Posts tagged ‘recipes’

Losing Gourmet

cross-posted from the other blog

It’s not like I grew up with it. My mom learned to cook mostly from her own mom (though luckily got an excellent pie crust education from her mother-in-law). When we moved to the US in the early 70s, I remember seeing The Galloping Gourmet and The French Chef occasionally on our black & white kitchen television, but I think they were on more for entertainment than education. Mom subscribed to the Time-Life series of international cookbooks (the hardcovers now live in my house; the paperbacks, with more recipes, continue to get a workout in her kitchen) but never a cooking magazine, that I recall.

It was after college that I started to pick up Gourmet occasionally. It was a glimpse into another world. It was like a travel magazine to me, so glossy and beautiful. I tore out the occasional recipe – and if it looked good on the page, it always turned out well– but at the time mostly just dreamed over the beautiful pictures. And that’s one small reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet; for someone who doesn’t subscribe to fashion magazines or anything else with beautiful photography, and whose nightly dinner table can get a little dull with plates of pasta, every month Gourmet showed me lovely tables I could aspire to, and reminded me to set out a vase of flowers or put the vegetables in a pretty bowl.

When I moved to California, I had more time for cooking, and although I didn’t have much money, I saved a few dollars every month to pick up Gourmet. It was always fun reading, a perfect escape from my dense graduate school reading lists. When I broke up with my boyfriend and moved into a place without a kitchen, I would amuse myself trying to make some of Gourmet’s recipes with just a toaster oven, hot pot, rice cooker and electric skillet. I made great stir fries, a fabulous (small) lasagne, and baked cookies by the half dozen. When I moved in with a roommate (partly, to be sure, because of the kitchen) we shared a subscription to Gourmet, and celebrated when she passed her oral exams with a cocktail party fueled by the magazine’s recipes. Whether for a single woman without a kitchen, or two budget-conscious grad students who wanted to eat well, those recipes always worked. And that’s another reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

And then just as I was finishing graduate school, I met Tony, and we bonded over food. I discovered, at his mom Nancy’s house, a veritable library of cooking magazines, refreshed with new issues every month: Fine Cooking, Food and Wine, Saveur, Cooks Illustrated, Gourmet. Ruth Reichl was the editor of Gourmet by then and it was becoming a home for writers, terrific writers like Laura Shapiro and Michael Lewis and Anthony Bourdain and Jane and Michael Stern. We would hang out at Nancy’s house leafing through all the magazines and tearing out the recipes, but Gourmet was the one to read and we would talk about the essays over dinner and long Scrabble games. I remember in particular an essay by Michael Lewis that came out the month Ben was born, in which Lewis describes a trip to Masa’s for dinner with his wife and toddler. For ages afterward, I paraphrased a line from the piece (which sadly I can’t find online), “If you won’t [fill in the blank with whatever I wanted Ben to do] we’ll just have to stay at home and eat broccoli.”

The magazine was always smart, relevant, and delicious, and I routinely incorporated its recipes into our life, from cookies or savory biscotti for our annual New Year’s Day party to banana muffins for preschool bake sales. Gourmet’s vodka-spiked tomatoes came camping with us this summer, and the magazine’s roasted potato and kale salad is now one of my favorite ways to eat those two favorite vegetables. Flipping through my messy binder of saved recipes tonight, I see that over half of them come from Gourmet. Without their monthly infusion of fresh recipes, the binders will stop bursting from their seams, which is probably a good thing, but it’s another reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

After Nancy passed away, we had her mail forwarded to our house and that meant two copies of Gourmet each month. I called the customer service people, who were happy to consolidate her subscription and mine, but there was a little confusion over the name and so it has come to me each month with her name on it. If Nancy liked something, she put her money on it, so the subscription was supposed to go deep into 2012. It was a monthly reminder of the meals and conversations we shared, and that’s the last, biggest, reason I’m sad about losing Gourmet.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

I can’t believe that with all my cake posts in various places I haven’t written about this cake yet, from the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame in Nigella Lawson’s Feast. It takes about five minutes to get into the oven, is rich, chocolatey, but not too sweet, and (perhaps my favorite feature) it is an excellent vehicle for lots and lots of cream cheese frosting.

For the cake:
Butter for pan
1 c Guinness stout
10 T (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa
2 c superfine sugar
3/4 c sour cream
2 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking soda

For the topping:
1 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. (I seem only to have 8 1/2″ and 9 1/2″ springforms, but the 8 1/2″ works just fine)

In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture.

Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth.

Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.

Meanwhile, make the topping:
Using a food processor or by hand, mix confectioners’ sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand.

Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.


Thanksgiving Dinner

This year, among many other blessings, I am thankful for good food, and family and friends who know their way around the kitchen so I don’t have to cook it all.

Mom’s Brown and Serve Wheat Germ Rolls
Butternut squash bisque
Whole berry cranberry sauce
Garlicky ginger cranberry relish
Green beans with lemon zest
Baked pearl onions
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes anna
Shaved brussels sprouts with lemon and hazelnuts
Frissee salad with pear, manchego and pomegranate seeds
Wild rice, lentil and mushroom timbales
Mushroom gravy
Chestnut stuffing
Tony’s grandmother’s bread stuffing with lemon zest and parsley
Turkey and turkey gravy
Pumpkin pie
Cranberry almond crostata

Happy Thanksgiving!

Appetizer, Dinner, Dessert

The new season of Top Chef has begun, and Tony and I are once again glued to the couch on Wednesday nights. It took me a little while to get in to the show; the original host was fairly insipid, and the fact that you could only see, but not taste nor smell, the dishes seemed a fatal flaw. Still, we watched, because we do love to watch people cook, and seeing chefs handle challenges like assembling delicious-looking dishes out of vending machine purchases slowly won me over. I’ve even come around to the new host, Padma Lakshmi, who doesn’t trumpet her cooking abilities but is more than just a pretty face — she knows her stuff.

This week’s challenge — a pretty straightforward appetizer, dinner, dessert; no unusual requirements or last-minute restrictions– had me shouting at the contestants. They’re only two weeks into the show, sure, but this is the fifth season: surely they’ve watched it before? They should know better than to attempt a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient (ostrich egg quiche, anybody? You didn’t have to taste it to know it was not a success.) They should know to ditch something and start over when they — and all their fellow contestants — think it’s too sweet. I’ve never seen Padma spit something out into her napkin before, but she couldn’t even swallow a bite of her lemon meringue martini with cherry surprise. Who can blame her, really? I’m not sure I would put anything called “surprise” in to my mouth.

Now I’m no Top Chef and have no aspirations to be, but I can find my way around the kitchen, and so can my Lisa, my coeditor over at Learning to Eat; recently we both happened to write about appetizer, dinner and dessert, so head on over there for some recipes. And in the meantime, I’ll keep watching what those Top Chef contestants are up to.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas

When I switched blogs (over two years ago now!) I thought I would transfer all those old recipes over to this blog. Good intentions and all that. But this, an invention of Tony’s is a good one (even though our kids won’t eat it); it’s a nice meal for crowds (it’s very easy to scale up or down) or, as I’m doing tomorrow, to bring to a family who needs some meals in the freezer.

3 sweet potatoes, medium-sized
1 15 oz. can black beans
10-12 Flour tortillas
1 package jack cheese, grated (grate it as big as you want — truly whatever is fastest and easiest… it’s all going to get melted)
1 big (28-32 oz.) or 2 small (~15 oz.) cans of plain tomato sauce (just not “Italian flavored)
1 jar of salsa … thinner is actually better than thicker — I use “Mrs. Renfro’s” which is in a lot of supermarkets
(or if you find a can of “enchilada sauce” that would be fine too)
ground cumin
dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce, if desired

Peel 3 medium sweet potatoes. Cut them into large chunks and boil them until you can easily stick a fork in them. You’re going to mash these, so they’re pretty forgiving.

Drain the water, and put them back in the pot or into a big bowl. Mash the potatoes well, with a fork or potato masher.

Drain most of the water from a can of black beans and add them to the sweet potatoes

Add a liberal amount of cumin (maybe 2-3 tablespoons? Start with two and you can taste it and add more if you like )

If you’re so inclined, you could add a little heat — a dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper. That’s the filling.

The sauce I usually just make from plain old canned tomato sauce (since it really kind of wants to be thin… not all homestyle-y like a good homemade pasta sauce). But you do want some kind of mexican flavor in there… so essentially I just spike it with something…

Some salsa from a jar (Mrs. Renfros, enchilada sauce, or some other not-too-chunky salsa) It doesn’t need a ton –just a little something, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup. As far as quantity goes, for a big dish of enchiladas, you probably want like a 32 ounce can of sauce to start with. That’s the sauce. NOTE: you don’t even have to cook this… just mix the plain tomato sauce and whatever you’re spiking it with into a bowl.

Then it’s just putting filling into flour tortillas (I’m sure corn would be great, too, but we usually do flour just for size, if no other reason) — maybe 1/4 cup or so… add a little bit of grated cheese (jack is what we usually use), roll ’em up and tuck them in real close to each other in a big rectangular baking dish with the seam down.

It’s nice to have a tight fit… sometimes I use baking dish that’s a little smaller than the tortillas and just slice of 1/2 inch from two sides of the tortillas to “square them off” –but that’s not really necessary. Pour the sauce over and around… add some more grated cheese on top.

You can easily split this into two pans if need be… I probably get maybe 8 enchiladas in a big baking dish.

Then just bake it until it’s nice and bubbly… maybe 30-40 minutes at 350 or so… it’s all cooked, so you really just need to get it nice and hot.

I usually start with it covered with foil and then sometimes finish it with a few minutes under the broiler to let the cheese get nice and brown. The broiler’s not necessary, but you could at least just take the foil off for the last 5 minutes or so.

We usually have this with Slammin’ Rice — a really simple spanish/mexican rice.

I’m showing 3 cups of rice here, which is a lot… good if you’re serving 8.

3 cups plain-old white rice… ideally medium or long-grain rather than short grain like you might use for chinese food.
1/2 onion chopped fine
1-2 cloves garlic chopped fine (if you want)
olive oil
3 cups veggie stock
2 1/2 cups plain tomato sauce (just like above for the enchiladas)
1/2 cup “thin” salsa, enchilada sauce, Mrs. Renfro’s — again same as above… you’re just “spiking” the plain tomato sauce with a little flavor.

(the key is 6 cups liquid for 3 cups rice… and you’re essentially doing half veggie stock and half spicy tomato sauce…)

So, this starts out like risotto, but just gets a lot easier because you don’t have to stir. Essentially you’re just making plain rice with 1/2 stock and 1/2 tomato sauce instead of water.

In a good size pot, saute the onion in olive oil (medium heat) until it starts to get brown. Add the garlic, if you’re using it and just saute that for a minute. You might need to add a touch more oil when you put the garlic in so it doesn’t stick.

Add the rice to the onion and garlic… stir them together and cook for 15-20 seconds.

Add all the liquid: stock, tomato sauce, and whatever you’re using to spike it (the key is to use 6 cups liquid total)

Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil, give it a good stir (Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon and make sure nothing’s stuck) and then turn the heat really low and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on.

After 20 minutes, take the lid off, give it a good stir and scrape and see if the rice is cooked. If it seems like it needs a little more time that’s fine… once the rice is all cooked you can just leave this on the stove with the lid on and it will stay hot for awhile.

You can garnish this with the obvious — sour cream, guacamole, chopped cilantro — whatever sounds good.

Granola today

I’ve been making granola weekly for over two years now, ever since Trader Joe’s discontinued my favorite fruit & nut combo. I started with a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast, which I posted over on the old blog, and then I posted my adaptation here, but I keep changing it (continuing to cut down the sugar, and adding more seeds and grains) so it’s time once again for an update! Besides, Gail asked me so nicely.

6 c rolled oats and/or raw multigrain cereal flakes (Trader Joe’s carries a nice barley-oat-rye-wheat flake mix that I use)
2 c raw slivered almonds
1 c raw pumpkin seeds
1 c raw sesame seeds
1 c raw sunflower seeds
1/2 c ground flax meal
1/2 c wheat germ
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 scant c honey, rice syrup, maple syrup, or some combination thereof (I use half brown rice syrup and half honey)

Preheat oven to 320. Stir together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Add the oil and honey or syrup, and combine well. Pour into two large, lightly oiled baking pans (I use two metal roasting pans) and bake for 45 minutes, stirring two or three times along the way. Remove from the oven then cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Spoonbread for Spring

I’m not sure I’d make this again — somehow it used every mixing bowl in the cupboard — but it tasted great, and looks beautiful. I think next time I’ll just make the compote to serve on biscuits or with cookies.

Here’s the recipe, as published originally in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Serves 8

The compote
* 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch chunks
* 2/3 cup sugar, or more to taste
* 1 pound strawberries, hulled, cut in half and sliced
* — Lemon juice, to taste

The spoonbread
* 2 cups diced strawberries (from about 3/4 pound fruit)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 cups milk
* 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
* 6 tablespoons butter, softened
* 6 eggs, separated
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* — Whipped cream for serving

For the compote: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook rhubarb with 1/3 cup sugar, stirring occasionally, until fruit is softened, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and set aside to macerate while the rhubarb is cooking. When the rhubarb is done, combine with the strawberries, and add lemon juice to taste.

For the spoonbread: Preheat oven to 375°. Generously butter a large oval souffle dish or 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Toss the strawberries with 1/4 cup of the sugar, and set aside to macerate.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk until it is just about to boil. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cornmeal in a steady stream, and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Mix in butter while the cornmeal mixture is still warm. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Beat egg yolks lightly and whisk into the cornmeal mixture along with the baking powder, salt. Combine well. Fold in the strawberries and their juice.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in a quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter, then fold in the remainder. Spoon into prepared dish and bake until golden and puffy, about 40-45 minutes.

Serve with the compote and whipped cream.

Per serving: 435 calories, 11 g protein, 63 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat (9 g saturated), 195 mg cholesterol, 407 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

This year, Ben requested a chocolate cake with white chocolate frosting and raspberry frosting. I was a little dubious (not being a huge white chocolate fan) but I bought good white chocolate (which is flavorful, not just sweet) and the cake turned out great. The frosting was not as bright pink as in the drawing Ben made to guide our efforts, but he was well pleased with the result.

This is what we did…

The cake is the Rich Chocolate Cake from The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook. It’s a good, easy recipe– no separating eggs, no fussiness–and it tastes delicious.

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 c brown sugar
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature)
1 c sour cream (I used plain yogurt), at room temperature
3 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1 c water

Line the bottoms of two 9×2-inch round cake pans with parchment. Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the chocolate and cool till tepid.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Add the butter and sour cream or yogurt and beat into a thick batter. Add the eggs, melted chocolate and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the water slowly and mix just until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, spread evenly, and bake 30-35 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed lightly in the centers and a tester comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the cooling racks. Peel off the parchment, put it back on the cakes, sticky side up, then invert the cakes again to get them right side up. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

To make the filling:

2 1/4 oz white chocolate, chopped
3/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1/8 c milk
1/4 t vanilla extract
3 T unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate and let cool. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Add the butter and salt and beat until smooth. Stir in the melted chocolate.
Use to spread between the layers of the cooled cake.

To make the frosting:
(Vanilla buttercream is delicious but finicky, so I always make cream cheese frosting…)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T unsalted butter, softened
2 T vanilla
1 c confectioners’ sugar
1/2 c raspberry jam (or more to taste), pressed through a sieve (optional, if you want to make raspberry frosting)

Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar and beat until creamy. Stir in the raspberry jam. Now frost the cake!

Roasted Sweet Potato & Leek Pasta for a Winter Night

I found this recipe in Real Simple (where I also snagged the picture because we ate ours all up before I could get out the camera). So although I’ll link to the original since that might be easier to print, I’ve made some changes below: roasting the sweet potato rather than sauteeing it (it takes longer, but it’s no more effort, and I think it tastes better), and also deglazing the pan with some white wine.

Of course, only Tony and I ate it as written; Ben ate his pasta sprinkled with nuts, the sweet potatoes on the side, and Eli, having rejected the sweet potatoes and the leeks, ate pasta with grated cheese and sprinkled nuts, but at least we all ate versions of the same thing. I’ll call that a success!

2-3 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, or an equal amount of winter squash, peeled and diced

12 ounces penne (whole wheat or multigrain pasta is especially nice here)

3 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into half-moons
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T white wine
3-4 T olive oil
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

salt and pepper
toasted pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 while you peel and chop the sweet potatoes or squash. Oil a roasting pan and toss the sweet potatoes/squash in the pan with a drizzle of olive oil and some of the chopped sage. Roast the vegetables, turning once or twice, for 15 minutes, or until tender and caramelized.

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a big pot of water to boil and cook the pasta. When it’s done, drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta’s cooking, heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and a bit of sage and cook 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook another minute or two.

At this point, you can turn off the heat under the leeks until the pasta and roasted vegetables are finished. Once all three elements of the dish are cooked, add the pasta and roasted vegetables to the leeks in the skillet, add the sprinkle of nutmeg and stir, adding a bit of the pasta-cooking water if it seems too dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan and the slivered almonds and/or pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I’m forever tearing new recipes out of magazines and needing excuses to try them out, so baking birthday cakes for people I love — even if they aren’t here to share the cake — is one of the ways I work through the inventory.

This is a buttermilk caramel cake from the recent Gourmet. The cake is light and not too sweet; the caramel topping (and you know I’m all about candymaking right now) is easy and delicious. I think Dad would like it a lot. Ben and Eli certainly liked helping to make it, almost as much as they liked helping to eat it.

So happy birthday, Dad, and maybe next year we’ll be together on your birthday; for now, a picture will have to do.