Archive for June 2011
I miss Seattle. It’s strange how sometimes places (or people I guess, for that matter) look new and special when really they haven’t changed one bit. I’m sure you know what I mean–when you thought you once knew something well but all of a sudden one day you look at it and it looks so different even though the only thing that’s changed is your perception of it. That’s kind of like Seattle for me. I lived here last year while I was attending the University of Washington (I transferred obviously–long story), and I’m currently back for a couple of days to visit and stay with my twin sister, Lindsey, who lives and goes to school here. I kind of had something of a miserable experience my first year at the UW, and my view of the school and the city matched my emotions. In my mind the school was too big, the city was too bothersome and busy, the people were too annoyingly trendy and hip. Now, coming back to visit after attending a small, liberal-arts school in Oregon for the past year, the same streets and school I once loathed magically look so exciting and real. I envy how Lindsey is a short walk away from so many nice shops and restaurants. Oh, and the restaurants! There is nothing, nothing like the food in Seattle (yes, I know I am more than a little biased but I think it really is one of the best “foodie” cities). No matter whether you want to eat cheap or expensive or anything in between, there are more than a few handfuls of places in Seattle that serve fantastic food. It almost feels indulgent to be here again, like a treat. I know a large part of this change in my view of the city is due to the fact that I’m a terribly nostalgic and sentimental person. My mind only remembers the wonders of the city and somehow all my frustrated, gloomy memories are forgotten.
But then I think a part of it is just that I took a lot for granted. Who would have known that I would miss Seattlites (and the way they dress too, surprisingly), or that the farmer’s market at my new university would pale in comparison with the ones scattered throughout Seattle? The pictures above are from Lindsey and my visit to the Saturday market in University District–the one on the right is me (or rather, my mouth) about to sample some english cucumber. It’s so nice to see row after row of local produce, fresh containers of cheese, and piles of freshly baked breads and pastries. I guess even more than that, it’s nice to see friendly people sampling and buying their foods, obviously patient and okay with the fact that it’s still grey and a little chilly in June.
After my sister and I browsed the bins and tables at the market for a good while, we decided to buy a bundle of leeks and a large bunch of kale. I realize fresh, juicy strawberries are popping up in recipes in the blog world, but I think the local ones here in Washington still aren’t that prime yet. They tasted too normal-y at the market, if that makes sense. Anyway, after a little contemplation with what to do with our purchase for dinner that night, I remembered a recipe I had been attracted to in the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit: bacon and leek risotto with poached egg. What we ended up with is really nothing like the recipe but I guess everything has it’s roots, does it not? Taking the premise of that recipe, and borrowing from a Heidi Swanson idea of barley risotto, we ended up with mushroom and leek barley risotto with poached egg. My sister was hesitant to the idea, but I think we’re both happily pleased with the end result.
Although it’s not very similar in texture and the melt-in-your-mouth tendency characteristic to something like arborio or the shorter-grained, starchier rices, the barley was a nice change. It had a heartier quality to it, of course, and it had a definite but satisfying chew to it that we both liked. We were in a healthy(ish) mood anyway, so the nice nutritional profile of the barley was a plus. Even with the denser, rougher texture of it, the freshly grated parmesan cheese we sprinkled in with a generous tablespoon of butter binded the risotto together with a smooth creaminess. As far as tastes go, this dish is a winner. I loved the leeks and mushrooms together, and the nuttiness of the barley and parmesan added another dimension of flavor. The lightly poached egg on top complemented the risotto in both taste and texture, but a poached egg dropped on top makes just about anything better, does it not?
A nice, simple and healthy dinner. I know if I had made this dish at home it probably would have tasted equally as good (actually, probably better–you can’t beat a fully and well stocked pantry and fridge), but somehow eating it in my sister’s house here in Seattle seems more special. There’s something about Seattle that you can’t get anywhere else. And I’m pretty sure that Seattle, nice place that it is, will forgive me for judging it improperly. Impressions can get so muddled anyway, maybe some bad things in our life just need another (or different) perspective.
Mushroom and Leek Barley Risotto
Idea based off a Bacon and Leek Risotto with Poached Egg from Bon Appetit, April 2011
Amy’s Note: The procedure I used to get this recipe is something of a combination from multiple different risotto recipes, and improvisation in some part concerning the barley. This recipe would no doubt taste fantastic (or better, I think) using classic, arborio rice or something similar. In that case, follow traditional risotto procedure like the one featured in the Bacon and Leek Risotto recipe from Bon Appetit.
2 cups pearled barley
5 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4(ish) tablespoons of butter
3(ish)tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound of mushrooms, lightly cleaned and sliced thin (wild preferable, we used porcini though which were tasty)
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 2 large)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 parmesan cheese, with more for sprinkling or to taste
4-6 eggs (or one for each person being served)
Bring barley and chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, turn down the heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked about 2/3 of the way (they should still have a strong bite).
Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Heat about a tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until the butter is foamy. Add about half of the mushrooms, or as much as possible without crowding them in the pan. Saute until starting to turn brown and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and transfer to reserve for later. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms, making sure to use additional butter and olive oil before each batch.
Using the same pan the mushrooms were cooked in, melt a tablespoon each of butter and olive oil and add leeks. Saute the leeks until soft but not brown, stirring often, about 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the barley from the saucepan–there should still be some liquid left in the saucepan. Reserve this liquid to finish cooking the barley and risotto in. Add the barley to the pan with the softened leeks and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed (this may take longer than in traditional, arborio risotto). After absorbed, add about one cup of the reserved, remaining chicken stock to the saucepan and stir until the broth is almost reserved. Repeat this, one cup at a time, until the barley is cooked through (most, if not all of the reserved stock should be used up), about 20 minutes after first adding the rice. Add reserved mushrooms, parmesan, and an additional tablespoon or two of butter and stir until combined and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the risotto is cooking, poach the eggs. (There are a lot of tutorials on the internet and in the blog world about poaching eggs. I like the one from Smitten Kitchen, if you’re looking for one.) Divide risotto among serving bowls and top with a poached egg. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and additional parmesan if desired.
I’m pretty sure breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. After all, it’s really the only meal where it is perfectly acceptable if not encouraged to get something super-sweet and super-savory at the same time (and let’s just say I love good excuses to eat sweets). Breakfast is also almost always satisfying, no matter how simple or extravagant it is. How can one judge or pick favorites between a small bowl of yogurt with some honey and fruit, or a flaky, warm pain au chocolate and a cappuccino, or even a thick slice of french toast with pecans and syrup on top and bacon on the side? You really can’t. They all have their places in the breakfast world, and I can’t imagine waking up each morning without them. And honestly, I’m pretty sure I could eat a fried egg over a buttered piece of whole grain toast, sprinkled with some coarse salt and pepper on top any time of the day, every day.
Although breakfast has always decidedly been best in my opinion, I’ve been especially interested in it lately. I think it has something to do with a combination of two things–my efforts at eating healthier and balanced, and Heidi Swanson‘s Super Natural Every Day that I can’t stop reading and re-reading. I know the whole blog world has ooh’ed and ahh’ed over the book for a couple months now, but I just got my hands on a copy my sister let me borrow and of course it’s better late than never, no? I find each section lovely but I’ve been drawn to breakfasts to start. I began by making the baked oatmeal, which I am certain the most oatmeal-hating person would love, as well as trying the muesli and multi-grain pancakes (which I made two days in a row they were so good).
I had always been a bit skeptical of homeade granola recipes–I’ve grown up on the large, store bought packages with the big clumps and chunks of granola that can only get their texture from some form of commercial processing. But, of course I had to try Heidi Swanson’s. I’m so glad I did, because while I wasn’t wrong in my belief that homemade attempts at certain things can’t imitate commercial processing procedures, I was wrong in my thought that they were superior.
Nothing but homemade granola could create such crunch, chew, and lightly kissed sweetness that this recipe had. I loved the combination of flavors that Swanson chose for the recipe–the orange is refreshing and pairs nicely with the coconut. I also love the dried currants, which after toasting had turned into little bites of chewy goodness. The granola wasn’t overwhelming or heavy in the slightest like some packaged brands, and although it didn’t clump or chunk together like my (once) beloved commercial granolas, I liked the loose granola and how a touch of orange and sweetness individually coated every piece. Yes, I think this recipe has become a new breakfast staple in my ongoing growing list. Simple, textured, slightly sweet, and wonderful.
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day
Makes about 8 cups
In this version I lowered the amount of maple syrup called for and instead added in the juice of the oranges. I wanted to add extra orange flavor and I still think the end result was perfectly sweet. Also, I didn’t use large flake coconut as called for in the recipe, and the difference in size and texture of the coconut is reflected in the pictures above. This recipe halves well and adapts easily. Substitute the walnuts for almonds (or use both), use golden raisins instead of currants… you get the picture. The main flavor elements here are coconut and orange, so whatever you do, make sure you don’t skip them.
4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1 cup unsweetened shredded large-flake coconut
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2/3 cup dried currants
grated zest of two oranges
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup of juice from the oranges
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Set out two rimmed baking sheets.
Combine the oats, walnuts, coconut, salt, currants and orange zest in a large mixing bowl (hands work well). Heat the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and stir in the maple syrup and the juice of the oranges. Wisk until thoroughly combined, then pour the maple mixture over the oat mixture and stir until everything is well coated, at least 30 seconds. Divide the mixture equally between the two baking sheets and spread into a thin layer.
Bake, stirring a couple times along the way, for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until the granola is toasty and deeply golden. You may want to rotate the pan once, top to bottom, to ensure even baking.
Remove from the oven and press down on the granola with a metal spatula–you’ll get more clumps this way. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature.
EDIT: This picture (and the picture right before it, too) are taken from a separate time I made this recipe. I used almonds and golden raisins instead of walnuts and currants. Delicious as always. Make it.
I haven’t really been able to find a balance with things ever since school got out. I went from a pretty busy and rigid schedule of being a full time student with a 15-hours-a-week job and a long distance relationship (ah, I’m sorry, I could whine forever and I know it’s not a flattering quality), to getting home for a few days only to then take a three week long trip through Europe. Once I got back from that about two weeks ago, it’s just been… sitting. Of course there have been things other than just that–for example, baking and cooking through the list of recipes I’ve been wanting to make all year long. But not much else. I’m not sure what to do with my time and I think it shows by the fact that I’ve been watching way to much of the Martha Stewart Show and I Love Lucy. I by no means want it to appear as though I’m complaining about this huge opening of free time, and I am quite aware that the life of leisure has its perks, but sometimes I want to feel productive and just plain efficient. I know that sounds bad, having a desire to be somewhat similar to being a cog in a machine and all, but I think there is something to be said when you feel active and a bit industrious.
Anyway, this new-found imbalance in my life applies to food, too. During the school year I ate as controlled as a Spartan, oftentimes eating almost the exact same thing every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner from the school cafeteria. I rarely ate sweets save for a giant, vegan cookie I bought myself once a week every saturday as a “treat”. Take a year of that, and follow it with three weeks in Europe that had a diet almost the complete opposite (oh boy, how I miss the food). Fast forward to today at home, where partly as a result of me wanting to catch up on my baking and cooking, I have been eating things like orange chocolate chunk cake, french fries, piece after piece of cornbread, and yes, these here cinnamon rolls. Needless to say, I am a bit off balance, no? Yes, all the sweets I’ve been making (especially including these gooey, warm, sweet cinnamon rolls) taste delicious and bring me great satisfaction. But I miss fresh foods, eating big salads for lunch, not eating dessert every night so that when I actually eat something sweet it truly is a “treat”.
And so, I think what I’ve been cooking lately has to change. Surely things like cinnamon rolls and cake won’t disappear (what kind of world would that be?), but I do think I’m going to attempt to find some balance in my diet. Maybe this means if I’m going to make a pineapple upside-down cake one night, the next day I’m going to balance it by drinking lots of water and eating a lot of fruit and veggies. Or, you know, if I have a cinnamon roll (or two) for breakfast one morning, I’ll make sure that it doesn’t send me off the deep end with sugar cravings for the rest of the day and maybe I’ll even balance it out with some exercise.
Besides, when I do decide to make something like these cinnamon rolls, I want to make sure I enjoy them. And trust me, these cinnamon rolls are something to be enjoyed. Decadent and purely delicious, these rolls are your classic, fluffy yet rich, sweet and moist cinnamon rolls. The recipe comes from the same Wyoming cookbook that the BLT soup recipe came from (which, by some way comforts me in the authenticity of the recipe–don’t ask me why, but I feel as though a “cowboy” state in the midwest would know how to produce good cinnamon rolls). The name comes from the fact that the author of the recipe, Addie Hare, won the first place “blue ribbon” at her county fair for the rolls. I think it is a pretty standard recipe (with a no-fail cinnamon bun dough though, I must admit), besides one thing: you pour a cup of heavy whipping cream on top of the rolls before sending them to the oven. Although it seems a bit excessive, I think it mixed with the sprinkles of brown sugar to create a caramely, sweet-sugar taste on the bottom of the rolls which was delightful. I do think a full cup was quite a lot though, so next time I make these I think I’ll just pour enough to coat the bottom of the pan so the rolls still get that distinctive coating. A wonderful, pretty near perfect recipe though, and I can’t wait to make it again–but of course, next time it won’t be eaten before and after a slice of cake or a cookie.
Blue Ribbon Caramel Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Addie Hare, through A Taste of Wyoming: Favorite Recipes from the Cowboy State
Makes 12 rolls
Amy’s Note: This recipe didn’t come with a cream cheese frosting and although I don’t think it really requires one, some of the friends I served it to prefer it. I used one I got from Smitten Kitchen, and have written it out below. Also, as noted above, I would probably reduce the amount of heavy cream the next time I make it, but I haven’t tested it again to see how the results differ. Also, I put my dough after the first proof in the refrigerator overnight and in the morning let it thaw out for about an hour and proceeded with recipe.
2 cups warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
6-7 cups all-purpose flour (I would stop at 6 and add only as needed)
1/4 melted butter (1/2 stick)
brown sugar for sprinkling
cinnamon for sprinkling
1 cup heavy cream
Pour the water into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the water, then sprinkle the sugar the yeast and water. Allow bubbles to form, about 5 minutes. Stir in the honey, oil and salt; mix well.
Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, slowly add the flour and mix until the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl and dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a separate, lightly oiled bowl to rise until it doubles in size (about an hour or two). On a lightly oiled work surface, roll the dough out into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle (my measurments were about 9×15 inches). Brush the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon (I used about 1/3 cup of brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon). Roll the dough loosely into a log shape and pinch the edges to seal.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the dough into 2-inch thick rolls using a serrated knife. Sprinkle a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with brown sugar and cinnamon; place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean towl. Set aside to allow rolls to rise, about 20 to 25 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with brown sugar and cinnamon; pour the heavy cream over the rolls and then proceed to bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and invert onto a serving tray or sheet pan.
Cream Cheese Glaze (from Smitten Kitchen):
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.
When trying to figure out a meal to make my dad for Father’s Day, the usual suggested menus don’t really work. My dad isn’t that into grilled meat (not like the weather here in Washington would permit outdoor grilling anyway even though, you know, it’s summer and you would expect to see sun instead of rain every day), and he probably enjoys a batch of slightly burnt chocolate chip cookies just as much, if not more, than a slice of some pillowy lemon layer cake. So what did I decide to make for him? Chicken breast poblano–flattened chicken breasts wrapped up in prosciutto and white cheese that are baked in the oven in a poblano chile cream sauce and more cheese–alongside some cornbread and a pineapple upside-down cake for dessert (he’s kind of a nostalgic person and likes his childhood treats).
Dinner was wonderful, besides the fact that my other three siblings were missing (why must people grow up and get jobs and move away and always have things to do?) and a kind of large mishap with the pineapple upside-down cake. You see, the original recipe called for the cake to be cooked in a large skillet, which I don’t have. It did, however, say that a nine-inch cake pan could act as a fair substitute. I’ve made this cake before and I thought I remembered using a nine inch cake pan…but in reality it was the 10 inch cake pan with taller sides. My mistake resulted in overflowing batter in the oven and a pretty botched-up looking upside down cake crumbling at its sides. Lesson learned: trust your instincts and if you pour batter into a pan and you think to yourself, hmm this looks like it might overflow when it rises, it probably will. Luckily, the cake still tasted delicious and all that remains the morning after is about two slices. Concerning the rest of the dinner, we all happily enjoyed the chicken and cornbread (my favorite, favorite recipe), but looking back now I think the chicken would have paired better with something like polenta or rice–something to soak up the delicious poblano cream sauce. I’m not sure how causing my dad to eat past being full and throw aside his trying-to-eat-healthy intentions by making food he loves qualifies as a gift for father’s day, but I hope it counts. Thanks Dad!
Chicken Breast Poblano
From Blanca Rodriguez, through Nordstrom’s Entertaining at Home Cookbook
Amy’s Note: I substituted the asadero cheese with montery jack, which served as a decent substitute (I think) as it melted well and had a nice mild taste. If I were to make this again (which I probably will) I’d probably substitute the heavy cream for either buttermilk or regular milk, just because the heavy cream seemed a bit excessive and the final sauce didn’t seem reliant on the creaminess for its flavors and textures.
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 oz. each)
12 thin slices of prosciutto (about a 1/4 pound total)
1 1/4 pounds asadero cheese, grated (about 5 cups)
4 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Place a chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and, using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently flatten it until it is about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining breasts. Place the breasts on a clean work surface. Lay two prosciutto slices across each breast, and then top with 1/3 cup of the grated cheese. Starting from the long side, roll each breast into a tight cylinder. As each roll is formed, place it, seam side down and ends tucked under, in a 9×13 inch baking dish. The rolls should just be touching. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the chiles, heavy cream, sour cream and salt. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides once, until thoroughly blended and smooth, 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the chile mixture to a 4 quart saucepan, add the chicken broth, and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces slightly and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes.
Pour the sauce mixture over the prepared chicken breasts and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, the cheese is lightly browned, and the sauce is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes (For me this was 40 minutes. I would start checking earlier than what is called for). Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Using a spatula, transfer the chicken to warmed dinner plates and spoon some sauce over each serving. Serve immediately.
From Cook’s Illustrated
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1 cup yellow cornmeal (5 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
3/4 cup frozen or canned corn (3 1/2 ounces), thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled slightly
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined; set aside.
In food processor or blender, process brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.
Using rubber spatula, make well in center of dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well. Begin folding dry ingredients into wet, giving mixture only a few turns to barely combine; add melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer. Cut into pieces and serve.