27 April 2006

The Idea of the Macaroons

This is a poor shot of the french macaroons that I spoke of as my first entry on this blog a few weeks ago. Alas, I may not be making them again in the near future. Two complications keep me from continued pursuit of macaroons; first, my lack of stand mixer. And, the impending birth of my second child...
I'll keep you posted on both on my other blog. You let me know if you make macaroons!

25 April 2006

Get Out Your Juicer

Lemon Bars from Cheryl Lynn

1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh is best, but bottled is OK)
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, 2/3 c. powdered sugar and butter. Pat down into an 8 x 8 square cake pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Mix eggs, white sugar, 3 tablespoons flour and lemon juice. Pour over the hot crust. Bake for 20-25 more minutes.

Let cool, sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

20 April 2006

Koji is Three!

All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake from The Cake Bible

Ingredients (all at room temperature):

6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

350 degree oven

In a medium bowl lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients.

Scrape the batter into two 9 inch round cake pans (or make cupcakes!) and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cook in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Then loosen the sides with knife or metal spatula, remove from cake pan and let cool completely on a greased wire rack.

17 April 2006

Getting Rid of Celery

So as I mentioned yesterday, I'm on a celery kick right now. Enough is enough, though, so I had to do away with my current supply, and the following is the recipe that came to my rescue (also from Everyday Food). Phew! And bonus, Koji even ate it. He wouldn't even LOOK at celery if I tried to serve it to him raw.

Creamy Celery Soup
(serves 2 adults and one 3-year-old boy with a little for lunch the next day)

Heat 2 T butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 6-8 large stalks of sliced celery, 1 medium chopped onion, and one small potato, peeled and cut in cubes. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until veges begin to soften.

Add 3 cups of water to saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until veges are very tender, 15-20 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender, or pour into a blender and blend (take the cap off the lid and cover with a towel so heat can escape). Return soup to pan and stir in 1-2 T of lemon juice and salt to taste. If you're the garnishing type, throw some celery leaves on.

16 April 2006

Celery Season, I Guess

According to last month's issue of Everyday Food, celery is in season right now. But doesn't celery seem to be one of those things that is never out of season? I know in some sense we could say that about all kinds of vegetables and even fruits, as they can be shipped hither and yon about the country or even the planet and one never knows what is really "in season" (unless one is a gardener, which this one is not!). However, I've been enjoying going along with this claim, because in season or not, celery is cheap and easy to get. And I like it.

This is the one of the first recipes I tried, and Aogu really liked it which means it was a true success (he'll eat just about anything, but if he likes something enough to say so, that's kind of a jackpot moment for me).

Chicken & Celery Stir-Fry
Cut one pound of chicken breast into thin strips. In a medium bowl, whisk together: 1 egg white
1 T (tablespoon) cornstarch
1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper
Add the chicken and toss to coat.

Heat 1 T veg(etable) oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook as much chicken as you can fit in the pan in a single layer until golden, turning after 2-3 minutes and cooking the second side for another 2-3 minutes. Repeat if necessary (but if you can do it all at once, better!). Remove chicken to a plate.

Add 8-10 stalks of celery, thinly sliced, a 3-inch piece of ginger peeled and slivered lengthwise, and a jalapeno slivered lengthwise (leave out the ribs & seeds or the entire jalapeno if you're a wimp) to the skillet, adding additional veg oil if it's too dry. Cook with a tossing motion, for 4-5 minutes.

Stir 3 T rice vinegar, 1 T sesame oil, and 1 T sugar in with vegetables. Add the chicken and 4 green onions, cut into 3 inch lengths. Toss to heat it all up, 1-2 minutes, and serve with rice.

12 April 2006

Our Kind of Chicken Soup

Last year while we were in Tokyo, I was trying to be more Japanese in my cooking; seemed like the right thing to do according to that old adage. You know, the one about Rome. Not to mention that it was cheaper to go with Japanese ingredients. In my recipe search, I borrowed some magazines from my sister-in-law and copied pages with potential. Ironically, while I was there I never much got around to using them. But now that we're here and craving Japanese food more, I find myself turning to these pages in my three-ring binder, looking for inspiration.

Today I had some ground chicken and no idea what to do with it. These pages are conveniently divided into recipes by main ingredient, so I turned to the page labeled "ground chicken" and found the following soup recipe. It's easy AND delicious!

"Pot of Chicken Meatballs"
Tear about six cabbage leaves into bite size pieces and chop one leek. In a bowl, mix 300 grams (approx. 1/2 pound) of ground chicken, an egg, a teaspoon of ginger paste (or make your own by peeling and grating a fresh piece of ginger; if you do this, squeeze what you grated and add a teaspoon of the juice to the chicken and egg) and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

In a medium pot or saucepan, combine 1200 ml (4 1/2 cups) water with 1 tsp. of chicken boullion, 2 tablespoons each of cooking sake and soy sauce, and another pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the cabbage and leek and simmer until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Spoon the chicken mixture into the broth a scoop at a time, making meatballs to your preferred size. Simmer until meatballs are cooked (3-5 more minutes).

Great with rice (Japanese style, please!) either on the side or added to the soup. Noodles would probably be good too, but I haven't tried that yet...

11 April 2006

Underripe & Overripe = Just Ripe

Mangoes were on sale two for $1 the other day, so I grabbed four. They looked ready to go, but when I cut into one last night I realized that one, at least, wasn't. I quickly substituted some honeydew melon for it and Koji was perfectly happy. But I, however, wasn't.

Reluctant to toss my 50 cent investment, my knife and I wrestled the underripe mango into bite-size chunks and stuck it in the fridge. Next discovery: the five Bosc pears I picked up the other day, thinking to experiment with poaching, were on the edge.

So tonight it came to me: why not put the tough mango and the not-so-tough pears together under a blanket of oats and brown sugar? Better yet, sprinkle in some coconut so that tropical mango wouldn't be so lonely...

Mango & Pear & Coconut Crisp
adapted from that red & white checked cookbook

Toss 2 mangoes, ripe or not so, cut into small chunks and 5-6 Bosc pears, also peeled and cut into small chunks with two tablespoons of sugar in an eight or nine inch cake or pie pan.

In a separate bowl, mix:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
large pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg

Into the above, smash 1/4 cup of softened butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the butter is spread throughout in little chunks the size of peas. Stir in 1/4 cup of sweetened flaked coconut (or substitute chopped walnuts or pecans if you like those better...but remember you'll be giving up that tropical edge). Dump and spread the lot onto the waiting mangoes and pears, then bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream or a hula skirt or all three?

10 April 2006

As Promised, Cheese Bread

Giving credit where it's due, as I mentioned before, this is a Cook's Illustrated recipe. Of their recipes I've tried, none have been total bombs, but this one is a particular favorite. Try it, you'll like it, too!

Makes one 9 by 5-inch loaf

3 ounces Parmesan cheese , shredded on large holes of box grater (about 1 cup)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used "hot," it gave a good kick)
1 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese , cut into ½-inch cubes, or mild Asiago, crumbled into ¼- to ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup) (I used medium cheddar)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1 large egg beaten lightly
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 5 by 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly in bottom of pan.

2. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper to combine. Using rubber spatula, mix in cheddar or Asiago, breaking up clumps, until cheese is coated with flour. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, egg, and sour cream. Using rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (batter will be heavy and thick). Do not overmix. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly over surface.

3. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes; invert loaf from pan and continue to cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

Freezing Instructions: Although the recipe title Quick Cheese Bread is no misnomer(the batter is in the pan in 15 minutes), when you add time for baking and cooling, the recipe does require a total of two hours. Luckily, like many of our other bread recipes, a baked loaf of cheese bread freezes beautifully, meaning a warm loaf need be only minutes away. To freeze the bread, wrap the cooled loaf tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and place in the freezer; it will keep for up to three months. When you’re ready to serve the bread, place the frozen, wrapped loaf on the middle rack of a preheated 375-degree oven and heat for eight to 10 minutes, until the loaf yields under gentle pressure. Remove the foil and return the unwrapped bread to the oven for five minutes to crisp the exterior. Take the bread out of the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes to make slicing easier. Enjoy.

07 April 2006

Worth the Trouble

French Almond Macaroons
from Martha Stewart

Heat oven to 300. Sift 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar and 1 1/2 cups (4 oz.) finely ground almonds together. Line two baking sheets with parchment or non-stick baking mats.

Put three room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until foamy. Throw in a pinch of salt and then add 1/4 cup sugar one or two teaspoons at a time. When soft peaks form, stop the mixer and fold in the almond mixture and 1/4 tsp. vanilla with spatula.

Drop mixture onto prepared baking sheets with a spoon (Martha recommends piping 1 1/2 circles with a pastry bag...that would probably work better but it's a little fussy so I haven't tried it yet. The spoon method has been fine for me.), then bake 25-30 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time. Let the macaroons cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Make your favorite frosting (Martha recommends this buttercream, which is tasty, but VERY buttery and maybe a little too much?) and sandwich cookies together with it. Cookies taste better post-sandwiching and after a few hours of "ripening" in the fridge.

Strawberry Macaroons--Follow instructions for French almond macaroons, adding 4 drops red food coloring to the egg whites just before you add the sugar-almond mixture. Proceed with the recipe. For the filling, use only 1 teaspoon vanilla, and fold 1/3 cup strained strawberry preserves into the Swiss meringue buttercream after you mix in the butter (or maybe next time I would try sandwiching with straight up jam?).

Chocolate Macaroons--Follow instructions for French almond macaroons, sifting 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder with the confectioners’ sugar. Proceed with recipe. Instead of the Swiss meringue buttercream, make a ganache filling: Place 5 ounces finely chopped semisweet chocolate in a small bowl. Bring 1/2 cup heavy cream just to a simmer in a small saucepan, and pour over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, and stir until chocolate has melted. Let ganache stand until thick enough to spread. Use to fill cookies.