Monday, August 30, 2010

Aarti Party: Sloppy Bombay Joes with Massaged Kale Salad

I rooted for Aarti all season on Next Food Network Star, and I was so excited when she won!  Her food always looked delicious, and she has such a warm and inviting personality that I can't help wanting to watch more.  So, I was glad when the first episode of her new show, Aarti Party aired.  I watched it with two friends, and we knew right away that we wanted to make some of the recipes! 

So, what was the verdict?  Did Aarti's recipes taste as good as they looked?  For the Sloppy Bombay Joes, I would definitely say yes.  These were a super tasty version of sloppy joes, with lots of good flavor.  We particularly liked the addition of pistachios and raisins...they provided little pockets of crunch and sweetness all throughout the sloppy joes.  I also liked that the recipe called for ground turkey, which may not be traditional but is how I had sloppy joes growing up. 

I thought the Massaged Kale Salad was a bit of a mixed bag.  We definitely ate it all up, but it was a little sweet for my taste.  I would definitely make this again, because I love the technique for wilting raw kale and incorporating it into a salad, but I think I would use a different dressing and skip the super sweet mango.  I'm imagining a lemon-y dressing with thinly sliced lemon cucumbers and minced olives, or maybe a balsamic vinaigrette with slightly tart quartered strawberries.  I'll have to try one of those and report back!

Overall, I'd say Aarti's first episode was a winner -- I learned a brand new technique for serving raw kale, and we really enjoyed the dinner prepared from her recipes.  Plus, it was pretty healthy - she's not the type of chef who just uses pounds of butter to make her food taste good.   I will definitely keep tuning in, and you may see more Aarti recipes here sometime soon!  

Sloppy Bombay Joes (from Aarti Party)
Serves 4

For the sauce:
1 T vegetable oil
1 T minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and finely minced
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp paprika
15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup water

For the turkey:
2 T vegetable oil
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup raisins
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
1/2 serrano chile, not chopped
Kosher salt
1 pound ground turkey breast
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup half-and-half
Hamburger buns, toasted (we used minis just for fun)

1. First, get the sauce started.  Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers, and then add the ginger, garlic, and chile.  Saute until the garlic starts to turn brown, and then add the garam masala and paprika.  Saute 30 seconds, and then stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, uncovered, while you finish the rest of the meal.  Stir occasionally.
2. While the sauce reduces, make the turkey mixture.  Warm half of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then add the pistachios and raisins.  Cook until the raisins swell up a bit and the pistachios brown, stirring often and keeping a close watch so nothing burns.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Add the remaining oil and heat until shimmering.  Add the cumin seeds and saute for about 10 seconds.  Add the onion and pepper, and saute until they start to brown.  Add the pepper, season with salt, and saute for another few minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into smaller pieces.  Cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the sauce to the skillet, bring to a boil, and then simmer about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and the flavors are nicely combined.  Remove the pepper, and add the honey, half-and-half, and reserved pistachios and raisins.  Heat through and taste for seasoning.  Serve with toasted buns.

Massaged Kale Salad (from Aarti Party)
Serves 4

1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves very thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp honey
1 mango, diced

1. Combine the kale, half the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl.  Massage with your hands until the kale softens and wilts, 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.
2. Combine the remaining lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt, several grinds of pepper, and the honey in a small jar.  Screw the lid on tightly and shake until well combined.  Taste a little on a bit of kale, and adjust seasoning as needed.
3. Toss the kale, dressing, and mango together in a serving dish.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup

I love butternut squash soup, especially when it's fancied up with other fun additions.  This one has fresh corn and roasted cauliflower, both of which pair well with the sweet squash.  I like the combination of textures here - the smooth butternut squash base, plus the chewy cauliflower florets and the little bursts of flavor from the corn.  The soup also has a bit of smoked Spanish paprika, which is pretty much my new favorite spice.  It adds fantastic flavor to almost any savory dish. 

I actually picked this recipe because I wanted to try out my new immersion blender - which I'm loving!  So much easier for pureeing soup than transferring hot liquid into the blender and managing to spray myself with it half the time.  Plus, it's easy to clean, which is always an improvement in my book.  However, you can easily make this soup in the blender as well; just be sure to let the soup cool a bit first. 

Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup (adapted from Elle's New England Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 leeks, white parts and an inch or so of green, thinly sliced and well rinsed
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
20 ounces trimmed and cubed butternut squash (I used frozen, cubed squash)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 ears corn, kernels cut off
2/3 cup light coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the cauliflower with oil, salt, and pepper, and roast until tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan.  Add the leeks and cook for about five minutes until they start to become tender.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so.  Season with salt and pepper, and add the butternut squash and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the squash is tender.  Puree either with an immersion blender or a regular blender (if using the latter, be very careful!).
3. Add the paprika, corn, roasted cauliflower, and coconut milk, and return the soup to a boil.  As soon as it is hot, taste and adjust for seasoning, and then serve.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nectarine Sherbet

I love sherbets - not as rich as ice cream, but creamier and smoother than sorbet because of the addition of a little whole milk.  This nectarine sherbet preserves the perfect flavor of summer in a cold dessert.  It's fantastic on its own, but is also particularly tasty on top of a warm brownie.  I think you'd get a pinker result if you cooked the nectarines with the skins and then strained them out, but I didn't want to do that much work, so I just peeled the fruits first - either way this makes an excellent end to a meal.

Nectarine Sherbet (adapted from Scoop Adventures, original recipe here)
Makes 1 pint

1 pound nectarines, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
Lemon juice to taste

1. Place the nectarines and water in a saucepan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the nectarines are softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the sugar, and continue to cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Let cool.
2. Scoop the nectarines into a blender and add the milk.  Puree until smooth.  Add lemon juice to taste, and blend again to combine.  Pour through a sieve just to make sure any bits of nectarine pit are eliminated.
3. Chill in the refrigerator at least four hours or overnight.  Freeze in an ice cream maker.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wedding Cupcakes

My friend Clare got married earlier this summer, and instead of the usual wedding cake, she had her friends bake cupcakes!  I thought it was such a fun idea to get everyone involved and save a little money.  Plus, the cupcakes tasted way better than your usual wedding cake!  I was put in charge of finding the recipes, as well as cooking some of the cupcakes.  I went for two of my favorite (and relatively fool-proof) cupcakes: Coconut Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Frosting and Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream.  Although I wasn't responsible for the gorgeous display, I wanted to share it since it was so pretty!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Birthday Coconut Cake

I made this coconut cake for my mom's birthday this year, and I was really happy with how it turned out.  It's nice and moist with good coconut flavor.  I'm also in love with the frosting - a simple seven-minute frosting topped with sweetened flaked coconut.  This frosting is a lot easier to make if you have a stand mixer; if not I'd suggest finding a friend to help hold the blender while you pour in the sugar syrup.  My sister, Anna, was nice enough to help me out with the frosting - and she's holding the cake in the pictures below.  This really does make the perfect birthday cake - sweet, festive and delicious!

Birthday Coconut Cake (adapted from Diana Rattray, original recipe here)

For the cake:
2-1/4 cups cake or pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs

For the frosting:
2 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
Sweetened flaked coconut, to serve

1. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.  Grease and flour the paper and sides of the pans.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Heat the coconut milk and flaked coconut until hot.  Let cool slightly, and then pulse in the blender until the coconut is finely chopped. 

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

4. Beat the butter until light and creamy.  Gradually add the sugar, being sure to beat well.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  

5. Add the flour mixture and coconut mixture in alternating additions (flour-coconut-flour-coconut-flour).  Beat on low speed between each addition until well blended, and scrape down the sides of the bowl regularly. 

6. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.  Bake 30 minutes, until browned and a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, and then invert onto cooling racks and carefully peel off the parchment paper. 

7. Frost the cake once completely cooled.  Bring the water and sugar to a boil, and then cover and cook without stirring for 1 minute.  Uncover, and boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer (or until hot enough to spin a thread when dropped from a spoon into a glass of cool water).

8. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Continue to beat on high speed while you gradually add the sugar syrup in a thin stream.  Beat about 7 minutes until the frosting is fluffy and completely cooled.  

9. Frost the cake: invert one cake onto a serving plate and frost the top and sides.  Place the second layer on top, and frost the top and sides.  Sprinkle flaked coconut on top.

Here's my mom blowing out the candles...

My sister, Anna, with the cake.

A close-up of the cake.

"Happy Birthday to You..."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Snapper with Grapefruit and Rosemary

I am really loving fish in a packet.  I've been trying more recipes with this cooking method, and it produces great results very easily.  You just wrap up fish with various flavorful ingredients, roast in the oven, and you're good to go.  It's particularly nice since it's very easy to make just one or two servings.  The only tricky part is getting the fish cooked through but not overcooked, since you can't see the fish while it's cooking.  This recipe called for cooking 30 minutes, which I found led to slightly overcooked fish.  It wasn't bad by any means, and the thicker pieces of the fillet were nice and moist, but the edges ended up a bit too dry.  So, I'd check after 20 minutes and pop the fish back in the oven if needed. 

The grapefruit and rosemary might sound like a slightly odd combination, but they actually worked very well together.  The grapefruit mellowed a bit in the oven, but still had a great acidity that paired perfectly with the mild fish and earthy rosemary.  I served this fish with pearled barley (toasted in olive oil, then simmered in chicken broth with a sprig of rosemary for about 45 minutes) and a green salad. 

Snapper with Grapefruit and Rosemary (adapted from Local Flavors)
Serves 2

Aluminum foil
1 T unsalted butter
2 snapper fillets, 4-6 ounces each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ruby red grapefruit
1 tsp minced rosemary

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Tear off 2 pieces of foil, each about 2 feet long.  Fold in half. Rub the center of each piece lightly with butter (or spray with oil).
2. Rinse the fish, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Place a piece of fish on each piece of foil, and divide the fruit among them. Sprinkle with rosemary and dot with the remaining butter.
3. Fold each piece of foil to make a loose but tightly sealed packet. Bake 20 minutes, then check for doneness and return to the oven if the fish is not cooked through.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cupcake Hero: Almond-Raspberry Mini Cupcakes

I haven't done a Cupcake Hero challenge in quite a while (in fact, looking back it appears the last one was Earth Day of 2008!).  But, the secret ingredient this month totally spoke to me: raspberries!  Raspberries are one of my all-time favorite fruits, and I also happened to have some in the fridge that needed to be used up.

I ended up adapting a raspberry-almond blondie recipe to serve as mini cupcakes. I have to say: I love mini cupcakes!  They're so cute and lots of fun.  Although I'm always a little worried when I try to adapt recipes (in this case, cutting the recipe in half and subbing some almond meal for part of the flour), I knew these were a winner when I took them out of the oven.  They rose perfectly, and smelled amazing.  The smell of cooked raspberry is just so delectable...super jammy and sweet smelling.  In terms of flavor, I'd say these are a bit between a muffin and a cupcake.  They're not so sweet that they'd be out of place at breakfast, but they have a nice pound cake sort of texture that certainly wouldn't be out of place at dessert - especially if you top these off with a bit of sweetened whipped cream!

Almond-Raspberry Mini Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Makes 12 mini cupcakes

Spray oil with flour
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
12 raspberries

1. Spray a 12-cup mini muffin/cupcake tin with oil (preferably the kind with flour in the oil, found on the baking aisle).  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar, and then beat in the egg until well mixed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
4. Beat in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
5. Divide the batter among the muffin tins, and then top each mini cupcake with a raspberry.
6. Bake about 22-24 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are possibly the best chocolate chip cookies ever - and they're 100% whole wheat!  I was a little skeptical of the recipe for that reason, but gave it a try because the cookbook, Good to the Grain, was very tempting.  I was pleasantly surprised - these cookies are super delicious, with a great nutty flavor from the whole wheat.  Unlike some whole grain recipes, the cookies aren't particularly healthy - they have plenty of butter and chocolate - but somehow they do feel just a bit more wholesome!  Yum.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce)
Makes 32

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
3.5-4 ounces extra dark bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
3. Mix the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Add the chocolate, and mix to combine.
4. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie, leaving some space between cookies (about 12 cookies per sheet).  Bake 10-14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway though. The cookies are done when they are nicely browned on top.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roasted Garlic Guacamole

This guacamole is super simple and not-at-all spicy, making it the perfect condiment to combine with lots of other flavors.  It comes together very easily, since there's pretty much zero chopping of lots of ingredients, like you get with some guacamole and salsas.  The only unusual step here is roasting a clove of garlic in a hot pan on the stove, until browned and mushy.  It really changes the garlic flavor, so that it adds a fantastic smokiness and richness to the guacamole.  If you're really a garlic fan, feel free to add 2 cloves to the recipe.

This recipe multiplies easily (in fact, the original recipe was for six times as much!), but this quantity of guacamole was the perfect amount for four, used as a taco topper.  It really made homemade tacos special, and I liked being able to make a relatively small amount that wouldn't go to waste, since guacamole can be tough to save. 

Roasted Garlic Guacamole (adapted from Fiesta at Rick's)

1 large clove garlic, skin on
Kosher salt 
1 large avocado
1 heaping T chopped cilantro
Lime juice

1. Roast the garlic in a dry skillet over medium heat until soft and blackened, about 10 minutes.  Watch carefully, and turn the garlic occasionally.  Peel, and mash the garlic with a generous pinch of kosher salt.
2. Place the garlic in a bowl with the avocado flesh, cilantro, and lime juice.  Mash coarsely.  Taste, and adjust for salt, cilantro, or lime juice as needed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pasta with Peperonata, Summer Squash, and Fresh Mozzarella

This is a quick and easy pasta dish that works well for a weeknight dinner.  The original recipe uses store-bought peperonata, which would definitely make this dish possible to fix up in the time it takes pasta to cook.  But, we found the peperonata was easy to make ourselves (and cheaper), and we were able to add in some summer squash for extra color and flavor.

We also substituted the burrata in the original recipe with regular fresh mozzarella - while I'm sure the fancier mozzarella in the original recipe would have been excellent, I thought the substitution worked well since we didn't have access to the cheese that was called for.  The only thing I would change about this recipe as we made it would be to add a bit more moisture to the dish - the original recipe called for drizzling it with a bit of olive oil, which I just completely forgot to do.  Adding some pasta water would probably also do the trick. 

Pasta with Peperonata, Summer Squash, and Fresh Mozzarella (adapted from The Wright Recipes and Epicurious)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 fresh rosemary sprig, leaves finely chopped
1 medium yellow summer squash, sliced
1 T balsamic vinegar
12 ounces dried pasta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, bell peppers and rosemary and sauté until onions and bell pepper are very tender, stirring occasionally. About 10 minutes before the bell peppers are done, add the summer squash to the pan and stir to combine.  Total cooking time should be about 40 minutes.  Off the heat, mix in the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile,cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain, and add the cooked veggies.  Toss to combine, and add a bit of olive oil or pasta water if needed.  Serve topped with the mozzarella cheese, salt, and pepper.

I'm sending this recipe off to Kitchen Bootcamp: Vegetables.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Black Bean-Corn Salad

I like this salad because it's super versatile.  It's great as a side salad, with lots of flavor to stand up as its own dish.  It also works as a dip/salsa - if you want to go this route, you could serve as is or add a couple more tomatoes.  Although we didn't use it this way, I think this recipe would also be great as a component of another dish - for example, a topper for chicken or stuffed in a quesadilla or taco with cheese.  Any way you serve it, this summer salad is quick to pull together and perfect for a hot day when you want to keep the stove off.

Black Bean-Corn Salad (adapted from Chili Cheese Fries, original recipe here)

1-1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob, steamed briefly if tough (may not be needed)
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 mild (or one spicy) jalapeno chiles, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
A generous drizzle of olive oil

Mix everything together, taste, and adjust ingredients as needed.