Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Courtesy of The Ohio State University
1 lb. bag of powdered sugar
2/3 lb. creamy peanut butter
2 sticks soft butter
16. oz. chocolate chips
1 Tbs. Paraffin
1 wood toothpick
Blend sugar, PB and butter
Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet
Freeze for about 5 minutes
Melt chocolate and paraffin in double boiler (over low heat!!)
insert toothpick into peanut butter ball and dip into chocolate leaving "eye". Refrigerate until served.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
But, back to the present - we have a monthly book club, and this month was Mr. Pleasant's turn to pick. He picked "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle. Not bad culinary reading. Inspired by the book, as we were hosting, we put together a French-inspired meal with our new Williams Sonoma Bride/Groom cookbook (courtesy of Mr. Pleasant's brother and sister in law). Not only does it have great, basic but delicious recipes but it also has helpful advice about setting up and stocking a kitchen. Sure, it could be read as one giant ad for W-S, but it really is a valuable resource. It was the first time we used it and we were very impressed with the results! As were our fellow bookclub members.
First up was a fabulous marinated goat cheese. So easy! It's great to be able to do things ahead and this even tasted better for it! Dinner was red wine braised chicken with a mixed green salad and my standard roasted potatoes. I was very pleased with the chicken, although due to some regrettably over-the-hill chicken legs, we had to substitute boneless, skinless breast at the last minute, but it turned out okay. The salad was a triumph too - I've never actually made a salad with different greens before. Sure, I've bought lettuce mixes, but never before have I bought greens like frissee, watercress, endives and arugala separately and really thought about how all the flavors would meld. It opened up a whole new world to experiment with. It was all set off nicely by a lovely vinaigrette and pomegranate seeds. It really does add a whole new element to a bookclub when you can have a literal taste of what you're reading!
Here is what we did for the marinated goat cheese. We doubled the amount of cheese with great results, by the way.
Marinated Goat Cheese
W-S Bride and Groom Cookbook
4 rounds fresh goat cheese, each 1/2 inch thick sliced from a 2 1/2" log
3/4 C olive oil
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme (used dried thyme)
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted (this is easy to do in a nonstick pan- heat on medium for a few minutes - careful not to burn!)
2 dried bay leaves
Place the goat cheese in a shallow dish (we found a pasta bowl worked well). Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme, chili flakes, fennel seeds and bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day and up to 3 days. Remove from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tamarind Stir-Fried Shrimp
adapted from Wok and Stir-Fry by Linda Doeser
2 Tbs tamarind paste
2/3 c boiling water
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs chopped onion
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs chicken stock or water
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 dried red chili, chopped
1 lb uncooked shelled shrimp
1 Tbs fried chopped garlic
2 Tbs fried, chopped shallots
2 scallions, chopped to garnish
Put the tamarind paste in a small bowl, pour in boiling water and stir well to break up any lumps. Set aside for 30 minutes. Strain, pushing as much of the juice through as possible. Measure out 6 Tbs of the juice. Heat the oil in a wok and add the chopped onion and fry until golden brown. Add the sugar, stock, fish sauce,dried chillies and the tamarind juice, stirring well until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, garlic and shallot. Stir fry for about 3-4 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked. Garnish with scallions. Serve over jasmine rice.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Ms. A. Morgan and I had a great time recreating baking and book's recipe for honey and apple challah bread for the cholidays. Sorry, couldn't help channeling my punster father there. Even though the interested buyers in the furniture Ms. Morgan had hoped to sell didn't show, we still had a fabulous evening. There's nothing quite like the apartment filling with the smell of baking bread, especially when you are reliving your youth through the silver screen with a fresh-faced Heath Leger, Julia Stiles and a certain re-adaptation of 'Taming of the Shrew'- complete of course with heavy sighs of nostalgia ;) We doubled this recipe with great success. Even though not listed in the instructions, be sure to add the nutmeg with the cinnamon. We managed a fairly solid braid and a great round, perfect for the holiday!
Honey and Apple Challah
from baking and books
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of warm milk (whole is best, low-fat is ok too)
- 2 eggs + 1 for the glaze
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil + 1 teaspoon for greasing the bowl and another for the glaze
- 3/4 tablespoon dark wildflower honey
- 1/2 cup diced organic dry apples
In a large bowl using a whisk combine the yeast, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 cup of the flour. Add the warm milk, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, then the honey. (Add the olive oil first, then use the same measuring spoon to add the honey - residual oil on the spoon will make the honey slide right out.) Vigorously mix the ingredients until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with the apples, which should be added in handfuls. Switch to a wooden spoon when the dough becomes too thick for the whisk. Continue mixing the dough until it is too stiff to stir.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and springy, about 4 minutes. If the dough is sticky, dust with flour 1 tablespoon at a time - just enough to prevent it from sticking to the surface. The dough is done when it’s smooth and small air bubbles show under the skin. If you press your thumb into it the impression should bounce back. This is a slightly firm dough, which is exactly what you want for easy braiding later on.
Place the dough in a deep container greased with 1 tsp of olive oil. Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it with non-stick spray. Gently deflate the dough by pressing your fingers into it, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Braiding: There are several ways to braid your dough, using anywhere from 3 to 6 strands (or more!). It’s traditional for Rosh Hashanah loaves to be round, but challah is delicious regardless of shape so go with whatever shape feels right to you.
- Three strand braided challah. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 20 inches long, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Lay these ropes side-by-side, not quite touching. Beginning in the middle and working towards you, braid the lower half of the three ropes. To braid, alternately move the outside ropes over the one in the center - left over, right over, left over - until you come to the end. Now go to the other side of your working space and braid the other half, this time moving the outside ropes under the center one. Braid tightly - you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under.
Once you have braided your dough in this fashion you can bake it as is, or twist the braid around itself, pinwheel fashion, thereby achieving the round challah look. Tuck the tail end of the braid underneath the coil and gently pinch the dough together to seal it closed. Another 3 braid option is to place the braided dough in a 9 x 12 inch loaf pan so that your bread has a rectangular bottom and a braided top.
- Woven round challah, which is what I did to the bread pictured in this post. To achieve this look divide your dough into 4 equal portions, then roll each out into smooth, thick strips about 15 inches long, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Arrange these ropes into a tic-tac-toe shape, with one pair of ropes perpendicular to the second pair. (You should have two ropes of dough running directly away from you, and two ropes running parallel to you.) Instead of just laying the top ropes on the bottom ones, weave them under/over: with the ropes running parallel to you, take the rope farthest away from you and weave it under the leftmost vertical rope, then over the rightmost vertical rope; take the parallel rope closest to you and weave it over the leftmost vertical rope, then under the rightmost vertical rope. Push the ropes together so that there isn’t any open space in the middle of your beginning weave.
Now take the bottom of the rightmost vertical rope (probably the one directly in front of your right hand) and weave it over the rope next to it on the right (counter clockwise). Take the rope that was just woven over, and weave it over the rope next to it. Continue until you reach the first rope, then reverse the process and weave the ropes left, in a clockwise fashion. If you have enough dough, weave the ropes one more time right, counter clockwise. By this time you should have short stumps of dough sticking out - one by one, pull them clockwise and gently pinch them against the larger mass of already woven dough. Finally, using both hands, gently grab your woven dough and slowly flip it over. You’ve just created a woven challah. Yay!
Helpful link: There is a useful tutorial on how to weave a round challah here.
- You can also bypass the entire braiding process by cutting your dough into four or five large chunks and stacking them side-by-side in a large loaf or bundt pan. This simple method also produces a beautiful loaf of bread!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place the braided dough on your baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes. If you are using a loaf pan, likewise loosely cover your dough with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
Just before the rising time has finished whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with a thick layer of it. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom. If you are using a loaf pan you can test your bread by covering the pan with a clean kitchen towel then, while wearing oven mitts, flipping the pan over so that the bread falls into the towel. Thump the bottom. If it does not sound hollow place the pan back on the bread, flip it over, and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.
When your bread is done transfer it to a baking rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before slicing - or at least wait until it’s warm, not hot - then enjoy!
Monday, September 10, 2007
1/2-1 c chocolate chips (or to taste)
3 bananas 3/4 c sugar
3/4 c veg oil
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbs vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Grease pan and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat bananas (peel if necessary) with mixer until smooth. Add oil, sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, add dry ingredients. Gradually add this to the banana mixture. Careful not to overmix. Pour into pan and bake. In a loaf pan, give this about an hour. In a 13"x 9" we needed only 35-40 minutes. You'll know it's done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Heather's Mock Crab Cakes
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon mayo
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning or more
Mix, form patties, saute in oil until browned.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
adapted from cookinglight.com
1/2 Tbs chili sauce
Monday, September 3, 2007
from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 c milk
1/4 c cooking oil
Preheat oven to 400. Mix all dry ingredients. Separately, mix wet ingredients. Stir all wet ingredients into dry until just moistened. Spoon batter into muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until just moistened. Makes 10-12 muffins.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Came home with a great haul from the farmers market this morning - great beans, corn, peaches, and a whole host of other delicious things. We couldn't wait to dig into the corn and had it with a quick lunch. Dinner, however, was a more meditated affair. Broke out a whole broiler chicken from a previous trip to the farmer's market and set our with my first braising attempt. While I don't yet have a cast iron casserole (it's been on my wish list for some time now), my hand-me-down glass casserole dish held up well. Mashed potatoes and fresh market green beans rounded out the meal (we do love potatoes;)
1 large free-range chicken, about 2 kilos (4 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fine sea salt, freshly ground pepper
1 large head garlic
1 organic lemon, cut in four quarters
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Rub the skin of the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper on all sides, and place it, breasts-side up, in a clay pot or cast-iron cocotte large enough to accommodate it. Peel the outer layers off the head of garlic to separate the individual cloves -- don't peel the cloves themselves. Arrange the cloves, lemon, and herbs around the chicken.
Put the lid on, slip the pot in the cold (not preheated) oven, and turn the oven on to 150°C (300°F). Bake for three hours, or until cooked through (if you have a meat thermometer, insert it in the inner part of a thigh: the chicken is done when the thermometer registers 82°C / 180°F), basting the chicken with its own juices every 45 minutes or so.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, carve the different serving parts, and transfer to a warm serving dish (pour very hot water from the kettle into it and let stand as you cut the chicken). Transfer the juices, herbs, and cloves to a gravy boat, and serve immediately.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Nothing like a Friday evening gathering with friends...all the better when it's an event to celebrate your Birthday! Even if it's a few days late. Everyone brought a dish to share, Mr. Pleasant made a fabulous cake for me and I whipped up a few appetizers, the star of the pack being an asparagus, Parmesan tart. Time was short, so I had a perfect use for the puff pastry that's been sitting in my freezer. Buttery but light and the asparagus was just tender crisp enough, seasoned to perfection. Simple and delicious. Adapted from Martha Stewart via The Perfect Pantry.
Asparagus Parmesan Tart
adapted from The Perfect Pantry
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
2 cups (approx. 5-1/2 oz) Parmesan, shredded
1-1/2 pounds medium asparagus
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. On a floured surface, roll pastry into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place the pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife score the dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce the dough inside the markings at half-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Mr. Pleasant totally got me hooked on these little custard cups -
makes me feel like a reg-U-lar TeeVee cook!
Everything but the chicken went as expected, which I was not entirely sure about - having hardly prepared chicken at all. The first annoyance was the time it took for the thicker-than-your-average cut to thaw, and then how much longer said thick cuts took to cook. I should have just sliced the suckers in half, but alas, I did not till later in the cooking when the exteriors were perfect and the insides were still decidedly uncooked. So, they got a little overcooked, but not to the point where they were inedible. Luckily, my first pan deglazing went quite well and the sauce helped moisten up the slightly overcooked chicken.
So, presentation isn't the best ever, but here's dinner!
Dessert was an adventure - Mr. Pleasant was in charge of removing my first attempt at a Clafoutis from the oven when I was at the grocery store - I came home to see most of the custard had escaped from its tart pan prison on to the cookie sheet around it (thank goodness I added that as an extra precaution!). Though it was a bit thinner than anticipated, not nearly as pretty as Orangette's version of it (which I was aiming for) it still tasted wonderful :)
Without further ado, the recipes of the evening:
4-5 potatoes (yukon gold are my favorite)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for greasing
Line jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly with olive oil. Peel potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Boil until just soft, or about 10 minutes on high heat. Drain and place on jelly roll pan. Add onion and olive oil, stirring to coat. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until beginning to brown. Stir, and return to oven for 5-10 minutes depending on how brown you want the spuds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Optional additions: rosemary, herbs de Provence, or a collection of whatever is fresh in your herb garden.
Steamed Green Beans with Shallot and Walnut Oil
1-2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half (if desired)
1 shallot, chopped
1 Tbs walnut oil
salt and pepper to taste
Steam green beans until bright green and tender-crisp. Remove and set aside. In frying or medium sized sauce pan, heat walnut oil on medium -high heat and add shallot. Saute for a moment (so the shallots sizzle slightly in the oil), turn off heat and add green beans, tossing to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Can be served warm, but more flavorful when served at room temperature.
Sauted Chicken Breasts
Adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", Bertholle, Beck, Child
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
1 C flour
1 Tbs shallot, chopped
2/3 C broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
Heat oil and melt butter in frying pan. Coat chicken breasts with flour and place in pan at medium to medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes per side, longer if necessary. Remove chicken from pan. Add shallot to butter and oil remaining in pan. Saute for a moment, then add broth and wine. Bring to a boil and reduce until thickened. Serve sauce over chicken, garnished with parsley.
adapted from Orangette
1 large nectarine, pitted and cut into wedges
3 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
½ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly butter a 9-inch pie dish*. Arrange the plum wedges, skin side down, in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the dish. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt, and whisk to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the batter, and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter gently over the plums, trying to disturb them as little as possible (some will float and move around no matter how gentle you are). Bake the clafoutis until puffed and nicely golden around the edges, about 45-50 minutes. Remove the clafoutis from the oven, and allow it to cool for a half hour or so, during which time you’ll see it deflate and settle a bit. Serve it warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.
Yield: 6-8 servings
* Ms. Orangette used a tart pan - as did I, but clearly, using a tart pan from which the bottom pops out was ill-advised. Ha!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
But, for the success of the night, the recipe follows. Note that it comes from the American Heart Association Cook Book, so don't feel too guilty eating it. Unfortunately, this got gobbled up before any pictures could be taken.
Linguine with White Clam Sauce
from Am. Heart Assn. Cookbook
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 8-oz. bottle clam juice
8 oz. linguine
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. flour
2 6.5 oz. cans minced clams, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine wine and clam juice. Boil, uncovered, until mixture is reduced to 1 1/4 cups. Cook linguine according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and set aside. Pour olive oil into a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté 2 more minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in hot clam juice mixture and stir until thickened. Add drained clams and parsley. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly, or until clams are thoroughly heated. Divide pasta into four equal portions. Spoon sauce over pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings
Friday, August 17, 2007
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, unsalted, room temp
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C milk
Line muffin pan with baking cups. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl and add vanilla. Alternate adding flour and milk to butter mixture. Pour into cups, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Makes 1 dozen. Allow to cool.
Hint of Mocha Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs of milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp instant espresso
Cream butter sugar and cocoa. Add milk, vanilla and espresso mix well. Add more milk or powdered sugar if consistency is to dry or wet respectively.