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)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter Vegetable Gratin

This is a perfect side dish for fall or winter.  Sweet potato, purple potato, and carrot, all baked together with shallots, green onions, and a topping of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Next time I think I might throw some parsnips into the mix too!

(adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 small shallots, quartered
4 small purple potatoes, thinly sliced
1 yam, thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into 1/2" slices
4 green onions, cut into 1" lengths
salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375.
Heat the oil in a large flame and oven-proof pan.  Add the shallots potatoes, yam, and carrots and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, until they start to brown a bit.
Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in green onions.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and about half the cheese.
Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
When the vegetables are nicely caramelized, remove from the oven and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

German Chocolate Cake

This has been on my list of things to attempt for quite awhile, and tonight I finally got around to making it.  It was not exactly quick and easy, but the time and effort were definitely worth it.   It takes awhile to get all the components ready to go.  I love the smooth, shiny look of the chocolate glaze, and the filling is sweet with the warm flavors of toasted coconut and pecans.

For cake layers:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup boiling-hot water

For filling:
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
4 ounces coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
14-ounces can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

For glaze:
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
10 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Special equipment: 3 (9-inch) round cake pans

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F and oil cake pans. 
Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. 
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. 
Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. 
Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). 
Divide batter among cake pans (about 1 1/2 cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total.
Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. 
Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. 
Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.

Make filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.

Turn oven up to 425 F.
Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. 
Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. 
Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. 
Remove pie plate from water bath.
Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.

Make glaze while milk is baking:
Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Assemble cake:
Put 1 cake layer on a cardboard round, and place on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner.

Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze.

Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fish in Green Curry Sauce

My mother instilled an envioronmental conscience in me when I was very young and it really effects the way I buy groceries.  For a few weeks, my grocery store only carried oranges from Australia, which is ridiculous because I know for a fact there are oranges growing all over this state.  I didn't buy them because of the ridiculous amount of pollution caused by transporting the fruit all the way here from Australia.  
I buy local foods when I can, shop in bulk to minimize packaging waste, and look for sustainable fish and seafood.  Which is where this recipe comes in.  I needed just some basic white fish.  I remembered from this handy guide that Atlantic cod and halibut, as well as red snapper were on the avoid list, but as I browsed through the case, the only white fish I didn't know about was Orange Roughy.  
I made this dinner, which I thoroughly enjoyed, then had an eye-opening chat with my neighbor, who has a broader knowledge of seafood sustainability than I do.  Not only is this fish dangerously high in mercury, it is from Australia, wildly overfished, and takes 20 years to reach sexual maturity, making it very difficult for the population to rebound.  
I consider this a lesson learned, and will not be shopping without my Seafood Watch Guide again!  But for the record, I highly recommend you make this with Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, or US farmed Tilapia.  And print yourself off a guide at the link above so you can shop sustainably as well!

(adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider)
about 1 pound of white-fleshed fish fillets
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tsp butter
2 tsp - 2 tbsp Thai green curry paste (depending on your tastes - it can be very spicy!)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2/3 cup light coconut milk 
chopped cilantro for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 F and spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.  
Sprinkle the shallot in the bottom of the pan, then lay the fillets on top.
Spray a piece of foil with nonstick spray and lay it, sprayed side down, on top of the fish.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the fillet meets no resistance.
Meanwhile, bring the wine and butter to a simmer and cook until all the alcohol has cooked out. 
Stir in the green curry paste and coconut milk and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the fish sauce and cook for one minute more.
When the fish is done, pour the curry sauce over it, then garnish with cilantro.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pumpkin-White Chocolate Blondies

Yesterday was, for no good reason, a stressful day.  I have those sometimes, where nothing goes wrong and yet I feel anxious all day.  The prescription for days like that? Baking and a run.  It works every time!
I came home from student teaching, needing to get into the kitchen but unsure of what I wanted to bake.  Remembering the can of pumpkin and bag of white chocolate chips in one of my drawers, I did a little Google searching and found this fantastic recipe.  I adore the combination of pumpkin and white chocolate, and the added pumpkin pie spice makes this, I think, my favorite pumpkin recipe so far this fall! (Of course, I've probably said that about every pumpkin recipe I've made...)

(adapted from Martha Stewart)

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 package (12 ounces) white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into squares.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Syrian Lamb Pizza

One of my favorite ways to figure out what to have for dinner when I'm doing my weekly meal planning is to peruse my cookbook shelf and pull out a couple cookbooks I haven't used in a few months.  Tonight, I happened upon this recipe from "The Essential Mediterranean" by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.
This "pizza" is unusual, in that you mix raw ground lamb with vegetables and spices, then spread it all over a thinly rolled piece of dough.  You bake it for about 10 minutes, and the lamb cooks while the dough crisps up.  It's a little messy to eat - you can use a knife and fork, or fold it and half and eat it like a taco.  Either way, it's really satisfying, and has a unique flavor somewhat reminiscent of shawarma.

(adapted from The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins)
makes 5 8" pizzas

1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flours and salt.  With the dough hook, turn the mixer on medium-low speed and gradually pour in the water-yeast mixture.  Mix for about 5 minutes, adding more flour or water as necessary, until you have a smooth, soft dough that does not stick to the sides of the bowl.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour.

1/2 cup pine nuts
4 tsp olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (seeds removed)
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tsp ground sumac
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
black pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground lamb

Combine the pine nuts with 1 tsp olive oil in a medium frying pan.  Heat over low, just until the pine nuts are golden brown.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Put the remaining oil in the pan and add the onion.  Cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until onions are soft but not brown.  Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, pine nuts, and all remaining topping ingredients and mix well.  Set aside

Preheat oven to 450 F.
To assemble the pizzas, punch down the dough and knead for a few minutes.  Divide into 5 golf-ball sized pieces.  Working with one piece at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface until you have a very thin 8" disk.  Place on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, and top with 1/5 of the topping.  Be sure to spread it evenly all the way to the edges.  Repeat with remaining pizzas.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lamb is cooked and dough is beginning to turn golden.  
Remove from the oven and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before eating.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blueberries and Cream Ice Cream

I wanted to bring back a little bit of summer by making blueberry ice cream. I picked up a bag of frozen blueberries at the store decided to try coming up with a recipe on my own. I'm calling it blueberries and cream because you definitely taste the sweet cream flavor along with the blueberries. I left the whole berries in because I just love chunks of fruit in my ice cream.

2 cups blueberries (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 eggs
2 cups half and half

In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, and water, and simmer for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and wash out the pan.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
In the clean pan, heat the half and half just to a simmer, then whisk gradually into the egg mixture. Transfer it all back into the pan and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon.
Stir into the blueberries, then set in an ice bath or refrigerate for a few hours.
When cool, transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.

Corn bread muffins

My husband loves it when I make very simple dinners. That's great, but sometimes I really WANT to spend 6 hours in the kitchen preparing an elaborate feast. We compromise by having more traditional basics on the week days and more intricately-crafted dinners on weekends (when I'm not too exhausted from marathon training runs).
On election night I knew I would be glued to the TV for most of the night, so I threw a chicken in the oven, tossed together some coleslaw, and whipped up these beautiful cornbread muffins. So simple, and yet extremely satisfying. The recipe comes from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, a favorite resource for all things baking-related.
My favorite thing about them is the real corn kernels peppered throughout, with their surprising burst of flavor and juiciness in every bite!

(adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1 cup fresh or frozen(thawed) corn
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce

Preaheat oven to 400F.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil, applesauce and corn. Beat well to blend.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just enough to blend. Do not beat.
Fill the muffing tins, and bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool pan on a rack for a few minutes, then turn muffins out onto a rack and finish cooling.
Makes 12 muffins.

Friday, November 7, 2008

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are perfect for the days that are getting shorter, when Thanksgiving is not too far off.  A little break from pumpkin, but still festive.  Of course I would also make them throughout the year, but cranberry is reminiscent of the holiday season.  
Cranberry and white chocolate contrast each other so perfectly - white chocolate is smooth and sweet, while dried cranberries are chewy and more tart.  Put them together in an oatmeal cookie and you have yourself one enjoyable cookie!

(adapted from RecipeZaar)

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with silpats
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy.
Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
Stir in oats, flour mixture, white chocolate, and cranberries and mix until combined.
Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, until just beginning to get a little color.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Steamed Pork Buns (Bao)

They may not look like much from the outside, but these soft buns filled with smoky-sweet barbecued pork are one of my favorite foods.  I fell in love with them in Singapore 12 years ago and have been a huge fan ever since.
When we go to dim sum, I always eat far too many of these, and I'm so happy I now know how to make them at home!  

(adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp ketchup
2 tsp sugar
pinch white pepper
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 cup chicken stock

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3/4 cup char siu pork, cut into 1/4" pieces
2 tsp Chinese rice wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp milk
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine sauce ingredients and mix well.  Set aside.

To make the filling: heat the vegetable oil on high in a large saucepan and spread to coat the pan thinly.  Add the onion, lower heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is light brown.  Add the pork and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the rice wine and mix well.  Stir the sauce, pour into the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat, and stir in sesame oil.  Set aside, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until needed.

To make the dough: Mix the flour, baking powder, and sugar together in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center, and add milk and water.  Stir until liquid is absorbed, then add the oil.
Knead for about 15 minutes, adding a little water if too dry or flour if too wet.  
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for one hour.

To assemble:  Roll the dough into a cylinder about 12" long and cut into 12 equal pieces.  Keeping the unused dough covered with a damp cloth, work with one piece at a time.  Flatten slightly, spoon about 1 1/2 tbsp into the middle, and pinch the dough together to enclose the filling.  Set onto a small square of wax paper, and repeat with remaining dough.
Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil.  Place a bamboo steamer on top and arrange the buns so they have room to expand (leave at least 1 1/2" between them).  Steam for 15-20 minutes, then turn off the heat, and serve.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Char Siu Pork

Char siu pork was like an exciting new taste discovery to me when I was just beginning to cook.  I needed some for a recipe, so we went to the Asian grocery store and bought some.  I was intrigued by the appearance of the bright red meat, and also by the sweet, smoky flavor.  I continued buying Char siu to use in recipes until this weekend.  I discovered that my favorite Chinese cookbook had a recipe, and it didn't look too difficult.  
I bought the wrong kind of pork (butt instead of loin), sliced it much more thinly than usual, and it was still absolutely wonderful.  I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to store bought!

(adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo)
About 2 pounds of pork butt or pork loin
4 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
4 tsp hoisin sauce
1/8 tsp ground white pepper

Cut the pork into slices about 1/2" to 1" thick.
Prick all over both sides with a fork.
Line a roasting pan with foil.  Place the pork in a single layer in the bottom of the pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour over the meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate 2 to 4 hours.
Heat the oven to 450 F.  Place the roasting pan on a rack in the middle and roast for about 25 minutes.  Turn the meat over and baste every 5 to 6 minutes.  If the sauce dries out, add some boiling water to the pan.  Some of the sauce may burn in the pan, but the meat should be fine.  Check for doneness by removing one piece of pork and slicing in the middle to see if it is cooked through.
Remove from the pan to cool.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Strawberry Jam Swiss Roll

My first rolled cake!
This is so easy and so pretty I'm not sure why I don't make it more often.  A simple vanilla chiffon cake spread with strawberry jam, rolled up, and dusted with powdered sugar.  It looks nice and elegant, but won't take hours of your time.  Next time I'll make an impressive filling, but today this was just right!

(from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup jam of your choice

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line a 17 1/2 by 12 1/2 inch jelly roll pan with parchment and spray well with nonstick spray.
Sift together 1 cup of sugar, the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda onto a pice of waxed paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, oil, water, and vanilla.  Whisk in the dry ingredients gradually and set aside.
Beat the 6 egg whites with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer on medium until very soft peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar, and turn up to high.  Beat until the peaks are stiff and shiny.
Fold about a third of the whipped whites into the yolk mixture, then transfer all the batter into the whites and fold thoroughly (but gently).
Pour into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until it pulls away from the sides and is just turning golden.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.
When cool, dust the cake with powdered sugar, cover with wax paper, and put the back of a sheet pan on top.  Flip over, and remove the parchment from the cake.  Then invert the jelly roll pan on the cake and flip over again, so the cake is on the inverted jelly roll pan with wax paper on the bottom.
Trim the edges, and turn the cake so that a long side is facing you.
Spread with jam and roll up, using the wax paper to help.  Lift the cake by the paper and place on a tray. Chill for about 30 minutes.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Maple Bacon Ice Cream

When I first saw candied bacon ice cream, I knew I had to try it. However, reading over the recipe, it seemed like it was missing something. Like maple flavor! I always love it when I have pancakes and bacon on the same plat, and the bacon gets coated with maple syrup.
So, I candied some bacon the way David Lebovitz instructs, then I mixed up some maple ice cream. Mix them together and what do you get? A surprisingly tasty ice cream!
As a side note - I didn't cut the bacon up into small enough pieces, so some of them were a little chewy in the ice cream. I also think I could have left the bacon in the oven just a little longer to make it more crisp, but I was paranoid about the sugar burning.

For the bacon, go here
For the ice cream:
2 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
pinch salt

Bring the half and half and maple syrup to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl.
Whisking constantly, pour about half the heated half and half mixture into the eggs, then transfer everything back into the saucepan. Add a pinch of salt.
Continue whisking as you cook the mixture over medium-low. Remove from heat when it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Chill in the refrigerator, or set in an ice bath and cool, stirring occasionally. Once cool, transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.
Just before you are ready to stop the ice cream maker, mix in the bacon.
Transfer the ice cream to a container and put in the freezer to chill completely.

NOTE: After a night in the freezer, the bacon flavor kind of overwhelmed the I will try only 2 or 3 pieces of bacon, chopped fine, in my next batch.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I make Indian food probably once a week, and I'll usually whip up a batch of these chapatis to go along with it.  Another recipe from the brilliant Neela Paniz, they are easy to make and work really well for scooping up dal and other Indian dishes.  You'll need to find atta flour (also marked Chapati Flour)... which may require either a search online or a trip to your nearest Indian grocery store. I always choose the latter, and when we are in the Bay Area, I cannot leave without stopping by an Indian grocery store to pick up dal or flour or whole spices like fenugreek seeds or cardamom pods.
But about the chapati... it's excellent!

(from Bombay Cafe)
2 cups atta flour
3/4 to 1 cup warm water
ghee (optional)

Mix the atta flour and 3/4 cups warm water until you have a uniform dough that is not sticky.
Knead for about 15 minutes, adding water as necessary, until the dough is soft and elastic.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
To shape the breads, sprinkle your work surface with flour.
Break off a one inch chunk of dough and flatten in the palm of your hand.  
On the floured surface, roll the dough out to a flat circle about 5-6" in diameter.
Heat a skillet over medium.
Place the chapati in the pan and turn it when you see small bubbles on the surface, about 1 minute.
Cook the other side for about 30 seconds.
With tongs, remove the chapati from the pan and place over an open gas flame for about 15 seconds, or until it puffs up.  Then do the same on the other side.
Remove from the flame, brush with some ghee if you like, and set aside while you repeat the process with the remaining dough.