Sunday, December 30, 2012

Middle Eastern Spiced Meatballs with Goat Cheese Polenta

This is one of the absolute best dishes I made this winter.  It's the perfect comfort food on a chilly night.  The only really time-consuming part of the dish is rolling the meatballs - if you're in a rush, you could easily just combine all the meatball ingredients in a skillet (minus the panko and egg) and brown the meat, and then add to the sauce for a delicious meat sauce.  Then again, meatballs are a lot of fun and well worth the effort...just recruit a helper or two!  The meatballs are cooked in a spiced tomato sauce that's super flavorful.  You can serve the meatballs with anything you like - the original recipe suggested pitas, but couscous or pasta would be excellent as well.  Since I had some extra goat cheese in the fridge, I decided to go with the Pioneer Woman's fantastic goat cheese polenta.  It's creamy with wonderful corn and goat cheese flavors, and it goes perfectly with rich meatballs (although it definitely takes the dish out of "Cooking Light" territory).  My secret to making good polenta is to use a non-stick pot to make it - you don't have to worry about sticking, and you can get away with a little less whisking.  Start the polenta a few minutes after you put the meatballs on to simmer and everything should be done about the same time.

Middle Eastern Spiced Meatballs (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

Olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped, divided
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
Black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 14.5-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1. Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 T of the onions and the garlic, and cook until translucent, stirring often.  Let cool slightly, and then scrape into a large bowl.  Add the panko, mint, lamb, ground beef, and egg.  Season with 1/2 tsp of the salt and several grinds of black pepper.  Mix to combine with your hands, and then shape into small meatballs.
2. Return the pan to the stove, add more oil as needed, and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the meatballs, and cook, turning often, until they are browned on a couple of sides - no need to cook them through completely.  Transfer the meatballs to a bowl or plate.
3. Adding more oil if needed, add the remaining onions to the skillet and saute until translucent and starting to brown.  Add the ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and tomatoes, and simmer 5 minutes.  Season with the remaining 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper.  Stir in enough water to make a loose sauce, and then stir in the meatballs.  Simmer 20 minutes, adding more water as needed.  Serve over goat cheese polenta.

Goat Cheese Polenta (adapted from the Pioneer Woman, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 cup dry polenta
1 tsp salt
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1 T butter, at room temperature

1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Season with the salt.
2. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 15 minutes, whisking often.  Add more water as needed to get your desired consistency.
3. When the polenta is done, whisk in the goat cheese and butter.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Nutella Swirl Buns

These buns look fancy, but they're actually really simple to make.  I made them for Christmas breakfast, and they are actually a yeasted breakfast treat that's possible to make in the morning before brunch without getting up in the wee hours of the morning - about an hour from start to finish, including rising time.  The dough comes together easily, even without a stand mixer - it's soft but not too sticky.  It also rolls out perfectly even without any flour - I recommend rolling it out on a big piece of waxed paper or parchment for easily rolling up the buns.  The recipe calls for Nutella as filling - so delicious, and who doesn't want chocolate for breakfast! - but you could easily do a cinnamon roll filling if that's what you're in the mood for.  Finally, the rolls are sliced and popped into muffin tins for perfect single-serving rolls.  These were really delicious and looked so festive on the table - I will definitely be making this recipe again!

Nutella Swirl Buns (adapted from Phemomenon, original recipe here)
Makes 1 dozen

For the dough:
2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
1 T instant yeast
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup milk, warm
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

To finish:
2/3 cup Nutella
Butter or oil, to grease

1. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, butter, milk, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Add more flour 1/4 cup at a time until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms.  Knead for a few minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise 20 minutes in a warm place.
2. Place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface.  Press into a very large rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. You may need to use a rolling pin at the end to finish flattening the dough.
3. Place the Nutella in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until soft enough to spread easily but not completely melted.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
4. Spread the Nutella evenly all over the dough.  Working from the long side of the dough, roll up the rectangle.  Cut into 12 equal pieces.  Place each piece of dough, swirl-side-up, in the muffin pan.  Cover and let rise 20 minutes in a warm place.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
6. When the oven is preheated and the dough is risen, bake the dough 12-14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking.  The tops should be golden brown and the bottoms should be well browned but not burnt.  Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then remove to a serving plate and enjoy warm.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chocolate Croissant Cookies

I hope everyone had a good holiday!  I had so much fun celebrating Christmas with my parents, sister, and grandma.  There was snow on the ground, so it was a white Christmas, but today we're really getting a crazy amount of snow from Winter Storm Euclid (since when did they start naming these things?!)  We also had a really delicious Christmas, with lots of different treats, including lots of kinds of Christmas cookies.

These cookies are a little fussy but well worth the effort.  As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I wanted to try making them for Christmas.  Chocolate croissants are one of my favorite breakfast indulgences, so I knew they'd be good as a dessert.  Plus, they're so cute!  The cream cheese dough is really tender and flavorful, but not too sweet, a perfect combination with the chocolate filling.  The dough is fairly soft, so definitely follow the directions and stick the dough in the fridge when suggested...your patience will be rewarded with delicious and adorable cookies. My only complaint with the recipe is that it only made two time maybe I will make a double recipe!

Chocolate Croissant Cookies (adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine)
Makes 2 dozen cookies

4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 T flour
4 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
9 T mini chocolate chips
3 T granulated sugar
1 egg white, beaten

1. Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar on high speed for 3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and salt.  Mix in the flour on low speed.
2. Divide the dough into three equal pieces, press into disks, and wrap in plastic.  Chill 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.  Starting with the first dough disk, place the dough on a piece of wax paper or parchment and place another piece on top.  Roll out into an 8-inch round.  Repeat with the other pieces of dough, and then stack them between sheets of wax paper or parchment.  Chill 15 minutes.
4. Remove one dough round from the refrigerator.  Spread with 1 T plus 1 tsp of the melted butter, sprinkle with 3 T mini chocolate chips, and then sprinkle with 1 T sugar.  Press gently on the chocolate.  Cut the circle into 8 equal wedges.
5. Starting from the wide end, roll up each wedge.  Transfer to the cookie sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough.
6. Brush the cookies with egg white.
7. Bake 22-24 minutes, until golden.  Transfer to racks to cool.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lime and Ginger Cookies

So, I have to be honest that I didn't love these cookies.  Then why am I posting them?  Well, they were a big hit with everyone else.  I'm just not a fan of this type of crumbly, crispy, powdered sugar-covered cookie.  That said, I think these are a great version of that sort of cookie if you like them (and I think most people do!).  Think a pumped up version of an Italian wedding cookie - same sort of texture and flavor, but bigger and with more lime action going on!  This is probably my Dad's favorite style of cookie, so he was happy that I made them for once.  :)  Although these have quite a lot of ginger in them (both fresh and dried), I thought the lime flavor definitely took center stage - if you want more ginger here, you could increase the dried ginger or try adding some minced candied ginger (another thing I don't like! Boy, I never realized I was so picky when it came to dessert...)  In any case, these would be a great addition to any Christmas cookie plate.  Hope you have a wonderful holiday...I'll be back after Christmas!

Lime and Ginger Cookies (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, via Taking on Magazines)
Makes about 4 dozen

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 T finely grated lime zest (from 4 limes)
1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger
3/4 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1-1/2 T fresh lime juice
1-1/2 T dark corn syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2-1/4 cups flour
Powdered sugar and green sanding sugar, to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two baking sheets.
2. Place the sugar, zest, and ginger in a food processor and process about 2 minutes, until the mixture is moist and uniform.
3. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture in a small bowl.
4. Place the remaining sugar in a large bowl, along with the butter, yolk, lime juice, corn syrup, ginger, vanilla, baking soda, and salt.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, a couple of minutes.  Add half the flour and beat into the butter mixture.  Add the remaining flour and stir until completely combined.
5. Scoop out scant tablespoons of dough.  Roll in balls, roll in the reserved lime-sugar mixture, and then place on baking sheets, leaving a good amount of space between cookies.  Press each cookie to about 1/4-inch thick with the bottom of a glass.  Bake 6-10 minutes, until the cookies are set but not yet browned.  Let cool on the baking sheet for a minute or so, and then transfer to a wire rack . Sprinkle with powdered sugar and green sanding sugar, and let cool completely.

My sister's cat is enjoying his new Santa outfit...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic En Papillote

We've been getting a ton of baby bok choy in our produce box lately, so I wanted to try something a bit different with it.  This recipe from Dorie Greenspan pairs this vegetable with French flavors - an unusual combination, but one that is really delicious! I love the idea of making the greens "en papillote" - sounds fancy, but it's super simple.  You just wrap everything up in foil packets and bake until tender.  This wouldn't work for many sorts of greens, but it's actually perfect with baby bok choy since the stems need some time to soften up.  Paired with snap peas (good, but definitely optional - you could easily skip or sub in another green vegetable), this makes for a great green side dish.

I served these greens alongside roasted chicken.  I mixed up some softened butter with salt, Aleppo chili flakes, smoked paprika, orange zest, and fresh thyme, and then rubbed that under the skin of the chicken and baked it according to this recipe.  I roasted the chicken over carrots, which ended up super tender from being braised in the butter and chicken fat - yum.  Those are probably the most unhealthy but also the most delicious carrots ever!

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic En Papillote (adapted from Around My French Table)
Serves 2-4

Handful of sugar snap peas
3 baby bok choy
1 small white onion, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest of 1/2 small orange
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lay a large piece of aluminum foil over your largest rimmed baking sheet.
2. Cut each pea in half and toss into a large bowl.  Quarter each baby bok choy lengthwise, and add to the peas.  Add the sliced onions, garlic, and orange zest.  Pour over a few glugs of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss everything to combine.
3. Place the veggies on the foil and spread into an even layer, leaving about an inch of foil around the edges.  Cover with another large piece of foil, and then crimp the edges together to form a packet.
4. Bake 15 minutes, or until the bok choy is tender.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quickie Pizza with Panna and Vegetables

I love homemade pizza, but it does require some advanced planning to make the dough and let it rise.  Enter this recipe for fast homemade pizza - I decided I wanted pizza for lunch around 11:30am, and we were eating by 12:30!  At least in our area, you often can't get delivery in that amount of time, and this pizza is so much tastier than delivery.  The game plan: make the dough - a stand mixer makes this part faster, but of course you can make it by hand as well.  Let rise in a warm oven for half an hour.  While the dough rises, prep all your toppings.  Take the dough out of the oven and crank up the temperature.  Press the dough into a pan, pile on the toppings, and then bake in a super hot oven until the cheese is all bubbly.  Eat!

As with all pizza recipes, the toppings are infinitely customize-able to fit what you like and what you've got in the fridge.  This pie was definitely a clean-out-the-fridge pizza, using up a bit of heavy cream, various veggies we had from our CSA, and a couple of Trader Joe's cheeses.  Panna, or unsweetened whipped cream, is a fantastic base for pizza toppings - it sounds crazy, but really it's just a super simple way to top your pizza with white sauce without making a bechamel!  The piece de resistance is a bit of Sonomic balsamic syrup drizzled over the top.  I highly recommend this if you can find it, but if you can't, you can always make your own balsamic syrup.

So, with such a small time investment, how did the pizza taste?  I have to admit, it was not as good as my favorite pizza crust recipe.  However, that recipe takes two days to make, so you can't exactly have it on a moment's notice.  Although it wasn't a 'best ever' recipe in terms of flavor and texture, this pizza crust was definitely very tasty and made a great base for flavorful toppings.  This is a recipe I'll be going back to any time that pizza craving hits!

Quickie Pizza with Panna and Vegetables (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
Serves 2

Quickie pizza dough:
1/2 cup warm water, plus more as needed
1-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp table salt
Olive oil, for the bowl and baking sheet

1/2 cup cream, whipped (don't add sugar!)
Veggies: I used thinly sliced fennel, thinly sliced red bell pepper, and sauteed swiss chard
Cheese: I used crumbled goat cheese and shaved Parmesan
Parsley (or another fresh herb), chopped
Balsamic syrup

1. Turn oven to warm for five minutes, and then turn it off (you can do this while you mix the dough).
2. Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Sprinkle the yeast over and let sit 5 minutes.  Add the flour and salt and mix with the dough hook until the mixture forms a smooth, elastic dough, about 5 minutes.  Add more water or flour as needed.
3. Remove the dough, wipe out the bowl, and coat lightly with olive oil.
4. Form the dough into a ball, return to the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in the warmed oven.  Let sit 30 minutes.
5. Remove the dough from the oven and turn the oven to 500 degrees or its highest setting.
6. Line a large baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with oil.  Press the dough out over the baking sheet - depending on the size of your pan, it might not stretch all the way to the edges.  If the dough won't stretch, let it rest for a few minutes to allow the dough to relax before continuing.  Try to make the edges a bit thicker than the middle, since they'll cook fastest.
7. Sprinkle salt all over the pizza dough.  Spread the cream (panna) evenly over the salt, leaving a bit of a border at the edges.  Sprinkle the vegetables, cheese, and parsley over the panna, being careful not to load on too many toppings.  Drizzle the balsamic syrup over everything.
8. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is browned on the bottom.  Slice the pizza and enjoy while hot!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Butter Chicken in the Slow Cooker

Wrapping up slow cooker week is this fantastic recipe for butter chicken. I made a more complicated (and probably more authentic) version of butter chicken about a year and a half ago.  While that version was definitely really tasty, this one easily rivals it, especially since it is so much easier!  This is basically a dump-everything-in-the-slow-cooker recipe - no browning, and not even a ton of chopping.  The results are super flavorful.  The chicken ends up very saucy, which is great because the sauce is so yummy - but, if you're looking to stretch this recipe, you could definitely add more chicken at the beginning.  Leftovers reheat well, so I may do that next time.  If you're a fan of spicy food, I'd also recommend adding some red pepper flakes or even some chilies, as this recipe is very mild.

Butter Chicken in the Slow Cooker (adapted from, via Semi-Sweet)
Serves 4

1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
3 T unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1-1/2 tsp cardamom
1-1/2 tsp curry powder
1-1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 can light coconut milk
4-1/2 ounces tomato paste
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup plain yogurt

1. Place the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker in an even layer.  Scatter the onion, garlic, and butter evenly over the chicken.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cardamom, curry powder, garam masala, Aleppo pepper, ginger, and salt.  Evenly scatter over the chicken.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut milk tomato paste, and lemon juice.  Pour over the chicken.
4. Cook on high for 4 hours (or on low for 8 hours).  Shred the chicken with two forks (should shred easily).
5. Turn the slow cooker to low and stir in the yogurt.  Cook 15 minutes or so, and then serve with rice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Crockpot Caponata

Continuing my week of slow cooker recipes is this excellent vegan offering.  I'm a big fan of caponata, but I never thought to make it in the slow cooker!  It worked perfectly - everything got nicely tender and all the veggies stayed juicy in the crockpot.  If you've never had caponata before, it's a mixture of tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini with various other flavors added to make an extra delicious vegetable dish. I've often seen it served on crostini as an appetizer, but it works great as a main dish as well - we served it over quinoa, but pasta or couscous would be a great accompaniment as well.  This dish does involve a lot of chopping since there are lots of veggies, but then it's just set it and forget it - so easy!

Crockpot Caponata (adapted from Fat Free Vegan, original recipe here)
Serves 6

1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut into half-inch pieces
2 medium zucchini, cut into half-inch pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp salt
Several grinds black pepper
Cooked quinoa, rice, or pasta, to serve

Combine everything in the crockpot and stir to combine.  Cook on low heat for 8 hours, stirring halfway through if you happen to be home (I think it would be fine not to do this if you aren't home!).  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve over quinoa, rice, or pasta.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Slow Cooker Green Curry Pork

Get ready for slow cooker week on Cupcake Muffin!  I realized I had a bunch of slow cooker recipes in my draft posts, so I thought it would be fun to share them all in one week.  And, this is the perfect time of year to do it since everyone is busy and could use a bit of a break.  There's a little bit of everything - pork today, plus a vegan crockpot recipe and a chicken recipe coming up later this week.  Up first: slow cooker green curry pork!

I was actually a little worried about this recipe, because the reviews in the comments were somewhat mixed - some people thought it was fantastic, but others thought it was too bland.  I'm guessing the difference may have been from using different brands of curry paste, since the other ingredients are pretty standard.  I've listed the curry paste I prefer below, but you might need to play around with what's available in your area to find one that you like (and to find one with your preferred spiciness level).  In any case, my curry turned out absolutely delicious!  It's creamy, spicy, and so flavorful.  The combination of super tender pork and creamy potatoes just can't be beat.  My only 'complaint' about this recipe is that it doesn't contain a vegetable, so despite using the slow cooker, you'll need to do a little bit of last-minute prep - I made simple sauteed spinach with lemon juice, which was a great accompaniment.

Slow Cooker Green Curry Pork (adapted from the Kitchn, original recipe here)
Serves 6

2-1/2 pounds bone-in pork butt or shoulder
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes
5 ounces Thai green curry paste (I used Mae Ploy brand)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
Juice of 1 large, juicy lime
Cooked rice, to serve

1. Season the pork with salt and pepper.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the pork and brown on all sides.
2. Scrub the potatoes, and cut any that seem larger than usual into pieces - the ones I used were the size of large cherry tomatoes, so I didn't bother to cut them.  Place in the slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Place the pork on top of the potatoes.
4. Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add more oil if necessary.  When it is hot, add the curry paste and fry for 3-5 minutes, until very aromatic, stirring constantly.  Whisk in the coconut milk and cook for another few minutes, until bubbling.
5. Pour the curry sauce over the pork.  Cook for 8 hours on low, until the pork is fork-tender.  Stir in the lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasining.  Serve with rice.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Kabocha Squash Pasta with Blue Cheese and Pecans

When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light last month, I was really excited to try it.  We got a kabocha squash in our CSA, so it seemed like the perfect time.  If you can't find a kabocha squash, you can definitely just substitute in a different winter squash - the original recipe calls for butternut, and I bet acorn would be tasty as well.  Definitely do yourself (and your hands) a favor and simply cut the squash in half and then roast - it takes a bit longer in the oven than peeled chunks would, but to me it's totally worth it to cut down on the prep time.  Once the squash is roasted, it's scooped out of its skin and added to a healthy white sauce (milk, eggs, and onions).  The squash is creamy enough to create a delicious sauce without the use of half-and-half or cream.  The sauce is good, but pretty sweet, meaning that the garnishes are not optional.  Nutty pecans and salty blue cheese are essential for balancing out the sweet squash, making for the perfect bowl of comforting pasta!  If you just can't stand blue cheese, I bet goat cheese or lots of shaved Parmesan would be great as well.

Kabocha Squash Pasta with Blue Cheese and Pecans (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4

1 medium kabocha squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
12 ounces dried pasta (I used campanelle)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup skim milk, divided
1 tsp all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
Crumbled blue cheese, to garnish
Toasted pecans, coarsely chopped, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Cut the squash in half and scoop the seeds out.  Lightly coat the foil with oil, and then rub the cut sides of the squash with more oil.  Place on the baking sheet, cut sides up.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast until tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Let the squash cool until cool enough to handle.  Scoop the flesh from the skin, and break into bite-sized chunks.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then salt it.  When it boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
5. While the water is coming to a boil, make the sauce.  Heat a bit of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions are very soft but not browned.
6. Pour 1/2 cup of the milk into a small bowl, and whisk in the flour and egg yolks.  Set aside.
7. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk into the skillet with the onions and whisk to combine using a silicone spatula (so that you don't scrape the non-stick coating).  When the milk starts to bubble, slowly whisk in the milk-egg-flour mixture, and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, 4-5 minutes.  Fold in the squash using a rubber spatula.
8. Drain the pasta, and gently fold in the sauce.  Gently heat over low heat, stirring, for about 1 minute.
9. Transfer to serving bowls, and then sprinkle with blue cheese and pecans.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cherry Jam-Frangipane Tart

I'm totally in love with this simple dessert.  It comes from a Jamie Oliver cookbook that I picked up on sale a while back, and I've been mostly happy with the recipes I've tried from it.  This one was definitely a winner, in that it was both easy and delicious.  The original recipe actually calls for a prepared tart crust to save time, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like that at my grocery - maybe it is a British thing?  I don't think you'd want to use regular pie crust, since the texture would be off.  In any case, the recipe I have linked to below is a fairly straightforward one that you can make entirely in the food processor.

Definitely use a good quality jam here since it will contribute most of the flavor. I pulled a jar of homemade cherry jam out of the freezer, but I can imagine lots of fruits being delicious here.  Depending on what citrus you think would combine well with the jam, you can definitely change up the zest and nut used in the 'frangipane' (though it technically won't be frangipane if another nut is used).  I'm thinking lemon zest with apple preserves and a walnut topping or lime zest with blackberry jam and a hazelnut topping would be amazing!

Cherry Jam-Frangipane Tart (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
Makes 1 tart

1 recipe Sweet Tart Dough, pressed into a tart pan, unbaked
1 egg
1 cup almond meal/flour
7 T unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
1/2 cup superfine sugar
Zest of 1/2 large orange
1 T vanilla paste or extract
3/4 cup sour cherry jam (or another favorite jam)

1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees.
2. Make the frangipane.  Combine the egg, almond meal, butter, sugar, and orange zest in a mixing bowl.  Stir everything together.  (You can also use an immersion blender here if your butter isn't totally soft.)
3. Dot half the jam over the tart crust.  Top with about half the frangipane.  Spoon the rest of the jam over the frangipane, and top with the remaining frangipane.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.  Serve warm (although leftovers keep well too).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kale and White Bean Soup with Italian Sausage

This soup is perfect for autumn and winter - it's hearty and healthy with creamy white beans, green kale, and a little bit of Italian sausage for richness - of course, feel free to use turkey or vegetarian sausage if you prefer.  It's also a quick dinner or lunch, especially if you use canned beans - I had some cooked beans left over from another recipe, so I used those, but I wouldn't cook up beans specifically for this soup.  The Parmesan rind sounds a little weird, but I had one on hand so I figured I would try it!  It gets a little gross after cooking in the broth, so be sure to pull it out before serving - but I do think it added a little bit of je ne sais quoi  to the dish, so give it a shot if you have some on hand!  I made this soup on the less-brothy side just because that's what I was in the mood for, but you can easily add more chicken broth if you prefer.

Kale and White Bean Soup with Italian Sausage (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 4

2/3 pound sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
A sprig of rosemary or two, leaves stripped off stem and finely chopped
2 T tomato paste
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked white beans - I used Great Northern
1 bunch kale, leaves stripped off stem and finely chopped
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the sausage and cook until browned.  Using a slotted spoon, remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Check the pot and add a little more oil if it seems dry (I found that the sausage created plenty, but your mileage may vary).  When the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery, and rosemary.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to get soft, 8-10 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring, about a minute.  Pour in the broth along with the beans, kale, and Parmesan rind (if using).  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
3. Remove the Parmesan rind from the pot and add in the cooked sausage.  Cook about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to combine, and then taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thai-Style Flat Iron Steak with Red Curry Sauce and Spicy Carrot Salad

Wow, I made this dinner months ago, and somehow it got stuck in my draft posts!  I'm not sure how, since it's definitely a favorite of mine and I've made it a couple of times...if you know me, you know that's unusual since I always say I will make things again but then get tempted by new recipes that I want to try!  In any case, here it is today...go make this for dinner!  The steak is prepared very simply, just seasoned and cooked to be as done as you like.  I love flat iron steak because it's cheap but tender and flavorful.

The steak sits on a bed of spicy shredded carrots - as those who follow this blog know, I am sort of obsessed with shredded carrot salads, and this one is no exception.  The spice from the jalapeno combines with tart lime juice and salty fish sauce to create perfectly balanced flavors.  Finally, a creamy red curry sauce is poured over everything to add richness and spice.  So good, and also fairly quick and easy - love it!

Thai-Style Flat Iron Steak with Red Curry Sauce and Spicy Carrot Salad (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 2

1-1/2 T canola oil, divided
1-1/2 T fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes), divided
1 T plus 1 tsp fish sauce, divided
1 tsp light brown sugar, divided
3 carrots, peeled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 (or 1) jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (use more or less depending on your tolerance for spice)
10-12 ounces flat iron steak, tendon removed (ask your butcher to do this)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
1-1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste

1. Whisk together 1/2 T oil, 1 T lime juice, 1 T fish sauce, and 1/2 tsp brown sugar in a large bowl.  Shave the carrots into the dressing with a vegetable peeler to make long, thin, wide strips (or grate the carrots).  Add the cilantro and jalapeno pepper, and toss to coat.  Set aside.
2. Season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the steak.  Cook a few minutes on each side, until the steak is nicely browned on the outside and done to your liking on the inside (cooking time will depend on how thick your steak is).
3. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil.  Return the skillet to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of water (or so) and bring to a boil, scraping with a wooden spoon to remove browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the coconut milk, curry paste, remaining 1/2 T lime juice, remaining 1 tsp fish sauce, and remaining 1/2 tsp brown sugar.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Thinly slice the steak across the grain.  Mound some carrot salad on each plate, top with sliced steak, and then spoon the sauce over top.