Friday, June 29, 2012

Pizza with Chicken and Summer Fruits

This pizza is one of the reasons I love making pizza at home - you can do crazy topping combinations with whatever strikes your fancy!  This pizza combines sauteed chicken with juicy black raspberries and nectarines - it's a perfect way to showcase summer fruit.  Jack cheese and goat cheese add tang and creaminess to the pizza for a seriously amazing pie.  You can make this in pretty much no time at all if you use a pre-made crust like we did, or you can buy or make unbaked pizza crust.  Although I love thin-crust pizza, you'll definitely want to make the crust for this one on the medium-thick side since there are a ton of toppings.  Once you bite into a hot slice, you may just agree with my parents that this is one of the most delicious pizzas ever!

Pizza with Chicken and Summer Fruits (inspired by How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)

Pizza dough or pizza crust such as Boboli
Olive oil
Grated Jack cheese
Cooked chicken breast, diced
Thinly sliced nectarines
Black raspberries
Thinly sliced basil
Crumbled goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (or whatever temperature recommended for the crust recipe you are using.  Stretch the dough into your pizza pan.  Brush with oil and then generously sprinkle with Jack cheese.  Top with diced chicken, nectarines, black raspberries, and basil.  Crumble goat cheese over the top.  Bake until the crust is crisp and the cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fresh Cherry-White Chocolate Muffins

It's cherry season here in California, and there are tons of gorgeous cherries all around the grocery store.  I've been enjoying just munching on them, but I also wanted to bake something fun.  Since I don't have a cherry pitter and didn't want to pit a million cherries by hand, this was the perfect recipe.  It makes just a few muffins, each one bursting full of fresh, juicy cherries.  That also makes it a great recipe if you're baking for one or two people - I'm definitely having to adjust my baking quantities now that I'm not living in a house with six roommates!  Of course, Tim and I still managed to eat the whole batch in one morning...but still better than making two dozen! 

Fresh Cherry-White Chocolate Muffins (adapted from Cook Almost Anything, original recipe here)
Makes 6-8 muffins

150 grams all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
25 grams granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup skim milk
40 grams butter, melted and cooled
100 grams halved, pitted cherries (measure after pitting)
50 grams best-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with papers (start with six papers and have a couple more ready to add if needed for extra batter).
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.  Whisk in the melted butter.  Add the dry ingredients and stir together with a rubber spatula until just combined.
4. Add the cherries and white chocolate and fold in gently.
5. Scoop the batter into the muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full and being sure to get at least a couple of cherries in each muffin.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the muffins are golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Peach-Blueberry Ice Cream Pie

Bon Appetit recently did a feature on frozen desserts based on treats from gourmet ice cream shops around the country.  All of the options looked fantastic, and so I was excited when my dad picked one of them for Father's Day.  This pie features a cookie crust made with gingersnaps - I loved the spicy flavor the cookies added - way more interesting than graham crackers!  My one quibble with the crust was that there wasn't really enough butter to hold everything together and so the crust was pretty crumbly - this didn't hurt the flavor (and, as you can see in the photo, I sprinkled some of the pieces of crust that didn't make it under the pie onto the top), but I'd add more butter next time so that the crust would be more cohesive.  The crust is topped with peach ice cream that's been mixed with cooked blueberries - an easy filling that's also really delicious.  I think I'd probably use vanilla ice cream next time, but my mom said she preferred it with the peach, so this is really up to your discretion!  My favorite part of this pie was actually the blueberry syrup that comes from the cooked berries. It's the perfect mix of sweet and tart, and really adds something extra special to this frozen dessert.

Peach-Blueberry Ice Cream Pie (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 package Anna's ginger cookies (5-1/4 ounces)
2 T unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 pint (2 cups) peach ice cream, softened in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

1. Place 1-3/4 cups blueberries in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice.  Cover and let macerate for one hour at room temperature.
2. Place the saucepan over medium heat and simmer the berries and juices, stirring often, until the berries begin to burst, about 10 minutes.  Strain the berries (a colander works well), and keep both the juice and the berries separately.  Place both bowls in the fridge to chill.
3. While the berries are chilling, make the crust. Crush the ginger cookies using a food processor or a plastic bag and a rolling pin, until they're as crushed as you can get them.  Stir in the melted butter and a splash of cream.  Press the crust into a pie plate, and chill at least 30 minutes before filling.
4. Mix together the softened ice cream and the chilled berries.  Spread into the chilled ginger cookie crust and smooth the top.  Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours (or up to 2 days).
5. Before serving, soften the pie in the fridge for 10 minutes.
6. Whip the cream to medium peaks.  Spread over the pie, and then scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of whole (uncooked) berries on top.  Drizzle with the reserved blueberry juices.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Carne Asada Tacos Vampiro

When I opened up Amor y Tacos, I pretty much immediately knew that these were the tacos I wanted to try first!  The corn tortillas are griddled with serrano peppers, scallions, and a bit of cheese in between them, so that the typical double-corn tortilla wrapper becomes a mini-quesadilla!  The cheesy tortillas envelop tender, simply flavored steak and lots of flavorful toppings.  Guacamole and pico de gallo are favorites of mine on any taco, and you can make your own if you want to go all out (although I will warn you that making everything from scratch - as we did - is definitely a production!) or go for high-quality store-bought toppings.  You'll definitely want to make your own chipotle salsa since it's pretty unique and super easy to make - just stir together mayo, minced chipotles in adobo, and lime juice.  It's a super spicy, creamy condiment that totally elevates the tacos to something extra special.  When you put this all together, it's a big, delicious mouthful - absolutely one of my all-time favorite tacos (although the pescado tacos at Nick's Crispy Tacos still hold first place in my heart).  One word of warning - these tacos are mouth-tinglingly spicy, so if you're sensitive, go easy on the chipotle salsa and consider leaving the serranos out of the tortillas.

Carne Asada Tacos Vampiro (adapted from Amor y Tacos)
Makes 6 substantial tacos, serving 3

1 T olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 pound flank steak, cut into 2-3 pieces
12 thin, taco-sized corn tortillas
3-4 ounces Jack cheese, grated
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced into rounds
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Guacamole (recipe below)
Pico de Gallo (recipe below)
Creamy Chipotle Salsa (recipe below)
To serve: more shredded Jack cheese and minced cilantro

1. Whisk together the oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and soy sauce.  Add the steak, turn a few times to coat, and cover with plastic wrap.  Marinate while you prepare the toppings, or up to overnight.
2. Heat a splash of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Once it's hot, add the steak to the pan carefully.  Cook until it's as done as you like it.  Remove from the pan, cover with foil, and let rest 10 minutes.
3. Lay out six of the tortillas.  Sprinkle on the cheese, chiles, and onions as evenly as possible.  Top with the remaining six tortillas.  
4. Heat a skillet (or two) over medium-high heat.  Add the tortillas (no need for oil) and heat on both sides until the cheese is melted.  Keep on a warm plate under aluminum foil while preparing the remaining tortillas.
5. Thinly slice the steak against the grain.
6. Assemble the tacos.  Spread a bit of guacamole down the middle, and then top with a few slices of steak.  To with pico de gallo, creamy chipotle salsa (careful, it's spicy!), cheese, and cilantro.  

1 large, ripe avocado
1/2 T lime juice
Generous pinch of salt
2 T finely diced white onion
2 T minced cilantro
1 cored and seeded Roma tomato, diced

Mash together the avocado, lime juice, and salt.  Gently stir in the onion, cilantro, and tomato.  Taste and add more lime juice or salt if you like.

Pico de Gallo
2 cored and seeded Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup finely diced white onion
1/4 to 1/2 serrano chile, minced
1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 T lime juice

Mix everything together, cover, and chill until ready to use.

Creamy Chipotle Salsa
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 T finely chopped chipotle in adobo
1/2 tsp lime juice

Mix everything together.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas)

When Tim and I were recently jonesing for some Indian food, this recipe definitely hit the spot.  You'll have to start a little early since it involves roasting eggplant and tomatoes before really starting the recipe.  But, once you start cooking, things go fairly quickly so there's not overly much time spent in front of the stove.  I love the smoky flavor that eggplant adds to this vegetarian dish, and tomatoes and lemon juice add just the right amount of acidity.  Chickpeas add enough protein to make this a filling dinner served over rice.  I thought the spices here were really well balanced - the dish was perfectly savory and not very spicy.  You can add more chili flakes or a minced fresh chili if you like your Indian food spicy, but I thought this was delicious on the mild side so that you could really taste the veggies and other spices. 

Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas) (adapted from the taste space, original recipe here)
Serves 4-6

2 medium eggplants (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds total)
9 Roma tomatoes, halved
Vegetable oil
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T unsweetened coconut
1 T ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
Pinch chili flakes (more if you want the dish to be spicy)
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T minced fresh cilantro, divided
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.  Prick the eggplants with a fork, and then place on the baking sheet.  Add the tomatoes, cut side up.  Drizzle the vegetables with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast the vegetables for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, watching closely in the last 15 minutes of roasting.  When done, the eggplants should be totally collapsed.  Set aside to cool.
2. Once the vegetables are cool enough to touch, peel the eggplants and dump the contents (along with any liquid) into a medium bowl.  Slip the skins off the tomatoes and pinch off any cores that remain tough, and add the tomatoes to the bowl with the eggplants.  Mash with a potato masher until no large chunks remain.
3. Have all the remaining ingredients ready before you start, because once you add the garlic, everything will move quickly.  In a large skillet, heat about 1 T of oil over medium high heat.  Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the onion and cook about 10 minutes, until softened and browned.
4. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add the coconut and cook for one minute.  Add the coriander, cumin, garam masala, and chili flakes, and cook for one more minute.  Add one tablespoon of water to the pan, stir to deglaze, and then cook until the water is evaporated.
5. Add the mashed tomatoes and eggplant to the skillet and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chickpeas and stir until heated through, about 5 minutes.
6. Stir in half the cilantro and the lemon juice.  Add salt to taste.  Serve over rice and garnish with the remaining cilantro.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thai Ginger Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups

My dad picked out this recipe for us to make for Father's Day dinner, and it turned out to be really delicious!  Crunchy lettuce is the perfect cup to hold tender rice noodles, ginger-lemongrass chicken, and lots of fresh herbs.  Midway through eating this salad, we did decide it was lacking a little "something," and chopped roasted peanuts turned out to be the perfect addition - they add a toasty crunch that definitely elevates the dish.  I'd also recommend using Thai chiles or another super spicy chile if you can find them - we substituted jalapenos because of availability, and while the dressing was yummy, I think it was lacking a little oomph that a spicy chile would have added.  Overall, though, this was a really tasty dish that we all enjoyed!  It was fairly easy to pull together, although there is a lot of chopping involved.  If I were making this again, I think I might make the chicken the night before so that the whole dish is served cold rather than warm - although I liked the salad on Father's Day evening, I thought it was even better for lunch the next day!

Thai Ginger Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 4

2 Thai chiles, minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp plus 1 T minced fresh ginger, divided
1 small garlic clove, minced
6 ounces rice stick noodles (maifun)
1/2 to 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
2 T finely chopped shallot
1 T minced fresh lemongrass, from the peeled bottom 4 inches of stalk
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Large butter lettuce leaves
Chopped roasted peanuts, to garnish

1. Make the dressing.  Whisk together the chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, 2 tsp of the ginger, and the garlic, until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and then cook the noodles for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water. Toss with about a quarter of the dressing.
3. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken and stir for a minute.  Add the remaining tablespoon of ginger, along with the shallot and lemongrass.  Saute until the chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
4. Toss the chicken with half the herbs and about a quarter of the dressing.
5. Place lettuce leaves on four plates.  Top each lettuce leaf with some of the noodles and then some of the chicken mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining herbs and dressing at the table.  Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes are definitely one of my favorite summer meals...something about them just screams lazy summer evening. I'm definitely not above opening up a can of Manwich, but this homemade version hits the same flavors using pantry ingredients (and way less sugar and ketchup than many recipes I found). It's also super easy to pull together - just saute peppers and onions, brown the meat, and then dump in the sauce ingredients. Simmer for a bit, and you're ready to go! I like to serve my sloppy joes with cheddar cheese for a rich element and bread and butter pickles to brighten up the sandwich.

Homemade Sloppy Joes (adapted from Pinch My Salt, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 T oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup water
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T brown sugar
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch ground cinnamon
A few grinds freshly ground black pepper
To serve: toasted buns, cheddar cheese, bread and butter pickles

1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and saute until softened and just starting to brown.
2. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with your spoon.  Cook, stirring often, until the beef is cooked through.  Drain the excess fat out of the pan. 
3. Add the water, tomato paste, ketchup, brown sugar, and spices to the pan.  Stir to combine, and then simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until everything looks nicely married.
4. Serve on toasted buns with cheddar cheese and pickles (or whatever toppings you like).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mexican Zucchini-Corn Soup

This fantastic recipe has been waiting in my "to post" list for months now because I hadn't gotten around to actually typing up the recipe! My mom and I actually made this last January, but it's definitely more of a summer soup with zucchini, corn, and tomatoes.  I'm excited to make it with summer veggies this season!  The soup is full of fantastic vegetable flavor, and a little bit of cream and cheese adds plenty of richness.  A bit of minced chile adds a little heat, but you can certainly add more or less depending on your interest in spiciness (the soup recipe as written is just slightly spicy).  Although the recipe includes two steps - roasting the tomatoes and making the soup - the tomatoes can actually be roasted while you begin sauteing vegetables, so the overall time to prepare the recipe isn't too overwhelming.  Leftovers also keep well, if you have them!

Mexican Zucchini-Corn Soup (adapted from Truly Mexican)
Serves 4-6

1 pound tomatoes (about 3 medium)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh serrano or jalapeno pepper, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2-3 ears of corn)
1-1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup Mexican crema or heavy cream
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
3/4 tsp fine salt
1 cup chopped cilantro

1. Preheat the broiler (or preheat the oven as hot as it will go and place an oven rack on the top shelf of the oven).  Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Core the tomatoes and cut a small "X" through the skin on the bottom.  Place the tomatoes, cored-side-up, on the baking sheet.  Roast until the tops and have blackened and the tomatoes are cooked all the way through, about 20 minutes.  Slip the skins off the tomatoes and discard the skins.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring, until softened, 3-5 minutes.
4. Add the corn, oregano, nutmeg, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until the corn is lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until just tender, 3-5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, crema, cheese, and salt.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes more.  Season to taste with additional salt, and stir in the cilantro just before serving.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Israeli Couscous Salad with Lamb Sausage, Oranges, and Fennel

Everyone on the Internet is buzzing about Ripe these days, but I've got to admit that I was kind of disappointed when I received my copy.  It's definitely a gorgeous cookbook, but when you've only got one recipe per ingredient, I expect those recipes to be really special.  There were an awful lot of very simple salads, fruit plates, and smoothies/drinks for my taste.  That said, I'd have to say that the book is probably more intended to be inspiration than it is really creative recipes (although there are some of those in there) - and I do think it does that well, it's just not quite what I was expecting.

Still, taking it from more of an 'inspiration' point of view, I do think Ripe highlights some interesting flavor combinations and does get you excited for eating delicious fresh produce.  After reading through the cookbook, I came up with this Israeli couscous salad based on the flavors in a few different recipes.  I just kind of went with what sounded good and looked good at the grocery (I made this back in early spring when it was still orange season).  Success!  I ended up with a really tasty main-course salad that I probably wouldn't have come up with without the right inspiration.  The oranges are bright and juicy, and pair perfectly with slightly sweet, crunchy fennel.  Lamb sausage is one of my absolute favorites, but you could easily substitute sweet Italian sausage or an herb-y chicken sausage.  I love Israeli couscous, but you can also use regular couscous or your favorite grain (you know I love my quinoa!) in this salad.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Lamb Sausage, Oranges, and Fennel
Serves 2-3 as a light entree

2 large navel oranges
1 medium fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
4 Kalamata olives, minced
1-1/2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (from about 3/4 cup uncooked), cooled to room temperature
1 rosemary-lamb sausage
1/2 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings
Several mint leaves, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
Feta cheese, crumbled, to taste
A small handful of toasted pine nuts
Salt, pepper, and/or olive oil, to taste

1. Supreme the oranges and squeeze out any remaining juice into a bowl (along with any juice that collects on the cutting board.  Cut the orange slices into bite-sized pieces, and add to the bowl with the orange juice along with the fennel, Kalamata olives, and couscous.
2. Crumble the rosemary-lamb sausage into a non-stick skillet and cook until browned and cooked through.  Remove to a separate bowl to cool.  Add the shallots to the skillet (along with a bit of oil if needed), and saute until nicely browned.  Add to the bowl with the sausage.
3. Add the mint leaves, lemon juice, feta cheese, and pine nuts to the bowl with the oranges and fennel.  Once the sausage and shallots have mostly cooled (they can be a bit warm), add to the bowl with the rest of the salad and toss everything to combine. 
4. Taste, and add more lemon juice, salt, pepper, and/or a drizzle of olive oil to taste.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Artichoke-Herb Tart with Polenta Crust

This tart takes a bit of time to pull together, but none of the steps are particularly hard and the results are more than worth it.  The tart starts off with a special crust - instead of pastry, it's made of cheesy polenta that's cooked until very thick and then pressed into a tart pan.  This process takes longer than a traditional pastry crust, but at least it doesn't involve cutting in butter or rolling anything out!  (Those are the tasks I hate about regular crusts!)  Plus, I think it's really delicious!  Once the crust is done, the filling is easy - a layer of canned artichoke hearts covered with a yogurt based custard.  I really liked the custard; I don't think I've ever made custard with Greek yogurt as the base rather than cream or milk, but it adds great tang and is healthier (no fat plus lots of protein).  The artichoke hearts are tasty and the slightly sour flavor goes well with the yogurt, but you could substitute in any vegetable you like here - just cook it first as the filling is not cooked long enough to make a raw vegetable tender.  This tart is total comfort food, hot with gooey cheese - but with really unique flavors.  If you have leftovers, they keep well in the fridge (reheat briefly in the microwave).

Artichoke-Herb Tart with Polenta Crust (adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals)
Serves 3-4

For the crust:
1 cup vegetable broth
1-3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cup polenta
2-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (or another hard cheese such as Pecorino Romano), grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 large egg, at room temperature
Several grinds black pepper

For the filling:
1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions 
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
Several grinds black pepper
2 12-ounce cans artichoke quarters in water (without spices), drained and rinsed
3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
2-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (or another hard cheese such as Pecorino Romano), grated on the large holes of a box grater

1. Make the crust.  Bring the broth and water to a boil in a large, non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the salt.  Whisk in the polenta gradually, and continue to whisk for 30 more seconds.  Decrease heat to low, cover, and cook for ten minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes (polenta will be very thick by the end of this process).  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit 10 minutes, stirring a few times.  Stir in the cheese, egg, and pepper until well combined.
2. Grease a 10-inch tart pan and place on a cookie sheet.  Spread the polenta into the pan with wet fingers, re-wetting your fingers as needed.  Try to create an even layer on the bottom of the pan and about 3/4 inch up the sides (no need to be perfect).
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
4. Prepare the filling.  Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, green onions, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
5. Create an even layer of artichoke quarters on the bottom of the crust - you won't use all of them.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top, and then gently pour the filling over, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
6. Bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is set, about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.  Cut into slices and serve (this part is pretty messy!).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pineapple-Ginger Brown Sugar Crisp

I've had this recipe on my "to-make" list for a while - it's in my binder of magazine recipes, and every time I flip through, I think...maybe this time? I finally got my act together and made this delicious crisp, and I'm so glad I did (with quite a bit of help from Tim)!  It has a lot of fantastic flavors going on: tart pineapple, spicy ginger, and a hit of lime juice.  Since we made this when we had just moved in, I belatedly discovered that we had no regular oats in the apartment - just steel cut oats and quick-cooking steel cut oats.  The latter actually worked perfectly in the dish - the texture was a bit different, but the crisp topping was still very tasty.  This crisp was definitely best warm, the day it was made, but kept pretty well in the fridge and was also yummy cold out of the fridge for a few days.

Pineapple-Ginger Brown Sugar Crisp (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup quick cooking steel cut oats (or rolled oats)
Several grates of nutmeg
Generous pinch of salt
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 large pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 T cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a 1 quart baking dish with oil.
2. Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl.  Add the butter and cut in using a pastry cutter or rub in using your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Chill, uncovered, while preparing the pineapple.
3. Put the pineapple in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, ginger, and a pinch of salt.  Gently stir into the pineapple.  Sprinkle the cornstarch over the pineapple and gently stir to combine.
4. Transfer the pineapple to the baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture over evenly.  Cover with foil.
5. Bake 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden brown.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quinoa-Lentil Salad with Fresh Vegetables

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I love my whole-grain salads: Moroccan quinoa salad; quinoa, fruit, and nut salad; farro-chickpea salad; quinoa salad with apple, fennel, dried cherries, and goat cheese; and BLT salad with quinoa.  This quinoa-lentil salad fits right in with this bunch (are you sensing a quinoa theme?!), making a perfect light lunch or hearty side dish.  The quinoa and lentils make this a protein-rich vegetarian dish.  I also love all the crunchy veggies and fruit: sweet bell pepper, shredded carrots, and tart green apples.  Toasted pine nuts add a delicious nutty flavor, and goat cheese contributes a creamy texture scattered throughout the salad. I really liked serving this dish alongside leftover potato salad to add even more creaminess.  Like most whole grain salads, it keeps well in the fridge and so it's a great make-ahead, healthy lunch.

Quinoa-Lentil Salad with Fresh Vegetables (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup French green lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup plus 1 T olive oil, divided
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup diced green apple
1/4 cup minced chives
3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 ounces goat cheese

1. Bring two pots of water to a boil.  In one, cook the lentils until tender (can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how old they are).  In the other pot, cook the quinoa along with a healthy pinch of salt, until tender, 15-20 minutes.  Drain the lentils and quinoa together and rinse with cold water.  Toss with 1 T olive oil and set aside to cool.
2. Whisk together the remaining olive oil, vinegar, and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the peppers, carrots, apple, and chives.  Toss in the quinoa and lentils.  Add about 1/2 cup of the dressing, and toss to combine.  Fold in the pine nuts and goat cheese.  Taste, and add more vinaigrette, salt, and/or pepper as needed. Keeps well in the fridge (save any extra vinaigrette to drizzle on top of leftover portions or to use on a green salad).

I'm sending this recipe off to Kitchen Bootcamp: Salads!

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest: Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Ice Cream Cupcakes

It's my favorite time of year: the Ice Cream Cupcake Contest!  In past years, I've created ginger-vanilla cupcakes filled with pineapple sorbet and strawberry-balsamic ice cream cupcakes.  This year I decided to go in a more chocolate-y direction with these chocolate-covered strawberry ice cream cupcakes.  Thanks to the Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious for hosting the contest - coming up with the flavor combination was so much fun!

The chocolate ice cream I made for this recipe was amazing both inside the cupcakes and on its own.  The flavor and texture reminded me of a Wendy's Frosty (one of my absolute favorite fast food treats), so I'm excited to have a recipe that replicates it using real ingredients.  The chocolate ice cream is stuffed inside strawberry cupcakes - these didn't turn out as pink as I was hoping, but they were still delicious!

The lack of pink in the cupcakes was totally made up for in the super pink strawberry frosting.  In the past, I've tried to make fresh strawberry frosting on multiple occasions and always ran into problems - emulsions that wouldn't form (i.e. big chunks of butter that wouldn't blend in - ick!), super runny, etc.  This recipe is absolutely perfect, and I was amazed at how much color and flavor just two tablespoons of strawberry puree contributed!

The fabulous pink frosting is drizzled with strawberry hot fudge sauce.  I really wanted to find a sauce for the cupcakes that combined fruit and chocolate, but I couldn't find one.  I ended up adapting a recipe for chocolate sauce that used water, and replaced the water with strawberry puree.  This definitely did the trick - the strawberry flavor is subtle but definitely there, and the sauce is intense and not-too-sweet, a perfect counterpart for the super-sweet buttercream.  Overall, this is an absolutely decadent and delicious dessert...I'm in love!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Ice Cream Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcakes
Chocolate Ice Cream
Fresh Strawberry Frosting
Strawberry Hot Fudge Sauce

Split the cupcakes in half and fill with chocolate ice cream.  Spread on some frosting and then top with strawberry hot fudge sauce.  Enjoy immediately!

Strawberry Cupcakes (adapted from the Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook)
Makes 6 cupcakes

3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Generous pinch fine sea salt
1/3 cup pureed fresh strawberries (from about 1/2 cup whole strawberries)
2 T milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 6 cupcake cups with papers.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another small bowl, whisk together the strawberry puree, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest.
3. Beat the butter on medium-high speed until light in color.  Turn the speed down to low, and gradually add the sugar, mixing for 3-4 minutes until fluffy.  Add the egg and mix well.  Add the flour alternating with the strawberry mixture (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix another 1-2 minutes.
4. Scoop the batter into the prepared cups, dividing equally among them.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool completely.

Chocolate Ice Cream (adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones)
Makes about 1 quart

5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (measured, then sifted)
3/4 cup skim milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks briefly and then whisk in half the sugar (6 T).  Set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the cocoa powder with the remaining sugar (6 T).   Whisk in about 1/4 cup of the milk to form a paste, adding a little more milk as needed to make it smooth and uniform.  Whisk in the remaining milk, cream, and salt and place the pan over medium-high heat.  When the mixture approaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium.
3. Temper the egg yolks with the hot cream mixture, whisking in about 1/2 cup at a time in a slow stream.  Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan.
4. Cook the mixture slowly, stirring constantly over medium heat, until thickened, 1-2 minutes.  It should coat the back of a spatula and hold a clear pat when you run your finger across the back of the spatula.
5. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container.  Chill overnight, until very cold.
6. Whisk the vanilla into the ice cream base and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to your machine's instructions.  Pop in the freezer for a few hours to let the ice cream firm up.

Fresh Strawberry Frosting (adapted from the Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook)
Makes about 1-1/4 cups

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 T pureed fresh strawberries (from about 1/4 cup whole berries)

Beat together the butter, lemon juice, and salt on low speed until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes.  Gradually sift in the powdered sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Add the strawberry puree and mix until completely incorporated, 1-2 minutes.  The frosting will hold at room temperature for a couple of days if needed.

Strawberry Hot Fudge Sauce (adapted from David Lebovitz)
Makes about 1-1/4 cups

1 cup pureed fresh strawberries (from about 1-1/2 cups whole strawberries)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup + 2 T cocoa powder, sifted
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate (preferably 80-85% cacao), finely chopped

1. Strain the strawberry puree though a fine mesh strainer.  Measure out 1/2 cup of the strained puree and transfer to a small saucepan.
2. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder and stir to combine.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate.  Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted.  If the sauce looks lumpy, strain through a fine mesh strainer.
4. Let cool a few minutes, but use while still warm.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Old Fashioned" Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes quite a while ago for Tim's birthday, and they were a big hit.  I knew I wanted to bake him something from the Butch Bakery Cookbook, so I sent him a list of all the different options and these are the cupcakes he picked!  The flavors are based on the 'old fashioned' cocktail.

The cupcakes are nice and moist with a delicate texture and great orange flavor from a triple threat of juice, zest, and extract.  For extra whiskey flavor, you can add an extra step of soaking the cupcakes in whiskey - Tim loved this, but I found it a little too intense, so try one out and see what you think.  Finally, the cupcakes are topped off with an 'old fashioned' frosting combining orange, whiskey, and bitters.  We had quite an adventure finding bitters - after trying a couple of liquor stores, we eventually begged some from a very kind bartender near Tim's old apartment (she did get paid in cupcake form later on in the afternoon!). 

"Old Fashioned" Cupcakes (adapted from the Butch Bakery Cookbook)
Makes 18 cupcakes

For the cupcakes
1 1/2 cups plus 2 T cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs, broken into a small bowl
1/4 cup plus 2 T freshly squeezed orange juice, from 3 large oranges
1 T orange zest, from 1 large orange
1/4 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream

For the frosting
12 T unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted through a strainer
1/4 cup plus 2 T whiskey
9 dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 tsp orange extract
1/2 tsp orange zest

Optional whiskey for soaking cupcakes before frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 18 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
2. Make the cupcakes. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the eggs, beating until combined.  Add the flour mixture, orange juice, orange zest, orange extract, and vanilla, and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Add the sour cream and beat to incorporate.
3. Fill each cupcake tin about 3/4 full of batter.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
4. Make the frosting.  Beat the butter with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to medium, and add half the confectioners' sugar along with the whiskey, bitters, orange extract, and orange zest.  Beat well to incorporate.  Add the remaining sugar as needed to get the texture and taste you like.  Beat 2-3 minutes until very smooth and creamy. 
5. Once the cupcakes are cooled, you can put everything together.  If you want some extra whiskey flavor, poke the top of each cupcake several times with a wooden skewer and then brush whiskey over.  (You can also skip this step if you like.)  Then frost each cupcake with the frosting.