Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I am thankful for so much this Thanksgiving--for the sunny weather, for my great kids and husband, for prosperity during these difficult times...but mostly that I'm not cooking dinner this year! Which of course means no house to clean, no turkey to brine, no potatoes to peel, no bread to bake. I cannot tell you how happy I am about this, especially in light of the fact that I've already cooked a big Thanksgiving dinner...in September. (If you need any recipe ideas check here.) So I'm feeling kind of over it, at least the cooking part...the eating part, well, that's another matter altogether.
Perhaps, like me, you are ready to move ahead and start thinking of other things...Don't tell anyone, but I've secretly been lining up my Christmas boxes and adding to our decoration collection for some weeks now. I've even been caught listening to (one of) my favorite Christmas albums, and in our house, listening to carols before Thanksgiving is over is strictly prohibited!
But, what can I say, I'm in the mood, and luckily my submission to Disney this week was for a Christmas cookie. It's difficult to come up with interesting flavors that haven't been done before. Everyone has their favorite butter cookie recipe, chocolate chip recipe, and recipe for kiss topped peanut butter cookies. I wanted something flashy, yet traditional...kind of like me. (I joke! I'm just flashy...again, kidding). Since citrus is in season now, a cookie with those bright flavors seemed to fit the bill, but it needed a little something more....I settled on CHOCOLATE.
I've never been one to enjoy an orangette (except for the blogger), but I have to admit that subtle orange flavors marry exquisitely well with chocolate, especially the dark variety. I tested out two recipes...the first ended up thick and chewy, and the second was crisp and buttery. I sent the thick and chewy ones off to Disney and will share the thin and crisp cookie recipe with you here. That way, as soon as they post my recipe on their site, you can taste both for yourself to see which you prefer. (By the way, they were both good...I just thought the thicker cookies were more photogenic.) At any rate, you should include these in your cookie repertoire for a little something different this year. Dunked into a cup of rich, hot chocolate, they're enough to send anyone right over the moon....
Crisp Orange Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 dozen
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 a stick), room temperature
1/4 cup shortening, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 extra large egg
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the butter and the shortening with the sugar until smooth. Add the egg, milk, vanilla, and zest and whisk to combine. Mix the flour with the cream of tartar, baking powder and salt and stir into the butter mixture using a wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chunks and mix well.
Place 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl. Form the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll in sugar, then place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Press the cookies flat using the bottom of a drinking glass and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until very light golden brown around the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Rainbow carrots are lovely, aren't they? Lovely in the way that you really don't need to do much to make them look and taste really spectacular and special...because they already are. Lovely in the way that somehow, just by flashing a fancy color, an ordinary root vegetable is transformed in to something extraordinary. Lovely in the way that in about the five minutes it takes to julienne them, you can have a crisp and tasty slaw that goes well with just about anything....but I'm really getting ahead of myself here.
First you need to pull off those green stems and give them a good scrub. You don't peel these because the brilliant color of the purple carrots is only on the outer layer. So just make sure they are good and clean and any little root fibers are scrubbed off.
Then comes the small matter of julienning them. I have a mandoline, which is perfect for a job like this...if you like doing dishes. But come the end of the day, I have usually been doing dishes for hours and hours so that is not something I really look forward to. Nor do I have the impeccable knife skills required to cut such long slivers of carrots. So luckily, I found this peeler thingie that actually slices the carrots into julienne strips and fits into my dishwasher's silverware compartment. Cool, huh? Alternately, you can cut the carrots into thicker ribbons using your regular vegetable peeler, which isn't as slaw-ish, but also does the job.
Finally, these gorgeous ribbons of carrot are tossed with lime juice, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil for a delicious, and nutritious (and beautiful) salad. If you can't find them in your farmers' market, don't despair! Plain orange carrots will work just fine....
Sesame Carrot Slaw
1 bunch of rainbow (or regular) carrots, cut into long julienned slices
juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
handful of chopped cilantro
Place the carrots in a medium bowl. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce and honey. Drizzle over the carrots and toss well (I used my hands). Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Ever heard of a CSA or community supported agriculture? Well some folks are taking that concept one step further with a CSK or community supported kitchen, where they turn those boxes of farm fresh produce into a ready to eat (or freeze) meals for you! This is perfect for those who are interested in eating farm-fresh produce and meats, but have more money than time, ability or desire to do it themselves.
Local Sprouts Cooperative
Salt, Fire, and Time
Three Stone Hearth
Some sites to check out...Sweet Deliverance
Local Sprouts Cooperative
Salt, Fire, and Time
Three Stone Hearth
Monday, November 9, 2009
This box arrived on my porch the other day. I had an idea it was coming, but still I was surprised and exceedingly happy to see it. You see, this package of freshly harvested Cape Cod cranberries was sent by my in-laws who know how much I miss the Cape when I'm gone, and how much I love good food--more specifically food that comes straight from the farm. Though hardly local (to me), one cannot do without cranberries in the fall, especially when so many recipes revolve around their very presence. Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the cranberry sauce, would it?
My mother, even while being a fabulous cook, didn't really cook with fresh cranberries until I was an older child. Part of the reason was surely "tradition" and the fact that the jelled cranberry sauce, carefully released from the can with ridges intact, was a must-have on our Thanksgiving table. Ironically, this shivering blob was set upon a lovey crystal dish (on a bed of greens?), with a silver spoon made specifically to slice it. (I think the other reason we didn't use many fresh cranberries was that they just weren't available in the market either.) We laugh about that now, as the mere thought of canned cranberry sauce sounds so outrageously trashy, and we've happily have come up with quite a few wonderful cranberry sauces and chutneys in the years since.
But there are so many things that we make with fresh cranberries besides the sauce--breads, jams and jellies, cakes and crumbles and this amazing frangipane tart. I'm no gourmand, but I'm not exactly a slacker when it comes to food either. But a frangipane tart was something I had never, ever heard of until my sister-in-law brought it to Thanksgiving dinner last year. Stunning in both its presentation and its utterly delectable flavor, this dessert bested even the veritable pumpkin pie (in my humble opinion).
If you're like me, and have never heard of this delicious tart, have I got a treat for you! The filling of this dessert is essentially a ground nut paste that is shot through, in this case at least, with cranberries that peek out like buried jewels. And what's more, it's spiked with orange zest and a decent splash of brandy. The crust tastes exactly like my great grandmother's shortbread, and when combined with the toasty, tart, nutty flavor of the filling, you have one showstopping dessert that is definitely worth the calories (which is how I determine whether or not to eat desserts, by the way). Both the crust and tart recipes are adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Not only is this tart shell relatively easy to prepare, it doesn't shrink up like others might. And it tastes like a shortbread cookie....As Ina would say, how bad can that be? Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan by way of Smitten Kitchen.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 jumbo egg yolk
Place dry ingredients in a bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until coarse crumbles form. Drizzle in egg yolk, while pulsing for 10 seconds at a time, until dough just comes together. It will look like clumps and curds, but should stick together if you squeeze it between your fingers. Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently into a ball. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for two hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic from ball and place on a floured surface. Roll out to a 12-inch round. Wrap the dough over the rolling pin, carefully lift it and center over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Set dough in the pan, gently pressing together any cracks that may appear. Trim dough so that there is about a ½ inch overhang. Fold overhang towards the center to create an extra-thick edge. Prick dough all over the bottom and sides with the tines of a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Spray the shiny side of a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray and press onto the tart shell. To partially bake, place tart in the center of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil. If crust has bubbled, press lightly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 5 minutes more or until crust is light golden brown. Stop here to continue with the frangipane tart recipe. To fully bake crust (as for a fresh fruit filled tart), bake for 5-10 minutes more until crust is a deeper golden brown color. Cool completely and fill as directed.
Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart
This dessert is both beautiful and delicious. Try using more cranberries for a tarter flavor. Either way, you'll find it's well worth the small effort to prepare, and the calories. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 to 1 cup whole, fresh cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel-blade attachment, pulse the nuts with the flour until finely ground. Add the sugar, butter, egg, brandy and orange zest and pulse until smooth.
Spread into a pre-baked tart shell and dot with as many cranberries as you'd like. Bake for 45 minutes, or until filling is puffed and golden and cooked through. If necessary, test by inserting a toothpick near the center of the tart....it should come out clean. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just on its own.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I'm baaaaaack! As you know, my last two months were spent writing, cooking, revising, cooking again, and photographing 80 recipes for Disney's Family.com. They were due Friday, and since then, I've been in a semi-comatose state, mumbling about lighting and internet connections, shrinking pie crusts and hot kitchens, camera batteries and dirty dishes. But today, I feel pretty good and I've finally got my appetite back after too much tasting and too much smelling of too much food. The market's offerings are returning to the realm of open possibilities, rather than obligations, and best of all, I can set aside the heavy cream and butter for awhile, and once again focus on seasonal produce and whole foods....like this lovely head of cauliflower.
Puffed up like a perfect cloud, it had not a blemish on it, and was impossible to resist, especially since I was reminded when I was reading this book how incredibly delectable roasted cauliflower is. In fact, most vegetables are better roasted...like broccoli, and brussels sprouts, and fennel, and onions, and asparagus...well, you get the idea. I think roasting brings out the very essence of the flavors, concentrating and polishing them, elevating them to the next level. All it takes is a hot oven, a splash of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.
I sliced the cauliflower into 1/2 inch slices. The ones in the middle near core held together the best with the edge pieces falling away into florets, but that honestly didn't matter one bit. Then I placed them (along with the crumbly bits) in a single layer on a roasting pan and gave them a good drizzle of olive oil and shower of salt and pepper. Roasting at high heat, left the cauliflower quite browned and caramelized (and also delicious, I might add).
The recipe doesn't end here, because onto these gloriously golden florets, I drizzled a spunky salsa verde, loaded with cilantro, jalapeno and lime. It's not enough to call it 'addictive.' It's sour, spicy, salty, nutty, tangy, sharp and rich all at once, and really, really impossible to put down your fork once you get a taste. I could eat a whole platter as a meal in itself (and I did), but you will find it compliments most foods well as a side dish.
Roasted Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make salsa verde. Finely chop a handful of cilantro, and add one minced jalapeno (seeds and veins removed if desired), 2 sliced scallions, the zest and juice of one lime, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Give it a good pinch of salt too. Set aside. Slice a head of cauliflower into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Space onto a baking sheet and drizzle evenly with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, flip over and repeat on the other side. Bake, flipping slices once halfway through, for about 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Remove from the oven and drizzle with salsa verde. Serve warm, or at room temperature.