Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

An Anniversary Dinner: Soup, a Savory Pie and Chocolate Almond Cake

November 3, Evan and I celebrated our third anniversary. It seems that each year before this one, November 3 has been a hectic day full of lots changes. On our first anniversary, I moved out to Budapest. Evan was already there, and I was joining him to live there for a couple of months before we went to London. On our second anniversary, we started to move into our apartment in LA. We didn’t finish the move because my parents’ dog, Murray, died that day, so we went to spend time with my parents. This year didn’t have any of the fuss of the years before. Evan went to work, I stayed home and worked, and I decided to cook us a nice dinner so we could just enjoy each others’ company at home.

I turned to my trusty New Vegetarian Epicure cookbook and found a nice seasonal meal of butternut squash and pear soup, chard and fennel pie, and one of Evan’s favorite desserts — a chocolate and almond cake with a layer of raspberry preserves.

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

The soup was quite simple — I cooked a butternut squash and a sweet potato in some vegetable stock and water until they were tender. Then I sauteed 4 pears and 1 onion in some olive oil. Once everything was tender, I blended it all together and added just a touch of cream (it would have been fine without it, but it was a special occasion). The soup was nice and sweet and hearty. I would definitely make it again.

A Slice of Chard and Fennel Pie

A Slice of Chard and Fennel Pie

Our main course, the chard and fennel pie, was a bit time consuming to make because I had to make a dough, let it rise, make the filling, put together the pie and bake it, but it was worth it. The doughy crust was nice and light and bready, since it was a bread dough and not a pastry crust. The contents of the pie blended together really well, with the chard adding a deep green color, the cooked fennel adding its slightly anise taste, and feta cheese adding a nice amount of bite and salt. It also looked quite nice (and could have been even nicer had I been a little better at handling the dough), and it sliced beautifully. It also held up well as leftovers, both hot and cold, for quite a few days.

Chocolate Cake with Almonds and Raspberry Jam

Chocolate Cake with Almonds and Raspberry Jam

The cake was a favorite I’d made once before. I did have to make it twice since on my first attempt I didn’t fold in the egg whites quite enough and the cake became a strange consistency and had some white streaks through it. But on the second try, the cake turned out perfectly — it wasn’t too flat, I was able to slice it in half easily (though not exactly evenly), and we even dusted the top with powdered sugar. It’s a great cake that isn’t as rich as it looks, has a slight crunch from the almonds, depending on how well you grind them, isn’t too sugary, and is just a really nice finish to a meal.

I actually made the cake again this week for a holiday party. It’s a recipe that Evan’s parents got as a handout for a department store selling some sort of kitchen gadget. They didn’t buy the gadget — and don’t even remember what it was — but they have used the cake recipe. I haven’t made many cakes from scratch before, and it does take some effort, but this one comes together really well. Here’s the recipe…

Gateau Chocolat-Amande

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 eggs separated
  • ¼ cup cold coffee (I often don’t wait for the coffee to cool, and have used both regular and instant coffee)
  • ½ cup finely ground almonds
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (8 tbs or 1 stick)
  • 1 Tbs. Triple Sec
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • Raspberry preserves,
  • Powdered sugar

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter, line, and flour a 9” round cake pan

2. In a double boiler, combine and melt together the 4 oz. of chocolate and the ¼ cup of cold coffee

3. When the chocolate is melted, whisk in the ½ cup of unsalted butter, one tablespoon at a time. When the butter is absorbed, whisk in ½ cup of sugar. Allow the mixture to cool.

4. While the chocolate mixture is cooling, separate the 4 eggs and grind the ½ cup of almonds.

5. Whisk the egg yolks into the cooled chocolate mixture one at a time. Fold in the ground almonds, the 1 Tbs. Triple Sec and the 1/4 cup flour.

6. Whip the egg whites until stiff and then fold them gently into the batter. (This is the hardest part to get just right. You need to make sure everything is incorporated, but you don’t want to over-mix. Thankfully, if the egg whites fall a little too much when you incorporate them with rest of the ingredients, the cake will still turn out ok, just a little thin. We’ve put the raspberry preserves on top instead of cutting the thin cake in half, and it still tasted delicious.)

7. Turn the completed batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes. The cake is done when it springs back to the touch, and it will be moist in the center.

8. Unmold the cake and allow it to cool on a cooling rack. When cool, split the cake into two layers.

9. Arrange the bottom layer on a serving plate and spread it with a layer of raspberry preserves. Top with the second layer of cake. (The original recipe says “thin” layer of preserves, but you can judge the thickness that you’d like — we tend to put on quite a bit).

10. To serve: Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Use a doily or a cake rack to make a design if you wish. (You’ll want to do this just before serving since the cake absorbs the powdered sugar quite quickly)

The cake will keep well refrigerated, though its taste and texture will become a bit richer as the preserves get absorbed by the cake.

The Secret to Getting Nooks and Crannies in English Muffins

The nooks and crannies in my fork-split whole wheat english muffin

The nooks and crannies in my fork-split whole wheat english muffin

The first two times I made english muffins, I thought they were delicious but I missed the nooks and crannies that you get with fork-split muffins that toast up nice and crispy and catch lots of butter and jam.

I also missed the little crunch of cornmeal that most store-bought english muffins had, so I decided to modify the recipe a bit to get what I wanted. So instead of dusting with flour before the muffins rise between two baking sheets, I dusted with corn meal. That was easy enough.

And for the nooks and cranies, I decided to try fork splitting. After much Googling, it seemed that the way to do it was to just poke the english muffin all around with a fork as soon as it came off the stove. I tested it out — it wasn’t too hard since the muffins don’t get too hot and can be handled by hand right off the stove. It worked perfectly. They’re now easy to separate by hand, and they have a great texture from pulling them apart.

The fork split might not look quite as nice as leaving them whole, but it's worth it

The fork split might not look quite as nice as leaving them whole, but it's worth it

They didn’t look quite as pretty with the sides mangled from the fork, but I could have probably been gentler. I just wasn’t sure what sort of pressure I needed to make sure they split easily.

So that’s it! The secret of how to make nooks and crannies revealed!

Also, to make whole wheat english muffins, just use the same recipe for regular english muffins and use 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of regular bread flour. Maybe next time I’ll try honey wheat ones…

Making Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Whole wheat Irish soda bread hot out of the oven

Whole wheat Irish soda bread hot out of the oven

I’ve been intrigued by all the Irish soda bread recipes I’ve seen in my cookbooks. Each book seems to have one, and they always look relatively quick and simple — especially because the bread is made with baking soda and baking powder as the leavening agent, not yeast, so it doesn’t need time to rise. The only thing holding me back from making the bread was that I either needed yogurt, buttermilk, or milk heated with vinegar to make it, and I don’t often have those ingredients — or at least enough of those ingredients — around.

This week, though, I had some plain yogurt in the fridge, and I wanted to try a quick bread recipe. I decided to use the recipe in How to Cook Everything since most of the other recipes just listed how to make the bread with buttermilk.

I preheated the oven, mixed up the dough in the cuisinart, let it sit for a few minutes while the oven finished preheating, shaped the bread into a loaf, created a cross-hatch pattern with a razor, and put it in the oven. 45 minutes later, it was done. I couldn’t believe that I had made this loaf of bread in about an hour start to finish.

I used half whole wheat flour and half regular flour, and it turned out tasting hearty and healthy. The loaf was pretty dense and heavy, and the bread tasted especially good toasted with butter or cheese. It sliced really well, and I was able to slice it quite thin, and it was good for sandwiches, too.

If you’re intimidated by how long bread usually takes, or if you’re just looking for something quick, this is a great recipe to try.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

1.5 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups wheat flour (replace with all-purpose flour if you want a white loaf)
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
butter or oil for greasing the baking sheet

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the yogurt or buttermilk to make a soft dough (it shouldn’t be too sticky). After kneading/processing, it should be smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes before shaping it into a round loaf. Slash the top with a razor blade (I chose to do a cross-hatch pattern). Put on a greased baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.

When done, the bread is supposed to sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Simple and Delicious Lemon Dill Tofu Filets with Avocado Salsa

The simple ingredients (minus tofu and avocado) that give flavor to the tofu fillets and avocado salsa

The simple ingredients that give flavor to the tofu fillets and avocado salsa

Wednesday night, I decided to make a quick tofu dinner. I don’t cook with tofu too often — maybe once a month — and I typically just make some sort of stir fry. But I had bought fresh dill and lemons at the market, and I had some green beans, tomatoes and lettuce from my veggie delivery that I wanted to use, so I decided to do something a little different — more akin to a fish dish than what I typically do with tofu.

I started by creating a green bean, tomato and curly lettuce salad. I boiled the beans until they started to get tender, then drained and dried them. Then I created a shallot vinaigrette from a recipe in the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. Their big secret is taking a minced shallot, macerating (soaking) it in 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar for at least 10 minutes, thn combining it with about 3/4 cup olive oil and adding salt and pepper to taste.

I also started just drying out the tofu. I took a block of extra firm tofu, took it out of the package, put it in between paper towels and placed a heavy frying pan and a cook book on top of it. This would really help press out the water, help the tofu be able to absorb more flavors, and make it easier to cook.

I ended up letting it sit for longer than planned since we decided to meet some friends for drinks down in Venice Beach, so the tofu was pressed for 2-3 hours.

When I got back, I sliced the block of tofu into 4 pieces (once through the thin side, once through the center, so I had pieces that were about 2x3x.5 inches). I heated up a nonstick pan, and when it was medium-hot, I added the tofu. I cooked it until it was nicely browned (about 4-5 minutes) on the bottom, then turned it over.

Once the second side started cooking, I spooned over some of the shallot vinaigrette (enough to cover the top of each tofu filet), a generous amount of fresh dill and the juice of half a lemon. I also put some thin slices of lightly cooked lemon on top of the tofu add some more flavor.

I made a quick avocado salsa by chopping avocado into small pieces, tossing with the vinaigrette, dill and the remaining lemon juice.

When the tofu is nicely crispy and brown on the bottom, serve it topped with the avocado salsa, and put the salad on the side.

The dish tasted wonderful. The salad was nice and light. And the tofu was some of the best I’d ever had. Drying it out for so long made it brown really easily and gave it a much denser and more satisfying texture than it normally has, though without making it too hard or dry. The flavors were simple and traditional, and it really tasted like a fish filet — without any fishy taste. Best of all, it was super easy and it looked beautiful. I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo.

Potato-Stuffed Indian Flatbread with Parsley Tzatziki

A dozen potato-stuffed indian flatbreads

A dozen potato-stuffed indian flatbreads

Last week’s bread-making adventure was inspired by the abundance of potatoes I had. I got some in my first LOVE Delivery veggie box, and then I got more in the second, so I figured I needed to do something with them. Looking through How to Cook Everything, I came across this recipe for potato-stuffed Indian flatbread, which came directly from a famous Indian chef with just a minor change in spices. I was intrigued, so I gave it a try.

I boiled 4 potatoes. I created the very simple white and wheat dough that didn’t have any yeast in it, though was flavored with some cumin. Then I mashed up the potatoes with lemon, cayenne, salt and pepper. I created 12 little balls of dough, rolled them flat, then put about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the center, folded the edges up, flatted them out and rolled them even flatter.

On some the potato started peaking out the sides, mostly because I mashed them with a fork so there were still some rather jagged pieces, but in all, them came together easily.

The first few flatbreads got a little dark, but still tasted good

The first few flatbreads got a little dark, but still tasted good

I then cooked them in a pan, 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat, similar to how I did the English muffins. Some of them puffed up a lot while others didn’t really puff, though in the end they all tasted about the same. The first few, just like pancakes (and the English muffins, for that matter), got a little bit dark, but still tasted fine.

Since potatoes and bread are both pretty dry, I decided to make a sauce/dip to serve these with, so I made a modified tzatziki. I used Greek yogurt, a few tablespoons of chopped onion, chopped cucumber, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper. It was simple and delicious, and worked well on the potato-stuffed bread.

Making Montreal Bagels… In Southern California

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

Montreal bagels just out of the oven

I’ve been talking about making bagels for a long time. I’d read about making bagels in a Slate article about making staple foods from scratch (the article was also my inspiration for making crackers), and it was what initially inspired me to start making bread and baking more in general. In the piece was a link to a recipe for Montreal bagels in the New York Times.

Now, Montreal bagels are something special. They’re thinner and denser than bagels you get elsewhere. They only come in two flavors: sesame and poppy seed. They’re also slightly sweet because they have honey in them. And you can’t get them anywhere but Montreal.

I’ve brought Montreal bagels to relatives in Toronto on a road trip. I used to bring them back to camp in northern New York. My grandmother even flies with a few bags of them when she comes to visit us in California. For Montrealers, no other bagels can compare to the ones they can get at home.

I was worried that the recipe wouldn’t taste accurate. That something would be fundamentally different out here in Southern California that prohibits us baking these tasty breakfast treats. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. Even without a wood-burning oven or Montreal water (they say the New York water is what makes the bagels and pizzas there so good… why not the same for their neighbors a few hundred miles north?), the bagels were delicious.

Best of all, these didn’t take that long to make — with a measly 20-minute first rise and a 15-minute second rise. All in all, from the start of making the dough to making the rings, to boiling and baking, the process took less than 2 hours. It would be even faster if my Cuisinart were bigger, I were faster at making the rings, or I could boil more than 3 at a time.

I found that my oven cooked the bagels a bit unevenly, with the ones toward the sides of the pan getting a bit darker, but in all, they turned out really well. All 18 of them. I was worried at first because they looked so tiny when I first made the rings, but they really expanded when I boiled them.

Caroline took a bite and said “This is the best bagel I’ve ever eaten.” For me, it was like taking a nibble out of my childhood. We ate the bagels with some cream cheese, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and capers. Caroline also put honey on hers (not the same part as the cream cheese).

I only wish I knew I could make these sooner… like when my family moved here 17 years ago.

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

My bagel with cream cheese, tomato and capers

Fantastic Foccacia, a Roasted Beet Salad and Sicilian Pasta

Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt just out of the oven

Focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt just out of the oven

This week’s bread experiment was my very best yet. I made focaccia bread with rosemary and sea salt, and we ate it hot out of the oven with olive oil. The bread was simple to make, and the secret was dousing it in a good deal of olive oil — and adding generous amounts of sea salt and rosemary to the top before baking.

I found this recipe in my Burgers book again. It’s definitely a winner in the bread category.

To go along with the focaccia, I created a dinner using a number of vegetables I got in my first-ever delivery from L.O.V.E. Delivery — an organic food delivery service that I signed up for. I got my first box on Wednesday, and I’ll be getting one every other week.

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese

Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese

I made a salad with the beets — oven roasted at 400 degrees in foil for an hour, then cooled, sliced, and marinated in mustard, vinegar and olive oil — lettuce, walnuts and goat cheese. I’d never cooked beets before, but roasting is simple enough, and they turned out perfectly. The combination of flavors with the mustard, walnuts and goat cheese worked really well. I did try to toss the salad, though, instead of serving it individually, and the whole thing turned magenta.

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta topped with parmesan and toated pine nuts

Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta topped with Parmesan and toasted pine nuts

For the main course, I made a Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower pasta from the Oxbow School that I found on the 101 Cookbooks blog. I got to use some more of the veggies that were delivered this week (broccoli, cauliflower, onion), as well as saffron, garlic, red pepper, rosemary, pine nuts, golden raisins and parsley. It was pretty simple to make and was unlike any pasta I’d ever made before, with its nutty and slightly sweet taste and rustic feel.

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Focaccia Bread with Rosemary and Sea Salt - just drizzled with olive oil

Recipe: Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • rosemary

Instructions

Combine flour, salt, yeast, water and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix until well blended and knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rise in a greased bowl for an hour.

Knead the dough for a few minutes longer, roll it out into a rectangle/oval about 1/2 inch thick, and leave to rise on a greased baking sheet for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Use your fingers to make indentations in the dough about 1/4 inch deep and drizzle about half the remaining olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and rosemary on top, then bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

When out of the oven, drizzle or brush the remaining olive oil over the top of the bread. Leave to cool for a few minutes, and serve warm.

Four of us ate half the loaf with dinner.

Thanks, Kacie and Rachael, for coming over, helping me cook and taking photos!