Archive for March 2012
I kind of have these ideas in my head of the type of kitchen-life I will lead when I grow up. The specifics change all the time, but the basic structure of it goes something like this:
(You are warned now that this is highly imaginary and most likely unrealistic. This is how I work.)
Each day of the week is designated as a specific day for prepping or accomplishing some major food thing. For example, we could say Monday is designated as “stock day,” and it’s when I use up all the extra vegetables, meat and bones (because obviously I’m going to be cooking up roast chicken at least once a week, right?), and churn out the highest quality stock to be used for soups and sauces throughout the week. Tuesday could be the day where I make creme anglais and maybe some fruit coulis, if some fresh fruit is available, to be used to top ice cream or any cakes. Wednesday could be for making some sandwich bread, or maybe batches of flatbread dough to be cooked up when the occasion demands. Each day of the week would have some culinary purpose. You get the idea? This all sounds incredibly fun if it were possible to play out in real life, but of course as is always the case in this sad life, you and I both know it’ll never actually happen. Nonetheless, still fun to imagine.
Anyway, in these idealistic visions in my head, one of the days of the week is always specified for breakfast-y things. I would make big batches of granola, bake up some healthy fruit and nut muffins, maybe even make some sausage egg breakfast burritos to keep in the fridge throughout the week. (Let’s ignore the fact that I have yet to even make this so-called breakfast burrito in my life. It’ll happen.) As of now, add these granola bars to that list. They’d be individually wrapped up in wax paper, just waiting to be snagged in the morning to eat as a quick breakfast or snack throughout the day. It would be perfect. Or should I say it will be perfect?
Of course, this is how the actual process of making these bars went: The morning after arriving home for my spring break, I mixed up all the ingredients, enough for a double batch, while my mom cleaned up the disaster-mess I was making as I went. Said double batch of granola bars exceeded the 8 x 11 glass dish I was putting them into and I had to divvy it up in another pan. Said double batch of granola bars was of course annihilated by my six-person family that seems to always compete for treats around the house when they are around. The leftover granola bars that weren’t eaten in the first two hours of their existence (of said double batch) were packed up to send off to my spring-break-ending brother and sister in Seattle. There were none left for individual wax paper wrappings. None are sitting in the cupboards waiting for an early morning to-go breakfast.
So whatever to my so-called perfect plans for my future in the kitchen. I kind of have an inkling of a feeling that how the process of these granola bars went this time is probably how it will always go. But you know, I think I’m okay with that. Because after all, the whole objective of all this baking-prepping-cooking is met—and that’s to make nice things that make people happy. A little vague and wishy-washy maybe, but at least that part is true and real.
A note about these granola bars, though: I’m going to be straight-forward with you and tell you that these were pretty awesome. I do realize that most people say that when they present you with a recipe, so I’m going to be a little more specific: if you want granola bars that taste like healthy, (far) less sugary and fatty versions of soft and chewy oatmeal cookies, these are it. They have a chew to them, and the pockets of nuts and dried fruit keep you always biting for more. These are not, however, crunchy or crispy, so if that’s what makes you happy when it comes to breakfast bars, these probably aren’t for you.
A few things — As mentioned above, I doubled the batch. However, due to the quirkiness of fitting it into baking sheets, as well as the honestly crazy amount of granola bars it made, I’m posting the single-batch version below. Also, the recipe calls for quick rolled oats, and I ended up just using the regular rolled oats. It was fine, but I think using the quick-version of the oats will lend to more cohesive bars with less tendency to crumble or break apart.
In terms of what to compose your granola bars of, this is really flexible. I’m posting below the combination of nuts and fruits that I used, but feel free to substitute any of them–the key is to try to get within 2-3 cups, or 10-15 ounces worth of goodies to add in. Other ideas than the combination below: dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots, almonds, seeds, chocolate chips, rice cereal, et cetera.
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (if using less dried fruit, add up to 1/4 cup more)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces), I used:
3/4 cup (3.2ish ounces) dried cherries
1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) golden raisins
1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) pecans
1/2 cup (1.75 ounces) walnuts
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8 pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides in order to create a “sling” that will make it easy to get the bars out. Lightly butter the parchment paper and the exposed pan.
If your combination of fruits and nuts is pretty chunky, like mine were, pulse in a food processor a couple of times to break them down a little bit, or roughly chop to get the same effect. Combine the dry ingredients all together, including the oats, oat flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and dried fruits and nuts. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, and liquid sweeteners until smooth. Toss with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly and coated. In the now empty bowl of what held the wet ingredients, whisk together the egg and water until even, and add to the oat-sweetner mixture to coat. I found this part necessary to encourage the mixture being moist enough and to make it more glued together. Spread mixture in the prepared pan, pressing in firmly.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges and a little golden on top.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, lift up the “sling” to take the bars out of the pan, and using a serrated knife, cut the bars into squares. Store bars, at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s humid.
Wait—before you box this dish into a category of food in your head that sounds something like, “really healthy and nutritious so I should probably make it but probably won’t actually because, you know, too healthy” consider the fact that its appeals might not just be in vitamins or calories (or the lack thereof) or a correct carb-fat-protein ratio. Consider the flavors, too: caramelized onions, the tang of sharp cheese, the slight crunch of quinoa. Ribbons of wilted and slightly bitter kale that offset the sweetness of the onions. Not so bad, right?
Then again, if the nutrition of this dish caused you to take a second glance at it and maybe even perhaps consider trying it out, then all the better. Because honestly, that’s why I lingered on the webpage I found it on over at Food 52 and it’s also why I promptly printed the recipe out to take home and make. Well, that and the fact that I had every required ingredient already in my fridge or pantry (always a plus).
Thing is, I know I’m not suppose to think like that. I should really only be interested in the complexities of the flavors, the combination of textures–you know, “foodie” things like that. And believe me, this dish delivers on all of that too. I was actually a bit surprised at just how good this thing ended up tasting. After it came out of the oven, golden brown and crispy around the edges from the white sharp cheddar cheese, I couldn’t help but slice a wedge of it to try out. And then I had another. I loved how each component of the “quiche” had a bold flavor but when all together, they create something of a mellow and perfectly balanced taste.
But it just doesn’t only come down to taste, because I know that on some level (more present in some than others), we care about just what we’re eating and exactly what types of things we’re putting in our bodies. So, just like how you can’t wholly attribute all of the goodness to this dish in the fact that it’s “healthy,” you can’t completely ignore the fact that when you’re eating it and it tastes delicious, somewhere inside you’re pleased with yourself for knocking off a couple of those daily requirements of vitamins, too. After I finished off the last slice of this quiche, I decided I would make it again–not just because of it’s taste or it’s nutrition, but because of some messy, dependent combination of the two.
(Just sayin’ though–next time I make this I might just cook up a couple strips of bacon to a crisp to add in. Not because there’s something missing in the flavor of it as is, but just because when it comes to that flavor-health trade-off, just try and guess at which one tends to overpower the other for me. Yeah, I’ll choose the bacon.)
Crustless Quinoa and Kale Quiche
Adapted from Food 52
Makes 8 slices
I replaced what the cream cheese the original recipe called for with feta, but feel free to experiment with different combinations of cheeses. Also, see bacon comment above. Yeah, next time it’s gonna happen.
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut into thin bite-sized ribbons
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese
4 ounces feta
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie dish. Set aside.
Combine the quinoa with 1 cup of water and a big pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about twenty minutes or until fully cooked. Keep covered and set aside when done.
While the quinoa is cooking, carmelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. When hot (the oil should be shimmering), add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are completely softened and browned, about 10-12 minutes or so. Remove the onions from the pan and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add the ribboned kale into the hot pan used to cook the onions and cover with a lid. On medium heat, cook until the kale is slightly wilted and bright green, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow the greens to slightly cool. Squeeze out any extra liquid, if any, using a sieve or clean dish towel.
Add the kale, cooked quinoa, minced garlic, and cheeses to the onions in the mixing bowl. Stir the ingredients so that they are evenly combined.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until even and combined. Pour over the quinoa kale mixture and stir until everything is evenly distributed and the eggs cling to the greens. Add a little salt and a few cranks of freshly ground pepper.
Pour the mixture into prepared pan and cook in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the top is darkly golden and the pie has started to slightly pull away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled (my favorite).
I’ve made this before, and look! I’ve even blogged about it already. So this post is somewhat of a cheat. But let me explain: usually, when I make things that I already have up on my blog, I either just eat whatever-it-is happily and that’s that, or, if the pictures from the original post are somewhat ghastly, I’ll snap a few photos of the dish to replace the old ones.
I’d like to think that this dish deserves a little more than that, though. In case you haven’t noticed (as in, in case you’re not one of the two people that has followed my blog from the very beginning), that post where I first talked about this lovely dish was my third post ever. So not only did the pictures qualify as ghastly, but I’m pretty sure it and this recipe have already gotten pushed down to what my sister calls “the black hole of social media storage,” to be forever forgotten. And what a sad fate for something that deserves so much more, you know?
So here we go, round two, of chicken tagine with almonds and apricots. I’m still fully immersed in my love affair with Middle Eastern food, and this dish is an obvious product of that. This recipe comes from Morocco, which even though Wikipedia is telling me is not part of what we define as the traditional Middle East but only qualifies as part of the “Greater” Middle East, I’m still saying it counts. The name of this dish, tagine, comes from the name of the clay pot this type of thing is traditionally served in, but here it’s simply signifying the origins and flavors from the spices used. In this case, the recipe instead suggests you use a dutch oven—which is probably best and especially so if you’re cooking up a cut-up whole chicken as the recipe originally prescribes. However, because I only cooked up a few chicken breasts (and because I sadly lack a dutch oven), I used a 12-inch oven-proof skillet with a lid (as you can probably note in the pictures). So once again, not really authentic. Once again, I’m still saying it counts.
Anyway, the flavors of this dish really stand out. The combination of tumeric, ginger, cinnamon and paprika are both sweet and savory, which is reinforced by the sweet-savory combination of the toasted nutty almonds and rehydrated apricots that are piled on top. The chicken is cooked in the style of braising, which ensures moist, tender chicken as long as you don’t leave it for its death in the oven. I love the mix of textures this all gives the meal too–pieces of juicy chicken with crunch from almonds, soft chew from the apricots, and all alongside pillows of couscous.
Speaking of which, if you’ve got a bundle of couscous in your pantry waiting to be used up, this is the perfect dish for it. After the chicken cooks completely you add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of honey to the braising liquid and let it reduce, making sure to scrape up the leftover bits of chicken goodness on the bottom of the pan. This sauce gets spooned over the chicken and a big heap of couscous, which of course soaks up all of the aforementioned goodness. It’s a pretty nice experience. Can you understand, now, why I thought this dish deserved a new moment in the spotlight?
Chicken Tagine with Almonds and Apricots
Adpated from David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris
Serves 4 to 6
As mentioned above, the original recipe called for a whole chicken that’s been cut-up. The recipe here reflects my use of only using boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are cut into cutlets, so I can provide more accurate cooking times. That being said, the amount of time you braise the chicken will vary a lot depending on the amount of chicken or cuts of chicken that you use. Start checking it at 15 minutes of total braised time (if using less), but it might need up to the 50 minutes the original recipe calls for.
4 oz (125g) dried apricots
1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into even-width cutlets (6 cutlets total)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons course salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter (or a combination of olive oil and butter)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup very roughly chopped almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour boiling water over the apricots in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the chicken cutlets with the ginger, tumeric, paprkia, saffron, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a dutch oven, then add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent but nut yet browning, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, snuggling it among the onions. Cook the chicken for about 3 minutes, turning it halfway through. Pour in the stock and cover tightly. Bake in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the breasts register 160 degrees, turning the chicken once during the braise. See note about cooking times–you might want to check the chicken to make sure it is fully cooked depending the quantity and cut you have.
Remove the dutch oven from the oven. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Return the dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the honey and lemon juice, and let reduce into a pan sauce that is about 1/3 of its original volume. Taste for salt.
Return chicken to dutch oven, and add the rehydrated apricots (drained from their water) and almonds on top. Serve over couscous.
I’ve mentioned before that I go through phases of being intrigued by different cuisines. There was that time in late summer when I desperately wished I had been born Spanish and grew up having my days revolve around meals, tapas and drinks, and that period earlier this year when I wanted to associate myself with all things French (but who am I kidding here? I’m always in a French phase). Obviously, a romanticized stereotypical vision of this cuisine’s culture are required to accompany these culinary interests of mine.
Well everyone, I am happy to say that I am currently knee-deep in obsessing about another cuisine at the moment. It’s basically any food from the Middle East, but especially that of Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco. Waylon and I found a Middle Eastern grocery store downtown that has a little restaurant on its second floor, and it has now become our favorite place to eat when we go out not just because of how cheap it is, but because, guys it is just good. Think hummus, tangy tabbouleh and fried potatoes with paprika wrapped up in a warm pita good. Or sticky, warm and nutty baklava good. Since my first time visiting this restaurant I now have a Lebanese cookbook, medium-grind bulger and two types of zahtar in my pantry, and plans (albeit, a little abstract at the moment) to live in Beirut one day. Yeah, I told you my phases come on pretty strong.
Anyway, I had a little dinner party last week and guess what theme I went for? Yep, Middle Eastern. I pan-fried fresh, bubbly pita bread to be served with hummus, tabbouleh, zahtar, and yogurt and paprika marinated roast chicken. We piled different combinations of the flavors onto our pitas, each finding our favorite. For dessert I served this cake here, a sticky and juicy blood orange cake. It all seemed to work together, and the cake must have been alright—all that was left by the next morning was a thin, picked-at slice.
I think this cake is special because the tangy sweet orange syrup that’s poured on the cake after it comes out of the oven makes for a moist and juicy cake, just like the name insinuates. The candied orange slices on the top make for great textural and taste contrast, with the soft but slightly crunchy (from the semolina flour) cake crumb against the sticky bite of the blood orange. Oh yeah, and that’s besides the obvious fact that they make this cake look beautiful, in that rustic, humble kind of way.
The original of this recipe calls for satsuma oranges, but I’m I think the color and flavor of the blood oranges really stands out. Really any type of citrus works here though, so use whatever you’d like. Just make sure you cut the orange slices thin enough so they candy easily, and make sure you candy them all the way–you want the entirety of white pith part to look almost translucent, as if it were filled in. Oh, and there will be more candied slices than will be needed to top the cake. Take a hint from me and dip them in chocolate. And then eat them. This may or may not fit in with my current Middle Eastern thing, but that’s alright, I’ve still got this cake.
Juicy Blood Orange Cake
Adapted from Andrea Ruesing’s Cooking in the Moment, found via Bon Appetempt
4 to 5 thin-skinned satsumas, clementines, tangerines, blood oranges, or small navel oranges
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup semolina flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the glazed oranges, finely zest one of the oranges to get around 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest in total. Set this aside and reserve it for the cake batter. Cut the orange in half and juice it, making sure not to get any seeds in the juice. You should have around the upwards of 1/3 of a cup; if not, you may need to juice a second orange to get enough juice.
Slice the remaining oranges into very thin rounds, no more than 1/4 inch thick. Remove and discard any seeds. If using a thicker-skinned citrus such as tangerines, blood oranges, or navel oranges place the thin slices on a plate. If using tangerines or blood oranges, microwave the slices on high for 2 minutes. If using navel oranges, microwave the slices on high for 3 minutes.
Combine the 1/3 cup orange juice, the lemon juice, sugar, salt and sliced orange slices in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring to a slow simmer. You may have more slices than liquid in the saucepan–this is okay, they’ll all get candied. Cook the slices in the simmering mixture for 7-10 minutes, mixing the slices around every once in awhile to distribute them among the syrup, until the peels are tender and the centers of the orange slices are starting to be translucent but not falling apart. If the peels are aren’t tender enough to cut with a fork (or still have any white of the pith), keep simmering until they are. Once candied, use a slotted spoon to transfer the slices to a plate. Continue to simmer the syrup until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on how long you simmered the orange slices and the size of your pan. Set aside.
To make the cake, begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F and buttering a 9-inch springform pan. If you don’t have one, butter a 9-inch cake pan and fit with a round of parchment paper on the bottom. In a medium bowl, whisk together the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, add an egg, waiting for it to incorporate completely and scraping down the bowl before adding the second egg. Add the reserved orange zest and combine.
With the mixer running on low, add the flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture a little at a time until all of it is incorporated, but do not over mix. It should be thick, almost like a brownie batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Arrange the glazed orange slices in one layer on top of the batter—you will probably not use all of them, so just use the prettiest ones for your cake and eat the rest.
Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the cake for 30 minutes more, for a total of 45 minutes, or until the cake is evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack until warm, not hot. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving dish, if desired. Then, using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the cake. Drizzle the reserved and reduced glaze over the top and brush to evenly distribute. This can be served warm or at room temperature.