Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Playing Cards

Holiday traditions are different in every family. At my gradmother’s house, it’s Christmas eve that keeps us busy. There is a church service to attend in Lithuanian. By the way, no, I do not speak or understand Lithuanian. There is a big, fish-based meal to prepare and later to eat. There are gifts to open, and family to converse with. There are many deserts to bake and eat. So by the time Christmas day actually rolls around, there’s very little to do. So growing up, my cousin, brother and I would need to find ways to keep ourselves entertained. We often played cards.

These cookies are an ode to our holiday card games which would keep us entertained and out of our parents’ hair for hours on end. We would sit on my grandmother’s orange, wool couch (circa 1958) and play round after round of golf or crazy 8’s or go fish. You could decorate these cookies with whatever cut out shape you prefer. You can even keep it simple and classic by poking a round hole, or no hole at all in the top cookie. Whatever you do, choose a jam that tastes good but isn’t too sweet, or it will overpower the subtle almond taste of the cookie.

Jammy Dodgers (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup almond meal (or ground almonds)
2 sticks salted butter, room temp (or use unsalted, and add a pinch of salt)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 large egg yolks (freeze the whites to make frosting when you need it)
1 teaspoon almond extract
Jam (the flavor is up to you!)

1. In small bowl whisk flours and almond meal. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter until smooth and creamy (with hand or stand mixer on medium)
3. Add the sugar and beat until combined
4. Beat in the yolks and extract
5. Slowly incorporate flour mixture at low speed until no streaks remain.
6. Divide dough in two and using a long roll of plastic wrap, roll into long logs about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. You can do this while never touching the dough. Wrap up the logs with the plastic wrap.

7. Freeze dough for at least 2 hours.
8. Preheat oven to 350F.
9. Cut logs of dough into ¼” to ⅓” slices, and place on parchment lined baking sheet, about ½” apart. (These cookies don’t spread much).

10. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until they set but before they brown.
11. Working quickly, use your small cookie cutter or aspic cutter to punch a hole into the center of every other cookie on the rack immediately when it comes out of the oven. Enjoy the resulting crumbs as a reward for baking for others.


12. Let cookies cool for 10 to 15 minutes on wire racks.
13. Place one teaspoon of jam on each un-punched cookie, spread it around, and layer the punched cookie over it. Press together and watch the jam ooze into the cut opening.


14. Eat while playing games with family and friends.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spanish Tortilla, Fall Recipe

I've been reading and re-reading this cookbook my brother bought me for Christmas, or my birthday last year, or maybe the year before. It'll all about pie. Until about 5 minutes ago, I had been under the impression that it was a British book because of the many many meat pies included. Now that's I've actually looked up the publisher's page, though, it looks Australian.

In any case, I made one recipe right out of the book, and was inspired to create another one from the things I had left in my cupboard. First, I made the mustard chicken and asparagus quiche. This combination is not something I would have ever thought to put in a quiche myself. Sure, I've served asparagus with chicken before, but not with mustard, and certainly not baked in eggs and lots of cream cheese. The cream cheese made it too heavy, and there was too much mustard - it took over all the flavors. I may revisit and tweak this a bit.

After flipping page after page of this book, I saw quite a few recipes including sweet potatoes, but nothing that I had all the ingredients for, and nothing that really screamed delicious. I had also recently received a Spanish Tapas book in which Tortillas are described. These are not the corn or wheat flat breads most of us know by this name, but rather a potato-filled omelet/frittata thing, sliced in wedges and very similar to quiche but without the crust.

So, I looked at the ingredients I had at my disposal. Two sad and dying sweet potatoes. Old, leftover roast chicken. That was enough to get me started. Classic tortilla recipes have you shallow or deep fry all the potatoes, then fold them in with the egg mixture, and then bake. I thought I would simplify the process; deep frying is not really my thing.

First, slice the sweet potatoes, toss them in olive oil, and roast them at 350 for about 30 minutes. While they roast, cut up and season any leftovers you have that you'll want to add in, like chicken, or vegetables. I also sliced and caramelized an onion. This was definitely a good decision. Yum.

When the potatoes were cooked through, I layered potatoes, chicken, and onion twice in a deep dish pie plate. The egg mixture is three large eggs, plus enough half and half (cream & milk) to make 1 cup of liquid. I poured that over the filling, and popped the whole thing in the oven for about 25 minutes, still at 350.

Delicious, and definitely fall-flavored. Fantastic served with cider. The strong stuff, not the juice.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fruit and Spice Breakfast Cookies

22You know when your alarm clock goes off, and you hit snooze over and over? Or maybe you wake up to a radio program, and you just listen to it for too long. And soon, you realize you only have 30 minutes to get up and get out the door. For me, the first thing that gets cut from my morning routine is breakfast. I guess I choose to be clothed and clean breath-ed over being fed.

So lately, I've been trying to make quick and easy breakfast items to eat en route; you know, scones and muffins. This weekend I made breakfast cookies.

The idea is to have a good amount of healthy, whole grains, and a small amount of sugar with some satisfying flavors and add-ins like dried fruit and nuts. I started with my almond chocolate chip cookie recipe, but made some pretty notable changes. Then I started scrounging around for mix-ins.

I started with dried currants, because they're so much tastier than raisins, and I always have a box on hand. Then almonds, of course, because they are the best nut and I also always have some on hand - often in multiple forms. Right now, for example, I have whole roasted & salted almonds, almond meal, and almond  butter.

So then I started getting a bit creative. Frozen banana? Sure. All the spices on my sweet spice rack? Why not. How about some fresh ginger? Let me go ahead and add that right in. Let me tell you, the ginger is clutch, although Nick says it's the banana that makes these awesome.

Into the stand mixer it all went, and then into the oven. I thought this recipe might come out OK, but I planned on needing to make some major adjustments to make them really good. Imagine my surprise when they came out absolutely fabulous, just as they were. I might have eaten one or two right there. OK so maybe it was three.

Fruit and Spice Breakfast Cookies
(Makes 2 dozen. Takes about 1 hour including baking time)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup ricotta cheese (you could probably also use yogurt)
1/2 tsp almond extract

1 cup rolled oats (not the instant kind)
2/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
2/3 cup 10-grain cereal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
(Or your favorite mix of spices)

Mix-ins: (Feel free to play around with this part. Here's what I added)
1/3 cup dried currants
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 banana, cut up into small pieces
1" chunk of fresh ginger, grated.

Adjust oven racks to top and bottom thirds. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the butter and sugars until uniform in stand mixer. (You could also do this with a hand-held mixer, or simply by hand with a wooden spoon.) Add the rest of the wet ingredients, and mix until uniform.

In a separate bowl, whisk all dry ingredients to combine. Add dry to wet, and mix just until no large streaks of flour mixture remain.

Add mix-ins to dough, and fold them in gently. Dough should be relatively uniform.

Scoop balls of dough onto cookie sheets about 2" apart using a small portion scooper. I use a #40 scoop.
Bake in 350F oven for about 12-14 minutes, rotating and switching sheets halfway through baking.

Cookie are done when edges are starting to brown.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Israeli Salad in Pictures

Because, let's face it, reading the recipe is not nearly as fun as looking at the process pictures.

Dice kohlrabi
 Dice cucumber
 Dice carrots
 Dice radishes
 Dice green peppers
 Dice tomatoes
 Put in bowl
 Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Mix.
 Eat. (I think there's cilantro in there too.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pasta Primavera Herb Flop

Sometimes I cook something that's just not that great. This is one of those dishes. However, I think the problem was really in the herbs. Herbs can impart so much flavor, but if you add the wrong ones, it ruins everything. So I think this is still a recipe worth sharing, but I also think that if you want to cook this, you should change the herbs. Basil or parsley would be wonderful. Stay away from chives and especially peppermint.
They are pretty, though aren’t they? These are herbs from our old garden in Indiana. I also used those huge asparagus from the Main Street farmer’s market in downtown Lafayette.
This is an America's Test Kitchen recipe, so it's heavy on the measurement and precision. Of course, I am not nearly this precise in my execution, so I made a few edits. I cook with what I’ve got on hand, and I didn’t have any white wine (drank it all) or vegetable stock (never buy it). So instead I used a bubbly from New York and homemade chicken stock. I refuse to believe these things could have possibly made the dish taste worse.
I was very excited about cooking the pasta using a method typically reserved for risotto. It gave the dish a wonderful creaminess without any added fats or dairy.

Overall, it tasted pretty good. The texture was lovely, and the veggies tasted fresh, but really, I don’t know why mint was ever a recommendation for an herb to add here. Keep your mint for tzatziki and mojitos.

Pasta Primavera (adapted from America's test kitchen)
3 large leeks
1 lb asparagus (1 bunch)
2 cups frozen peas, divided
4 gloves garlic, 2 crushed, 2 minced.
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup champagne
1 lb campanelle pasta
½ cup grated parmesan
Olive oil
Herbs of your choice

Prepare vegetables, but keep all the trimmings:
Cut off dark green parts of leeks.
Cut off bottom portion of asparagus.
Chop up and rinse trimmings.
In medium saucepan, combine stock and 1 cup of water. Add vegetable trimmings, two crushed garlic cloves, and 1 cup of frozen peas. Cook on medium, with lid on pot for 10 minutes until trimmings have flavored the stock. Strain veggies and put liquid back in pot and keep warm with lid on and at low heat.

Prepare the rest of the vegetables:
Cut up leeks and rinse.
Rinse the asparagus, and cut on the bias.
In large dutch oven, with olive oil, cook leeks over medium heat with lid on until they have wilted.
Stir regularly as to not let vegetables burn.
Add the asparagus, and cook until tender.
Add minced garlic and 1 cup of frozen peas. Cook until heated through and fragrant.
Remove vegetables from pot and set aside.

Cook up the pasta and sauce:
In dutch oven, over medium heat with olive oil, and add dry pasta and toast. (Just like you would risotto) Cook for about 5 minutes, until pasta is toasted, and brown in some spots.
Add champagne (or wine), and stir until absorbed by pasta. (Again, just like risotto).
Add broth that you’ve been keeping warm. Let the pasta cook for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. If you noticed that the pasta is getting dry, feel free to add more water.

Take pot off heat, add cheese, and combine. Add the cooked vegetables, and around 2 tablespoons of your favorite herbs.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catch Up

I've been too busy to post what food I've been cooking because I moved to Missouri! But I have pictures of what I've been up to since May. So here are some of my adventures.

First, I want to give a huge (but delayed) congratulations to my very clever and very hard working husband for getting his PhD. WAY TO GO, NICK!!

Second, here is my haul from the first farmer's market of the year in Lafayette, IN. I got skinny asparagus and fat asparagus for different purposes. I picked up a couple bunches of baby kale, and very skinny little leeks. The picture shows the farmer's market variety next to standard grocery store leeks. I'm a sucker for miniatures. I also bought a pretty pink bunch of rhubarb, and some tarragon.

 First haul of the season

Asparagus, big and small

Baby Kale

Leeks: big and small

Third, I wanted to do some baking. I had some old, not so great looking strawberries and my local rhubarb. So I wanted to make some tiny galettes. This recipe originated in Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. Smitten Kitchen also tweaked this recipe to her liking. I think my recipe might be somewhere in the middle.

I used my farmer's market rhubarb, and leftover strawberries to make a kind of jam or compote.

Pie-bound rhubarb
Making compote

The crust is a real hybrid with some of my favorite grains including organic, whole wheat pastry flour and stone ground organic corn meal, both of which were purchased at the farmer's market stand from City Foods. It's very convenient because you can make the whole crust right in the food processor.

Making Crust

Final mini pie

The galettes can be made free form, or you can make them in a muffin tin.

Fruit compote
1 lb. of rhubarb
1/2 qt. strawberries (ugly ones are OK)
1/2 cup natural sugar (like sugar-in-the-raw)

Cut up fruit, put it in a pot over low flame.
Add sugar, mix it in.
Let it cook till it breaks down a bit, around 30 minutes.

Crust & Galettes
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup stone ground corn meal (it's got a more flour like consistency then regular corn meal)
1/4 cup sugar (I used the natural/in-the-raw kind)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 stick butter, cut into pieces and chilled
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Put everything into food processor, and blend until it starts to stick into a ball.
Put out onto counter, and gather into a ball.
Divide into 10 parts. Either roll out into circles, or pat down in muffin tin cups.
Fill crusts with 3 Tbsps of compote.

At this point, you can freeze the tarts and bake them when you want them.

To bake
Preheat oven to 375 F
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, straight from the freezer.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Rustic Tartelette