Thursday, July 30, 2015

summer sweetness

This is a lovely summer dessert. Nothing fancier or more elevated than a natural fruit jello, depending on how you end up garnishing it, but still hits the spot. This is the dessert you can still have when you want something sweet, but know that you probably shouldn't.

It's not jiggly - it's actually quite firm. If you're looking for something lighter, cut down on the cornstarch. And don't overdo it on the sugar. You want to taste the actual fruit. This would be equally delicious with other melon, or even something nice and tropical like mango.

Watermelon Pudding
from Food52
serves 8

4 c. watermelon juice (about 3 lbs. watermelon)
2/3 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. sugar, more to taste

1. Blend the watermelon pieces in a blender, and filter the juice through a sieve.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with about 1/2 cup of the juice, and mix until smooth, being sure there are no lumps of starch. In a wide pot, add this to the rest of the juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Add sugar and taste for sweetness (you can adjust by adding more but I don't recommend using more than 1 cup total). Cook for about 10 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon and a finger drawn through it leaves a line.

3. Pour into individual containers, and set in the refrigerator, 4 to 6 hours or until chilled and set.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

nice and airy

You have a sneaking suspicion that something is up with these muffins. They're not your regular banana muffins. There's a tiny bit of grit in there. Is this gluten-free, you ask? You don't trust gluten-free. It just doesn't taste right to you - you can always tell.

But then you start thinking about how this might be the softest, airiest, most delicious banana muffin you've ever had, and you eat it so fast it gives you the hiccups after. You know what I mean?

This is truly the best use of 3 over-ripe bananas I've ever come across. Totally amped up with coconut oil, peanut butter, honey and cinnamon, and everything breakfast (or a 4:00p tea time nibble, midnight snack...) should be.

A couple tricks:

- Just use one bowl, a fork, and some arm strength to mash and combine everything. No need to dirty up an electric mixer.

- Measure out the coconut oil first out of all of your liquid ingredients. Honey has never exited a Tablespoon quite so fast after you use it for oil first. Same with peanut butter.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
slightly adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
makes 12 muffins

3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 T. liquid coconut oil
1 T. honey
4 T. peanut butter
1 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
2 oz. dark chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the coconut oil, honey, peanut butter and vanilla extract, and mix until well combined. Add the eggs, and mix until combined. Add in coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; mix again until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and remove each muffin from the tin to let cool before serving.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

an apple a day

I am quite comfortable admitting that I don't like apple pie. But in taking a survey of my wedding guests to inform my pie-making decisions, apple pie was the 2:1 favorite over the runner-up, pecan pie (which I would take over apple any day of the week). There is just something about cooked apples I can't get into.

But, I am not here to disappoint my audience, so recipe-testing this weekend consisted of bringing 2 different pie recipes, in 4 different formats to a friend's barbecue.

I do have a hands-down preference, and it was the Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Pie that I decorated with hearts up above. It was wonderfully caramel-y, strongly cinnamon-y, and just delicious. 

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Pie

2 balls of your favorite pie dough

For the filling:
4-5 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. kosher salt
juice of half a lemon

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your apples and toss them with your sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and lemon juice. Set aside.

2. Generously flour a work surface, then roll out your favorite pie dough, large enough to fit inside of your pie dish. Cut off any excess dough, then use your fingers to crimp the edges of the dough around the dish. Pour your apple filling into the prepared pie crust. 

3. Roll out your next ball of dough. Make the top crust of your choice - rolled out for a full double crust, cut into strips for a lattice, or punched out into different shapes for a fun topping.

4. Place the pie in the oven, then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are bubbling. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving.

However, the experiment wasn't only for the filling. I also need to figure out if there were any better ways to transport pie than via 15-20 individual pie plates. I'm usually not the kind of person who is a sucker for anything in a Mason jar via Pinterest, but when I found photos of pies in Mason jars, I freaked out. So, you're saying I can bake a pie in a glass jar, which basically makes it individualized, and then put a lid on it, and stack them in any sort of flat carrying case (cases which I can then continue stacking into the back of my vehicle)? And I can potentially also freeze the pies unbaked, and stick them in a cold oven to come to temperature at the same time the oven does, and continue baking? What is this miracle? (I have yet to experiment with the straight-from-the-freezer option, but I have 3 pies waiting for me when I get home).

There were many jars involved. The top 3 are small 4 oz. straight-sided jars with the cutest gold lids. The bottom 2 are 8-oz. Ball and Kerr jars, respectively - one a little too deep (but hello tons of filling - too bad I don't like apple), and one wide-mouth which was actually perfect size-wise, but annoying to press crust into. All things one needs to know way in advance of one's wedding.

This pie recipe was fine - just not as interesting the last. Less brown sugar (although more sugar, period) and less cinnamon. This recipe also required pre-cooking the apples, which I found to be tedious, especially since I didn't see or taste any discernible differences in texture. 

Wedding apple pie, check.

Sauteed Apple Pie
from KCRW

2 balls of your favorite pie dough

For the filling:
7 medium apples
3 T. butter
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt
2 heaping T. of corn starch
3 T. cold water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice apples into 1/4-inch thick slices. Add water to cornstarch and stir and set aside.  

2. In a large pan, melt 2 T. butter with sugars and spices. Add the apple slices and cook until “al dente.” Add the cornstarch and water mixture on high heat, and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1 T. butter. Set aside to cool.

3. Roll out our pie dough into two circles. Line the pie tin with one of the dough circles. Fill with the apple mixture. Lay the second dough circle on top, and press down the edges. Trim the excess dough. Cut vents in the top, and crimp or pinch the edges as you like.

4. Place the pie in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, July 17, 2015

c is for cookie

I must admit that I don't have much to say about this cookie because it was a moving-out gift for our dear friend Chet, and I burned the little cookie I made as quality control.

His actual gift was the skillet - I hold him responsible for giving life to our infrequently-used one, and reminding us how great it is, and reminding us to use it more - so I figured he needed his own for his apartment.

And what I may not have been able to provide in a quality-controlled cookie, I hope I got to send him off with the same joy I got out of BJ's Pizookies in high school, and have total trust that he had his favorite ice cream to top this all off with.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie
from Martha Stewart
makes one 10-inch cookie

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
2 t. pure vanilla extract
9 oz. chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

2. Transfer the dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, and press to flatten, covering the bottom of the pan. Bake until edges the are brown and top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Don't overbake; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.

Monday, July 13, 2015

what summer brings

Gorgeous, bountiful summer.

After a major move, the herb garden is doing better than it ever has. I wish I could lay claim on that stunning heirloom tomato in the caprese salad, but that honor goes to the farmers market, and I can only brag about the basil, and the mint in the pasta dish, but brag I will.

I have killed every single basil plant that has ever crossed my threshold, usually within days of its arrival. This one nearly looked like it wouldn't be an exception, but some careful pruning, and a lot of strong wishing and hoping, it's growing into something that might even allow me to make pesto at the end of summer!

And the mint. Mint is insane. We literally transplanted three sprigs, and it's now spread like wildfire. Why not throw it in with some handmade pasta and crab (and some jalapenos, also from the garden)? No reason at all.

Garganelli with Crab, Chile + Mint
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

12 oz. garganelli
8 oz. crab meat
1 jalapeƱo, stemmed and finely chopped
1/4 c. minced red onion
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 T. butter
1/4 c. mint leaves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the jalapeƱos and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for three minutes, or until tender.

3. When the pasta is done, scoop it over to the skillet. Turn the heat to high, and add the crab meat. Cook for a minute to warm the crab, and then add the mint and lemon juice. Add some pasta cooking water if it seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

tea for two

I've been terrible at blogging, but I'm hoping to be more focused with the cooking and archiving. Be on the lookout for plenty of back-dating. I think I have about 18 drafts open in Blogger.

If ever there was a meal to kick off this new beginning, for both the blog, and for a focused return to healthier eating after semi-letting myself go over the last few weeks.

My new favorite way to cook salmon - pat with flavorful spice crust, cook undisturbed for 8 minutes, half uncovered, half covered. Absolutely effortless, perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of crisp to the skin. I'd love to try coconut oil next time, and I imagine this is endlessly adaptable to all kinds of tea as well. I can't wait to experiment. Ginger tea seems obvious, but there are is a whole aisle of tea at Whole Foods I was already eying when I bought the genmaicha for this recipe.

The corn is my hello to summer - warm and comforting from the flavors of garlic, ginger and soy sauce butter, but bright with mint and lemon juice. This was a great complement to the salmon, and is going to be a good barbecue potluck offering this summer.

Tea-Crusted Salmon
slightly adapted from The Los Angeles Times
serves 4

1 lb. skin-on salmon fillet
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. genmaicha tea (from 4 teabags)
1 T. olive oil

1. Pat the salmon dry. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper and tea. Stir to combine, and then pat the mixture on top of the fillet.

3. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the salmon, skin-side down. Cook until the skin crisps, about 4 minutes, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking until the salmon is just cooked through, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Slice into four pieces, and serve immediately.

Garlic and Ginger Corn with Soy Sauce Butter
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 6-8

1 t. minced garlic
1 t. minced ginger
2 T. finely sliced green onions
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. butter
4 ears corn, kernels removed from the cob
1/4 c. finely sliced mint leaves
lemon juice, to taste

1. In a large skillet, combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, butter and green onions. Stir until the butter is melted.

2. Add the corn, and stir to thoroughly combine. Heat through, but don't overcook, only about 5 minutes. Add the mint and lemon juice, to taste; stir to combine, and serve immediately.