Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Macadamia Coconut Cake

Don't mind the legs sticking out of the cake's just the design on the plate.
This was a wonderful dessert for our Hawaiian-inspired dinner.  It includes macadamias and coconut (two very rich things), white cake, and fluffy meringue icing (very light).  They balance each other out perfectly!

I was a little nervous about cutting a single cake into 3 layers, but it is firm enough that it wasn't a problem at all.  Just use a good serrated knife and take your time.

(adapted from Epicurious)

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of a buttered 9-by-2 inch round cake or springform pan with a round of wax paper and butter paper. Dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.

In a bowl with an electric mixer cream butter with 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Onto a sheet of wax paper sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir flour into butter mixture alternately with milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in vanilla and blend batter until just combined well.

In another bowl with clean beaters beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar gradually and beat meringue until it holds stiff peaks. Stir one fourth meringue into batter to lighten and fold in remaining meringue gently but thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from side of pan and a tester comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and cool completely. Cake may be made 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped.

1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup macadamia nuts
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chilled heavy cream

In a dry heavy skillet cook 1/3 cup sugar over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Cook, stirring with a fork, until melted completely and a light caramel. Add macadamia nuts and cook, stirring, until nuts are coated well and caramel is deep golden. Pour praline onto a sheet of foil and cool completely. Break praline into pieces and in a food processor grind fine. (Do not purée to a paste.)

In a small saucepan whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, egg yolks, milk, and cornstarch. Bring pastry cream to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and chill until cold, its surface covered with plastic wrap. (Pastry cream will be very stiff.)

In a bowl beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Whisk pastry cream to loosen and whisk in praline. Fold in whipped cream and chill while making frosting.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make frosting:
In a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water whisk together frosting ingredients until mixture is warm and sugar is dissolved. With a portable electric mixer on high beat frosting 6 to 7 minutes, or until thick and fluffy. Remove bowl from heat and beat frosting until cooled slightly.

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut for coating cake
macadamia nuts brushed with honey for garnish

With a long serrated knife cut cake horizontally into 3 layers. Spread filling between layers on a cake plate and spread cake with frosting. Press coconut onto sides of cake. 
Garnish with macadamia nuts.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kalua Pig

Typically, this Hawaiian dish is cooked in an underground pit - but since that's not the most convenient method available to me, I found this recipe that uses an oven.  You can use Hawaiian smoked salt, which my parents brought me from Hawaii when they went in April, or a combination of sea salt and liquid smoke.  
I found banana leaves in the freezer section of my local Asian market.

(adapted from Epicurious)

1 large banana leaf
6-lb boneless pork shoulder Boston roast (Boston butt), cut across grain into 6 pieces
2 tablespoons Hawaiian smoke salt (or 2 tbsp sea salt plus 2 tbsp liquid smoke)

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Lay 2 sheets of foil (each about 1 feet long) on a work surface with long sides overlapping by about 4 inches. 
Cut 2 (12-inch) lengths from banana leaf and center 1 on foil. 
Put pork on banana leaf and sprinkle with salt. 
Cover top of pork with other 12-inch length of banana leaf and 2 overlapping sheets of foil (each about 1 1/2 feet long). 
Crimp edges of foil tightly to form a packet and put in a large roasting pan. Add 2 inches of water and cover pan tightly with more foil.
Bake pork in middle of oven 3 1/2 hours. 
If necessary, replenish water in the pan while cooking.
Remove foil covering, and transfer foil to a flat surface.  
Remove the meat from the foil and banana leaf packet, place in a bowl, and shred with forks. 
Serve warm.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Appetizer Party

My parents started having a holiday open house party for the neighbors when my sister and I were really young.  As we grew up, the party evolved from just cookies to appetizers as well.  I still come home to my parents house every Christmas, so the holiday party has become a great way for me to try out some appetizer recipes and catch up with all the neighbors.  I might even love cooking all day even more than I love the party itself!  

I had a blast making these appetizers, and definitely loved using my dad's Nikon D60 to take pictures.  If he's not careful, it might just happen to go to Thailand with me!

Here's what we had:

Crudites with Herb Dip

Stuffed Mushrooms

Crostini with Fig Marmalade and Goat Cheese
Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds
Red curry shrimp with basil leaves

Tofu-Mushroom Spring Rolls with Black Tea Mango Chutney

Deviled Eggs

Assorted Cookies

It was a wonderful party! I'll be posting some of the recipes soon.

Ahi Poke in Lettuce Cups

I fell in love with poke in Hawaii. It came with some plate lunches, and I could not get enough!  There are many variations - I love the really spicy stuff with little flecks of nori in it.  However, I made this for a family dinner that included people who have almost no tolerance for spicy food, so I took it in another direction.  The bright flavor of green onions and ginger mingle with the buttery-smooth ahi and the crunch of the iceberg lettuce is a perfect contrast.

1 head iceberg lettuce
3/4 lb sashimi-grade ahi
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, minced
2-4 tsp minced fresh ginger (depending on how much you like ginger!)
pinch sea salt

Pull apart the leaves of lettuce and find the crisp parts that will work well as lettuce cups.
Cut the ahi into 1/2"-3/4" cubes.  Toss with sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, green onions, and ginger.
Cover and refrigerate one hour.
Arrange the lettuce on serving trays and scoop a few cubes of fish into each.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hawaii-Inspired Dinner Menu

We had so much fun in Hawaii last week that I wanted to re-create some of the foods of the islands even though weather is cold and snowy here in Portland.  I knew I had to make Kalua Pork, because it was my favorite foods from the trip.  I also wanted to give making poke a try, and fortunately we have an amazing fish counter at a local Asian grocery store, so I was able to pick up some beautiful sashimi-grade ahi.  For dessert, I found a recipe for a light white cake filled with macadamia pastry cream and coated with coconut.  A perfect finish for this dinner!
Recipes will be posted soon!

My sister and husband put together some great drinks using POG (Pineapple-Orange-Guava juice), pineapple-orange-banana juice, freshly-squeezed lime juice, and rum.  They complemented the menu perfectly!


Steamed white rice
Sliced fresh papaya and pineapple

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bûche de Noël

My mom always used to make Buche de Noel for Christmas, and this year she passed the torch to me.  I am glad I made a rolled cake this summer - it made this recipe a lot less intimidating.  There are quite a few components to put together, but just tackle it one step at a time, and it's not overwhelming.  I made the syrup first, then the filling, chilled it, then baked the cake, and while it was cooling, made the buttercream.  Last, I put together the mushrooms and dusted the whole thing with cocoa powder.  Make sure you start the recipe a few hours in advance, as the components all take time, and the roll must chill for 4 hours before being frosted.

My dad just bought a Nikon D60, and he graciously let me borrow it to take pictures of this dessert.  The difference between his and my little old camera is striking!

(adapted from Jacques Torres's A Year In Chocolate by Jacques Torres, seen on Serious Eats)

First, make the syrup:
-makes 1 1/2 cups-
1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons Kahlua

1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water and sugar, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let cool completely.
2. Stir the liqueur into the cooled syrup. Use immediately, or store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator almost indefinitely.

Next, make the Chocolate Pastry Cream:
-makes about 2 cups-
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate

1. Sift together 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the cornstarch in a bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks until well blended, thick, and smooth.
2. In a heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan, combine the milk with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Using the edge of a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk and then add the bean. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat.
3. Whisking constantly, whisk about one-third of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the combined mixtures into the hot milk mixture, whisk to combine, and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly to keep the mixture from sticking and burning. Just before the mixture comes to a boil, it should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. As soon as the mixture boils, lower the heat slightly and continue to whisk for another 2 minutes to cook out the raw taste of the cornstarch and allow the flavors to mellow.
4. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Cover with plastic film, pressing it directly on the surface to keep a skin from forming, and let cool to room temperature.
5. Place the chocolate in the top half of a double boiler. Place over (not touching) gently simmering water in the bottom pan and heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Using a rubber spatula, fold the hot chocolate into the cooled pastry cream. Cover with a piece of plastic film until ready to use. If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Third, make the Cake:
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons whole milk
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/3 cup cake flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 15 1/2–by—10 1/2—by 1—inch baking sheet (jelly-roll or quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper and grease it.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the milk and beat on medium-high speed for about 6 minutes, or until the mixture is very light and has tripled in volume.
3. Place the egg whites in a bowl and, using a handheld mixer, whip on medium speed until foamy. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue to beat. When the sugar has been incorporated, raise the speed to medium-high and whip for about 5 minutes, or until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.
4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about half of the whole egg mixture into the egg whites. When almost incorporated, fold in the remaining half, taking care not do deflate the batter.
5. Place the flour in a fine-mesh sieve and, tapping on the side of the sieve, sift the flour over the meringue batter. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour into the batter, making sure the spatula reaches to the bottom of the bowl to ensure an even mixture.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Don’t press down too hard, or the pressure will cause the batter to deflate.
7. Place the confections’ sugar in a fine-mesh sieve and, tapping on the side of the sieve, sift the sugar evenly over the surface of the batter.
8. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the cake just begins to brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and immediately run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake sides. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the cake, and then invert a cookie sheet over the parchment. Immediately invert the cake and the cookie sheet together, then lift off the baking sheet. Peel the parchment paper off the cake. Let cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the Coffee Buttercream:
-makes about 3 cups-
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 large whole egg, at room temperature
Scant 1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp instant espresso
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks), at room temperature, cubed

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip, combine the egg yolks and whole egg and beat on medium-high speed for about 7 minutes, or until tripled in volume and very thick, light, and airy.
2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Clip a thermometer to the side of the pan, place the pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 12 minutes, or until the mixture registers 250 degrees F. When the sugar syrup is ready, remove it from the heat. With the mixer on low speed, carefully pour the hot syrup between the ship and the side of the bowl, taking care not to hit the whip as you pour, or the hot syrup will spatter and burn you.  Add the instant espresso. Beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, or until the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot and the mixture is slightly cool.
3. Add the butter and continue to whip on medium speed for a couple of minutes, or until the butter is incorporated. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for about 10 minutes, or until thick, smooth, and shiny, and well emulsified.  Be careful not to overbeat, or the buttercream will be grainy.
4. Use immediately, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To make the mushrooms, you will need about 3 ounces of almond paste or marzipan, and a few teaspoons of cocoa powder.  Roll a few pieces of marzipan into a ball, then press a small indentation into one side (this will be the mushroom cap).  Roll a few other pieces into cylinders for the stems.  Press the stem into the indentation, then dust with cocoa powder.  Repeat for as many mushrooms as desired.

To put it all together:
1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the cake on a clean, flat work surface with a long side facing you.
2. Drizzle the Kahlua syrup evenly over the cake, using just enough to moisten but not soak the cake.
3. Spoon the pastry cream on top of the cake and, using an offset spatula, carefully spread the cream evenly over the cake, taking care to spread it evenly up to the edges.
4. Starting at the long end farthest from you, slip your fingers between the parchment and the cake and begin rolling the cake toward you, up and over the pastry cream, until you have a firm log shape, or roulade.
5. Carefully transfer the roulade, seam side down, to the prepared cookie sheet. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the roulade to set.
6. Transfer the roulade to a serving platter. Using a serrated knife, cut a 1 1/2—inch—thick slice from one ends of the roll. This will be used to form a “gnarl” on the finished log.  If your log is too long to fit on your platter, cut a 5" pice on a diagonal, and use it to form a branch off the longer piece.
7. Using an offset spatula, generously coat the entire log with all but about 1 cup of the buttercream, spreading from left to right in long streaks. Place the reserved slice on top of the log,  a little off center. Pull a fork or cake comb through the buttercream on the cake so that it resembles tree bark. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to allow the buttercream to set.
8. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Dust the cake with a little cocoa powder. Arrange the mushrooms around the cake.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Matteson Squares

Here it is: the holy grail of Christmas cookies.  Fudgy brownies topped with a layer of mint buttercream and a hard chocolate shell on top.

For as long as I can remember, these have been everyone's favorite.  When my mom's family gets together, these cookies are in high demand and we almost always devour them within minutes of the tray being set out.

I'm sure our family isn't the only one to make these, but the recipe I use is written in my grandmother's handwriting on an index card titled "Matteson Squares" (her maiden name).  I always make some with red food coloring and some with green (although in our family, green is more traditional).  Don't be deterred by the unsweetened chocolate in the topping.  It is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet, creamy mint frosting. 

Merry Christmas!

makes 1 13x9 pan

Brownie layer:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
pinch salt

Melt together the chocolate and butter.  Set aside to cool.
Beat the eggs and sugar together.  Add the flour and salt, stir, and then add the chocolate.  
Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan (I line the bottom with parchment too), and bake for about 20 minutes at 350 F.
Remove pan from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Mint layer:
3 cups powdered sugar
6 tbsp soft butter
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp mint extract
a few drops of food coloring

Beat in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.  Spread on cooled brownies and chill.

Chocolate layer:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 tbsp butter

Melt together chocolate and butter.  Pour over mint layer and spread to distribute evenly.  Chill until firm.
Before cutting into squares, bring the pan to room temperature so chocolate doesn't shatter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Recipe Exchange: French Chocolates

I have no idea what makes these French...but they are a ridiculously simple holiday treat!  This recipe has TWO ingredients (plus whatever you want to use to roll them in or decorate them with).  If you need to whip up some holiday treats at the last minute, look no further!

1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
powdered sugar/cocoa powder/sprinkles

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (heat for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until smooth).  Stir in sweetened condensed milk and mix well.  Chill for at least 4 hours, or until firm.  Roll into bite-sized balls, then roll in powdered sugar or sprinkles.  Store in the refrigerator

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hawaii: Seared Ahi With Pineapple Salsa

We are in Hawaii! That means beautiful sunsets, lounging monk seals, and great ingredients to cook with!
We spent our first day getting settled into our condo on Poipu beach in Kauai, and headed to the grocery store, where we found some beautiful ahi steaks and fresh pineapple.  
about 2 pounds of ahi steaks (count on 1/4 - 1/3 pound per person)
1/2 fresh pineapple
1/2 cucumber, seeded 
1/2 red onion, diced, soaked for 20 minutes in cold water, and drained
juice of one lime
a few pinches of salt

To prepare the salsa:
Cut the pineapple into 1/4" dice.
Cut the cucumber into 1/4" dice.
Stir the pineapple, cucumber, and red onion together and stir in the lime juice and salt.  Adjust seasoning to taste. Let sit at room temperature so flavors can combine while you prepare the fish.

To prepare the fish:
Heat grill on high for about 10 minutes.  
Cook the steaks about 3 minutes on each side (it will be very red inside - cook a little longer if you want it more fully cooked)
Serve topped with salsa.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chili-Garlic Pork Tenderloin

Back story: We are moving out of our apartment on Friday. We will be driving to Oregon, spending the holidays with my family, and moving to Thailand on January 6. We've been gradually packing, but I had two pork tenderloins in the freezer I couldn't bear to toss (or give away before we moved). So, with the kitchen completely empty except for a skillet and some bare cooking essentials, I created this - our last dinner in our beloved San Luis Obispo apartment.

2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 - 2 lbs)
2 tsp chili powder
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil

Sprinkle pork with a little salt and pepper.
Mix together the chili and garlic.  Rub all over the pork, then rub in the olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  
Preheat the oven to 450.
Heat a skillet over high, then add the tenderloins and brown on all sides (about 4 minutes each side)

Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 155 or 160 F (depending on how paranoid you are!).
Slice and enjoy!
If you are like us, and all your utensils are packed, it's perfectly acceptable to use your fingers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

I had a lot of things to do to get ready for Thanksgiving...pie and tart crusts to make, bread to make and cut for stuffing, an apartment to clean and mounds of dishes to wash. But what did I decide to do before all that? Make pesto and pumpkin bread. But not just any pumpkin bread. Pumpkin bread with CHOCOLATE CHIPS.  Because really, chocolate chips make almost everything better.  Especially pumpkin bread!

(adapted from Joy of Cooking)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (which I normally wouldn't use, but I was feeling lazy - see below for actual spicing)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter with the sugars until fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then mix in the pumpkin.
Stir together the milk and vanilla in a small bowl. 
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with milk.  
Fold in the chocolate chips, then pour into the loaf pan and bake for about 5o minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

French Apple Tart

This is one of my favorite desserts to make because it looks so fancy, and yet it takes no artistic skill whatsoever.  My cakes always come out a little lopsided, but this tart looks beautiful no matter what!  It just takes some patience to cut and arrange a whole bunch of little thin apple slices. (And really, those apples didn't taste as burnt as they look).  It was a great Thanksgiving dessert - a nice change from the usual apple pie.  

(Adapted from Baking with Julia, seen at Once Upon a Cakestand)

Tart shell
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut in small pieces
about 1/4 cup ice water

Stir together flour and salt.
Cut butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture.  
Using a pastry blender, mix the flour and butter until it is in small crumbs.
Stir in half the water gently, mixing just until a dough forms.  Add the remaining water only if needed. 
Pat into a disk and refrigerate.

2 pounds Golden Delicious apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
a large pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
juice of one lemon

Peel and core the apples.  Cut into thin slices.
Put in a large saucepan and drizzle with lemon juice. 
Add sugar, flour, cinnamon and breadcrumbs. 
Add a tablespoon of water and put on medium heat. 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are easy to mash with a potato masher.
Mash apples until nearly smooth.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  
Roll the tart dough out to 1/8" thickness and press into a 9" tart pan.  Line with parchment and pie weights and bake for about 20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
Remover from the oven and turn the heat down to 375 F.
When the tart shell is cool, spoon the apple puree into it and smooth evenly.

2 Granny Smith apples 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 tablespoon of sugar

Peel and core the apples and finely slice them.
Drizzle lemon juice over them to prevent them from browning. 
Arrange the apples in a circle over the purée. The slices should overlap each other slightly.  
Cut a round piece from one slice to go in the center.
Once all the apple slices are arranged, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes. When the edges of the apples have started to brown, take it out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

My parents and in-laws came over for a simple supper the other night, and this salad was the perfect thing to serve.  Not too heavy, the flavors are bright and interesting, and the fruits and vegetables provide great textural contrasts (and not to mention, lots of fiber and vitamins!)  The pork with the rub and sauce is delicious - I think any leftovers would make a great sandwich.

(adapted from Epicurious)

For pork
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons olive oil

For glaze
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons Tabasco

For vinaigrette
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For salad
3 navel oranges
5 ounces baby spinach, trimmed (6 cups leaves)
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage 
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
1 firm-ripe California avocado

Prepare pork:
Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.  Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F
Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.

Make glaze and roast pork:
Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 150°F, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 160°F while standing.)

Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.

Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  Cut the slices into quarters.
 Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper, and oranges in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Assemble salad:
Cut pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork and avocado in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados. Pour any juices from skillet over pork.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pesto Swirl Bread

I love baking bread on the weekends, when I'm not doing too much and have plenty of time to wait for it to rise.  I stumbled upon the fantastic Joy of Cooking recipe for basic white bread and made a few loaves to cut up for stuffing on Thanksgiving.  I liked it so much I wanted to make some to eat with dinner tonight, but with a twist.  I put some of the pesto from a few days ago on a flattened-out piece of dough and rolled it up. It was a nice dressed-up version of regular white bread and a perfect accompaniment to a simple dinner of pasta and salad.  I will definitely be making this again!

(adapted from Joy of Cooking)
2 tbsp warm water (about 11o F)
1 tsp active dry yeast 
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2-3 cup bread flour
about 1/4 cup pesto

Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside.
Heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, until it's about 105 degrees.
Pour the yeast and the milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir together.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in about 2 cups of flour and mix until a dough forms.  Switch to the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low speed (2).  Mix for about 8 minutes, adding flour a tablespoon at a time if dough seems especially sticky.
When the dough is smooth and elastic, form into a ball and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
Let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
Punch down, then let rise again for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Grease a 5 x 9 loaf pan.
After the dough has risen, flatten it into a rectangle about 9" by 9"
Spread the pesto evenly over the dough, then carefully roll it up.
Pinch together the seam and place the loaf seam-side down in the loaf pan
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Set on a wire rack to cool.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pulled pork

After my last triathlon, we went to a great barbecue place in town.  I had pulled pork with coleslaw for the first time, and it was pretty much a transcendental experience for me.  I immediately added pulled pork to my list of things to make, but didn't get around to it for a few months.  For some reason, the idea of committing to buying a 4 pound piece of pork just kind of stressed me out.  But then I decided to make char siu..., and that required 2 pounds of meat.  I took the plunge, bought a 4 pound pork butt, and froze half for this very recipe.  Weeks went by until I decided to retrieve the frozen chunk of meat to make pulled pork.
WHY did I wait so long ?!??! I don't know...but now I want to make it again, and soon.  Sweet, smoky, tangy - this is what barbecue should be.  The best part?  It just sits in the slow cooker all day, so when you get home from work, the smell will make you will drool instantly upon opening the door.  

2 lbs boneless pork butt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce (I like Red Rooster)

3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp smoke-flavored salt (my parents brought me some from Hawaii and it is awesome...if you don't have this, kosher salt is fine too, and if you want to, you can add a couple drops of liquid smoke)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Cut the piece of pork into 2 or 3 equal-sized pieces.  
Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade, and rub into the pork.
Let sit in the marinade overnight.
In the morning, mix together the ingredients for the sauce, adjusting amounts of sugar and vinegar depending on your preference for sweet or tangy sauce.
Put the pork and marinade in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over it.
Cook on low for about 8 hours, then shred with two forks and cook another hour.
Serve with coleslaw.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I had the wonderful opportunity to cook during daylight hours today, something that doesn't happen nearly enough in my life. As a result, I went a little photo-happy while I made some pesto. Why did I make pesto the day before Thanksgiving when I had plenty of other things to do in the kitchen? Good question. I guess because I had some sad-looking basil in the fridge that I didn't want to let go to waste.
And because pesto is great.

2 cups roughly chopped fresh basil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
a few pinches of salt

Chop up your basil like this:
It doesn't have to be finely or evenly chopped at all.
Put it in a bowl.  Add the chopped garlic.  I like 4 cloves, because I like garlic.  You can adjust the amount to your preference.

Add some pine nuts.  If you don't have pine nuts, you can always use walnuts. 

Pour the olive oil over the whole thing.  I ran out of my cheap everyday olive oil so I had to add a little of the good stuff.  And man is this stuff good...

Today, for the very first time, I realized I didn't have to dirty all 209340 pieces of my food processor.  Instead, I could use an immersion blender, and I'd only have to wash TWO things! (The bowl, and the blender).  Since I am without a dishwasher, this was an excellent discovery.

Look what a great job the immersion blender does!

Next, add about 1/2 cup shredded parmesan.  You could use Romano instead...up to you.
Stir that in, then taste a little.  It will need some salt.  Add a few pinches and stir well.  Taste again.  Keep adding salt, pinch by pinch, and stirring, until it tastes like pesto.  Trust your taste buds! You'll know when you've added enough.
And there you have it: Home-made pesto!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Bacon

As I try to become a better cook, I look for recipes with techniques I haven't tried.  This one called for braising, which I had never done, and included bacon, mushrooms, red wine, and pearl onions.  I love all of those things!  The dish has amazing flavor, and is a perfect hearty dinner for chilly fall nights.  You'll dirty a few dishes, but it's definitely worth it!
Since you can make this in a braising pan as well, I'm submitting it to the November Tasty Tools at Joelen's Culinary Adventures.

(adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider)

8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed and chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
black pepper

20 pearl onions, peeled
2 thick slices bacon, diced
3 tbsp flour
1 3-lb chicken, skinned and cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup port
1 1/2 cups dry red wine

To make the mushrooms:
Heat the oil in a skillet until hot.  Add the mushrooms, shallot, garlic, and thyme, and saute for about 3 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the wine, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 or 15 minutes.  

To make the chicken:
Cook the bacon in a small skillet over low heat, for about 8 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve the bacon grease.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper
Spread the flour on a plate and dip each piece of chicken in it, shaking off any excess.
Heat the bacon grease over medium-high in a dutch oven or other large, heavy pan.  Saute the chicken in batches until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a platter.
Add the port and wine and cook for about 10 minutes, until reduced slightly.  
Turn the heat to medium-low.
Stir in the bacon and pearl onions and add a few pinches of salt.
Add the chicken pieces and cook, partially covered, for 20-30 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces to a serving dish and keep warm.  Simmer the sauce until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms during the last 3 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Banana Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

I have been baking like crazy lately, and the more I bake, the more I want to bake. It's a good thing I don't have to teach all week - more time to experiment in the kitchen! This weekend, I remembered a cake I loved from childhood - banana cake with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting - and wanted to recreate it. I baked it in a 13 x 9 pan so it was very low-maintenance: No need to assemble layers or turn it out of the pan to cool. Easy to cut into squares of any size, this cake is simple and delicious. Without frosting it would probably be great for breakfast.

(adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)

1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas
4 tbsp yogurt or sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish.
Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer and mix well.
Mash bananas and add to butter mixture.
Stir in yogurt and eggs, mixing well.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the batter, stirring until blended.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Set pan on a wire rack to cool.

1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp (or more!) milk

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or the top of a double boiler and cool slightly.
Place butter and chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed.
Add powdered sugar and continue mixing.
Add the milk about 1/2 tsp at a time until the frosting is a spreadable consistency.  

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pecan Pie

This has been the month of revisiting foods that were difficult to make in the past.  Although I've never used this recipe before, the last time I made pecan pie, the top burned and the inside was a liquid mess.  However, since my husband had never had a real pecan pie, I decided to make another attempt.  Although I may have let this bake a tiny bit too long (the crust got fairly brown and so did the nuts - but nothing turned black), it was still delicious and the inside wasn't runny at all.  Another keeper from Pioneer Woman!
I like to use Dorie's crust recipe, which you can find in this post.

1 unbaked pie crust
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup melted butter (regular, salted)
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup chopped pecans

Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl. Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the pie shell. Pour syrup mixture over the top. Bake pie at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, being careful not to burn pecans and crust.
Allow to cool for several hours or overnight. Serve in thin slivers.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

I have had an irrational fear of making cheesecake for some time.  I made one in high school that ended up cracking in the middle, which of course bothered me far more than it bothered my friends, who inhaled it.
For a big Thanksgiving dinner with friends, I contemplated attempting another cheesecake.  I knew I wanted to make something with pumpkin, and this seemed like a great opportunity to conquer my fear.  I dutifully wrapped my springform pan in foil, carefully mixed the ingredients for the exact times given in the recipe, and anxiously waited as the cheesecake baked.  When in came time to remove the cake from the oven, and later, the water bath, I realized in horror that my foil had leaked - the pan was dripping with water.  Yes, the top was crack-free, but I thought for sure I had ruined my cheesecake.  
Before dumping the whole thing in the trash (I over-react sometimes, can you tell?), I decided to check the boards at chowhound to see if anyone else had had this problem.  A couple people said theirs filled with water but the cheesecake turned out fine, they just let it dry out on a rack for a few hours.  Extremely relieved, I did just that. 
Everyone loved it, and nobody knew that it had been dripping with water the night before!  So if you are not adept at foil-wrapping your pan, do not fear!  This recipe is fantastic, water-soaked or not.

(from America's Test Kitchen, seen at Good Things Catered)
ATK notes: Depending on the oven and the temperature of the ingredients, the cheesecake may bake about 15 minutes faster or slower than the instructions indicate; it is therefore best to check the cake 11/4 hours into baking. Although the cheesecake can be made up to three days in advance, the crust will begin to lose its crispness after only one day. To make slicing the cheesecake easy and neat, use a knife with a narrow blade, such as a carving knife; between cuts, dip the blade into a pitcher of hot water and wipe it clean with paper towels. 

5 oz graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1 1/2 lb cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature, about 30 minutes
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
5 large eggs, left at room temperature, about 30 minutes
1 c. heavy cream

- For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
-Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray.
-Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses.
-Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened.
-Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer.
-Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan.
-Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes.
-Cool on wire rack while making filling.
-For the filling: Bring about 4 quarts water to a simmer.
-Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside.
-In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute.
-Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula.
-Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition.
-Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl.
-Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl.
-Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl.
-Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.
-Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.
-Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped pan in roasting pan.
-Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface; set roasting pan in oven and pour in simmering water to come about halfway up side of springform pan.
-Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 11/2 hours (see note).
-Run paring knife around cake to loosen.
-Set roasting pan on wire rack and cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes.
-Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil and remove sides of pan, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.
-Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
-To serve: Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter.
-Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Black Bean Burgers with Avocado Sauce

I found this recipe in one of my cookbooks and it is awesome.  My only issue was that the burgers never really firmed up in the middle, so I'm not sure if I need to tweak the recipe a little or just keep cooking them longer.  The flavor is great though!
The sauce that does with them is basically like a thinner guacamole, with a little green bell pepper thrown in.  Serve them with these fries, and you will have yourself quite a tasty dinner! 

(adapted from The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld)

1/2 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup bread crumbs

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a frying pan until they begin to pop.  Grind in a food processor and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low.  Add the onions and 1/2 tsp salt, and saute until soft, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, chipotle, cumin, and oregano, and cook, stirring, for one minute.
Add about a third of the beans and 1/3 cup water, and mast the beans with a potato masher or fork.  When the liquid is absorbed, continue with another third of the beans and the remaining 1/3 cup water.
Mash the beans well, then add the remaining beans and continue mashing until the mixture is mostly smooth.
Cook, stirring, until the liquid is all absorbed.
Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes.  Stir in the pumpkin seeds and 1/4 cup bread crumbs.
Spread the rest of the crumbs on a plate.  Shape the bean mixture into 4" patties, coating on both sides with the crumbs. 
Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.
To cook, heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add the patties and cook 2-3 minutes on each side.  

1 tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 ripe avocado
1 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium, until hot.  Add the bell peppers and saute until soft, 5-7 minutes.  Add the green onions and cook an additional minute.  Transfer to a blender, add a generous pinch of salt, and add the remaining ingredients.  Blend until smooth.

Classic Coleslaw

Just a basic but delicious coleslaw. I love it on pulled pork sandwiches, alongside a variety of different main dishes, and as an afternoon snack. The sweetened onions and vinegar give it an extra burst of flavor, while the mayo keeps it creamy.

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups shredded cabbage
1/3 cup reduced fat mayonaise
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or more, to taste)
salt and pepper

Put the onions in a mesh strainer and rinse well with cold water. Drain completely, then put in a large bowl with the sugar. Let stand 20 minutes.
Add the cabbage, mayonaise, and vinegar, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mexican Oven Fries

I love potatoes in pretty much all forms, and these are no exception.  They are very versatile (use whatever spice you like!) and incredibly simple.  I made these to go with some black bean burgers and my husband and I basically inhaled the whole batch before the rest of dinner was even ready.  

4 red potatoes, scrubbed and dried
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Mexican seasoning (or really any seasoning you'd like)

Preheat oven to 400 F
Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 8 wedges each.
Toss in a large bowl with the oil, salt, and seasoning.
Arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking dish lined with foil.
Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and easily pierced with a fork.

(Note - I used McCormicks Mexcian seasoning, which includes chili powder, cumin, garlic, and onion)