Saturday, November 28, 2009

Maple Cream Custard in an Almond Meal Crust

Mapley cream paired with a thick, buttery, almondy crust, this is one to make for breakfast on Christmas morning, or maybe to save until deep in February when nothing sounds good to eat at all.

Sadly, it's not really my own creation. This rustic tart is a combination of the geniuses of Deb at Smitten Kitchen and Karina at Karina's Kitchen. I've replicated the recipes below because melding the two involved a bit of trickery due to a fast-baking crust and a slow-baking custard.

Make a maple syrup reduction using 3/4 cup of syrup. No need to overdo, just simmer for 7 minutes or so.

Stir in 2 and 3/4 cup of heavy cream.

Whisk in 4 egg yolks and 1 egg. Whisk thoroughly, and add 1 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp sea salt.

Pour into a greased pie pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Meanwhile, mix 2 heaping cups almond meal, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Press into a greased pie pan. Don't try to flute the edges -- this will be a rustic tart, my friend, not a grandma's blue ribbon pie.

Transfer the custard to the crust and bake for another twenty minutes.

Let the tart (pie?) set up overnight in a refrigerator.

The custard was a bit grainy, disrupted by the transfer into its crust. My grandmother suggested giving the custard a water bath in both steps, so you may try that. You could also try to cover the edges of your crust, but that never seems to work for me. Really though, so long as you give it enough time to set, it was pretty attractive. A sprinkling of turbinado sugar might make the craggy surface look as rich as it deserves to look.

Warm Apple Cider Vinaigrette with Torn Spinach & Roasted Pepitas

This salad and dressing has received rave reviews from palates sophisticated and simple alike. The amounts here will dress a salad as a side for eight or ten.

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Apple cider to taste
Dry mustard (1 to 2 teaspoons, for me)
Sea salt to taste

Pair with torn spinach and pepitas that have been slow-roasted with a bit of sea salt and olive oil.

Shake, toss, and eat.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Love Your Spices

One week ago, my kitchen was the site of a near-fire. Near-fire, I write, meaning for you to imagine intense smoke and damage, without the flames. No paltry case of a little smoke that could be waved through with an open door, this was quite the event and required a professional fire response team, fancy ozone-ing equipment, a possible re-paint job, and industrial dry cleaners.

It also required that all spices, oils, vinegars, flours, sugars, teas, coffees, and general foodstuffs be thrown away. (In addition to vitamins, medicines, cosmetics, and toiletries, but that is inconsequential in light of...the foodstuffs.)

I did cry. I cried for me, but I also cried for my spices. In my sleep, I cried to P about how my spices didn't get to fulfill their potential to be a part of cakes and cookies and curries and hot chocolates and thanksgiving pie. No, I sobbed, they just ended up as trash. Apparently, spices have feelings.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. P and I are both smarter now, and can tell you that aluminum and protein are the two worst things to burn. We also know how loved we are, having woken up one morning to an email list of tons of spices my mother is having delivered to our door, and then having the joy of going to a fancy grocery store and having my father and stepmother replace all of our flours, oils, vinegars, and sweeteners. Generosity has come from our friends, in the form of hugs and nice words and even some monetary help.

So, tonight P will be cooking, and not cooking beans. He's making homemade pesto to redeem himself and in an effort to convince me to allow him to guest post on the blog. I also made a delicious sweet potatoe and spinach gratin at P's parents house where we stayed while our place was sealed off, and that'll be up soon.

The lessons? Turn off your stove when you leave your house, don't cook in aluminum pans, and remember to love your spices.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Young Buck Stew

On Wednesday, my young buck and I had a rare weekday home together, so we, er, made young buck stew. Antelope stew, that is, inspired by Paula Deen's recipe for old-time beef stew. My variations were slight but possibly significant, so here they are:

1) Brown 3 lbs. of pronghorn stew meat in 3 tablespoons of heated olive oil.*
2) Add 2 medium onions, thinly sliced, and 3 cloves of garlic, whole.
3) Puree using your IMMERSION BLENDER...oh wait, not really. But I do love my IMMERSION BLENDER.
The real 3) Add 4 cups of water.
4) Add 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon allspice, and lots of pepper to taste.
5) Simmer for several hours.
6) Add 6 chopped carrots and 3 chopped ribs of celery. Simmer for another hour or two.
7) Remove bay leaves and enjoy! Paula suggests thickening but I suggest not thickening. Now you have to choose.

*P wants me to remind my readers that the first two steps are actually to:
1) catch your own antelope; and
2) butcher your own antelope.

An alternate is to:
3) Make friends with people who will do the first two steps for you. (That's us!)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Savory Butternut Risotto

My sister and I clearly think alike (see the post below). Here's another butternut risotto recipe for those who have a fear of pomegranates, developed in childhood. *Cough, *cough, P. Or for the more normal folks who may be looking for something that is more savory than sweet. The recipe below would serve 10 comfortably, so adjust the amounts as necessary.

Before you start, roast and cube two butternut squashes, and dress with a bit of sage, olive oil, and sea salt. Alternately, you could try to find pre-cubed squash at a fancy grocery store and steam it (Sorry to those without access to fancy grocery stores.)

Also before starting, roast a good portion of pepitas with salt and olive oil. These will serve as a salty crunchy topping to contrast to the creamy squashy risotto. I stuck mine in the oven at 350 for about 7 minutes, they roast quickly!

Saute 3 thinly sliced shallots and 4 minced garlic cloves in olive oil. Add 3 cups of arborio rice, and saute until transclucent. Cup by cup, alternate adding water and dry sherry, stirring until rice absorbs liquid before adding more. (I think that is Sarah's basic recipe, but for those who are too lazy to chase an old post, I've recapitulated here. Give all credit to her, though.)

Add in sage, salt, and pepper to taste as you stir. When the rice is almost at absorptive capacity, stir in the squash cubes, smashing slightly. Then, stir in 2/3 cup of thinly sliced parmesan, and add more sage, pepper, or salt if needed. Top with handfuls of roasted pepitas.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Butternut Risotto with Pomegranate

Nothing complicated, but man, this turned out velvety and comforting and not at all bland.

Before starting the risotto, cube a butternut squash into 1-inch cubes. Bake with butter at 400 until completely soft (this took about the same amount of time as making the risotto).

Start with this risotto recipe, using port instead of sherry. Once it's finished, toss in the butternut cubes and the seeds of a large pomegranate. Add a few tablespoons of apple cider and salt to taste.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

P's Pumpkin PureƩ

Although I am slowly starting to think about winter flavors (gingersnap and pepperment anyone?), this pumpkin soup is enough to keep me in fall forever. That, and the fact that it is still 93 degrees out and even for me peppermint feels a bit strange.

This is P's recipe, actually from Martha Stewart Living. We're hoping the change in number of shiitake mushrooms and garlic cloves means we can't be sued for copyright infringement. It would also work well using a squash.

Roast a sugar pumpkin, one that weights about 2 and 3/4 lbs, on a baking sheet with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 onion, and 6 shiitake mushrooms. Toss in 1/2 cup of olive oil and some sea salt before putting in the oven.

After roasting, move your veggies to a soup pot. With heat on medium, pour in 2 cups of vegetable broth (I was thinking this would have been good to make with wine and water, instead of broth). Use your IMMERSION BLENDER to puree the soup. As you slowly blend using the IMMERSION BLENDER, pour in another 3 cups of brothy. Simmer, and add salt and pepper to taste. P did sneak in a bit o' curry that packed a nice little punch -- I'd recommend, but I can't vouch for Martha.

Green Smoothie

Looking at this blog, one might think I only eat cookies and cheese. While those are obviously major food groups, I do, in fact, eat vegetables. In fact, I eat 2-3 cups of spinach every morning for breakfast. Blended into a delicious smoothie using my IMMERSION BLENDER, of course. And yes, I am always going to type that in caps.

2-3 cups steamed spinach (steaming your spinach helps with calcium absorption)
1 frozen banana
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons flax seed
optional: applesauce

Blend away & enjoy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hermit Thursday Cookies

Actually, today I cooked a gross broccoli dish with too much raw garlic that I'm not going to tell you about. How about these Hermit Thursday cookies instead? These are adapted--ok, completely changed--from the hermit cookie recipe on 101 cookbooks, and I made them on Thursday. On Thursday, I am alone all day, and bake to combat my growing anxiety over school. Not to combat my never ending desire for sweet treats. Right. :D

Gluten free cookies were elusive for a long time, and I have finally developed a gut instinct about what their batter should be like. Normally, it involves using about 1/2 cup of coconut flour and adding applesauce at the end until things get sticky.

Mix the dry ingredients:

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix the wet ingredients. Start by creaming butter and sugar and then adding egg & vanilla.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup natural cane sugar--I rarely follow Heidi's suggestions about sugar, but I did this time and the flaky-ness was definitely value-added
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

Mix wet & dry ingredients together. Add in the following, or some variation upon the following (Heidi uses currants and walnuts).

1/2 cup dried cranberries, diced
1/2 cup uncrystallized dried ginger, diced
1/2 cup almonds, chopped & crushed (I use the handle end of my knife sharpener to crush almonds. It works!)

If your dough is dry (mine was) add, applesauce until sticky (about 2/3 cup for me this time). Refrigerate dough.

In the meantime, make your frosting. Here's Heidi's version, I actually had to make a bit more:

1 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted
4 - 5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

After 30 minutes of cookie-chillin', preheat your oven to 350. I cooked these on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Don't smoosh gluten free cookies down; they have a hard time stayin' plump as it is. Bake until they are ready to be taken out -- err on the side of golden, because coconut flour tends to absorb moisture more than you would like once out. Frost when cooled. Or immediately.