Posts Tagged ‘Winter’
Okay, first things first—Can I just go ahead and say that my Baracky road ice cream worked? I knew my efforts of trying to finish off the batch with a friend on election night were worth it. Because let me tell you, it is hard work to shovel in spoonful after spoonful of that rich ice cream with some homemade chocolate sauce once the point of fullness has been reached. So yes, if you insist, I will take the credit for why we still have the Obama administration in the White House. Heaven forbid what might have happened if I had made Mitt chocolate chip ice cream instead.
(By the way, isn’t this the nicest photo of the Obamas ever? Sigh, I wish I were a part of that family.)
Anyway! Back to the mundane and exclusively non-political realm of food from now on. We’re in the home-stretch of reaching the holidays, friends, and I could not be more happy about it. These flavors here, the earthy squash and sage, is a reminder to me that home and Thanksgiving are not so far away. Now, I’m not sure if this is one of those flavor combinations that has been so overly circulated and widespread among the general population that, by this point, it bores some of you to tears. Has it? That’s an honest question, because after seeing it here and then here, as well seeing the results on a google search, it seems that butternut squash-sage everything exists.
This is, however, both a very new and very exciting flavors to me. If you’re like me and haven’t the luxury of yawning at this post right now, if nothing else please go out buy butternut squash and roast its rosy-orange flesh with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced sage until the squash is meltingly-tender. You can go through the extra steps, like I did, of quickly sauteeing it with some penne, parmesan, and then top it with some toasted hazelnuts and little fried sage leaves, but I honestly think the majority of the satisfaction of this dish lies in those near-mushy little cubes of squash roasted with sage.
But when finished, this dish has a warmth to it that I don’t think can be explained away by just looking at the individuality of the ingredients. There must be some magic to it, then, when you roast the herby sage with the squash and let it settle into the pasta with some salty parmesan cheese and nutty hazelnuts. If I were to make this again (which I will, because let’s be honest—I have a tupperware full of extra roasted and saged squash that I made once realizing that I my love for these flavors needed to exist beyond dinner last night), I would sautee the squash and pasta together a little longer. I thought I didn’t want the squash to break down completely, but I think I would have liked it a bit mushier. Sounds less appealing, but probably tastes so much better.
One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, loosely packed, divided
12 ounces penne
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
freshly grated parmesan
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel the squash, then cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out its seeds. Cube into about 3/4-inch chunks. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet, and then drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mince about half of the sage leaves and then sprinkle that on top, too. Gently toss so that the oil and sage coats the squash cubes as evenly as possible, and then spread it all so it is one even layer on the baking sheet. Roast until the squash is tender and soft, about 30-40 minutes, taking out the pan halfway through to turn over the squash.
Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil, add a few big pinches of salt, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking liquid.
While both the squash is roasting and the water is boiling, heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, drop in the rest of the sage leaves and cook until crisp, about one minute, before removing them with a slotted spoon and setting them aside. In the remaining heated oil, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, but not brown. Once soft, add in the pasta, reserved cooking liquid, butternut squash, and pan-fry until the pasta begins to crisp and the squash begins to break down. Grate in some parmesan cheese and add most of the hazelnuts and stir to combine. Serve, topping each plate of pasta with another dose of parmesan, and a sprinkling of the fried sage.
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.
I’m not sure about you, but gingerbread isn’t something that’s too common in my life. Maybe it’s just the people I associate with, but it seems like no one I know ever eats it and no one really asks about it. Is there suppose to be some grandma in my family who delivers a homemade loaf of gingerbread to a family party every year, among other goodies? Even though it’d be nice to have that type of tradition, I have no such gingerbread grandma and my family rarely has any sort of extended family get-togethers.
Maybe I’ll become one of those gingerbread grandmas one day, you know, when I’m old. Wouldn’t that be fun! To be the one who’s a stickler about following traditions and always bringing the treats that people associate lovingly with certain memories and times of the year. Now that is something I could be when I grow up. I could pass recipes on to other people and sneakily call them my own even though they came from the back of the ingredient box or from some well known website. This gingerbread will be one of them, I’m pretty sure.
This was the second year I’ve made this gingerbread. My mom’s already asked for a second round of it this season–but this next time a double batch. It’s moist and spicy and full flavored from plenty of ginger, molasses and a helping of stout. Cook’s Illustrated, where the recipe comes from, describes it as a “snack cake,” which I think is pretty fitting, seeing as it’s not sweet enough for me to label it as a full-out cake and the crumb is more tender than dense. Cook’s prides themselves on developing this gingerbread to not suffer a gummy, sunken center, and their recipe delivers: the crumb is uniform throughout.
I’m planning on making this at least once a year from now on (or, like in this case, twice a year). Sooner or later I won’t get the typical response of “…do you mean gingerbread cookies?” when I tell someone that I’m making gingerbread. No, gingerbread will be associated with the holidays and family and before everyone knows it, it’ll be a tradition.
Classic Stout Gingerbread
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2011
Serves about 8-10, or one 8-inch square cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger (if you’re extremely sensitive to heat, lower this to 1 /2 or maybe 1 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
3/4 cup stout
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and center a oven rack in the middle. Grease and flour an 8-inch glass baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and the black pepper together in a large bowl; set aside.
Heat the stout in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda–at this point the mixture will foam vigorously and smell a little funny. When the foaming subsides, stir in the molasses, brown sugar and granulated sugar until it dissolves. Transfer stout mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the eggs, oil and grated ginger until combined.
In thirds, pour and combine the wet stout-molasses mixture into the dry flour mixture, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
Pour the batter into prepared pan and gently tap against the counter three or four times or so to get rid of any large air bubbles. Bake until the top of the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on wire rack until closer to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dusting of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.