Monday, April 27, 2015

Roasted Rainbow Carrots

Rainbow carrots have been popping up all over the place! I was trying to figure out what to do with the bunch in my fridge and soup was my first thought. However, I wanted to do something to highlight the beautiful colors of these veggies. If you don't have rainbow carrots at your market, you can of course use regular carrots. All you need is carrots, olive oil, salt and pepper. And maybe a fresh herb (parsley, mint, thyme or marjoram) to sprinkle over the top.

Preheat the oven to 400.

If the tops are on, remove most of them and make pesto with the leaves, leaving a little stem at the top of each carrot. (If the carrots are a little older and the stems are turning brown or black, just cut off the tops.

Slice the carrots lengthwise, cutting smaller carrots in half and bigger carrots in quarters.

Pile the carrots on a baking sheet. I've lined mine with foil to make cleanup easier 'cause I'm already behind on the dishes.

Drizzle olive oil (1-3 Tbsps depending on how many carrots, if you like to measure) over them and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roll the carrots around with your hands to coat them evenly.

Spread out the carrots on the pan before putting them in the oven.

Roast them for 15-25 minutes, depending on how thick they are and how soft you want them. The ends will start to curl up a little more when they're getting close. Test with a fork. Place them on a platter and sprinkle some fresh herbs or carrot leaves on top for flavor and color.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Strawberry Cornmeal Shortcakes with Dulce De Leche Whipped Cream

Last weekend I got my first good strawberries of the season, and I've been dreaming of recipes for them ever since. Dominating my thoughts were memories of Bisquick biscuit shortcake from childhood, served with whipped cream at my dad's or cold milk at my mom's in the style of her Pennsylvania Dutch mother's family. I decided to add some Dulce de Leche just to make it even more special. 

It's still a bit early here for the really fragrant, sweet, soft strawberries, but I've worked out this recipe so I'll be ready for them! No Bisquick here, though you could certainly use it if you like. The addition of cornmeal makes them reminiscent of shortbread as well as shortcake, but you can swap that out for more flour if you don't like the texture. 

Rinse well one pound of strawberries

Remove the stem and hull with a paring knife. You don't need to cut out all the white, just the tougher part. 

Slice the berries, removing any bruised, moldy or generally yucky bits. 

Toss the sliced berries with 1 Tbsp orange liqueur and 1-2 Tbsp sugar (1 if they're very sweet, 2 if they're still quite tart). You could use cognac, kirsch, or even water if you don't have orange liqueur. I happen to have a couple of quarts of homemade on hand ;)

Set them aside in the fridge or at room temp for 1 hour. 

Next, the shortcakes:

Preheat the oven to 450. 

Mix 1 1/4 c all purpose flour, 1/2 c cornmeal, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 c raw sugar (regular sugar is also fine) in a medium bowl. 

Stir with a whisk or a spoon to combine. 

Cut 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (3/4 stick) into fine slices or tiny cubes. Make sure it's cold! If it's not, stick it back in the fridge for a bit. 

Mix into the flour mixture with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the flour looks a bit damp. It's OK if there are some small pieces left. 

Beat 1 egg lightly and stir into 2/3 cup heavy cream. 

Stir cream mixture into flour mixture until just combined and dough just comes together. 

Turn dough out onto a floured board or counter, gently knead once or twice, and pat into a 1/2 in thick rectangle. 

Cut into circles with a 2 3/4 in biscuit cutter or other similarly sized object - a frozen orange juice can, a straight-sided glass...based on the recipes I looked at to merge into this one I should have had 6, but I ended up with 8 after I put the scraps together and cut those out, as well. This just means more servings to share! Good thing I have somewhere to take some tomorrow...

Brush the tops of the biscuits/shortcakes with about 2 more Tbsp cream and sprinkle with sugar

Bake at 450 for 15-18 minutes, until they're browning on the edges and cracking on top. Remove and cool on a wire rack. 

Whip the cream:

Pour the rest of the pint container of cream into a bowl with 1 Tbsp sugar.

Start beating with a hand mixer or stand mixer balloon whip on medium (or with a whisk if you're really badass) until it's frothy, then turn up to highest speed.

When you can see that it's stiffening, start checking to see if it's ready by stopping and pulling out the beater periodically. If the peak where you pull out the beater flops over at the top, it's at the soft peak stage. Keep going until you get to the stiff peak stage like this pic, where the peak sticking up no longer flops over. Be careful not to go past this point, or you'll have butter. Butter is also yummy, but having to run out for more cream when you're this far along is a real bummer. Or hella bad. Whatever the kids are saying these days.

Put 1/2 to 2/3 cup prepared dulce de leche into a small bowl.

Put about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the bowl with the dulce de leche and gently fold in with a rubber or silicone scraper until it's a consistent color.

To "fold", stir while scraping up from the bottom and rotating the bowl 1/4 turn for each stir.

Try to resist the temptation to park yourself in front of the TV with the rest of the dulce de leche and a big spoon. It's super yummy on toast for an Argentine style breakfast. A crazy delicious variation is to take OK-NAK crackers and spread them with a little butter and then some dulce de leche. 

Add the contents of the small bowl back to the big bowl and fold into the rest of the whipped cream.

Slice the shortcakes in half lengthwise. Spoon some dulce de leche on the bottom half.

Spoon some of the berries and whipped cream over the bottom, then put the top half over the cream.

Put more berries and cream on top if you have any left when you've filled all the cakes. I hope you enjoy them!

To print 5x7 recipe card: right click image to save to your computer or cloud drive. Print jpg from your computer. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mashed Potato-Topped Chicken Asparagus Mushroom Stew

It's a beautiful spring weekend and I want to make something fresh and lighter in calories but still delightfully comforting when I zap the leftovers for lunch between classes this week. This stew is very much hitting the spot. I was going to top it with biscuits, but I had these beautiful gold potatoes I needed to use up. 

I've indulged in the pesto bruschetta one too many times in the last month! The pesto is addictive and good bread is so hard to stop eating...oy. Anyway, it's time to double up on the veggies and the veggies are beautiful right now! This is just a quarter of the organic section of the legendary Berkeley Bowl, where there is so much produce in the regular section that you can smell the perfume of whatever is in season. Alas, carrots and radishes aren't so great while recovering from dental work, but I'll be back at those later in the week. 

Some would call this dish a pot pie, and it's that type of delicious. The use of mushrooms and asparagus instead of peas and potatoes lightens it up (as does not going overboard on butter in the potatoes). To make it vegetarian, you could skip the chicken and add white beans to the sauteed vegetables. 

Make the stew:
Wash and pat dry 2 smallish leeks and 3/4 lb each gold potatoes, asparagus and mushrooms. 

Different people have different ideas about how to clean mushrooms. Some say to just brush them, but I'm in the Jacques Pepin camp. "Of course you wash them. They're dirty!" Don't use vegetable soap, and don't let them sit in the water or they'll soak too much of it up. 

Vegetarians, avert your eyes and scroll down 2 pics. 

Cut 1 to 1.25 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breast, but thighs are tastier) into slightly larger than bite-size pieces, removing any gristle or tendony bits. Sprinkle the pieces with salt, pepper and a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch. Wash the knife and change to a clean cutting board before cutting the veg. 

Heat 1.5 Tbsp olive oil in a not-nonstick pan over medium high. If you only have non-stick, that'll do too, but you'll probably get less browning. Also, if you use non-stick, be careful to use plastic or silicone tools! When it's good and hot, put the chicken in the pan so the pieces aren't touching and quickly brown on at least two sides.  If they're touching, they'll steam before they brown.

Depending on the size of your pan, you might have to do this in two batches. If you're really in a hurry, use two pans. I pushed it a little this time, so the 12 in. pan was a touch crowded and not quite hot enough. They didn't brown evenly, but it's ok, just not quite as flavorful as it could be. Try not to cook the chicken all the way through yet. 

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Don't wipe out the pan unless you've burnt something. Use all the little brown bits for flavor. 

OK, vegetarians, you can tune back in now. 

Slice the white and light green of two smallish leeks, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Save the darker parts, the potato peels and the mushroom stems to make veggie broth. I'm thinking lentil soup for Tuesday...

Add leeks to the pan with 1 tsp more olive oil and saute over medium until soft, about 5 minutes. Don't brown them! 

Clean and slice the mushrooms while the leeks soften. Push to the side of the pan and start adding 1 lb sliced mushrooms. 

As far as cooking mushrooms goes, some will insist that you must put a tiny amount of mushroom slices at a time into the pan until each slice releases enough of its juices to turn a deep brown. This is kind of relaxing if you've got all day, kind of exhausting if you don't. 

Some just dump them all into the pan at once, because this way, they release their juices into the stew. This is still tasty, but doesn't quite have as much depth of flavor. 

I tend to land somewhere in the middle. If I have time, I'll do them in medium batches, pushing the brownish ones to the side to keep cooking together. If not, in they all go! This time I didn't quite cook them long enough, so there was too much liquid in the pan.

If the brownish stuff on the bottom of the pan starts to look too brown during this stage, add a little of the 1/2 cup dry white wine or 1 cup chicken broth early. 

When the mushrooms have cooked down quite a bit, 5 minutes or more, add the chicken back to the pan with 1/2 cup white wine. Stir everything around, scraping up any brownish bits from the bottom of the pan. Let cook a few minutes until the wine reduces a touch. 

While the wine reduces, remove the tough bottom parts of the asparagus spears by bending each piece until it breaks naturally. Wash the asparagus and cut into pieces or slices. 

If you use thin asparagus like this, put it in just in the last couple of minutes. Thicker asparagus is better for a stew, but this was a lot cheaper this week ;)

When the wine has reduced, add the asparagus and cook for about a minute, then add 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth. Simmer for about 5 more minutes, then put 2 Tbsps of the hot broth into a cup with 2 more tablespoons flour or cornstarch. Mix well and put back into the pot. Stir and cook one or two more minutes, then turn off heat. 

Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in 1-2 Tbsp minced parsley if you like, or a little lemon zest. 

You can eat the stew just as is, or top it with mashed potatoes! If doing the potatoes, preheat the oven to 400. 

Peel the potatoes, reserving the nice bits of the peels with the asparagus stems and leek greens for tomorrow's broth. Boil until fork tender and drain. 

Warm 1 Tbsp butter and 1/3 cup milk in a pot, then mash the potatoes in the pot with the butter and milk. I got fancy and dug out my ricer 'cause it makes fluffy potatoes. Add a little more milk if it needs it, and stir in 1-2 Tbsp snipped fresh chives. 

Pour the stew into a 9 x 9 x 2 in. pan and scoop the mashed potatoes on top with an ice cream scoop. You could spread it, too, but the scoops help me with portion control!

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes get golden bits on top. 

To print recipe card (8x10), right click on image to save. Print from your hard drive. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Madeleines

Adapted from another of my favorite cookbooks, Death by Chocolate Cakes (a fun book to read no matter how many of the recipes you use), these pistachio Madeleines dipped in dark chocolate are So. Incredibly. Good. Today I was with my book club for brunch and other friends for card games in the afternoon, and these were perfect for both occasions. People don't want to eat a whole piece of cake, but they'll have a couple of tiny ones!

Recipe card image at bottom - makes 24 Madeleines. 

Melt the 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter. 

While the butter cools to room temp, roughly chop the pistachios. Set aside about 1 1/2 Tbsp of the more finely chopped pieces for dipping later. 

Prepare two Madeleine tins with more butter and some flour. 

Put a sifter onto a piece of wax or parchment paper. Scoop  3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 tsp salt into the sifter and sift together onto the paper.  No sifter? Use a strainer, or skip it and just mix the flour and salt with a whisk. 

Later you'll use the parchment paper to pour the flour directly into the egg mixture. 

Crack three eggs into a clear container, either a glass measuring cup or a plastic takeout thingy, whatever you've got that you can see through. If you find any bits of shell, pull them out with a spoon. Calcium is good and all, but it's the wrong kind of crunch :-)

Mix the eggs with 2/3 cup raw sugar until lightened in color and a bit fluffy.

Carefully lift the paper holding the flour and roll it into a kind of tube. You'll use the paper to put the flour in the mixer. It was tough to get a good pic without an assistant!

With the mixer on the lowest setting, slowly pour the flour into the egg mixture. Stop the mixture, scrape down the sides, and mix just 30 seconds more or so until all combined. 

Repeat the above steps with the melted butter, using the pan or bowl instead of the paper. 

Add 1 tsp vanilla to the batter and mix until just combined. 

Stir in the pistachios by hand. 

I goofed and dumped them both in at the same time. Oops!

Spoon the batter into the prepared tins, about 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp per shell. 

Put in the 350 degree oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick - insert it and pull it out. If it comes out clean, the Madeleines are done. 

If they get this brown on the edges, they definitely need to come out of the oven. My oven was a little too hot. 

Let them cool in the pan for about 3-5 minutes before removing. If they stick a little, use a spoon to gently nudge them out from the end. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

When they're cool, melt 4 oz bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (0n medium in 30 second increments). Set a wire rack over another piece of wax or parchment paper. 

Dip one end of each Madeleine in the chocolate and then in the pistachios. Let cool completely if you can! 

To print recipe, right click on image and save. Print from your computer.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Arancello (like Limoncello, but with oranges) Steps One and Two

A few years ago, sipping bubbly under a friend's backyard lemon tree on a lovely Berkeley day, I was inspired by another of the group to try making Limoncello. It's absolutely amazing when made with the Meyer lemons from that tree. After a couple of batches of that, I wondered if the red-tinged peel of blood oranges would make the liqueur a lovely pink color. They didn't, but they made a liqueur that was even more delicious. Turns out, blood oranges are the traditional fruit used to make Arancello. The process is super simple, just a bit time-consuming. If you can take the time, though, it keeps for a really long time so you'll have lovely hostess and holiday gifts on hand, as well as a lovely bottle or two to keep for yourself. 

Blood oranges are usually in season from January until March, so that's the time to start a batch. If it's not that time of year, or you're in a part of the country where you can't find them, you can use any kind of orange or go with lemons. Lucky for me, the season seems to be longer this year. 

Traditionally, each step takes 40 days. I've always done about a month. Earlier this year, I tried a week for the first step and I didn't like the results, since I know how good it is when you let it be for longer!

Here's what you need for step one:

  • 10-12 small to medium blood oranges, washed well (I found some extra large, extra red ones, so I used about 9. You could also use lemons, since they're available year round). 
  • 1.5 liters good but not crazy-expensive vodka. This is two regular bottles or one large one. (You can also use 100 proof vodka or a combination of vodka and grain alcohol. This makes it nice and boozy.*)
  • 1 gallon jar or two (two is better for the transition to step 2 and step 3. I have a bunch of jars that are supposed to be 3 liters each and should fit this, but they seem to be a little shy of that.)
*I live in CA, where liquor laws dictate that grain alcohol sold is only 150 proof. If you live in a state where it's 190 proof, you may want to mix it with regular 80 proof vodka rather than 100 proof. 

Remove the zest (the orange part of the peel) from the oranges. You can do this with a regular vegetable peeler as in the top of the photo, just make sure you don't get any of the bitter white pith into the booze.

I've also used a citrus zester instead, the thingy below. I might not know such a thing existed if my mom didn't love giving me small tools like this from the kitchen shop to see if I know what they are! This is also why I own a brownie spatula. 

The zester takes away less pith than the peeler, and it seems like the smaller pieces of zest should give up the flavor all the faster, no? I think it leaves quite a bit behind, though. 

This amount of white pith on the peel is just fine. Put this one right in the jar!

This amount of white pith on the peel is too much. If a piece looks like this, gently slide a paring knife under the white to remove it from the good stuff. 

Put the zest into the glass jar with the alcohol. Let sit for 1 month to 40 days, depending on your schedule and your level of patience.

You only need the zest, not the juice or pulp. Put the zested oranges in the fridge so they don't dry out too fast. Juice them or make smoothies with them. The season only lasts a couple of months, so enjoy them while you can! Blood orange margaritas, anyone?

Add the vodka to the jar with the peels. Close the jar and give it a swirl to make sure all the peels are getting exposed to the vodka. 

Set it in a cool, darkish place for a month to 40 days. 

Once a week, give the jar another swirl. 

This pic shows the change in color after the peels have been steeping for a month. It's now ready for step 2!

What you actually have at this step is blood orange vodka - also really yummy! You could just filter it to keep it there, or you can add the simple syrup to complete the arancello. 

Mix granulated sugar and water to make a simple syrup. Bring to a boil and simmer 2-5 minutes until the sugar is all dissolved. I usually use raw sugar as much as possible, but it will give the liqueur a more muddled, medicinal taste. Let cool to room temp before mixing with the alcohol. 

For 80 proof vodka, use 4 cups each. For 100 proof vodka, use 5 cups of each. For grain alcohol, use 6 cups each. 

Set up the second jar (or a couple of smaller jars) with a funnel and a damp coffee filter. You'll need just a few filters for this stage, replacing them when the dripping slows a lot or if a hole opens at the bottom. 

Remove the peels from the alcohol with a slotted spoon or a pair of kitchen tongs. Put them in a strainer over a bowl so the bowl will catch any alcohol that drips off. Pour that back into the jar. 

Pour the room-temp simple syrup into the vodka. I had -just- a little too much to fit into 1 three liter jar, so I was forced to get out a tester glass. Them's the breaks!

Set aside again for another month for the flavors to meld together and mellow out. 

With the 80 proof vodka, I'm not sure it'll need that second month, as it's pretty balanced already, but with the stronger alcohols it definitely will.