Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tea with Lemon Cupcakes

This week I was struggling with coming up with a cupcake flavor, everything that came to mind sounded so much better for fall or winter. So, I started to think about what do people like to eat & drink in the summer. The first thing that came to mind was Matt & the glass after glass of ice tea he drinks & there was my flavor idea.
Tea with Lemon Cupcakes
This cupcake is flavored with tea by brewing tea bags in the milk which gets used in the batter. I would suggest using a black tea instead of an herbal for this because the flavors are a little stronger. I used Republic of Tea's Blackberry & Sage blend because I thought a fruit tea would suit a cupcake well. The smell of the blackberry in the tea really came through in the baking. I used two tea bags & the flavor is good but subtle. Next time I would try using even more for a stronger tea flavor & I've noted that in the recipe.
Candied Lemon Peel
The cupcakes are decorated with a slice of candied lemon peel which was so easy to make & added such a nice touch of color.

Tea with Lemon Cupcakes

Tea Flavored Cupcake


1/4 c milk
2 - 4 tea bags (use 2 for a subtle flavor & more for a stronger tea flavor)
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c + 1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 7 muffin tins.
Bring the milk just to a boil, remove from heat & add the tea bags. Allow the tea to steep until you are ready to add the milk to the batter, it should be a medium brown color. Squeeze any liquid from the tea bags before adding milk to the batter.

In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add vanilla & beat. On low speed add half the flour mixture until just blended. Add tea flavored milk until blended. Add remaining flour & mix until just blended.

In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 2 minutes. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg into the batter until combined. Add remaining egg & fold until combined.
Tea Flavored Cupcakes
Divided equally among the muffin tins. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool before icing.

Makes 7 cupcakes

Lemon Milk Icing

1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t lemon juice
milk

Mix sugar,& lemon juice together. Add milk 1/2 t at a time until desired consistency is reached. Glaze cupcakes & let them sit until glaze has set.

Makes enough glaze for 6 - 7 cupcakes

Candied Lemon Peel


1/2 lemon
1/3 c water
1/3 c sugar

Using a peeler carefully peel off thin strips of lemon peel trying to only get the yellow & very little if any white. Trim the strips into desired width & length.

In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add the lemon peels & allow them to boil for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peels from the water.

Stir the sugar into the water & bring it back to a boil. Return the lemon peels to the pan & cook until translucent.

Take the peels from the sugar water (I would recommend using tongs at this point) & place on a silicone mat. Allow to cool & dry completely.

Makes about 10 pieces of candied peel depending on size & width.

Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts & Sultanas

Another single girl dinner here at chez Good Appetite. I almost broke down & went to the store for a prepared meal but I'm so glad I didn't, this meal was a lot better than I expected. I don't believe I've ever eaten Swiss Chard before & was a little worried about it being bitter, when I found out it was part of the beet family & I was sold. This dish ended up having a mellow sweetness from the caramelized onions, sultanas & balsamic vinegar that would totally make up for any bitterness from the greens. The toasted pine nuts added a great nutty flavor & crunch.
Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts & Sultanas

I served this over couscous for a really satisfying main dish, brown rice would work well too. Alone, it would make a wonderful side dish especially with red meat.

Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts & Sultanas
Adapted for 1 from seattlepi.com

1 T pine nuts
1/2 T olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
7 stalks of Swiss chard, stems & leaves
1 T sultanas
1 T balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

In a large saucepan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until brown & fragrant. Set aside.

In the same pan heat the oil & add the onion. Allow to cook until soft & golden brown, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
Swiss Chard
While the onions are cooking, separate the stems from the chard leaves. Chop the chard stems into 2 inch pieces & the leaves into 2 inch strip. Once the onions have cooked add the chard stems & sultanas to the pan & cook for another 10-15 minutes until the stems are tender.

Add the chard leaves & cook until wilted down, about 5 minutes. In the last minute or so of cooking stir in the vinegar.

Serves 1 as a main dish, 2 as a side

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - Almond Gateau with Praline Buttercream

This is a sad, sad post since when I went to write it I realized my pictures of my finished cake were missing. They aren't on my camera or in the Daring Bakers file on my computer. I'm afraid in my effort to make sure they didn't end up on Flickr before posting day they were mistakenly erased. I could almost cry because this was a really hard challenge & I was so proud to have finished it. Anyway here goes...

almond brown butter cake with apricot ginger filling
(this is not the actual challenge cake. Let's just call this Almond Brown Butter Cake a stand-in, imagine it with one more layer plus buttercream & whipped cream between the layers.)

This month's challenge was the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Great Cakes by Carol Walter. Its a three layer nut cake layered with buttercream & whipped cream then coated with a fruit glaze & finally topped with a chocolate ganache. That is a lot of different pieces & a lot of time. I spent two days making this cake. Day one was spent making the actual cake layers. Day two I made the fillings, glaze & ganache & finally put the whole thing together. Let's go through the recipe...

Almond Gateau with Praline Buttercream

1 Almond Genoise

1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum

1 recipe Praline Buttercream

½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 recipe Raspberry Glaze

1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using


Almond Genoise


Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.



I chose to do almond instead of filberts mainly because I already had the almonds. This is actually 1/2 the original recipe. I used this & cooked four 4.5-inch layers of cake but only used 3 in the final cake, we ate the forth layer warm from the oven.

¾ cups almonds, toasted/skinned

1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

4 large egg yolks

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. grated lemon rind

3 lg. egg whites

1/8 cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)


Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a four 4.5-inch round cake pans. 

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside. 


Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 6 T of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.


Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 2 T of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. 
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute. 


Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds. 



I didn't bother using a strainer to add my nuts to the butter. Mixed with the butter it became more of a thick batter for me than something pourable.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.


Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.


*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1/2 cup, good for three 4.5-inch round layers.

Again this is half of what the original recipe called for.

1/2 cup water

2 T sugar

1 Tbsp. dark rum 



In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance

Swiss Buttercream


I had really good success with this buttercream & will use this recipe again. I did make a whole batch of this instead of half to make sure I had enough for decorating later, I could have gotten by with a half batch

4 lg. egg whites

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm

1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Rum
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside. 


IMG_5299.JPG
Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*


On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.


Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.


Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together. 


Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.


Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.



Praline Buttercream


I left out the rum in this since it was already in the buttercream itself. I didn't make my own praline as I found some almond paste in the store & decided to cut myself a break on this one step. I should have run the paste through the food processor before adding it to the buttercream to make it a little finer, there were too many chunks in the finished product to make it easy to decorate with.

1 recipe Swiss Buttercream 

1/3 cup almond paste

1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)


Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Raspberry Glaze

Good for one 4.5-inch cake



I chose to use raspberry instead of apricot glaze which that the original recipe called for because we really love the taste of raspberry & chocolate. Once again this is a half recipe.

1/3 cup thick apricot preserves

1/2 Tbsp. water



In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.


Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze

Makes about 1/3 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 4.5 inch layercake 


The corn syrup was the main difference from the chocolate ganache I've used in the past. I'm not sure it really made a difference. I actually did this in the microwave & it worked just fine.

3 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt

3 oz. heavy cream

1/2 tbsp. light corn syrup

1/2 Tbsp. rum
1/4 tsp. vanilla

1/2 - 1/4 tsp. hot water, if needed



Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside. 


Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside. 


Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!



Assembling Cake



Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.


Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream. 

Moisten the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes. 


IMG_5301.JPG
Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-inch blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.


IMG_5304.JPG
I had a hard time doing this trimming & final just decided my cake was straight enough. It also took quite a lot of glaze to get the whole thing coated smoothly, crumbs from the cut parts kept coming off.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.



This whole thing about not touching the top of the cake again after getting a smooth finish is so important. I could resist the urge to co back & fix a little flaw & really messed up the shiny top. Luckily I have no pictures to show you that.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake. 


Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.



I didn't follow these decorating instructions at all but made up my own design, a 4.5-inch cake doesn't have a ton of room to decorate. The almond paste in the buttercream made it almost impossible to pipe it & get a nice look.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Will I make this cake again? No, I'm glad I challenged myself to do it though. It was quite frustrating to put all that time into putting it together to only have the piping turn out so messy because of the almond paste. The cake was good but pretty sweet, almost too sweet for us, with the praline buttercream, sugar syrup, fruit glaze & chocolate.

I will make nut flour cakes again. The Almond Brown Butter Cake I used as my stand-in above is a favorite & a little less of a process with only a fruit filling & chocolate ganache.

I will use that buttercream recipe again. It worked really well for me & I liked the flavor. I don't think I'll be putting almond paste in it again though.

I'm looking forward to next month's challenge, hopefully this time I can manage not to erase my own pictures!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Tart with Polenta Crust

Matt is on a business trip right now & usually when that happens I go to the local gourmet grocery store & buy myself a prepared dinner. This time though, I had all these vegetables on hand from the farm which really inspired me to make myself something special instead.
Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Tart with Polenta Crust
When we got the beets in this last CSA box I knew I wanted to do something more than just roast them & put them on a salad (as much as I love that) so I decided to experiment with a roasted beet tart. I choose goat cheese to go with it because I thought the tartness of it would be a nice foil to the sweetness of the roasted beets.

The idea to do a polenta crust came from Allen at Eating Out Loud in a post he wrote about experimenting with healthier ways to make crust. It really intrigued me & since I had a box of instant polenta in the house I figured this was as good a time as any to try it. All & all, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. It held its shape well when I removed it from the tart pan as well as holding the filling in. The top edges became a little crisp while cooking which I liked for texture. The rest of the crust stayed pretty soft & almost melted together with the filling when you ate it. Its not the same as a pastry crust but definitely a tasty option.

I ate two of these small tarts for dinner served with a salad. It was a perfect light meal. These turned out so pretty that I think they would also make a beautiful first course for a fancy dinner party.

Roast Beet & Goat Cheese Tart with Polenta Crust

4 small beets, peeled & sliced about 1/8-inch thick (I had golden beets but I think red would be really pretty too)
1 medium onion, sliced thin (I used a Spanish Sweet "Candy" Onion but any will do)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & sliced thin
olive oil
kosher salt
4 oz instant polenta
2 c chicken broth (you can also use water or vegetable broth is you prefer)
1 large egg
1/4 c cream
1 T fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
fresh ground pepper
2 t goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. Make a small tray with sides big enough to hold the sliced beets, onions & garlic from a doubled piece of tin foil.
Roasting beets, onions & garlic
Drizzle the vegetables with a little olive oil & sprinkle with a little salt. Stir to coat the vegetables. Place the tray on a cookie sheet & into the oven. Allow to roast for 20 - 25 minutes or until the vegetables are turning brown & soft, you want to make sure they are getting caramelized & sweet.

While the vegetables are roasting, bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a little salt. Slowly stir in the polenta. Reduce heat to low & continue to stir for about 5 minutes until any lumps are gone & you have a very thick consistency. Remove the polenta from the heat & allow it to cool. Using olive oil, grease four 4.5-inch tart pans with removable bottoms, make sure to get in all the corners so your tart doesn't stick. Once the polenta is cool enough to touch divide it into the tart pans pressing it into the sides & bottoms to form a 1/4-inch crust, you may have a little extra polenta. If you find the polenta a little sticky to work with wet your fingers.
Polenta Crust
When the vegetables are done set them aside & reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Place the tart pans on a cookie sheet & into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg & cream together. Stir in the parsley, a pinch of salt & a few grinds of pepper.

After the crust have bakes for 10 minutes take them out of the oven. Divide the roasted beets, onions & garlic between the four tarts. Spoon the egg & cream mixture over the vegetables, use the back of your spoon to help press it in very gently. Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the tarts.
Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Tart with Polenta Crust
Return to the oven & bake for 15 - 20 minutes. The filling should be set & slightly puffed up. The goat cheese & edges of the tart should be beginning to brown. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the tart pan.
Make 4 small tarts.
(A few weeks later I made this into a large tart to serve 4 -5 plus I added bacon, here's the details.)

This is my savory (as opposed to sweet) entry for the new food event over at What's Cooking.
ilovebaking.jpg
Ben is hosting a bi-weekly event for people who love to bake with prizes for both sweet & savory entries. The first deadline is August 7th so preheat those ovens & join the fun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekly Menu - 7/28 - 8/1/08

Just back from a weekend up North to find three little jalapenos have finally made an appearance in the garden. Watching things grow in your own garden is just so amazing.
Hot hot hot

Here's this week's Menu Planning Monday...

Beet & Goat Cheese Tart with a Polenta Crust
- RESULT - This turned out even better than I expected. Can't wait to make it again for Matt

Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts & Sultanas
- I think I'll serve this either with brown rice or couscous - RESULT - Fabulous!

Chicken Fennel Salad - RESULT - A nice light chicken salad with a little twist added by the fennel.

Pizza with Prosciutto, Onions & Arugala - using our favorite homemade crust - RESULT - There is nothing better than homemade pizza

Pork Souvlaki with Fennel Tzatziki & Fennel Slaw - I'm finally getting to cook the recipe from Kalofagas that I've been dying to try, well just one of Peter's fabulous sounding Greek recipes that I want to try.

I'm going to go a little out there this week with the cupcake flavor & try making one that tastes like Iced Tea with Lemon. Not sure which of Matt's many tea flavors I'll use yet.

Also this week it'll be time to show off the July Darling Bakers Challenge. Oh & was this month a challenge!

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's in CSA box #6

What's in CSA Box #6

A bright colorful box from the farm this week. It'll be interesting to see how we go through this box as we are out of town the next two weekends & Matt is in the Bay Area next week. I'm busily dreaming up some veggie packed single girl meals.

Golden Beets - I'm picturing a single serving beet tart out of these perhaps using polenta for the crust like Allen at Eating Out Loud did.

Carrots

Yellow & Green Beans - steamed, fresh on salad & I think I'll marinate some. Glad we got these as the crop in our garden isn't doing so well.

Salad Mix

Arugula - Some of this is going on a pizza & some in sandwiches

Fennel - Time to find more fennel recipes. I want to make Pork Souvlaki from Kalofagas so I'll do some Fennel Tzatiki to go with it.

Chard - This is always good just sauteedbut I've seen a few other interesting uses for it such as in a quiche or baked with some Parmesan

Italian Garlic

Squash - I think I'll roast these up with some of the sweet onions for a roasted veggie dish for myself

Sweet Spanish "Candy" Onions - One is going into a cherry tomato salad tonight raw, one will go on pizza, one will get roasted with the squash, maybe another in my beet tart.

Homemade Corn Toasties

Growing up I loved to eat Corn Toasties for breakfast. Those sweet, dense, toastable cornmeal circles dripping in melted butter were such a treat. I think I remember that we used to buy them frozen from a Howard Johnson restaurant near our house. Its been a long time since I've had them, or even thought of them, but over the Fourth of July I thought I spotted some in my parents' freezer. This made me start thinking, could I make my own corn toasties at home? I mentioned them to Matt & he said he'd never had them so this set me on my mission.
Homemade Corn Toasties
I started looking for recipes online. There were are couple things called corn toasties that were really muffins & then there was something that was creamed corn on toast! There was only one that sounded like what I was looking for & it was an anonymous recipe from Cooks.com (the exact same recipe was also on a few other sites). The ingredients sounded right though some of the other instructions were a little vague, like what temperature was needed for baking. Well, I figured I'd been doing enough baking lately that I could take a stab at it.

This was what I had been looking for. The batter cooked up to a nice thin, dense corn cake which held together well when cut into individual portions & in the toaster. The flavor was just as I remembered sweet but not too sweet with that great texture you get from cornmeal. I would have loved to have made these round like the ones I grew up but the squares probably fit the toaster better anyway.

This morning we popped them in the toaster & I was brought right back to childhood.

Corn Toasties

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c + 2 T sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 c + 2 T cornmeal
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 c milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a medium-sized bowl mix together the melted butter & sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add the baking powder, cornmeal, flour & salt. Mix until everything is moistened. Stir in milk & mix until almost smooth (a few lumps are fine).

Lightly grease a 10" x 15" baking sheet with 1/2" sides. Pour the batter into the baking sheet, spreading into all the corners. Tap the baking sheet on the counter 1 or 2 times to even the batter out.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The edges should be brown & pulling away from the side of the pan & the top show be set. Allow to rest in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife cut into individual pieces I cut it into eight 2 1/2" x 3 3/4" rectangles.

Store the toasties wrapped in plastic wrap or in a resealable bag in the refrigerator for use over the next week. For longer storage keep them in the freezer.

To serve toast until browning & top with butter, syrup, honey or jam.

Makes 8 toasties

This is my sweet (as opposed to savory) entry for the new food event over at What's Cooking.
ilovebaking.jpg
Ben is hosting a bi-weekly event for people who love to bake with prizes for both sweet & savory entries. The first deadline is August 7th so preheat those ovens & join the fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chocolate Mousse for Two

Matt told me he had a craving for chocolate mousse or pudding with fresh strawberries. Never having made either I was happy to oblige & try making something new at the same time. I started reading homemade pudding recipes on blog only to get the sense that taste of homemade pudding wasn't necessarily worth the work compared to pudding in a box. So, I asked him if he'd prefer pudding or mousse. Luckily he said mousse because that seems to be a little simpler venture with better results.

I didn't want mousse around the house for days & I didn't want a huge serving size. (I know a huge serving of rich chocolaty goodness doesn't sound like a bad thing but trying to be healthier & all...) This recipe to make just two, approximately 1/3 - 1/2 cup, servings. It come together pretty quickly, especially since I use a microwave instead of a double boiler to do my melting.
Chocolate Mousse
Serve it in a pretty glass with fresh fruit & whipped cream and you have a cool, sexy treat to share with your special someone on a warm summer night.

Chocolate Mousse for Two

1 1/4 oz bittersweet or darker chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 T unsalted butter
1/2 T espresso (I buy instant espresso & just dissolve it in a little hot water)
1/4 c heavy cream
1 egg, separated
1/4 T sugar

Combine the chocolate, butter & espresso in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until almost melted (this took about 40 seconds on high for me) then stir until completely melted. Let cool until it still feels warm to the touch but not hot. Do not let it get cold. (If you don't have a microwave use a double boiler for this step.)

Mix the egg yolk into the warm chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Keep cold until ready to use.

In another small bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy & then add the sugar. Continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Once incorporated add 1/2 of the egg whites, incorporate them then add the second half. Finally add the remaining whipped cream & fold until there are no more streaks of white.

Spoon into serving bowls, cover & refrigerate for at least 8 hours up to 1 day.

Serves 2

I put a layer of sliced strawberries in the bottom of the glass then added the mousse. When it was time to serve I added more sliced strawberries & freshly whipped cream.

Molasses Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Corn Salsa

We love pork, everything from Grilled Asian Tenderloin to Homemade Italian Sausage to Apricot Stuffed Loin and even Dark Chocolate and Bacon Cupcakes. But I have a confession to make, we can't cook a decent pork chop to save our lives. No matter how we try to prepare them they end up dry. We try cooking them in sauces, grilling them, baking them but still the same unappetizing dryness. I try to tell myself its not us, its today's leaner pork but still its hard not to start to question your cooking skills.

Well, that all ended with last night's pork chops from Mastering the Grill: The Owner's Manual for Outdoor Cooking. The chops are brined for 4 - 6 hours in a sweet & salty Molasses Brine which helps keep them juicy while cooking. The brine also imparted a subtle flavor to the pork but not so much that it would overpower any seasoning you added to it later.
Molasses Brined Pork Chop with Roasted Corn Salsa
As good as the pork was in this dish the Roasted Corn Salsa was amazing. The sweetness of the fresh corn is enhanced by the time on the grill & matches perfectly with the heat of the chile, tart of the lime juice & bite of the onion. It brought a lot of extra flavor to the pork but I can see making it as a condiment for plenty of other dishes.

Molasses Brined Pork Chops

Molasses Brine

1 3/4 c cold water
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T kosher salt
2 T unsulfured molasses
1 T light brown sugar
1 T ketchup

Mix everything together in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Close the bag & shake until the sugar is dissolved.

4 pork chops 1 - 1 1/2 inches thick(bone-in rib chops or boneless center cut loin chops)
1 T olive oil
1 T paprika

Place the pork chops in the bag with the brine. Seal the bag pressing out any excess air. Massage the meat. Place in a bowl & refrigerate for 4 - 6 hours.

Remove the meat from the brine & dry with a paper towel. Rub the chops with the olive oil & then the paprika. Tent loosely with tin foil & allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat the grill to high & grill the chops over direct heat for 2 - 3 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover & grill for another 5 - 6 minutes per side (boneless chops will only need about 2 - 3 more minutes per side). Transfer to a plate, tent with foil & allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Roasted Corn Salsa

1 T olive oil
1 small tomato, seeded & finely chopped
1 jalapeno chile (we used a Freseno red chile instead), seeded & finely chopped
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
2 T chopped red onion
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 t kosher salt
3 ears of fresh corn, husks removed
oil

Combine the olive oil, tomato, chile, garlic, onion, cilantro, lime & salt in a medium bowl.

Coat the corn all over with oil. Grill the corn over medium-high heat, turning often, until brown all over. This should take about 10 minutes.

Allow the corn to cool to touch & use a knife to cut off the kernels. Add the kernels to the rest of the ingredients.

Makes 4 servings of pork & salsa

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What we did with CSA box #5

Boy, this last box was a lot of fun. I can't wait for this week's. As we get further into the summer the better they get!
What we did with CSA box #5
1. the box 2. grilled balsamic strawberries 3. pea & chicken salad 4. strawberry fool tart 5. grilled lamb with fennel tzatziki 6. strawberry cheesecake cupcakes 7. rice & fennel salad 8. grilled roadside chicken dinner 9. roasted vegetable salad 10. kohlrabi remoulade 11. kale chips 12. Indian pizza

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Black Forest Cupcakes

Matt's parents brought us a big box of dried sour cherries from Michigan over the weekend so, of course I decided to use them as inspiration for this week's cupcake. For some reason the first thing that came to my mind was Black Forest Cake with its layers of sour cherries, whipped cream & chocolate cake.

Usually you would use canned cherries in the cake so I wasn't sure if dried would work or be too chewy. I had no need to worry as they worked out beautifully, packing quite a sour cherry punch which paired nicely with the dark chocolate. The only downside I found was the cherries had a tendency to stick to the cupcake liner when you peeled it off. I used foil cupcake liners & am wondering if the sticking would have happen if I'd used paper instead.

I chose to use rum to flavor my cupcakes because I read that is what they use in Austria (ok, it was also what I had in the house). Kirsh is also commonly used to add even more cherry flavor. You can also leave the alcohol out completely.

Black Forest Cupcake

Black Forest Cupcake

1/4 c unsalted butter
1/8 c Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
3 T water
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 T well beaten egg
1/8 c plain yogurt
1/2 T rum or kirsh (or just use vanilla)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 c dried sour cherries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare muffin tins.
Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (it will be a little bit lumpy).

Coat the bottom of each muffin tin with a little batter then sprinkle in a single layer of dried cherries. Finish filling muffin tins to about 2/3 full for rounded cupcakes or 1/2 full for flat cupcakes. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. It's a moist cake, so don't worry if a few crumbs stick to your tester.
Allow cupcakes to cool.

Makes 4 - 6 cupcakes.

Whipped Cream Frosting
(Adapted from Allrecipes)
The gelatin in this whipped cream makes it hold up to piping, just make sure it is completely melted so you don't get lumps.

1/2 c heavy cream
1 t confectioners sugar
1/4 t vanilla
3/4 t cold water
1/4 t unflavored gelatin

Whip the cream, sugar & vanilla together just until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Mix the water & gelatin together in a small bowl and microwave briefly, about 10 seconds, until the gelatin is dissolved. Allow to cool slightly but not get hard. Add to cream & continue whipping until stiff peaks are formed. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Makes enough to frost 6 cupcakes.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Sidetracked

I don't think I've always concentrate on sides enough, which means our main dish is often served with a steamed vegetable & perhaps a starch like potato or rice. There is nothing wrong with that but I'd like to add a little more interest to the whole meal. Since we've been getting more varied fresh vegetables this summer it seems like a good time to work on that problem.

Kale Chips
When I wrote about our last CSA box an anonymous commenter suggested I try Kale Chips & gave a quick how-to. We were very intrigued & since they only take 15-20 minutes from start to finish I decided to make some to serve for lunch today instead of potato chips. The result was a thin, crunchy almost lace-like chip. The flavor of the kale was very subtle with a hint of nuttiness. I added quite a bit of salt which made it seem like a guilty snack. They didn't go soggy after cooling at all, which I was worried about after my sad little try at Beet Chips.

I really, really liked these. Matt, on the other hand, is not sold but he couldn't pinpoint why. After making these I looked to see if there are recipes online & there seems to be one main on floating around that adds cider vinegar. I guess that would make a salt & vinegar version as compared to my salt & pepper. Maybe I'll try those tomorrow & see if they go over better.

Matt read you could serve these with a dip but I think they are much too fragile. I'd like to try them as a garnish on a salad or soup, a beautiful crunchy addition.

Kale Chips

4 c loosely packed kale leaves, stems removed, sliced into 2 - 3 inch pieces
1/2 T olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Clean & dry your kale leaves (I use a salad spinner). Toss them with the olive oil making sure to coat all the leaves (add a little more olive oil if needed, I used 1 T & it was probably too much as they came out a little greasy). Mix in salt & pepper to taste. Spread leaves out in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper (I sprinkled a little extra salt on at this point). Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until crispy (mine took 11 minutes).

2 servings

Update 7/22: I made these chips again today & used 1/2 T olive oil & 1/2 T cider vinegar. The addition of the vinegar flavor really does give them a nice tang. I think I'll keep adding it in the future.

Kohlrabi Remoulade
We've been looking for a good creamy coleslaw recipe & so far everything we've tried has been bland, bland, bland. We got two red kohlrabi from the farm so we decided to try again. Matt suggested we try Alton Brown's Celery Remoulade recipe replacing the celeriac with kohlrabi. (Ok, I know remoulade is technically a sauce but that is was Alton called this salad.) It was perfect! The creme fresh adds a subtle tang, the Dijon a little sharpness & lemon freshens the whole thing up. It's so simple in its ingredients & preparation I think we have found our go-to coleslaw.

Kohlrabi Remoulade (or Coleslaw)
adapted from Alton Brown's Celery Remoulade

1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T Dijon mustard
2/3 c creme fresh
salt & pepper
2 kohlrabi heads, stems & leaves removed

Mix the lemon juice, mustard, & creme fresh together in a medium bowl. Slice the kohlrabi into matchstick-sized pieces and add to the dressing. Salt & pepper to taste. Cover & allow to chill for 1 to 3 hours before serving.

4 servings

Weekly Menu - 7/21 - 7/24/08

A short four day menu this week as we'll be heading up North to the lake on Friday where I think we'll let my Dad cook up some of his Memphis Ribs for us!
We're enjoying some amazing summer weather here in the Upper Midwest & the summer crops are finally ready to start picking.
#197 - The first sweet tomato of summer
Now I can't wait until we get more than one cherry tomato at a time.

On to Menu Planning Monday

Indian Barbecued Pizza - with chicken & cauliflower - RESULT - This is just a great sauce for a different than everyday pizza

Molasses-Brined Pork Chops with Roasted Corn Salsa - From Mastering the Grill: The Owner's Manual for Outdoor Cooking - RESULT - Finally a juicy pork chop & I want to put this salsa on everything.

Steak Fajitas - RESULT - Fajitas are just so easy they've become one of our go-to meals

Garlic-Hazelnut Chicken Breast with Mustard Glaze - From Mastering the Grill: The Owner's Manual for Outdoor Cooking

This week's cupcake will be Black Forest (with the sour cherries we just got from Michigan). We'll also be making a Chocolate Mousse.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chicken with Grilled Tomato Sauce

The idea for this meal came from the fresh herbs that our growing like crazy in our garden. The basil & oregano said make tomato sauce to me but I wanted one that was full of fresh flavor & didn't need to be cooked inside. The cherry tomatoes for this are grilled on skewers until soft & then their heat wilts the fresh herbs bringing the flavors together. Matt would have liked the tomatoes to be broken down even more (perhaps with a food processor or blender) for a more saucy texture. I liked them just smooshed with a fork for a chunky sauce where you could still see the grill marks on the tomato skins.
Chicken with Grilled Tomato Sauce

Grilled Tomato Sauce

9-oz cherry or strawberry tomatoes
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 T fresh oregano, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Put the tomatoes on skewers, if bamboo make sure to soak them in water for about 1/2 hour first. Cook over a medium direct heat on the grill until soft & brown. Keep an eye on them because if they get too soft you'll lose them too the fire.
Fresh herbs from the garden
Put the chopped herbs & garlic into a medium bowl. When the tomatoes are brown & soft take them off the grill & put them in the bowl with the herbs. Use a fork to smash the tomatoes into a chunky sauce. Stir in the olive oil & vinegar. Salt & pepper to taste.
Grilled Tomato Sauce

2 servings

We served the sauce over grilled chicken breast with freshly grated Parmesan & mozzarella. There was just enough to also serve it over a small side of pasta.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Salad

To me roasting vegetables is one of the best ways to prepare them. It just seems to enhance the flavors. Plus it is certainly a simple preparation. In the summer, I like to serve the vegetables over a crisp bed of greens & then crumble some goat cheese on top. The heat of the vegetables melts the goat cheese giving it a creamy texture. Just look at how pretty it is too...
Roasted Vegetable Salad
Our latest CSA box just seemed to have the perfect vegetables for this salad; beets, fennel, cauliflower & fresh garlic plus a head of leaf lettuce. We added some green beans from our garden and an onion.

To make the vegetables, cut them all in to bite-sized pieces & put them in a roasting pan. If like me, you don't want the beets to turn everything else pink, create a little dish for them from tin foil to keep them separate in the pan. Coat everything with olive oil & a good dash of balsamic vinegar. Salt to taste with kosher salt. Roast at 400F for 30 - 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender & starting to brown. Serve on a bed of greens & top with goat cheese.

We served this with Foldover Garlic Bread that was also made with fresh garlic. I didn't think fresh garlic (the skins are not dry like you get in the grocery store) would make much of a difference but cooked it was much milder.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Grilled Roadside Chicken Dinner

We eat a lot of chicken here at Chez Good Appetite & I think cooking a whole chicken has to be one of our favorite things whether its roasted in the oven or on the grill. So, when Matt decided he wanted to cook something from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday (Recipes Featured on Season 4 of the PBS-TV series "Mexico One Plate at a Time") this week he was immediately drawn to this Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken.
Grilled Roadside Chicken Dinner
According to the book the marinade used on this chicken is Sinaloa-style & popular at roadside stands throughout all of Mexico. Its really a wonderful blend of spice, dry chile & apple cider vinegar. I loved the way the flavor of the cloves & cinnamon came through in taste & smell. The chicken is spatchcocked (go here for our tutorial on spatchcocking) which allows for it to cook evenly & remain really juicy. I'm not a big salsa fan but tomatillo salsa was a perfect flavor accompaniment with the chicken.

Our only little gripe with this recipe is that the marinade is only put on right before & during cooking so, most of the flavor is on the skin & hasn't really made it into the meat. It does make the skin delicious but we all know that the skin isn't the healthiest bit to be eating. We think next time we may let the chicken sit in some of the marinade for awhile before actually putting it on the grill.

In the book, the chicken is served with grilled knob onions which are basically large scallions. We used a mixer of white & purple scallions. They are lightly oiled & salted then grilled during the last ten minutes of cooking the chicken. Their flavor was so wonderfully mellow & sweet. There's really nothing like a grilled onion.

We also served black beans & Matt's Cumin Flavored Rice. The rice is a take on the Spanish Rice we are used to getting in burritos in San Francisco. We made a lot of rice & a whole can of beans in order to turn the leftovers into a Mexican Rice Salad for lunch another day.
Grilled Roadside Chicken with Grilled Scallions

Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken

Marinade
1 1/2 T ground ancho chile powder
1 t dried oregano
a big pinch of ground cloves (I did a really big pinch)
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed
3 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c orange juice
1 t salt

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.

3 lb chicken

Spatchcock the chicken so it lays flat. Smear both sides of it with the marinade. Cook over medium (350F), indirect heat on the grill with out turning. Bast from time to time with remaining marinade. The chicken is done when a thermometer in the thigh registers 160 F, about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board, tent with some tin foil & allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
Serve with tomatillo salsa

Serves 4

Matt's Cumin Flavored Rice

1 1/2 c brown rice
1/4 t cumin
1 T tomato paste
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion powder
3 c water

Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the rice & all other ingredients. Cover & reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook until all the water is absorbed about 45 minutes.
Or
Throw all the ingredients into a rice steamer & cook until the water is absorbed.

Makes 6 servings

Strawberry Fool Tarts with Shortbread Crust

I think I've mentioned a few hundred times how amazing the local strawberries have been this year & how it looks like I just got my last batch. We were really tempted to just eat them over ice cream but I like to experiment with new things. So, I began searching the internet & found a recipe for Strawberry Fool Tartlets from Bon Appétit February '96. A fool is a classic English dessert which combines fruit purée & whipped cream. The idea of using it to fill tarts fits perfectly with my love for small batch baking.
#194 - Strawberry Fool Tart
The recipe included a pastry crust recipe that every reviewer hated so I knew I wouldn't be using that part of it. I figured I'd just use one of the crusts from Small Batch Baking. But then I started thinking about a cookie crust. I wondered how shortbread cookie dough would work so I decided to experiment.
I used the shortbread cookie recipe from Small-Batch Baking, just leaving out the nutmeg, which worked perfectly for 2 tarts. It held its shape nicely when being removed from the tart pans. It tasted wonderful with the strawberry fool. The only downfall was it was pretty hard. I was really difficult to cut into it with a fork, I found it easier just to pick up the tart & bite into it. Perhaps pastry would have been a better way to go but I love the flavor of shortbread cookies.
The fool itself was really beautiful. It had a creamy, fresh flavor & set up nicely thanks to the gelatin. It is a bit time consuming to make only because of the amount of time it needs to sit in the refrigerator. The finally setting time was supposed to be 4 hours, I only let it set 1 & I would say it was pretty close to completely set at that point.

Shortbread Cookie Crust

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 T + 1 t cornstarch
pinch of salt
4 T unsalted butter, room temp
3 T sugar
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the flour, cornstarch & salt together.
Place the butter, sugar & vanilla in a small bowl & beat with a mixer on medium until light & fluffy. Add the flour mixture & mix together with a fork until the dough comes together. Split into two balls.
Lightly butter two 4 1/2-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. Put one ball of dough into each, pressing it into all the sides & bottom. Pierce the bottom with a fork. Line the tarts with foil & fill with pie weights or dried beans. Place on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven & carefully remove the foil & weights. Put the tarts back in the oven & allow to cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes more.
Remove the tarts to a rack & let cool in the pans then, carefully remove crust from the pans before filling.

Makes 2 tart crusts


Fool

4-oz fresh strawberries, hulled, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 T sugar
1/2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t unflavored gelatin
1/4 c chilled whipping cream

Blend chopped strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in processor until almost smooth. Transfer to medium saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 20 minutes to soften.
Stir strawberry mixture over low heat until mixture is just hot and gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until beginning to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.
Beat cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture. Chill fool until beginning to set, about 30 minutes.
Spoon fool into crusts; reserve any remaining fool for another use. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Fill two tart crusts with a little leftover.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

BBQed Pulled Chicken with Rice & Fennel Salad

This dinner really felt like summer, a cool refreshing salad & a sandwich off the grill. The prep work was pretty minimal, cooking some rice & brining the chicken. Oh, I also baked up a few hamburger rolls in the morning.
bbqed pulled chicken sandwich
The BBQed Pulled Chicken Salad was Matt's idea & really a very simple one. He wanted to use some of the Wee Willy's Barbecue Sauce in grilled chicken sandwich. We decided to pull the chicken meat because I think it makes for a nicer sandwich than just sticking a breast of chicken on a bun. I've never brined anything other than a turkey for Thanksgiving but I thought brining the chicken breast before grilling would keep them moist & I was really right. I'll take the extra half hour to do that step when grilling chicken breasts in the future. This sandwich is really shows how tasty simplicity can be, just make sure to use a really good barbecue sauce.

BBQed Pulled Chicken


2 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
3/4 T kosher salt
2 t sugar
4 c cold water
barbecue sauce
4 hamburger rolls

Dissolve the salt & sugar in the water. Pound the chicken out until it is an even 1/2-inch thick. Put the chicken in a shallow baking dish or sealable plastic bag & pour the salted/sugared water over it. Allow the chicken to sit in the brine, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Throw out the brine & grill the chicken until cooked throughly. Using two forks pull the chicken meat into shredded. Mix in your favorite barbecue sauce & serve on a roll.

Makes 4 sandwiches

The little bit fancier part of this meal was the Rice & Fennel Salad. It used up the half a fennel bulb I had from the Fennel Tzatziki we made on Sunday. The recipe is from Gourmet August '07. I changed the rice they used from basamati to brown rice. I think the brown rice has such a nice bite to it & is a little healthier. Don't overcook your rice for this, mushy or sticky rice would not be good.
Rice & Fennel Salad
This was a really refreshing summer salad. I really liked the way the flavor of the orange matched with the flavor of the fennel. I will definitely make it again but next time I think I might add a little more orange juice, I thought it could use just a touch more zing.

Rice & Fennel Salad

1/2 t fennel seeds
1 c water
1/2 c brown rice
1/2 large navel orange
1/2 t white wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thin
1 T fennel fronds, chopped
2 scallions, sliced thin

Toast the fennel seeds until slightly darker & fragrant. In a small saucepan, add the water & fennel seeds & bring to a boil. Add the rice & cook covered over low heat until the water is absorbed & the rice is tender. (We use a rice steamer so I just added the water, fennel seeds & rice to that & let it do its thing.) Spread the rice out on a baking sheet or pan & put in the refrigerator to chill for 5 to 10 minutes.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, a pinch of salt & a pinch of pepper together. Grate the zest of the orange & add it to the vinaigrette. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the vinaigrette & mix.
Once the rice has chilled, mix it together with the fennel, fennel fronds & scallions. Stir in the vinaigrette & salt & pepper to taste.

Makes 2 servings.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake
This week I decided to make a cupcake using some of the last of the local strawberries for the year & the flavors of cheesecake. I even decided to add a little graham cracker "crust." These cupcakes came out so tasty. The flavor of the strawberry really comes through. The sour cream gives the cupcake a nice moistness & just a little tartness. The cream cheese frosting is what really makes it taste like cheesecake though. This is a pretty cupcake with the white cake flecked with chopped strawberries.
Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake
(adapted from Martha's Stewart Coconut Cupcake)

3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c + 1 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 c sour cream or plain yogurt
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup fresh strawberries, hulled & coarsely chopped
1 graham cracker, smashed into crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 6 - 8 muffin tins.
In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add vanilla & beat. On low speed add half the flour mixture until just blended. Add sour cream or yogurt until blended. Add remaining flour & mix until just blended.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peak appear, about 2 minutes. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg into the batter until combined. Add remaining egg & fold until combined. Fold in the chopped strawberries.
Sprinkle about 1 t of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin.
Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake
Divided equally among the muffin tins. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool before frosting.
Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcake
The graham cracker crumbs form a little crust on the bottom of the cupcakes.

Makes 6 - 8 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Frosting
(from Paula Deen)

4-oz cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Frosts 6 - 8 cupcakes

Decorate the cupcake with sliced fresh strawberries.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grilled Lamb with Fennel Tzatziki

We got two fennel bulbs in our CSA box this week so I headed right to the internet to find some interesting things to do with them. This recipe for Fennel Tzatziki from Gourmet July '99 struck me right away.
Grilled Lamb with Fennel Tzatziki
I've been looking for an excuse to bbq some lamb & this sauce was it. I was a bit worried that the fennel might be a little overwhelming in this since you are using the bulb, seeds & fronds but it really wasn't. The anise flavor along with a slight tang from the yogurt really is a perfect compliment to the flavor of lamb. Matt said it really took our Sunday dinner up a notch.
Next time we are going to try it over fish which is what most of the reviewers on Epicurious said they did.

Fennel Tzatziki

1/2 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored & finely chopped
2 t fennel fronds, stalks removed & finely chopped
1/2 t fennel seeds
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c plain yogurt
1/4 t kosher salt

Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet until slightly darker & fragrant. Use a grinder or mortar & pestle to grind the seeds. Mix all ingredients together. I think its best if it's let sit covered in the fridge for a bit before using.
You can make this sauce up to three days ahead of time & store it covered in the fridge

Makes about 1 1/2 c

We served the lamb with grilled zucchini & couscous with parsley. It really looked like a fancy meal but took no time at all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekly Menu 7/12 - 7/18/08

I'm really excited to cook this week's menu (well some of it I already have over the weekend). Most of it was inspired by the wonderful box we got from our CSA & by what is ripening in our garden.
#192 - First of the beans & peas
Here's the first of our beans & peas.

Menu Planning Monday (hmm...I seem to have gone a little heavy on the chicken this week)

Oyster Beef & Bean Stir-Fry - Basically the same recipe I've made before but instead of broccoli I used the first beans from our garden
Oyster Beef & Bean Stir-fry

Grilled Lamb Chops with Fennel Tzatziki with Grilled Zucchini & Couscous - RESULT - Oh, was this ever good. A really fancy looking & tasting meal in no time.

Bbqed Chicken Sandwiches with Rice & Fennel Salad - RESULT - A great summer meal. I like this quick version of a pulled meat sandwich when you don't have time to do pork. The salad was so refreshing.

Roasted Vegetable (beets, fennel & cauliflower) Salad with Foldover Garlic Bread

Grilled Roadside Chicken with Grilled Purple Scallions - From Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday (Recipes Featured on Season 4 of the PBS-TV series "Mexico One Plate at a Time")

Black Bean, Corn, Chicken & Rice Salad - Using leftovers from the Roadside Chicken

Grilled Chicken Breast with Grilled Tomato Basil Sauce

This week's cupcake flavor will be Strawberry Cheesecake. Since we got the last of the strawberries for the year we'll also have a Strawberry Fool Tart.

Pea & Chicken Pasta

Over the past week the peas in our have garden ripened & we got a bag of them from our CSA.
first pea pod
I love these sugary peas of summer that are so good we eat them right off the vine but I wanted to do something a little different than just throwing them in a salad or stir-fry. I found this recipe for Pea Pasta on Epicurious which sounded like just the thing. This dish was really fresh & light plus a lovely summer green. I doubled the garlic for extra zing & added some cooked chicken to make it a little more hardy of a single dish meal.
Pea & Chicken Pasta

Pea & Chicken Pasta
(adapted from Gourmet April '05)

1/2 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed with strings discarded (I did a mix of sugar snap & Chinese pea pods)
1/2 lb penne pasta
1 clove of garlic
1/4 t salt
2 T olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmesan
1 cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas to the water. After 2 minutes remove 1/2 c of the peas, run cold water over them to stop the cooking & set them aside.
Let the remaining peas cook until tender, about 2 more minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the remaining peas from the water. Measure out 1/2 c of the cooking water & set aside.
Bring the water back up to a boil & cook the pasta according to the directions.
While the pasta is cooking, put the second set of peas in a food processor. Peel the garlic clove & mash it to a paste with the salt. Add the mashed garlic, olive oil, Parmesan & 1/4 c of the cooking water to the food processor with the peas. Process until smooth.
Cut the 1/2 c of peas you set aside into 1/2-inch pieces.
When the pasta is done, drain it & return it to the pot. Mix in the puréed peas, the cut peas & the chopped chicken. Add more reserved cooking water if needed.

Makes 2 servings
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Measurement Abbreviations

T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon
c = cup
lb = pound
oz - ounce

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