Monday, July 30, 2012
When I returned from Canada two weeks ago I brought some precious saskatoon berries home with me. The other important cargo was sour cherries, picked by my berry-foraging cousin, and presented with a request for a recipe for sour cherry syrup. I made the syrup with a combination of cherries and saskatoons (there was a cup leftover from the pie-baking); but it could easily be an all cherry or berry syrup. In fact, the recipe is based on one for blueberry syrup, so I feel it is adaptable to what is seasonal and plentiful. What else goes well with cherry syrup? I've used mine with my breakfast yogurt and fruit, and stirred into a tall glass of icy soda water for a refreshing summer drink. It would be nice mixed into a fruit smoothie, or drizzled over ice cream. But the hands-down favorite is these sweet cornmeal pancakes. Quick to mix together, they have a little crunch from the cornmeal and a delicate texture that's just perfect with the cherry syrup.
**Thank you to all the readers who commented on my first blogiversary post and left such kind and encouraging words. I put your names in a hat, chose randomly, and the winner is: Ana, of anacocina.com I will be sending Ana a copy of Sophie Dahl's book : Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes.
Sweet Cornmeal Pancakes
(makes about 10 4inch pancakes)
1/3 cup fine, stone-ground cornmeal
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Measure the 1 cup buttermilk into a 2-cup measure. Add the eggs, and beat gently with a fork until thoroughly combined. Beat in the vanilla extract. Pour the buttermilk mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. There may be a few lumps, but that is okay. Place a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spray it lightly with non-stick spray and add a little butter, if you like. Scoop the batter with a 1/4 cup measure and pour onto the hot pan. Cook the pancakes until the tops are bubbly and the bottoms are golden brown. Turn and finish cooking for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately with sour cherry syrup or the topping of your choice.
(adapted from "Sunlight Cafe" by Mollie Katzen)
Sour Cherry Syrup
(makes about 4 cups)
5 cups sour cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved (or blueberries or a combination of summer berries)
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 lemon, washed
Peel 3 or 4 strips of zest from the lemon, taking care not to include the white pith. Juice the lemon and set both the zest and juice aside. Place the cherries and 1 cup water in a heavy pot. (If you are using berries, crush them lightly with a potato masher). Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the juice through a fine sieve into a large bowl, pressing lightly on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Set the juice aside. In a clean saucepan, mix the remaining 2 cups of water, the sugar, and the lemon zest. Bring to a boil and boil for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches a temperature of 225F. Add the reserved cherry (berry) juice and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Boil for another minute or two. Remove the pieces of lemon zest, cool the syrup, and store in a clean container or jar in the refrigerator for up to three months.
(from a recipe for blueberry syrup at simplebites.net)
One Year Ago: Salade Nicoise
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
One year ago: No-Bake Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce
(makes 26-30 dumplings)
1 package gyoza/potsticker wrappers (available in the freezer section of most supermarkets)
a generous 1/2 pound lean, ground pork
1 cup finely chopped napa or green cabbage
2 green onions, bottoms and green tops, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 -1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water, for sealing the edges of the potstickers
Thaw the wrappers in the refrigerator overnight or for about 30-40 minutes at room temperature. Place the chopped cabbage in a sieve and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let stand for 15 minutes and then rinse with cold water. Squeeze the cabbage dry in a tea towel or piece of cheesecloth. This step will prevent soggy potstickers. Mix all the filling ingredients together, and fry a tiny portion of the mixture to test for seasoning. Adjust salt and ginger/garlic to your liking. Take a wrapper in the palm of your hand and with your finger, dab some of the cornstarch slurry around the edges of the wrapper. Place about a teaspoonful of filling in the center of the wrapper, bring the edges together and pleat the dumpling like the illustration here.
As you finish each potsticker place it on a parchment-lined sheet or tray and cover loosely with plastic wrap to prevent them drying out. When you are ready to cook, heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potstickers, flat bottom-side down, and brown them.
You can turn them to lightly brown the sides, if you wish. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the skillet and cover tightly. Turn the heat down to medium and steam the dumplings until they are done, about 3-5 minutes. Enjoy your dumplings with the dipping sauce of your choice or this one:
Dipping Sauce for Potstickers
1 teaspoon Asian chile sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar.
(recipe for sauce and potstickers just slightly adapted from the blog Steamy Kitchen)
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Last weekend we attended my family reunion in Winnipeg, Manitoba. What fun it was to see family that I hadn't seen in a very long time. The cousins who organized the event had kindly included me in their planning, and when it was mentioned that someone might bring dessert to the Saturday night dinner, I jumped in with both feet (and hands). Another cousin suggested making pie for dessert, but not just any pie, saskatoon pie. The saskatoon berry is native to the Canadian prairies and a family favorite for pie-making as far back as I can remember. It is a firm, round, deep purple berry that cooks into a beautiful dark burgundy color. The flavor is difficult to describe; it has a berry-like taste with nutty undertones. One of my cousins described the flavor of the baked pies as "like marzipan". We were traveling by car so I packed a cooler with food for the road and some pie crusts that I had made and frozen in anticipation of the pie project. When we arrived at my sister-in-law's home, one of my cousins had delivered the freshly picked saskatoons, all thirty cups of them! The afternoon before the dinner we made seven saskatoon pies. The three double crust pastries that I had brought along were not enough, so we made a batch of lard pie crust. Lard was always the fat of choice amongst the stellar pie-makers of our family. My grandmother, mother, aunts, and several cousins all used lard for pies. I usually make pie crust with a combination of butter and shortening, but I have used lard on occasion. It makes a spectacularly flaky pie crust. And it seems a little easier to handle and roll out, never getting really firm, like a butter crust. The pies were a resounding success. I think they managed to evoke those precious memories of prairie summers; berry picking with our parents and grandparents, waiting for those wonderful pies to come out of the oven, and enjoying them together at the end of a warm summer day. I have to thank my cousin Glenn, who picked all those beautiful berries and got poison ivy in the process. To Sandra and Nicole, thank you for all the work organizing the event. You should be proud; it was a weekend to remember! To everyone who attended, I loved visiting and reminiscing, meeting new members of the family and re-connecting with those I spent so much time with growing up. Let's not wait quite so long to do this again, okay?
Saskatoon Berry Pie
(makes one 9 inch pie)
1 recipe of double crust pastry of your choice**
4 cups saskatoons
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2-3 tablespoons cream
cinnamon sugar (optional)
Place the saskatoons and water in a large, heavy, non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring as little as possible so as not to crush the berries. (If your berries have been frozen you may want to reduce the water a little, 2-3 tablespoons will be enough). Once the berries have simmered gently for about 5 minutes, remove them from the heat and add the lemon juice. Combine the sugar and tapioca in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the berries and stir gently to combine. It may seem a little soupy at this point, but the mixture will thicken as it cools. To hasten the cooling process you can transfer the mixture to a flat glass baking dish (be sure to scrape out all the tapioca with the berries). When the berry mixture has cooled, preheat the oven to 400F. Roll out the bottom crust and fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Trim the edges and fill with the saskatoon berry mixture. Dot the top of the pie filling with the butter. Quickly roll out the top crust. Apply a little of the cream on the bottom edge of the crust, then place the top crust over and press the edges together. Trim the overhang neatly and turn the edges under. Crimp the crust in the style of your choice or simply seal with the tines of a fork. Brush the crust with the cream to glaze it and promote a golden brown color. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar if desired. Cut decorative vents in the top crust of the pie to allow steam to escape. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350-360F and continue to bake (about an additional 35-40 minutes) until the crust is richly browned and the juices bubble thickly through the vents in the top crust. Remove the pie to a rack to cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream if you prefer, but it is so special it needs no further adornment.
Big bowls of saskatoon berries, waiting to go into the pie crusts.
Pie crusts chilling while the saskatoons are prepared.
Freshly baked saskatoon pie
Lard Pie Crust
(makes 6 single crusts)
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pound Tenderflake lard
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Place the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and mix together. Cut the lard into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until the texture is like a coarse meal with occasional larger pieces of fat. Blend the egg and vinegar together in a 1 cup measure. Add ice water to come to the 8 ounce mark of the measuring cup. Add the liquid to the flour and fat and toss with a fork, you may not need all the liquid. Add just enough to make the dough come together in large clumps. Press the dough together loosely and divide it into 6 portions (each will weigh about 220 grams). Gently press and shape the dough portions into flat, round discs. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm. Overwrap in freezer bags for longer storage in the freezer.
**The recipe for lard pastry is on the box of Tenderflake lard, a brand that is widely available in Canada. The recipe for the saskatoon pie filling came from an old friend of my sister-in-law, I am not sure of its origin.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
This was my breakfast this morning, created somewhat out of necessity. I was cleaning out the refrigerator and found a container of Liberty coconut yogurt that had reached its expiration date. Then there was a bowl of roasted cherries that we had earlier this week with ice cream. I just happened to have a batch of my favorite homemade granola in the pantry, which contains dried cherries and coconut chips. Voila, a yogurt parfait. I mixed the coconut yogurt with some plain Fage Greek yogurt, and spooned it into a pretty little glass. Then I added the halved cherries and a layer of granola, more yogurt, cherries and granola, and it was ready. A little bit fancier version of my usual fruit and yogurt breakfast, but very good indeed. I found no extra sweetener was needed with mixing the two yogurts, but if you are using plain yogurt, try adding a little honey or maple syrup to taste. You can find the granola recipe here. And just about any fresh fruit will work in a yogurt parfait, although berries are particularly good.
Monday, July 9, 2012
This is my favorite jerk marinade recipe, hands down. I've been making it for years and I love it! It has lots of heat and the added complexity of the traditional jerk spices. It's always fun to cook food on sticks and you can use your imagination to personalize your dinner. I used chicken, onions and bell peppers, but you could substitute pork or seafood. Vary the vegetables by adding summer squash, corn, or sweet potatoes. For a sweet accent try threading pineapple or mango chunks amongst the meat and vegetables. I think jerk-marinated shrimp skewered with pineapple would be sublime. A few tips for successful kebab cookery: hard vegetables, such as potatoes and corn on the cob, should be partially cooked before threading onto the skewers. Chicken and pork can be marinated for as long as overnight, but seafood only needs a couple of hours in the spicy bath. Try to cut all the pieces of food the same size to facilitate even cooking. Discard the marinade after removing the raw meat, poultry or fish. If you use wood or bamboo skewers soak them well in plenty of water to avoid burning or catching fire. Now make up a batch of this spicy marinade, break out the skewers, and get grilling.
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 scallions, coarsely chopped
2 Scotch bonnet chiles, chopped ***
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely ground (you can bash it up in a mortar or use a spice grinder)
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Put the onion, scallions, chiles, garlic, five spice powder, allspice, black pepper, thyme leaves, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process to a thick, chunky paste. With the machine running, pour the soy sauce and oil into the feed tube and blend the mixture until well combined. This makes enough marinade for two 3 1/2 to 4 pound chickens. If you don't use the entire amount, the remainder can be frozen for the next time a jerk chicken craving arises.
***Scotch bonnet chile peppers are very hot! Use caution when handling them, it's a good idea to wear gloves. Once you have chopped the peppers, swap out your cutting board for prepping the remainder of your ingredients or everything will pick up the heat of the peppers. Rinse your knife blade too. If you can't find Scotch bonnets, habanero chiles are a good substitute. And one more thing; be careful when you remove the top of the food processor after mixing the marinade. The chiles are quite volatile and you will cough if you inhale their aroma. (Jerk marinade recipe was originally published in 1995 in Food and Wine magazine)
For our chicken kebabs I used a pound of chicken breast, cut into generous 1 inch chunks. I marinated them overnight in just enough of the jerk marinade to coat them generously. Then I threaded them onto metal skewers with sweet white onion chunks and sweet orange and yellow bell peppers. A quick brush of vegetable oil topped them off and onto the grill they went.
Jerk chicken kebabs, ready for the grill.
We had rice, with some green peas and fresh thyme added, and a cool glass of ginger beer with our chicken kebabs.
A perfect dinner for a warm summer evening. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Brioche is a classic French yeast dough rich with butter and eggs. Some believe that when Marie Antoinette made that famous remark about "cake", it was brioche she had in mind. Classic "brioche a tete" is made in a fluted mold and adorned with a little topknot. But brioche is a versatile dough which can be used for both sweet and savory dishes including panettone, stollen, challah, sticky buns, pate en croute, salmon coulibiac, and even pizza. My version is a variation on cinnamon bread, with a thin swirl of cinnamon sugar through the bread, and a crusty caramelized exterior. It's perfect for teatime with a little honey butter on the side.
Cinnamon Swirl Brioche
(makes 2 9x5 inch loaves)
2/3 cup whole milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup bread or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Combine the milk and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in the flour and sugar, forming a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm environment for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly.
Add the flour and salt to the sponge, then add the eggs. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes, or until the eggs are absorbed. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes. The dough will begin to slap around the bowl. If the machine seems strained, switch to the dough hook. You may have to hold on to the bowl to stabilize it. Decrease the speed to low and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Knead until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes. Scrape out the dough, wash and dry the bowl, and coat it lightly with oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn it so the top is coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When the dough has doubled, deflate it by folding it over two or three times. Replace the plastic wrap cover and let double again. This should take 45 to 60 minutes. At this point the dough can be refrigerated until you are ready to proceed. Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter or spray with pan spray two 9x5 x3 inch loaf pans. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Have the melted butter ready in a small bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal pieces ( each piece should weigh about 1 pound). Refrigerate one piece while you shape the other. Divide your 1 pound piece of dough into three equal pieces. Roll each piece with your hands into a rope that is about as long as the loaf pan. Brush each dough rope with butter, then sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Braid the three pieces of dough, tuck the ends under and place in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the other 1 pound piece of dough. Brush the loaves with any remaining butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the braids are puffy and fill the pans, about 20 to 30 minutes. (If your dough was refrigerated, this rise may take 1 to 2 hours). Whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Gently brush the surface of the braids with egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 350F and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Watch the brioche carefully; the cinnamon sugar will caramelize and brown, but you do not want it to burn. Cover the loaves loosely with foil if they are browning too quickly. The bread is done when the crust is dark golden brown and the internal temperature is 180F. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Use within 2 days or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 2 weeks.
(recipe for brioche adapted from "The Secrets of Baking" by Sherry Yard)
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a few drops of vanilla extract
Blend all the ingredients together in a small bowl with a spatula or small wooden spoon. Taste and adjust the cinnamon and vanilla to your liking. Store in the refrigerator. Let soften slightly before serving.
** I would like to thank Louise at lickthatspoon.blogspot.com for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I am honored, indeed.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Quinoa is ubiquitous these days and there is a reason for that. It's good. A high protein, gluten free, grain-like food that's not a grain, quinoa is versatile and simple to prepare. In fact, this salad is so simple I hesitated to post it here. But sometimes the simplest things are the best, especially when the heat soars and appetites fade. This salad can be a side dish to grilled chicken or pork or a vegetarian main course. It would be great served in a pita bread pocket or spooned into a ripe avocado. It makes a great portable meal too, perfect to take to work for lunch.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed if necessary, and drained ( the brand I use, Ancient Harvest, is pre-rinsed)
2 cups water
1/2 cup small dice of red onion
1/2 cup small dice of red bell pepper
1 cup corn kernels (if using fresh corn, saute or steam lightly until tender crisp)
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine the quinoa with the water and a pinch of salt in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender and fluffy. Turn the quinoa out of the pot into a large bowl to cool. In a small bowl whisk the vinegar, lemon or lime juice, cumin, and salt together. Stream in the olive oil, whisking to blend. Taste and adjust for salt and acid. Chop the cilantro leaves finely, reserving a sprig or two for garnish. When the quinoa is cool, add the onion, pepper, corn kernels, black beans, and chopped cilantro. Add about 2/3 of the dressing and toss the mixture. Taste for seasoning and add the remaining dressing if desired. (If you refrigerate the salad, you may want to reserve some dressing to add just before serving). The salad will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.