Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blueberry & Peach Cobbler and Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

Hanging out with good friends is truly enough for me to enjoy myself. But throw in an awesome wood-fire grill, fresh veggies from the garden, and a setting that is reminiscent of Jane Austen's England and I'm in heaven. Seriously. If I didn't have these pictures to prove it, I may have thought I dreamed the whole thing up.

Speaking of heaven, the Blueberry & Peach cobbler is one of those desserts that I will think about from time to time for the rest of my life. Another of these is the sour orange pie from Palo Santo. But this one may be better for the simple reason that I can make it any time I like. And even when I make the trek out to Brooklyn, there's no guarantee that the sour orange pie will be on the menu... in fact, it's only been on offer that one time and has subsequently become a holy-grail of sorts for me.
The true delight of the dessert is the dumpling topping. Crumbly, not too sweet, fall-apart and melt in your mouth, with just a bit of juices from the fruit soaked into the bottom of each one. Oh man, I might have to go make this again right now....

The roasted carrot and avocado really couldn't be easier, but you should be picky about your ingredients, since their flavors are left almost completely alone. The cobbler definitely benefits from ripe (delicious, juicy) peaches and blueberries. But you could use frozen just as easily.

Blueberry & Peach Cobbler Adapted (barely) from The Homesick Texan

For the topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup, plus 1 tbsp. heavy cream

For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds peaches
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 9-inch cake pan.

2. Peel the peaches by cutting an X at both ends of each peach. Add them to a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, scoop out, rinse with cold water and then peel off the skin. Slice the peaches and remove the pits.

3. To make the topping, in a bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon. With knives, work the cold butter into the dry ingredients until it’s crumbly. There isn't any real liquid at this point, so the mixture will still be quite dry. Stir in the heavy cream until all ingredients are combined. The dough will be pretty sticky, if it's not add another tablespoon of heavy cream.

4. Place the peaches and blueberries into the greased cake pan. Toss the fruit with the lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Spoon the batter on top and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad from Smitten Kitchen

1 pound carrots, scrubbed or peeled and cut into two-inch, angled segments
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 an avocado, pitted and sliced
Juice of half a lemon

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrot chunks in a medium bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil, cumin and a hearty helping of salt and pepper.

2. Spread the carrots on a roasting sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender and browned. Of course, roasting time will vary depending on the thickness of your carrots.

3. Once the carrots are roasted, place them on a serving platter with slices of avocado on top. Drizzle the salad with the last tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice and extra salt and pepper, if it needs it. Eat immediately.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friends Weekend Recipes

This past weekend a small group of us made our way to the family country house of one of our friends. We had one simple goal: relax. With some additional goals to be met if we felt like extending ourselves: cook, eat, swim in the pool, watch the Yankees, play bocce ball. I'm happy to report that we did ourselves proud.

Our menu was loaded with amazing foods, but some of my favorites include baby chocolate brioche, grilled salt & vinegar potatoes, gazpacho Andaluz, and blueberry & peach cobbler. It was so much fun to cook with Shannon, Ethan, Peter & Emily ... I'm smiling just thinking about it. And wishing that I was having half as much fun with my dinner preparations for tonight.

Shannon and I came up with a wonderful premise for what our cooking show would be (if any network execs are out there, pay attention!). We would break into houses in well to do neighborhoods and have to make dinner with whatever ingredients and equipment they had in the kitchen. And the name of our awesome program (thanks to the lovely and talented Shannon)... why, "Baking and Entering" of course! LOVE

Here are two recipes from our wonderful friends weekend, Baby Chocolate Brioche and Grilled Salt & Vinegar Potatoes. Stay tuned later this week for more recipes, including the to-die-for Blueberry & Peach Cobbler.

Baby Chocolate Brioche Adapted from At Home In Provence by Patricia Wells

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
About 1 1/4 pounds flour
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, divided into 10 pieces

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar

1. In a medium sized bowl combine the yeast, honey and milk; stir to combine. Let stand until the yeast foams, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil, eggs and salt.

2. Add the flour, a bit at a time, stirring gently until most of the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms a ball. Be careful not to add too much flour, slightly sticky dough is better than too dry dough. Knead the dough until it becomes satiny but still firm, about 4 to 5 minutes, adding additional flour to keep the dough from sticking.

3. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let the dough rise until doubled or tripled in bulk, about 8 to 12 hours. (I let mine rise overnight)

4. About an hour before you plan to bake the rolls, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Punch down the dough and divide into 10 even portions. With the palm of your hand, flatten each portion into a disc. Press a piece of chocolate into each portion of dough and shape into a neat round, pinching the dough together around the chocolate to form a tight ball. Place the portions of dough on a baking sheet, cover with a clean towel and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

6. Prepare the glaze: Place the egg yolk in a small bowl and beat lightly. Add the milk and sugar and whisk together. Remove the towel and brush each piece of dough with the glaze. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake until the rolls are a deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet from time to time if the oven is heating unevenly.

7. Remove the rolls from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If stored in a sealed plastic bag, the brioche will keep for 2 to 3 days.

Salt & Vinegar Potatoes
from Martha Stewart Living by way of 101 Cookbooks

2 cups white wine vinegar
1 pound fresh from the garden potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pour the vinegar into a medium saucepan, then stack (or arrange) the potatoes so the vinegar covers them completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are just fork tender. Let the potatoes cool in the vinegar for 30 minutes. Drain well, then very gently toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Heat the grill to medium high. Grill potatoes, covered if possible, until golden on one side, then flip and grill the other side - roughly 3 - 5 minutes per side.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summery Orzo Salad with Shrimp & Easy Edamame Dip

"It's all part of the adventure" is something my mother always says when things don't go exactly as planned. Which is precisely what happened in the kitchen when she and I set out to make dinner on Friday night.

I was in Pennsylvania visiting my parents and it was hot. Very, very hot. So the thought of making anything on the "let's bake this" list that I had emailed a few days earlier was simply too ridiculous to entertain. We were sweating just sitting there sipping ice water, who could possibly turn the oven up to 350 for an extended period of time? So it was on to plan B. Except we didn't have one of those... oops.

As my mind wandered to what I wished I was eating, one of my favorite simple dishes from Kefi, a greek restaurant on the upper west side, popped into my head. Orzo, with some shrimp, feta cheese, a light tomato sauce and spinach. It's a perfect summer meal and I was determined. To supplement, we also decided to make this edamame dip that I've been dreaming about since eating it at my in-laws' 4th of July party.

At this point, with our newly minted plan, we went shopping. But quickly met more difficulties, when we realized that brown miso doesn't exist in Swarthmore, PA, nor apparently does chili paste. And when I discovered that the closest thing my mother has to a food processor is a food mill, I was basically ready to toss aside my apron and get a hamburger from Nifty Fifties.

But we persevered in the face of culinary adversity and were rewarded with a light, lemony and refreshing dinner and an evening cool enough to enjoy outside. This is a great summer meal with enough left over for lunch the next day. And as usual, my mother was right. "It's all part of the adventure."

Summery Orzo with Shrimp inspired by Kefi

1/2 lb Orzo
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs Shrimp
4 scallions, chopped
2 tsps. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup spinach
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled

1. Cook the orzo to package instructions, about 9 to 11 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. Steam shrimp in a medium saucepan with the lid on until just pink. Do not overcook.

3. Meanwhile, add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.

4. In a large bowl, combine orzo, dressing mixture, and shrimp. Mix to coat the pasta.

5. Gently steam spinach (about 3 minutes in a small pot with a lid), until just wilted.

6. Add the spinach, tomatoes, scallions, and feta to the pasta. Mix and set aside until cooled. Serve at room temperature.

Edamame Dip adapted (out of necessity) from Alton Brown

12 ounces shelled, cooked edamame
1/4 of a medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. red chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
5 tbsp. olive oil

1. Place edamame, onion, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, chili powder and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. (Here we used a food mill with the largest-holed blade. If you have a food processor, do yourself a favor and use it.)

2. Process for a total of 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

3. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Once the oil has been added, scrape down the bowl and process for another 5 seconds.

4. Serve with toast points or crispy pita chips. Or do what I did and eat it with a spoon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Curry Chicken Wraps

We have been in money saving mode for well over a year now. Tom and I just got married in April and as of August both of us will be in school, so it goes without saying that we have to be super smart with all of our purchases.

One of the upsides of this is that it necessitates planning out our meals for the week and shopping ahead of time. It has also inspired a lot of creativity, because while I am not going to spend a ton of money on any one dinner, I refuse to compromise on flavor.

I've been hearing every day for the last couple weeks at least that Tom is really craving Indian food, which is totally understandable in my book. I can eat shrimp vindaloo any night of the week. But going out is not part of our budget at the moment, so I was really excited when I found this super simple Ina Garten recipe for Curry Chicken Wraps.

I used the recipe almost verbatim, really just opting for boneless/skinless chicken breast and omitting a few ingredients because I always prefer simple sandwiches or wraps to those that have a ton of different flavors and textures going on.

A definite bonus of this recipe is that all of your work can be done before hand, so dinner was literally spooning the chicken mixture onto the tortillas and rolling it up. Any meal that elicits a "this is the best thing you've ever made" is a-ok in my book. Especially one that is this easy!

Curry Chicken Wraps adapted from Ina Garten
**Note, since posting, I have adapted the amount of "sauce" because it was really too much for the amount of chicken. The change is reflected below.

1 1/2 lbs skinless chicken breast
olive oil salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup mango chutney
3/4 cups light mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsps. curry powder
1 tsps. coarse salt
2 scallions, chopped

1 cup whole salted-roasted cashews, chopped
6 tortillas

1. Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place the chicken on the sheet pan and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Cook the chicken for 20 to 30 minutes, until just done. Set aside until cool enough to touch. Using a knife and fork, shred the chicken.

3. In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder, and coarse salt. Process until smooth.

4. Combine the chicken with the dressing. Add the scallions and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

5. Once ready to eat, add the cashews to the chicken mixture. Fill the center of each tortilla. Fold the 2 sides of the tortilla over the filling so that the sides overlap. Roll the tortilla from bottom to top, and cut in half diagonally.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Two flavors that I've been obsessed with lately are blueberry and lemon. Seriously, obsessed. I wake up thinking of lemons and I always spend a little too much time perusing the awesome fruit cart that lives on our corner. I think the fruit man might be contemplating a restraining order...

There's something so summery and refreshing about both flavors. So a few days ago I set out on a quest to find a lemony-blueberry cake-type recipe that would satisfy (or at least quell) my hunger for these flavors.

There were recipes for muffins and for a buckle, which sounded delicious. But each was a little too fussy considering that I needed to be eating my blueberry lemony cake as close to now as possible.

I found the recipe I worked from on Cooking Light. I was really excited about using the reduced-fat sour cream to make this cake less dense, especially since I had my heart set on using my bundt pan, even though bundt cakes are traditionally on the heavier side.

My changes included adding lemon extract in addition to the called-for vanilla extract. I used a full pint of blueberries and didn't bother with the glaze. The result was a lot (yay!) of relatively fluffy cake, with gorgeous notes of lemon, and exploding blueberries in each bite. I know that I recently posted my Blueberry Nantucket Pie, but I donated that to our family July 4th party, so it doesn't really count (right?). Another great thing - this cake is even better then next day. Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake
adapted from Cooking Light

butter and flour for pan

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 heaping tbsp. lemon zest
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 (16 ounce) container reduced-fat sour cream
1 pint fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the bundt pan and coat with a dusting of flour. Set aside.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. Add granulated sugar, butter and lemon zest in a large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed until blended. It will be a light, fluffy yellow. (about 2 minutes)

4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after adding each egg.

5. Beat in vanilla extract, lemon extract, and sour cream.

6. Add flour mixture, beat at medium speed until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.

7. Gently fold in the blueberries by hand.

8. Spoon the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. (This took my oven a full hour, which is rare. So make sure to check for done-ness)

9. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then remove.

10. Serve with fresh whipped cream and more blueberries(!) or with just a dusting of powdered sugar.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scottish Breakfast for Dinner

This isn't really a recipe, it's much simpler than that. This is a meal we make when we don't want to cook. Or when it's too hot run the oven or boil a pot of water. But really it's a dinner we have when we want to summon the feeling of our favorite place.

Scotland is breathtakingly beautiful. And as the place I spent every August as a child, it will always have a very special place in my heart. But it is also where Tom and I had the most wonderful vacation in 2009. We explored the countryside, we climbed twisty castle staircases, and we ate. Oh boy did we eat.

The British Isles have a bad food reputation. And while blood sausage and haggis are acquired tastes (haggis really is quite good if you have an open mind), we had the best breakfasts ever at a wonderful bed & breakfast heading toward Oban on the western coast.

Our morning meals were slightly different each day, depending on which heavenly smoked fish was available (Barney Greengrass eat your heart out!), but three things were consistent on our plates: eggs, baked beans, and fried bread. I'm smiling just thinking about those mornings. Overlooking the incredible green hillsides with the crisp wet air blowing as we feasted.

So I guess you could call this a memory-meal. The flavors transport us to a favorite place and remind us of a perfect vacation. And what a yummy memory it is! Do you make a meal to remind yourself of a special place or time?

Scottish Breakfast for Dinner
2 soft scrambled (or fried) eggs with scallions
Heinz vegetarian baked beans
1 piece each of fried toast
2 links each of sausage or slab bacon
1 stewed tomato (optional)
Smoked salmon (optional)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Nantucket Blueberry Pie

I was going to post this recipe on Monday, but it is my favorite dessert to make for 4th of July so I figured sharing it before the holiday makes the most sense, in case anyone wants to give it a try.
This is really a go-to dessert for me. It travels well, which is nice because I'm usually schlepping my confections to somewhere other than our tiny 1 bdrm in Manhattan, it's easy-peasy, and it's fight-over-seconds good.

I adapted this from Laurie Colwin's book "More Home Cooking," which I highly recommend. I use blueberries instead of cranberries, I always brown the butter,* and I sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar on top after baking for the tiniest little crunch.

This is one of those recipes that I have memorized and really, you should too. It's versatile (you can use any tart berry) and it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is why I love to bring it along to relaxed July 4th picnics. It never slices up perfectly, which is part of the charm. But the mounds of cakey-pie will be devoured. Promise.

*Browning the butter gives a real depth of flavor. It's not hard to do, just keep the butter over the heat until it changes from light-yellow to brown, but you do need to pay attention so the color doesn't get too dark. If you've never tried it before, give it a shot. Here's a simple how-to if you're nervous.

Nantucket Blueberry Pie Adapted from Laurie Colwin's "More Home Cooking"

1 pint of fresh blueberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs
3/4 cup melted butter, browned
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 handful of turbinado sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread the blueberries, walnuts, and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan.

2. Mix the remaining 1 cup of sugar, eggs, melted butter, flour, and almond extract into a medium-sized bowl.

3. Pour the batter mixture over the blueberry mixture and spread evenly with a spatula.

4. Bake for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Let cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Super Simple Carnitas with Guacamole

If you were to judge a recipe based on simplicity and sheer deliciousness (which makes sense to me) this would top the list. The carnitas are made with four ingredients (one of which is water) and the guacamole is done in literally 3 minutes, not sure it gets much easier than that.

And the taste! The savory, fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, succulent flavor of the pork and the silky, vibrant green avocados that are in abundance this time of year - it just doesn't get any better.

I used this carnitas recipe almost verbatim with two changes. I used pork shoulder with the bone in and, after I butchered it, I threw the bone in the pot too.* I also developed my own technique for slightly de-greasing the meat and for pulling the pork, the notes for which are in the recipe.

This is not a meal for someone on a diet or for someone who doesn't love pork in all its glory. But to everyone else, do yourself a favor. This authentic taste of Mexico couldn't be easier.

*Don't be afraid of butchering. While I'm sure there are some real butchers who would cringe at how I handled this pork shoulder, this recipe is incredibly forgiving since the meat cooks to the point of falling apart. Be brave, you won't be disappointed!

Super Simple Carnitas with Guacamole Adapted from The Homesick Texan

For the Carnitas:

3 pounds of pork shoulder

1 cup of orange juice

3 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt

For the Guacamole:
2 avocados, peeled and cubed
Juice from a lime
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/2 handful of cilantro
pinch of coarse sea salt

Make the Carnitas

1. Butcher the meat. (I used a very sharp pair of scissors to cut the meat away from the bone and then sliced it). Cut pork into strips (three inches by one inch), add to a large pot with the liquids and the salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Leave the meat alone.

2. After two hours, turn the heat up to medium, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (about 45 minutes). Stir a few times, to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.

3. When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready (there will still be liquid fat in the pan).

4. Prepare a surface with layered paper towels. Using a pair of tongs, remove the meat from the pot and place on the paper-toweled surface. Pat the meat with paper towel to remove excess grease.

5. Using a fork remove any unwanted fat (though it is all delicious) and place pork cubes in a large bowl.

6. Once all the pork is in the bowl, shred the meat. An easy method is to insert the fork into the pork pieces and to twist. Repeat this process until the carnitas are the desired consistency.

Make the Guacamole
1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-sized bowl.

2. Using the back of a fork, mush the avocado and combine the ingredients.