can be served with a dipping sauce, but I served it with a creamy, saucy pasta instead for more of a complete meal.

Creamy Roasted Garlic Pasta

You'll need:

wide pasta-- I used Phoenix Pastificio's Black Pepper Rosemary Pappardelle
1 head garlic, roasted
2c milk
2T butter
2T flour
1/2t dijon mustard
1/4c grated parmesan
1/4c grated sharp cheddar-- or really any cheeses you have lying around

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and cook, whisking, until paste bubbles up and doubles in size. Add garlic and stir. Add milk, slowly, stirring. Bring milk to a boil; it should start to thicken. When it's on its way, you can pause for a minute to attack it with an immersion blender to get rid of any chunks of garlic, but this is totally optional. Cook, simmering and stirring often, until it's almost the right thickness; then add cheeses and mustard, salt and pepper, stir to melt, and remove from heat. Serve with more parmesan on top.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cheddar Stuffed Chipotle Turkey Burgers

Ground turkey is very healthy but usually tastes kinda like sawdust. A few preparations, like my mom's turkey meatloaf and certain turkey chilis, actually make it taste pretty good. Normally turkey burgers are dry; the idea here is for the cheese to ooze into the surrounding turkey as the burgers cook, keeping everything moist and tasty. You can easily tweak this recipe for different flavor combinations: season the turkey with cumin and stuff with roasted peppers and feta, for example.

You'll need (3 servings):

1.25 lbs ground turkey
4 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1T adobo sauce (from the "chipotle in adobo" can)
1/3c grated cheddar cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1T Worcestershire sauce
2T miso paste
1T grapeseed oil

for the chipotle mayo:

1/4c mayo
1T adobo sauce
1 chopped chipotle in adobo

buns (I used honey whole wheat)

any condiments-- we just had a spinach salad on the side.

Mix turkey well with chipotles, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, miso, salt and pepper. Fry a little bit to taste; adjust seasoning accordingly. Form 6 flat patties. Top 3 patties with green onions and cheddar; place remaining patties on top and pinch edges to form stuffed burgers.

Heat oil in cast-iron or non stick skillet. When hot, add burgers. Cook about 10 min/side, until fully cooked through (remember, this is poultry). If they're not cooking, cover the pan briefly (thanks, Catherine) and they should be done very soon.

Serve on toasted buns with chipotle mayo (adjust the mayo ingredients, depending on how spicy you like it). These are surprisingly delicious.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Oliveto's Whole Hog Dinner, 2008

This post has absolutely nothing to do with my cooking (though this meal will be an inspiration for next month's Winter Feast). It also has no pictures. But read on anyway if you like pig.

Every year Oliveto's hosts a "whole hog dinner" in which the entire meal features pig parts in various forms-- potted, braised, stuffed, fried, etc. Last night, our intrepid Team Pig (Jesse, Katie, Ridwan, Gabe, Angela, and I) ventured out into bougie Rockridge to begin our attack.

After a half-hour wait, we were treated to two comped appetizers-- paper-thin slices of pickled pig ear terrine and an incredibly flavorful kidney salad. The chef also sent a dish of lardo-- essentially lard with salt and herbs. We actually took it home, though I doubt I can face it again. Then we split the potted & formed pork-- the stars were the mortadella, the ciccioli (like rillettes), and-- by far the winner-- the liver pate.

We also split the zampone braised in saba, a whole pig's trotter (about the size of my forearm), "glove-boned" (deboned) and then stuffed with sausage, so that the trotter skin, which was delicious, acts as the sausage casing. The whole thing is then braised in saba, a wine reduction, and served with surprisingly tasty lentil puree. This was so, so good.

Then the individual appetizers (which we pretty much all shared anyway). I had the fried pig's trotter and brains-- the trotter was very good but the brains were delicious and had a soft brainy texture that made me very excited for the fried brains we will make for our Winter Feast. There were also two tongue salads-- tender and absolutely delicious with our wine (we started with a Pinot Noir and then had a 2005 Crozes Hermitage). There were two fantastically rich soups-- velloutatas of roasted butternut squash with fried pancetta, proscuitto and cracklings (possibly the meatiest soup I've ever had). And finally, Ridwan did what we were all too timid to do, and had the blood pudding. I have to say, it was one of my favorite dishes of the entire night. I expected a gelatinous minerally blob-- instead it resembled a mound of flavorful, moist pulled pork. Mmmmm.

On to the main courses: There were two Tofejas-- to quote from the menu, a "Piedmontese Peasant-Style Braise of Pork Shoulder, Little cotechino Sausages, Wild Boar Spare Ribs, and Pork Skin rollattini with ‘borlotti’ Beans". These platters were pretty much a medieval feast in and of themselves. There was also tiny spinach-stuffed gnocchi with tiny pork meatballs-- by far the best gnocchi I have ever had. And a pappardelle di sangue with pork heart and wild mushroom ragu-- firm, chewy bites of heart and mushroom in a thin, rich sauce that covered the dark pasta. And, finally, the spit-roasted pork belly-- I agonized over whether to order this, but am so glad I did. It was unlike any pork belly I've had or made-- it wasn't fat/meat, but a uniform, custardy, tangy, sweet concoction dressed with green olives (that did not, oddly enough, taste like olives), chestnut honey, and small chunks of almond. Needless to say, this was fantastic.

Of course, being the piggies we are, we had dessert. I managed to get (thanks to our wonderful waiter) a piece of candied pancetta. Bacon candy, much discussed online (probably due to its presence on Oliveto's Hog menus), is quite simply delicious. Smoky, tangy, sweet, and crispy. We also had a quince budino (an intense little pudding) served with candied pancetta strips; bergamot-prosecco sherbet with candied lavender blossoms; and a blood orange spongecake.

I did not feel very well after this meal. About 10 hours later, I feel better, though I might pass on the Chinese New Year feast I had planned to attend tonight. But don't get me wrong-- this was worth it. In fact, if in some horrible parallel universe, I could only eat one meal a week, it would probably be this one.

If you want to go next year, they've already started taking reservations.

Here's the menu, for reference:

P.S. Kudos to Jesse for being way more adventurous than he thought possible :)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Spicy-Sweet Pork Stir Fry with Cabbage and Mushrooms

I made this with pork, because I had a pork tenderloin lying around, but you could easily use sliced chicken breast or a tender cut of beef. Serve with steamed or brown rice.

You'll need:

1 pork tenderloin (they're usually about 1 lb)

4T hoisin sauce
2T dark soy sauce
2T light soy sauce
2T rice vinegar
1T chili-garlic sauce (or Sriracha & 1t crushed garlic)
a splash of Mirin wine, if you have it
1t corn starch

1 onion, thinly sliced
shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
1T grated ginger
5-6 cloves chopped garlic
1 sliced serrano chili
1/2c peanuts, partially crushed
2 green onions, sliced
1T grapeseed oil

Remove silver skin and any fat from pork. Slice into thin rounds-- this is easier to do if you freeze the pork for 30 minutes. Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl; taste and add more chili-garlic sauce if too sweet, or more Mirin or hoisin if too spicy. Add pork and marinate 15 minutes, while you cook the veggies.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet. Saute onions until golden brown; add mushrooms, and saute until browned. Add cabbage, ginger, garlic, and serrano chili. Stir to combine; cook until cabbage begins to wilt. Add pork and marinade; simmer, stirring, until pork is cooked through and tender. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts and green onions.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Creamy Eggplant & Wild Mushroom Pasta

Besides having a bag full of wild mushrooms in the fridge, I made this because I had leftover eggplant bechamel. It's not essential to the recipe, though-- you can make some bechamel from scratch (super easy) or just use cream.

You'll need:

lots of wild mushrooms-- they really cook down, so overestimate. More delicate ones are better for this recipe, though I usually advocate shiitake.
1-2 large shallots
1 T crushed red pepper
1T butter
pasta (I like the corkscrew kind with this recipe)
leftover bechamel-- or make a new one; or use 1/4c heavy cream
grated Asiago or other semi-strong hard cheese

Boil water and cook the pasta as you make the sauce.

Clean the mushrooms really well-- you don't want sticks and stones in your pasta. If the ends are dry, cut them off. Then dry the mushrooms well. Slice the shallot(s). Heat the butter and add shallots; saute 2 minutes on medium heat, then add mushrooms, red pepper, and salt & pepper. The mushrooms should release water; cook until almost dry.

Add cooked pasta with a little of the cooking water. Stir in the bechamel and cook to heat through, or cream (if using) and cook until thick, 2-3 minutes.

Top with lots of grated cheese on serve on warmed plates.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Winter Salad with Spiced Turbot and Caramelized Sweet Potatoes

This is insanely good. Don't take my word for it-- make it yourself. It's satisfying, tasty, and light. Because you can't eat short ribs every night.

You'll need (serves 2):

mixed greens-- we used baby spinach and arugula
4 small sweet potatoes (use the orange-fleshed kind; I like Garnet), peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into 1/4"-thick half-moons
toasted sliced almonds (any toasted nut would be good)
1 avocado, cubed
fresh thyme
good olive oil
2 filets of Turbot, or any white-fleshed fish
whatever spices you want to put on the fish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potato slices with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast until caramelized, about 20 minutes. The smaller your slices are, the faster they'll cook (duh).

Preheat broiler. Coat fish in spices (cayenne pepper, cumin, etc). Rub with olive oil. Place under broiler for 5 minutes per side, until just opaque. Do not overcook!

Toss greens with vinaigrette of your choice (preferably balsamic-Dijon), salt, and pepper. Add cooked potatoes with the oil and thyme left on the baking sheet. Add almonds.

Serve, topped with avocado and fish filet.

Balsamic-Glazed Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are very good halved & roasted, but for more complex flavor, here I glaze them with balsamic vinegar. You end up with brussel sprout wedges that are soft on the inside, crispy outside, and bursting with balsamic sweetness.

You'll need:

Brussel sprouts-- the smaller, the better
1T butter
1T olive oil
good balsamic vinegar

Clean sprouts (cut off the ends and remove any dark loose leaves). Slice in half lengthwise, then half again-- each quarter should be held together by stem.

Blanch the sprouts in salted boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain well and dry with paper towels.

Heat butter and oil in a not-non-stick pan. When foam subsides, add brussel sprouts. Use a pan big enough for them to fit in one layer. Don't stir too much or they won't brown. Instead, let one side brown, then shake the pan to give the other sides some pan surface time.

Pour in some balsamic vinegar-- about 2T, or enough to absorb the browned surface of the pan. Shake until balsamic forms a sticky glaze on the sprouts. Serve hot.

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