Monday, November 30, 2015

you can have your cake

This Cherry Pecan Cake was a Thanksgiving dessert addendum to celebrate our dear friend Jeff's birthday. It combines a few of his favorite things - cherries and bourbon - and is now my new favorite cake.

It's a wonderfully rich cake with a very tight crumb, and pockets of juiciness from the cherries and savory notes from the pecans. I don't even like pecans, but they work really well in this cake.

Because it was a celebration, I made a bourbon whipped cream to go between and on top of two 9-inch rounds of cake, but for every day, I think I'll make this in a loaf pan, and just cut off slices for tea. I'm also already thinking of variations - blueberries and almonds, raspberries and hazelnuts. Really get into it for the summer.

Cherry Pecan Cake
makes one 9-inch cake

2 c. plus 2 T. cake flour
1 1/4 t. salt
1 c. butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. sour cream
1/2 c. chopped, toasted pecans
1 c. pitted dark cherries, fresh or frozen

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with a rack in the middle. Butter two 9-inch round cake tins, and line with parchment, on bottoms and sides. Butter the parchment.

2. Sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl, then set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, cream the butter and sugar for a full 8 minutes on medium-high, scraping down the bowl and beater with a silicone spatula regularly. Knock the speed down to medium, and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the beater after each, and beating well. The batter may look to curdle, but it’ll be fine. Add the vanilla. With the mixer on low, stir in the flour in two additions, alternating with the yogurt. Do not overmix. Fold in the nuts by hand, making sure to get all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. Dollop one-quarter of the batter between the prepared pans, then scatter with cherries. Continue to layer spoonfuls of batter with cherries until finished. Gently smooth the tops.

4. Bake the cakes in the hot oven, rotating halfway through, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 minutes or so. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes in their tins, then unmold. Place, right side up, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to cool completely.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

do the mashed potato

I love leftovers, but more for the joy of finding creative ways to transform them into another meal than to make a plate that looks exactly like the night before. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of standing in front of the fridge with the door open, chomping on a cold leftover turkey wing, but the idea of putting together another plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and salad is somehow fatiguing to me.

The day after, I took the lazy way out of leftovers - I made a quick scramble of eggs and my brussels-kale salad, and tucked it into a pumpkin-sage biscuit. Today, with the distance of time, and some decent sleep, I got a little more ambitious, and made these perfect Colcannon Waffles.

It's a thing, this waffling of everything, and I can't fight it. Well, I can fight waffling my andouille-cornbread stuffing - I must, otherwise the world as I know it as a fairly in-shape person may come crumbling down. I can't imagine any defenses against stuffing waffles.

But mashed potato waffles, I can get behind. Shockingly light, crisp in those delicious corners, and ready to take on any of a variety of toppings. You got gravy? Go for it. Cranberry sauce? Sure. Leftover cherries from a Thanksgiving birthday cake? Even better. (And more on the cake later).

Colcannon Waffles
adapted from Joy the Baker
serves 4-6

4 T. butter
1/4 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 c. mashed potatoes
1 c. leftover kale/brussels sprouts salad
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue to cook the butter until the crackling subsides and the butter begins to brown a bit.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs into a measuring cup. When the butter is browned, whisk it into the egg-buttermilk mixture drop by drop, being careful not to cook the eggs.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.

4. Assuming your mashed potatoes are cold, transfer them to the saucepan to warm them up. Add the liquid ingredients and the kale, and stir to thoroughly combine. then the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients, and use a spoon to mix until all of the flour is just combined. Do not overmix.

5. Heat a waffle iron and grease if necessary. Fill the iron and cook until golden on each side. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 27, 2015

makin up for lost time

Bear with me. This is a long one.

I was on the road for Thanksgiving last year, so I'm making up for lost time.

First, the most important meal of the day: gingerbread granola with pumpkin Greek yogurt which I found at Trader Joe's. I also found some delightful-looking sweet potato yogurt that I can't wait to try with the rest of this granola. It's so full of warm fall spices, but be warned, it's not terribly sweet, so you might want to up the molasses. The recipe below includes that addition, and some candied ginger chunks for another holiday bump.

Gingerbread Granola
slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker
makes 5 cups

3 1/4 c. rolled oats 
1 3/4 c. raw nuts of your choice
1/4 t. sea salt
1/2 T. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 c. olive oil
1/3 c. maple syrup
3 T. molasses
1 t. finely diced crystallized ginger

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Mix the oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon, and ginger together in a large bowl.

3. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, warm the olive oil, maple syrup, and molasses. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Spread the mixture evenly onto a large baking sheet and bake for 18–22 minutes, stirring near the halfway point to ensure even cooking. Once the granola is visibly browned, remove from the oven and let cool completely on the pan. 

5. When completely cool, add the ginger and toss to evenly distribute. Store in an airtight container.

Then, it was on to the real business: watching football. For all your pre-game needs: CCandied Jalapenos on a brick of cream cheese with the finest crackers in all the land, Trader Joe's Social Snackers.

And Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears, inspired by Francis Mallmann. Hardly a recipe required - slice D'Anjou pears into six wedges, wrap with as much prosciutto as will make you happy, drizzle on the smallest amount of olive oil, and pop under the broiler until things are golden and sizzling.

Frankly, I got a little lazy with the camera after this. There was Cauliflower Cheddar Soup and Pumpkin Sage Biscuits. I used oregano instead of thyme in the soup, and thought it really picked out the celery in the mirepoix in a delicious way, and made it simultaneously more interesting, and even more fall. 

The biscuits were a million times better than the test - puffed high and proud, and immensely lighter and more flaky. I have no idea why - must have had something to do with the buttermilk (vs. almond milk) and leaving them out for a while before baking them.

Of course, there was Matty's Smoked Turkey, and my staple Andouille Cornbread Stuffing, this time with a gluten-free cornbread that was passable when crumbled up into the stuffing, but definitely not good enough just as a side. 

By the far the prettiest dish was this Roasted Cauliflower + Hazelnut Salad, whose title greatly undersells the dish. It's also got pomegranate seeds, a tasteful amount of celery (which I generally despise for taking over every dish it appears in), and a remarkable dressing of maple syrup, cinnamon and allspice. It's also perfect for a big prep day like this, or any potluck occasion, because it's meant to be served at room temperature. Just make sure you watch out for sneaks grabbing that delicious roasted cauliflower while it's cooling (I see you, Joe).

Roasted Cauliflower + Hazelnut Salad
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem
serves 4

1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
5 T. olive oil
1 large celery stalk, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 T. hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 c. pomegranate seeds
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground allspice
1 T. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 t. maple syrup
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix the cauliflower with 3 T. olive oil. Salt and pepper, to taste. Spread out in a roasting pan, and roast on the top rack for 25-35 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown. Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk together the remaining 2 T. olive oil, cinnamon, allspice, vinegar, and maple syrup. Set aside.

4. Toss the cooled cauliflower with the celery, hazelnuts, and pomegranate seeds. Add the dressing, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve at room temperature.

And the dish with the most mileage is this Brussels Sprouts + Kale Salad with Pecorino. And good thing because I got lost in a k-hole of kale-picking, and then had to slice enough Brussels sprouts to make up the right proportion for this salad. I'd say I made twice as much as was necessary, but you know how I like to make sure everyone's fed. The light tahini dressing is the kicker here - it adds a mysterious addictiveness, while maintaining the freshness I was going for.

Brussels Sprouts + Kale Salad with Pecorino
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 4-6

For the dressing:
1 finely chopped shallot
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. tahini

For the salad:
1 bunch of lacinato kale, finely shredded
12 brussels sprouts, finely shredded
3 green onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2/3 c. shaved pecorino cheese
salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, olive oil, and tahini. Whisk until creamy.

2. Toss the kale, sprouts, and green onions with the dressing. Add the cheese, taste, and add more salt if needed. 

There are no words for these butternut squash-stuffed shells. I usually like to have a pasta on hand as a stuffing alternative, and something hefty for the vegetarians, and found it difficult to try something other than my tried-and-true pumpkin mac and cheese, but the photo that accompanied that these Butternut Shells with Burrata in my Tasting Table email was impossible to resist. I certainly wasn't without my doubts, though - while burrata is plenty creamy, I was wary about whether it would create a sufficient amount of sauce and not dry out the shells in the baking process.

I needn't have worried, though. The cheese was perfect. And the hit of lemon adds a surprising, but pleasant, brightness. For all the cheese involved, I'd still call this a very light dish.

Butternut Shells with Burrata
slightly adapted from Tasting Table
serves 8

1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 large garlic cloves
2 t. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
one 12-oz. package jumbo pasta shells
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
10 sage leaves, finely 
2 t. fresh lemon juice
2 t. finely grated lemon zest
16 oz. burrata

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.

2. Place the squash onto the prepared sheet tray and season the flesh with the olive oil and salt. Turn them so that they're cut-side down, stuff a garlic clove in each cavity, and roast until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 7 to 10 minutes, then scoop the flesh into a medium bowl and set aside. 

3. Lower the oven to 375 degrees. 

4. While the squash is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the jumbo shells to the water and cook until barely al dente, 9 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold running water for 1 minute.

5. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 3/4 c. of the Parmesan, the egg, garlic, sage, lemon juice and zest, and 3 c. of the cooled roasted squash. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Fill each cooked pasta shell with 1½ tablespoons of filling, and snuggle the shells into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

5. Tear the burrata over the pasta, letting the curds and cream fall over and around the shells. Top with remaining Parmesan and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 30 minutes. Serve.

We relied on our friend Jeff for his divine mashed potatoes, our friend Naomi brought some gluten-free goods (stuffing and a green beans-persimmon dish), and Mom brought shrimp spring rolls and a pecan pie (like you do). There was no gravy (smoked turkey and all), but there was Port Cranberry Sauce.

And by God, was there ever dessert.

I pulled out my vintage canape and hors d'oeuvres cutters kit, and lo and behold, they had a small leaf pattern. Because at that point in the day, a lattice crust may have killed me, I punched out a couple dozen leaves, and initially thought I would make a "falling leaves" scene with a couple at the top, and a pile at the bottom, but then realized that it would never come out as I imagined in my head, moved on, and just scattered them fairly willy-nilly over the apples. 

And, oh, thanks for asking - that is indeed filling leftover from the wedding pie extravaganza. Who needs to eat year-old frozen cake on your anniversary, when you can have pie for Thanksgiving 3 months later?

There was honey pumpkin pie, like there is every year, and perhaps a new classic, Cookie Butter Cheesecake.

There wasn't supposed to be cheesecake. I made it for my friend Todd's birthday (the photo is actually from last week - I did say I got lazy with the camera), and made a small ramekin of it to leave behind with Matt. He loved it, but I thought nothing further of it until we were finalizing the menu, and he innocently asked, "No cheesecake?"

And I couldn't deny the request. It's a stunning cheesecake, cracks and all. Super dense, but so undeniably delicious that you can't stop eating it, even when you're full. Apropos for Thanksgiving.

Cookie Butter Cheesecake
from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt
makes one 9-inch cheesecake

For the crust:
7 oz. box (24 cookies) speculoos cookies, crushed
4 T. butter, melted

For the filling:
3 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 c. cookie butter, divided
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Mix the crushed speculoos cookies and melted butter until it resembles wet sand and can be packed down. Press the crust into an 9-inch springform pan. Place in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. Place the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium until the cream cheese is smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Add in the sugar and 1/4 c. of cookie butter. Beat on medium again until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time until they are all incorporated. Add in the sour cream and heavy cream. Beat on medium until the mixture comes together, then pour into the springform pan.

4. In a small bowl, heat the remaining 3/4 c. of cookie butter for 30 seconds to make it runny. Pour the melted cookie butter evenly on the cheesecake. Using a skewer or knife, swirl the sauce into the cheesecake.

5. Wrap the bottom of the springform pan with foil. Place the cheesecake into a slightly bigger pan and fill the pan with two inches of hot water. Bake for 90 minutes or until it only lightly jiggles in middle. Turn off the heat and crack the oven door slightly. Let it cool in the oven, then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

And that's all she wrote. I may never eat again. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

if you want me to cook

Breakfast has been pretty fairly boring around here. I'll come home starving from the gym, stand in front of the fridge and get frustrated, stomp around a little, and then drag cold leftovers out to eat over the counter.

Luckily for all involved this morning, Matty had a specific request for waffles, and the pantry gods conspired to make it happen. Lemon Ricotta Waffles, it is.

They're not particularly lemon-y to me, but excellently tender, and exceedingly fluffy. If you need to get that lemon fix, I'd suggest more zest, or make a lemon drizzle of some sort to replace your traditional maple syrup.

Lemon Ricotta Waffles
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
serves 4

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3 T. granulated sugar
1 T. fresh lemon zest
1/3 c. butter
2 large eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 c. almond milk

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, rub together granulated sugar and lemon zest until the sugar is scented with lemon. Add the lemon sugar to the bowl with the dry ingredients.

3. Melt the butter in a large measuring cup. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, ricotta, and almond milk, and stir to combine. Add the eggs, and whisk until thoroughly combined.

4. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. It’s okay if a few lumps remain.

5. Heat you waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Dollop batter into the waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 16, 2015

commune with me

Matty asked me what time I was heading over to the commune when I told him what I was making.

Yes, it's porridge/oatmeal made of almond milk, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. It's quite delicious - you can sweeten it if you like, but it also has a nice savory flavor that's unexpected for breakfast foods of this ilk.

And there are a million ways to play with the general formula of 1 c. almond milk to 3 T. total of flax, chia and hemp seeds. Substitute the 4 T. of shredded coconut with anything from peanut butter to dried fruit to fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless, but you'll also have a filling meal that will actually keep you full until lunch.

Coconut Chia Porridge
from Wellness Mama
serves 1

1 c. almond milk
1 T. roasted flax seeds
1 T. chia seeds
1 T. hemp seeds
4 T. unsweetened shredded coconut
dried blueberries, to garnish

1. In a small saucepan, bring the almond milk to a gentle boil. Add the flax, chia, hemp, and coconut, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir over low heat until porridge thickens to your desired consistency. Serve immediately with pistachios and figs, and honey drizzled over top.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

hot sugar

While I was on the road, my garden went absolutely insane. The kale started sprouting sideways in addition to sprouting up, much to the delight of the aphids. The broccoli is making something, but I can't be sure it's edible crowns. I can't even talk about the mint - let's just say I'm over-mojito'd, and if you have any recipes for other things to do with mint, I'll take them.

And the peppers. Oh, the peppers. The bells and Anaheims are going to be in every scramble I make from now until the end of the year. And these jalapenos, splendidly candied, will be a cornerstone of the Thanksgiving appetizer table this year.

Don't mistake the sweetness for any lack of fire. I mixed just the smallest amount of into some mayo as a spread for a fried egg sandwich, and still nearly passed out. It's not for the faint of heart, but is definitely a reward for a spicy palate.

Candied Jalapenos
slightly adapted from Foodie with Family
makes 8 4-oz. jars

1 lb. fresh jalapeno peppers
2/3 c. apple cider vinegar
2 c. sugar
a pinch turmeric
1/4 t. celery salt
1 t. granulated garlic
1/3 t. ground cayenne pepper

1. Remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers. Discard the stems. Slice the peppers into uniform ⅛-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic, and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into 4 oz. jars to within. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 5 minutes.

3. Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on the lids.

4. Leave the jars to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, and let mellow for at least two weeks before eating.