Saturday, February 25, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Back in October I read a post on Chocolate and Zucchini about solo eating and cooking. The author was interested in what her readers cooked and ate when they were eating alone. This week, with our husbands out of town, my sister and I had several conversations about this topic. Carol was cooking pasta with mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and "lots of garlic". I was testing some recipes and ended up one night with cheese fritters and cherry relish. We both decided, as did many of Chocolate and Zucchini's readers, that solo dining is a combination of indulgence, comfort, and convenience. It's about preparing something nourishing and satisfying. It could be anything from a simple egg salad sandwich (one of Carol's favorites), to a salad, or a bowl of noodles. Maybe you are craving something from a favorite local take-out spot. It seems that dining alone, for many cooks, is an opportunity for a change from the usual routine. When Carol and I were children our Father's job as a policeman required shift work. It was when Dad was working the 3:00 to 11:00 PM shift, that Mum sometimes took a break from the meat and potatoes meals that were the norm in our house. It was on one of those evenings that she took us for pizza when the Gondola restaurant opened in our neighborhood. I remember how I loved the olives in the salad. One of my favorite meals that Mother reserved for Carol and I was something she called "tuna and peas". Essentially a thick bechamel into which she added canned tuna and peas, it was the way she served it that I loved. Mum would trim the crust from slices of white bread, butter them, and fit them into muffin cups. Into the oven they would go to toast to a crunchy golden brown. The tuna and peas would be spooned into a little toast cup and we each had our own dinner for one. This weekend I have taken the flavors of "tuna and peas", added pasta and a brightly seasoned bread crumb topping, and made my version of a modern dinner for one. Here is what I did:
Pasta with Tuna, Peas, and Gremolata Bread Crumbs
makes 1 generous serving
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or regular dry bread crumbs)
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced,
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
grated zest of 1/2 a small lemon
3 ounces best quality canned tuna, drained
1/4 cup frozen peas
a heaping tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 to 3 ounces of linguine (depending on how hungry you are and how "saucy" you like your pasta)
Make the gremolata breadcrumbs: In a small bowl mix the chopped parsley, grated lemon zest, and minced garlic. In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, toast the panko crumbs in a teaspoon or so of olive oil until golden brown and crispy. Allow to cool then toss with the parsley, lemon, and garlic. Set aside. In a saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, heat a teaspoon of olive oil. Saute the chopped shallot to soften, but do not brown. Add the white wine and let it bubble away to reduce by about half. Add the cream and the peas, season with a pinch of red pepper, and simmer gently to heat the peas. Flake the tuna into the sauce and set aside while you cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente or just tender to bite. Drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the sauce and gently heat and toss everything together. Plate the pasta in your favorite pasta bowl and garnish generously with the gremolata crumbs (there will be leftover crumbs; they are great sprinkled over salad or roasted vegetables). Enjoy with a glass of wine, a favorite book or movie, and the pleasure of your own company.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Designer Chocolate Baby Grands (from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened (alkalized) coca powder (I use Droste brand)
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, separated, plus 1 additional white, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/3 cup bleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Arrange 14 foil cupcake liners in a muffin pan. Coat lightly with baking spray with flour. Set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, by hand, whisk the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Add the oil and yolks to the chocolate mixture. Attach the whisk beater. Starting on low speed, gradually raise the speed to medium and beat for about 1 minute, or until smooth and shiny, and resembling a buttercream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla for a few seconds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. Beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. The mixture will be very thick. Starting on low speed, add the egg whites. Gradually raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. The batter will now be like a thick soup. Using a silicone spatula, scrape it into a 2-cup or larger cup with a spout. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake liners. They will be just under half full, 3/4 inch from the tops. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centers. While the cupcakes are baking, make the ganache syrup. When the cupcakes are baked, set the pans on a wire rack.
Milk Chocolate Ganache Syrup
3 ounces milk chocolate, 40% to 41% cacao(or 2 ounces lower percentage milk chocolate and 1 ounce dark chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao), chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine. In a 1 cup or larger microwavable cup with a spout )or in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often), scald the cream (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will appear around the periphery). With the motor of the food processor running, pour the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process a few seconds until smooth. (Alternatively, grate the chocolate, place it in a small bowl, and stir in the scalded cream until the mixture is uniform in color). Transfer the chocolate syrup to a microwavable bowl and stir in the vanilla. Remove the cupcakes still in the muffin pan to a wire rack. While they are still hot, poke about 12 deep holes in each cupcake with a wooden skewer. Brush the cupcakes with syrup. It penetrates most readily when at least 110F-almost hot to the touch. If necessary, reheat as it cools by giving it a few seconds on high power in the microwave. Allow them to sit for a few minutes, and then apply more syrup to fill the little holes left by the skewer. Continue applying the syrup until all of it has been used. There should be a thin coating covering the top of each cupcake. Allow the syrup to set until, when touched with a fingertip, it leaves no mark, about 1 hour.
1/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon golden syrup or corn syrup
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder
1/3 cup heavy cream
Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium metal bowl. In a small bowl, place the 1/4 cup of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to moisten and soften the gelatin and allow it to sit for a minimum of 5 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and set aside. In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the sugar and 1/3 cup of water. Stir constantly with the whisk until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and, with the whisk, gently stir in the golden syrup and then the cocoa until smooth, making sure to reach into the corners of the pan. The mixture will be glossy. Using a silicone spatula, stir in the heavy cream. Return the pan to the heat and, stirring constantly, bring the mixture to the boiling point (190F). Bubbles will just start to form around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the mixture into the medium bowl. Cool slightly, for about 10 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should register 122F to 140F/50 to 60C. With the silicone spatula, stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved completely and no longer streaky. Strain the glaze into a 2-cup heatproof glass measure or bowl. Cool for a few minutes, stirring very gently so as not to incorporate any air. For these cupcakes, the glaze coats best when just made (80F/26C). If the glaze is made ahead and reheated, it will be thicker and should be used at 82F to 85F/28C to 29C. After about 1 hour, the cooled glaze can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. Reheat it in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water, or very carefully in a microwave with 3-second bursts, stirring gently to ensure that it doesn't overheat or incorporate air.
Glaze the cupcakes:
Lift the cupcakes from the pans and carefully remove them from the foil liners, leaving the white inner liners still attached to the cupcakes. Set the foil liners aside. Place the cupcakes on a wire rack set on a half-sheet pan or a large piece of foil to catch the excess glaze. Use a regular tablespoon (not a measuring spoon) to coat the tops of the cupcakes with the lacquer glaze. Smooth it into place with the rounded back of the spoon in a circular motion. Some of the glaze will cascade over the sides and can be reheated and repoured. Use the aluminum foil as a funnel to pour the excess glaze back into the glass measure. Should they appear, any tiny bubbles can be pierced with a sharp needle. Allow the glaze to set for about 1 hour, or until just barely tacky when touched lightly with a fingertip. Set the cupcakes back in the foil liners. They are at their most shiny within 6 hours of pouring the glaze. To revive the shine, bush lightly with a soft brush or wave a hair dryer set on low briefly over the cupcakes. If desired, encircle them with cupcake wrappers.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Montreal-Style Bagels (from Marcy Goldman)
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 package dry active yeast
1 tablespoon beaten egg
1 tablespoon malt syrup (I used maple syrup)
1 teaspoon salt
4 3/4 cups flour (I used bread flour)
4-5 quarts water
1/4 cup honey
Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl whisk together the water, sugar, oil, yeast, egg and syrup. Add 1 cup of the flour and the salt and whisk until smooth. Add an additional 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth, adding flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. This will take about 8-10 minutes.
Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. (I weigh my dough and then calculate how much each piece should weigh. Sounds fussy but it ensures equal-sized bagels). Now roll each piece into a 10 inch long rope, wrap it around your hand and pinch the ends together firmly. (Use a little water to stick them, if necessary). Place the rings of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets and cover with clean tea towels.
Fresh and Smoked Salmon Spread
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 generous tablespoon sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 ounces cooked salmon, broken into large flakes
2 ounces cold-smoked salmon, chopped into medium dice
zest and juice from half a large lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1 generous tablespoon chopped chives
a big pinch each of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the cream cheese, yogurt or sour cream, lemon zest and juice together in a medium bowl. Add the capers, chives, cooked salmon, and smoked salmon and fold together without breaking up the salmon too much. Add the smoked paprika and cayenne and taste for seasoning. Adjust to taste with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve with your Montreal-style bagels or with crackers or French bread. (Many years ago my mother made something similar to this with cream cheese, canned salmon, and liquid smoke! It was shaped into a ball and rolled in chopped nuts and parsley. We loved it!).
For those of you craving a real Montreal-style bagel you can order them online at: www.stviateurbagel.com.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
We started with hummus, toasted pita bread triangles, and some good olives.
1 16-19 ounce can chickpeas
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
3-5 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
paprika, chopped parsley, and olive oil for garnish
Drain the chick peas, reserving the liquid. Place in a food processor with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and a little salt. Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid and process the mixture to your preferred consistency. You may need to add more liquid if you prefer a very smooth hummus. Taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice. Place in a serving bowl or plate and make a shallow depression in the dip. Drizzle in a little olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley and serve with pita chips or fresh vegetables.
Spicy Eggplant Stew (from "Tender" by Nigel Slater)
enough for 6
eggplants-2 pounds (1 kg.; 2 large ones)
peanut oil-2 tablespoons
green cardamom pods-8
coriander seeds-2 tablespoons
black peppercorns-2 level teaspoons
garlic-4 plump cloves
fresh ginger-a thumb-sized piece
ground turmeric-2 rounded teaspoons
vegetable stock-2 cups (500 ml)
coconut milk-3 1/2 cups (800 ml)
small, hot red chiles-4, finely chopped ( I used 2 serrano chiles and found that was sufficient for my purposes)
mint-a small bunch
cilantro-2 small bunches
Wipe the eggplants, cut the stems from them, and cut them into fat chunks. The dish will be more interesting to eat if you don't cut them too small. Put them into a colander, set in the sink, and sprinkle sea salt over them. Leave them for a good half hour, longer if you can. Peel and coarsely chop the onions, then cook them with the oil in a large pan over medium heat until they are soft, translucent, and sweet. While the onions are cooking, crush the cardamom pods with the flat blade of a knife or a rolling pin and shake out the little black seeds into a mortar or spice grinder (or a clean coffee grinder). Add the coriander seeds and the peppercorns and grind them to a coarse powder. Thinly slice the garlic. Peel the ginger and cut it into thin, matchstick-like shards. Stir the garlic and ginger into the onions along with the turmeric and ground spices. Peel and seed the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Rinse the eggplants of their salt and pat dry. Without oiling them, grill them on a ridged cast-iron grill pan until they are starting to soften and have dark grill lines across them. Turn them as you go, so that they are cooked on both sides, removing them as they are ready and replacing them with another batch. Add them to the onions, then pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Add the coconut milk, chiles, and a little salt and continue cooking at a simmer for about forty-five minutes. The eggplants should be very soft and silky but not actually falling apart. Lift out the eggplants, tomatoes, and some of the onion with a slotted spoon. Reduce the rest of the sauce by boiling hard for five minutes or so. Now ladle most, but not all, of the sauce into a blender and blitz until smooth and thick. Return the vegetables and the sauce to the pot, then chop the mint and cilantro leaves and stir them in, together with a final seasoning of salt and black pepper. Serve with rice (or couscous as I did).
*This dish can be made ahead. I did mine early in the day and added the fresh herbs after I reheated it. For the couscous I used Near East brand plain couscous. I toasted about 1/4-1/3 cup chopped pistachios in a tablespoon or so of unsalted butter in a saucepan, then I added the water and a pinch of salt as per the instructions on the box. When the water came to the boil, I added the couscous and about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley. Five minutes later, I fluffed the couscous and put it in the serving dish.
Lamb and Prune Meatballs (from "Chocolate and Zucchini" by Clotilde Dusoulier)
1 pound ground lamb
12 good-quality prunes, pitted and finely chopped
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup (packed)fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (packed) freshly grated and finely minced orange zest
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the meat, prunes, shallots, garlic, parsley, orange zest, allspice, egg, the 1 tablespoon olive oil, the salt, and pepper. Mix well with a fork. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Wash your hands well and keep them damp. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of the mixture and roll them into balls between your palms. Set aside in a single layer on two plates until you've used up all the meat. Wash your hands thoroughly again. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs in a single layer without crowding. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring the meatballs gently around the pan to brown them all over. Set aside on a clean plate and cover with foil while you cook the second batch. Return the first batch to the pan, cover, and reheat for 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with parsley, and serve. Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter.
Eleven Madison Park Granola (from the New York Times Magazine, October 30, 2011)
2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips (I found these at Whole Foods)
1/3 cup pumpkinseeds
1 tablespoon salt (I used 2 scant teaspoons)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried sour cherries
Preheat the oven to 300F. In a large bow, mix together the oats, pistachios, coconut, pumpkinseeds, and salt. In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from the heat. Fold the liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and spread granola over it. Bake until dry and lightly golden, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way. Remove granola from oven, and mix into it the dried sour cherries. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a storage container. Makes about 6 cups. (Adapted from Daniel Humm, Elven Madison Park, New York).
*You can find the recipe for the Lemon Pudding Cakes on my post of January 19, 2012.