Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze

Fall and winter mean root vegetables. Sometimes you just can't think of another way to make beets. That's where this recipe comes in handy. It's a great side or an addition to a fall salad.

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze via Serious Eats:

Serves 4

6 medium beets (2 bunches, or about 3½ lb.)
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. inexpensive balsamic vinegar
1 Tb. maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove the leafy stems and roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place the cut beets on the prepared baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Roast for until the beets are tender when pierced with a thin-bladed knife, 35 to 40 minutes, tossing once with a spatula midway through.
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar and maple syrup in a small skillet. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by about half (it should lightly coat the back of a metal spoon). Pay close attention and be sure not to over-reduce it; it goes from sweet and syrupy to burnt and hard very quickly. Toss the glaze with the roasted beets and chill until ready to serve.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Harrison's First Birthday Cake

The biggest reason my blogging has become so infrequent is I've got this little man around that takes up so much of my time. It's fantastic. This past Friday was his birthday, so we went with the family to Lincoln City to celebrate one year of Harrison.

Of course I made him his own cake. It was a process that took a couple of weeks and lots of test cakes. Some were too snack cake, some were disgusting (that's what I get for trying sugar free), and some were just meh. But I found one that was just right and then, as I do, started to modify. I used the frosting from my favorite baby food blog/book (thanks Renai!) and along with some exploding writing icing and a bit of cinnamon, we had a cake.
Harrison tried to eat a slice whole. I'd say that's a success.

Harrison's First Birthday Cake adapted from Martha Stewart and Wholesome Baby Food:

Makes 1 9" 2 layer cake

For the cake -
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
¼–½ tsp. cinnamon
½ c. sugar
½ c. butter, melted
½-¾ c. yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 c.)

For the frosting -
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
¾ c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ c. heavy cream

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Butter and flour two 9x2 round cake pans. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and sugar. Blend in the melted butter, mixing together until moist. Add half of your yogurt and combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the other half of the yogurt with the eggs and blend into the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and mashed bananas. Beat for 1 minute. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and place in center of oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. When cake is done, top should be a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Cool cakes on a cooling rack in pans and then invert onto rack to cool completely.

While cakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. In a small bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the cream cheese mixture.
When the cake have cooled, place one top side up on a cake stand or inverted plate. Place a big dollop of frosting in the center and spread evenly across the top. This is going to be that tasty middle layer of frosting, but don't go too bananas (haha), you need enough to frost the rest of the cake. Place the other cake top side down over this frosting layer. Put a huge amount of frosting in the center of the top and spread it across and down the sides. Keep turning the cake until you've frosted the whole thing. Stick a large knife or spatula or anything long you can find to remove the cake from the plate and onto another one. This is a great two person process, so wrangle someone in to help you.

Once on the other plate, stick in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to let the frosting firm up a bit before doing any further decorating.
Slice it up and watch an adorable one year old get his first piece of cake. Also, some other people ate it, but you know, priorities. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thai Mango with Coconut Sticky Rice

One of my favorite desserts is mango sticky rice. I lean toward the fruit side of the dessert world and this one is perfect for those cravings. It's so much easier than you think and the results are so perfect.

Thai Mango with Coconut Sticky Rice via The Kitchn:

Makes 2-4 servings

1 c. Thai sweet or sticky rice
1 can coconut milk, unshaken
3 Tb. raw or white sugar, divided
1 tsp. salt, divided
½ tsp. cornstarch (or tapioca flour, available in Asian groceries or in gluten-free section)
2 ripe mangos
Toasted sesame seeds and mint, to garnish

Soak 1 cup of dry sticky rice in water for about 1 hour. Drain the rice and rinse it thoroughly. Then pour about 1 cup of water into a saucepan, and place the rice in a steamer insert inside the saucepan. Cover tightly and steam over low to medium heat for 20 minutes.

While the rice is steaming, make the first sauce. You will make two coconut sauces to go on the rice: One thin one to mix into the rice itself, and then a thicker sauce to spoon over top. Start by opening the can of coconut milk and spooning out the thick cream on top.

Place the thicker coconut cream in a small bowl. You should have approximately 1/2 cup, give or take a bit. Pour the thinner, lighter coconut milk left in the can into a small saucepan. It will be a little over 1 cup. Stir in 2 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Do not let the sauce boil.
By now the rice is probably done. The grains should be tender and shiny. Spoon the rice out into a bowl. It will be clumpy. Slowly pour the warm coconut milk over the rice in the bowl, stirring frequently. You want the milk to coat the rice but not leave puddles. Keep stirring, and stop pouring in coconut milk when it looks like the rice is saturated. You may not use all of the milk. Set the rice aside to finish absorbing the coconut milk; after 15 minutes or so it should have soaked up any milk that is still liquid.

While the rice is standing, make the coconut topping sauce. Rinse out the coconut milk saucepan, and pour in the coconut cream that you took off the top of the can. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together a few teaspoons of water and the cornstarch. Whisk this cornstarch slurry into the coconut cream and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens considerably. Set aside.

To cut up the mango, first cut off the bottom so it can stand upright. Slice away the skin in thin strips, until the mango is completely peeled. Cut off the flesh in slices, starting with the broad cheeks on each side, then the thinner strips that will come off either side. Try not to eat all of the mango when you're doing this. It's hard, I know, but the end result is worth it.
To serve, place about 1/3 cup cooked sticky rice on each plate, and arrange mango slices around it. Drizzle with the coconut topping sauce, and sprinkle with a few toasted sesame seeds. Garnish with a mint sprig, and eat while still warm.

So good. So so good.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Summer might be over, but Portland keeps hanging on to the sun. The leaves are falling off of the trees though and it is definitely fall. Maybe you stashed some tomatoes away in your freezer. Make this and pretend it's still August.

Heirloom Tomato Tart via Joy the Baker:

Makes 1 9 by 9 tart

For the sun dried tomato pesto sauce -
1 8 oz. jar sun dried tomatoes, some of the oil reserved
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small red chili, seeds remove and coarsely chopped
Big pinch of granulated sugar
1 scant tsp. salt
3-4 Tb. olive oil from the sun dried tomato jar
For the Tart-
1 9×9-inch sheet all-butter puff pastry, thawed but still cold
Small handful fresh basil leaves
4 oz. goat cheese
3 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced about ¼-inch thick and drained on paper towels
Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and seeds removed
1 Tb. fresh thyme leaves
Olive oil
To make the sun dried tomato pesto sauce, combine sun dried tomatoes, garlic cloves, chopped
chili, sugar, salt, and oil in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until combined, but still slightly
coarse. The mixture does not need to be completely smooth. Taste and season as needed. You'll get some extra. It's fantastic on other things, like toasted bread.

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking
sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Unfold a chilled sheet of puff pastry. Roll lightly with a rolling pin just to flatten completely. Place on the prepared baking sheet and spread about half of the pesto sauce over the puff
pastry, leaving about a ½-inch border around the edges. Coarsely tear basil leaves over the
sauce. Crumble goat cheese over the sauce. Arrange heirloom tomatoes in a single layer over
the goat cheese and press down slightly. Try to cover as much of the sauce as possible as it can
burn in the oven if exposed. Add a few cherry tomato halves. Sprinkle generously with fresh
thyme and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest
for at lease 10 minutes before serving.

It's kind of like pizza, but so much fancier. Close your eyes and dream of summer.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cardamom Moscow Mule

Sometimes you just need a cocktail – one that is crisp, refreshing, and a little different. Try this one on for size. It's really easy and you may already have everything you need at home except for the copper mug. A regular glass will do.

Cardamom Moscow Mule via Honestly Yum:

Makes 2-ish

For the mule-
2 oz vodka
½ oz lime juice
4 oz. cardamom ginger ale
Lime wheel and pinch of ground cardamom for garnish

For the ginger ale-
2 tsp. finely grated ginger
5 cardamom pods
½ c. evaporated cane sugar
½ c. water
1 c. sparkling water
To make the ginger ale, peel and finely grate the ginger. Set aside. Crack open the cardamom pods and grind the seeds using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Set aside. Add sugar and water to a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add ginger and ground cardamom and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Once the syrup has cooled, strain through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to a large jar or bottle and add sparkling water. Keep the ginger ale chilled in fridge while you make the rest of your drink.

Crush ice, either using a Lewis bag or food processor. Fill your cup halfway with crushed ice. Add the vodka, lime juice, and cardamom ginger ale, then top off the remainder of your cup with crushed ice. Cut a lime wheel and lay it on the top of the cocktail for garnish. Sprinkle a little ground cardamom on top of the cocktail for some added spice.

If you love ginger, you'll love this one. It's got bite, it's crisp, it's totally perfect for ladies night. I also really like the ginger ale just on its own.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Char Siu Bao

Bao is magic. It is a delicious steamed bun filled with perfection. I go into the kitchen with new recipes all the time, but rarely do they come out just as perfect as these did. This was a project Kirsten and I had been dreaming about for so long. It was worth the wait. It was so wonderful and Aaron is harassing me to make it again. These were the first things we started on dumpling day, but they were the last ones ready. Take the time and make these happen in your life.

Char Siu Bao via Jessica Gavin:

Makes about 24 buns that don't last long

2 c. barbecue pork (char siu), ¼ inch dice
2 Tb. oyster sauce
4 Tb. granulated sugar
1 Tb. peanut oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
4 Tb. peanut oil
4 tsp. shallots, minced
3 Tb. all-purpose flour
12 Tb. chicken stock
2 Tb. dark soy sauce

Bun Dough-
1 Tb. granulated sugar
¼ c. warm water (105°F)
2¼ tsp. active dry yeast
4 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tb. lard or shortening
½ c. extra-fine granulated sugar
1 c. whole milk, warm (105°F)
1 Tb. vegetable oil
1 Tb. baking powder mixed with 1½ Tb. water

To make the filling, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the shallots 2 minutes or until light brown. Add the flour, stir to combine, and cook 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock, stir well, and cook 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook one minute. Remove from heat and stir in cut pork and seasoning ingredients. Chill until very firm.

To make the dough, dissolve sugar in warm water, sprinkle yeast over; let stand 2-3 minutes, and then stir to mix well. Let set until it starts to foam, 10 minutes.

Sift flour and make well in the center. Whisk together the lard/shortening, sugar, yeast mixture, and milk. The fat will not completely dissolve into the liquid.

Combine liquid mixture with the flour; gradually incorporate the flour with the liquid to make dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour as necessary.

Use the oil to grease the outside of the dough; cover and let rest in warm area 1½ hours or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down and flatten out to about ¾ inch thick. Spread the baking powder mixture evenly on the dough. This acts as a stabilizer. Roll dough up and knead about 10 minutes, or until smooth and satiny. The dough should be firmer than regular white bread dough. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll one part by hand to form a rope approximately 9 inches long and 1¼ inch in diameter. Mark into 6 equal parts, 1½ inch long. Holding the dough with one hand, grip at the first mark with the thumb and index finger of the other hand and tear away briskly to break off a small dough piece. Continue breaking until you have 24 pieces. Flatten each piece of dough with your palm. Using a rolling pin, roll each into a round disk, making quarter turn with each roll. Roll to leave the center thick; thinner edges are easier to pleat. I had difficulty getting these as thin as I wanted which led to slightly chewier bao, but they still tasted wonderful, so don't worry if you can't get them quite right.
Place about 1 tablespoon of filling at the center of each dough round, flat side up. Gather the edges by first pleating counterclockwise, and then twisting to seal securely. Place the bun round side up on a square piece of parchment paper (2.5 X 2.5 inches).
Let buns rest, covered for at least 30 minutes.

Steam on high heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not uncover the steamer any time during the steaming. If a flat lid steamer is used, wrap the lid in a kitchen towel to prevent condensed steam from dripping on the buns.

Eat with dipping sauce and spicy Chinese mustard. These were so, so, so good! I'm excited to try to make different fillings. The dough is super easy and comes together perfectly. I recommend doing this recipe with another person. Having Kirsten work on the filling while I made the dough cut down on our waiting to eat bao time.

These were the perfect end to dumpling day and I can't wait to make the time to make them again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Guo Tie

Who doesn't love a potsticker? We had to make some. This makes a ridiculous amount of filling so either get more wrappers or throw it in with some fried rice. The dipping sauce is the base we used. I know we added a lot of other stuff to it. Go crazy and make it to taste.

Guo Tie and Dipping Sauce via Traditional Chinese Recipes:

Makes so many (at least 20)

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. napa cabbage
2 green onions, white and green portion minced
1 Tb. minced ginger
1 Tb. Shao Xing rice wine or dry sherry
2 Tb. sesame oil
1 Tb. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt, to taste.
1 Tb. cornstarch
¼ to ¾ c. chicken or pork stock
At least 20 gyoza wrappers

Dipping Sauce:

½ c. soy sauce
¼ c. sweet soy
2 Tb. Shao Xing wine or dry sherry
2 Tb. rice vinegar, or Qing Kiang vinegar
1½ Tb. finely minced ginger, steeped in ¼ c. hot water for 30 min.

Make the dipping sauce first. Mix all of the ingredients together plus whatever fun stuff you come up with and set aside.

Separate cabbage leaves and blanch in boiling water for about two and a half minutes. Allow to cool. Wring out the water from the blanched cabbage using a kitchen towel, and chop to 1/4" to 1/2" pieces. Mix this together with meat and all remaining filling ingredients, adding cornstarch last. Add chicken or pork stock slowly as you mix the filling in one direction. Continue adding stock until mixture is visibly wet and "sloppy." If you've overdone the addition of liquid, and the filling is impossible to handle when making the dumpling, add more cornstarch to firm it up. Keep in mind that the filling will firm up when it is refrigerated. Covered, the filling can be refrigerated for up to five days. When you are ready to fill the dumplings, make one and boil it to test the flavor and texture, and making any adjustments at that time.

Moisten the edge of a wrapper all the way around with water, then using a spoon or chopsticks, place approximately a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center. Fold the skin, and before the edges touch, grasp them with your right thumb and index finger, and beginning at the fold, pleat the outside edge, guiding the dough with your left fingers and press it to the inside. As you do this from right to left, you will create a dumpling, which, when set aside on a piece of parchment paper or floured board, will form a flat side perfect for browning when making potstickers. With a little practice, this process will become second nature.

Pre-heat a flat bottomed, well-seasoned pan or skillet on medium heat; add peanut oil to a depth of approximately 1/16 inch. Arrange guo tie close together with the flat side of the dumpling in the oil. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes; after a couple of minutes, lift one or two of the dumplings to see how the browning is progressing. Add water to a depth of about 1/8”—be careful, this will spatter. Cover again and turn heat down to low or medium low, for about 4 minutes. After the potstickers are well steamed, uncover and cook for another two minutes, to evaporate any remaining water and to re-crisp the dumplings. Remove dumplings to a platter, and serve with browned sides facing up.

Like with frozen potstickers, these stuck to the pan. It's a matter of getting them before all the oil is absorbed into the potsticker itself. The timing might be hard, but the food is delicious. Made all the better when you have a unicorn friend to hang out with your dumplings.

I saved the best for last. Check out the amazing bao we made tomorrow.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Siu Mai

Somewhere, about 50 billion years, Kirsten and I really wanted to have a dumpling day. The main goal was bao, but first I wanted to share the two other dumplings we made. Siu mai is something I go nuts over at dim sum restaurants. As you'll see below, we definitely did not have the deft skill to perfectly seal these delicate dumplings like you see at dim sum places, but they were tasty nonetheless.

Siu Mai slightly modified via About Chinese Food:

Makes about 20 dumplings

6 oz. peeled deveined large shrimp
1 green onion
1 tsp. minced ginger
¾ c. ground pork
1 Tb. oyster sauce
1 tsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. granulated sugar
About 20 gyoza wrappers

Soak the shrimp in warm, lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Pat dry. Mince the shrimp and green onion. Combine with the ginger and pork. Stir in the seasonings. Mix the filling ingredients thoroughly.

Lay a gyoza wrapper in front of you. Wet the edges. Put 2 to 3 teaspoons of filling in the middle, taking care not to get too close to the edges. Gather up the edges of the wrapper and gently pleat so that it forms a basket shape, with the top of the filling exposed.
Steam over boiling water until the filling is cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes.

These pair well with bao and the guo tie I'll post tomorrow. It's fun trying new things! Even with the not so great pleating, they were so good.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

40 Cloves Chicken

It's a cloudy day here in Portland. This is the perfect recipe for a day like today. It is amazingly easy and even more delicious. It's a fantastic one to share. Make sure you have a loaf of crusty bread with this. You'll need it for dunking in the oil.

40 Cloves Chicken via Good Eats:

Serves 6

1 3-to-4 lb. broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tb. plus ½ c. olive oil (not extra-virgin)
5 sprigs fresh thyme
40 cloves garlic, peeled.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken pieces on all sides with 2 tablespoons of oil.

In a 12-inch straight-sided oven-safe saute pan over high heat, cook the chicken for 5 to 7 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Remove the pan from the heat; add the remaining ½ cup of oil, the thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1½ hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes with the lid on. Serve family style.

We've done this one several times. It's nice picking up a already cut up chicken, tossing it in the freezer, and then defrosting it just for a day like today. Perfect Sunday supper. Or midweek. Peeling all that garlic can be a pain, but it is so worth it. The garlic becomes so soft and spreadable, you'll have extra from sandwiches and bread for a couple of days. Just give it a shot. You'll love it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese and Lime Crema

I am the worst at blogging. This is an example. I meant to post this, after meaning to post it forever ago before that, almost a month ago. And these are really bad cell phone pictures, which aren't usually really bad, but these ones are. Believe me when I say this tastes a lot better than it looks here.

Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese and Lime Crema via The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook:

Serves 4-6

1 jalapeno
3 c. whole tomatoes (from a 28 oz. can), fire roasted if possible
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1¾ c. cooked black beans (or from a 15 oz. can), drained (optional)

2 Tb. olive oil
4 small (6 inch) corn tortillas
Salt, to taste

12 large eggs
1¼ c. coarsely shredded jack cheese

2 Tb. freshly squeezed lime juice, from about 1 lime
1 c. crema mexicana or sour cream
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro

Halved in 9 inch skillet or quartered and baked in 1-quart gratin dish

Make ranchero sauce first. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. First, taste your jalapeno for heat. Adjust the amount accordingly, halving or quartering the pepper, if needed, and toss into a blender. I like it spicy, so I just went for the whole thing. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and several pinches of salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. Pout into a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, add black beans, if using them, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until it has reduced slightly.

Meanwhile, brush a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cut the tortillas into ½-inch-wide strips, and arrange them on the oiled tray. Brush the tops of the tortilla strips with the remaining tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 3 to 6 minutes, or until they are brown and crisp. Mine are a little thicker, so it needed to bake a little longer, more like 10 minutes. Turn them over once if needed. Remove the strips from the oven, then preheat broiler.

In a separate bowl, stir together the lime juice, crema, and a pinch of salt.
Once the sauce has thickened slightly, remove the pan from heat, and break the eggs across the surface of the sauce, distributing them as evenly as possible. Return to heat, cover the pan, and simmer the eggs gently in the sauce for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the whites are nearly but not completely opaque. Sprinkle the surface of the tomato-egg mixture with cheese, and broil until the cheese is bubbly and a bit blistered, just a few minutes.
Garnish with dollops of lime crema, broken-up pieces of tortilla strips, and cilantro. Serve immediately.
I ended up overcooking the eggs a bit while trying to get the whites to set. It still tasted really good, but without that unctuous yolky flavor and mouthfeel. I would definitely make this again. The sauce is awesome and it makes enough for using on another dish later on.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Whole Lemon Bars

I am still taking pictures of food, editing them, and working on blog posts. Unfortunately, then this all languishes in a folder on my computer and takes a very long time to make it to the Internet. My goal for the next month or so is to clear out this backlog (finally) and try to post a little more regularly. Because I like it and I like to share.

Blame mom brain. It's a real thing.

This is another fantastic recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (have you checked it out yet? I've given you a lot of time). Less fussy than most lemon bar recipes, it is not in any way less delicious. Go impress your friends and make this now.

Whole Lemon Bars via The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook:

Makes 16 way too delicious squares

1 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 Tb. unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

1 small-to-medium-sized lemon (about 4½ oz.)
1 1/3 c. sugar
8 Tb. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 large eggs
2 Tb. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt

Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. Pres the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

To make the crust, blend the flour, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.

To make the filling, cut the lemon in half. If the widest part of the white is ¼ inch thick or less, continue to the next step. If any part of it is thicker than ¼ inch, however, remove the skin and pith from half the lemon by placing the lemon cut-side-down on the cutting board, cut downward and discard it. The second half, even if just as thick, can be used as is.

Cut your lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds, flesh and peel, in the bowl of the food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon in thoroughly pureed, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evenly combined.

Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. Look for the lemon bars to turn light brown.

Let the pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment sling to transfer the bars from pan to cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

Gooey. Lemony. So so good.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cinnamon Roasted Pineapple with Macadamia Nut Cream

I love free samples. When I was a kid and we'd go to Costco, my brother and I would try to sidle in to get second and thirds of samples we really liked, not realizing it's okay to take more than one. It was pretty funny and we thought we were so sneaky.

I got this recipe from a free sample at Whole Foods. It's pretty easy and without the macadamia cream, is universally popular. Try it on a cooler day this summer (or modify it for the grill).

Cinnamon Roasted Pineapple with Macadamia Nut Cream via Whole Foods:

Serves 4

¾ c. raw unsalted macadamia nuts or cashews
1/3 c. chopped pitted dates
1 c. boiling water
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. sea salt
In a small bowl, combine the nuts and dates with boiling water and let soak 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pineapple in a single layer over the paper and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roast until pineapple is very tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Pour nuts, dates, and soaking water into a blender and add vanilla and salt. Blend until very smooth, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender once or twice. Serve drizzled over the warm pineapple.

This recipe hits all the key diet trends: vegan, wheat free. Don't worry about all of that. No matter what your diet consists of, there is only one word for this and that word is delicious.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

So, the Smitten Kitchen cookbook is amazing. Yes, this recipe is also on her blog, but just know that you need to check out the cookbook. I have a couple more that are cookbook exclusives and then you'll know.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza via The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (and blog):

Makes 1 thin crust 12” pizza

Pizza dough:
1½ c. flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. salt
¾ tsp. active dry yeast
½ c. lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 Tb. olive oil

½ lb. Asparagus
¼ c. grated Parmesan
½ lb. mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 tsp. olive oil
½ tsp. coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.

Prepare the asparagus. No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don’t fret some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the end of the stalk, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give a great character to the pizza. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and be sure to try one. It is incredibly good. I'd love to try it as a salad.
Assemble and bake the pizza. Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Either transfer to a floured or cornmeal-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone in the oven) or to a floured or cornmeal-dusted tray to bake it on. Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.
It is much more filling than you'd expect and super tasty. Make it before asparagus are totally out of season.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Risotto Rice Pudding with Brown Sugar and Vanilla

Sometimes you just need dessert and you need to not leave the house. Sure, cookies are always a good choice, but sometimes you just gotta do something different. Sometimes you gotta make rice pudding. This is a fabulous recipe, though it does take a little longer to come together than stated. Worth it. Add the caramel like we did. Also so worth it.

Risotto Rice Pudding with Brown Sugar and Vanilla via Joy the Baker:

Serves 4

2 Tb. unsalted butter
1 c. Arborio rice
3½ to 4 c. milk
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
large pinch allspice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (seeds only) or 1 Tb. pure vanilla extract
Blackberries (or any berries) for topping
Caramel sauce for topping

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, scald 4 cups of milk. Bring the milk to just under boiling, turn off the flame and let it rest.

In a large saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter. Add the rice grains and stir to coat. Ladle in just enough hot milk to cover the rice. Stir (with a wooden spoon) over the low flame. The rice will begin to absorb the milk. When the milk is almost fully absorbed, ladle in more hot milk. Stir until absorbed. Continue this process, standing over the stove, stirring milky rice. Taste the rice as you near the end of the milk. You may only need 3½ cups instead of 4. As you add the last bit of milk, also incorporate the sugar, salt, spices, and scraped vanilla beans. Stir well to combine.
Stir over low heat until the milk is gone and the rice is tender, with just a hint of a toothsome bite.

If you want it thicker, continue to cook it for a bit longer. Serve warm or cold, with fresh berries or without. Or frozen berries. Or caramel sauce.

Rice pudding will last, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Super tasty! Super easy! Do it now!
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