Posts from December 2014

Lemon Custard

12/29/2014

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Gary and I spent Christmas in Iowa with my family. Despite the fast that there was no snow, we still had a wonderful time with each other making great meals, chatting up a storm, and playing with kiddos. It was the first time in two years that all four of us siblings were together, which made it extra special, too.

We hauled up a couple of boxes full of our citrus from Florida. Gary made this recipe from Martha Stewart to compliment a good meal shared by many.

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for custard cups
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
Zest of one lemon, or 2 to 3 t grated lemon zest
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1 c milk
1/4 t salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Next, set a kettle of water to boil. Butter six 6-ounce custard cups and place in a dish towel-lined baking dish or roasting pan. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until light, and then whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in lemon juice, then milk and zest.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Add to the lemon batter and fold in gently with a whisk (the batter will be quite runny).

Divide the batter among prepared custard cups. Place the baking dish in oven and fill with boiling water to reach almost to the top of cups but be careful when filling–the water is hot, and will make the pan hot, too! (If you don’t get the water high enough, the desert will come out more souffle than custard, which still tastes fine, but if you want to make custard, get the water as high as you can in the pan.) Bake until puffed and lightly browned, or 20 to 25 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

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Chocolate Bark with Orange & Cherries

12/21/2014

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Around the holidays, I go on search for a recipe that combines my citrus with something tasty that can be easily mailed to loved ones across the country. Chocolate bark with oranges and cherries fit the bill (although I hope they didn’t crumble into a zillion pieces in transport). This recipe combines all four taste groups: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. I hope that little fact will make your mouth as happy as mine.

Ingredients:

One 12 oz bag of semi-sweet GOOD chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 orange, zested
1/4 c dried tart cherries
1/4 c almonds, toasted
Sea salt (or Kosher salt)

Instructions:

First, zest the orange. I found it works best using a vegetable peeler, and then cutting the peels into thin strips. I actually boiled them in sugar water for about 20 minutes, and then let them dry, however, this seemed to just make a mess. I was trying to make candied orange peels, but I don’t know if you need to fuss with any of this mess. If you want to, follow this recipe. Otherwise, just cut the zest into thin strips and set aside.

Next, chop up the almonds, and toast them in a skillet on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Set aside. Before you start working with your chocolate, get out your salt and cherries, and prepare your pan. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

In a double boiler, pour in all of your chocolate chips and turn heat to medium. It should take about 5 or so minutes for the chocolate to melt. Once melted, pour on your parchment paper and spread into an even layer. While hot, sprinkle your orange zest, cherries, almonds, and sea salt. Let set at room temperature until cooled. Cut into bite size pieces. Happy holidays to you!

Fig Balsamic Vinegar

12/19/2014

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With my abundance of figs this past summer, I made a bunch of fig balsamic vinegars for holiday gifts, and let them age in the fridge until now. (I get teased for my German punctuality, but I think making Christmas gifts in July probably takes the cake.) It’s easy to make, and the figs jazz up the balsamic nicely.

Ingredients:

1 quart balsamic vinegar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c Cointreau
1-2 c fresh figs
S&P

Instructions:

After washing the figs, cut off the stems and half them. Put them in a stock pot over medium-high heat with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally (don’t let it come to a full boil). Let cool, and then put in the blender and blend until smooth. Cut with olive oil to use for dressing.

Mexican Chicken Soup

12/16/2014

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Because it’s soup season, here’s yet another. The key to good soups, as I’ve found, is good broth. I save all my drippings from things roasted in the oven (vegetables and meat), along with all the juice leftover from whatever I cook in the crock-pot. I put them in little tupperware containers in the freezer and throw a frozen block into soups and stews when needed. All the cooked marrow from bones and caramelized sugars from vegetables becomes a Flavor Bomb that adds appreciated dimension.

Speaking of broths, I just learned thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown that there is such thing as a “master stock” which originates in China. The stock is used repeatedly to braise meat and is never used for soups, but instead the SAME STOCK is passed down from generation to generation being used over and over again. A master stock can be 100 years old! I’m sure it turns anything it touches into a flavor explosion.

No master stock unfortunately in this recipe. But try keeping your crockpot stock after you cook your roast, or the browned bits on the pan after you cook your chicken, and add this to your next soup. It makes a world of difference.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, chopped
6 c chicken stock
2 poblano chilis
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatos
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T dried Mexican oregano
1 T cumin
1/4 c lime juice
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1 avocado
Feta cheese
S&P

Instructions:

First, roast your poblano peppers. To do this, put them whole on a baking sheet under the broiler. Cook each side until they are black and charred, about 5 minutes each side. While they’re cooking, heat a big soup pot on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and chopped chicken. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, or about 5-7 minutes. Once the peppers are charred on all sides, take them out of the oven and set them aside. Remove the chicken from the pot.

Next, add the garlic, oregano, and cumin. Stir for about a minute. Then add the onions and green pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. Once the onion is transparent, add the chicken stock, cooked chicken, S&P, and can of tomatoes. With the poblanos, cut out the stem and take out the seeds, and peel off the charred outer skin. Cut up the peppers and add them to the soup.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Garnish with cilantro, chopped avocado, and cheese.

Granola with Dried Cherries

12/12/2014

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I realize it’s far from cherry season, but in the midst of the cleaning-out-the-freezer and coming across frozen cherries from my parents’ tree, I thought I’d do something with them that would make me think of spring.

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Along with apple trees, my parents have some cherries that bloom beautifully in May. What the birds don’t eat gets picked and pitted later that summer. I do wish I had a picture of the laborious task of pitting cherries, but alas, there wasn’t one to be found. Pitting cherries is a multi-hour affair that consists of using a bobby-pin to squeeze out the large pit, only to have most of the sticky juice squeeze everywhere when trying to extract it. This is an outside-only job, and aprons are a must. Saying pitting cherries is a messy task is an understatement.

These are tart cherries, not sweet ones, and I didn’t know how they’d be if I only dehydrated them without boiling them first in sugar. They’re actually really delicious as is. I dehydrated them with my dehydrator on 120 degrees for about 5 hours, until they were dry, but still a little chewy. They’re great with granola, and I’ve added them to other goodies that I’m going to give as Christmas gifts later. I amended this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

Instructions:

3 cups oats
1 c shredded coconut
1 c pecans or sunflower seeds
1/4 c toasted wheat germ (optional, if gluten free)
2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 c honey
1/4 t cinnamon
1 egg white
1 c dried cherries

Instructions:
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients except the cherries. Spread it in a thin layer on an insulated baking sheet, and cook for around 45 minutes. Halfway through the time, use a spatula to turn the granola so it will cook evenly. It’s finished when the oats look golden.

Add the cherries and store in a air-tight container. Homemade granola makes great gifts for holiday gifts, too!

Ham & Bean Soup with Green Onions

12/09/2014

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It’s “chilly” here, meaning temps are in the 50s, so soup is what’s for dinner. I wish our hearty veggies would grow quicker so I could add them to everything, but they’re taking their sweet time. Thus, we have yet another green onion dish.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 t Herbs of Provence
6 c chicken or ham stock
2 cans cannellini or northern beans
2 c baked ham, chopped
S&P

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a soup pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook for about 7-10 minutes. Next, add the garlic and herbs, and cook for about a minute. Add the broth, beans, and ham. Bring to a boil, and simmer for at least an hour. (I added it all to a slow-cooker, and simmered it for about 5 hours. That’s optional.) Season with S&P, and a dash of cayenne if you’d like. Garnish with chopped green onions.

Shrimp Tacos

12/05/2014

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My comfort food isn’t fried chicken or ice cream or meat & potatoes; it’s instead spicy things inserted in a taco shell. There are countless permutations, and I’ll admit I probably love them all. Here is just one more to add to the list used with the shrimp from our summer catch and our numerous ripe limes. But feel free to add anything else you deem fit to wrap in a soft shell.

Ingredients:

1 lb shrimp, peeled
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 T chili powder
1 t cumin
Olive oil
S&P
Dash of crushed red peppers
Avocado, cut into slices
1 package tortilla shells
Cheddar cheese

Instructions:

Chop your veggies, and peel your shrimp. Once finished, add the oil to a saute pan that has been heated to medium heat. Add all the spices to the hot oil, and stir for one minute. Add the vegetables, and cook for 5 minutes, or until they’re cooked. (While the veggies are cooking, heat up the tortillas.) Add the shrimp, and cook only for 3-4 minutes, or until pink throughout.

Serve on the tortilla with cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro, pickled peppers if you’d like, hot sauce, and the juice of a lime wedge.

Dried Cherry and Rosemary Scones

12/01/2014

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Yesterday I spent a sunny Florida Sunday making scones with girlfriends. My friend JuileAnne is a scone connoisseur; she’s legendary for being able to scope out the best baked scone in any city. Flaky and high, with the right amount of flavor is difficult to find in a scone. After she recently had many fabulous scones in NY, and received a book which gives proper directions in batter-making, she convinced a group of us girls to give it a go.

We made gluten-free pumpkin ones (which turned out more cakey than flaky), lemon-poppyseed (needed more lemon), and dried cherry-rosemary, which was the collective favorite. Although they all tasted exceptionally delicious with the fresh lemon curd made by our friend Anna, I think it’s safe to say none of us will be quitting our day jobs to become pastry chefs anytime soon.

We used the rosemary from my garden, and the recipe from Refinery 29. I’m not going to pretend I know baking instructions better than I do, so I’m adding them straight from the site.

Ingredients:

8 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter
3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c + 1 T sugar
1 1/2 T baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 cup dried cherries
2 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2 c chilled heavy cream + more for brushing
2 to 3 T turbinado sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

First, preheat the oven to 425⁰F. Next, cut the butter into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes and freeze for 10 minutes before using. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, quickly cut or blend the cold butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse meal. The butter pieces should be mostly about the size of small pebbles, but some larger pieces are okay. Using a large fork or a wooden spoon, mix the currants and rosemary into the flour-butter mixture. Stir the cream into the flour-butter mixture with a large wooden spoon or a fork until the dough begins to come together. The flour should not be fully incorporated at this point, and do not overmix. Transfer the dough and any loose floury bits to a floured countertop or pastry board/mat. Quickly knead the dough until it comes fully together, and then flatten it with the palms of your hands into a 3/4-inch-thick mound (the shape does not matter at this point). Fold the dough in half, give it a quarter turn, and then flatten it again. Repeat this process three more times. Serve with fresh lemon curd and champagne and good company.

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