Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Carrot Raisin Nut Bread

Sometime you want what you want, when you want it. This is a result of wanting to clean out a fridge containing a bag of carrots, fighting valiantly for their lives. The week's groceries seemed to be a bit heavy on the veggies, and the poor little guys were rescued from certain demise in the back of the crisper. This is a twist on a recipe from Ina Garten found here. This bread is moist, dense and full of flavor, with a craggy crumbly sugared top perfect for that essential pat of butter.

Carrot Raisin Nut Bread
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 tsp ginger (powder)
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp orange zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp turbinado sugar (white is fine as well)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a loaf pan with cooking spray. Combine the raisins,1/4 cup orange juice and powdered ginger in a small bowl. Set aside, stirring occasionally.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter and brown sugar together. Slowly add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the butter mixture, beating only until combined. Mix in the raisins with their liquid, and stir in the walnuts by hand.

Pour the batter into loaf pan and smooth the top. Top evenly with sugar. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crisp Salmon with Citrus Avocado Salad

Have you ever faced such an insurmountable multitude of messes, chaos and disorder that you simply didn't know where to start? Welcome to the current state of my apartment. Projects to tackle include, but certainly aren't limited to post dinner dishes (a constant), rifling through ever mounting piles of mail and documents to file, a suitcase partially unpacked in a prior half-hearted attempt, and various stages of present wrapping, sorting, and organizing. So what strategy would an otherwise sane individual employ in the face of such a monumental disaster zone? Create additional disorder out of an otherwise orderly slice of my world. Logic is a tricky muse.

Apparently this environment is conducive to meticulously, painstakingly perusing the monstrous stack of cooking magazines that's taken over my end table. Clearly there is no better time that when there is nary an uncovered couch cushion to place one's disheveled backside upon to tear through a year and half's worth of magazines. The end product, although a check in the otherwise unnecessary task completion column, simply contributed to the whole calamity. The inevitable piles of stay, toss, and roughly torn out recipes to be put somewhere, in another pile, to be tested, some other day.

At least something good came out of this whole episode. The October 2009 issue of Food and Wine magazine had an article about the 15 rules for great wine and food pairings, which can be seen here. The irony of this should not be overlooked, as I am the last person who knows anything about wine. Those who know me both chastise and loathe my shameless adoration of pink wine. Apparently, real wines aren't pink. And who knew that this dish was a spot on pairing with a lemon creamy California Chardonnay? Certainly, not this girl.

Crisp Salmon with Citrus Avocado Salad

Food & Wine, October 2009

2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Eight 6-ounce, skin-on salmon fillets
3 heads Bibb lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
2 Hass avocados, thinly sliced

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat. Toss frequently, until golden (3-4 minutes).

In a large bowl, whisk 1 1/2 Tbsp of the olive oil with the mayonnaise, lemon juice and orange juice and season with salt and pepper.

Pat the salmon dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over moderately high heat until shimmering. Add the salmon skin side down and cook until crisp and golden, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook the fillets until just pink in the center, about 4 minutes longer.

Add the Bibb lettuce, avocados and pine nuts to the dressing and gently toss to coat. Mound the salad next to the salmon and serve.

My only modifications to the recipe are as follows; I used plain old out of the carton orange juice, it was just fine. I prepared one 6 oz salmon fillet and halved the dressing recipe, using a half a head of Bibb. This allowed for plenty of leafy green leftovers. The avocados and pine nuts were tossed with the dressing and spooned on the salad, as soggy salad is not a personal favorite. This was fast, simple, healthy and completely worth the utter state of disaster that my apartment continues to be.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Archway Holiday Nougat Cookies

When I was younger, holiday time meant snow days, snow forts, an obscenely long break from school, maybe a family vacation somewhere and eight great night of Hanukkah. Light the candles, break out the dreidel, and make the all important decision that will have future implications for days to come... open all of your presents on the first night in a wrapping paper shredding, starry eyed haze with visions on latkes dancing in your head, or show some willpower and open one on each night. Let me tell you, the willpower of an average eight year old is similar to their attention span... short and fleeting.

As I got older, the holidays meant the ending of another semester, cramming for finals, celebrating being done with finals, then packing up the car and heading home. Mom's cooking and being able to unabashedly veg to my heart's content were palpable luxuries that college did not allow for. Getting back in touch with hometown friends and reminiscing about old times and new adventures was a given. The Hanukkah candles were still lit, but it was less about the presents and more about spending quality time with family, including but never limited to standby Jewish holiday traditions of skiing, movies or chinese food on Christmas day.

There has been a constant through the years that I have sought out, searched for and looked forward to each year. They hold great significance and have grown to be something I looked forward to and loved. Sadly, that constant is no longer with us this holiday season.

Is it a certain person, tradition or event that makes the holidays?

A recipe, dish or meal that ensures a blessed holiday season?

Nope, none of the above.

Its a cookie.

Perhaps the buildup was a tad dramatic, but all aforementioned statements are true. I've loved these cookies for as long as I can remember, and sadly, are no longer commercially available. Archway's Holiday Nougat Cookies, in their trademark red packaging, have been unceremoniously absent for the past two holiday seasons. Last year, I cast an inquisitive gaze at the supermarket end-caps and displays, thinking perhaps I'd just missed them. This year, I'd nearly forgotten about them until last week, and began my pursuit. After going 0 for 3 at the local markets, an investigation was needed. Turns out Archway has been a victim of the economic downturn, their less than profitable cookie crumbling into Chapter 11. Thankfully, this recipe provided the holiday constant that I'd missed for the past two years.

Archway Holiday Nougat Cookies
1 cup butter, unsalted
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or cashews)
Confectioner’s sugar

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Sift flour and salt, and add to butter mixture until mixed. Add nuts and mix well. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for minutes, making sure cookies do not brown. Cool cookies and roll gently in confectioner’s sugar.

The trick with these guys to replicate the buttery, crumbly, melt in your mouth texture is cooking them through without them browning. They are fairly spot on for flavor and consistency, and have saved another holiday tradition. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Marshmallow S'mores Bites

This somehow was a natural progression in the evolution of marshmallow treats. Growing up spending summers on a lake, ending evenings around a campfire was a frequent occurrence. This is everything a true s'more should be, minus the smoky smell ingrained in your clothes, the charred knuckles from trying to get your stick close enough to the embers to get it golden but not make a flaming sugar torch, and the awkward crunch to chew ratio of the graham cracker and chocolate bar to marshmallow. These are rustic, bite size pieces that were super fast to make, and so, so good.

Marshmallow S'mores Bites
1 cup crushed graham crackers
2 Tbsp butter
8 oz semisweet chocolate
1/2 tsp canola or vegetable oil
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Follow recipe for Toasted Coconut Marshmallow Squares, omitting coconut and vanilla bean from ingredients.

Generously coat a 8" x 11" non metallic pan with cooking spray. Melt butter and combine with finely crushed graham crackers. Spread graham mixture on bottom of pan and pack firmly. Top with marshmallow mixture and set aside.

In a double boiler, combine chocolate and oil. Mix thoroughly until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spoon evenly over marshmallow mixture. Refrigerate uncovered for at least two hours before serving. To remove marshmallows easily, run a butter knife between the edge of the marshmallow and the pan. Invert over a plate or serving dish to remove. Cut in small bite size pieces and enjoy.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Toasted Coconut Vanilla Marshmallows

Winter has reared its ugly head in Southern California, showing up a full two weeks early to the seasonal exchange party. Being a native New Yorker, I use the term winter rather loosely. In New York, winter might constitute knowing that when the weatherman says "expecting 1-2 tonight" that may well indicate feet not inches of snow to come, getting up 20 minutes early every day to dig your car out and scrape the windshield with a credit card if your desperate, and knowing that its perfectly normal to dress in 4 or more layers on a daily basis. The California definition seems to vary slightly, apparently with winter meaning temperatures under 55 degrees, raining, and visible snow on the mountains far, far away.

Despite the shift in coastal perspective on what constitutes winter, seasonal habits certainly seem to be resurfacing. The cold dreary weather conjures up memories of steaming hot cocoa with floaty marshmallow bits and other ways to take the chill off. I've been thinking about making marshmallows for months, not because I have a particular affinity for them, but purely because I think they're fun. The creative combinations of flavors and colors and shapes - oh the shapes! are limitless. I foresee more marshmallow mashups coming in the near future. For now, think about warming up with one of these plump little darlings in your next cup of cocoa when the chill rolls in.

Toasted Coconut Vanilla Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from the Food Network and Ina Garten

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, firmly packed
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
Powdered sugar

Spread a think layer of coconut on a baking sheet and place in 325 degree oven. Toast for 12-15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove to cool, and set aside.

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the marshmallow syrup.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Cook at a steady rolling boil for one minute, continuing to stir, and remove from heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the marshmallow syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Sprinkle half the toasted coconut in an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal pan. Oil the sides of the pan thoroughly with nonstick spray or vegetable oil. Pour in the marshmallow batter and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature overnight.

Remove the marshmallows by inverting the pan onto a baking sheet covered with powdered sugar. Cut marshmallows into squares and roll each carefully in confectioners sugar. Store uncovered at room temperature. Makes 25-30 marshmallows.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jose Cuervo Christmas Cookies

For those of you might think that cookies and tequila might not be a match made in heaven, here is a little chuckle for you. As a disclaimer, this recipe has not been verified nor tested, its just meant for humor. I received it earlier and I thought you all might enjoy. Who knows, it sounds like it has potential... Back to real cooking soon.

Jose Cuervo Christmas Cookies
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality,pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add one peastoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still ok, try another cup just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit off the floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who geeves a crap. Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the wishdasher.

Cherry Mistmas !


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Crockpot Turkey Chili with Sweet Heat

So it turns out I wasn't over turkey quite yet. Somehow a mere week later its crept back into the kitchen, demanding to be front and center in yet another dish. As the nights are a bit cooler recently, I've been favoring hearty soups and stews guaranteed to take the chill off. This is one of my maiden forays into crock pot cooking, as well as turkey based chili. Don't be put off by the pineapple, as it adds an undertone of sweetness to balance the heat of the spices and hot sauce. You'll know you're eating a solid bowl of chili when this is done.

Crockpot Turkey Chili with Sweet Heat
2 lbs ground turkey
12 oz crushed tomatoes
12 oz crushed pineapple
1 12 oz can dark red kidney beans
1 12 oz can cannelloni beans
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup spaghetti sauce
2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 Tbsp Frank's Red Hot
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/2 tsp coarse salt

Place ground turkey in large saute pan over medium heat. Add salt and pepper and mix with wooden spoon. Cook turkey through for 5-7 minutes. Place turkey in colander to remove excess fat, and set aside.

Add chopped onions to saute pan and cook until they are softened.

In a crockpot, combine tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, pineapple, onion and turkey. Drain liquid from beans and add to mixture. Combine all spices, hot sauce and teriyaki to crockpot and stir thoroughly. Cook for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with sour cream and chives, and serve.