Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Cauliflower with Rice Wine

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young


Here is an incredibly easy and surprisingly tasty stir-fry. I say surprisingly, because really, there isn't much to this recipe, as you will see below.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Ginger
Bowl 2: Blanched cauliflower
Bowl 3: Rice wine (I used dry sherry), rice vinegar
Bowl 4: Salt

I had some sliced scallions hanging out in the fridge, so I tossed a handful on for a little color; taste wise - the cauliflower doesn't need it. Who knew that so few ingredients would add so much to this under-appreciated vegetable. 

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 214 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed.  
The recipe is also available here on Google books. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TWD | Baking with Julia | Amaretti

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Nick Malgieri

The book states that amaretti means "little bitter things", due to the use of sweet and bitter almonds in the dough; and that bitter almonds cannot be imported into the United States*. 

These not so little cookies of mine, are made from only a few ingredients; four to be exact, and one of them being optional: almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and pine nuts (I used sliced almonds).

The almond paste is mixed with the sugar in two increments until the paste turns into very fine crumbs; next, the egg whites are mixed in. Bam! Done. How easy is that?!! So easy, it felt as though something was missing.

The dough is transferred to a pastry bag and small mounds are placed on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment, about one and a half inches apart. I obviously made mine too large, for I only yielded a baker's dozen, as where the recipe states it makes about three dozen! Oops.

Before baking, the cookies are dabbed with a wet towel to remove the points and ridges made from the pipping tip; this also helps produce the crinkly top. If using the optional nuts, they are applied at this time. I topped a third of my cookies with almonds, another third with powdered sugar, and left the last plain.

They are baked in a 325° oven for about twenty minutes.

The cookies did stick to the parchment, as noted in the book that this could happen. I have a very thin metal spatula that I used to remove them - it worked OK. It is recommended to wet the underside of the parchment, using a pastry brush with hot water, and allowed to sit for a few seconds, until the cookies can be released. I started with this method, but when I lifted the parchment paper, the powdered sugar started falling off my cookies.

The cookies were wonderful the day they were made, but I liked them even more a day or two later. They became a little more crisp on the outside, with a wonderfully chewy center. They do become rather dry and too crispy, after day two. 

Though I enjoyed them all, the powdered sugar ones were my favorite.

These were so easy, so sweet, and so dangerously good (not knowing just how dangerous they could be!)
*Of course I had to find out why bitter almonds were not allowed to be imported into the US as mentioned in the book. Did you know, that bitter almonds contain a naturally occurring toxic chemical, hydrogen cyanide? This chemical has serious side effects such as slowing of the nervous system, breathing problems, and death. According to WebMD, they advise not using bitter almond. Ah yeah...

In my research, I ran across this current recall from Whole Foods for said almonds, imported from Italy and Spain??? Hmmm - maybe import restrictions have eased since 1996 - when this book was printed.

Do head over to the TWD website by clicking here to see the results of my fellow bakers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD | Baking Chez Moi | Palets de Dames, Lille Style

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking Chez Moi
by Dorie Greenspan

Our Tuesdays with Dorie group is starting with a new book which was just released at the end of October - Baking Chez Moi - Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, by Dorie Greenspan; and this is the first recipe from the book, Palets de Dames, Lille Style (Lille - a city in France).

We still have just under two years left with Baking with Julia, and will be posting on opposite weeks. That means a TWD recipe every week, instead of every other week. Oh my... anyone in need of a few baked goods?

These cute little cookies have a fancy name, but basically they are a cakey sugar cookie with a simple confectioner's sugar glaze.

I decided to make these pretty much at the last minute, and they came together rather quickly, aside from the dough needing an hour or so rest in the refrigerator to firm up a bit - just long enough for me to run to the store to grab something for dinner.

This simple dough is made from butter, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla extract, and all purpose flour. As with most cookie doughs, you first beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar and salt and beat until combined. The eggs are added one at a time and mixed until incorporated. The vanilla extract is added next, then the flour is added in three increments, until combined.

The dough is then chilled for at least one hour or until firm enough to shape.

Once the dough has chilled, balls of dough (about two teaspoons each) are placed on cookie sheet about two-inches apart, to allow for spreading (mine did not spread hardly at all). They are baked for about eight minutes, or when you see a slight brownness around the edge of the cookies.

The recipe states to transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. I always leave them on the baking sheet to cool, ever since I read somewhere.. that bakeries do not transfer their cookies to racks.

Once the cookies have cooled, they are ready to be iced. This icing consists of powdered sugar, milk, and lemon juice. The recipe states that if it needs to be thinner, add more milk - a drop at a time. I added more lemon juice to thin it, and next time, I'm thinking I'll use mostly, or all juice and omit the milk, for a more lemony flavor.

Some of my fellow bakers who happen to be in another on-line cooking group - French Fridays with Dorie, have already made this recipe; and reading their posts on this, it was mentioned the bottoms of the cookies were frosted, to give the look of a top (child's toy) or parasol; though the recipe given to us (before the book was released), states to dip one side into the icing - so I just assumed it was the domed side.

After dipping the cookies into the icing, I added a bit of lemon zest to the top for a little pizazz - which was very last minute. Next time, I would zest the lemon ahead of time and spread it out to allow it to dry a bit to make it easier to sprinkle atop the cookies - I had issues with it wanting to clump, with it being so moist.

I made only half the recipe - I wish I had made the full recipe - though grateful I did not.

We have been asked not to post the recipes from this book on our blogs. However, the recipe is available on Amazon - you can find it by clicking here and scrolling down the page. 

Do venture over to the TWD site for the links of my fellow bakers to read their thoughts on this recipe.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

TWD: Alsatian Onion Tart

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Michel Richard

Well, this has the appearance more like a pizza than a tart - at least in my mind. When I think of a tart, I conjure up images of dough that has been pressed into a tart pan, and after baking, it comes out with beautiful ruffled edges.

OK. So looks aren't everything.

Taste. This does have taste going for it. It was quite delicious. 

This was very easy to make. You start with preparing the base (I did this while my onions were cooking) by rolling out puff pastry dough (yes - puff pastry - no tart or pizza dough here) until it is very thin, about an eighth of an inch, but no more than a quarter of an inch, and using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into a circle (I'm sure any shape you choose would work), about twelve inches in diameter.

The dough is pricked all over with a fork, this will keep the puff pastry from, well, puffing... it's all about the flavor. The dough is then refrigerated until you are ready to top it with the onion mixture.

The onion mixture is made from four very large onions that have been diced. I only used three, and was in a hurry, so I sliced the onions instead of dicing, and had more than enough. The onions are cooked in chicken broth until very soft, and then cooled, at which time you add a few tablespoons of heavy cream (I used half and half) and salt and pepper.

The recipe calls for slab bacon to be diced and par-boiled. The store I went to does not have slab bacon, so I purchased thick-cut bacon slices - which worked just fine. I skipped the par-boiling of the bacon, and cooked it up normally (undercooked it a bit), then diced it. 

The tart was now ready for assembly! The pastry is first topped with the onion mixture, then the bacon is scattered over the top and pressed into the onions a bit, to help keep them from burning too much while baking. I had some diced jalapeño left over from the chili I made the night before, so I tossed those on as well - a good call if I do say so myself - it provided a nice spicy kick that I love. The tart is baked in a three-hundred and fifty degree oven until golden brown.

This was delicious, and would make for a lovely appetizer; though it can't really be made ahead of time for the bottom crust gets a bit soggy after sitting. It is easy enough to throw together at the last minute if you make the onions, cook the bacon, and prep the dough ahead of time - then assemble and toss it in the oven just before serving.

I was thinking a rectangular shaped tart would be pretty...

Don't forget to check out the results of my fellow bakers also! You will find their links by clicking here, or by going to the Tuesdays with Dorie website and looking for the BWJ LYL: Alsatian Onion Tart link. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | October Recipes

The CCC cooking their way through River Cottage Veg
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

October Recipe Choices:

Warm Salad of Mushrooms and Roasted Squash
Cannellini Bean and Leek Soup with Chile Oil
Carrot, Orange, and Cashews
Baby Beet Tarte Tatin 
Pumpkin and Raisin Tea loaf 
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots
Broccoli Salad with Asian-Style Dressing
White Beans with Artichokes
Kale and Onion Pizza

Warm Salad of Mushrooms and Roasted Squash

Close your eyes, and imagine little cubes of blue cheese scattered throughout this most delicious salad of roasted squash, sautéed mushrooms, and arugula, that has been dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

I was lucky I had enough roasted squash for the salad, for I could not stop picking at it while it cooled; I'm a sucker for anything roasted, especially squash.

Cooled? - you may be asking. This is supposed to be a warm salad... The squash cooked quicker than expected and I could not resist sneaking a few bites (OK, a lot) while prepping the rest of the salad.

This is the second recipe in as many months that we used roasted squash in a recipe. I truly am amazed at just how much flavor the squash picks up from the herbs (sage) that are left whole, and the garlic (in this recipe) was thickly sliced, though left whole (with skin on) in a previous recipe.

No cheese? No worries! I had maybe three or four bites left to eat before I realized I forgot to add the cheese! Dang! As much as I love a creamy blue, this salad tasted great without it.

Throughout the rest of the evening, I kept thinking to myself, mmm - that was really good.

Cannellini Bean and Leek Soup with Chile Oil

So excited to see new buds on my Thai hot pepper plant. :)

The chile oil is made from simmering chile peppers, thyme, and garlic in olive oil. The instructions say to remove the membrane and seeds from the pepper and slice. I sliced horizontally, so it was more minced than sliced. I think Hugh must have meant to slice the peppers lengthwise for my peppers (and everything else) charred. My oil never turned red and had a burnt taste to it. Total fail on the oil part of this recipe. It was not a good day in the kitchen for me, as you may know if you read my post on French bread (the bread, shown below).

This soup is made up of leeks, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, vegetable stock, cannellini beans, oregano, and parsley. It comes together rather quickly (no long simmering times) and makes for a delicious weeknight dinner.

The leeks, thyme, and bay leaf are sautéed first until the leeks are tender, then the garlic is added and cooked for just another minute or so. The broth is added along with the oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper, and simmered gently for twenty minutes. Bam! Done.  The soup is now ready to be served with a trickle of chile oil - if it had turned out.

The soup, it was a success - and it tasted even better the following day.

Carrot, Orange, and Cashews

I knew I would like this - I love anything citrus.

This salad of sort, is made up of oranges, carrots, toasted cashews, and cumin seed, with a splash of oil and vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I did not have cumin seed, so I subbed celery seed.

I will make a couple of changes the next time a make this. I would pass on toasting the cashews - I prefer them raw; and I would julienne the carrots finer using a kinpira peeler, for the thick carrots were awkward to eat - this would not be a good choice for a first date meal!  I took the leftovers to my sister and she said the same; she liked the salad, except for the thickness of the carrots.

 The kinpira peeler - awesome tool.

This was a wonderful dish, and can only be made better by using oranges that are in season.

Baby Beet Tarte Tatin

They say you feast with your eyes first...

It may not look like much in the beginning, but once it is turned out and dressed with the vinaigrette, it is absolutely gorgeous.

Hugh has a recipe for a "rough puff pastry" that is a cheater version of true homemade puff that you can use. I opted for store-bought - and by store-bought I mean this brand - it is as close to homemade as one can get.

This was a first for me, eating the skin of the beet. I have always skinned them. I must have re-read that recipe again and again, looking for when the beets were to be skinned - peeled before cooking, or slipped off afterward. I tried slipping them off after they were roasted, but it was not happening. And after a quick Google search, there really is no need to peel your beets if they are young - older beets, the skin can be a little tough.

The beets are first roasted until tender in a mixture of butter (I used all oil, for I thought I was out of butter - gasp! though I did find it a day later - in plain sight of course), oil, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt & pepper. Once the beets are ready, they are arranged cut side up and covered with the puff pastry and returned to the oven until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Once the tarte is cooled, it is turned out onto a serving platter. 

I wish I had left the tips on a few of the beets - it would have made for a more artistic design - and I'm thinking, using red and golden beets would be beautiful too. Next time - and I do hope there will be a next time.

After the tarte has been placed on its serving platter, it is dressed with a vinaigrette made of shallots (or scallions can be used), English mustard, cider vinegar, canola oil, sugar, and parsley.

We had this for dinner alongside a basic green salad. This would also make for a fun and delicious appetizer or light lunch.

Unfortunately, it cannot be made ahead of time for the bottom crust will become soggy. We had leftovers the next evening, in which I warmed it in a 350°F oven for about half an hour. Aside from a soggy bottom (despite being re-heated on a rack that was placed over a baking sheet), we thought it tasted even better the next day.

Beets and puff pastry - enough said.

Pumpkin and Raisin Tea Loaf

So much for my thinking this was a quick-bread, that I was going to whip it out in no time in between my morning workout and a bike ride. One should never assume... it was a little more involved than I realized:

1. Grinding the almonds
2. Separating the eggs
3. Juicing and zesting of a lemon
4. Making my own self-rising flour (flour/baking powder/salt)
5. Whipping of the egg whites and folding the egg whites into the batter
6. A longer baking time (18 minutes more)

So much for that one bowl recipe I was thinking of too.

It's all good though - it was worth it.

This delightful bread is made from muscovado sugar (I used dark brown sugar), eggs, raw pumpkin flesh (I used canned), lemon juice & zest, raisins, ground almonds, self-rising flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

I do like Hugh's idea of lining the loaf pan with parchment - something I had never thought to do when baking bread; it made for easy removal.

I'm glad I decided to use the raisins I had on hand - Sunmaid Mixed Jumbo Raisins - I think it made for a very pretty raisin-studded loaf.

This bread turned out quite moist despite not having any added oil or butter, and quite tasty; and is so frigging good toasted and buttered - maybe the only way it should be eaten.


Vegeree - you may be thinking it sounds familiar. This is actually a take on kedgeree, the curried rice dish made with fish, cream, and hard-boiled eggs. Here Hugh omits the cream, swaps out the fish with eggplant, and has added some zucchini as well.

I had some butternut squash I needed to use, so I tossed that in too, along with some garlic. The vegetables are tossed together with oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder (I also added a bit of cumin), and roasted until the vegetables are tender.

While the vegetables are roasting the rice and hard-boiled eggs are cooked.

Hugh has an interesting way to cook the rice. First it is boiled uncovered until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, a damp kitchen towel (I used strong paper towels) is placed under the lid and cooks for ten minutes more on the lowest heat setting; then off heat, is allowed to sit for another five minutes.

I found all this fuss unnecessary. Cooking the rice according to the package directions would work just as well. 

After everything is cooked, the rice and vegetables are tossed together, and then topped with the eggs and some fresh ground black pepper. 

Traditionally, kedgeree is eaten at breakfast; I however, chose to serve our vegeree for dinner.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots

As I have said before, I love any and all roasted vegetables. So there is no surprise that this was a hit we me - hubby seems to have an aversion to anything onion, or anything that even resembles an onion..

As all roasted vegetables are, this was easy and quick to make. Just tossed the prepped vegetables with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme, and roasted until tender - around a half hour or so, stirring at least once half way through.

The recipe calls for a drizzle of lemon juice and fresh thyme before serving. However, The Mr. also is not a fan of citrus used in this way. So instead of squeezing lemon juice over the roasted vegetables as the recipe calls for, I served the vegetables with wedges of lemon alongside. The lemon adds a lightness, and bright taste to the dish.

You can't go wrong with roasted vegetables of any kind. It's amazing how vegetables are transformed when roasted. They caramelize on the outside while becoming soft and tender, and develop a concentrated and sweetened flavor. If you haven't tried roasting your favorite vegetable, you're missing out.  

 Broccoli Salad with Asian-Style Dressing

I think this as more of a side-dish than a salad. The only ingredients are broccoli, green onion, sesame seeds, and a vinaigrette made from garlic, ginger, sugar, salt, pepper, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

The broccoli is first blanched to soften it slightly. The vinaigrette is added to the still warm broccoli and allowed to sit until cooled. Just before serving, toasted sesame seeds (as you can see, I did not toast mine) and sliced scallions are scattered over the top.

This was OK. The vinaigrette has good flavor. I think I would have preferred this served warm as a side dish, rather than at room temperature as a salad.

White Beans with Artichokes

This would have been a lot more visually appealing if I did not forget to scatter over the cheese! Gahhh! I can't believe I forgot - again!

For this salad, slivered garlic (as usual - I doubled up on the garlic) is sautéed in a tablespoon of oil from the marinated artichoke hearts, then the hearts themselves are added and cooked for a very short time before the beans are added, and everything is heated through.

After removing the pan from the heat, lemon juice, salt, and pepper are added and combined, then this mixture is placed on top of salad greens.

The forgotten cheese.

Wait a minute.. what about dressing for the salad? This would make for a rather dry salad with no dressing. Was the lemon juice supposed to stand in for a dressing? The beans pretty much soaked the lemon juice all up. I made a quick, light vinaigrette - I mixed up some olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon juice, and a dash of salt.

Again, another OK recipe. The cheese was my favorite part. To my surprise, The Mr. said he liked it - he does love his beans.

Well, I made nine out of the ten recipes I committed to this month- time just got away. With the holidays upon us, I don't see myself committing to ten each month until at least January. 

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the September LYL post on the CCC website, by clicking here.

We have been asked not to publish the recipes here on our blogs. We encourage you to go out and purchase the book and join us on this fun and healthy adventure! (Some of the recipes from the book are posted on-line on Hugh's website [and others], just do a Google search.)


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TWD: Puff Pastry Pizzettes

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Michel Richard

Have you ever had bits of puff pastry dough left over from a recipe and did not know what to do with the scraps? So you either tossed it (gasp!), or thrown it in the freezer, where it ends up banished to the back not to be found for months, or maybe even years later? Well, we have a solution for you.

October was "puff month" for us TWD bakers - and this week's recipe uses those scraps that we had left over from the sunny-side-up pastries we made two weeks ago.

These are so uber easy to make, you may not want to wait till you have scraps. You may just want to go out and get yourself a fresh box right away!

There's really no "recipe" to make these. You just take your leftover scraps, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch and cut out circles to the size of your liking. Add your favorite topping and bake in a 350° oven for about fifteen minutes, until puffed and golden. You do want to make sure to press the toppings into the dough a bit, so they do not slide off when the dough puffs up. 

I topped a few with tomato and blue cheese, some with sautéed mushrooms, and the others with tomato, and just a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Out of the three, the tomato with just a dash of salt and pepper was my favorite. I took some to my sister, and she enjoyed the other two flavors (I ate all of the tomato with s&p).

You can also go with a sweet version if you like - like a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, jam, or berries, the options are limited only to your imagination.

As usual, do check out what my fellow bakers have come up with. You will find their links on the TWD website, under the LYL: Puff Pastry Pizzettes link.