Archive for May, 2010

May 31, 2010

My little family and I have flown to the other coast for a week in Massachusetts.  Randy has his 10 year business school reunion and we are also going to spend some time in Provincetown.  I have a few posts that will appear this week but for today please go visit the ever lovely Good Life {Eats} site where I give you my take on spring risotto.    The method (brought to you by Cook’s Illustrated) is life changing.  No more being chained to the stove stirring bits of broth into rice!  Be sure to check it out.

Holly B’s Rhubarb Bette

May 29, 2010

Recently, I taught a cooking class to a fun and engaging group of women.  I decided to focus on spring produce since it is finally showing its face in our wet climate.  Normally I don’t tackle desserts in my classes (simply because of time), but I thought it made sense to make something with rhubarb.  I had planned to make this cake but in flipping through that much-beloved book, I found something even easier.

There are people who love rhubarb.  My husband is one of them.  Me – I don’t really get it.  It’s sour.  Why do I want a dessert that has something sour in it?  But, after making this dessert twice in a week, it’s kind of growing on me.

This recipe is so simple and it tastes so good, especially if you are in the rhubarb-loving camp.  Even if you think you can’t bake, you can make this.

One Year Ago:  Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps (I’ve made these countless times since)
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Potatoes with Onions and Wilted Greens (and the story of how I went veg)

Rhubarb Bette

With Love & Butter
8 servings

Approximately 5 cups sliced rhubarb (1/2-inch thick slices)
¾ cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. mild tasting oil
1 egg
1 cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Adjust the rack to the center position.  Butter a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Tumble the sliced rhubarb into the pie pan.  The rhubarb should come to within ½-inch of the rim.  Sprinkle the ¾ cup sugar on top and set aside.

In a big bowl, mix the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with the oil and egg.  Add the flour,  baking powder, salt, milk, and vanilla and combine into a smooth batter.  Now dumb the rhubarb from the pie dish into the batter.  Stir gently to incorporate the rhubarb, then pour the whole works back into the buttery-sugary pie dish.  Spread evenly in the dish, but leave the surface lumpy and interesting-looking.  Sprinkle with a little more sugar and bake 40 to 50 minutes, until caramel-colored on top and bottom.  Serve warm, in bowls, with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.


May 27, 2010

Randy has been involved in a big project at work.  In addition to his time-consuming and demanding day job, he hired a team of outside consultants to help him with a totally separate project.  (Don’t ask me what he does for a living because I’m not exactly sure.)  Everyone involved has been working ridiculously hard and not sleeping much.  Yesterday was the big presentation and it starts to wind down from here.  We had a big dinner party last night last night to celebrate.

Big dinner party.  Big.  As in 9 people.  As in I started working on the meal on Saturday.  As in 4 different cocktail nibbles, appetizer course, salad course, bread, 3-part main course, and a totally over-the-top dessert.  Big as in a lot of wine bottles going out to the recycling bin today.

I knew the food would be blog worthy and I had the best intentions of photographing everything so I could write about it.  I even set up my light on the floor of our kitchen.  It started off well.  I got some shots of the appetizers and the salad (see above) but then things got a little crazy in the kitchen.  There was salmon involved and a farro/black rice dish that had to be finished at the last moment.  There was a peanut butter pie served with homemade chocolate sauce, roasted banana ice cream, and a no-bake peanut chocolate cookie.  I kept thinking, “I should be taking pictures!  I want to write about this!” but I just ran out of steam.  The trip from the dining room to the kitchen carrying a plate laden with chocolate and peanut butter seemed like a long journey.

For the record, I turned to a trusted source for advice on the salmon.  We had intended to grill it but after a few emails with Matt, fish genius extraordinaire, I decided to slow roast it in the oven.  I’m totally sold on this method from now on.  I bought 4 pounds of Copper River salmon at the place Matt recommended.  I don’t eat fish but I do know that Copper River salmon is the best of the best.  Randy cut it into portions and then put it on a baking sheet and into the refrigerator.  Half an hour before I wanted it to go in the oven, I pulled it out, drizzled it with healthy amount of olive oil and sea salt and let it come up to room temperature.  About 35 minutes in a 250° oven and the salmon was cooked perfectly, and no one had to stand outside with the rain and the grill.

Also for the record, let me tell you that I will be making that exact same dessert – all parts – again soon so I can take those damn photos and share recipes with you.  Wanna come for dinner?

What I can share today is this bread.  You know when you see a recipe and just want to drop everything and make it?  Maybe something called Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread?  That happened to me with this one.  Fortunately, I had this dinner party in the works which could accommodate it because otherwise, I might have eaten the entire loaf myself.

Have you heard of monkey bread?  This is a savory version that is much less labor intensive.  It goes a little something like this.  You make a super simple dough, roll it out to a very long rectangle then top it with a cooked onion and Gruyère cheese mixture.  You cut the dough into 10 pieces and stack them one on top of the other in a loaf pan.  You take a look at your crooked stack that doesn’t fill up the pan and think, “This is never going to work”.  Then you put it in the oven.  Soon your kitchen starts smelling amazing and when you peek in the oven, you see that magically the dough is starting to fill in the whole pan.  When it is done, it has magically turned into a loaf (though still crooked), it has turned golden brown, and it calls to you to be eaten immediately.  (But!  It can keep for two days at room temperature!  I love recipes like this.)

The result is pretty extraordinary.  Come on.  Sauteed onions?  Gruyere?  Bread?  So soft you want to use it as a pillow?  I brought this out to the table (after sneaking a piece) and when I went back not five minutes later, it was gone.  Not a crumb on a plate.  I can’t wait to make it again.  You can have it with your peanut butter pie when you come over for dinner.

One Year Ago: Green Bean and Fennel Salad

Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread
Food & Wine
Makes one 9-inch loaf

1½ sticks cold unsalted butter, 1 stick cubed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (3 ounces)
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk

1.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Butter a 9-by-4½-inch metal loaf pan.  In a large skillet, melt the ½ stick of uncubed butter; pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a small bowl and reserve.  Add the chopped onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it is softened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the poppy seeds and season with salt and pepper.  Scrape the onion mixture onto a plate and refrigerate for 5 minutes, until cooled slightly.  Stir in the Gruyère.

2.  Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the cubed butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas.  Add the buttermilk and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until a soft dough forms.

3.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.  Pat or roll the dough into a 2-by-24-inch rectangle.  Spread the onion mixture on top.  Cut the dough crosswise into 10 pieces.  Stack 9 pieces onion side up, then top with the final piece, onion-side down.  Carefully lay the stack in the prepared loaf pan and brush with the reserved butter.

4.  Bake the loaf in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until it is golden and risen.  Let the bread cool for at least 15 minutes before unmolding and serving.

(The unmolded loaf can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.  Rewarm before serving.)

Spicy Peanut Noodles

May 26, 2010

Lately, I have been doing a fair amount of catering.  Some of it has been real official catering and some of it has been making food for lots of people on behalf of friends.  Either way, I am always faced with the challenge of how much food to make.  Working as a personal chef for three years and also catering lunches, dinners, and parties – not to mention all the entertaining we do ourselves – has made me a pretty good judge of portions.  I have no formula, I just kind of guess.  (Very scientific, I know.)  If I’m not sure, I err on the side of too much food because leftovers are nice but being hungry because the hostess/chef/caterer didn’t make enough food is not.  Once in a while I am off but thankfully not very often.

My parents came over for dinner last night along with my brother Michael.  Both of my brothers have incredible appetites and if they like something, you had probably better duck for cover.  My brother Alex once went to a wedding where he ate 99 skewers of shrimp with each skewer holding three shrimp.  I do know he did not get sick.  I do not know if anyone else got any shrimp that night.

Anyway, Michael, the baby in the family, also loves food and I always like to send him home with leftovers.  Keeping that in mind, and knowing I was cooking for five last night, I decided to one and half the recipe for these Spicy Peanut Noodles.  Just a pound and a half of noodles.  That should be right for five hungry people with a few leftovers, right?  If I were making this pasta or this one, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a pound and a half of pasta.

I’m not sure what happened to my nice Barilla whole grain spaghetti, but I could have fed about ten people with this dish.  As I said, better too much food than not enough.  Especially if it is a savory dish like this one.  I love Asian noodles of all kinds and these are no exception.  Peanut-y and smooth with terrific bite from the lightly pickled vegetables.  After we all ate our portions, I sent both my brother and parents home with some, and the boys and Randy ate the rest of them tonight.  That is a lot of noodles.  (By the way, my boys – the little ones – inhaled this dish.  Both of them had two huge plates-ful and Graham even had a second helping of tofu.)

I usually scoff at using spaghetti in Asian dishes, but I had some on hand and I like that the Barilla noodles have quite a bit of protein in them.  Their nutty flavor was most welcome in this dish, I just cooked them past al dente so their texture would be right.  No tofu was in the recipe originally, but I liked it here.  I held back a bit of the peanut sauce, brushed both sides of the tofu with it, and baked it in a 375º oven for about 25 minutes.  I also added the slightly pickled carrots because I thought the dish could use an extra bite and a bit of color.

One Year Ago: Greek Pasta Casserole

Spicy Peanut Noodles
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6

1 pound spaghetti
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup + 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
6 tbsp. soy sauce
½ cup water
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove
12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into ½-inch thick wedges
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 carrots, peeled and grated

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a blender, puree the peanut butter with 6 tablespoons of the vinegar, 3 tbsp of the sugar, the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic.  Remove about ½ a cup of the dressing and place in a pie dish.  Put the tofu slices in the dish and turn them to coat with the dressing.  Place dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and turn the slices over.  Bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti until tender.  Place the remaining dressing in a large bowl.  Using tongs, scoop the spaghetti out of the water and into the bowl.  Toss to coat the noodles with dressing.  Ladle in some of the cooking water if the noodles seem too dry.

In another bowl, toss the celery with the cilantro and 2 tbsp. of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Do the same in another bowl with the carrots and remaining vinegar and sugar.  Drain if they seem too wet, but allow them each to sit in their liquid for at least 10 minutes.

Serve the noodles in bowls and top them with the celery and carrots.

Stellar Side

May 24, 2010

Recently, I have been thinking about side dishes.  Sometimes I feel like vegetarians get gypped in this category.  If you have a protein as the focus of your plate, sides make sense.  If you don’t – if your plate is vegetable heavy – why would you have a vegetable side dish?

Here is where it fun to be a cook.  You can make your own rules.  Last night I made a spring vegetable risotto for dinner.  I also made a salad but I wanted another component to the meal.  I like variety and although I had some lovely green vegetables studding my arborio rice(asparagus!, snap peas!, English peas!), I wanted something else.  Enter these mushrooms.  I have been making these fungi for years.  I think I originally found the recipe on Epicurious but have long since stopped using the recipe and just do it by taste.

The concept is simple.  You brown a bit of garlic in some olive oil – just to flavor the oil.  The garlic itself gets discarded.  Once the oil is flavorful and hot, in go whole mushrooms.  They sear a bit and give off their liquid, then a quick pour of white wine goes in the pan.  Once that goodness evaporates, you season the mushrooms, give them a sprinkling of fresh parsley and dig in.  No matter how many I make, we eat all of them.  Last night it was a full pound.  When I make them for company, I make three pounds and haul out my biggest skillet.  There are never leftovers.  Which is kind of a bummer, really.

One Year Ago:  Tofu and Cucumber Salad and Individual Vegetable Tarts

Mushrooms with White Wine
Dana Treat Original
Serves 2-4

Usually I rinse my mushrooms to clean them, but here you will want them as dry as possible.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe them off.  Either button or cremini mushrooms will work great here.

Olive oil
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and stems trimmed
¼ cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the garlic and sauté, stirring often, until garlic just starts to turn brown, about 3 minutes.  Do not allow garlic to burn.  Discard garlic.

Add mushrooms to hot oil.  Give them a good toss, then allow them to sit undisturbed so they can sear a bit.  After about 4 minutes, turn each mushroom over so that the other side can sear.  Once the pan is very dry and the mushrooms are nice and brown, pour in the wine.  (If the mushrooms give off a lot of liquid during this process, allow that liquid to evaporate before adding the wine.)  Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine evaporates.  Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

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