Archive for December, 2010

2010 Recap

December 31, 2010

I know I said that I’m not a big recap blogger.  I’m not.  But I do like the idea of going back over the year and picking out favorites.  I did it last year and here we go again.  I thought of several ways to do this.  I could talk about my favorite dish of each month in 2010, or I could pick my favorite dish in several categories.  I decided not to be that regimented and just share 12 of the things I really loved best.  My trusty assistants have picked chocolate winners and I will let you know who won in 2011!

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Apple Torte

I make a lot of cakes around here and this one was really a stunner.  Everyone needs a good apple cake in their repertoire and I loved this one because it is not just a simple bundt cake.  There are three different textures going on here and yet, it is still a relatively easy cake to make.  Appropriate in all seasons I think.

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Red Lentil Dhal

I have made so many incarnations of this dish and I love them all.  Red lentils are one of those fabulous ingredients that you can dress up or down and they are always good.  This particular recipe uses tons of spices and makes a super healthy and delicious dinner.

Fideos with Pasilla Chiles, Avocado, and Crema

Every time I think about this dish, I want to put the ingredients on my shopping list.  It is one of those shockingly flavorful dinners.  I love spice and all the contrasting flavors and textures here make this a most interesting dish.

Holly B’s Cinnamon Rolls

After wanting to make them for years, I finally attempted these perfect-in-my-opinion cinnamon rolls and they were worth the wait.  And them some.

Gianduja Gelato

I made a lot of ice cream in 2010 and this was by far my favorite.  Like Nutella ice cream but better.

Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread

In looking back over the year, I was shocked to realize that I had not made this again.  Time to remedy that right away!

Pasta with Chickpeas

This Jamie Oliver pasta is a true favorite in our house – one I turn to over and over.  It is healthy, tasty and fast.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you never read another word I write, promise me you will make these cookies.  You will never need another recipe.

Rice Noodles with Marinated Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

I was inspired to make this dish after having an amazing lunch at a local spot.  I didn’t get it quite right, but that didn’t stop me from making it over and over again.

Roasted Pear Salad with Chèvre and Fig Vinaigrette

It is really difficult to explain how good this salad is.  A friend made it for me and I almost didn’t eat the pear part.  Once I took a bite, I could not stop inhaling the salad.  I could eat this for dinner happily with a large hunk of bread.  I am wary of figs, but this dressing is fabulous.

Buckeyes

I got a lot of personal and blog attention for these bad boys.  If you want people to offer to clean your gutters or walk you dog or wash your car, make them some of these chocolate and peanut butter wonders.

Spiced Squash, Lentil, and Goat Cheese Salad

This is another dish I have made many times this year.  I was just at a restaurant which featured a dish with roasted squash, chickpeas, and walnuts and it made me think of this one – which was better.

Happy New Year Everyone!



Butternut Squash Curry

December 28, 2010

Confession.  I made this curry quite a while ago.  Like a few months ago.  Aside from the epic Christmas Eve meal last week and a casual dinner I will do for my in-laws this coming Thursday, I have not been making a lot of dinners.  We have had lots of parties and nights out alternated with lots of sickness.  I’ve been baking like crazy (I still have three coffee cakes I need to tell you about), but not much that is healthy or savory.

I haven’t mentioned this in a while, but I love Indian food.  And there really is no good Indian food in Seattle.  We never even try anymore because inevitably both of us get sick from the restaurants where we go.  I hear there are a couple of good spots across the lake, but after 6½ years of commuting across a bridge for work, Randy is not all that eager to head East for a night out.  Consequently, when we want Indian food, I make it.  I have a few cookbooks that I adore but for this meal, I decided to wing it.

I used fresh curry leaves in this dish which are not all that easy to find.  If you live in Seattle, sometimes Uwajimaya has them and otherwise, there is a tiny Indian grocer/VHS tape rental place on the Ave right near Ravenna.  He has very little fresh food, but has had curry leaves whenever I have asked for them.  They impart a difficult to describe flavor to this and all Indian dishes but do not fret if you can’t find them.  Just make it anyway.  Our month of gluttony is going to continue all the way to the last minutes of the 31st, but you can bet I’m making this again come January.  Tasty, healthy, easy.

Butternut Squash and Cashew Curry
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I served this dish with basmati rice and a flat bread that I made but didn’t like much.  If you are looking to make your own, I can highly recommend this recipe.

Vegetable oil
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
½ tsp. black mustard seeds
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
10 fresh curry leaves (optional)
2 small dried chiles (optional)
¾ cup unsalted roasted cashews
1 tsp. ground tumeric
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
½ cup water
12 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lime

Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom and then add the squash and a large pinch of salt.  Cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Don’t worry if it sticks slightly to the pan, you will be able to scrape up those bits after you add the liquid.  Transfer the squash to a bowl and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the skillet and then add the mustard seeds.  Once they start to pop, in about 1 minute, add the onions, garlic, ginger, chiles, and curry leaves.  Stir until the popping slows down.  Cook until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the cashews, tumeric, and cumin; stir-fry 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk, tofu, and water and increase the heat to medium-high.  Boil until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Return the squash to the pan and reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer until the squash is very tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.



Beans and Rice

December 27, 2010

Beans and rice.  What does that mean to you?  Meager food?  Hangover meal?  Food you cook when you have no money?  Side dish only?

I myself love beans and rice and have no problem making a meal out of it.  And not because it’s cheap.  Of course, it can’t be just white rice and canned re-fried beans, although if you put enough salsa and guacamole on a dish like that, I would not complain.  Black beans have a special place in my heart because they starred in one of the first “real” meals I ever cooked.  (Cue the story music…)

The year after I graduated college, I moved back to Seattle and lived at home.  I got a crappy job – one that I certainly did not need my brand new shiny degree for, and tried to plug back into the Seattle scene after four years away.  The advantages to living at home were many, not the least of which is that I got to eat my mom’s cooking.  She has always been a good cook, but during the time I was away at college, she also converted to vegetarianism.  It opened so many doors for her creativity and her food got really good.  My mom is territorial in her kitchen, so I was not helping her prepare any meals, but I think I learned by osmosis.  And I certainly learned to deeply appreciate the act of sitting around the table as a family and eating good, healthy, homemade food.

Just as I found an apartment and was preparing to move out, my parents took a trip to Europe.  My brother Michael, who is eight years younger than me, was still in high school and they asked that I stay with him and make sure he didn’t starve.  At the same time, my college friend Darcie was visiting and another couple from college was coming through town as well.  I realized that we all needed to eat and it was time to get in the kitchen.  So I did what my mom always did.  I got out her notebooks and cookbooks and spread them out on the table.  I chose three dishes that sounded good to me and I wrote up my shopping list based on the ingredients needed.  I shopped for the groceries and made the food, all the while being mildly surprised at how natural it all felt.  I lived in Paris for a semester during college and cooked for myself, but it was just me and I made the same four things over and over.  This time there was more responsibility and it came easily.  More importantly, everyone loved the food.  I realized that I could cook.

That little boost of confidence is what got me on the path to loving food and loving cooking.  I remember one of those first three dishes well and it starred black beans that had been simmered low and slow on the stove.  Up until that point, I had not known that beans could taste that good or could be something I craved.  The rest of the dish was a little odd so it did not stay in my repertoire, but I’ve been making similar beans ever since.

I make a fair amount of Mexican food because both Randy and I love it.  (In fact I am teaching Vegetarian Mexican Food class in March.  Find out more here.)  Whatever I make as a main, I always make beans because they are truly my favorite part of the meal.  I have eaten my share of either boring or excessively greasy restaurant rice, so I enjoy making it more to my taste at home.  Last week, I didn’t have the energy to take on burritos or enchiladas but really needed some beans and rice, so I made the rice heartier.  It was my intention to roast two poblano peppers, chop them up, and use them in the rice, but mine had gone south.  I wanted some kind of spicy bite so I opted for canned chiles instead.  If you happen to have poblanos in your refrigerator (doesn’t everyone?), I think they would be awesome here.

Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to tell me what your favorite holiday gift was.  You can win some awesome Vosges chocolate.  Check it out here.

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Candy Mini-Brownie Cups
Two Years Ago: Penne with Greek Style Vegetable Marinade

Hearty Beans and Rice
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

Epazote is a delicious herb and can easily be found in the Penzey’s web site, but it is not necessary here.  For the beans, you control their consistency.  I like mine a little soupy but you can make yours drier by not adding as much water.

For the rice
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried epazote (optional)
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1 7-ounce can diced chile peppers, drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
¼ cup “lite” sour cream
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt

For the beans
Vegetable or canola oil
1 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 tsp. cumin
2 cans black beans, drained

Serve with guacamole and salsa.

Prepare the rice
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil an 8×8 glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and a large pinch of salt, and sauté for 5 minutes, until soft but not brown.  Add the garlic cloves, oregano, epazote, and cumin and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.  Add the chiles and corn, and rice and give it a good stir to coat the grains with the fat and the vegetables.  Pour in the water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.  Remove the cover, fluff the rice with a fork, then cover for another 5 minutes.

Remove the cover and carefully stir in the cheese, sour cream, and cilantro, trying not to mush the rice too much.  Taste for salt, adding more if necessary.  Scrape the rice mixture into the prepared pan, cover with foil, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.

Prepare the beans
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then add the onions and red bell pepper plus a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for 5 minutes, until soft but not brown, then add the garlic and the cumin.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.  Add the beans and about ½ a cup of water and turn the heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary, until the beans are hot and a bit soupy, about 20 minutes.  Season to taste.



Chocolate Giveaway

December 25, 2010

It is Christmas day and I have come to a place I don’t visit often.  It is the “I don’t want to cook, bake, dirty a dish, wash a dish, put away a dish ever again” place.  I made an epic dinner for my parents last night.  Normally, I stretch a meal like this out so I am doing as much in advance as possible.  Over the years of cooking for my family, throwing many dinner parties, and cooking for clients, I have gotten to be a master of the do-ahead meal.  But I didn’t expect my house to be overrun by illness – stomach flu, colds, fevers, ear infections, and pneumonia to be exact.  And so, I had to cram a lot of cooking, baking, and cleaning into a very short amount of time.  For the record, dinner was great.  The following was the menu:

Chestnut Soup
Roasted Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata
Wild Mushroom, Wild Rice, and Root Vegetable Roulade
Celery Root Mash and Blasted Broccoli
No-Knead Bread (my first time making it and WOW, was it good)
Nutella Pound Cake
Crème Fraîche Ice Cream

You may remember that I said I would post everyday last week.  Because of the sick house and this menu, that did not happen and I apologize.  To make up for it, I am doing a giveaway!  Chocolate!

My dad is a retired physican.  He had a private practice and every year at this time he would come home with lots of presents from patients.  They were mostly food-related and there was a lot of chocolate.  I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  Randy does not have the type of job where people give him treats and I have the type of job that, if someone gives me treats, it’s me who made them and I’m giving them to myself.  But imagine my surprise when Randy walked in one day last week with a giant box of Vosges chocolate.

I think I’ve made it clear, about 1,000 times, that I love chocolate.  But there is too much here for me to eat and it is of such high quality that some bars come with “best enjoyed by” dates.  And I love to share.  So, leave me a comment about the best gift you got this season, and I will pick two winners.  Each one will get 5 3-ounce bars of some funky flavors (curry, chipotle, etc), some chocolate covered nuts, and something involving marshmallows (I haven’t opened the box so I can’t be sure).  Deadline for entry is Wednesday, December 29th, noon PST.  Happy holidays to everyone.

UPDATE: This contest is now closed!  Winners will be announced Dec. 30th.  Thank you all!



Scalloped Chocolate Pecan Strip

December 24, 2010

A new friend recently asked me about Christmas morning food traditions in our house.  I’m not sure what she was expecting but the truth is that Christmas is still relatively new to me.  I grew up in a household that was culturally Jewish and religiously agnostic.  We lit the menorah on Hanukkah but we didn’t open presents each night because it drove my parents insane to be asked when we were opening our gifts for eight straight days.  (Now that I am a parent, I understand this.)  Even though half the time we forgot to light the candles, my mom drew the line at a tree or stockings.  Each year we would ask and each year she would say no.

Consequently, two of her children, the ones who married non-Jews, go absolutely nuts at Christmas.  My youngest brother doesn’t really care either way, but my middle brother is the type who has a giant inflatable snow globe in his yard, and Christmas villages set up all over the house.  I don’t go quite that far, but we do have a lit-up reindeer and a new penguin sporting a Merry Christmas sign.

Truly, the holiday tradition that has endured is celebrating my parents’ anniversary on Christmas Eve.  They got married in 1967 while my dad had a few day break from his medical residency.  Since all their families and everyone they  knew was Jewish, the fact that their wedding day fell on Christmas Eve didn’t make much difference to them.  Until they realized in all the subsequent almost 43 years, that their celebratory anniversary dinners were either in a Chinese food restaurant, or in a hotel.  In my early 20′s, when I was broke but still wanting to “give” them something for their anniversary, I started making them dinner.  As I got to be a better cook, it became a special dinner.  And it also just began to make sense that we open our gifts that day rather than Hanukkah.  Our holiday is affectionately referred to as Hanumass.

Having young children who truly believe in Santa has made me look at Christmas Day with new eyes.  Ever since marrying Randy, I have always loved the stockings and presents under the tree, but now Spencer worrying that Santa may trip over the poinsettias that we have in front of the fireplace makes me realize how magical all of this is for children.  Special days deserve special traditions.  I think my kids are a bit too young to even notice food on Christmas morning – it’s all about the toys.  Truthfully, it’s all about the toys for my husband too.  (The X-box?  It’s for the kids!)  I have some baked goods on this site that I think would be wonderful to share with your family.  I’m a big fan of the three Holly B roll-type things on here (cinnamon rolls, almond butterhorns, orange rolls) but if coffee cake is more your thing, this might be a good option for you.

I made this for a brunch with friends recently and the kids went nuts over it.  The adults liked it too.  I appreciate recipes where the result looks so much more impressive than the work you put into it.  I bought this cookbook with high expectations.  We often have people over for brunch and I like making something sweet along with what is inevitably some variation on eggs and roasted potatoes.  A book devoted to coffee cake type things sounded perfect.  However.  I find the recipes to be incredibly fussy.  Lots of (in my mind) unnecessary instructions making the directions incredibly long and daunting looking.  But I did like this and several other things I have made from it and so, on the shelf it stays.

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Mini Brownie Cups
Two Years Ago: Ultimate Ginger Cookie

Scalloped Chocolate Pecan Strip
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, and More
Makes one 15-to 16-inch strip; 8 to 10 servings

¼ cup water
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. espresso powder
2½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
½ recipe (about 1 pound) Simple Sweet Dough (recipe follows), cold
½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 large egg lightly beaten with 2 tsp. water, for egg wash
2 tsp. opaque pearl sugar, optional

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the water, granulated sugar, espresso powder, and chocolate.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until large bubbles form.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter.  Set aside to cool completely.  The mixture should have the consistency of soft fudge.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it 6 to 8 times, or until smooth.  Roll it into a 9×14-inch rectangle with the 14-inch side parallel to the edge of the counter.  Using a small offset spatula, spread the cooled chocolate filling over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans on the chocolate, and using your hand, press the nuts gently into the chocolate.  Lightly brush the far edge of the dough with the egg wash.

Starting at the bottom edge, roll the dough tightly into a log, pinching the  seam to seal.  Place the log seam side down, on the prepared cookie sheet and square the ends with a dough scraper or metal spatula.  Flatten the log slightly with the palm of your hand.

Using scissors, cut about twelve slits at approximately 1-inch intervals on the right side of the dough, cutting about three-fourths of the way through.  For the left side, also cut about twelve slits; however, space the slits so that you are cutting in between the slits on the opposite side.  Gently turn the slices to expose the filling, and pull them slightly downward, starting with the right side first.  After the right side is done, turn the left  side.  Flatten the top of the cake gently with your hand, and then lightly press the slices so they lay flat against the pan.  Cover the cake with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until puffy and almost doubled.

Fifteen minutes before baking, position the rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat to 350ºF.

Lightly brush the strip with the egg wash and sprinkle the top with pearl sugar.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Simple Sweet Dough
Makes enough for 2 coffee cakes

4 tbsp. sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 package (2¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus 1 tsp. soft butter for brushing top of dough
½ cup milk
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Put 1 tablespoon of sugar into a small bowl and add the warm water.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water.  Do not stir.  Cover the bowl with a towel and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes .  Stir it briefly with a fork, cover again and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until bubbly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on low speed the 3 cups of flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the salt.  Add the slightly firm cubed butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form, 2 to 4 minutes.  Stop the mixer.

Using a fork, in separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Add the milk mixture to the flour, along with the dissolved yeast, and mix on low speed for about 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Mix on low speed for another 30 seconds or until a smooth dough is formed.  Note:  This is a soft dough.

Lightly butter a medium bowl for storing the dough.  Empty the dough into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top with lightly floured hands.  Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the top.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  (This dough may be kept in the refrigerator, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.)



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