Archive for November, 2009

Just a Bit Busy

November 30, 2009

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Listen.  Do you hear that?  Crickets.

I know things have been a little quiet here at Dana Treat.  Every so often I do so much cooking and planning that I have trouble getting back in to the kitchen.   Our Thanksgiving went over very well as I hope it did for you and your family.  I remember washing dishes at the end of the last year and thinking, “I never want to do this again”.  Aside from the turkey grease that seems to still be lurking around and the lingering smell of cigars in our dining room, I was happy to have hosted and I look forward to next year.

In addition to the holiday, this was a big weekend for us.  The 26th was the anniversary of the day Randy and I met nine years ago.  The 27th was my mom’s birthday.  The 28th was Graham’s fifth birthday and my wonderful friend Lauren’s 40th.  I made two huge layer cakes for Lauren’s party and bought Graham’s cake.  Bad mommy?  No, I just know what I can and can’t do well.  Graham wanted a bus cake.  I don’t do bus cakes.  Lauren wanted two big yummy cakes.  Those I can do.

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But Graham did have a big party with his buddies where we made pizzas and terrorized the poor patrons of California Pizza Kitchen.

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Graham did a great job making pizza (I couldn’t help myself and had to get my hands in there).  I was proud of him for choosing pineapple and black olives for his pie and saying no to the pepperoni because “that’s meat”.

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As you can see, it was all about hugging the pretty girls, the cake, and the presents for my boy.



Last Minute Appetizer

November 25, 2009

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If you are hosting Thanksgiving, chances are you are in the kitchen with all burners going and the oven on.  Or you are at work just waiting until you get home so you can get all burners and the oven going.  Or, if you are like me, you are procrastinating and also waiting for your husband to wake up from a nap so he can deal with the 23-pound turkey in the refrigerator.  Whatever the case, probably the last thing you want to see is another recipe.

That’s why I’m not giving you a recipe.  Just an idea.  I made this lovely little appetizer for the party I catered a couple of weeks ago.  On the menu there was a lot of comfort food which was what the birthday girl requested.  As I was putting the dishes together, I thought we needed something a little fresh to balance out all the carbs and cheese.  I wanted to keep it as something you could pick up and thus this little appetizer was born.  Nothing earth-shattering or super fancy, but it looks pretty and has a perfect sweet/salty/bitter bite.

All you need is endive, radicchio, Manchego cheese, and membrillo (quince paste).  But before you email asking how dare I suggest you find a Spanish market on the day before Thanksgiving…hear me out.  You could really substitute any kind of hard cheese and any kind of fruit paste (I actually used apple because I wanted to try it and I did go to a Spanish market that has things like that.)  You could also just use jam or jelly and hell, you could use soft goat cheese too.  The key is to make sure the flavors balance and that it looks pretty.  Slice the radicchio into ribbons at the top (not the root) end where the leaves are much more colorful.  Have fun with this.  Or just file the idea away for a less harried time.

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope yours is one filled with friends, family, and delicious food.  For those of you who don’t, I wish you happy Thursday!



Something Other Than Pumpkin Pie

November 24, 2009

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I have so many memories of Thanksgiving dinners as a child.  I loved the gathering of friends and family, I loved polishing the silver with my mom, and I loved getting to stay up past my bedtime and put on plays with my brothers and friends.  What I didn’t love was the food.  I never liked turkey and I was totally grossed out by gravy.  Stuffing and mashed potatoes are all well and good but they really need gravy.  (I have since remedied this problem by making vegetarian gravy each year.)  So my dinner consisted of dry starchy things that I would choke down.  And, at the end of that meal, my dessert choices were always pumpkin pie or pecan pie.  Neither of which I liked.

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My mom’s friend Marilyn is an expert pumpkin pie maker.  But if you don’t like it you don’t like it, and I still don’t.  Once I had a bit of baking experience under my belt, I started bringing an “other” dessert to our family gathering.  What I really wanted to bring was chocolate but even I knew that something that rich would not be good after a huge feast.  I usually settled on something apple and over the years I made pies, tarts, and cakes.  To this day, when we now host the dinner in our home, I delegate lots of dishes to others.  This year I have passed off the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and an appetizer.  That may sound like I outsourced the entire meal but I am still making bread, cheeseballs, green beans, a potato/horseradish gratin, vegetarian gravy, sauerkraut with apples, and two desserts.  Oh yes!  And a 23 pound turkey and “regular” gravy.  I really wouldn’t think of letting someone else make the “other” desserts.  I gotta make sure I get my apple.

A word about bundt cakes.  As cakes go, they tend to be easy but I have a deep-rooted fear of them.  I have had so many decide that they would rather stay in the pan than be eaten by me and my family.  I recently replaced my old and no-longer-non-stick pan which does help.  So if yours is old and shows any sign of rust, time to get a new one.  I also highly recommend you use Crisco and flour to grease it and don’t forget to get the middle part greased up well.  A little offering to the kitchen goddess before you turn it out doesn’t hurt either.

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One Year Ago:  Broccoli Rabe, Radicchio, and Carrot Salad and Spinach and Lemon Stuffed Mushrooms

Cider-Caramelized Apple Pound Cake
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 12

Cake
2 cups clear apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
3 cups granulated sugar
3 sticks plus 2 tbsp. (13 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground mace (DT: I didn’t have mace so I just added a little extra nutmeg)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream

Glaze
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

1.  Make the cake: In a large saucepan, boil the apple cider over high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.  Add 1 cup of the granulated sugar and cook over moderately high heat until a dark amber caramel forms, about 4 minutes.  Off the heat swirl in 2 tablespoons of the butter until melted.  Add the apples and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are softened and have absorbed a lot of the syrup, about 8 minutes.  Pour the apples into a heatproof bowl and let cool.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the lower third.  Grease a 12-cup bundt pan.  Sift the cake flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, salt, and baking soda into a bowl.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 3 sticks of butter until creamy.  Add the remaining 2 cups of granulated sugar and the vanilla and beat at medium-high heat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well between additions.  Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream; beat just until combined.  Stir 1/2 cup of the batter into the apples, then stir the apple mixture into the remaining batter.

3.  Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top is golden and cracked and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 20 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack to cool completely.

4.  Make the glaze: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thick and smooth.  Gradually stir in the heavy cream and bring to a boil.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and bubbling, 3 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Sift the confectioners’ sugar directly into the pot and add the vanilla.

5.  Lay a piece of wax paper under the rack.  Drizzle glaze all over it.  Sprinkle with pecans.

(The cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature overnight or refrigerated for up to 1 week.)



Peanut Curry for the Hungry Days

November 20, 2009

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The downside to having well over 100 cookbooks is that you tend to overlook old favorites in favor of shiny new toys.  I have my books stored as follows:  one cabinet houses two shelves of the high rotation favorites, one shelf houses international cookbooks, one has baking books, a separate somewhat annoying-to-get-to shelf is reserved for the lesser used books, and a kitchen counter houses all the overflow.  In my high rotation cabinet sits The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook.  It isn’t sexy or fancy but it has some of my favorite recipes.  Most of the dishes in this large book are healthy but substantial.  A winning combination if there ever was one.

You know those days where you could just eat all day long and never feel full?  Where nothing is really satisfying?  That is the kind of day to make this curry.  It is incredibly hearty without being too rich and it is so healthy with all kinds of vegetables and beans.  I serve mine on a bed of rice and with a dollop of yogurt on top, but you could easily leave that out and keep it vegan.  The spices here are intoxicating and there is just enough peanut butter here to make it interesting but not so much as to be overwhelming.  If you are wanting to make that naan, it is a perfect accompaniment to this stew.

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One Year Ago:  Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots and Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Collard Greens
Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
Serves 4 generously

I know this is a long list of ingredients but it actually comes together quite quickly.  I have substituted spinach for the collard greens here with good results.

2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 14-ounce can lite coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1 large bunch collard greens, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, add the onion and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add all the spices and cook for another minute, then add the red pepper, the potatoes, the sweet potato, and the tomatoes.  Cover and let simmer over medium-low, until the potatoes have cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and peanut butter.  Add the collard greens and the chickpeas and stir well to combine.  Cook until the collard greens have wilted down enough to be soft, about 15 minutes.  If the curry seems to thick, add more coconut milk or water to thin it.



Yogurt Flatbread (Naan)

November 19, 2009

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If you don’t own Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, I would highly recommend you put it on your holiday list.  The book is ten years old but it has recently been re-issued for its’ anniversary.  Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, meat-eating, or gluten-free, you will find untold treasures in this book.  It’s the one book I would bring to a desert island without question.

I’ve used it countless times in the past but seeing as it houses about 1,400 recipes, there are so many amazing recipes still waiting to be discovered.  A few months ago Ele posted about Ms. Madison’s Naan recipe and somewhere in my clouded foggy mommy brain, I filed it away for the next time I made a curry.  It is a testament to her post (and to her lovely blog in general) that I actually only remembered it.  I received some collard greens in our CSA box last week and decided to make a favorite – Peanut Curry.

As is often the case when I am about to make bread, I took a look at the recipe and almost punted.  I don’t know what it is about bread baking that sometimes seems so onerous to me.  I certainly cook and bake things that take a lot more work.  If I hadn’t been bringing dinner to a friend in need, I probably would never had made this naan and that would have been a shame.  Friends, this is sooo good.  And sooo easy.

A few notes.  Ele said she always grills hers.  I neglected to file away that fact in my clouded foggy mommy brain and now can’t wait to make it again so I can try it grilled.  Instead I followed Madison’s instructions and used a pizza stone.  Still awesome.  I bought both the wheat bran and ghee called for in the recipe because I have a grocery store nearby where those things are easily found.  I’m sure you could substitute butter (I would melt it and cool it slightly – or you can make your own ghee) and whole wheat flour for the wheat bran.  Finally, you must brush each bread with a little melted butter and sprinkle it with sea salt when it comes out of the oven.  Sublime.

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One Year Ago:  Giant Chocolate-Toffee Cookies

Yogurt Flatbread (Naan)
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Makes 8 to 10 small breads

1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup yogurt, preferably whole milk (DT: I used low fat)
1/4 cup or clarified butter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 stick butter, melted
Sea salt

Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine 3/4 cup hot water, the yogurt, ghee, and salt in a bowl , then stir in the yeast, whole-wheat flour, and bran.  Work in enough white flour to form a heavy smooth dough, then turn it out and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but slightly tacky.  Put the dough in a n oiled bowl, turn it to coat the top, then cover and put in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F with a pizza stone or a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and divide into 8 or 10 pieces.  Roll them into balls, cover wtih a towel, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Here are two options for shaping the dough:

1.  Pat the dough into a circle using your fingertips to dimple it all over.  Then gently pull it in opposite directions to make a dimpled oblong.  The texture will be uneven, providing crisp and bready parts.  Place right on the baking stone or hot sheet pan and bake until browned on top, 12 to 15 minutes.

2.  Pat or roll the dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Make five short knife cuts, radiating from the center like a sand dollar, then transfer to the baking stone and bake until browned.

(DT: I shaped my breads using option #2.  I was able to bake two at a time on my stone.  As each pair came out of the oven, I brushed the tops with melted butter and sprinkled them liberally with sea salt.)



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