Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Sunday: Apple Cake - via Dorie Greenspan and Her Friend Marie-Hélène

As I dive into the sweet and yeasty side of cooking where I once believed, "hic sunt monstra" (here, be monsters), I have become more relaxed and a little more confident, but when I saw what the cake batter looked like after the apples were added, I kinda freaked out, thinking I'd made some egregious and fatal error because it looked like there were too many apples and not enough batter.

The good news is that I had absolutely no reason to freak out. This is one fine and delicious cake.  The liquid that comes out of the baking apples mixes with the batter to make an apple-y, custard-y delight.

This is the first recipe I chose to make from Ms. Greenspan's book, "Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours", but it is definitely not the last. I'm not the first to make and blog about this cake - or a host of other of Ms. Greenspan's recipes.
This is a recipe that Ms. Greenspan developed based on her friend, Marie-Hélène's cake and Ms. Greenspan encourages anybody who makes this not to futz with the recipe the first time around and I concur. There are so few ingredients that come together to make something so wonderful. Also, I think using several different types of apples is important in this recipe. I learned that same lesson about apple pie. When it comes to apple sauce (or apple butter) sticking to a single type is generally better.

Oh - and I think the addition of the dark rum is a key ingredient, if you have some. If not, brandy would do the trick.

The only quibble I had was (as I have had with other recipes) the old, "How big is big?" question when it comes to apple size. The recipe calls for four large apples of different types. I suspect that it's not a cooking crime with this recipe if your apples vary a little in size but I really had a wide range of apple sizes. I actually did some research on what is considered a large apple (*cough*NERD*cough*) and came up with a weight one-half pound (8 oz) per apple. Plus or minus a few ounces isn't going to hurt.



RECIPE: MARIE-HÉLÈNE'S APPLE CAKE

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Three Side Dishes from Two Sisters

It's not that I haven't cooked, or taken pictures while cooking, and I have a backlog of half-started un-posted articles (virtually) stacked higher than a cord of wood.

In the words of someone from long ago, "There are reasons, but no excuses." so no long winded explanation of why it has been so long between posts.

My goal is to post as many of these as possible before the end of the year - or by Monday the 2nd. 

I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - and not just for the food.

It is the time for family (your bio family or the family you've chosen) to get together without the ugly and crazed season - now starting in September - that has taken over Christmas, like a face-hugging alien (see the video below). My family has dialed-down the gift madness in that, within the siblings, we give each other small or hand-made gifts.



So, because this post was the closest to completion, I'm going to feature two of my sisters' side dishes from our bio-family Thanksgiving. For the past decade (longer?) I have spent Thanksgiving Thursday in San Francisco and then flown north to spend Thanksgiving Saturday with my bio-family. It was very kind of them to make the change and it allows me to spend time with both my bio- and non-bio families as well as double my turkey deconstruction pleasure. I LOVE turkey deconstruction! I could give lessons or compete professionally -- if there was such a contest.
 
From my sister Chris: (first picture left) Sally's Dressing and (first picture right) Chris' Curried Onions and from Cathy, who blogs over at Lo-Carb World (Second Picture): Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes with Herbs and Pancetta.

Sally's Dressing and Chris' Curried Onions (recipes after the jump, below)


Cathy's Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes with Herbs and Pancetta over at her blog, "Lo-Carb World" is linked, below.

 RECIPES
 - Sally's Dressing;
 - Chris' Curried Onions; and
- Cathy's Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes with Herbs and Pancetta (Over at her Lo-Carb World blog)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Staples: Drying Herbs


Periodically and especially during the holiday season, I end up with half-used bunches of herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano. Often, they have ended up making a kind of (disgusting) herb soup in the bottom of my crisper. Periodically, I also gather a bunch of California Bay leaves from the tree/bush (it's hard to tell at this point) in Lynn's back yard. I dry these sturdier herbs in the microwave. The method is the same, it's the length of time that they're in the microwave that differs. I lay down a single layer of paper towel and sprinkle the herbs on top - not crowding them and run the microwave at 30% power for a couple of minutes. If the herbs aren't dry, I'll repeat this, except that the time is between 30 seconds and 1 minute. The bay leaves take several minutes and I would love to know how to keep them from curling up - thereby making it more difficult to get them in a jar. Once I take them out of the microwave, I let them sit on the paper towel for a minute or two before I put them in a jar.

I've got blog posts backed up like planes over O'Hare on Christmas Eve. Work and travel backed me up a little but I should be posting them very soon - including a dee-licious apple cake.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Candied Ginger

 I'm kind of a cranberry sauce freak. I really like it. I like a healthy serving on my Thanksgiving Day plate and it's an important component of the day-after lunch sandwich.
Roasted
Cape Blanco Cranberries
I'm such a cranberry nerd, I found a farm in Oregon that sells late-harvest, vine-ripened cranberries. They pick into December and the color of their cranberries is much darker - some are a deep burgundy and almost purple. The taste is more intense, riper-tasting and awesome!  The smallest order you can make is 5lbs so it helps to have a few other uses (as I do) other than as a Thanksgiving condiment.
Ginger candied in brown sugar
Are you ready to get roasted?
RECIPE: ROASTED CRANBERRY SAUCE with ORANGE AND CANDIED GINGER

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friday Dinner: Chicken Piccata, Fettucine con Burro e Formaggio and the Ham Sandwich Salad

...okay, we didn't serve a ham sandwich as a salad, but the inspiration for the salad started out as a ham sandwich, according to Nancy Silverton, in her book "A Twist of the Wrist". It's also not called "The Ham Sandwich Salad", but "Crispy Hearts of Romaine with Ham, Pickled Jalapeno Peppers and Creamy Avocado Dressing". My older sister served the salad to me the last time I was visiting and I knew I had to make it for Lynn at one of our Friday dinners. The dressing alone just makes me want to weep with happiness. Everything in this salad goes together beautifully.

I've eaten Lynn's Chicken Piccata, and pasta with butter and cheese (closer to the original Fettuccine Alfredo than what you eat in restaurants) for years and Friday's incarnation was delicious.  We were talking about when she first made the pasta dish (and whatever pasta you have on hand will work - she most often uses linguine or fettuccine) and she pulled out one of her favorite Italian cookbooks to show me some recipes, "Adventures in Italian Cooking", © 1980, published by Ortho Publishing - a subsidiary of Chevron Chemical at that time. Seriously? Why yes, Chevron had a publishing arm and its subsidiary, Ortho, put out cookbooks. In a way, it's kind of creepy if you think about it too much, but don't. It's a strange source, but one with really good, solid recipes. 

Many recipes call for pounding out the whole half-breast but if your half-breasts are large, making a scalloppine (thin slice of meat) by butterflying the half-breast and just slicing it into two pieces makes a more manageable piece of chicken and takes less pounding time. I've embedded a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast. It also helps if your chicken isn't straight out of the refrigerator when you pound it.



Many recipes also call for egg dips and breading which, after sauteing, makes more of a "chicken-fried steak chicken breast",  but Lynn just dusts the pieces with seasoned flour and lets them air dry on a rack before cooking them and I'm in favor of this method, too.



Many moons ago, Lynn lived in the Outer Richmond and her favorite restaurant was Ernesto's (on Clement St.) - back when Ernesto was in the kitchen. Lynn was delighted to be able to recreate many of her favorite dishes from Ernesto's using, amongst other sources, this book. 

Alfredo di Lelio.is credited with the dish "Fettuccine Alfredo" but you know that some form of pasta dressed with creamed butter and cheese has been served since somebody in Italy had water, fire and those three ingredients, but Alfredo has the official credit. Lynn's version includes a healthy dose of fresh ground black pepper and minced parsley. Parmigiana Regiana - at least two years old, is traditional but we used a pecorino romano (sheep's milk) cheese. Don't sweat over the fine details, this remains: pasta dressed with butter and cheese. The only thing about which you must be precise is to wait to dress the pasta until right  before you're ready to serve it. Too soon and the sauce will break (separate). That fact is why the Fettuccine Alfredo we know from most Italian restaurants - at least in the U.S., is a sauce that includes cream as it helps 'hold' the sauce during the restaurant's service period.


Harold McGee has successfully de-bunked the common practice that you need a bunch of water to cook pasta but make no mistake - you need salt. Two tablespoons in the water to cook a pound of pasta in 4-6 quarts of water and if you use the less-water method, two teaspoons to two quarts water.

RECIPES:
 - Chicken Piccata;
 - Fettucine con Burro e Formaggio; and
 - Crispy Hearts of Romaine with Ham, Pickled Jalapenos and Creamy Avocado Dressing

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet, Sour and a Little Bit Hot: Stir-Fry Cabbage and Greens with Sesame Seeds

In an attempt to get my refrigerator cleared out, in preparation for stuff I'm acquiring, cooking or baking for Thanksgiving, I considered the head of red cabbage and a bag of pea greens in my crisper. Generally, I use cabbage in the fall and winter versions of Spoon Salad and I like to finely chop up pea greens as an add-in, but I knew I was not going to get to that in the next few days.

I also had some, garlic and ginger. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, agave nectar (alternately use honey), chili garlic sauce, sesame seeds and a little sesame oil and you can make a slightly sweet, sour and a little bit hot stir-fry. I also had some previously baked, marinated tofu cubes that I sliced up to add as a protein. For a prep-junkie like me, all the slicing, dicing and mincing is a rush but for those of you who don't get happy goosebumps at the thought of that, your pay-off is that the dish cooks in about 15 minutes.

This isn't so much a recipe as an example of really using the pantry, the spice cupboard and the crisper and winding up with something good. All sorts of substitutions can be made - from the type of cabbage or greens to the basic seasoning and liquids to the nuts. I really wish I'd had some cilantro, or chives and green onions, and I absolutely recommend those additions.
Pea greens, not to be confused with pea shoots which are more like micro-greens
I used pea greens - because that's what I had - but would recommend using another type of greens in this dish. When you quick cook pea greens, the vertical fibers of the (essentially hollow) stems, while pretty tender raw, do not break down. I occasionally buy pea greens and have always used them raw in salad, removing the tendrils and then chopping them up. If I did use them again in a dish like this, I'd pre-steam them in the microwave (sprinkled with a little water in the covered bowl) until they were wilted, but not completely cooked, and then chop them up very fine. De-stemming pea greens is kind of a pain and unlike chard or kale, the stem is not less fibrous as you move up to the top of the stalk.

Fortunately there are pages and pages of types of greens you can use, or you can leave them out. For the greens that have a slightly longer cooking time, you may wish to steam them in the microwave so that they are half-cooked and ready to finish off in the stir-fry.

If you're working by hand, it's easiest to thinly shred cabbage by separating some of the outer leaves
from the inner fold-y leaves. Flattening the outer leaves, placing them curved-side up
makes them easier to cut in long, crosswise strips.
I'm not including the recipe for the baked, marinated tofu (yet) but just about any protein would do whether vegan or omnivore: left-overs from your home-cooked, or a good purchased roast chicken, or pork, thin-sliced steak, etc - you get the message, yes? After the high-heat stir-fry and short braise in the liquids, the cabbage doesn't taste at all cabbage-y. It's tender but with a little residual crunch. It could be served on its own, or over rice or noodles.

Sesame seeds: from raw and white to toasted and caramel-colored, in the microwave. If you want to burn sesame seeds, it's dead easy to do so cooking them on the stove-top. You have to work harder to ruin them in the oven, but it can be done. I found that toasting them in the microwave removes the agony of defeat and acrid smell of burned seeds when cooked on the stove-top, but is the easiest (for me) if I actually want a tasty batch of toasted sesame seeds. You still have to pay attention to them but the whole process takes 5 or less minutes, depending on your  microwave's power and the transition from "almost toasted" to "perfect" is a little easier to control. On the other hand, if you've never had a problem toasting them in the oven or on the stove-top, I salute you!

RECIPE: HOT AND SOUR STIR-FRY CABBAGE and GREENS with SESAME SEEDS

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Sunday: Roasted Pear Tart

Once you've roasted pears that make their own caramel sauce (see: Roasted Caramel Pears with Crème Fraîche and Toasted Pistachios), it's a short, easy ride to make this roasted pear tart.


I used a sweet tart dough (from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" I highly recommend his cookbooks), 4 ounces each crème fraîche and fromage frais as the filling, drizzled the caramel sauce from the roasted pears over the fruit and garnished with toasted ground pistachios. All-in-all pretty simple. You can roast the pears the day before as well as make the tart dough and refrigerate that until the next day.

The assembled tart needs to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before you serve it; the extra sliver I stashed in the refrigerator tasted great the next day, too. After chilling the tart, take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving.
Crème fraîche and fromage blanc, combined.
What is this "fromage blanc", you may ask? Fromage blanc is a creamy soft cheese made with cows milk. and not cream (like crème fraîche) and as Cowgirl Creamery makes it, it is what American grocery store cream cheese can only dream it could be but never will be. It has about 30% less fat than regular U.S. cream cheese and I think it's exponentially better. I wanted the tartness and rich, creamy taste of the crème fraîche to be there but not so forward. The fromage blanc was the perfect pairing. Look for it in your neighborhood from a good purveyor, buy and taste some and I'll bet you like it. A lot.

RECIPE: ROASTED CARAMEL PEAR TART

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Page - Cooking & Food-Related Sites


My other two pages (in addition to the blog posts on the "Home" tab) are woefully bereft of content, but I have added a third additional page, Cooking & Food-Related Sites. I have regularly accessed all of these sites, but if one 'goes dark', leave a comment and I'll make the correction.

Suggestions and additions are welcome, too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Roasted Caramel Pears with Crème Fraîche and Toasted Pistachios

Want to make a dessert that's dead easy and delicious, where the main part of the dish is comprised of two ingredients (pears and brown sugar) and makes it own sauce? Well, this just might be the one.

Lynn and I saw this on one of Joanne Weir's cooking shows and looked up the recipe on her site. We made it for my birthday dinner and periodically rave about it. We're making it as a Thanksgiving dessert, in lieu of pie, because we never seem to get to the pie on Thanksgiving.

For this recipe, I used crème fraîche instead of the called-for Marscapone, omitted the honey and used toasted, ground pistachios instead of pecans. I like the slight sour-ness to the crème fraîche, I think adding honey to it is overkill and toasted pistachios give a little crunch, texture and nutty flavor to the dish.

This is not a regular "Sweet Sunday" recipe, but I used the pears for a "Sweet Sunday" tart recipe that will be posted very soon.

Selecting Pears & Pear Care

The original post from which I adapted this recipe calls for Bartlett pears. For my version, I chose Bosc pears. Bartlett pears will release more liquid and be much softer when completely cooked. Just make sure they are barely ripe when you're ready to prepare your dish or your roasted Bartlett pears will be mushy.
Bosc pears have a golden brown, matte and somewhat rough-feeling peel.
 I know there are other baking-appropriate pears out there, but I chose Bosc pears. They don't have the gold-and-rosy sexy blush of Bartlett and other pears but they are a workhorse when it comes to baking. When ripe, they are firmer than most other eating pears. To test for ripeness, press gently near the stem and if it gives to that gentle pressure, it's ready to use. Ripen pears in a warm, room temperature place outside of the refrigerator and test daily for ripeness. Once ripe, store in the coldest spot in the refrigerator, uncrowded and in a single layer - but not in the crisper, they are too easily bruised.

Because pears ripen from the inside out, ripe fruit will give gently to gentle pressure near the stem. Waiting until pears are soft around the middle may indicate over ripeness.

Toasting Pistachios

I read about a technique to toast pine nuts on Alton Brown's blog using the microwave and a paper bag. Although it worked - and I have ruined many a batch of pine nuts by being distracted for just a few seconds too many - the pine nuts were too uniform in color for me (yeah, I'm weird) and I think too much salt clung to them for my taste. I'm going to try it again with a shorter time in the microwave and less salt.
Raw, shelled pistachios, pre-toasting.

However, I love it for toasting pistachios and I used less salt than when I used this method for pine nuts and I was very happy with the results. The pistachios are just lightly toasted (retaining their beautiful color) and lightly salty. This method can be found below the main recipe for the roasted pears.

RECIPES:
 - ROASTED CARAMEL PEARS with CRÈME FRAÎCHE and PISTACHIOS and
 - MICROWAVE TOASTED PISTACHIOS

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Fall! Squash, Beans, Chard and Bacon with Cinnamon

Happy post-Hallowe'en! Does anybody spell it that way any more? "Een" at the end of "Hallow" without the apostrophe means nothing. Yes, I know that Hallowe'en is (in turn) a contraction of "All Hallows’ Evening"

Man, I sound like an old grump. Hang on - I have to yell at some kids to get off the lawn. Or, rather, my sister's lawn. I am spending the week surrounding Hallowe'en visiting family in and around Tacoma/Puyallup, WA.

Even though it was a school night, the All Hallows Evening weather was fine and there was a constant stream of kids for a good 2 1/2 hours. My nephew parked himself, and his video game equipment next to the front door. I've had to fight him for the last couple of years to hand out candy. He's just likely saving himself the embarrassment of having his aunt answer the door wearing a t-shirt of zombies riding Segways ("We've Upgradead!).

This dish was so good, I made it two nights in a row on request. It tastes great warmed up for breakfast, with an egg on top. There's quite a bit of cinnamon, but it balances with the bacon and beans in a way that it's just savory and aromatic and not at all sweet, even with the roasted and caramelized butternut squash.

This isn't an original recipe but I cannot remember where I saw it. If I can locate the source, I'll come back and update the post.
Everybody, okay everybody who likes squash (good - more for the squash lovers!), loved this dish.
You can easily substitute smoked paprika for the bacon, or just leave it out. The dish won't suffer.


The first night I just used butternut squash, The second night, I combined the extra butternut squash
from the previous night with a large sweet potato.
Sun - the natural frost defroster, in the backyard.

RECIPE: SQUASH, BEANS, CHARD and BACON with CINNAMON

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Staples: A Pound (Give or Take a Few) of Pickled Padrons

I get a kick out of making pickles. The smell of brine and spices takes me back to college when, during a couple of summers, I worked as seasonal help at a pickle-packing plant during cucumber season when they fresh-packed pickles (as opposed to a long brine). I came home every day smelling like vinegar, dill, garlic and other spices. My mom frequently made me take off my work clothes in the garage and throw them directly into the washing machine before I came into the house. I was -ah- rather pungent smelling and often sticky.

I really love pickles, but it always took me a month after working there to be able to eat them again.

The worst job was sorting the cucumbers. They'd dump  bins of cucumbers onto several conveyor belts and workers, on either side of the belt would sort out any that weren't  the appropriate size or shape - depending on what they would be used for - and throw out the ucky looking cukes and any leaves or stems. The smell wasn't good, but I got used to it. The worst part was staring at a moving conveyor belt for hours at a stretch. When you looked up, you were a little dizzy and anything stationary you looked at appeared to be moving like the conveyor belt. Dumping glass (overturning boxes of glass jars at the start of the production belt to be filled with cucumbers, pickling spices and brine) wasn't bad once you got a rhythm going and adding the pickling spices wasn't too bad either.

This is exactly like the thumb guards I wore.
I think I might still have one, somewhere.
The second worst job after sorting was... Do you know why the first dill pickle's so hard to get out of the jar? Well, that's because one of our jobs was eight workers standing four to a side of a bin filled with cucumber, with the conveyor belt split to run along each side of the bin and after most of the cucumbers had been added to the jars by going through the "shaker" and the pickling spice added, we would shove in one or more cucumbers so that the jar was completely full and the cucumbers tight against the upper shoulders of the jar.

This was hard on the back and the thumbs. After I got used to it, I had thumbs of steel, but my back never acclimated. I also wore thumb guards under my gloves. As summer jobs went, it paid very well. I liked working swing because once the sun went down, the plant cooled off a little. The absolute best job was when you got to drive a fork lift. Whee!

Just a hair short of a pound.
I'm going out of town for a few days and had a surplus of Padrón peppers - Pimientos de Padrón - a generally mild chile used frequently as tapas - quickly and gently fried, then seasoned with salt. To round that out, I had about 8 really small sweet peppers. I knew that I wouldn't get to them before I left and I didn't want them to go to waste. Pickling most vegetables is dead easy and fast, especially if you're making a refrigerator pickle. If you want to make something shelf-stable, make sure you follow the rules regarding canning, else bad things may happen.
This was the last time my face got this close to the pan while cooking the brine.
Vinegar fumes can knock you sideways. Opening a window or turning on your kitchen fan helps,
once the liquid starts to come to a boil.
This brine will work with just about any peppers or other vegetables and the spicing can be adjusted to your own taste. You should let the jar sit in the refrigerator for a week before eating. I'm looking forward to eating these when I come back, in a salad, as a part of another garnish or just for snacking.


RECIPE: PICKLED PEPPERS

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sweet Sunday: Lime Coconut Bars


This is a riff on Mark Bittman's recipe in "How to Cook Everything" called, "Gabriella's Lemon Squares" and while they weren't picture perfect coming out of the pan, they sure did taste good. I love unsweetened, toasted coconut's nutty naturally sweet flavor.


Actually, I think my problems getting them out of the pan could have been solved by using a metal baking pan with square corners and lining it with well-buttered parchment paper as I don't think the Pyrex pan's rounded corners did me any favors. Next time  - and oh my friends, there will definitely be a next time - I won't spread the coconut up the sides as it made cutting the bars more difficult. With the coconut on top, it's easier to start your cuts in the middle of the pan and work out towards the edges. I even think a metal pastry scraper with a straight edge would work well.


The original recipe did not call for zest, but I added that to both the crust and the filling as well as upping the lime juice to 1/3 cup.


Oh - and let's just get this out of the way. I know some of you have already thought of this and those who haven't, I want to share this with you because I had this song in my head the entire time I was cooking as well as the time it took to write this post!


... aaaaaand you're welcome!

RECIPE: LIME COCONUT BARS

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Green Bean and Almond Soup and Notes on Vegetable Stock


This recipe was part of my "cook the pantry and the crisper" effort this week. After making two cakes with almond flour, I had a surplus. I also had a just-passed-prime, but still in great shape, pound of green beans. Searching "green beans" and almond meal". I found this recipe on Clotilde Dusoulier's "Chocolate & Zucchini" site. Ms. Dusoulier adapted this recipe from "Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery".

Although not as pristine as when i bought them, these were super crunchy and fresh tasting.
It's a pureed soup of green beans, aromatics and vegetable stock thickened with ground almonds.  Green beans and almonds taste great together and using ground almonds as a thickener is a win for the gluten-intolerant. The resulting texture isn't silky smooth as most pureed soups, but the combination of flavors is very good. It's not a BIG! GIGANTIC! flavor-buster soup, but not everything has to be - just great ingredients and a lovely flavor. I ate this with salad and cheese toast.

In my version, I use leeks instead of onions and celery with no carrots (as there were none in the crisper). I prefer leeks over onions in a lot of soups and love the flavor. Leeks can take some cleaning, as there can be a lot of dirt in between the layers but I generally clean dirt of of the outside, trim off the ends, and the fibrous dark green parts (which I save for stock), cut them as called for and then wash them by soaking and swishing them around in cold water, letting them sit  for a couple of minutes to let the dirt drop to the bottom of the bowl then drying them off in a salad spinner. This method is easy and fast.
In most instances, I trim and cut up my leeks and then I wash them.
Just remember to clean your board and knife before moving on to the next vegetable.

Vegetable Stock: I cooked both wild rice and barley this week and used the left-over water as a basis for vegetable stock. Water in which I've cooked chickpeas also make a really tasty starter for stock. To that I added the green tops and trimmings from the leeks, some celery leaves, a bay leaf and a few stems of thyme. During the week I throw appropriate (where the veg isn't too strong-flavored or bitter and would overpower the taste) trimmings into a freezer bag and stuff it in the freezer. I don't use them if they've been in the freezer over two weeks.

The cooking water from many beans and grains - if you don't use it in the dish for which you cooked them - make a good base, too. White or light-colored beans - especially cannellini - tend to be good. I don't use bean cooking water when the resulting product is strongly colored or too cloudy. I let the left over water from the barley sit for about a half an hour and let the starch particles sink to the bottom while pouring off the less-cloudy water.

Vegetable Stock Guidelines: Heat up a big pot on the stove on medium-high. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Throw in the left-over vegetable trimmings that you have cut up roughly (the smaller the better) and a couple of pinches of salt. Depending on your preference, cook them without coloring them or caramelize them a little, adjusting the heat as necessary, along with 1 or two smashed cloves of garlic. Add a bay leaf, a few pepper corns, a tablespoon of tomato paste (if you have some) and cook for a few more minutes. Add half-dozen sprigs of parsley and a few sprigs of other herbs (if you have them). Add the left-over bean or grain cooking water, or just water to a ratio that works for the amount of vegetables and trimmings. Commonly, a pound of vegetables to a gallon of water, but adjust down (or up) depending on your vegetables.

Bring the pot to a boil, turn the heat down and cover so that the liquid comes to  a medium simmer. Let this cook, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It doesn't help this to cook it longer and by 1 hour, you've extracted the maximum flavor from the vegetables. Take off the heat and allow the stock to cool to lukewarm. Set a large strainer over a bowl and ladle the solids into the strainer (pushing down on them a little to extract so that you can pick up the pot and pour the remainder of the liquid through the strainer. Push down on the remaining solids a little to exact any extra liquid.  Allow this to sit for an hour or until completely cool. Pour this liquid, making sure that any sediment remains at the bottom of the bowl, through a double-layer of cheesecloth.  Cover and store in refrigerator for 2 days or in an airtight container (or multiple containers, in smaller quantities) in the freezer for a couple of months.
(LEFT) take the pan off heat when the almond meal is about this color. Have a plate ready (to cool it down)
because it will continue to cook. (RIGHT) Toasted and un-toasted almond meal comparison.
RECIPE: GREEN BEAN and ALMOND SOUP

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sweet Sunday: Whole Wheat Apple Muffins and Camera Advice

So, on my second weekend of cooking something dessert-y for my friend to take to her church, I was scrambling a little to get them made and cooled -- all the while shooting lovely (or as lovely as I can manage), informative pictures.  Except...

...when I checked on the images, there was nothing. I'd forgotten to take the card out of my laptop and put it back in the camera. Yes, the display clearly shows, a "NO CARD" message, but once I got my settings for the pictures, I wasn't looking at the display. What's the lesson?
Stand-in apples - taken this week as I made the apple muffins a week ago last Sunday.
There is a setting to enable notification in the viewfinder - big and bright, flashing, yellow CARD, that I have since changed from "Disabled" to "Enabled". You might want to check that out on your own camera.

Fortunately, I had set a couple of the muffins aside for Lynn and was able to memorialize the muffin. For me, an inconvenience - these aren't professional photo shoots - just a pain in the hiney.
Anyway, these are very good muffins that I made pretty much as specified by Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen. The only change I made was to, right after the muffins came out, sprinkle yet a little more brown sugar on top. A few people mentioned that they liked the extra crunch. As Mr. Perelman states in the recipe (which she adapted), the original recipe says you'll get a dozen, but you're likely to get more, from a standard-size muffin tin - I got 18.

Apples! There are glorious apples in the market and a Granny Smith isn't your only option for baking when you want an apple that will hold its form. The picture at the top of this post has Northern Spy, Fameuse and Skaar, but the apples I used for these muffins were, per the farmer, "mystery" apples and holy buckets they were good eating AND good bakers.

Beyond the addition of the additional brown sugar after the muffins came out of the oven, I did not change this recipe and so click the link below to go to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe.

RECIPE: WHOLE WHEAT APPLE MUFFINS at SMITTEN KITCHEN
Makes 12 - 18 muffins.