Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pecan Pie Cookies

Well I can't stop baking. I KNOW! I know.

I know I'm eating things for dinner that aren't sugar based, but I can't quite remember what they are... Oh wait. I made those roasted tomatoes people keep talking about:
And then I made pesto using the end of our basil plant (yeah, it died, I don't know what happened) and the oil from the tomatoes and the garlic that roasted with them. It was tasty!

And then I forgot to take a picture of the pasta we ate it with. And it was maybe too salty... and I didn't write any of the ratios down. Bad blogger, bad! Well anyway.

Saturday morning I woke up early to make cookies. Ok, that's a lie, but I woke up early and knew we would be going to Alissa's that night (hi, Alissa!) AND I had a cookie recipe lurking in my brain. You know those recipes that lurk? I've got a couple more up there skulking in the corners for the week. You'll be glad to know they're mostly savory... but I digress. I first clicked over to this Land O'Lakes recipe via YumSugar, and it caught my attention because I know how Adam feels about pecans. In fact as he was chopping pecans he made up a song about them.

It sounded like a madrigal to me, and the lyrics were something along the lines of I effing love pecans, I effing love pecans. That is a well founded love. Pecans are delicious. And so are these cookies.
I found that I had to bake them for 11 minutes of the 8-12, but I'm starting to think my new oven runs a bit cold; everything takes slightly longer than it's supposed to. I'll have to get a thermometer and check, but until then I'll just bake to the long end of the suggested time. I also got 2 1/2 dozen cookies out of this, not 3 dozen, but that's pretty close I guess. Maybe next time I'll have to make them smaller.

Pecan Pie Cookies
From Land O'Lakes

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened (I use the defrost option on the microwave)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I used Half & Half since that's what was in the fridge)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the filling: combine the chopped pecans, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of cream or half&half, and teaspoon of vanilla and stir. Set aside.

For the cookies, beat the brown sugar, butter, egg and teaspoon of vanilla in a bowl until creamy. Add the flour and baking powder and beat again until well mixed.

Roll the cookies into balls 1 1/4 inch in diameter and lay out on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make a depression with your thumb. I found it easier to rinse my fingers under cold water so they didn't stick to the melting butter in my warm kitchen. Spoon a scant teaspoon of filling into each cookie and bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown. Cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Perfect for Summer Sundays: Peach Crisp

But then we had a visitor from a far away land (L.A.), and I had the perfect excuse to finally make this cake. It was to act as phase II of our wine & cheese extravaganza Friday night.

I subbed in Gluten free flour, and it turned out to be delicious, if a bit crumbly. It may have been because I cooked it too long, but I'll try it again using regular AP flour and an 8 inch cake pan, as directed. I only have 9 inch pans. (Side note: I just re-read the comments section from Molly's original post, and it appears cocoa powder would have also been a good substitute.)

The weekend weather was lovely and we spent a good portion of Saturday on the beach and Sunday afternoon on the roof deck, sunning ourselves silly. (Yes, I wear sunscreen. Can't say the same for Hugh.*)

Sunday afternoon came upon us too fast, much like the end of this summer. T^2 had invited us over for ribs and I had some lovely fuzzy peaches sitting on the counter getting soft, so I started slicing, peeling, and chopping.

Don't peach pits seem rather like organs? I think they're lovely, but they also creep me out a bit. Perhaps it's just because I've been reading this book.

Anyway, I adapted a recipe from 101 cookbooks for a peach and plum crisp, and it was a hit indeed. We stopped on the way at Cafe Arpeggio to pick up some homemade vanilla ice cream (consider yourselves warned, they overstuff the pint containers!) and it was a very nice end to the evening. This topping is quite chewy, like an oatmeal cookie, which I liked a lot. If you're looking for a crispier, more traditional topping you might want to up the butter and use less yogurt.

Peach Crisp
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 lbs ripe peaches (about six)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch

3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and pit the peaches, and cut them into bite sized pieces. I cut them into wedges first since it was easier to peel. Mix together 1/4 cup brown sugar and the cornstarch in a bowl, add the peaches, and give it a stir to make sure all the fruit is coated and the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed in. Pour this into an 8x8 baking dish.

In another bowl, mix the oats, flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and yogurt and stir to combine. Top the fruit with the oat mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Hugh is not my roommate's real name.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kathy Frontino's Amazing Potato Salad

This past Saturday was a very busy day. Busy in the best way, though: TWO parties to attend! Three of Adam's friends were having a "house cooling" party since they are moving out of the apartment they've lived in for a few years. I had a bag of cherries left over from the photoshoot (oooh look how FANCY I am, I had a photoshoot), and I had never made a pie before. Knowing the girls' affinity for this particular baked good, I made a cherry pie, using a recipe from Deb of Smitten Kitchen. Look, a pie!

It was my first 'from scratch' pie and it was delicious.. but we're not here to talk about pie (sorry)!
If you know me in real life, you know there are a couple of dishes I make regularly and get regular requests for. Particularly in the summer, aka season of barbecues/deck parties, and I've mentioned one of them before: Kathy Frontino's Potato Salad. In the photo above (from the first time I mentioned this delicious stuff), the potatoes are overcooked so it's not so pretty, but even mayo-phobes love this stuff, since it, um... doesn't have any mayonnaise in it. Anyway, we were sitting around the living room early last week talking about Tammi and Tom's housewarming party (party #2 on Saturday), and I volunteered to make this my contribution, since most people would be bringing... tequila. Yes.

The story behind how I learned this recipe involved 72 Bud Lights... and that's all I'm going to say on the subject. This is more of a method than a recipe, but you will need:

red potatoes
red onion (you could also use vidalia, as long as it's a nice sweet onion)
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
coarse salt
black pepper

I borrowed a gigantic (too big, in fact) pot from T^2 and boiled up six pounds of red potatoes until I could easily stick them with a knife, but they didn't fall apart. That's only two bags, actually, but it SOUNDS like a lot.

I cut up 1 1/2 red onions into very thin slices until I had a big pile... and then last night I looked for the other half an onion in the fridge and couldn't find it. Argh. Anyway...

I cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. These happened to be pretty small so some only needed to be cut in half.
Then I started layering - it's important to build this dish in layers so each potato gets seasoned, and you only have to do minimal stirring at the end.

Start with potatoes, then onions.

Then salt and pepper; I used about a teaspoon per layer of Kosher salt and 12-15 grinds of pepper... maybe 1/2 a teaspoon per layer? Maybe more? I like pepper, so I err on the side of a lot.
Then drizzle with vinegar and olive oil (it seems I forgot to photograph that step). I probably use about two tablespoons of vinegar and three to four tablespoons of oil per layer. In all I think I used about half a cup, maybe more, of oil.

Continue to build your potato salad, adding and seasoning in layers. Give it a good but gentle stir to make sure each potato bite is glazed with olive oil and has a kick of the vinegar. Bring a vat to a party, and watch it disappear.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Omnivore's 100, or, Look Ma, it's my first meme!

It's an interesting concept, isn't it? One hundred foods any good omnivore ought to try in their lifetime. I found it first on Chocolate & Zucchini, and with apologies to Adam and anyone else who does not like the re-appropriation of the word "meme," I present my list. Also below is a link to the originator. It's not a competition, but it's interesting to see someone's totally subjective list of things one ought to try, and to see what food minded people say about the foods they would/wouldn't/haven't tried.

I'm missing 60 items, but a lot of them are things I haven't had the opportunity to eat, some are things I look forward to trying, and only two things could I not be convinced to eat. Though you'd have to try awfully hard to get me to eat an entire bug. I'd do it, but you'd have to try awfully hard.

Very Good Taste's Omnivore's 100

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper WHY would I want to do that to myself?
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu Food that could kill you? No, thanks.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This banner is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

You may have noticed I have a new logo of sorts. Banner? Logo? Anyway, it's up there and I hope you like it.

Last Saturday afternoon Adam and I spent a few hours setting it up: tying parsley into the letter B and carrots into an R and generally making a small mess of his kitchen.

Adam does not bake, ergo, Adam does not have a sifter... so I used this "rubbing my hands together" technique over the stencils that he made (he might not make muffins but the boy can make signs, I tell you what.) Yes, it was very technical. A technical... technique. Mm hm. Well anyway, we messed about with stencils and lighting and also we tried this spoon "stencil," too:

Which ended up looking like this when we picked up the spoon:

I thought that made the whole thing too, well, stencily. What do you think? After some back and forth and re-setting the whole shebang three or four times, I picked the handwritten design you see at the top of the page. But THEN I had leftover fruit and vegetables, and what's a girl to do with three past-their-prime bananas?

Ok, they don't look so bad in this photo but I KNOW I won't eat them in the next two days, so banana bread it was. I smushed several recipes together, and here's what I came up with.

Bruno's Banana Bread
I'm not a huge fan of nuts in my banana bread, but if you wanted to add 1/2 cup of toasted walnut pieces, stir them in with the flour at the end. You could also use all brown sugar, but I ran out, so I made up the difference with white.

3-4 ripe to very ripe bananas
5 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft or melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and butter a loaf pan.

Mash the bananas roughly in a medium bowl with a fork or potato-masher. Add the very soft or melted butter and the sugar, beat with an electric mixer until blended. [Note: I like to blend the bananas; I feel like it lightens the crumb of the bread, but by all means feel free to mash with a fork only and add to the mix with the flour.]

Add the egg, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda, mix to blend. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until just blended.

Pour batter (it is quite gloopy) into loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes to one hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack in pan ten minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

I like this banana bread with peanut butter for breakfast, or a la mode for dessert!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I made all of these things on the same day. Really.

Has it already been six days? Oh my goodness. What deliciousness I have to share with you!

As you can see, last week I roasted a chicken. I used the Zuni Cafe method and there are many pages in the book dedicated to "the practice of salting early" which you can also read about over on Cooking Zuni (who I believe is working on the Zuni Roast Chicken Post also!). I cannot yet say that I turn to this book again and again, but there are some amazing ideas in here and I think salting early is one of them. I bought a 5 pound chicken last Sunday (bigger than her suggested 2-3 pounder, but the smallest I could find at my store), took it home, rinsed it off, and covered it with kosher salt and pepper. I made some holes under the skin in four spots and stuck some fresh thyme sprigs in (which you can sort of see in the next photo), then I stuck the whole chicken in the fridge. Yep. In the fridge for... twenty four hours. According to Judy I should have left such a big bird in there another day, but hey, I'm a rebel.
Anyway, I preheated the pan (I used an enameled cast iron dutch oven but I'll use something shallower next time) and preheated the oven and did the whole flip every half hour thing as directed. I'm not sure my bird got quite brown enough, frankly. Perhaps I'll go back to Alton Brown's method next time, or perhaps I should have turned up the heat a bit. The skin on this bird was aaabsolutely fantastic, and even a certain roommate of mine who "doesn't like chicken" thought it was great. In fact when I went back into the fridge the next day some of the leftovers had mysteriously disappeared. WEIRD.

With the chicken we had this heirloom tomato casserole thingy. Can you call it a casserole when there are no eggs in it? Well, I used Noble Pig's recipe (on a smaller scale, though) and it was AWESOME. We had stopped up at the farmer's market at lunch that afternoon looking for impressive tomatoes and I liked the purple striped ones the best, they had a tremendously rich flavor. Maybe next time I'll learn what they're called.

Oh, and also, I tried those famous Jacques Torres New York Times cookies. Meh. Perhaps it's because I used AP flour instead of the combo cake+bread flours or perhaps it's because I went by measure and not weight, but they were a little too crispy for me. I used Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips and also chopped up a 3 oz bar of the same, which I think is where the color comes from. I WILL try them again, because the flavor was good, and the quest for the ideal chocolate chip cookie is a quest I can get down with, but until then, I have a ball of dough in my freezer... that recipe is HUGE. Anybody want a (giant) cookie?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another Way to Use Zucchini!

Last week I saw this recipe for a zucchini and ricotta "cheesecake" over on 101 Cookbooks. I don't know about you, but ricotta cheesecake to me generally means something sweet and specifically means something made by my grandmother. I liked the idea, however, of a zuccchini and ricotta crustless pie/quiche, and since I only had 15 oz. of ricotta (just under 2 cups - I didn't want to buy the big container), I added another egg to Heidi's original recipe which definitely made it more quiche-y.

Also I don't grow dill, so I used a combo of the herbs I have on my porch: basil, thyme, rosemary (not too much, that stuff is strong!) and parsley until I had a few tablespoons, though I don't think I quite had a quarter cup. I also used a good amount of black pepper because, well, I love the stuff.

I baked it for an hour, then added goat cheese (though next time I'll add more) and baked another 20 minutes. I should have let it cool a bit more and run a knife around the edges before I released the springform pan, because it pulled some of the golden brown deliciousness away from the pie itself, but at least I got to scrape those bits out and eat them myself...!

I've posted my adapted recipe here, but I do recommend you pop over to 101 cookbooks and read the original; her headnotes are interesting and she offers some good suggestions for other things you could add to this template. I look forward to trying a sun-dried tomato and olive version!

Zucchini and Ricotta Pie,

adapted from 101 cookbooks

2 cups zucchini, grated (about 2 medium, unpeeled)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 tbsp various herbs, chopped
zest of one lemon
3 eggs, well beaten
3 oz. goat cheese (most of a small log), crumbled
vegetable oil spray or butter

Grate zucchini into a strainer and toss with salt. Let it sit while you chop the shallots and garlic and herbs and spray a 7 inch springform pan with cooking spray or butter. When your mis is en place, squeeze the zucchini to get out as much moisture as possible.

Beat the eggs, and then stir in the 2 cheeses, herbs, pepper to taste and lemon zest. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the shredded zucchini, and fill the springform pan with the mixture. Put the pan on a baking sheet in case of leakage, and pop it in the oven.

Bake for 60 minutes, then crumble the goat cheese on top and bake for another 20 minutes or until the goat cheese is golden brown. Mine needed a couple of minutes under the broiler. Cool for at least five minutes before releasing from the pan. Serve room temp or warm, also delicious cold for breakfast.

Serves 4 on its own or 6-8 as a starter or side dish.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cold-brewed Coffee in the New Digs

Aaaaaaah. There now, that's better, isn't it? Thursday was the big move day and went off without any major hitches. Sorry I haven't written, but I was eating things like cold leftover Chinese food out of the carton, since all my plates and forks were packed and Christy took the microwave. Also a calzone from the place down the hill, also cold and leftover for breakfast. Needless to say, nothing photogenic or terribly original. In fact, you could say I'm cheating a bit because the first thing I've prepared in my new place is... well, it's coffee.

But we don't have a coffee maker! So I had to get creative! (Oooh, I'm getting all defensive! You can tell by the exclamation points!) I had read this article in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago (from the comments it appears they had covered the topic last summer as well) and the accompanying "recipe" is not at all daunting.

It did, however, call for a pound of coffee and ten cups of water, to yield 8 cups of coffee concentrate. That seemed excessive to me, so I bought a tiny 2 oz bag of Kona blend ground coffee, which I forgot to photograph before I chucked it. I did the math, and made a 1/8 recipe (16 oz down to 2 oz of coffee, and 10 cups down to 1.25 cups of water.)

I mixed them together and let it sit overnight on the counter. This morning I strained it once through a mesh sieve and then again through cheesecloth, then followed the original suggested proportions: 1/4 cup coffee concentrate to 3/4 cup of milk (as you can see, I used soy milk).

Oh man, it was so delicious! I took it up to the roof deck (roof deck!) to hang out with my plants.

And their new friends, the tomato brothers and the basil forest.

It's not going to be much of a beach day, but at least we've got a roof deck with a sweet view. It's good to be home.