Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pumpkin Brownies

Recently we had a whole lot of extended family visit and decided to hold something of a country potluck to give them a taste, literally, of how we live. These brownies have sold out in countless bake sales and are almost always a favorite. I was shocked that I hadn't already logged them here. Due to some of my family's lactose intolerance I omitted any cream cheese, but a cream cheese glaze or icing pairs wonderfully with this. Instead, I topped it with a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar and chopped pecans.

You will need:

3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice, or a mix of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and clove

Set the oven to bake at 350. Combine your moist ingredients together first, then sift the dry ones into the mix. Finish by beating the spices in well. Grease a "9x"9 baking pan and put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Take it out to cool and then decorate. Simple!

Penne No. 4

I picked this recipe up from one of my Italian colleagues when he was feeling homesick during a teaching session. We had a hell of at time finding the ingredients, but I got to perfect the recipe when I got home. This pairs especially well with baked salmon or grilled chicken on top.

You will need:

About a cup and a half of dry penne pasta
Salted water

1 lemon
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
2-4 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
3 small or 2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, ideally preserved in oil and chopped
1/2 cup chopped salted pistachio nuts
salt to taste
1/3 cup white cooking wine
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta until it's fully done and strain, then set aside.

Take the butter or oil and put it into a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Stir it around for a few minutes until it just starts to brown, then add the pasta, pepper and the juice from 1/2 to the whole lemon, depending on how tart you like it and how much you're making. I usually stick with a half. Turn the heat down just a tad, to medium-low.

Add the pistachios, tomatoes and salt after allowing the pasta to cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until sides of it are just starting to turn golden, pour in the wine. Let that cook off for about three minutes, then turn the heat off completely, stir the pasta one last time, and put a lid on the skillet. Allow the pasta to finish cooking itself for at least ten minutes.

Serve hot with parmesan cheese on top, or chicken, or fish, whatever strikes your fancy. In the summer months, fresh basil is a marvelous addition to this dish, and if you want to change it up you can substitute dried red peppers for sun dried tomatoes.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spicy Vegetarian Sriracha Rolls

I made these when a craving for spring rolls just wouldn't quit and I wanted to add some punch to my regular egg roll recipe. My fiance also enjoys spicy food so I decided to utilize my big bottle of sriracha. This one is time and cleaning intensive but worth it, especially for a large group of people. This recipe serves 6-8 people.

You will need: 3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup cooked mung bean threads or cellophane vermicelli
1 egg
1/2 lb tofu, chopped into small pieces
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1/8 cup chopped scallions
1 1/2 tbsp sugar or 2 tbsp duck sauce
1-2 tbsp Sriracha, depending on how spicy you like it
1 pack egg roll wrappers vegetable oil for frying
small bowl of water for wrapping egg rolls
a greased cookie sheet or other flat nonstick surface

 Start by boiling the mung bean threads until they're clear and flexible, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the water with a strainer and chop into short pieces with a knife. Set them aside.

 Using salted water, boil the cabbage and carrots together for about 5 minutes. Strain and allow them to dry for a few minutes. Mix them with the chopped mung bean threads and set the mixture aside to cool for a few minutes.

 Take the tamari, duck sauce, sriracha, scallions, tofu, egg and put them into the cabbage mixture. Mix until they're even and make sure the noodles don't stick together. Set the bowl near your wrapping station. Start heating the oil to medium.

Put a small amount -- a mound about the size of a golf ball -- in the center of the wrap. With one corner pointing at you and the other pointing away like a diamond, take the bottom corner and tuck it up and around the filling. Securely fold the two side corners in, making sure to seal the filling inside well. Apply a little water with your finger to the top corner of the roll and continue rolling up, using water to seal any openings. Set onto a greased surface. Rinse your hands and repeat until they're all rolled. You can find videos online of how to roll spring or egg rolls which may be more helpful than my description. Practice also makes perfect.

 Fry them each until golden brown, setting them onto paper towels immediately after taking them out of the oil. Make sure to drain them well and get rid of any pockets of oil. Each roll should take about 3-5 minutes, and you can cook up to 3 at a time depending on the size of your pan. Serve with tamari, duck sauce or plum sauce. These are pretty versatile, and the egg can be omitted in vegan circumstances. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Orzo with Spinach Gouda Sauce

You may notice two cream based recipes back to back. This is because cream goes bad quickly and I had a full pint to use; needless to say I haven't just been cooking for myself. This one is a little lighter and probably simpler.

In the Amsterdam airport they have this little deli place where you can buy cheeses, meats, etc. I had euros left over and the exchange kiosk had a ridiculous commission so I decided to load up. I got several kinds of gouda, some of which I left with my parents. I used the aged goat gouda in this one and it came out wonderfully.

You will need:

Salted water
1/2 package orzo
1-2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 pint heavy cream
1 1/2 cup milk
3 cups fresh baby spinach or 2 cups frozen, already heated and drained
2 oz aged goat gouda, shredded finely
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
Salt to taste

Set the water to boil, add the orzo and olive oil and stir to prevent sticking. You'll want to cook this for 8-10 minutes.

Heat up the cream and milk over medium, add the spinach and chili flakes once hot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the gouda and stir until melted. Taste it and determine how much salt you want to use, then use it. Turn off the heat and allow it to thicken for a few minutes.

I just mix the orzo with the sauce while it's still hot. You can garnish it with a sprig of basil if you're feeling fancy.

Gorgonzola Fettucine Alfredo with Seared Artichoke Hearts

This recipe is loosely based on a ridiculously overpriced dish I had at a restaurant in Helsinki. Granted, the food was good, especially the tortellini in pasta sauce. But due to some linguistic misunderstandings I wound up getting a lot more food and paying a lot more money that night. Since I've been home I've been cooking up a storm -- I hardly got to cook at all abroad since I was so busy with everything else. Anywho, this is my modification of the gorgonzola pasta dish. Be forewarned, it's quite heavy but lighter than most recipes I've found for alfredo sauce.

You will need:

1/2 lb dry Fettucine pasta
Water, salted to taste, for boiling
2 tbsp olive oil

Equivalent of 1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (there are sharper and sweeter versions, I went with the sweeter one)
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
Salt to taste

1 cup artichoke hearts, quartered
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic, zested or chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup wine (if desired)

Start off by boiling the pasta, putting the olive oil in the water and stirring to prevent sticking. You'll want to cook this for 10-12 minutes, give or take.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and gorgonzola once hot. Stir until there are few lumps and add salt. Set aside to thicken.

Take a skillet, ideally cast iron, and heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, put in the olive oil and add the salt. Use a spatula to coat the entire skillet and add the artichoke hearts and spices. After stirring to coat each piece thoroughly, add the white wine and mix quickly. Continue to cook until the sides of the hearts begin to brown and set aside.

I like to mix my sauce with the pasta but a lot of people think it's prettier to serve the sauce drizzled over it. Whatever works. Top it with the seared artichoke and serve with hot, crusty bread.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ring in the New Year with Collard Greens Soup

I'm reporting to you from Finland, so while it is evening here many of you in the States are probably just awakening from a champagne induced stupor. Here's a recipe I meant to publish awhile back but preparing to go abroad wound up eating up a lot of time. If you don't have the time or energy to do a traditional black eyed peas, greens and cornbread dinner, here's a one pot dish to keep warm with.

You will need:

I lb fresh collard greens
1 quart chicken broth
3-4 whole, uncut cloves of garlic
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch mung bean threads, uncooked (you could use rice noodles but I like the texture of the bean threads better, these are also known as cellophane noodles)
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2/3 cup water

Rinse the collard greens well and lay them flat on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut out the stem and fold in half. Roll from the bottom up and slice into segments, this will give you fine long pieces of greens. Bring the chicken broth and water to a strong simmer and throw in the garlic and greens. Cook for about 45 minutes, checking every now and then to make sure the liquid doesn't boil off. If you're running low, add a bit more chicken broth or salt water.

After 45 minutes add the oil, tamari, chili flakes and mung bean threads. Cook for about 5 more minutes and remove from the heat. Serve it hot, ideally with some crusty bread to soak up the potliquor.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

No, I'm not a racist for calling it Mexican lasagna -- you can never be racist against lasagna. If I wanted to be more politically correct I could call it Enchilada Lasagna but it's more than that. It incorporates many of the staple foods of the central American region like corn, potatoes and beans; although my ingredients inevitably come out of a bag or jar, even if it's a produce bag, this is pretty much as authentic as you can get whilst striving to be fancy. There's not much Americanized about this except the fact that it's made in...gasp...a CASSEROLE DISH! I have recently realized that I could be the goddess of casseroles, but that's another entry and you probably knew that already if you've read the rest of my blog.

I wanted to make a few notes here about ingredients. Don't ever subject yourself to corn tortillas that do not resemble something made out of corn -- it should look like a big round raw corn chip rather than a stiff version of a white tortilla. The latter have no flavor, no fiber and simply are wrong, wrong, wrong. Also, I use Frontera enchilada sauce because it's the best and my attempts haven't come close. However, feel free to use any sauce you like, just keep the sugar far, far away. It amazes me how many "real" Mexican restaurants around here put sugar in their enchilada sauce. It's gross and that's why I make things like this at home instead.

Alas, the beans. I've taken a liking to dried beans, although they're much trickier to work with. They're cheap too. The night before you want to make this, take a cup of dried black beans and pick through them to remove any that are split, broken or shriveled. Sometimes there are little stones in there so be vigilant. Rinse them off then soak them in a big bowl of cold water overnight. If you don't feel like all that, use a 16 oz can of black beans rinsed well.

You will need:

1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight OR 1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, uncut
1 1/2 tbsp taco/burrito seasoning (some variation of paprika, red chili flakes, cumin, etc.)
4-5 small potatoes like fingerlings, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
12 corn tortillas
oil for frying
2 cups enchilada sauce
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
3/4 cup crumbled queso fresco

Take the black beans and mix with the stock, garlic, taco seaoning, salt and potatoes. Cover and simmer over medium- low heat in a medium saucepan for about an hour -- you want the beans to retain a firmness but not be crunchy either. Keep checking on them and stirring. In the meantime, take a skillet that's slightly larger than your tortillas and heat about half an inch of oil over medium heat in it. Once it's reached the right temperature, slide the tortillas into it and allow to fry for a few seconds. This may take some practice if you've never done it before, you want to fry just enough to make them pliable, so that's usually about 5 seconds. Much more and you'll just get really stiff, crunchy tortillas and those are harder to work with. Place them on a plate and allow to cool, this can take up to half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 415. Using a casserole dish, press 2-3 of the tortillas into the bottom and sides. Pluck the cloves of garlic from the beans (or mash them up and put them back in) and put about a quarter of the beans over the tortillas. Use 1/4 cup of the queso fresco over the beans, then enough enchilada sauce to cover topped with 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat until you're out of tortillas, you don't have to put everything in exact order or use as much cheese as I did but you do want to make sure you've got the right amount of each ingredient. Leave the queso fresco off the top layer and finish it with enchilada sauce and some of the jack cheese. Let it bake for about half an hour, but keep checking to make sure the edges aren't burning. Take it out once the top gets bubbly and slightly browned.

Allow to cool for at least 30 more minutes. It's a little less runny than regular lasagna but not by much. Some people like a dollop of sour cream on the side. This also makes for great leftovers and holds its shape pretty well.