Saturday, July 28, 2012

Daring Bakers "Crazy for Crackers" cheddar rosemary walnut edition


It's time for another challenge from The Daring Kitchen.

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers' Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged us to use our creativity to  make each cracker our own way my using ingredients we love.

I opted to follow one of the recipes she provided because we had all of the ingredients in house. I've also made crackers in the past like wheat thins, so I wanted to do something I had not done before. Hand rolling my wheat thins did not work out so well, as they were never thin enough. This time, I decided to try slicing the crackers like icebox cookies.

The crackers turned out well and I loved the flavor profile, but I was not a fan of making crackers in this style. My cuts were never quite even, and because I used almonds instead of walnuts, it was more difficult to get even cuts. I would make this recipe again though.

Cheddar Rosemary Walnut Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  • A couple cracks of fresh black pepper
Directions
  1. Mix together softened butter with cheese, flour and salt until uniform paste forms. Add in rosemary and walnuts and mix until uniform.
  2. Roll dough into a cylinder in plastic wrap and freeze at least one hou
  3. Thinly slice crackers (no thicker than 1/5inch) and bake on parchment paper at 325 degrees for about 10-12 minutes

Monday, July 23, 2012

Banana Apple Baked Oatmeal


Oatmeal is a perfect breakfast food. It's full of fiber, including soluble fiber (which helps lower cholesterol). Yet even though oatmeal is a great breakfast food, it gets boring very quickly.

I found this recipe for a baked oatmeal that makes about 4 servings. You can keep them multiple days and just heat it up in the morning. Its a new, interesting way of doing oatmeal. Best of all, it has a little crunch from the quinoa.

Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup wheat bran
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup frozen berries or sliced apples

Directions

  1. Mix together oats, quinoa, bran, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together milk, egg, vanilla, and one mashed banana. Mix with the dry ingredients
  3. Great a loaf pan and lay 1 sliced banana along the bottom and half the berries. Pour in oat mixture and top with remaining berries
  4. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until golden and slightly puffed.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Papusas! An El Salvadorian Specialty with vinegar cabbage slaw and pico de gallo


I had my first papusa 2 years ago in the Mission District in San Francisco. It was 1:30 am, and I was drunk. There was a woman who spoke no English who sold these from a cart out front of the bars. They would come off her griddle piping hot and oozing with cheese. They were perfect, magically circles at the wee hours of the morning.

I learned how to make papusas recently from the El Salvadorian women at my work. Now that I live in DC, there is a much larger population of El Salvadorian immigrants than there ever was in California. That means I might not get as much Mexican food as I would like, but I get plenty of papusas.

Papusas are made with Maseca, a cornmeal treated with lime. It has a very fine consistency and a somewhat acidic flavor that is great for tortillas. Papusas are normally served with a vinegar based slaw and a sauce that tastes like a very thin, somewhat reduced salsa that is served warm. I made a pico de gallo to go with mine at home. Papusas are also very versatile, and can be filled with cheese, beans, meat, or any combination for those. But the main reason I love papusas is because the ratios are amazingly easy to remember.

It's 1 to 1.

Papusas

Ingredients

  • 1 part maseca (about 1 cup will yield generous main dish portions for 2 people)
  • 1 part water (also approximate. You need a little more water as this should be a very moist yet still workable dough)
  • Beans/cooked meat/desired filling
  • Melting cheese, like monterey jack or mozzarella
Directions
  1. If using multiple filling ingredients, mix as desired. I used cheese, black beans and red bell pepper. Mash beans or grind meat slightly to make a more uniform filling that will hold its shape well.
  2. Mix maseca and water until a paste forms. It will hold its shape, but it will be moist
  3. Break off a ball about 2 inches in diameter and pat into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Wet your hands with water or oil as necessary to prevent cornmeal from sticking. 
  4. Form a small cup with your hands and place filling in the center. Be generous. I use a large tablespoon, but only do what you are comfortable with.
  5. Fold sides up around the filling and slowly begin patting the papusa into a circle again. Be sure not to leave any tears otherwise the cheese will melt out of the papusa. Pat out to into a circle no thicker than half an inch.
  6. Place papusas in a hot, lightly greased cast iron skillet and cook until done (until marked on both sides. See picture). Serve immediately
You can stop here if you want, or you can continue with the slaw, which is great for any old day, any old BBQ or to replace any old salad

Vinegar Slaw

Ingredients
  • 1/2 head green or red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • sprigs of cilantro
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  • Shred carrots and cabbage into a large bowl. Tear whole cilantro leaves from stems and gently toss with cabbage
  • Separately, mix vinegar, olive oil, oregano and cumin in desired proportions. Should about 1 Tbsp of oil to 3 or 4 Tbsp vinegar. 
  • Dress cabbage as desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Even though I'd recommend the reduced warm salsa, I'll include the pico de gallo recipe because I know how to do it, and because it's an easy addition to any taco night or party.

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients
  • 5 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2medium red onions, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro,
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
  • lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Mix tomatoes, onion, cilantro and garlic together in a large bowl. Lightly toss when stirring so as not to break the tomatoes too much. Add more or less onion if desired, but it should look pretty even.
  2. Add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. If you want more heat, add another jalapeno or a couple dashes of hot sauce
  3. Refrigerate until serving

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: Fortune Cookie Chronicles - Jennifer 8 Lee


To view my other reviews, please see my Goodreads account


Title: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Author: Jennifer 8 Lee
Published: Hatchette Book Group, 2008
Pages: 320

I loved Jennifer Lee's storytelling style when I first saw her TED talk about chinese food in America. She gives some delightful anecdotes about Chinese food in other countries, the history of the fortune cookie, and comparisons between General Tso and Colonel Sanders (men both known for chicken rather than war). I thought it was interesting and wanted to see what else her book had to offer.

Though I liked "Fortune Cookie Chronicles" it read a little too much like the long version of the talk I enjoyed. The parts that weren't in the talk, I didn't particularly care much about anyway. Lets be honest, if I actually cared about immigration law, I would read a book about that, not a book about food. Other parts of the book gave some great history on fortune cookies and the original Japanese (Not Chinese!) cookies. It felt like a collection of really interesting essays rather than a connected non-fiction work with a coherent thesis.

I liked some sections more than others. I really enjoyed the parts about General Tso and the skill in writing fortune cookie fortunes. I liked the section about the proliferation of Chinese restaurants around the world, their differences, and which is the best for its influence and food. I did not like the fact that her Chinese food journey in San Francisco took her to Yank Sing. Real Chinese people don't eat a Yank Sing. It's way too far to the right of the costs/benefits bell curve. It's expensive dim sum designed for white people (which I suppose also has its place). She ignored the most amazing, most influential, creative place THAT DELIVERS AND DOES CARRY-OUT in San Francisco. I realize Mission Chinese Food was probably not around when she was visiting San Francisco to sample various Chinese restaurants, but reading this book made me want order after order of their Kung Pao Pastrami, the Thrice Cooked Bacon and Numbing Lamb Face with Hand Pulled Noodles (though they haven't had that on the menu in over a year). It made me want all the things that made Mission Chinese Food so unique and yet so completely and utterly Szechuan.

Of course, it was really a book about American Chinese food. It is authentic in its own right. It was what I grew up eating at our local Chinese restaurant that we called "The Pink Flamingo" because that was the picture on their logo, and we never bothered to learn the real  name.

After reading this book, we ordered takeout Chinese food for dinner. I made sure to order General Tso's chicken, and it was more delicious than remembered. Chicken+fried+sweet really is the key to success in America.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Daring Cooks Challenge "En Papillote"

So a couple weeks ago, I signed up to become part of Daring Kitchen. It's one of those websites I've seen mentioned on tons of posts on Tastespotting for people to challenge themselves and participate in a monthly group challenge (either cooking or baking related). I opted to join both Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers. The 14th of each month is the post date for Daring Cooks, so keep and eye out in the future.

Our July 2012 Daring Cook' host was Sarah from All our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called "Cooking En Papillote" which is French and translates to "cooking in parchment".

I've cooked "En Papillote" before and forgot how simple it was. I always made vegetables or fully contained meals that way when I was in high school and just beginning to enjoy cooking. I went back to my one package ways by making salmon for this challenge.

I wanted to try a different marinade than I have in the past. It involved bourbon, soy sauce, brown sugar, cayenne, ginger and other seasonings. But I wasn't sure how well this marinade would turn out cooked in paper, when I would normally go for lighter flavors like dill and lemon. I cooked the salmon two ways: in paper for myself and simple pan seared for Steve. Given these flavors, the pan worked best, but it was still a good experiment.

I also purchased skin on fish, which I never used to do. I skinned the salmon, salted the skin, and fried it until crispy. I could serve it with the fish afterward and it tasted "like fish bacon" so said my dining companion.

Note: I did not measure the ingredients for my marinade. I just poured some soy sauce, sesame oil, bourbon and a little siracha in a bowl with brown sugar, pepper, garlic, ginger and paprika. I don't know what proportions I used, but you can use whatever marinade you desire as well.


Salmon En Papillote

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon fillets, skin on
  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 1 lemon
  • some cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 handfulls of spinach
Directions
  1. Fillet skin off the salmon and save to pan fry.
  2. Cook couscous. Bring 1/2 cup or water or stock to a boil and add couscous. Immediately turn off heat and cover for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  3. Cut 2 large pieces of parchment. Spoon couscous into each one and top with a handfull of spinach.
  4. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place fish on top of the spinach. Top fish with cilantro sprigs and slices of lemon.
  5. Wrap fish completely in parchment, making sure to crimp the edges. Cook at 350 for 15 minutes, depending on the size of your fish.
  6. While fish is cooking, generously season the fish skin and pan fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels
  7. Remove fish from oven and cut open paper. Serve with crispy skin and extra lemon.

For reference, I will include a picture of the other salmon. The crisp edges went much better with the bourbon flavor. Perhaps if I'd poured some of the marinade in the paper, it would have been better. Ah well, next time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Infinite Zest Lemon Lime Cupcakes for the Infinite Jest Bookclub Potluck

After 4 months of putting off reading Infinite Jest, one month of slowly reading Infinite Jest, and 1 month of plowing through the last 800 pages of Infinite Jest, I finally finished it. Let me tell you, it was brilliant. It was so perfect and purposeful. It was 1100 pages but it was all super tight and wonderfully connected. I loved loved loved it. You can read my full review on Goodreads

Of course, when we discussed it at book club, I had to bring a thematically appropriate food. In the book, the only foods that appear are hash brownies and heroine. Even though those seemed thematically appropriate, they seemed questionably legal. I opted for cupcakes instead. I named them "Infinite Zest" because although I liked "The Year of the SuperMoist Betty Crocker Cake Mix" better, I did not think it would work for a from-scratch cake. (Note: if you read the book, you'd understand the years of subsidized time)

I got this recipe from Baking Bites but upped the amount of lemon.


These cupcakes have a delightful lemon lime flavor. They're not too sweet and I top them with a cooked flour frosting (because that's really the only kind of frosting I really like)

Infinite Zest Lemon Lime Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
Directions
  1. Muddle together sugar, lemon and lime zest so the zest doesn't stick together.
  2. Cream together butter and lemon-lime sugar until light and fully. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating fully in between
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the eggs and butter. Then half the milk. Alternate, ending with the dry ingredients
  5. Fill muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 until done. Let cool completely before frosting
Ingredients for cooked flour frosting
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  • vanilla or lemon extract (depending on how lemony you want the cake)
  • yellow and green food coloring
Directions for frosting
  1. Cook flour, milk and sugar on the stove until a very thick paste forms
  2. Cool mixture completely in the refrigerator
  3. Pour milk mixture into a mixing bowl and beat on high speed. Add butter one tablespoon at a time until it emulsifies and makes a light, fluffy frosting. Add extracts as desired
  4. Remove a little of the white frosting and set aside for the white lines on the tennis ball. Color the rest of the frosting as desired. (To make tennis ball green, it will probably take about 20 drops of yellow and like 3 drops of green)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chili Mango Arugula Salad (with cashews!)


Summer is a time for salads. They're refreshing, light, and go perfectly with hot weather. With the last couple weeks being 100+ degrees and over 80% humidity, I didn't want to turn on the oven at all. It was time for dinner salads, and lots of them.

This is one of my favorite side salads for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I love with with eggs in the morning, with a sandwich (or on its own) in the afternoon, and with fish or anything vaguely caribbean themed at night. It's sweet, savory and spicy all at the same time.

Chili Mango Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 mango, julienned
  • 1/2 bag arugula
  • 1 small hand full of cashews
  • juice from one or two limes
  • 2 Tbsp whole cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes (give or take, depending on preference)
  • olive oil (about 2 tsp)
  • salt and pepper to taste.
Directions
  1. Slice mango and toss with red chili flakes and cashews to coat evenly with the spice.
  2. Toss with arugula and dress with lime juice, salt, pepper and oil to personal preference. I don't put very much oil at all, but I put a lot of lemon/lime juice. I also have a greater arugula to mango ratio

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tabouleh Salad



Note: the salad pictured does not have nearly as much parsley in it as I could have liked. It is also made with cous-cous due to time and product constraints that day. It was good, but I highly recommend the following recipe if you want a much more pungent tabouleh salad.

I love tabouleh salad in the summer. It's light, refreshing, and has a taste of parsley and lemon. It goes perfectly with lamb or fresh pita bread. Best of all, it keeps for multiple days and is a perfect make-ahead salad for a picnic or potluck (or workday lunch).

Tabouleh Salad

Ingredients
  • ½ cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 whole lemons, juiced
  • half bunch of fresh mint, chiffonade
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 8 large bunches of curly parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 whole scallions
  • 3 whole roma tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 whole English cucumber, de-seeded and diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper and allspice to taste

Directions
  1. Pour boiling water over bulgur and let sit covered until tender. Drain off excess liquid and let cool
  2. Take out seeds from tomatoes and cucumber and dice
  3. Finely dice/mince all other ingredients and mix together. Toss with cooled bulgar.
  4. Pour lemon and olive oil over the salad. Add seasonings to taste. Additional lemon can be incorporated if desired.
  5. Let chill at least a couple hours until ready to serve.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Creole Tomato and Onion Salad


At first, the idea of an onion and tomato salad just did not sound good. I've learned so many new things since moving to the south, and have expanded my palate in so many ways. Is this onion salad an everyday thing? No. But it's a good refreshing summer side dish that's spicy and flavorful enough to go with more plain dinner foods like chicken or grits.

For this salad I used "Shut My Mouth" brand creole mustard (which I purchased simply because I liked the name. You need to say it like a sassy black woman. At least in my mind that's how you say it...)

Creole mustard is different than regular mustard because it's mixed with horseradish, worcestershire sauce and vinegar. You could also use stone ground mustard if you did not want as strong a flavor, but I like the pungent flavor of all parts of the creole mustard.

Note: all amounts are guesses. Adjust to fit personal taste

Creole Onion Tomato Salad

Ingredients

  • 5 roma tomatoes, cut into 1/8 or 1/6 sections
  • 1 small red onion, shaved into rings on a mandolin (I would use Maui or a sweeter onion next time)
  • Creole mustard
  • 1 tsp mayonaise
  • honey (optional)
  • Chives for garnish
Directions
  1. Slice tomatoes and onions as desired.
  2. Mix mayonaise with creole mustard in a separate bowl until you reach desired spice level. Add honey if desire to add sweetness and round out the flavors
  3. Toss onion and tomatoes lightly with dressing.
  4. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with chives.
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