Tuesday, December 30, 2014

somehow i found a way to keep me warm

It. Is. Cold.

It's puffy-coat, put-another-log-on-the-fire, bring-on-the-braising type of weather, and no, I'm no longer in Upstate New York. But I can't really complain if the braise in question is this stunning one involving duck legs, port and cherries.

We didn't get out of LAX until 1:00a last night, so when we decided to host dinner for my dear friend Casey's birthday, time was already against me - there was no time to let the ducks marinate in the spice rub, or let the cherries plump up in port overnight. Luckily, I don't think the seasoning of the duck suffered at all, and the cherries had plenty of time to be restored to boozy, juicy glory while the duck was being seared.

Two hours in the oven courtesy of Le Creuset made the duck incredibly tender, but the end roast/broil meant you didn't have to sacrifice any of the crispy duck skin you get with duck confit. And, I have to say, this method is way safer than trying to cook with hot duck fat.

I was originally going to just make a salad of raw Brussels sprouts and kale to accompany it, but realized I didn't have a starch, and then realized that my frozen kale wasn't going to be terribly attractive in a raw salad, so I cooked up some black rice, quickly sautéed both Brussels and kale in some of duck fat degreased from the braising sauce, and had a really lovely, fresh-tasting, but still satisfying foil to the rich duck.

Duck Braised in Port + Cherries with Warm Black Rice-Brussels Sprouts-Kale Salad
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 4-6

4 lbs. duck legs
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground allspice
1 t. dried thyme
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. dried Bing cherries
1 c. tawny port
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 c. vegetable stock
1 c. dry black rice
1 c. shredded Brussels sprouts
1 c. sliced kale
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim the duck legs of as much excess fat as you can without cutting into the skin of the meat. Collect the fat to render at another time, or discard.

2. Combine the coriander, pepper, allspice, thyme and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle the spice mixture all over the duck legs and rub so the seasonings adhere. Arrange the duck legs in a single layer in a baking dish, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

3. In a small bowl, pour the port over the cherries. Set aside to plump overnight.

4. The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

5. Pat the surface of the duck dry using paper towels, being careful not to wipe off the spices. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, but not scorching, add as many duck pieces, skin-side down, as will fit without crowding. Sear the duck, without disturbing, until the skin is crisp and taut, about 4-6 minutes. Lift one edge with tongs to peek to see that the skin is crisp before turning. Pan-fry the other side just until spots of brown appear, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer the duck to a Dutch oven. If your skillet did not fit all the duck, pour off the excess fat, and repeat with the remaining duck legs. Reserve 2 t. of the duck fat, and discard the rest. Remove any black specks from the skillet with a damp paper towel.

6. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the reserved 2 t. of duck fat and the shallot, and sauté until the shallot begins to soften, 1-2 minutes. Add the cherries and their soaking liquid, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer to reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and stock, and reduce again by half, another 5 minutes.

7. Pour the reduced port-stock mixture over the duck legs. Cover with parchment paper, pressing down on the paper so it nearly touches the duck and extends over the sides of the pan by about an inch. Cover with a tight lid. Slide into the middle of the oven to braise at a gentle simmer. After 1 hour, turn the duck legs with tongs. Continue braising gently until the duck is fork-tender and pulling away from the bone, another hour or so.

8. Meanwhile, bring the black rice and 1 3/4 c. of water to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 35-45 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork, and set aside, covered.

9. Remove the duck from the oven, and, with tongs, arrange the legs skin side up on a sheet pan. Increase the oven heat to 475 degrees.

10. Degrease the sauce left in the Dutch oven as much as possible, and then set it over medium-high heat and simmer rapidly until reduced to a syrupy sauce, about 3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and set aside.

11. Once the oven has reached 475 degrees, slide the pan of duck legs onto a rack in the upper part of the oven, and roar until the skin on top is crispy and sizzling, 8 to 10 minutes.

12. Meanwhile, in the cast iron pan, quickly sauté the Brussels sprouts and kale. Add the black rice, and toss to combine. When the duck is done, place them it on the bed of vegetables and rice and serve, with the port-cherry sauce on the side.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

home for the holidays

Home sweet potato. I've just landed back on Los Angeles soil after 7 weeks away, and the only thing I could think of was how quickly I could get back to my kitchen. I was positively aching to peel, chop, roast, mash, whisk, fold, bake, whip, frost.

But first, emails. While I caught up from being disconnected on a 12-hour flight, Matty got groceries, we welcomed me back with breakfast burritos and pizza, and then I got to making this Sweet Potato Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting for an early Christmas dinner with my grandparents.

Some of it may be that I was so happy to be back working in the kitchen again, but I thought everything about this cake was perfect. The syrup that cooks down from the sweet potatoes is absolutely divine. Once I roasted the full 2 1/2 lbs., I had about 4 cups of puree, and could easily have served half of the mash as a dinner side in addition to using the other half for the cake. Or, I could make another cake.

I subbed in walnut oil for vegetable oil just to make things a little more interesting, and I don't like allspice, so I left it out, but otherwise, I followed the recipe as directed.

Blame the rust, but I had a slight problem once I got to the sugar syrup for the frosting. I boiled it way past a syrupy consistency, so once it hit the egg whites, it kind of just seized up and left me with a couple nuggets of ginger-y candy at the bottom of the mixer bowl. I would have much preferred to have just boiled the syrup until the sugar dissolved, and then allowed that to mix with the whipped egg whites to better distribute the spicy sweetness.

Now, this makes a very tall cake, so plan accordingly. Consider splitting it for a layer cake, using some of that deliciously fluffy frosting between the layers as well. I love a sheet cake, so I may just halve the recipe next time for a thinner cake, or use the recipe as is in a larger pan for a larger gathering.

(And I am literally sitting here, all of a sudden super-mad at myself for not thinking of making the leftover frosting into meringues or a pavlova. I think my honorary Aussie title has just been stripped. I can only hope it's still good when I'm back from the East Coast next week).

It was a big hit with the fam, who are folks who prefer a less-sweet dessert, but that's not to say the cake wasn't, at the same time, quite rich. The sweet potatoes add substance without weighing the cake down or making the flavor too cloying. Couple that with traditional spices of the holidays, and you have an alternative for the usual over-decadence that happens at this time of year, without sacrificing any of the satisfaction that can only come from capping off a big dinner with an equally big dessert.

Sweet Potato Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes one 9x13 cake

For the sweet potatoes:
2 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 c. orange juice
4 T. butter, melted
1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. bourbon
1/4 t. salt

For the cake:
3 c. flour
1 T. orange zest
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 T. orange juice
1 1/2 c. walnut oil
1/4 c. bourbon
2 t. vanilla extract

For the frosting:
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 c. bourbon
2 T. light corn syrup
6 large egg whites
1/4 t. salt

1: For the sweet potatoes: Adjust the oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the sweet potato slices in a foil-lined 9x13 baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, melted butter, brown sugar, bourbon, and salt. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes, and bake until they’re tender and syrupy, about 1 hour, stirring to coat in liquid every 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

3. Transfer the sweet potatoes and any syrup to the food processor, and process until smooth. Measure out 2 cups, and reserve the rest for another use.

4. For the cake: Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish with butter.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt.

6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, brown sugar, and eggs on medium speed until thickened and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add the orange juice, oil, bourbon, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sweet potatoes. Mix just until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack, and cool completely in the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

8. For the toasted marshmallow frosting: Combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, bourbon, and corn syrup in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.

9. While the syrup boils, place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stander mixer, and beat with the whisk attachment on medium-low speed until whites begin to loosen and froth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat whites until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.

10. With the mixer running on medium-high speed, slowly and carefully add the syrup to the egg whites. Beat until outside of bowl is cool to the touch and whites are thick and glossy, about 7 minutes.

11. Spread the frosting on the cooled cake with a spatula, pulling up on meringue to create decorative peaks. Torch meringue to lightly toast. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

slow down

December 1st. It's only been 4 days since Thanksgiving. I've just finished reading through "101 Ways to Use Pumpkin," and I just saw a Tweet with a "Best of 2014" list. Give me a break. Can I at least enjoy Christmas for half a second before you make me think of 2015? Mariah hasn't even gotten through the first verse of "All I Want For Christmas" yet. Everybody, calm down.

So to protest all holidays ever, and the feeling that I'm being rushed into my future, I give you lovely, unrushed, non-seasonal Uni Risotto. Although of course, I feel any day with uni is a holiday, and this might be a nice, non-traditional twist to your Feast of Seven Fishes, so the holidays are probably winning anyway. They always do.

If you love uni, you will love this risotto. It's not for the faint of heart - 4 whole oz. of uni really comes right through in this recipe. Serve with lots of vegetables on the side - an assertive salad, or the roasted broccoli-cauliflower combo I have here would be perfect.

Uni Risotto
slightly adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
serves 4

4 oz. uni
2 T. heavy cream
1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. Arborio rice
2/3 c. dry white wine
4 c. clam juice
salt and pepper, to taste
toasted and shredded nori, for garnish

1. Place uni, cream and butter into a food processor, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the shallots, sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and rice, and continue to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until a small white dot remains in the center of each grain of rice.

3. Deglaze pan with wine and stir. Allow almost all the liquid to evaporate then reduce the heat to medium and add a ladle of clam juice, stirring frequently. Each time the liquid evaporates, add another ladle of stock, and continue to stir. Repeat until the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the uni puree, followed by the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter (for a glossy finish), until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Divide risotto into portions and top with shredded nori. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the first and the last

If I see one more list of "Last-Minute Turkey Day Recipes," or "Ways To Out-Pinterest Your Friends' Dining Tables On Thanksgiving," or "387 Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Thanksgiving," I will absolutely burst into tears. I should probably quit the Internet for the next week.

It's true I won't be home for Thanksgiving this year, and it's true that a small part of me is devastated. I think it's the part of me that likes to show off a little, or maybe the part of me that's a bit of a control freak, because after all, Thanksgiving for me is basically half a year of Excel sheets and test recipes. The food and family bit is just a nice bonus.

You won't find any Thanksgiving ideas here. Well, maybe the corn salad. Or the green onion pasta. But that wasn't the intention. If I can't tell you about my Thanksgiving feast in a week, I will tell you about the one feast I was able to have - what Matty and I affectionately called "The First and Last Barbecue of the Summer."

It was basically a day to make up for a summer of being on the road, watching football with our nearest and dearest. So it turned into a DAY.

First up, Blueberry Cake Donut Bars. They sound good and taste even better, but let's be honest that if you're baking something in the oven, it by definition cannot be a donut. Even if you have one of them cute donut pans. You just made a circle muffin with a hole in it.

But these Blueberry Cake Donut Bars are quite good - like a lovely, fruity coffee cake. Highly recommended. In fact, it was so good, I skipped making an extra dessert by doubling the recipe and using it to bookend our meal.

Blueberry Cake Donut Bars
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 40

For the donut bars:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. blueberries

For the buttermilk glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. buttermilk
1/3 c. whole milk

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well-combined. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla.

2. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture alternately, in 2 or 3 additions each. Mix until just combined. Fold in the blueberries.

3. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9x9-inch cake pan, then bake in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into 8 bars.

4. To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, buttermilk, and milk together to combine. Make sure the glaze is runny. Add additional milk, 1 T. at a time, if needed. Place the bars on a wire rack and pour the glaze over top. Let it set completely before serving.

We did have vegetables, I promise. I lovely tray full of green goodness. You pick your favorites - I had asparagus, celery (actually, not my favorite at all, but seemed obligatory), sugar snap peas and Persian cucumbers. 

To go with the crudite were a Chickpea + Chive Mash and Cashew Cheese. Originally, the mash was meant to be a warm dish, a bit polenta-like, topped with roasted vegetables, but when I tasted the mixture from the food processor, it seemed more useful as a fancy hummus.

And when the Cashew Cheese turned out to be the dip of my dreams, I pulled out my favorite serving dish (I love compartments), and had a nice little appetizer for the game-watch.

Chickpea + Chive Mash
slightly adapted from Dolly and Oatmeal
makes about 2 cups

1 c. drained, canned chickpeas
1/4 c. fresh chives
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 T. water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Cashew Cheese
slightly adapted from Choosing Raw
makes about 2 cups

2 c. raw cashews, soaked 2 hours or overnight in water
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 c. lemon juice
3 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. tightly packed basil

1. Drain cashews and rinse them. Add the drained cashews to the food processor along with the salt, lemon, and nutritional yeast. Pulse to combine.

2. Let the motor run, and drizzle water in, stopping a few times to scrape the bowl down. Keep blending till the cheese has the consistency of a light cream cheese or whipped ricotta. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Serve immediately.

So let's see - sweets, check. Veggies, check. Carbs are next. And this Pasta with Green Onion Sauce quickly became my favorite dish of the night. It's like an elevated pasta salad, and is equally good warm, cold or at room temperature. Really, the perfect potluck/game-watch side.

I don't know what can of voodoo you need to do to turn the green onions into a puree, but I stopped fighting it, and the added texture actually improved the dish for both the mouth and the eyes. If the apple is too weird for you, leave it out, but it was nice to have a little sweetness to go with the bite of the onions.

Pasta with Green Onion Sauce
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 8

1 lb. of your favorite pasta shape
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. thinly sliced green onions
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
zest and juice of one lemon
2 oz. grated Parmesan
4 c. arugula
1 large apple, diced

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Set aside at least 1/2 c. of pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside.

2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add most of the green onions, all of the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften, and the garlic begins to take on some color, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.

3. Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the green onion mixture along with 3/4 t. salt, 1/4 t. black pepper, zest of the lemon, half the lemon juice, and the reserved pasta water. Puree and taste. The green onion flavor should be assertive. Stir in the Parmesan.

4. Combine the macaroni with the green onion sauce in a large bowl. Toss well. Add the arugula and most of the apple and toss again. Taste, and add more pepper, salt, or lemon juice if needed. Serve topped with the remaining apple and green onion.

Here's that possible Thanksgiving contribution - a lovely salad of some of my very favorite things: corn, coconut and almonds. If your tastebuds don't know the genius of this combination, please don't wait until Thanksgiving to find out. Make this immediately. It's fresh and light, with just the right amount of richness from the coconut and almonds.

Coconut Corn Salad
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 8

3 T. butter
5 ears of corn, shucked
salt, to taste
3 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 c. big coconut flakes, well toasted
1 c. sliced almonds, well toasted
3 T. chopped red onions
big squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, and stir well - you want all the corn to be coated. Cook for just a minute, until the corn looses its raw edge, stir in half the thyme, and then transfer the corn to a large serving bowl.

2. Just before you're ready to serve, add most of the coconut flakes, most of the almonds, the rest of the thyme, red onions, and citrus juice. Stir well. Taste, season with more salt, to taste, and serve topped with the remaining coconut and almonds, and more juice, if needed.

And last, and also kind of least, an avocado chocolate pudding that is so delicious as pudding, but somehow didn't manage to translate into pie, strawberry trim be damned. While I have plenty of vegan friends, my game-watch bunch is decidedly un-vegan, and I got a lot of, "There's what in it?," and a couple of, "Does that taste good?" No, you assholes. I'm poisoning you with fake chocolate pudding.

Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme. Forgive me - by that time, the Cowboys had well lost, and I really wasn't having anybody talking back to my pudding pie.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding Pie
inspired by The Iron You
makes one 9-inch pie

For the pudding:
2 very ripe avocados
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3 T. coconut oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground chia seeds

1 9-inch Oreo cookie pie crust

1. Combine all the filling ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and silky.

2. Pour the pudding into the pie crust, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

So, in case it's another month before I post, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and have extra stuffing for me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

all the sugar you'll ever need

This Cinnamon Bun Bread is so easy to make, it's almost a crime. All of the ingredients are standard pantry items, so it can be whipped up any time, in little to no time.

Unless, of course, you're me, and you're home from tour for 48 hours, and the boys who live in your house have somehow managed to survive the last two weeks without almond milk or yeast.

So, I improvised. Instead of regular (or almond) milk, I used sweetened condensed milk. And instead of measuring out 4 t. of yeast, I dumped in two entire packs and prayed. Why the prayer? Because one of the packs may have expired last year.

But it's all fine. Not sure what an actual fresh pack would have been able to do since the rise time is so short, but worth trying again and doing it right.

I cut down the sugar because I was using sweetened condensed milk, but I still thought that we all would have been fine with just half of the topping sprinkled on - the full amount was entirely too sweet for our palates. The halved topping amount is below. If you want to make sure the original recipe is too sweet for you, too, just double the topping ingredients.

Cinnamon Bun Bread
slightly adapted from Baking Bites
serves 9

For the bread:
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
4 t. active dry or rapid rise yeast
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
3 T. vegetable oil
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the topping:
1 1/2 T. butter, room temperature
6 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.

3. Heat the condensed milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.

4. While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl using a fork until all the butter has been incorporated into the sugar and mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and press the mixture down into the dough with your fingertips.

5. Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Cool until the sugar has stopped bubbling.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

gone 'til november

These Egg-Stuffed Soft Pretzels may be my greatest accomplishment yet. Sadly, they were for a very bittersweet brunch - meeting up with my best bud Paul to hand over the USC football season tickets I won't be able to use this fall.

It all started with a Huffington Post article. Paul is our soft pretzel guru for game watches, and I asked him sweetly to make me everything on that list if I ever saw him again. Turns out we were able to get together for brunch today, so I volunteered to host just to get a little cooking fix. Pretzels were the obvious answer, but since nothing breakfast-savory made the list, I had to go on a little Pinterest/Tastespotting/Google spree.

I'm thankful I didn't overachieve by also trying to make breakfast dessert (I'm sorry, but did you say Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels?) because these turned out to be quite time-consuming. Luckily, that was an excuse to chat and hang with Paul longer, but between rolling out the dough, assembling the filling, rolling it back up (neatly), giving them a baking soda bath, etc., it's not something you want to be making a lot of in one go.

All the effort was 100% worth it. I mean, I love soft pretzels, so I'm not a hard sell, but these were pretty spectacular. Think breakfast burrito, but with more carbs. How can you go wrong? I'm looking at you, breakfast tailgates (for other people).

Egg-Stuffed Soft Pretzels
slightly adapted from Yes to Yolks
serves 6

For the dough:
3/4 c. warm water
2 T. sugar
1 rounded t. active dry yeast
1 t. salt
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. butter, melted
1 egg yolk, for brushing on formed pretzels
salt for sprinkling on top

For the soaking liquid:
2 c. boiling water
1/4 c. baking soda

For the filling:
6 eggs scrambled with your choice of add-ons

1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and water in a small mixing cup. Allow to sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the soaking liquid by adding the baking soda to the boiling water in a 9x9 pan, mix well, and allow to cool.

2. Combine the remaining dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly stream in the yeast mixture and the melted butter. Mix with the dough hook attachment until a smooth ball forms, about 1 minute. Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes. Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 45-60 minutes. The dough should double in size.

3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Scramble the eggs with your choice of add-ons (I used peppers and bacon once, and just kale another time - with bacon on the side for the non-vegetarians). Form an assembly line with your fillings.

5. Divide the risen dough into 6 equal pieces. Flatten each piece of dough into an oval a little under 1/4-inch thick. On each dough piece, place a few tablespoons of scrambled eggs. Fold the edges over the fillings, pinching to seal. Gently roll the filled pretzel on the counter to seal the closure. Continue forming the pretzels.

6. Add the formed pretzels to the pan of cooled baking soda water. Allow them to sit in the water for 2 minutes, flipping them once. Remove from liquid and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with salt.

7. Bake the pretzels for 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Enjoy warm.

Friday, August 15, 2014

keep chuggin' along

Operation: Bell Pepper continues for tonight's dinner. I only got rid of two more - not every dinner can take up a dozen. I'm really starting to worry about what happens when I leave. He might have to open up a stand at the farmers market.

One pepper went into this Coconut Shrimp Ceviche - a dish that almost didn't happen. For some reason, it took forever for the shrimp to "cook" - my guess is that mixing the lime juice and coconut milk together lowered the acidity, thereby leaving the shrimp still a little more raw than I would have liked. Luckily, it was really great quality shrimp, and we like sashimi. In future, though, I would definitely just marinate the shrimp in pure lime juice until it was cooked, and then toss in everything else afterwards.

Coconut Shrimp Ceviche
slightly adapted from My Columbian Recipes
serves 4

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, cut into thirds
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, mix together the shrimp and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and opaque all the way through.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly to combine. Serve cold.

I served it on top of this delightful Mango Slaw with Cashews + Mint. If I were a little less afraid of slicing my digits off whenever I peel/slice a mango, I would make this all the time. I'd go way heavier on both the cashews and the mint, but that's your call.

Mango Slaw with Cashews + Mint
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 8

2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
1 lb. Napa cabbage, sliced very thinly
1 bell pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. fresh lime juice, from about two limes
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha, to taste
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. toasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1. Toss mangoes, cabbage, bell pepper, and onion in a large bowl. Add the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Sriracha, and toss to thoroughly combine.

2. Before serving, toss with mint leaves and sprinkle with cashews. Garnish with additional Sriracha, if desired.

And finally, for dessert - no, not bell peppers - an Apricot Buttermilk Pie that makes me exceedingly happy. It takes dried apricots, so you can have it year-round. Wonderful news for the traveler who will never be in the kitchen when her favorite stone fruits are in season.

I do wish the texture was a bit smoother. Perhaps, this is a job for the blender rather than the food processor. Will try again and report back.

Apricot Buttermilk Pie
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
8 oz. dried apricots
1/2 c. hot water
2 T. Maker's Mark
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
8 T. butter, melted until browned
1 c. buttermilk
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. pure vanilla extract

For the crust:
8 sheets phyllo dough
baking spray

1. Place the dried apricots in a small bowl. Pour hot water and bourbon over the apricots, and let sit for 5 minutes. Place the apricots (water and bourbon included) into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process for about 3 minutes until smooth. Set aside.

2. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, and whisk until thick and well combined. Add flour and salt, and whisk to combine. Add butter, and stir to incorporate. Add buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth. Fold the apricots into the pie filling. Set aside.

3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Working quickly to prevent the phyllo sheets from drying out, alternate 8 sheets with a spritz of cooking spray, turning each sheet 45 degrees to make a fairly even border. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pie is puffed up and the center no longer jiggles in waves. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until ready to serve.