Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rustic plumb cake

Everyone knows that I make some pretty mean cakes.

A random collage of some favorites from my flickr page
But ironically, I'm not the biggest fan of sweet layer cakes with even more sweet frosting piled on.

More often than not I just want a classic, old-fashioned, no frosting, buttery type of cake. You know, the kind that reminds you of your grandmother (even though my nana's cake from childhood was a box mix cake infused with fresh orange zest...YUM!)


Bonus points if its incredibly delicious, takes minutes to throw together, requires minimal dishes, and has some kind of fruit in it.

This cake, THIS cake is my happy place. It's near perfection for me, and everything I want in a single cake.  

Just look at those crevices that form when the cake batter rises up to envelop the fruit!
And you can practically hear the sound that crust makes when tapping a spoon against it.

I want to show you guys the insides of this incredible cake, but all I have is the crappy photo below, which does it no justice. But when taking treats to work it's really hard to get a good photo of the insides, so my cell phone pic will have to do. 


Which is partly a shame, because it may not entice you to make this cake as much as I'd hope. But it's partly the perfect representation of this cake as well, because its not about the aesthetics, it's about the flavor. Sure, it's not a perfectly crafted photo with amazing lighting. But see those splotches on my plate napkin? That shows you how juicy the fruit is on the inside. And see the darker color on top of the tender cake? You can practically feel the crackly crust.

A crust, which when combining a dusting of cinnamon and spices with some sugar in the raw, not only results in an incredible texture, but a bit of warmth and comfort in each bite.

Cake batter + plums + sugar & spice = simply delicious

Will this cake with any awards on Pinterest? Unlikely. But will it satisfy your sweet and buttery tooth and leave you wanting to eat the entire cake. Absolutely.

And if my photos haven't done this cake justice, check out some others by Smitten Kitchen and Lottie + Doof. They have some interesting history nuggets about this recipe as well, which was first published in 1983 (no WONDER it reminds me of my childhood).

Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

Rustic Plum Cake (aka Plum Torte), adapted from Lottie + Doof (who adapted it from Marian Burros of the NY Times)

The original recipe calls for Italian plums, but after buy some duds at the farmers market (sad face), I used regular plums instead. It was glorious. Feel free to substitute other kinds of stone fruit or anything else really. (Apples? Pears? Apricots? Who knowsgo crazy!) Check out the link above to see how Lottie + Doof used raspberries in his.

The original recipe (and most variations) use 1 cup of sugar. But Lottie + Doof cut it down to 3/4 cup, which is what I used here. I found it to be perfectly sweet, so you can bump up the sugar if you prefer it sweeter.

Everyone says this cake is better on day 2. I had mine on the second day and it was delicious, but I cannot give you any information on the difference eating it fresh vs rested. You might just have to make 2 cakes and test out this theory. :)  

Ingredients

Cake
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
8 to 12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted -OR- 5 to 6 larger plums (I thickly sliced mine, but quarters would work) -OR- another fruit you'd like to try

Topping
1 to 2 TBSP sugar in the raw (or regular sugar)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp apple pie spice (or ground cinnamon), optional

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. In a larger bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer (hand mixer will do!) until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. 
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. It will be a fairly thick batter, do not fret!
  4. Spread batter into an ungreased (or lightly greased) 9-inch springform pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then apple pie spice, then the sugar in the raw.
  5. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center comes out free of batter, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack for a few hours before serving.
  6. Once cool, it is recommended to leave the cake at room temperature overnight (covered) as the cake is better on the second day.   
Read more...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fennel and cocoa-encrusted pork tenderloin

Truth: I'm typically not a fan of super sweet and savory foods combined into 1 dish. Although I've started to enjoy a hint of sweetness mixed into a savory dish if the sweet is kept to a minimum (like this grilled brie sandwich with fig jam + bacon, or this amazing goat cheese and thyme with roasted grapes).

Truth: I don't typically like anything chocolate in my savory dishes (I've had only 1 mole dish that I loved, and it was super reddish in color, so likely lower on the chocolate.)

Truth: I BOLDED and italicized the word "typically" in my last 2 statements because there are always exceptions to the rule... like this fennel and cocoa-nib encrusted pork tenderloin.

I swear I let my pork rest for at least 5 minutes, but next time I think I'll let it sit even longer.
Cocoa and sugar on my pork?! What whaaaaaaat? But I promise it's not overly sweet. The sugar isn't a ton, and it help forms a nice caramelized crust on the pork.

Sear in pan + bake in oven = the most magical way to cook pork tenderloin
And the cocoa in the recipe is all unsweetened, natural chocolate (powder + nibs) so it doesn't taste like a chocolate chip cookie. And the fennel... the fennel. I swoon.


Truth: I like to push myself out of my comfort zone at times when it comes to food. There are certain flavors that I absolutely know I don't like (like sesame oil or large amounts of cumin), but sometimes you need to give yourself a little nudge and try something a little different... especially when it comes with a seal of approval from a good friend.

This dish is that something different, because not only is it unique, it's absolutely delicious!!!

Yours in expanding her pork tenderloin repertoire (which includes this amazing Asian-inspired 5-spice pork tenderloin and Puerto-Rican inspired pernil pork),
Jacqueline

Fennel and Cocoa-Encrusted Pork Tenderloin, adpated from Floating Kitchen

Ingredients
2 TBSP cocoa nibs
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 TBSP light brown sugar
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TBSP oil (canola, vegetable), divided
Pork tenderloin (about 1 to 1 1/4 lbs), trimmed of excess fat

Directions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line the inside of a roasting pan with aluminum foil and place a large cookie sheet on top. (I like to use a cookie sheet so the pork doesn't sit in the pan and get soggy, but it's not required if you don't have one.) Set aside.

  2. Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, grind the cocoa nibs and fennel seeds until coarse. Transfer to a small bowl and add the sugar, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

  3. Using your hands, rub the tenderloin with 1 TBSP of canola oil. Next, rub the cocoa nib/spice mixture all over the tenderloin, massaging it into the meat and making sure everything is evenly coated.

  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining tablespoon of canola oil. Place the tenderloin in the skillet and cook for ~2 minutes. Use your eyes and nose to figure out when to turn the pork; you want a nice crust but you don't want to burn the sugar. (Hot tip: don't move the pork around too much otherwise you won't get that great sear.) Once your first side has a nice crust on it, flip over and brown on all 4 "sides", making sure to cook each side for at least 1-2 minutes to develop the flavor.

  5. Transfer the browned tenderloin to your roasting pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin reaches 135-140 degrees F. (You can go up to 145-150 degrees but you run the risk of overcooking the pork, since it'll continue to increase in temperature once you remove it from the oven.) This can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

  6. Once your tenderloin is cooked, removed it from the oven, tent with foil, and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes at room temperature. Cut the pork tenderloin into slices and serve immediately. 

  7. Leftovers are great warmed up or eaten cold (I like it sliced cold on a big, green salad).
Read more...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Giant cornflake, chocolate, and marshmallow cookies

I don't always notice the gradual color change of the trees in this urban jungle that I live in, but if the weather didn't let me know that fall was here, this tree did.

 
I'm not a giant fan of fall (it means winter is soon here....nooooooooo), but my best friend is a fall fiend. And I got to see her this weekend when her and her husband were in Chicago for a mini getaway.


Her kitchen is currently under renovation, and with a toddler at home and another on the way, I figured I'd bake her some treats. So I made her the largest cookies I've ever seen in my life.


They're basically a chocolate chip cookie, but the addition of mini marshmallows and cornflakes really add a complexity of flavor. They're also about 4 times the size of a normal cookie!

Ice cream scoop helps the cookie-shaping step a breeze
Why so big? Well other than scooping out a huge amount of batter per cookie, the high butter-to-flour ratio means these babies spread out BIG TIME!

I literally only baked 4 cookies at a time in the oven. Any more and they spread together,
which means you'll have an even bigger cookie!

Yes, they're a bit on the thinner side, so they're not your normal soft cookie. But they're not crunchy either—they have a chew to them that isn't typical with thinner cookies. There's also something magical that happens in these cookies during baking, the sugar takes on an almost toffee flavor. So if you're ready to take your chocolate chip cookie to another level, make these. Now!

Yours in making treats for her favorite people,
Jacqueline

Cornflake Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookie, adapted from Shutterbean (originally from Momofuku Milk Bar)

The original recipe has you first create a "cornflake crunch," in which you bake cornflakes with some butter, sugar, and milk powder. I haven't tried it, so I can't say how it would be, but these cookies were great with just regular 'ole cornflakes. I found the cornflakes added a nice flavor and texture to the cookie, but don't expect to see big chunks in your cookie—they break apart pretty quickly when mixing the dough. 

Also, feel free to play around with the chocolate chips in the cookie. Shutterbean used 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 peanut butter chips, and I would imagine that toffee chips would be excellent too! I used dark chocolate chips, but use whatever you have on hand/prefer.

Keep in mind the dough needs to rest for at least an hour, and can be prepared days in advance. It can also be frozen! Just refrigerate the disks for a few hours, pop in a bag, and freeze. They can be baked directly from the freezer, you might just need to add a minute or few to the baking time. 

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 cups cornflakes (or cornflake crunch, see note above)
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips, regular chocolate chips roughly chopped, or chopped chocolate (see note above)
1 1/4 cups mini marshmallows

Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and both sugars on medium-high, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and add egg and vanilla; beat for 4 to 5 minutes.

  2. In the meantime, mix flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. 

  3. Reduce the speed on the mixer to low, add the flour mixture, and mix just until dough comes together (~20-30 seconds; no longer than 1 minute). Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula.

  4. With the mixer on low, add cornflakes and chocolate; mix until just combined, ~30 seconds. Add mini marshmallows and mix until just incorporated. The dough will be thick but very soft.

  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 2 3/4-ounce ice-cream scoop or 1/3-cup measuring cup, portion dough out onto prepared baking sheet. (Note: I haven't tried it but I'm sure you could make smaller cookies if you didn't want them so giant. Just adjust the baking time for the smaller cookies.) Cover with plastic wrap and pat tops of cookie domes flat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (ideally ~3 hr) and up to 1 week. Do not bake cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line additional baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

  7. Arrange chilled dough at least 4 inches apart on prepared baking sheets (I put 4 cookies on 1 baking sheet). Transfer to oven and bake until puffed, cracked, spread, and browned on the edges, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, and carefully transfer to a cooling rack,
Read more...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Breakfast dishes for guests

A few months ago we had friends visit within just a few weeks of each other. Although we don't have a guest bedroom for visitors (comfy couch!) I love when people come and stay with us, as it gives us an excuse to explore Chicago and gives me an excuse to make food.

Belmont Harbor
We don't go too overboard, but I like to prepare a breakfast that (a) will fill us up until lunchtime and (b) doesn't take too much time to prepare in the morning. So I love recipes that have the bulk of the prep the night before.

This apple french toast bake is exactly one of those types of recipes. You don't have to prep it in advance, but its easy to cook the apples and mix up the milk/egg mixture the night before and have it ready to go in the AM. Another bonus: it bakes up all at once, instead of frying the french toast 1 piece at a time, so it's a perfect for a crowd.

Don't forget to pre-grease your pan like me. The bottom of the french toast was STUCK to the pan and
would not come off. The top was still delicious, but it did waste a lot of the bread on the bottom. 

Plus it makes an incredible french toast. It's like apple pie and french toast made a delicious baby!

Then, a few weeks later I tried out another recipe I'd been wanting to make forever: yeasted waffles. Yeast + flour + time + waffle maker = the most amazing waffle you'll ever have. The home-made whipped cream and strawberries didn't hurt either.


They're light and fluffy on the inside and incredibly crispy on the outside. Regular waffles are good but yeasted waffles are like waffles on crack. You'll never get a texture like this with a plain waffle recipe. Just look at those edges. I'm drooling!


Unlike the french toast, this recipe actually has to be started the night before (or the day before that). The yeast needs time to rise, so there's no last-minute prep with this recipe. But when you get up in the morning all you have to do is get your waffle maker out and start cookin'!

Other than being super delicious, the best part of these recipes is that with a side of protein (bacon, sausage!) they really do fill you up and provide all the energy you need to walk around and explore.

Yours in providing quality breakfast that helps fuel your explorations,
Jacqueline
Saw this pre-drawn caricature at the zoo, and although it's not me,
there's definitely a resemblance!

Apple French Toast Bake, adapted from Minimalist Baker

Note: The amount of bread will vary depending on the type and how dry it is. Just add enough to cover the bottom of the pan, plus a little extra.

The directions here are for if you want to prep the night before. If you want to prepare it the same day: preheat your oven (step 4), get your bread in the pan and soaking with the egg/milk mixture (steps 1, 2, and 5), then prepare your apples (step 3), and continue with step 6.

Ingredients
6-8 cups day old bread, any kind (hearty breads are ideal: brioche, whole wheat, Italian, etc), cubed
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 + 1/4 tsp cinnamon, divided
4 apples, cored, peeled and sliced into wedges (any kind of apple will do, tart apples if you like the dish a little less sweet)
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided

Directions
  1. If prepping the night before: Generously grease a 9x13 baking dish (do not forget to do this like I did or your bread will be stuck to the pan). Add enough cubed bread to cover the whole bottom of your pan and ~1.5 inches up the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set on your counter overnight. 

  2. Prepare custard mixture: In a mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

  3. Prepare apples: To a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the apples and 2 TBSP butter. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp cinnamon, stir, and cover to steam for a bit. When they start to get tender (~3-5 minutes, making sure not to overcook) remove cover and sprinkle with 2-3 TBSP brown sugar, or less to taste. Continue cooking on medium to medium high heat with cover off to get the apples slightly caramelized, making sure to not cook the apples too much (you don't want them mushy). Remove from heat to cool and place in a container in the refrigerator overnight.

  4. The next morning, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven. Get your bread, egg/milk mixture, and apples ready.

  5. Pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread and use your hands or the back of a wooden spoon to push the bread down to soak up the liquid. If you end up having too much bread after pouring on the liquid, just pick a few out. Alternatively, if you have too much liquid, add more bread cubes.

  6. Allow bread to sit for a few minutes, or longer if you'd like. Check the bread to make sure all pieces are getting well soaked. If any cubes are dry on top, flip them over with your hands to ensure all pieces are wet. Sprinkle top with remaining brown sugar - about 1/4 cup, or less to taste.

  7. Spoon 3/4 of the apples over the top of the bread and push them down into the cracks with your fingers. If a few slices are sitting on top, that's OK.

  8. Bake on a center rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You'll know when it's done because the bread and apples will be golden brown and the egg mixture will no longer be wet. Stick a fork down in the center to check - if it's still jiggly or wet, bake for another 5-10 minutes.

  9. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Top each slice with any remaining sautéed apples and maple syrup. Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to a couple days and reheat in the microwave; though this dish is best when fresh. 

Overnight Yeasted Waffles, from Cooks Illustrated

Note: I let the waffle batter rise in the fridge overnight (it must be made 12 - 24 hours in advance), but I've also read that letting it sit on the counter overnight may give it a better flavor. Check out Smitten Kitchen for an overnight recipe--I'm definitely trying that next!

Yield: Makes seven 7-inch round waffles or four 9-inch square waffles (Belgium style)

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups milk, any kind (whole, low-fat, skim)
8 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
  1. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool milk/butter mixture until warm to touch. 
  2. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in large bowl to combine (keep in mind your batter will double in size, so this bowl needs to be big enough). Gradually whisk warm milk/butter mixture into flour mixture; continue to whisk until batter is smooth. 
  3. In small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until combined, then add egg mixture to batter and whisk until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat waffle iron according to directions. Remove waffle batter from refrigerator when waffle iron is hot (batter will be foamy and doubled in size). Whisk batter to recombine (batter will deflate). 
  5. Bake waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions (use about ½ cup for 7-inch round iron and about 1 cup for 9-inch square iron). 
  6. Serve waffles immediately or hold in low temperature oven. (As you make the waffles, place them on a wire rack set above a baking sheet, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and place the baking sheet in a 200-degree oven. When the final waffle is in the iron, remove the towel to allow the waffles to crisp for a few minutes.) 
Read more...

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Corn corn corn

I'm the worst blogger ever--I always post about recipes *after* the season has passed for that particular ingredient. I just can't keep up!

So while you may not be able to make these awesome sweet corn recipes this year, bookmark them (yea Pinterst!) and save for next year.

Last month the boy and I were obsessed with sweet corn. So we tried a corn and tomato gazpacho and TWO different kinds of sweet corn ice cream. Yes, ice cream, all inspired by the corn and blackberry flavor I tried once at Jeni's ice cream.

You ready to see all our cornilious dishes?

Sweet Corn Gazpacho

Beautiful, isn't it?!?


The recipe is incredibly simple, and basically has you blend together corn, yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers, and white beans to create a beautiful and creamy yellow gazpacho. Mine isn't quite so yellow since I used a red tomato, which gave the soup this gorgeous orange hue. I topped it with some raw corn kernels, chives, and a drizzle of my best olive oil (cilantro would have been wonderful)!

While the soup was incredibly refreshing and light, I felt that the flavor was a bit 1 dimensional and not as corn-y as we were expecting. Maybe the red tomato is stronger in flavor than the yellow recommended, but the corn provided more texture to the soup than flavor. Which is fine--but again, just not what we were hoping for. I love the idea, but I think the recipe might need a bit more tweaking for my taste buds. But check out the original recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon and feel free to experiment if you're looking for a great late summer/early fall soup. 

Sweet Corn and Blackberry Ice Cream

I first tried corn ice cream at Jeni's ice cream, which was so unexpectedly delicious. It's hard to explain how good it is. Yes, you can taste the corn. But somehow, with the cream and sugar, it's absolutely perfect.


Naturally, I became obsessed with making it at home. The boy would make a weird face every time I mentioned it, and then months later (when I finally got around to making it) he couldn't get enough!


The recipe calls for making a black raspberry jam to swirl in the ice cream, but I used blackberries instead. It wasn't only delicious, it was beautiful!


Oddly enough, though, the boy was a little bummed with the swirl--he felt that the mild corn flavor was masked by the berry sauce. Which is partly true. If you don't mind losing a bit of the corn flavor, swirl away. But if you want to enjoy the pure corn flavor, feel free to not add the sauce or top your ice cream with it instead.


I basically made the recipe as written (you can find it here on Saveur) with a few "big" changes:
  1. In step 1 of the recipe, after heating the milk, cream, sugar, etc with the corn kernels and leftover cobb, make sure to steep the corn in the milk for about an hour at room temperature. (Steep means to turn off the heat and let the pot sit.) There was barely any corn flavor in the milk after 4 minutes, so I don't know why anyone would want to remove the corn at that point. The extra hour made a HUGE difference in the corn flavor.

  2. For the sauce 1/2 cup sugar to 1 cup of berries was disgustingly sweet (for me). I'd cut the sugar in half, at least. Just add sugar to taste.
Was this ice cream delicious? Yes. Abolutely! But I prefer the texture of custard-based ice creams, and I just wanted more corn flavor.

Sooooo a week later I made another corn ice cream. This recipe not only used 3 times the corn compared with the Jeni's recipe (3 cobs instead of 1), it also had you blend the corn kernels into the ice cream instead of discard them. What whhhhaaaaaaaaaaaat! This might be the corn ice cream I was looking for.

ULTIMATE Sweet Corn Ice Cream

If you want to taste sweet corn in your ice cream, make this recipe. It's incredible. It'll even border on too much corn flavor when you make your ice cream base (I won't lie--I didn't like it at this point and started to worry), but do not freak out. The flavor mellows drastically once you churn and then freeze the ice cream.

But one thing that won't mellow: the gorgeous yellow hue!


And because the corn flavor is so robust in this ice cream, topping it with a berry sauce nicely compliments the flavor instead of overpowering it.


Yours in indulging her midwest love of sweet corn,
Jacqueline

Ultimate Sweet Corn Ice Cream, adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

Ingredients

Corn ice cream
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed and corn milk scraped from the cob (hot tip: use a bundt pan for this, see here), cobs reserved
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blackberry sauce
Cook blackberries in a small saucepan with sugar, to taste, and mash with a fork until cooked and tender. Serve as is, or strain to remove the seeds.

Directions
  1. Place corn kernels (and any excess corn milk), corn cobs, cream, milk, and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan and simmer until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and allow mixture to steep for 1 hour.

  2. Remove cobs from the milk mixture, pour into a blender and puree. Strain the mixture through a sieve and pour back into the saucepan. Heat mixture on medium to medium high heat until scalding.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar and whisk together until light and fluffy.

  4. Once the cream mixture is scalding, use it to temper the egg yolk mixture. Slowly add 1 cup cream to yolk mixture, whisking to prevent the mixture from scrambling. Add in another cup of cream.

  5. Add the tempered yolk mixture to the saucepan and whisk. Cook on medium heat until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure to constantly stir the bowl as you do not want to cook the eggs, but instead make a thin custard.

  6. Strain the ice cream through a sieve into a mixing bowl (you can line it with cheesecloth if you prefer). Place the bowl into an ice bath and stir in vanilla extract.

  7. Cool until the mixture is at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours (overnight).

  8. Freeze ice cream according to your machine’s manufacturer’s instructions and serve with blackberry sauce or fresh berries.
Read more...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thai-inspired fish with roasted acorn squash and spinach chickpea coconut curry

I typically have a very extremely anal organized method of cooking. Make x, y, and z according to the directions for each.

But sometimes I'm inspired by a recipe to play around with it a little bit. And sometimes the boy wants to cook up something we've had around the house for a while.

Usually these "sometimes" occur at different times, but this past week they collided into a perfect storm of randomness that turned into an incredible meal.

Somehow we turned this...
acorn squash the boy's brother grew and gifted to us
+ this recipe
+ my frozen leftover red curry paste
+ frozen fish

...into this seriously awesome dinner of baked fish, mashed acorn squash, and a Thai-inspired coconut curry with spinach and chickpea!

The boy added some roasted acorn squash seeds to make the dish pretty,
but I would not recommend them at all for this dish. Just save them for your salads. :)

No recipe for the fish or acorn squash—since the fish will depend on your cut (we roasted our barramundi at 350 degrees for ~10 minutes) and squash is pretty straightforward (cut in half, put cut side down, and roast @350 degrees for 45+ minutes until tender; then mash with a bit of butter or olive oil)—but this spinach chickpea curry was amazing.

And the curry is completely vegan, so it'll be great on a pile of rice, noodles, quinoa, or your filler of choice. But somehow the randomness of the curry + fish + squash totally worked.


Yours in embracing her improvisational cooking skills,
Jacqueline

Thai-inspired spinach and chickpea coconut curry, adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

2 teaspoons oil
1 small onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated (~3" piece)
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound baby spinach, roughly chopped
~2 TBSP red curry paste
14-ounce can coconut milk (full-fat preferable)
1 teaspoon salt
lemon juice, to finish (optional)
cilantro, to finish


Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for ~2 minutes, stirring frequently. 

  2. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes. Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time, until wilted. When all the spinach has been added, push ingredients to the side and cook the curry paste in the center of the pan for 1 minute.

  3. Add the coconut milk and salt. (Make sure to use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan with the coconut milk.) Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until the chickpeas are warmed through. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if necessary.

  4. Serve hot (over roasted rice, quinoa, roasted squash, sweet potatoes, etc) and top with chopped cilantro.
Read more...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Double-header blog post: lemon bars and popcorn cookies

Where does the time go??

I find that between trying to make the most out of this summer (weekend festivals in Chicago, enjoying the weather when I can) and the madness at work I cannot muster the inspiration to sit down at my computer and write.

Just a random gorgeous sunset view from our apartment
My cooking had lagged too, so that was part of the lack blogging, but even when that picked up a few weeks ago I haven't been sharing much in my space here. Which I hope to rectify a bit. There's been some exciting moments too (my trip out east to Boston, Maine, and New Hampshire for a dear friend's wedding; having my parent's meet the boy's parents for the first time) so I may find a way to sneak those into the blog over time.

I have probably close to 20 back-logged posts, so deciding which one to start with is no easy feat. How about 2 recipes I made a while back from my Smitten Kitchen cookbook: lemon bars and popcorn cookies!

Back in June, for our 2 year anniversary, the boy and I agreed we weren't going to do any gifts. But then, he surprised me with this little gem:


He knows me (and my obsession love of cookbooks) so well! Within days I had made both of these desserts from the book.

Lemon bars were a no brainer, considering my obsession with citrus desserts. And these were extra interesting, because instead of juicing and zesting a million and a half lemons, you simply use 1 lemon. You read that right. One. Single. Lemon.
Make sure you top with powdered sugar RIGHT before serving to make them purty.
I didn't since I was taking these into work...
They also only use 7 ingredients (all pantry staples!) so you're 98% likely to have everything on hand to whip up a batch. All in all, these lemon bars were a smashing success—and loved equally by the boy and my coworkers.

Great ratio of filling:crust!
It wasn't much later that I made recipe #2 from the book, mostly because I was intrigued by the use of popcorn in a cookie. Plus, I got to use one of my absolute favorite items in my kitchen: our Whirley-Pop.


I know, I know, I know—you're not supposed to buy large items that have only 1 purpose in the kitchen. But this thing is magical. It will pop nearly every freaking kernel and not burn a single piece of popcorn. You can go from wanting a late-night snack to eating a giant, perfectly popped bowl of popcorn in ~3 minutes. And it's insanely fun to use. It's literally one of my favorite kitchen gadgets! I mean just check out this perfection.

Yes, allllll this popcorn goes into the batter.
All that popcorn gets folded into the cookie batter. And mini ice cream scoops help you portion out the cookie dough in just a few minutes.


Cookie perfection!


Now I'll be 100% honest—the cookie portion of these cookies was incredible. But I was on the fence about the addition of popcorn. The slight crunch and buttery flavor was unique to a cookie, so while I liked it, I wasn't head-over-heels for it. The boy, on the other hand, wasn't a fan at all with the popcorn. (The first time I think he's every said he didn't like something!) But then coworker asked me for the recipe because she liked them so much. So who knows?!

Recap of today's post: If you're a fan of citrus, the lemon bars are a no brainer. If you're a fan of unique desserts with a bit of savoriness to them (or a fan of the buttered popcorn Jelly Belly), try a batch of these popcorn cookies.

Yours in attempting to catch up on this blog...yet again,
Jacqueline

Whole lemon bars, barely adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The original recipe says this makes 16 squares (2"x2"), but I cut them into bit-sized 1" squares and got 32 pieces out of the batch. Some of their crust crumbled off a bit, but I found that to be the perfect size.

Ingredients

Crust
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
8 TBSP butter (1 stick), cut into chunks

Filling
1 small/medium lemon (~4.5 oz, 130 g, or ~3" long), thoroughly washed (organic preferred)
1 1/3 cups (265 g) sugar
8 TBSP butter, cut into chunks
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 TBSP (15 g) cornstarch
1/4 tsp table salt

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in middle position. Prepare an 8 inch baking pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper, laid perpendicular to each other (like this). Lightly butter the parchment, or use baking spray with flour (my favorite).

  2. To make the crust: blend the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until mixture is powdery (but will hold its shape when pinched, like damp sand). Add the dough to the prepared baking pan and press evenly across the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides. (Hot tip: a measuring cup or glass can help pressing the crust.) Prick with a fork all over and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. If the crust bubbles up a bit, just prick them with a fork. Remove the crust from the oven and set aside, but leave your oven on. (Hot tip: Don't wash your food processor just yet, you'll use it again in step 4.)

  3. To make your filling: Cut your lemon in half to see how thick the pith of the peel is. (The pith is the white part of the skin, aka the bitter part.) If the pith is 1/4 inch thick or less, continue to step 4 with the entire lemon. If the pith is thick, remove most of it before continuing onto the next step. (To remove the pith, skin the entire lemon and cut away the white part from the yellow peel. Discard the pith but KEEP THE PEEL. You don't need to remove every last bit of the pith, but just enough to reduce the bitterness.) 

  4. Cut your lemon into rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon (flesh AND peel) into your food processor, add the sugar, and run until the lemon is pureed, ~2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt, and pulse until combined.

  5. Pour lemon mixture over the crust and bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the filling is set, aka. it jiggles slightly when bumped. (You may find the top of the bars begin to get just a hint of browning at this point.) 

  6. Let the pan cool completely on a rack. Gently pull away the parchment paper, and use the parchment sling to life the bar out of the pan. Cut into squares.
Buttered popcorn cookies, barely adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
vegetable oil
1/4 cup (45 g) popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp table salt
1 TBSP butter, melted
8 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup (95 g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (155 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions
  1. Cook popcorn in vegetable oil on the stovetop (or using a Whirley Pop!). Toss with table salt and melted butter, making sure you've removed any unpopped kernels. (~4 to 4.5 cups cooked popcorn.)

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture.

  3. Fold in the cooled popcorn until evenly distributed. It will seem like an insane amount of popcorn, but it'll all come together (I promise). 

  4. Scoop heaping-tablespoon sized rounds of dough onto lined baking sheet, ~2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minute, or until the edges are light brown. Remove from oven, let sit on baking sheet for a few minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool.
 
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