delicious discourse

a fish out of water

Posted in recipe, whim by delicious:discourse on February 5, 2010

Hawaii is good for many, many things, one of which is inspiring me to eat and cook fish. Hawaii is obviously an island surrounded by an ocean full of fish, both large and small. The funny thing is that growing up I don’t remember eating all that much fish (my family was largely vegetarian except for the occasional chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, and of course seafood) – and for quite some time my favorite fish was salmon; I think it still might be, unless there is poke on the table.

Yes, poke. It is one of my must-eats for every visit home. Poke in Hawaiian means section or to slice and cut. Poke as a dish, as I buy it from the Kahuku Superette, is cubes of raw ahi tuna, tossed with chopped onions, soy sauce; a little wasabi can be added for some kick. It is eaten with chopsticks and it goes nicely with a really cold beer after a long day at the beach. The Kahuku Superette is located right across the street from my high school. If it has been raining, the huge potholes of its parking lot will be filled with water. In high school we treated it as a convenient store for cold drinks, snacks before soccer games and what have you. I’m not sure when someone realized they have some of the best poke on the island and now no one can get enough. A family friend, a young Australian surfer, staying with my family while I was home, after being introduced to poke by my dad, consumed so much over a period of three days he became jokingly concerned about his mercury intake. (For pictures on Wikipedia, click here).

Landlocked in Austin (an acquaintance in Hawaii pointed out to me that the only thing wrong with Austin is that it is surrounded by Texas), I’ve always felt weird about eating fish. It certainly has never been first to come to mind when contemplating what to cook for dinner. Yet when eating out, I’ve always preferred fish to the pork, beef, venison, and other wild game. My Hawaii trip could not have come at a more perfect time. I occupied the nine hours of flight time from Austin to Honolulu (through IAH) with dozing and Jonathan Safron Foer’s Eating Animals, an eye-opening book (confirming much of what I already new) that I do not recommend for the weak-stomached or for those who think ignorance is bliss. Now seemed like the perfect time to eat locally, sustainably caught, fresh fish because I was, and am not, going to be eating any factory-farmed meat, if I can help it, ever again. Some of the most revelatory information Foer provides is regarding the environmental destruction of commercial fishing practices and the factory farming of fish. If you are going to eat fish, I beg of you to take a look at the Monteray Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (they also have an easy-to-consult iPhone application, Seafood Watch).

Southwestern Red Snapper salad

I’ve come across some really great recipes for fish over the last month – Thai fish curry, a Southwestern red snapper salad from Stop and Smell the Rosemary (after cooking this dish I found out red snapper is in decline worldwide and fishing pressure on it is extensive), macadamia nut-crusted mahi mahi, soy-and-ginger-glazed salmon with udon noodles – and two really great great places to buy fish in Austin – Quality Seafood and San Miguel Seafood at the Austin Farmers’ Market. I may not be in Hawaii again for awhile, but now I know where to go for my fish fix and have found local and online sources for inspiration.

But, please, whether you are eating fish at restaurants or cooking it in the comfort of your own home, you make sure you are eating quality and sustainably caught fish. My rules of thumb: always avoid farm-raised fish, and always consult Seafood Watch. Do not be embarrassed to ask the fishmonger or your waiter questions – that is what they are there for and remember, knowledge is power.

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scones of simplicity

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on March 2, 2009

Dried Fruit Cream Scones

Dried Fruit Cream Scones

I had a realization this weekend after my Sunday yoga class: In the kitchen and on the mat, are two places I feel really good about myself. On the mat I am able to just let things go and concentrate on the task at hand, and still the voices and waves in my head and body. Similarly, in the kitchen, the task at hand requires focus, and if done carefully, consciously, and creatively, it guarantees results, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always an adventure, and always a lesson. Not to mention, I love the anticipation of that first bite and recognizing something you made with your own to hands is really, really good. So, maybe this is why when things are troubling me or maybe not going my way, or I’m feeling creative, I am seek these two very different, yet very similar places.

Drawn to the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon, maybe because the gusty wind outside was mirroring what I was feeling inside, I knew I would bake scones because I had just the recipe I wanted to try. I love all things breakfast. Muffins, pancakes, eggs, french toast, granola, yogurt, omelettes, lattes, orange juice, oatmeal—these are all things I could eat all day long, and often do. It has long been drilled into my head that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—you would never start a road trip on empty (you wouldn’t get very far), why would you do that to your body at the start of every day? I honestly have never really ever considered not eating breakfast, it just isn’t an option. To this day, my sister and I both start the day off with some sort of sustenance.

When Gourmet in their March 2009 issue reviewed Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book for their Cookbook Club review, I knew the book was for me. The recipe featured in the magazine, was Cunningham’s famed Raised Waffles, and this Dried Fruit Cream Scones one was available only to the members of the Cookbook Club on Gourmet’s web site (You can easily become a member, by registering at gourmet.com. By joining, you will be able to view additional recipes from the current and past Cookbook Club selections.) Long wanting to try by hand at scones, this recipe struck me as perfectly simple and easy. I also noticed cream was used in the batter instead of butter, which was only used in the glaze. Interesting. I was intrigued.

Dough formed into a disk, awaiting its glaze of butter and sprinkle of sugar.

Dough formed into a disk, awaiting its glaze of butter and sprinkle of sugar.

The batter whipped together in no time and with such ease I was sure I had missed something. Once the dough is formed into a round disk, brushed with butter, and sprinkled with sugar, all that is left to do is cut slices and bake for 15 minutes and voila, you have gorgeous scones.

Cut into wedges and ready for the oven.

Cut into wedges and ready for the oven.

Buttery and crispy on the outside and dense and creamy (you can really taste the thick cream) on the inside, these scones are not only perfect for the taste buds, but they are great for the soul.

Crispy, yet creamy & dense, with bits of sweet fruit.

Crispy, yet creamy & dense, with bits of sweet fruit.

Dried Fruit Cream Scones
Yields a dozen scones
From Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Use an ungreased baking sheet.

Combine:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar

Stir with a fork to mix well.

Add:

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, prunes, or figs)*
1/4 cup golden raisins

Still using a fork, stir in 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and mix until the dough holds together in a rough mass (the dough will be quite sticky).

Lightly flour a board and transfer the dough to it. Knead the dough 8 or 9 times. Pat into a circle about 10 inches round.

For the glaze, 3 tablespoons melted butter over the top and side of the circle of dough and sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar on top. Cut the circle into 12 wedges** and place each piece on the baking sheet, allowing about an inch between pieces.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

* I used unsulphured turkish apricots, which is why they are orange-brown.

** I halved the recipe, which is why my batch yielded only six scones.

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cowgirl cookies

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on February 18, 2009

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This past Sunday, per my Sunday baking itch, I found myself inspired by a sunny, warm winter day and an impending early afternoon picnic. I couldn’t think a more perfect picnic dessert than oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but feeling adventurous and exploring uncharted waters, I wanted to give them a twist. That is when I remembered the organic cacao nibs given to me as a Christmas gift. In the strange way that memory works, the cacao nibs triggered a cookie recipe I had seen in Paula Disbrowe’s Cowgirl Cuisine: Rustic Recipes and Cowgirl Adventures from a Texas Ranch. In her book, Disbrowe, a New York City gal who falls in love with the Texas Hill Country and relocates to enjoy the simple life, chronicles her adventures in food and ranch life while sharing great rustic, simple recipes that incorporate the local flavors in the region. Signed, “When in doubt, squeeze limes. Love & Lassos, Paula Disbrowe,” my copy of Cowgirl Cuisine has not lead me astray. I don’t think cacao nibs are exactly a “regional” ingredient of the Texas Hill Country, but because cacao nibs are crushed roasted cacao beans, and chocolate is made from cacao, and cacao has some Latin roots, and Texas has some Latin roots, I get the connection.

The interesting thing about this recipe is that the dough is refrigerated for 30 minutes before formed into sphere-like shapes the size of golf balls and baked. The pre-baking refrigeration helps the cookies retain a nice, thick shape while baking, which results in chewy cookies—my fave.

Loaded with chocolate and oats, these cookies not only have unique flavor thanks to the cacao nibs, they have substance and textural presence. After eating one, you feel like you have eaten a cookie—happy in body and mind, with satisfied taste buds. By the way, they go great with a side of sun, a Hill Country lake, a nice cool breeze, and a handsome companion to rave about how good they are. Things are as they should be—at least in the Sunday kitchen.

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Cowgirl Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (originally Milk Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies)

Courtesy of Cowgirl Cuisine: Rustic Recipes and Cowgirl Adventures from a Texas Ranch by Paula Disbrowe.

Yields 36 cookies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup cacao nibs

Note: If you are like me, and only have one type of chocolate on hand, in this case semisweet chocolate chips, it works to do 3 cups of one kind of chocolate versus half of each. But you cannot substitute for the cacao nibs, they are key to the unique flavor of these cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

In another goal, with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and mix at low-speed just until blended. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until no dry crumbs remain. Add chocolate chips and cacao nibs and stir until combined.

Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. Use a spoon to scoop golf ball-sized rounds of dough and roll between fingers to briefly shape. Place on a buttered cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until lightly golden.

Cool on baking sheets for five minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Apparently they freeze beautifully. I wouldn’t know, they are all gone:)

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hearty & wholesome as always

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2009
Homemade Granola

Homemade Almond Raisin Granola

For this one, I really don’t know where to start. So, I guess I’ll have to begin at well, the beginning. For as long as I can remember, my mother has had a cup of granola with milk for breakfast. She would occasionally vary on the flavor, but usually the three jars with yellow screw-tops that always (and to this day) sat on the counter were usually filled with some variation on Super Nutty that she bought in bulk at one of the health food stores. When we teased my mother about this, her reply was always framed with a sheepish smile as she claimed nothing else could hold her over until lunch like granola. So, I guess you could say, I learned to love granola at a young age, though when I was growing up I usually opted for the Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Grape Nuts, or some other variety of non-sugary cereal my parents would allow us to eat.

However, my senior year of college, I became hooked on granola. I wonder if these things are genetic. I love ice cream too and I grew up with a grandfather who is known for getting up in the middle of the night and eating ice cream straight from the carton, with a long-stemmed spoon, in the dark. His daughter, my mother, interestingly enough, eats her granola with long-stemmed spoons. My scientist boyfriend I know would argue that this habit is not genetic, but environmental. Either way is fine with me. Granola is a great, healthy, high-energy way to start the day, and if I look like my mom at 50, I am cool with that too. I could eat granola and yogurt with sliced fresh berries morning, noon, and night if I felt like it.

Anyway, then I met Matt, who at the time was drinking protein shakes for breakfast, which was just not going to do. Somehow, some way, I don’t recall the exact moment of the crossover,  but he began to start each morning with granola, with milk at first, I think. Then we discovered Fage, thick and creamy Greek yogurt loaded with protein (17 grams in one cup!) and he was straight granola doomed. Every week we were buying granola from the bulk bins at Whole Foods at first and then Central Market. I always tried to pick out the varieties with the fewest ingredients (and without ones I could not pronounce), but they were always the more expensive kinds. Granola is like ice cream, the fewer ingredients the better. For ice cream all you really need is cream and sugar, maybe some eggs, but if you look at a carton, the ingredients flow halfway down the page!

As for granola, or should I say granula, as it was called when it was invented in 1863 by Dr. James Caleb Jackson at Jackson Sanitarium, a prominent health spa, in Dansville, New York,  was just rolled oats with honey, baked until crispy. What is more natural than that? Fibrous oats and a natural sweetener. Muesli on the other hand, is neither baked nor sweetened. I had often wondered the difference between the two. Granula was originally sold under the name Our Home Granola Co. by the sanitariam and turned into granola after James Harvey Kellogg being the cereal king he is, developed a similar cereal and wanted to avoid all that legal trouble.

Continuing on its wholesome path, granola, with the addition of nuts and fruit to the oats and honey, was revived in the 1960s (maybe this is why mi madre loves it so much) as a health food targeted at the hippie movement. Apparently, granola made a major appearance at Woodstock 1969. Yes, granola just got a whole lot cooler.

Then in 1972, Jim Matson, an executive at Pet Milk, introduced Heartland Natural Cereal, the first commercial cereal and what many of us know today. Quaker, General Mills, and Kellogg, quickly followed suit.

Rooted in its revitalization, its healthy properties, its use in hiking, backpacking, and camping because of its lightness, calorie density, and easiness to store, and the conscious people that usually consume the more wholesome varieties,  the term granola has evolved to refer to someone who is hippie-like, a modern bohemian, or an environmentalist. For those of you who know me, I am not someone you would normally describe as granola. But if granola means I am a conscious individual, who makes thoughtful and educated decisions about what I put in my body, who cares about preserving the environment and its beauty, as well as a free spirit, bring it on. I will be as granola as you like.

In the true spirit of granola and this Green age, Bon Appetit (February 2009) featured making your own granola as one of their “50 Ways to Eat Green,” which was something I had been wanting to do for awhile. Why I hadn’t done it, don’t ask. BA focusing on the environmental aspects, suggested making your own granola was not only greener because it saved on packaging (especially if you bought the ingredients in bulk), but also less expensive.  I am going to add to the list of benefits that if you make your own granola, you will know exactly what goes into it, especially if you buy quality organic ingredients. There will be no funny ingredients with long names. It might not last for months on the shelf because it does not have preservatives, but a) it is better for you and the world you live in and b) it is so good it won’t need to last that long. Matt and I make a new batch every week. Not to mention, the flavors and varieties are endless. So, do something good for yourself and the environment, and have some fun along the way.

The recipe below uses honey for the sweetener, walnuts for the nut, and chopped dates for the dried fruit. Just yesterday, M and I swapped out the honey for maple syrup, almonds for the walnuts, and raisins for the dates. You really can use almost any type of nut or dried fruit. Just think of the endless combinations. To get ready for a tropical vacation – think coconut and pineapple, for more protein add a variety of nuts, or add some peanut butter into the honey with chopped dried bananas.

Hearty & Wholesome Granola Recipe
Courtesy of
Bon Appetit

Makes about 6 cups.

4 Tablespoons walnut oil, divided
3/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cups egg whites (usually 2)
1/2 teaspoon course kosher salt
3 cups organic old-fashioned oats
1 cups walnuts (or any type of nut)
1/2 cups flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
1 cups pitted dates, coursely chopped (or any dried fruit, I have been using plump fire rasins)
1/4 cups honey

Preheat oven to 350F. Brush heavy large rimmed baking sheet with 2T walnut oil.
Whisk 2 T. oil, sugar, egg whites, and salt in a large bowl. Add oats, walnuts, and flaxseed and toss well. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Using a spatula, stir granola. Bake another 15 minutes. Stir again. Sprinkle dates and drizzle with honey. Bake about 10 minutes longer, until golden brown. Stir to loosed and transfer to a clean baking sheet to cool. Keep in an airtight container.

Yes. Really. It is this easy.

Take-me-somewhere-tropical-key lime pie…

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on October 14, 2008

Contemplating what to do with the mound of key limes taking over our kitchen, Matt and I deduced that we had three options: drinking lots and lots of beer, making an inappropriate amount of margaritas, or making one key lime pie. Even though I love margaritas and he loves beer with a lime, we opted for the pie thinking it would make a great dessert for our weekend lake house getaway.

Before Saturday I had nothing against key lime pie, it was tasty, but I never craved it and it was not something I ever thought to make or order. But now, there are several things I love about key lime pie. It is all about the limes, you must have good key limes, otherwise it is just any old key lime pie, not this key lime pie. I used local, organic key limes from my Greenling Local Box that are bursting with flavor. This is very important. This pie has six ingredients—six!—for a whole pie; three for the crust and three for the filling.

And wait until you taste it. The crust takes you back to grade school with an afternoon snack of graham crackers, only they are soaked in butter; one bite of the filling takes you straight to the Caribbean sitting on a white sand beach, looking out at an aqua ocean, the sun kissing your skin and a smell of citrus in the air—oh wait, that is in your mouth. The silky lime flavor continues to roll over and over your tongue, intensifying—the creamy texture perfectly accented by the rough crumbles of the crust. Yes, it is that good. In minutes I will be booking a plane straight to somewhere very tropical and sunny in an attempt to hold on to an eternal summer—or maybe I will just make key lime pie to carry me in and through the binds of winter…

key lime pie

key lime pie

The recipe is really this easy. The topping is optional. The pie stands perfectly on its own and Matt and I did not want to dilute any of the flavor, so we opted out.

Key Lime Pie
Note: Yes, it is this easy.

Crust:
1 1/4c. graham cracker crumbs
2T. sugar
5T. melted butter

Filling:
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2c. + 2T. fresh key lime juice

Topping (optional):
3/4c. chilled heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Stir crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl with a fork. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate/pan. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool.

Whisk sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks until combined. Add lime juice and whisk. Pour into crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool. Chill for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Optional: Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Serve pie with whip cream.

you won’t miss the meat

Posted in recipe, whim by delicious:discourse on September 19, 2008

The other night, a group of five girls, including myself, got together to try our hand at Bon Appetit’s Cooking Club menu for October, which is basically a vegetarian feast. Not sure how those of the male specie would respond to the strict no meat policy of such a dinner, I thought it safest to stick with the girls who seem more open to the idea. The philosophy of the menu is ideally seasonal vegetables that anyone could get locally at their farmers market. However, BP is slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to Texas agriculture. I had Matt attempt to pick up persimmons for me for the persimmon ice cream, and the person he asked at Whole Foods (the headquarters I might add) looked at him like he was crazy. A similar thing happened to Marie on her quest for pomegranates at WF. So, in the spirit of the menu, we just had to make do, just as people used to have to do–I opted for vanilla ice cream from Amy’s Ice Cream and the salad was sans pomegranate seeds.

Each of the 5 of us owned a dish. In the true spirit of a feast, this elegant and meatless meal was a true collaboration. Having everyone bring a dish for an already planned meal makes entertaining so much easier and also more exciting because you get to experience food made by other people and admire their own effort and creativity.


The first dish, courtesy of Nancy, was a dish of roasted shitake mushrooms with tossed in a dressing of lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and parsley, and cubes of pecorino cheese. Unimpressed with her first go at the dish, Nancy whipped up a second adding more garlic, less mustard, and using an aged vs. the called-for young pecorino. Whatever she did, it did the trick. Served with toothpicks, this girl, as in me, who does not even like mushrooms, could did not want to put the pick down, but I knew I had to save room for what was to come. (Pictured above. Courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Served with the main course, instead of before was a autumn farmer’s market salad made by Marie. With it’s roasted orange butternut squash, green arugula,and hypothetical pomengranate seends, the dish has quite the fall color scheme. Light and comforting with it dressing of orange huice, lemon juice, and walmnut oil, and complimented with the addition of walnuts, then drizzled with pomegranat molasses, the salad could have been a meal on its own. Nothing screams fall like butternut squash.

The zuchini galettes, courtesy of yours truly, turned out much better than I had ever expected. Frankly, I was worried, but that began to cease with every sip of my kir and when I began to see how much food we really had. The pastry was very easy to make. It just takes patience cutting the butter into the flour, but if you are a nerd like moi, it can be very meditative. I made it the night before. The filling was relatively easy, it just involved things time consuming steps, like draining the zuchinni for twenty minutes, or letting the zuchini-onion mixture cool to room temp. Also, you may not anticipate it, but cold pastry takes time to roll out. The first bite though, warm out of the onion, made every single step and worry worth it. The pastry was flaky and golden and the smooth zucchini was and ricotto were popped by parmesean and and fleur de sel.

Anna was extremely skeptical of her succotash of fresh corn, lima beans, tomatoes, and onions that she had actually made the night before. After reheating in a skillet and seasoning with some salt, the dish improved greatly. Maybe the flavors sort of melded together, but the dish was delicious, fresh, and the perfect antidote from the richness of the galettes. For the grand finale, dessert was in itself a collaborative effort. The vanilla ice cream was courtesy of our very good friend, Amy, over at Amy’s Ice Cream and I made the cherry-almond short bread cookies the night before. Kenzie was in charge of the pears. He nervousness, marked by her complete memorization of the recipe and its steps, was uneccessary. She executed the pears browned in butter, rose, and thyme beautifully. Sweet and soft, the dessert was beautiful next to the creamy icecream and the crunch of the shortbread.

All photographs are courtesy of Bon Appetit. I did not want to bore and torture my guests with taking hours of photographs, so this will have to do. However, I will attest that every dish we made looked exactly like the picture, except for the shitakes, which nancy left whole.

Recipes are below:

Shiitake Mushrooms with Young Pecorino Cheese
6 servings
7 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lemon, peel cut into long thin slivers (yellow part only)
Coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slices or left whole if smaller than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 garlic clove, peeled, flattened
6 oz young pecorino cheese (pecorino fresco) or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
Whisk 5 teaspoons lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in lemon peel slivers. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss mushrooms, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle mushrooms with coarse salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn mushrooms over and roast until soft and beginning to brown around edges, about 10 minutes longer.
Pour half of dressing over hot mushrooms on sheet. Add garlic and toss to coat. Let cool on sheet.
Combine mushrooms, cheese, parsley, and remaining dressing in medium bowl. Let marinate at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Discard garlic clove. Serve mushrooms and cheese with toothpicks, if desired.Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, and Walnut Salad
6 servings

4 1/2 to 5 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (from about one 2-pound squash)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil or other nut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 oz arugula (about 8 cups lightly packed)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss squash, olive oil, and crushed red pepper on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn squash over. Roast until edges are browned and squash is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with coarse salt. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Whisk orange juice, walnut oil, and lemon juice in large shallow bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add arugula, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds; toss to coat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Spoon warm or room-temperature squash over salad. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.

*A thick pomegranate syrup; available at some supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets, and from adrianascaravan.com.

Individual Zucchini, Lemon, and Ricotta Galettes
makes 6 (mine made 8)CRUST
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

FILLING
5 2/3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 1 1/3 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* Fleur de sel

Crust: Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Add 4 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoonful at a time, stirring until dough forms moist clumps, and adding more water by teaspoonfuls as needed if dough is too dry. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten each into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Filling: Place zucchini in colander set over large bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and toss to coat. Let drain 30 minutes. Working in batches, squeeze zucchini in kitchen towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and lemon juice; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until zucchini is tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan, egg, lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir in cooled zucchini mixture. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 6-inch-diameter plate, cut out 3 dough rounds. Repeat with remaining dough. Place 3 dough rounds on each baking sheet.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Spoon 1/2 cup filling into center of 1 dough round, leaving 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch border. Carefully fold up border, pleating dough edges to create round pastry with about 2 to 2 1/2 inches of exposed filling in center. Repeat with remaining filling and dough rounds. Brush crusts with melted butter. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over filling in centers. Sprinkle galettes with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.

Bake galettes 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until crust is golden and filling is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes longer. Run spatula under galettes to loosen. Let rest 5 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Serve individual galettes hot or at room temperature.

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes, and Onion
6 servings2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn (preferably 2 ears of white corn and 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans (from about 2 pounds pods) or 10 to 11 ounces frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.

Stir in basil and serve.

Bosc Pears in Rosé Wine
6 servings1 tablespoon butter
3 firm but ripe medium Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/3 cups semi-dry rosé wine
1/4 cup wildflower honey
Vanilla ice Cream

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, cut side down. Tuck thyme sprigs around pears. Cook until cut sides are brown (do not turn pears over), about 3 minutes. Transfer pears to plate. Add rosé wine and wildflower honey to same skillet and boil until mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, scraping up any browned bits, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add pears, cut side up. Spoon some of juices in skillet over pears, cover skillet, and simmer until pears are tender, about 10 minutes. DO AHEAD Pears can be made 4 hours ahead. Uncover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm pears before continuing, if desired.

Place 1 warm or room-temperature pear half, cut side up, on each of 6 plates. Drizzle pears with sauce from skillet. Spoon scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside pears and serve.

Cherry-Almond Shortbread Cookies
makes about 24
24 dried tart cherries (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur)
1/2 cup raw almonds with skins, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Soak cherries in cassis in small bowl at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain; pat dry.
Grind 3 tablespoons almonds in mini processor until finely ground. Finely chop remaining almonds.
Whisk all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add ground almonds; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in flour mixture on low speed just to blend.
Scrape dough out onto sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Using paper as aid, form dough into 8 1/2×1 3/4-inch log. Brush dough all over with egg (except for ends). Scatter chopped almonds on sheet of plastic wrap. Roll log in almonds to coat. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Cover and chill cherries.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Let dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Unwrap dough and cut into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place cookies on large ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Place 1 cherry in center of each cookie.
Bake 10 minutes. Press cherries into cookies (cookies will have softened). Rotate baking sheet in oven and bake until cookies are lightly golden and slightly puffed, about 18 minutes longer. Cool cookies on sheet on rack 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. DO AHEAD Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


chocolate & zucchini

Posted in recipe, Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on September 9, 2008

Look very closely. Can you identify my secret ingredient? The tiny green flecks floating within the sea of cookie and chocolate chunks??? Zucchini! Now I understand the brilliance of the unusual combination. I have long wondered how Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini came to be named. However, after reading her About page, the name combination came together completely by accident, both chocolate and zucchini meaning entirely different things to her, but together representing her approach to food and food things.

The goodness of chocoalate and zucchini in the same dish would have to come together quite by accident because (I am making an assumption based on my average brain here) you normally would not think to put the two together. To state the obvious, one is a vegetable and the other is commonly treated as a dessert. How they could come together in unison only a highly dangerous and volatile chemistry experiment could determine. One of the brave souls turned out to be Camille, Barbara Kingsolver’s oldest daughter, as documented in my latest read Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Deep into the chapter titled “Zucchini Larceny,” in a effort to get rid of an overabundance of zucchini, Camille devises shredding fresh zucchini and adding it to chocolate chip cookie batter and then devilishly serving them to her younger sister and all her friends, while toying with them to guess the secret ingredient she never would tell. Her cookies were a wild success with only one or two remaining.

Inspired by the zucchini at my local farmer’s market and the lip-licking memory of my zucchini bread of last weekend, I decided to give the combination a go. A sweet, soft, and spongy summer emerged with pockets of earthy chocolate. I strongly recommend serving them with a side of sunny Saturday afternoon, preferably in early September when you are mourning the loss of an endless summer, but there is still an abundance of fresh, local zucchini.

ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (courtesy of Animal Vegetable Miracle)
(Makes about two dozen)
1 egg, beaten
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 T vanilla extract
Combine in large bowl.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
12 oz chocolate chips
Stir these into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

Note: I accidentally used bittersweet chocolate, silly me, which was slightly overpowering to the subtle but present zucchini. My recommendation would be for semi-sweet chocolate chips for the sake of very importantbalance.

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friday burgers & corn

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 9, 2008

There really is nothing like ending a long week with a comforting meal in preparation for the leisure of the weekend. This week, even though it was only four days, felt like forever; odd, considering usually getting a magazine ready for press results in a shortage of hours. But, this week would not end, and when it finally did, Matt and I decided to cook an easy, but scrumptious meal in order to celebrate.

I usually make 99 percent of the culinary decisions in our household. This is no secret and I am sure Matt would agree. However, he must be credited with the genius outline of the menu: burgers with grilled corn, cuban style. We hoped to recreate the grilled corn served at Cafe Habana in SOHO that is garnished with chipotle seasoning, cotija cheese, and a lime wedge. In a collaborative spirit, I filled in the details by choosing buffalo burgers with a spinach arugula pesto, fresh mozzarella, and sliced tomato in addition to a spinach salad with dried figs, walnuts, and locally made goat cheese (Pure Luck Farm & Dairy).

There really is no way to describe the satisfaction one simply good meal can provide. I am a very simple cook and I often find the dishes I admire most are simplistic nature. Of course, I have an appreciate for fine cuisine and hours-long processes, but fresh and rustic can really not be beat.

Matt executed the corn beautifully. Consulting Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Matt peeled back the corn husks keeping them attached and rubbed the ears with butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and chipotle seasoning. Putting the husks back in place, the corn were placed back on the grill until the kernals were tender, but crisp. To serve, Matt removed the husks and sprinkled the corn heavily with cotija. To serve, we drizzled with lime juice. It could not have been better with the spice of the chipotle and the salty kick of the cotija followed by the sublte citrus of the lime. The only difference between ours and Cafe Habana’s version was grill marks, and that we can easily remedy.

Trying to avoid high-fructose corn syrup in any form, and that includes store-bought ketchup, I needed a burger that would be complete without the traditional tomato paste. This burger not only made my mouth water, but it was aesthetically pleasing with the crisp white, red, and green—it could have been a Christmas burger in September, and in that regard, it truly was a gift. The tablespoons of homemade pesto that you mix into the meat, keep the burger very moist and juicy, while adding tons of flavor from within the heart of the burger. I used bison meat instead of beef, which is by nature leaner and therefore dryer than beef, but this burger oozed that sought-after juice. And yes, it does taste as good as it looks.

I found the burger recipe on BonAppetit.com.

BURGERS WITH MOZZARELLA AND SPINACH-ARUGULA PESTO
8 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 10 cups packed)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper
4 cups (packed) fresh arugula leaves, divided (about 5 ounces)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 3/4 pounds ground beef (20% fat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 hamburger buns, split horizontally
6 1/3-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
(about 10 ounces)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Preparation
Rinse spinach; drain briefly, then place in large glass bowl. Microwave spinach, uncovered, on high just until wilted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Combine garlic, lemon peel, and crushed red pepper in processor; blend until garlic is finely chopped. Add spinach, 2 cups (packed) arugula, pine nuts, and lemon juice; process until coarse puree forms. With machine running, gradually add oil in thin stream and blend until almost smooth. Mix in cheese. Transfer pesto to small bowl; season with salt.
Do ahead: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Combine ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 6 tablespoons spinach-arugula pesto in large bowl; mix lightly with fingertips or fork just until incorporated. Form meat mixture into six 3/4-inch-thick patties. Place patties on platter.
Do ahead: Beef patties can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill burgers to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Grill buns, cut side down, just until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Build burgers with pesto, patties, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and arugula. Cover with bun tops.

(more…)

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The best zucchini bread ever, really

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 2, 2008

Zucchini bread, like carrot cake, runs in my blood. One of the many reasons I love carrot cake is because my mother, back in her baking days, would make it for every birthday of my Dad, my sister, and I, as well as requesting it to celebrate every year she turned older. I just grew up with it. It was a part of my childhood and now it is a big part of my life. So, I assume the same would have happened with zucchini bread had my father not nipped it in the bud at the early stage. The story goes, as newlyweds in Ventura, my mother would make zucchini bread all the time. My dad working close by at his surf shop, would come home for lunch or after a surf and start with a slice, which turned to two, which turned to three, you get my point. Once you start, if its that good, it is hard to stop no matter how satisfied you are. So, my Dad, a lean, athletic guy in his late-twenties, had to ask my mother to stop making so much zucchini bread because he was gaining weight! True story. Good thing birthdays come just once a year.

So, after a childhood sans zucchini bread, I decided I should try my hand at making it myself. My first attempt proved tasty, but this post, of my second attempt, proves it can get much much better.

Last week I stumbled across my now favorite blog, the aesthetically simple, gorgeously photographed, and filled-with-knowledge 101 Cookbooks. Perusing the recipe journal, I came across Heidi’s, the author, recipe for her special zucchini bread. What caught my eye were a few of the ingredients, namely curry powder, poppy seeds, and crystallized ginger. This would either be the most perfect combination or perfectly awful. I had to try it.

The verdict—perfect. Absolutely perfect. The unusual ingredients present a mystery as you try to discern the slight hint of curry powder and ginger. I took a loaf to work, the recipe makes two, and the bosses son claimed I was a gourmet chef. My reply—hardly, but Mom would be proud, and Dad would be in trouble.

Heidi’s Special Zucchini Bread Recipe (yields 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cups poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
2 t. vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using
3 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 T curry powder (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until the mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).
In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.
By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.
Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling – if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.

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A Banana Bread Weekend

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on August 27, 2008

Occasionally I will read other food blogs and since I do love Bon Appetit where she regularly has a column, yesterday I took a cyber trip over to Orangette’s blog. I began reading her entry on the banana bread she had baked over the weekend and found it amusing because I had baked banana bread for a first time in several months over the very same weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure Orangette and I are not the only two people in the entire world who made banana bread over the weekend—I am not that delusional. However, as I continued reading and she began talking about cinnamon and a cinnamon and sugar crumble, I realized we had made the very same recipe, which is, surprise, surprise, from Bon Appetit’s August 2008, “Best of the Bakeshops”.

The banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping is from Bakesale Betty, a bakery in Oakland. With cinnamon in the batter, the addition of honey, and a cinnamon sugar crumble topping, the recipe differs from my tried-and-true I normally use. After a crazy two weeks, I have been feeling under the weather with a scratchy throat and just that blah fatigue you get when you can feel a cold coming on, except no cold came. I must have been balancing on that very thin line between sick and not sick, and my body pulled through. Anyway, on Sunday, I needed comfort, especially after an awful breakfast at my usual go-to eatery (sitting outside on the patio Matt and I were subject to squawking birds and unruly kids—I felt as if I had been very bad and exiled to the kiddie table with the intention of causing me to go completely insane). What could be more comforting than banana bread? I had been lounging on the couch with a my new Bon Appetit, and having the sweet tooth that I do, I was digging “Best of the Bakeshops”, and the banana bread was just begging me to make it, it was quite shameful, but how could I resist? In the mood for indulgence, I added chocolate chips to the batter.

If is is possible for banana bread to be even more satisfying, it is so with cinnamon and chocolate. The flaky cinnamon sugar crumble offers the final stroke of goodness and the chocolate create creamy pockets within the dense bread. In fear that Matt and I would eat the entire loaf, he took it to work, where is was devoured. One of his co-workers claimed he always thought banana bread was missing something, but the addition of cinnamon created the kick it always needed.

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