29 January 2013

Recipe test: Vinegar Slaw from Smitten Kitchen

I love Smitten Kitchen's blog and was so excited to finally get my hands on her book, the smitten kitchen cookbook, recently. What I really appreciate about Deb Perelman (the smitten one herself) is that her recipes really work.  She has clearly been making them and testing them for long enough that they are publication-worthy.  The book itself is also beautiful.  Like her blogs, the photos are fantastic. So, you'll probably see a few of her recipes here in the coming months, because they're that good.

My first tested recipe is her Vinegar Slaw with Cucumber and Dill.  I make similar things without the help of a recipe, but sometimes the seasoning is off, or I'm choking on excessive vinegar (never a pleasant thing).  This recipe is perfect, and ridiculously simple.  I ate is with jasmine rice and grilled soy-marinated salmon one night, then had leftovers tossed with ramen and crushed peanuts the next day for lunch.  I also added some very thinly sliced carrots to the original recipe, so they got the full effect of the marinade, too.

Vinegar Slaw with Cucumber and Dill
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced or shredded
  • 1 large English cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
Toss the cabbage, cucumber, and dill together in a LARGE bowl.  In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the vinegar, salt, and sugar together until dissolved.  Stir in the water.  Pour the liquid over the salad and let it marinate, tossing the cabbage occasionally.  Allow the salad to sit in the fridge for 2 hours for optimal taste.  The slaw keeps well in the fridge for up to one week.

25 January 2013

Olive Oil Cake with Lime

I've been meaning to try using olive oil in a cake recipe for some time now, but I just don't make cakes that often.  At a recent casual gathering, this recipe was a hit, and it can be made any time of year for a fresh, summery taste.

Olive Oil Cake with Lime

Serves 8-10

1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 cup white sugar
zest of one lime
1/4 cup lime juice
2 eggs
1 cup of unbleached white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl mix all the wet ingredients (yogurt through eggs) until well combined.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir thoroughly.

Pour into the baking tin and cook for approx 45 minutes; the cake is ready when it has browned on top and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave it to cool in the cake tin for five minutes, and then invert it onto a cooling rack.

Once cooled, sprinkle with sugared lime zest (1 tablespoon of lime zest with 2 tablespoons of sugar).

18 January 2013

Another leftover trick for mashed potatoes

Biscuits!  I love them!  They are not good for you in any way, but they are pillowy and delicious.  You can use whatever mashed potatoes you have laying around--white, red, sweet--or mash some from scratch just for this recipe. (Leftover mashed potatoes freeze just fine if you think you're going to want to make these biscuits past their refrigerated expiration date, by the way.) If you have leftovers that were already mashed with milk and butter, hold off on using more until you see how the dough comes together--it should be soft but smooth and should not stick to your hands.  If it does, add more flour.  If it doesn't come together easily into a tender ball of dough, add some milk.

Mashed Potato Biscuits

Makes about 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
4 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter 
2-4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes) 
1 cup mashed cooked potatoes 
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the potatoes and butter and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to 2- or 3-inch thick rope and cut off 3/4-inch rounds. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. 

15 January 2013

Recipe test: Pizzoccheri Gratin from Food & Wine

I'm sorry I keep picking on you, Food & Wine.  I really do love you.  This recipe worked out pretty well, but it could use a little help.

Photo from Food & Wine Magazine.

I decided to make the Pizzoccheri Gratin from the December 2012 Food & Wine issue because it sounded like such an interesting geographical mixture: cabbage, potato, poppy and caraway seeds from German food, pasta and cheese from Italian.  Food & Wine tells me that it is a traditional Northern Italian dish.  It is linked at the beginning of this paragraph for your reference.

This is pure comfort food, and that's all I expected from it.  It wan't bad, you know, but it was a little dry and the pasta just didn't seem incorporated into the dish.  I also made a couple changes--I had provolone and mozzarella on hand, so I used that instead of fontina and Parmesan.  Parmesan probably would have added a nice nuttiness to the flavor, but these cheeses were pleasant, I thought. I also added some sauteed onion and garlic because I thought it needed it, and I am not sorry I did that.

I think there is more pasta than necessary here--I mixed the ingredients well, but still ended up with some very pasta-heavy, dry bites.  But I think it's a nice dish to make, so I would suggest doing it with these changes:

  • Use 8-10 oz. or pasta, maximum.
  • Add another vegetable for some flavor and variety: perhaps mushrooms, carrots, or broccoli.
  • Use salt!  There's no salt anywhere in this recipe.  Use it in the cooking water and later to season. Use black pepper, too. Just stir both in to the mixture before topping with breadcrumbs and remaining cheese.
  • Stir in a little milk or cream to hold things together--1/2 cup would do just fine.  
  • Cook the pasta most of the way, but leave it just a little too firm to eat.  This way it won't get too mushy in the dish with the addition of milk.  
  • Add onion and garlic.  What savory dish isn't better with these in it?!

Anyone out there who tries it, feel free to add your recommendations in the comments section!

**Update: just reheated these dry-assed leftovers and stirred in some cottage cheese and diced dill pickles--perfection.

11 January 2013

Super easy egg casserole

Dedicated readers of this blog know that I love brunch, and I will never tire of new egg recipes to serve said purpose.  This one has so many great features--it's got loads of eggs, is a great way to use leftover stale bread, and you can put it together the night before (actually, you should), then just pull it out of the refrigerator and pop it straight into the oven in the morning...or afternoon.  The final product is so much more than just egg, cheese, and bread--it melds together into a surprisingly creamy, custardy kind of pudding with varied chunks of vegetables.

As with many of my favorite recipes,this is easy to put together and you can make many substitutions--use whatever cheese, bread, or vegetables you like.  Throw in some meat if you want (maybe cook it first, or use leftovers).  This is not a delicate operation, so experiment to your heart's content.

Heavenly Egg Casserole

Serves 8

5 cups bread, cut into bite-sized pieces
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups vegetables of your choice, chopped into bite-sized pieces (broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots...)
1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
12 eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese(s)
1 tablespoon dried oregano (or whatever mixture of herbs you like)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

The day before building: spread out the cut-up baguette to dry and get stale on a cutting board.  Or, dry it out on a low temperature (try 250 F for 20 minutes) in the oven.

The night before eating: Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onion until it begins to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the vegetables, if they are raw, until they begin to soften.  Turn off heat and stir in garlic and salt to taste.

In a large whisk together, combine the eggs, milk, mustard, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and more black pepper to taste. Stir in cooled vegetables and cheese.

Grease a 9 X 13 inch dish and lay the stale bread cubes in the bottom.  Pour the egg mixture over the top.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.  When ready to cook, uncover and bake in the oven at 350 F for 75 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

08 January 2013

Recipe test: Moist Orange Cake

I guess this is a quote of a quote--I found it on Simply Sweet 'n Savory's blog, but they cited Magali March's blog as the original source.  At any rate, it's a lovely cake, with a faint dreamsicle flavor to it.  It's not too sweet and compliments a lot of different cuisines (Magali March is Mexican, but I served this at the end of a New Orleans-style brunch.

In keeping with my long-term goal to break my New Year's resolution as soon as possible, I made a couple of very slight modifications, just to make the ingredient list less fussy and keep the dirty dishes to a minimum. I do recommend sticking with the fresh orange juice, though--it has a much smoother flavor than the acidic stuff we buy ready-to-drink.

Magali March's Moist Orange Cake

Serves 8

Cake :
1 1/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp.  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp.  vanilla extract
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (squeeze it from the oranges--it's better)

1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice

Make the Cake :
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and lightly flour an 8-inch round cake pan.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Beat in vanilla. Stir in orange juice, flour, salt, and baking powder and blend well. 

Pour the batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven & transfer to a serving plate. Peel off paper, let cool. While the cake is cooling, prepare syrup.

Make the Orange Syrup : 
Combine sugar and orange juice in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Prick top of cake with a fork, pour the syrup over warm cake. Set aside for 30 minutes, so the syrup is absorbed into the cake.  Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

04 January 2013

Mung Bean Hot Pot

I got turned on to mung beans after reading Heidi Swanson's book, Super Natural Every Day, and I've been trying to find ways to incorporate their light, earthy flavor. I'm also trying to detox after the boozy brunch I had a couple of days ago with friends, and this both appeases my guilt makes me happy to eat.

Is hot pot the correct term for this recipe?  I don't know--this meal involves part boiling, part quick stir-fry, so I'm not sure what fancy-schmancy label you want to give it.  Whatever you want to call it, this dish copies some Asian flavors, some Californian ingredients, and it's gooooood...

Mung Bean Hot Pot

Serves 4

You could use any type of small, quick-cooking beans (split peas, lentils) and substitute whatever vegetables you like, but I particularly enjoy this overload of green vegetables and the refreshing, light yet earthy taste of the mung beans.

½ cup mung beans
2 cups water
1 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger
1 cup dried shitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into large bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 tablespoon peanut oil
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 cups shredded cabbage
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups cooked brown rice for serving

Bring the 2 cups of water to boil in a large pot; stir in the miso paste, ginger, and mung beans.  Cover and lower heat to a simmer; cook 20 minutes, or until beans are al dente.  Add the potatoes, and dried shitakes and cook another 15 minutes, until potatoes are firm but tender.  Finally, stir in the broccoli and cook another 5 minutes, or until broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until onions become soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the cabbage and garlic, lower heat to medium-low, and continue to saute until cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes.  Season with soy sauce and add to mung bean mixture.  Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with brown rice and hot sauce on the side.

01 January 2013

Recipe test: "Silky Eggplant Soup"

In 2013, I resolve to try new recipes without mucking up the directions and experimenting at the last minute with off-the-wall additions.  Armed with my subscriptions of Food & Wine, Vegetarian Times, and La Cucina Italiana, I'll fill you in on what I think works and what doesn't.

First up, Mourad Lahlou's Silky Eggplant Soup with Baby Peas and Radishes.  This is from the January 2013 issue of Food and Wine (click for recipe), and it claims to be an homage to the fresh salads and eggplant puree traditionally served at the beginning of a meal in Lahlou's native Morocco.  I was particularly interested to try it because I am rarely bowled over by eggplant, but sometimes it's a great deal at the grocery store and I always want to take advantage.

Bad news--didn't work for me.  It is an atrocious amount of work, for starters.  You roast the eggplant for 45 minutes (too long, by the way--it was rather charred, and I think 25-30 minutes would have been plenty).  Then you have to push it through a sieve, which yields surprisingly little material.  Or perhaps I would have gotten more if my eggplant wasn't so blackened on the flesh side.

The heated half-and-half sits with garlic and a cheese rind in it for an hour.  Seems clever, but with my ingredients, anyway, it was far too subtle in flavoring.  Added to the barely-there eggplant goo and lemon juice, the soup basically tasted like warm milk before the peas and radishes were added.  Afterwards, it tasted like warm milk with peas and radishes in it.  They did add an ascetically pleasing touch, though...

If anyone else tries it and likes it, please share your tips!