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Archive for October, 2008

I have had this biscotti recipe bookmarked for a few weeks and after awakening with a hankering for chocolate and almonds, I thought today they perfect day to try it.

I followed the original recipe to a tee (with the exception of a dip in chocolate), and there was not one thing I would have changed. As the recipe’s original creator describes, her cookie is a “hole in one.” This biscotti combines the perfect proportions of orange, almonds, and vanilla. I debated adding a hint of almond extract but I restrained myself; too often I succumb to my temptations and the results fall into the “too much of a good thing” category. Without the almond extract there is still plenty of almond flavor and enough room to allow the other flavors to shine through. The aroma as I mixed the wet ingredients was heavenly and my whole home smelled of citrus and vanilla as the cookies had their first visit to the oven.

One hint I would like to add, that is not in the recipe, is that the cookies will not yet have their characteristic crunch when removed from the oven after the second bake. Don’t worry, be patient, they will harden a bit as they cool. I don’t want you to have a repeat of my Christmas five or so years ago, the first time I made biscotti. I thought they would be completely crunchy when removed from the oven and, lets just say, Santa lost a tooth and didn’t leave me much under the tree.

Anyhow, back to these biscotti. After the second bake I was unable to exercise restraint (I told you I have a problem with this), and melted up some Ghirardelli. About one-third of the biscotti were left naked; another third were given just a drizzle of chocolate; and another third was dipped cut-side down in a puddle of chocolate. This was not too much of a good thing, in fact, it was a rather delectable finishing touch.

This is an absolutely wonderful biscotti recipe I am sure I will make again and again. Please click here to see the original recipe (redirects to Smitten Kitchen).

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I didn’t have an iPod was until only a year or two ago; I saw The Goonies for the first time while in college; I am still using a crappy P & S camera; and I had no idea Miley Cyrus was dating a Jonas Brother. So yes, one might say I am behind the times, if not completely and utterly clueless. For that very same reason I lost years of culinary adventures by not discovering food blogs until month or two ago. It comes as no surprise that I just now (finally) discovered No-Knead Bread from the New York Times. How did I miss such earth shattering news?

Well, better late than never. Yeast breads have been somewhat of a stumbling block for me… let’s just say recent forays into bagel making are a sore spot not to be blogged about. This bread is an exception. If you are one of the tragically un-hip and not-in-the know, kindly go to your pantry and grab yeast, flour, and salt. Just mix it with some water, come back to it tomorrow, and then bake at 500 degrees in a cast iron dutch oven. If you are still lusting after a Le Creuset like me, just bake it in your stainless Emerilware stock pot on sale from QVC. Works fine. So what are you waiting for, go to this link and make the bread – all the cool kids are doing it (er, were doing it 2 years ago).

Dough after resting 12 hours (rested another 4)Dough before final 2-hour rest
Ready to BakeThe bread has a dark, crispy crust and a light, airy crumb

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The rich golden chicken stock I made yesterday was calling my name, begging me to make something wonderful with it. I have been eying Ina Garten’s recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup for a few weeks and figured this would be just the dish worthy of yesterday’s project. The result was a light yet satisfying soup with just the perfect amount spice. I didn’t simmer the tortillas in the broth as the recipe required (following directions has never been my strength). Instead, I put them in the bottom of each bowl and then also garnished the soup with the homemade chips on top (homemade as in I made the tortillas and the chips… keep reading). For added flavor, I topped the soup with chopped cilantro, and just a pinch of cheddar cheese.

Read on for photos and recipes

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Rainy Day Project

Yesterday was a dark, dreary, and rainy day. This could only mean one thing, it was time to take that picked clean chicken carcass out of my freezer and make some stock. (Sorry about the above picture, there’s nothing sexy about a chicken carcass).

And yes, homemade chicken stock is really as important as they say it is. Sure I have occasionally cheated with Better Than Bouillon (salty, but tastier than canned or cubed), but nothing compares to making your own. Alton Brown has a good recipe for stock here, but I usually wing it.

Simply drop a chicken carcass in a pot, (I prefer to use chicken carcasses over a raw bird – less waste and you spend less time skimming fat off the top), add some quartered onions, garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, fresh thyme, and salt. Add just enough water to cover the carcass and veggies, bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for several hours. Skim the fat off the top every now and again.

Once the stock is nice and golden it is done. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth and refrigerate. After refrigerating a little more fat will solidify on top – skim that off. It will keep in the freezer for a couple months.

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This is my first post with Tuesdays with Dorie. TwD is a blogging group which picks 4 recipes per month from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Kitchen to Yours. I have had Greenspan’s book for a whole year and have yet to make anything from it, though many recipes are bookmarked. I thought this group would motivate me to crack it open and get cooking.

Unfortunately, this first recipe just didn’t impress me. I now realize that many TwD members post about their experiences as they make the recipe before actually posting in their blogs (which must be on Tuesday). I wish I had known that before because perhaps I could have prevented the dry result of these cupcakes. I was eager with anticipation before cooking the batter. I sneaked a taste of the batter before cooking and it was so light and perfectly sweet and chocolatey. I wish I could say the same about the cupcakes when pulled from the oven. I thought they were dry and lacked the rich chocolate flavor I was expecting. Next week we are making a dessert I have never tried, rugelach.

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Turkey Chili

There is an old saying “if you know beans about chili, your chili ain’t got no beans.” Well, I guess I don’t know beans. If you are a chili purist, kindly accept my deepest apologies for causing offense. Being a Northerner, I have never had traditional chili, so I don’t understand the hysteria over some added legumes. And honestly, I don’t care to. You can keep your lardy bowl of beef. While I my menus may have succumbed to autumn, my waistline doesn’t have to.

Read on for photos and recipe

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This is my first post with the Barefoot Bloggers, a group that posts twice a month on their experiences with pre-selected recipes from Ina Garten. While I will always have my Ina cookbooks, I am thrilled she just signed on for another season of FN. Now amid the round-the-clock coverage of Rachel Ray, junk food, and Guy Fieri, I still will have my 30 minutes of solace M-F 5-5:30 (thank you, God).

Anyways, below is the recipe, as I made it. I did make a few changes and if you wish to see the original recipe, please click here. I basically halved the recipe. Ina and friends must be smoking some pretty good stuff if four people can polish off the original dish – four of us only finished two-thirds (of the reduced portion!). I omitted the fennel, pearl onions, saffron, and Pernod the recipe originally called for. I made up my own crust recipe as well because the original one called for shortening, and that’s where I draw the line. The crust only had 4 tablespoons of butter for over a cup of flour, but after adding Greek yogurt it came out nicely. I was actually quite surprised at how deliciously flaky the crust was despite the small portion of fat.

Ingredients

  • 6 Tb. unsalted butter
  • 1 md. onion, diced
  • ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups good chicken stock
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. basil
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¾ c. large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
  • ¾ c. sliced asparagus
  • ¾ c. peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (1-2 carrots)
  • ¾ c. peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
  • ¼ c. minced flat-leaf parsley

For the pastry:

  • 1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tb. unsalted butter
  • ¼ – ½ cup ice water
  • ¼ c. Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, basil, paprika, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
  2. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.
  3. For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with a pastry cutter until fat is evenly distributed. Add water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough just almost comes together. Then add in the Greek yogurt and incorporate with a fork. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Spread the vegetable mixture in a 9″ pie plate. Roll the dough out on a floured surface. Brush the outside edges of the pie platel with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

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Before I lose my carnivore readers, please, give tofu a chance. I believe tofu is an acquired taste, like coffee, olives, or stinky cheese. Sure, it is jiggly, white, and made of bean curd, but what’s to say it can’t be your new bff?

Tofu and buckwheat noodle salad is a perfect make-ahead brown bag lunch. The tofu will absorb the sesame and tamari vinaigrette and the salad’s flavor improves over time.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. buckwheat noodles (rice noodles would be good too)
  • ½ pkg. extra firm tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1-2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • ½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • ¼ raw peanuts (almonds or cashews work good too)
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil (untoasted)
  • 2 tsp. peanut oil
  • 1 ½ Tb. rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. tamari
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1/8 c. chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Boil noodles, strain, and allow to cool. Add scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, peanuts, and cukes to noodles.
  2. In a small bowl, mix tamari, rice vinegar, and sugar. Whisk in sesame and peanut oil. Toss with noodles. Serve chilled.

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Tomorrow will be my first post with the Barefoot Bloggers, but I couldn’t resist blogging about this Ina recipe as well. I will admit, I was fairly skeptical of the dish. Unless its barbecued or slathered in hoisin sauce, I usually pass on pork (with the obvious exception the bacon/ham/prosciutto food group). However, this week pork was on sale at the market and I couldn’t stomach $5/lb chicken breasts so I figured I’d give it a whirl. I am glad I did. The result was pork with a salty and tangy mustard crust, which paired beautifully with the sweet, tender caramelized vegetables.

The recipe is originally from Barefoot Contessa Parties!, and is reproduced below as written. I did, however, make a few alterations. I just about halved the amount of vegetables to feed 4 people and still had some leftovers. If you reduce the vegetables, don’t forget to reduce the oil and butter. I also found the cooking time to be off (I have found this with several Ina recipes, I wonder if anyone else has had the same experience). The internal temperature was nowhere near 138° after 30 minutes. Furthermore, I am convinced I will be one of the .0001 percent of people who develop trichinosis so I wanted to cook the pork to 160.° I did not watch the clock as well as I should have since I was using my handy dandy Williams Sonoma digital thermometer with voice alert (cruise control for cooking), but I think it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 (3-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
  • 8 carrots, peeled, and thickly sliced diagonally
  • 10 small potatoes (red or white-skinned), cut in quarters
  • 2 yellow onions, thickly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. With a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind together the garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and thyme leaves. Add the mustard. Spread the mixture over the loin of pork and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulbs in thick wedges, cutting through the core. Toss the fennel, carrots, potatoes, and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add the pork loin to the pan and continue to cook for another 30 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork reads exactly 138 degrees. Remove the meat from the pan and return the vegetables to the oven to keep cooking. Cover the meat with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thickly. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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Apple Cake

You will probably be seeing a lot of apple recipes from me lately, though I will try to space them out. Apples are one of my favorite fruits, but there is no doubt they are best this time of year. I fancy myself a wannabe apple connoisseur. The US grows about 100 varieties of apples commercially. Of course I usually stick to the usual Cortlands, Macs, Galas, and Granny Smith’s, but it is always a treat to go to a farm stand and find Honeycrisp, Paula Reds, Macouns, and Ginger Gold’s. I will admit though, I don’t get most of my apples at the grocery store or farm stand. No, I am a sucker, I pick them myself. You see, there is something immensely satisfying (er, crazy) about paying $12 admission to a pick-your-own farm in order to fill my baskets and then fork out another $4 a pound. Why I pay about $40 for fruit that would otherwise cost me $10 is a mystery likened to why Americans pay for bottled water when the tap is practically free and just as good.***

Anyhow, I have roughly one zillion apples, so in addition to this apple cake, I will be posting some other treats in the upcoming weeks utilizing the fruits of my harvest (pun intended).

***Disclaimer: I do not purchase bottled water. You shouldn’t either, it is the leading cause of plastic waste in the country. And don’t think you’re innocent because you recycle – that still uses energy. Click here and here and here. Ok, sorry, very off topic, back to your regularly scheduled cooking.

Ingredients

  • 3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2/3 c. apple sauce
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 1¾ c. white sugar
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.°
  2. Sift together all dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, stir in vanilla, eggs, apple sauce, and oil until incorporated. The batter will be very thick.
  3. Stir in apples.
  4. Bake in a lightly greased and floured tube pan for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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