Monday, April 29, 2013

Spiced Apple Bundt Cake

We've been getting mountains of apples in our CSA, and so I've been trying to use them lots of different ways.  This cake turned out to be an excellent choice - it's chock full of apples and warm spices for a delicious and satisfying dessert.  I especially love how the apples and sugar caramelize on the outside crust - so good!  One word of warning - because this cake has so many apples, it falls apart very easily, so this is pretty messy and probably not a 'having company' sort of cake.  Don't let that worry you, though - it keeps really well and we managed to gobble it all up between two of us over the course of a week or so.

Spiced Apple Bundt Cake (adapted from Feast of Eden, via The Culinary Chronicles)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups peeled, chopped apples

1. Preheat oven to 350 and oil a Bundt pan.
2. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, cloves, and nutmeg.  Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla and stir to combine with a rubber spatula.  The mixture will be very thick - don't worry! Fold in the apples.
3. Bake 60-75 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool 20 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tilapia with Mango Salsa and Cilantro Rice

I recently discovered Worst Cooks in America on On Demand, although I didn't realize at the time that I was watching an old season (season 2)!  It did make it a little difficult to find the recipes used on the show, but luckily I was able to track them down.  I'm really glad I did, because this fish dish is fantastic! I really love the mango sauce served over the fish - the garlic and ginger add a great kick to the juicy fruit, plus it adds a bright pop of color to an otherwise beige plate.  I was also really impressed with the rice preparation - I always love white rice with fish, and here it's dressed up with cilantro and scallions.  I liked that the rice instantly felt more special with very little effort.  The fish is prepared very simply, and you can use any fish you like here - the original recipe called for mahi-mahi, which is certainly more 'restaurant worthy' but was a little out of my price range.  Tilapia is also really tasty and stands up well to the bold flavors of the mango salsa.

Tilapia with Mango Salsa and Cilantro Rice (adapted from Worst Cooks in America)
Serves 4

For the salsa:
1 large mango, peeled and diced
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 T mild olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
2 T minced fresh cilantro
1/2 to 1 small clove garlic, minced (to taste)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
Salt and pepper

For the rice:
1 cup jasmine rice
2 cups water
2 T minced fresh cilantro
2 scallions, green parts only, chopped

For the fish:
Olive oil
4 tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper

1. Prepare the mango salsa.  Stir all the salsa ingredients together in a small bowl and cover.  Stash in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the meal.
2. Prepare the rice.  Combine the rice and water in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.  Fluff with a fork and stir in the cilantro and scallions.  Season to taste with salt.
3. While the rice is cooking, prepare the fish.  Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the fish and season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook a couple of minutes per side, until the fish is just cooked through (it will flake easily).
4. Serve the fish with the rice and mango salsa.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cheesy Lunchtime Enchiladas

I found this recipe while planning a grocery trip - I was looking for something relatively simple that I could prepare on a Sunday and then take for lunch during the week.  These enchiladas were the perfect recipe for the job.  They're fairly easy to put together, they're extra tasty, and they reheat well.  I recommend adding a scoop of refried beans or frozen corn to the side of your tupperware - either will reheat right alongside the enchiladas and make a great side dish.

I've never made enchiladas with fried tortillas as in this recipe - I tend to just heat the tortillas up and then roll  them around fillings.  The fried tortillas are certainly less healthy, but I think they made this dish special and the finished enchiladas really reminded me of a restaurant dish.  Definitely worth the splurge for a lunchtime treat when you're having a rough week!

Cheesy Lunchtime Enchiladas (adapted from Chow, original recipe here)
Makes 12 enchiladas

2 cups canned enchilada sauce
12 ounces shredded cheese (I used a mix of sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack)
1 cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
1/3 cup minced sweet onion

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Pour 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish, and spread it out to coat the bottom evenly.
3. Set up your workspace.  Place the cheese and onion in separate bowls, and line a baking sheet with paper towels.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking, about 5 minutes.  You can test it by dipping the edge of a tortilla in the oil - it should bubble vigorously.
4. When the oil is hot, fry the tortillas one at a time.  Fry each tortilla about 10 seconds on the first side and 5 seconds on the second side.  Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet, and arrange the tortillas in a single layer. If you run out of room, separate layers with paper towels.  End with a layer of paper towels, and blot the tortillas to soak up excess oil.
5. Fill each tortilla with 2 heaping tablespoons of cheese and 1 teaspoon of minced onion.  Roll up the tortilla, is place in the baking pan seam-side-down.  When all the enchiladas are in the baking dish, cover with the remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Let cool completely, and then separate among 4 lunch containers (3 enchiladas per container).  (Of course, you can also serve these hot out of the oven if you prefer them for dinner!)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Burgers with Onion Gravy and Mashed Potatoes

I love burgers, but sometimes it's fun to serve them up a different way.  Here, they're paired with mashed potatoes instead of a bun, and they're smothered in a savory onion gravy.  I was worried that cooking the burgers in the gravy might dry them out or make them a little tough, but it didn't - they were juicy and flavorful! I totally fell in love with the gravy; while it never thickened up as much as a turkey gravy would, it was really delicious and full of sweet onion flavor.  This simple supper was definitely a winner in my book; serve with salad or roasted veggies on the side to make it a complete meal.

Burgers with Onion Gravy and Mashed Potatoes (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 cups sweet yellow onion, sliced
2 tsp flour
1 cup low-sodium beef stock
Mashed potatoes, to serve (I made mine with buttermilk, butter, and minced chives)

1. Divide the ground beef into four patties, each about 1/2-inch thick.  Season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the burgers.  Cook 3 minutes on each side, and then remove to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain off any excess fat.
3.  Add the onion to the pan, along with a bit more oil if needed to keep the onion from sticking.  Saute about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned and tender.  Sprinkle with the flour and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add the stock and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.
4. Return the burgers to the pan and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for 5 minutes, flipping the burgers once, until the gravy is slightly thickened.
5. Serve over mashed potatoes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the Boston area today...

Quite a while back, Tim picked up a copy of the new Bi-Rite Creamery cookbook for me, and I had such a fun time looking at all the different ice cream options inside!  After quite a lot of deliberation, we settled on the peanut butter ice cream with fudge ripple, and that was definitely an excellent decision.  I made the ice cream several months ago, but somehow never got around to posting it until now - I'm glad I found it among my 'drafts' because I'm ready to make it again!  The ice cream is rich and sweet, with lots of peanut butter flavor.  It stands up well to the fudge ripple, which stays fluid even after it's frozen (for easy scooping). It kind of reminds me of a peanut butter cup in ice cream form - so good!

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple (adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones)
Makes about 2 pints

5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1-1/2 cups half-and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup Fudge Ripple (see below)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks and half the sugar (6 T).  Put the peanut butter in another bowl, and set both bowls aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, salt, and remaining 6 T sugar.  Place over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  When the mixture just starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium.
3. Very slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (i.e. coats the back of a spatula, about 2 minutes).
4. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl with the peanut butter.  Whisk to combine.  Cover, and chill until very cold, ideally overnight.  
5. Freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.  As you transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container, alternate a few spoonfuls of ice cream with a drizzle of the fudge ripple.  
6. Freeze for 2-4 hours to let the ice cream firm up before serving.

Fudge Ripple (adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones)

1/4 cup plus 1 T sugar
1/4 cup water
3 T Dutch-process cocoa, measured and then sifted
2 T corn syrup
Pinch salt
1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 T)
1/4 tsp vanilla

1. In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, water, cocoa, corn syrup, and salt.  Place over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a simmer.
2. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat.  Scatter the chocolate over, let sit for 30 seconds or so, and then whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla.  Refrigerate until very cold.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks and Lemon Kale

Thanks for all the good wishes about my conference - it went really well!

I really love this recipe for chicken drumsticks, because it is both super easy and super delicious - the perfect combination!  The chicken basically just goes on a rack in the oven and then is brushed with barbecue sauce when it's part of the way cooked.  The drumsticks turned out moist and flavorful, and they were great as leftovers - cold, they tasted like perfect picnic food!  The only caveat I have is that this recipe will definitely make your kitchen a little smoky, so be sure to turn on a fan or open a door!

While the chicken was in the oven, I made some greens to go on the side.  I love brightening up kale with some acid - lemon juice goes perfectly with the greens here.  Onion adds a little sweetness, and overall this was a great side dish that finished up in the same time as the chicken.  Feel free to substitute in different greens depending on what you have - I always think it's fun to mix two or three types, so that's another option!

BBQ Chicken Drumsticks and Lemon Kale
Serves 3 (assuming two drumsticks per person)

6 chicken drumsticks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 red onion
3 bunches kale
1/4 cup chicken stock
About 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 lemon

1. Line a large baking sheet with foil, and then place one or two wire racks on the baking sheet (depending on the size of the racks - you want enough to hold all your chicken without it touching).  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash the drumsticks and pat them dry.  Place in a bowl.  Drizzle with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the chicken.  Arrange the chicken on the wire racks in a single layer, without the pieces touching.  Place in the oven and cook 30 minutes.
3. While the chicken is cooking, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt.   Cook, stirring often, until very soft.  Turn the heat down if it starts to stick.
4. While the onion is cooking, separate the kale leaves from the stems and tear into bite-sized pieces (keep in mind it will wilt down significantly).  Rinse well.
5. Once the onions are softened (10-15 minutes), add the kale to the pot, working in batches if necessary.  Cook over medium heat until the kale is wilted and the liquid is mostly evaporated, stirring often.  Add the chicken stock and stir well.  Place a lid on the pot, and turn the heat down to low.  Let the kale cook while the chicken finishes cooking, stirring it occasionally.
6. Once the chicken has been cooking for 30 minutes, remove from the oven.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Brush the chicken generously with barbecue sauce, and then return to the oven.  Cook for another 10 minutes.
7. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven.  Squeeze the juice of half the lemon into the kale, and stir well to combine.  Taste, and add more lemon juice or salt as needed.
8. Serve the kale alongside the chicken drumsticks.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Tim requested chocolate cake for his birthday, and this cake from Vintage Cakes definitely fit the bill. I made a 2/3 recipe because a triple layer cake seemed over-the-top for two people, and it was the perfect size for enjoying over the course of a week or so.  The chocolate cake part is pretty basic - chocolate-y, moist, and tasty.  But, the frosting is what really takes this cake over the top.  It's super easy to make (just melt, cool, and spread), and extra fudge-y.  I like adding a layer of raspberries between the two layers of cake to cut the sweetness a bit - the tart pop of berry keeps this cake from being overwhelmingly sugar-y and rich.  A tart jam would work well too if you don't have access to good berries.  Definitely the perfect way to celebrate a birthday!

I'm off to a conference for the rest of the week/weekend, so I'll be back to posting next week!

Chocolate Birthday Cake (adapted from Vintage Cakes)
Makes one two-layer, 8-inch round cake

2.7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
.7 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
4 ounces boiling water
4.5 ounces sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
6.7 ounces flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
rounded 1/2 tsp salt
2.7 ounces butter
5 ounces brown sugar
3.5 ounces granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
Chocolate Fudge Frosting, see below

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment circles, and spray them with oil.
2. Place the chocolate cocoa, and espresso powder in a bowl.  Pour the boiling water over, let sit for a minute or so, and then whisk briskly until the chocolate is completely melted.  Whisk in the sour cream and vanilla.  Set aside.
3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.
4. Beat together the butter and both sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the oil in a slow stream.  Raise speed to medium high, and beat until fluffy, 3 minutes.  Beat in the yolks and the whole eggs one at a time.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and chocolate mixture in alternating additions (flour-chocolate-flour-chocolate-flour).  Beat until just incorporated, and finish mixing with a rubber spatula to avoid overdoing it.
6. Divide the batter among the two prepared pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for about 15 minutes, and then turn out the cakes onto wire racks to finish cooling.
7. Frost the cake with the chocolate fudge frosting.  In between the layers, add a layer of frosting and then a layer of whole raspberries.  Smoosh them down a bit, and then cover with the second cake layer and continue frosting.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting (adapted from Vintage Cakes)

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2.8 ounces brown sugar

1. Place the chocolate in a bowl.
2. Heat the cream and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring often to avoid scorching. When the mixture just starts to bubble, pour it over the chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute or two, and then whisk together until the chocolate is melted.
3. Let sit at room temperature for an hour, whisking occasionally, until it firms up to spreading consistency.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Vietnamese Steak Salad

I love fresh salads with lots of veggies, and sliced steak on top puts this salad firmly in main-dish territory.  This salad turned out to be tasty, but also way too spicy!  Next time I'd use a smaller amount of chile to calm down the spiciness. That said, other than the over-the-top spiciness, the dish was really delicious.  For the leftovers, I strained the chiles out of the leftover dressing before tossing it with the veggies, and the spice level was perfect for me.

If you can find them, the minced lime leaves really make this taste authentic and add a fantastic aroma. I loved the mixture of watercress and herbs, and their delicate leaves combined perfectly with crunchy cucumbers and carrots.  The steak was also really delicious - super moist and flavorful.  Flat iron steak is one of my absolute favorite cuts of beef because it's tender but also inexpensive - just ask your butcher to trim out the tendon before wrapping it up for you.  This dish is a real winner with just the small tweak of less chile (or use the full amount if you love hot food!).

Vietnamese Steak Salad (adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, via Serious Eats)
Serves 4

3 T freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 limes)
4 T fish sauce
1 T chile garlic paste
2 tsp sugar
1 fresh red Thai chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 pound flat iron steak, tendon removed (ask the butcher to do this for you)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
1 bunch cilantro, tough stems removed
1/2 bunch mint, leaves picked off stems
6 kaffir lime leaves, center stem removed, minced (optional)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded, and cut into matchsticks
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
2 small avocados, diced

1. Place the lime juice, fish sauce, chile garlic paste, sugar, and chile in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Screw on the lid, and shake to combine.
2. Season the steak with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat.  When the oil is hot, carefully add the steak and cook to your desired level of doneness.  Let rest a few minutes, and then thinly slice the steak against the grain.
3. While the steak is cooking, toss together the watercress, cilantro, mint, kaffir lime leaves, cucumber, and carrots.
4. Toss the vegetables with some of the dressing - just enough to lightly coat.  Divide among four bowls.  Top with diced avocado, and then sliced steak.  Serve with the remaining dressing to drizzle over the salads.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lemon-Tangerine Chess Pie

Sorry for the break in posting - my family has been in town and we had a great time touring the Bay Area - walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, sipping wine in Sonoma, enjoying Tartine pastries at Dolores Park, hiking in the redwoods at Armstrong state park, freezing our butts off at Point Reyes National Seashore, and much more! Here's my favorite photo from the visit: my sister and I sitting in a giant blue chair at Cornerstone Sonoma.

So, I haven't gotten a lot of cooking done in the past week, but I still have lots of yummy recipes to share with you guys from the past month!  Remember back on Pi Day when I said I was going to make a chess pie to celebrate?  Well, I did and it turned out really well. You can see that it got a tad too dark, but it was still delicious. I ended up using half lemon juice and half tangerine juice - we got some super tart tangerines in our CSA box that were just too sour to eat, and so this pie was the perfect use for them.  I really liked the texture of this pie - a creamy middle with a slightly crunchy top from the cornmeal.  And, the citrus flavor was amazing...combining lemons and tangerines was definitely an inspired decision!  I also loved that this pie was super easy.  I just unrolled a Trader Joe's crust, whisked all the ingredients together, and I was ready to go!  Definitely a great choice if you're short on time.   Our Thursday night group at church enjoyed this along with an amazing apple pie from my friend Elizabeth.  The perfect way to celebrate 3.14!

Lemon-Tangerine Chess Pie (adapted from King Arthur Flour, original recipe here)

1 prepared pie crust (I like the refridgerated pie dough from Trader Joe's, but of course homemade is good too!)
6 T butter
3/4 cup fresh citrus juice (I used half tangerine juice and half lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 T cornmeal
1 1/2 T cornstarch
5 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges.  Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
3. Melt the butter, and then stir in the remaining ingredients.  Whisk until well combined.
4. Pour the filling into the pie crust.  Bake 40-50 minutes, until the center is set and the top is golden brown.  Check the pie midway through - if the top is browning too fast, cover with foil.
5. Let the pie cool before slicing.