Saturday, September 28, 2013

Indian Spiced Spinach

I love serving curry for dinner, but depending on the type, I need to come up with a veggie to serve on the side.  Salad is always an option, but it's nice to serve something with Indian flavors.  While I love the more typical Indian veggie dishes like palak paneer, baingan bharta, dal, or vegetable curry, some of them are pretty time-consuming, meaning I don't want to tackle them on the same night that I'm making a meat or chicken curry.  This spinach is the perfect solution -- it's got great Indian flavor, but it cooks up super fast with a minimum of prep time.  Try it out next time you're trying to add a little green to your plate! Or, serve it on top of a baked potato with a poached egg to make a complete meal.

This spinach would be fantastic alongside: mango-chicken curry, meatball curry, salmon with red curry sauce, slow cooker green curry pork, egg noodles in rich chicken curry sauce, murgh makhani, quick 'tandoori' chicken, sloppy bombay joes, and slow cooker butter chicken.

Indian Spiced Spinach (adapted from 101 Cookbooks, original recipe here)
Serves 2

1 T ghee
1/4 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 shallot, minced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
8 ounces baby spinach
Squeeze of lemon juice

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds, cover with a lid, and let them toast for a minute or so.  Stir in the red pepper flakes and let cook for a minute.
2. Stir in the shallot and garlic and cook until translucent, stirring often.  Season with salt.  Add more ghee if needed.
3. Stir in the spinach, and cook until it wilts.  Squeeze in the lemon juice and taste and adjust for seasoning.

Cacao Nib Olive Oil Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple + Giveaway

Stop whatever you are doing right now and make this ice cream!  It is seriously that good.  But, first -- a little background.  Back in August, I got an email from Nudo asking if I'd like to try their new olive oil with cacao nibs.  That sounded pretty much amazing to me, so I said yes. got in the way.  I'm both applying for jobs and finishing my dissertation this year, and September has been a particularly intense month on both of those fronts.  But, I'm happy to say that I finally got the chance to open up my new olive oil and test it out in a recipe!

Checking the ingredients, I knew this olive oil wouldn't be sweet -- it's just cacao nibs and olives, with no added sugar.  The cacao nibs add a really interesting bitter element to the olive oil, but you need to use this in a dessert and add some sugar to really bring out the chocolate flavor.  I could also see using this in a savory dish -- the strong flavor of the olive oil would pair really well with steak, for example.  But, I knew I wanted to go in a sweet direction.

I had picked up a copy of the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book a few months back, and their olive oil ice cream recipe was one I'd marked as a "must try."  The arrival of cacao nib olive oil on my doorstep seemed like the sign I'd been waiting for -- it was time to make ice cream!  This ice cream is super creamy and custard-y -- since the other ingredients are fairly standard, I think it must be the addition of the olive oil that makes the texture extra amazing.  Tasted alone, I thought the olive oil flavor was too strong -- if you want to serve this without the fudge ripple, I'd recommend choosing a more mild olive oil.  However, with the fudge ripple, this ice cream was completely perfect.  The chocolate sauce paired up with the slightly bitter, intense flavor of the cacao nib olive oil in the ice cream to put me in dessert heaven.  Make this for your next dinner party when you want to feel a little sophisticated, or just make it for yourself as a special treat.

Giveaway: Although you can make this recipe with any high-quality olive oil, Nudo has been nice enough to offer a free tin to one of my readers so that you can try it yourself!  (You can also pick up a tin for yourself right here.)  To enter the giveaway, head over to Nudo's Facebook page, like them, and then come back here and tell me your favorite way to use olive oil or your favorite recipe that features olive oil.  I'll pick a winner at random on October 5 and contact you via email, so make sure you leave your email address so that I have a way to get in touch.

Cacao Nib Olive Oil Ice Cream with Fudge Ripple (adapted from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book and Grit)
Makes about 2 pints

For the ice cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp kosher salt
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cacao nib olive oil - or substitute another high-quality olive oil

For the fudge ripple:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1. First, make the ice cream base.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot but not boiling -- you'll see little bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan when the cream is ready.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and olive oil until well blended.

3. Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, a little bit at a time.  Scrape everything back into the saucepan, and return to medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is slightly thickened -- about 3 minutes.

4. Set a strainer over a medium bowl, and pour the custard through the strainer.  Cover and chill at least overnight, until very cold.

5. Make the fudge ripple.  Combine the sugar, cocoa and water in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine.  Heat over medium heat until the mixture boils, and then boil 1 minute, whisking constantly.  Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and butter.  Keep whisking until the butter is melted and the sauce is smooth.

6. Transfer the fudge sauce to a small container, and stash in the fridge until ready to use.

7. When you're ready to make the ice cream, pull the fudge sauce out of the fridge first and let it warm up until it reaches a pour-able consistency.

8. Then, freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the instructions that go along with your particular model.  I found this ice cream took a bit longer and didn't freeze as solidly as some others I've made.

9. When the ice cream is frozen, get your container(s) ready.  Start with a little bit of fudge ripple, and then add a spoonful of ice cream.  Continue layering the fudge sauce and the ice cream until you're done -- you may end up with extra ripple, which you can store in the fridge and use on ice cream, fruit, etc.

10. Freeze the ice cream for a couple of hours before serving, and eat within a week.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary sample of Nudo's cacao nib olive oil.  Nudo is also providing a free tin of olive oil for one lucky winner of this giveaway!  All opinions/recipe-testing are my own.

And, check out the I'm Lovin' It Round-Up at Tidy Mom.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meatball Sliders

A new slider-themed restaurant, SliderBar, recently opened up in our neighborhood.  I really like the restaurant, and I was inspired to make my own sliders when I found adorable mini hamburger buns at Trader Joe's.  I adapted a meatball sub recipe from Cooking Light, and totally fell in love with these tiny sandwiches!  Not only are these sliders cute, but they are also really flavorful.  You've got tender, tasty meatballs, peppers and onions, creamy fresh mozzarella, and toasty buns, all brought together with marinara sauce - use a brand you know you like to save time.

Although this recipe has quite a few steps, each one is simple and all the ingredients 'hold' well so there's no last-minute scramble to get everything on the plate while it's still hot.  I love the method of making meatballs in the broiler - standing over a hot skillet flipping meatballs is never my favorite task, and this way is easier, less messy, and also a little healthier (no oil needed beyond a little spray on the pan).  The meatballs can hang out in simmering marinara while you finish cooking the peppers and onions and toast the buns.  Plan on 2-4 sliders per person, depending on how hungry you are and what sides you plan to serve.  If you have leftovers, the peppers and onions can be tossed in with the meatballs and sauce to make a great topping for pasta or polenta.  I also think it would be a ton of fun to make these as finger food for a party - they're a little messy, but the small size would make them a great party bite.

Meatball Sliders (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4-6 (depending on your sides and appetite)

Cooking spray
12 ounces ground beef (90% lean is ideal)
1/3 cup panko
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1-1/3 cups marinara sauce
Olive oil
2 bell peppers or 5 mini bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
16 mini hamburger buns - as small as possible as the meatballs are little!
2-3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced into 16 small squares

1. Preheat the broiler to high.  Line broiler pan with foil and spray with oil.
2. Combine the meat, panko, egg, salt, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl.  Mix gently.  Form into 16 meatballs.  Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the foil-lined pan.  Broil 6 inches from the heat for 7 minutes, turning the meatballs once.
3. While the meatballs are cooking, put the marinara sauce in a medium pot.  Heat over medium heat until warm.  When the meatballs are cooked, add to the marinara sauce and simmer until ready to use.
4. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a little olive oil and swirl to coat the pan - you don't need much.  Add the onions, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Then add the peppers and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and browned.
5. Replace the foil on the broiler pan with clean foil.  Arrange the buns cut-side-up in a single layer - you might have to work in batches.  Spray with a little cooking spray, and then broil two minutes until toasted.
6. Place the bun tops on a plate, and then assemble the sliders on the bottom buns.  Top each bottom bun with a forkful of the pepper-onion mixture, a meatball, a spoonful of sauce, and a slice of mozzarella.  Broil about 2 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Top each slider with a top bun and serve!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Southwestern Sweet Potato-Corn Soup

I am a huge fan of all the Moosewood cookbooks -- they always offer up delicious, healthy vegetarian recipes that I go back to again and again.  So, when I got an email asking if I'd like to review the new Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, I jumped at the chance.  As with Moosewood's other cookbooks, flavorful veggie recipes are front and center.  There are tons of recipes I want to try - chilaquiles casserole, quinoa-stuffed roasted peppers, mango aioli, and deviled egg salad are calling my name!  My only complaint is that there aren't many photos -- the photos that are in the book are great, and I wanted more!  But, overall I loved the cookbook and couldn't wait to get into the kitchen and give it a test drive.

Because we got sweet potatoes and peppers in our produce box, I decided to try out the southwestern sweet potato-corn soup first.  The soup was easy to make - just chop, cook, and then quickly puree with an immersion blender.  The sweet potatoes, peppers, and corn combined perfectly for a hearty but not heavy soup.  I especially liked the lime juice, which is added right at the end -- it adds an extra flavor dimension to keep the soup from being too sweet.  Add some cornbread on the side for a perfect supper.

You can also check out some of my other Moosewood recipes: eggplant Parmesan, cardamom-chocolate chip coffee cake, orange-fennel salad, Creole fish stew with quinoa, veggie-cheese pieginger-y greens with tofu, ricotta-spinach calzones, stuffed squash, samosas, sparkling strawberry lemonade, and artichoke heart-chickpea stew.  Yum!

Southwestern Sweet Potato-Corn Soup (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites)
Serves 6

2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp dried Aleppo pepper
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1 T ground cumin
2-1/2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
2 cups seeded and diced bell peppers
3 cups frozen or fresh sweet corn
2-1/2 cups water
3 T fresh lime juice
2 T minced cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot.  Add the Aleppo pepper and heat in the oil for about a minute, stirring constantly.  Add the onions, garlic, and salt, and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the cumin and sweet potatoes, and cook, covered, on low heat, for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the bell peppers, and cook, covered, on low heat, for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn and the water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until everything is nicely tender, about 8-10 minutes.
3. Puree about half the soup, until you get a consistency you like.  An immersion blender is easiest for this, but you can also use a blender - just be careful about blending hot soup! Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this cookbook from the publisher.  All opinions/recipe-testing are my own.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Israeli Beef and Bean Stew

Jerusalem is one of those cookbooks I could page through for hours - gorgeous photos, interesting writing, and delicious-sounding recipes.  I had a hard time deciding what to make first, but this tasty stew eventually won out!  As with many stew recipes, don't underestimate the amount of time you need to brown the beef - it's a totally necessary step for getting that yummy browned flavor on the meat, and it's never particularly fun (lots of time spent standing over a hot skillet or soup pot).  But - the work is totally worth it, because this soup is really delicious.  The spice combination is really tasty, and the whole garlic cloves get mellow and savory after a long simmer with the beef and vegetables.  I also loved the hit of lemon juice added at the end - it adds a fantastic acidity that really brings all the flavors together.  The only thing that didn't work here for me was the celery root - not sure if I prepared it wrong (this was my first time using it), but even after peeling and cooking, it was very fibrous and tough to eat.  Any tips from celery root experts out there?

Israeli Beef and Bean Stew (adapted from Jerusalem)
Serves 4

Vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 small celery root, peeled and diced
20 large garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed but left whole
1 tsp ground cumin
1 pound beef stew meat
7 cups water
1/2 cup dried Hutterite Soup Beans or another dried bean, soaked overnight and then drained
7 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
9-10 ounces small potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to serve
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add a little bit of oil, and wait a minute or so for it to get hot.  Add the onion and celery root, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown.  Add the garlic and cumin, and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add a little oil to the bottom, and wait a minute or so for it to get hot.  Add the beef, and brown on at least two sides (more if you have time).  When the meat is browned, add the water, soup beans, cardamom pods, turmeric, tomato paste, and sugar.  Also add in the onion-garlic mixture.  Stir everything together, bring to a boil, and cover.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook 1 hour.
3. Add the potatoes, along with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring back to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered, until the potatoes and beans are tender.  The soup should be fairly thick - if not, you can reduce it more on the stove, or add water if the soup seems too thick for your liking.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Ladle the soup into bowls, and then serve each portion with a little lemon juice squeezed over and cilantro sprinkled on top.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Italian Almond-Carrot Cake

I am a big carrot cake fan, and this Italian version is a really fun twist.  It's definitely not your usual carrot cake - the carrot flavor is more subtle, and almonds take front stage.  Even my dad, a carrot cake-hater, enjoyed this one!  I like that this cake feels a little fancier than your usual carrot cake, even though it isn't any more difficult to make.  Definitely serve this along side whipped cream or ice cream, as otherwise the cake can get a little dry.

Italian Almond-Carrot Cake (adapted from Vegetable Literacy)
Makes on 9-inch round cake

4 T butter, plus more for the pan
1-1/2 cups finely ground almonds
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar, divided
1-1/4 cups cake flour (or substitute 1 cup + 2 T all-purpose flour and 2 T cornstarch)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
Scant 2 cups grated carrots

1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.
2. Pulse the almonds in a food processor with the lemons and sugar.
3. Butter a 9-inch springform pan or fluted cake pan with a removable bottom.  Line the bottom with parchment, butter it, and then lightly dust the inside of the pan with a little of the almond mixture.
4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
5. Beat together the eggs with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until pale, foamy, and thick, about 5 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, and add the remaining almond mixture along with the almond extract.  Beat in the flour mixture on low speed.  Pour in the melted butter, and fold it in with a rubber spatula.  Fold in the carrots.
6. Scrape the batter into the pan, smooth on top, and bake until springy to the touch and lightly browned, about 35 minutes.  Let cool in the pan before carefully removing the cake and serving.

Monday, September 9, 2013

S'mores Muffins

Every fall, our church has an all-church trip to Sonoma county, where we spend the weekend at church camp singing songs, making crafts, hiking, and -- of course -- eating s'mores!  There is nothing better than a s'more hot from the campfire, so I'm really looking forward to our trip to Camp Caz this coming weekend!  To tide me over until then, I've been loving Susan Whetzel's new cookbook, which features tons of delicious s'mores-inspired recipes.  It was hard to decide what to make first - I was especially tempted by the section on breakfast s'mores, with decadent treats like chocolate graham pancakes, s'mores stuffed French toast, and the fabulous s'mores muffins that are pictured below.  I ended up going for the mini muffins because I never pass up an opportunity to pull out my mini-muffin maker -- of course, you can bake these in the oven as well, and I've included the directions for doing so below.

These muffins are a tasty weekend treat. I wasn't so sure whether s'mores ingredients would really end up tasting like muffins as opposed to cupcakes, but these muffins are actually pretty low in fat and so they do feel appropriate for breakfast (even with the marshmallow topping!).  As with all low-fat muffin recipes, they are best when they're warm and eaten right away - they tend to dry out a bit as they sit around and cool.  Next time, I'd also add more of a graham cracker element -- a Golden Graham (as pictured in the cookbook) or a dusting of graham cracker crumbs would make a nice garnish.  All in all, you can't go wrong starting off your day with s'mores!  ( long as you don't do it every day...)

S'mores Muffins (adapted from The S'mores Cookbook)
Makes about 2 dozen

1/2 cup hot milk
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 egg
1 T vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 T graham flour or graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Marshmallow Fluff

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a mini muffin tin with oil.
2. In a large bowl, pour the hot milk over the espresso powder and chocolate chips.  Let sit for about 30 seconds and then whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, graham flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined.
4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full.  Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 8-12 minutes.
6. When the muffins come out of the oven, let cool for a minute or two and then serve warm with Marshmallow Fluff on top.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this cookbook from the publisher.  All opinions/recipe-testing are my own.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chocolate Macaroon Birthday Cake

I mentioned a while back that we made two delicious cakes for my mom's birthday.  The first was this awesome sour cherry-chocolate chip bundt cake, and the second was this chocolate-coconut beauty.  This cake was definitely my mom's favorite...going to go out on a limb here and say it was all the chocolate!  This cake gets serious chocolate flavor from cocoa powder, a chocolate glaze, and freshly brewed espresso - the finished cake doesn't taste like coffee, but just has a deeper flavor.  All that chocolate is paired with a coconut-meringue filling that really tastes like the inside of a Mounds bar!  This cake is seriously delicious, but it is also a lot of work.  I think we dirtied at least five or six bowls, so don't try this one alone -- you'll want to save this cake for a time when you have a baking partner or two to divvy up the work (and the dishes!).

Chocolate Macaroon Birthday Cake (adapted from Vintage Cakes)
Makes one tube cake, serving 10 or so

4 eggs
1 tsp salt, divided
2 cups sugar, divded
1 T vanilla, divided
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups plus 1 T flour, divided
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 hot coffee or espresso
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
2 T oil

For the glaze:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a large tube pan and set aside.
2. Separate the eggs.  Place the yolks in a small bowl, and the whites in a mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 tsp of the salt to the whites, and beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer until the whites form soft peaks.  Add 3/4 cup of the sugar in a steady stream, with the mixer running.  Continue whipping until the egg whites form firm peaks.
3. Transfer 1 cup of the beaten egg whites to a small bowl.  Fold in 1 tsp vanilla, all the coconut, and 1 T flour.  Set aside the coconut filling and the remaining meringue mixture.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa, hot coffee, and sour cream.  Set aside.
5. In another bowl, sift together the remaining 2 cups flour with the baking powder and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside.
6. In a large mixing bowl, mix the remaining 1-1/4 cups sugar with the butter, oil, and remaining 2 tsp vanilla.   Beat on high speed for give minutes, scraping down the bowl frequently.  Beat in the egg yolks, two at a time.
7. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and cocoa mixtures in alternating additions (flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour).  After each addition, mix until just barely blended.  Fold in the reserved egg white mixture (the portion without the coconut).
8. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan.  Spread evenly to the sides.  Drop spoonfuls of coconut filling on top of the batter, trying to keep it in a ring around the center of the cake without touching the sides of the pan.  Top with the remaining batter, and spread evenly.
9. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a tester comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Let cool to room temperature before removing from the pan.
10. When the cake is cool, prepare the chocolate glaze.  Heat the cream until just steaming, and then pour over the chocolate chips.  Let sit for minute or two, and then slowly whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.  Let cool until slightly thickened but still a bit warm, and then pour over the cooled cake.

Lighting the candles...

...and blowing them out!

Bring your favorite chocolate dessert to Roxana’s Home Baking#ChocolateParty and win amazing prizes from OXOCalphalonKeurigImperial SugarHoney Ridge Farms and Land O Lakes® Butter!