Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cardamom Sour-Cream Waffles

I wanted a waffle. I don't know why because waffles aren't a breakfast food I usually crave (but seriously, when you want a waffle, you just want a waffle- enough said).

Lucky for me I quickly found a recipe I wanted to try and I had ALL the ingredients handy!

Since I love cardamom, this particular recipe was calling to me.

I don't usually use syrup on my waffles or pancakes- I guess I prefer to be more experimental. Peanut butter, pumpkin butter, vanilla yogurt, applesauce, jams...
Whatever I can find that sounds good at the time, but on occasion I don't use anything at all.

It seems like a good basic from-scratch waffle recipe (sans cardamom). If you prefer, don't use the cardamom, but from there you could easily make adaptations.
Cinnamon, lemon zest, pumpkin pie or gingerbread spices (maybe take a little sour cream away and add molasses for that- I'll have to experiment with that one because it sounds really good).
No sour cream? Do you have some plain yogurt in the fridge?

If you don't have a waffle iron handy, just add a little extra milk to thin the batter and make pancakes instead.

Cardamom Sour-Cream Waffles
from Gourmet Magazine, February 2008
Serves 4 (makes about 8 waffles)

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
Rounded 1/4 t salt
1 t ground cardamom
1 c whole milk
1 c sour cream
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 T mild honey
2 large eggs
3 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat waffle iron until hot. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom.
Whisk together remaining ingredients in another bowl, then whisk lightly into flour mixture until just combined. Lightly brush (or spray) waffle iron with oil and cook waffles according to manufacturers instructions.

So, I'll be out of town for a little while. I have a few posts set to go while I am away...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

To me, chocolate cake isn't usually all that great- especially if it's store bought. Sure, it has the right color, but there's no chocolate flavor. Homemade chocolate cakes are much better.
I have to concede that chocolate icing can be a whole different story...

When making chocolate baked goods, if a little coffee is added it can help enhance the depth of the chocolate flavor. It could be pretty much any type of everyone's favorite morning jolt- a little coffee, a shot of espresso, some instant coffee or espresso granules.

Chocolate without coffee is a little liked baked goods without salt (ok, maybe not quite so dire, maybe a little bit of a stretch here, but it's a similie that's trying very hard to make a point).

When you can smell chocolate when something chocolatey is baking that means it's done- or about to be done.
You're smelling the chocolate flavor as it essentially evaporates and is baked out of the cake. Tasteless chocolate cake can't be good.

The original recipe says it makes 14-15 cupcakes and should be baked 20-25 mintues.
For me, it makes 18 and only took 15-20 minutes, so that's what I've written for here.
If you're having a birthday party, or there are many people around who can eat these go ahead and make the full recipe. A half recipe is probably enough in most cases though.

The chocolate cake recipe is the Barefoot Contessa's, but (per the Barefoot Contessa) the peanut butter icing comes from Kathleen King of Tate's Bake Shop in Southampton, New York.
It comes from The Barefoot Contessa at Home, but can be found online here.

Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 18

12 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c light brown sugar, packed
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
2 t vanilla extract
1 c buttermilk, shaken and at room temperature
1/2 c sour cream at room temperature
2 T brewed coffee
1 3/4 c flour
1 c good cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 F and line cupcake tins with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower speed to medium, add eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and mix well.
In a separate bowl whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.
In another bowl sift or whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. On low speed add the buttermilk mixture and flour mixture alternately in thirds into the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing

1 c confectioner's sugar
1 c creamy peanut butter
5 T unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 t vanilla extract
1/4 t kosher salt
1/3 c heavy cream

Place confectioner's sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rhubarb-Berry Jam

Rhubarb is something people love, hate, or have never tried.
Personally, I think it's great and I always want something rhubarby when it starts getting getting warm and springy outside.

Strawberry rhubarb pie is one of my favorites, but it's not something one has lying around all the time. Jam can be another story...

I promise this will last longer than the pie, and it's great on toast, pound cake, plain yogurt, and ice cream.

I don't really know about other jam recipes, but this one doesn't take all that long to make. Last week I was planning to make it and had all the ingredients, but I just could not wait- it was something I really wanted with breakfast so I got out of bed, made jam, and had some toast.

It makes plenty of jam (for me it's more than the recipe says- about 7 jars) and will last several months in the fridge without officially having to can it. Or, if you prefer, it's a very nice thing to be able to share...

Just be careful not to keep jam in your carry on when you travel. It most certainly will be confiscated. Right, Marie?

Make sure you peel most, if not all, of the outer stringy red layer from the rhubarb. Be careful as the rhubarb usually sprays a little red juice when you do this (I would not recommend wearing white while performing this procedure). The larger the rhubarb, the tougher the strings AND the leaves are toxic (for all rhubarb), so make sure you get rid of those.

Instead of having to buy pectin to help the jam set, this recipe uses a more natural approach (not that pectin isn't natural, this recipe does not make use of commercially available isolated pectin). Apple juice is used (for the original) to help thicken the jam, but I also add apple slices while it cooks (to help augment the apple juice). I fish the pieces of apple out before putting jam into jars. Still, it makes a soft jam- probably more of a jam/compote than what most would classify as jam.
I would have liked it a little thicker, but according to Mick Jagger and moms everywhere, you can't always get what you want.
Next time I'll have to cook it a little longer- and no, I did not use a thermometer this time. If using the "wrinkle test" you'll want to make sure to look for a stiff wrinkle (I'm sorry, that does not sound so appetizing for jam...).

Rhubarb-Berry Jam
Adapted from David Lebovitz
makes 5- 1 c (250 ml) jars

3 lb. fresh rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 c packed, mixed berries, fresh or frozen
1 c water or apple juice
a couple slices fresh apple
5 1/2 c sugar
juice of one lemon
pinch of salt
(optional: 1 T kirsch)

In a large pot mix the rhubarb, berries, apple slices (if using) and juice or water. Cook, covered, stirring frequently over moderate heat until rhubarb is cooked through and thoroughly tender. This should take about 15 minutes. Place a small plate in the freezer.

Add sugar, lemon juice, and salt, and continue to cook uncovered. Skim and discard any foam that rises to the top. Cook until jam is thick and passes the wrinkle test* (for me this takes about 10-15 minutes).

Stir in the kirsch if using, spoon jam into clean jars and cover. Store jam in the refrigerator.
Jam will last several months in the fridge without officially being "canned" as it's somewhat preserved with all the sugar- but if you know how and would like to can it, it will definitely last even longer...

*For the wrinkle test, place a small spoonful of jam onto the frozen plate. Return to freezer and check a few minutes later. If the jam wrinkles when nudged, it's done! OR you could use a thermometer as jam will gel at approximately 220F.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Carrot Cake

This is THE favorite carrot cake (This for you, Mrs. H).
Wonderful with a cup of good black coffee for dessert or in the afternoon.
As far as cakes go, I know there are some out there that contain applesauce (not so bad), potatoes, zucchini, beets (!?), and of course, carrots.

I don't know why carrot cake is associated with Easter and spring. I was thinking it may have something to do with rabbits and carrots being associated with one another.
Then again, some of the ingredients are things more associated with tropical climes (like pineapple and coconut), so maybe we crave it with warmer weather? But, it's sort of like a spice cake to some extent and can be great in the fall...
Who knows?

This one is a little different because you use cooked and mashed carrots, whereas many others use fresh grated carrots.

I know this contains things that some people may not like or are allergic to. If so, I feel sorry for you.
Everyone at my house is fine with coconut, but when I was in college Roommate did not like coconut. Not that we ever had a problem or a falling out because of it (except this one time when there was a total knock-down drag-out... and I won). I bought her a card to that effect (of the love vs. hate coconut situation) at one point. It said something like "there are two kinds of people in this world- those who like coconut and those who don't"... so true.

Anyway, I think all the things in this cake are a great combination- everything seems perfectly balanced and does not stand out as "off" for one reason or another.

The recipe (from the Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins) says it's 10-12 portions, but I think it could definitely go for more.
The original calls for two 9 inch spring form pans (I don't know who keeps TWO around- I definitely don't). More common are 9 inch round cake pans, right? Grease two of those and cut parchment to fit in the bottom of the pan. To do so you should cut a piece of parchment paper roughly the diameter of the pan. Fold the paper 4-5 times until you have a triangle (this is kind of like making paper snowflakes). Hold the paper so that the tip of the triangle is roughly at the center of the pan. This gives you an estimate for the appropriate sized paper. Cut whatever is outside the pan, unfold, and you have your pan liner (it will stick right to the greased pan when you place it in the bottom). You may have to trim the edge a little or fold the paper at the bottom edge of the pan so that it goes up the side a little. You'll find that the cake pops right out of the pan and the paper peels off very easily!

Carrot Cake
serves 10-12 (or more)

3 c flour
3c granulated sugar
1 t salt
1 T baking soda
1 T ground cinnamon
1 1/2 c corn oil (or applesauce)
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 shelled walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 shredded coconut
1 1/3 c cooked, pureed carrots (about 1 pound)
3/4 c crushed pineapple

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 9 inch round cake pans and place parchment paper rounds in the bottom of the pans (see above for photos and instructions). Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add oil (or applesauce), eggs, and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in carrot, pineapple, coconut, and walnuts.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Set in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50 minutes, until edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool on a cake rack about 3 hours. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for later (I think it's best if it rests a couple days before serving) or fill and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 c confectioners' sugar
1 t vanilla extract
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional, but I think it's better when included)

Cream butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl. Slowly sift in confectioners' sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. Mixture should be free of lumps. Stir in vanilla and lemon.
Yields enough to frost a 2-layer cake.

*After you frost the cake and "glue" the layers together, you may want to put a few toothpicks or cut-off skewers in the cake to hold the layers together. That way, when it is cut, you won't have one layer sliding around on the other. Just remember that you have placed the toothpicks there (and maybe offer a fair warning with slices) so nobody inadvertently stabs themselves in the mouth. Then again, people should probably see the toothpicks if they have one.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roasted Eggplant Spread

Eggplants are not my all-time favorites.
Yes, they're pretty. They look good with their sheen and inky purple color, but under that thin skin they're less than glamorous. The spongy texture usually leaves something to be desired, and they can be very bitter if they're too old and not prepared properly.

Baba ghanoush isn't really a favorite, but I like eggplant in caponata and ratatouille (which I will save for another time).
Another very good use for eggplant is this dip.
It's great with carrots, but best with warm and toasty pita triangles (the shape is extremely important).

If you search a little at most groceries, you can find tomato paste in tubes- really great for something like this when you don't need a whole can.

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe, from the original book (which is a GREAT book by the way if you don't already have a copy...). The recipe is available online, found here, so I'm hoping I'm not infringing. While searching for it so I could post the link I found that she had another recipe with the same name but with some changes in case you're interested.

Roasted Eggplant Spread

1 medium eggplant, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves
3 T good olive oil
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T tomato paste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Cut the eggplant, bell peppers, and onion into roughly 1 inch cubes. Toss in a large bowl with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft. Toss once during cooking. Cool slightly.

Place vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add tomato paste, and pulse 3-4 times to blend.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Raspberry Vodka

The other day I was cleaning out the refrigerator. It's actually been a while since I (personally) have cleaned it out (we do take turns on this kind of thing because it's not the nicest job in the world).
It probably should have been cleaned out sooner. Oh, well.

Anyway, the point is that I found something I made a while ago and had forgotten about.
A bottle of raspberry infused vodka.

Maybe another person who had cleaned the fridge a time or two before me was disinterested in something like this and had just put it at the back of the shelf. I don't know.
It's very easy to make and can be a really nice addition to drinks. We actually just like it with crushed ice and Sprite.

All you need is vodka, raspberries, and a large jar (the one I used was a 2 L jar).

It takes a while to make and by the end the berries have lost all their color (they remind me of E.T. when he's not feeling so well). However, the vodka turns a beautiful magenta shade.
I would not recommend eating any of the berries (from my experience I can tell you they don't taste very good). It must be osmosis- the berry juice leaves the berries for the vodka, while vodka fills the berries. An unberry vodka-filled berry is just unexpected and tastes all wrong. Plus, the texture of the berry isn't right either.

Proportions can be variable here. Of course, it's just fine when you make it with the lesser amount of berries and without sugar (this is the type shown). But the more berries you have the stronger the raspberry flavor.
Don't buy the best vodka for this, but don't buy the cheapest either. You want something you would drink, but since it will be "enhanced" you don't want to worry about paying for the most expensive vodka you can find (which is great all by itself).

Raspberry Vodka

1 bottle (750 ml) vodka
1-2 pt fresh raspberries
sugar (optional)

Pour cleaned raspberries into large, tight sealing jar. If using sugar, sprinkle a layer over berries (1-4 T depending on taste).
Pour vodka over raspberries and place on counter. Shake/stir daily for a month. Strain berries and pour vodka back into bottle using a funnel lined with a coffee filter to pick up any loose bits of berry and possible sedement.
Be patient and careful when pouring, otherwise you will end up with a pink pool on the counter.
Vodka can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Swiss Chard with Olives and Lemon

For some reason "greens" remind me of these kinds of things:

It must be that slimy seaweedyness.
Growing up we didn't really eat greens. We didn't have to eat Brussels sprouts or lima beans either. They would not be found in our house- they were sort of forbidden by one of my parents, and I'm ok with the lima beans thing (they actually belong on my *list* with Neil Diamond, spiders, and jazz flute- but I like Brussels sprouts).

No, really, greens aren't all that bad. They don't terrorize. That would be tomatoes.

If you have not seen this movie, I can safely say it is to some extent a "bad" movie, but it's great at the same time. It's definitely interesting (and it's amazing how special effects have changed). The suspense just kills me.

Technically you can get chard year-round, but it's "season" is in the summer.
More than just "green," rainbow chard has stems with great colors that are a nice contrast to the green leaves. I don't know if there's a more colorful vegetable. I don't know if I have ever seen anything labeled as "Swiss" chard at any of the stores I've bought chard from. I've only ever used rainbow chard.

Oil-cured olives are a little different than the brined varieties. They are generally dried in salt and then rehydrated in olive oil. They're not smooth and glossy, but wrinkled and not a bitter as brined olives.

If you don't have an olive pitter, no problem. The easiest way to pit an olive is to crush it with the side of the knife until you feel it crack under the pressure (just like crushing garlic). Then all you have to do is just slide the pit out of the olive.

Swiss Chard with Olives and Lemon
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March, 2010
8 servings

3 large bunches of chard (about 2 1/4 pounds)
5 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 c quartered, pitted oil-cured black olives
3 garlic cloves, crushed and given a rough chop
1 T fresh lemon juice
zest from 1/2 lemon
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Cut stem from center of each chard leaf. Slice stem crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces; place stem in medium bowl. Cut leaves crosswise into approximately 1 1/2 inch wide strips.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil and salt generously. Add chard stems and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Add chard leaves and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain in large colander, pressing out any water.
(Can be made 2 hours ahead- let stand at room temperature in colander)

Heat 4 T olive oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute about a minute. Add olives and saute about a minute more until fragrant. Add chard and stems to garlic oil. Toss until heated through and any remaining water evaporates, about 4 minutes. Mix in lemon juice, lemon zest, and remaining 1 T oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer to bowl and serve.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Broccoli Salad

To many of us, "salad" means "lettuce"- but it doesn't have to be...

This one was somewhat inspired by a dish called Catalan Spinach (originally from a cousin)- which was essentially fresh baby spinach sauteed in garlic olive oil with pine nuts and raisins added.

It really only takes a few minutes to cook the broccoli in boiling water.
But you have to pay attention and stay close, because you will find broccoli can suddenly become overcooked, mushy, and gray-green.

We're going for a vibrant green here, not the "grade school cafeteria" look.
Broccoli isn't always a kid's favorite vegetable. Does this refer to vegetables in general for most kids, the texture, or the fact that it's green?

You do not have to use the fifth garlic clove if you don't like things so garlicky.
When garlic is finely minced or pulverized it has a stronger flavor because more of the cells within the garlic clove are damaged (than with a rough chop) and the flavorful compounds are released. Compared to a strong and sharp clove of minced garlic, whole roasted bulbs of garlic have a mild and sweet flavor. If you like the extra garlic flavor, use the last clove of garlic when making the dressing.

To crush garlic, you can use the flat side of a knife over the top of the clove and add some pressure from your hand until you feel and hear it break. Or, you can forgo the knife and just use the heel of your hand.

Broccoli Salad

3 lb. broccoli florets
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, separated
3 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 t Dijon mustard
1 t salt
pepper to taste
1/2-2/3 c raisins
1/2-2/3 c pecans (chopped) or pine nuts, toasted

Add 4 crushed and roughly chopped garlic cloves to olive oil in small saucepan over low heat. Cook garlic with oil until it simmers about 3 minutes. Do not let garlic brown. Remove from heat and let cool.
Whisk together balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in garlic oil until emulsified. Add one finely minced clove of garlic to dressing if you want a stronger garlic flavor.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Place raisins in small bowl. Remove some of the hot water and add to raisins to plump for a few minutes if you wish. Drain water from raisins. Add broccoli to boiling water and cook about 3-5 minutes (you want the broccoli to remain crisp-and it will continue to cook and steam slightly as it cools). Drain broccoli and shake out excess water. Place warm broccoli in a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Fold in raisins and nuts.

Toss broccoli in dressing occasionally prior to serving- as the broccoli cools as it will continue to soak up the dressing.
Serve warm or room temperature.