Archive for November, 2010

My Thanksgiving Dessert

November 29, 2010

Whew.  That was a busy weekend.  We hosted Thanksgiving for 16 adults and 4 children on Thursday.  We hosted 10 kids and 24 adults for dinner on Friday to celebrate Graham’s birthday.  We went to a brunch on Saturday morning and the boys went to a birthday party on Saturday night while Randy and I went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday.  And Sunday, we rode the Christmas train and got a tree.  Overall, my plan is to never eat again.

There are food bloggers who are ultra-organized and who test recipes ahead of time so they can tell you what to put on your Thanksgiving table.  I am not one of those people.  I am also not one of those people who will pull out my camera at a table of ten to take a picture of my stuffing, no matter how good it was.  (It was really good.)  So, I offer you a cake I made for the big feast and I took pictures of it before and after the dinner.  You can make it for Thanksgiving next year or make it for Christmas this year or make it for Tuesday because it’s really special.

Sometimes you just want cake.  Not plain but not fussy.  I’ve written several times about that generalized craving that I sometimes get.  Because there is icing here, you might think it’s fancy.  But it’s not and I mean that in the best way.  The cake is perfectly moist and rich but with a gentle flavor.  All by itself it might be a little too boring for me.  But the rum spiked frosting makes it a much more interesting (and much more delicious) cake.

One tip.  Do not attempt to make the frosting and then frost the cake after you have had wine with your dinner.  My frosting, while delicious, did not have quite the right consistency and I did not frost it as decoratively as I would have liked.  Had I been more, ahem, sober, I would have added more powdered sugar to the frosting to make it thicker.  As per usual with my perfectly delicious but less-than-perfect-looking desserts, no one seemed to care.

One Year Ago: Endive Spears with Manchego and Membrillo
Two Years Ago: Broccoli Rabe, Radicchio, and Carrot Salad

Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake
Baked Explorations
Serves 12-16

For the Burnt Sugar Liquid
½ cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
Approximately ¾ cup coconut milk
1½ tbsp. lemon juice

For the Bundt Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1¼ cups unsalted butter (2½ sticks), cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Burnt Sugar Liquid (see above)

For the Caramel Rum Frosting
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp. dark rum
2 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Burnt Sugar Liquid (see above)

Make the Burnt Sugar Liquid
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, slowly melt the sugar.  Use a wooden spoon to stir it continuously to ensure even melting.  When the sugar turns a dark caramel color, remove the pan from the heat and slowly stream in the cream while continuing to stir (don’t worry if mixture starts to clump).  Return the pan to medium heat and stir until completely combined; cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring.

Transfer the burnt caramel mixture to at least a 2-cup heatproof liquid measuring cup (like Pyrex) and add enough coconut milk to make 1¼ cups liquid.  Add the lemon juice.  Whisk to combine, divide the mixture in half, and set both portions aside.

Make the Bundt Cake
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick spray; alternatively, butter it thoroughly, dust it with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beat until each is incorporated.  Add the vanilla and beat for 5 more seconds.

Retrieve one of the reserved portions of burnt sugar liquid.  Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the burnt sugar, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 10 seconds.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a small sharp knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to wire rack to cool completely.  Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

Make the Caramel Rum Frosting
Put the butter, rum, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining portion of burnt sugar liquid in a food processor.  Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth.

Assemble the Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake
Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the crown of the cake in a thick layer.  Let the frosting set before serving.  The cake will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 3 days.

Thanksgiving 2010

November 25, 2010

Like many families, we have a Thanksgiving story.  You know, the story of the one year that things were out of the ordinary and it comes up forever after.

Our story is the Year of the Wind.  My parents, who up until four years ago hosted Thanksgiving dinner, lived in a part of town where the power went out frequently.  A gust of wind was all it took and out went the lights.  November is by far our windiest month and so, my mom would start to obsess about the power going out every year on November 1st.  For the entire month, worries about wind would rob her of sleep (mom is an anxious person).  Every year, we would all get the weather report from her on the phone each day during Thanksgiving week.  Then miraculously each year, no wind.

Except for the Year of the Wind.  That year, just as we were sitting down at the table – all the food on platters, everything off the stove and out of the (electric) oven – poof! the power went out.  I thought it was wonderful.  We ate by candlelight and there was no football game to distract us from the food, family, and friends.  The only tricky part came when it was time for pumpkin pie – how to whip cream without the Kitchen Aid?  So my brother Michael and my parents’ friend Tom got out a big bowl, a whisk, and did it the old fashioned way.  To this day, Tom and Michael whip the cream by hand in honor of the Year of the Wind.

Randy’s and my first year hosting was the Year We Undercooked the Turkey but I’m hoping that memory will be surpassed by this one.  The Year of the Snow.  It is done for now and the temperature seems to be on the rise.  The roads are certainly passable and as of this writing, 1pm Thanksgiving afternoon, none of our guests has called to cancel.  The tables are set for 17.  I planned ahead and had all the food I needed to cook the feast in the house before the first flake fell, so I had no grocery stress.  My boys have been out sledding and there has been a lot of hot chocolate.

It’s beautiful here and I am very thankful for so many things.  I hope everyone in the States is having a wonderful Thanksgiving and everyone else is enjoying this last Thursday in November.

Gravy – Vegetarian and Gluten-Free

November 23, 2010

One of the very first blogs I read, way back when, was Shauna’s Gluten-Free Girl.  I linked to her through a story on the Seattle Times web site.  It was truly before I knew what a blog was but I, like so many people around the world, was immediately captivated by her writing and her story.  She is one of the superstars who inspired me to start my own blog.

Over the past couple of years, I have been lucky enough to get to know Shauna and to visit her, Danny, and adorable Lu on their magical island.  She is as kind and generous-hearted as she comes across in her posts.  She also gives the best hugs I have ever received (if you have gotten one, you will no doubt agree with me).  Shauna has the most positive attitude toward the foods she can eat, not lamenting those she can’t.  This attitude mirrors the approach I take to my vegetarian diet, although I am well aware that mine is a choice and hers is not.  Still, I think we both feel that eating is celebrating what you can eat not bemoaning what you can’t.

Shauna, in her wonderful community-oriented way, put a call out to bloggers everywhere.  She reminded us, in her gentle way, that Thanksgiving can be a rough holiday for those who can’t eat gluten.  She challenged us to make something gluten-free and share with our readers and hers.  This cause is near and dear to my heart because, of course, Thanksgiving is not the best holiday for vegetarians either.  If you come to my house, you will find a lot of side dishes so that there is plenty for me, my mom, my sister-in-law, and my brother’s girlfriend to eat.  (Yes, all the women in the family are veg.)  I love that Shauna asked for help in getting the word out and I wanted to do my part.

What I really wanted to share, the thing I discussed with her last time I saw her, is my vegetarian gravy.  Even in my early years, when I still ate meat, I could not bring myself to eat more than a couple bites of turkey.  And I would choke those few bites down dry because I could not bear gravy.  Once I announced my vegetarianism, I still steered clear of the gravy and that did my best to swallow dry mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Then one day, in my 20’s, I realized that I could make vegetarian gravy, and Thanksgiving changed forever for me.  It took a few years to find the right one, but now I smother my mashed potatoes and just about everything else on my plate with it.  In fact, I need to start using this savory stuff at times other than turkey day.  Maybe a giant grilled portabello mushroom bathing in gravy with a poached egg on top.  This recipe makes plenty of gravy and we are housebound with the wonderful weather so those mushrooms might be on my table tonight.  Mmmmm.

Anyway, I remember reading on Shauna’s site that you can easily make gravy gluten free by swapping out regular flour for rice flour.  Vegetarian gravy can be made ahead of time because there are no turkey drippings involved – another thing to recommend it.  So here we are, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I have my delicious, vegetarian, gluten-free gravy already done.  The rice flour, which I already had on hand from making those sage tempura, worked beautifully.  It tastes just the same as I remember.  Which is to say, delicious.

You may have heard, but it’s getting close to holiday season around here and that means you might have a few gifts to purchase.  If you have someone on your list who loves to read cookbooks cover to cover, and also happens to like cooking good food, I can highly recommend Shauna and Danny’s love story/cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Their love and enthusiasm is contagious and the cookbook is written with lots of suggestions of how to add your own flair – something I always appreciate.

If you have some gluten-free guests coming to your dinner, be sure to check out Shauna’s Thanksgiving post.  There are a million and one great ideas there.

One Year Ago: Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Collard Greens, Yogurt Flatbread, Cider-Caramelized Apple Pound Cake
Two Years Ago: Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies, Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots, Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Vegetarian Gluten-Free Gravy

Adapted from Gourmet
Makes enough to serve 6-8 people

A few notes.  You will want to use a wide mouth pot for this one.  A 4 quart will work, a 6 quart would be better.  I found it took the rice flour longer than all-purpose to thicken this gravy but it definitely did the job.  Just keep a low heat under it and keep whisking.  I always think vegetable broths are very ho hum but I have finally realized this is the broth of my dreams.  It could hold its own in a French onion soup.  I think I know what just went on the menu for next week.  Note to self.

This is a salty gravy, which I like, but if you are wanting it to be less so, I would use less soy sauce, ¼ of a cup would be good.  Finally, regular soy sauce is not gluten-free so if you are making it that way, be sure to use tamari.  I always do anyway because I think it tastes better.

1 large head garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 leek, quartered and washed
1 onion, left unpeeled, quartered
2 carrots, quartered
1 parsnip, quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. whole peppercorns
1½ cups dry white wine
1/3 cup tamari
6 cups cold water
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup rice flour

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Separate 6 cloves from garlic (do not peel), drizzle with a little olive oil and double-wrap tightly in foil.  Roast until garlic is very soft, about 45 minutes.  (I always roast my garlic in the toaster oven.)

While garlic roasts, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a wide mouth pot (4-6 quarts) over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook vegetables, remaining garlic cloves (separated but not peeled), bay leaf, and peppercorns, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.  Sir in wine and boil until most of it has evaporated.  Add tamari and water and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup.  If you have more than 4 cups, boil to reduce; if less, add water.

Mash roasted garlic to a purée.  Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in rice flour and garlic purée, then slowly pour in the stock, whisking all the while.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Can be made up to 3 days ahead.)

The Last Good Thing I Ate

November 22, 2010

Whatever else my life may bring in the future, 2010 is going to go down as a banner year for travel.  I went skiing in Sun Valley in February, got a tattoo in Provincetown in May, went copper pot shopping in Paris in June, had a quick weekend getaway in New York City in October (story coming soon), and just spent a week drinking fruity rum cocktails in the Bahamas.

Yes, a few of you actually guessed right.  Which amazes me because I gave very little information.  I could have also told you that I was on an island where people drive on the left side of the road.  I could also have told you that I was just off the coast of Florida but that would have made it too easy.  But yes, ladies and gentlemen – I was in the Bahamas.

It’s better than that actually.  I was at (in?) Atlantis.  As an almost lifelong West Coaster, the Bahamas were never really on my radar.  I was actually not even sure where they were and mistakenly thought they were much farther away than they are.  Which is why, when Randy told me he had won a work incentive trip and we were going for four days, I insisted suggested that we extend.  Atlantis, if you have never had the good fortune to go, is a huge resort.  The kind of place that can house thousands of people at one time, where there are something like 11 pools and over 20 restaurants.  There are palm trees and cocktails everywhere and a spa where you can get a massage to work out the kinks from laying on a beach chair all day.

Atlantis has restaurants from some celebrity chefs.  There is a Nobu, a Mesa Grill, two Jean-Georges restaurants, and a pair of well-regarded steak houses.  There is also a deli, a pizza place, tons of casual pool-side dining and a couple of Italian restaurants.  This will probably not surprise you, but I did not eat well on this trip.  I must admit that my expectations were a little higher than usual.  With chefs of this caliber, there would be some decent veg food, right?  Alas, I ate veggie burgers, poorly dressed salads, and baked potatoes basically the whole time.  My worst meal was at Mesa Grill which is really a shame since the restaurant is beautiful and Randy liked his $55 steak – the one that did not come with any side dishes.

Now, don’t cue the small violins.  I am a lucky lucky woman.  I got a week in the sun with my husband.  A week to read four books and to see the sun which was absent much of this year in Seattle.  A week to meet lots of people Randy has worked with for years, and to spend a morning sailing on a catamaran.  It is just a bummer that the food was so disappointing and so incredibly expensive.  To have been in France and New York this year and to be shocked by the prices tells you how ridiculously high they were.

I dreamed of my cooking.  This pasta is the last thing I made before we left.  I had planned to post about it before taking off but my to-do list got to be too long.  This dish is something that came to me as I was thinking about leeks.  I was planning to make a leek tart for a friend (and in making it, decided to also make it for Thanksgiving this year) and remembered a creamy leek pasta I made long ago.  Rather than track down the recipe, I decided to do it my own way which means adding slightly caramelized chunks of squash and a good dose of red pepper flakes.  And fresh herbs, always fresh herbs.

I made this nice and creamy by using a bit of goat cheese and a lot of pasta cooking water.  I have given the tip about scooping noodles directly out of their water and into the pan with the “sauce” a couple of times, but it is essential to making this dish work right, and lessening your clean-up along the way.

One Year Ago: Holly B’s Gingersnaps, Gianduja Mousse, Maple Roasted Delicata Squash
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Cranberry-Walnut Braid (which is cooling on my counter right now)

Orecchiette with Creamy Leeks and Winter Squash
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4-6

I used delicata squash because I love it and I love not having to peel it.  Butternut would be a fine substitute, just be sure to peel it.  Orecchiette is my pasta shape choice here because it holds the sauce perfectly, but I sometimes have trouble finding it.  Another small shape would be fine.  I would not use long strands.

1 pound delicata squash, cut in half, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch chunks
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large leeks, white and pale green part only, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
¼ cup white wine
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pound orecchiette pasta, or similar shape
2 ounces soft goat cheese, such as Montrachet
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Place the squash on a small rimmed baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Using your hands, mix well.  Place in the oven and roast until lightly browned and caramelized, turning once, about 15 to 17 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and turn the heat to medium-low.  Sauté for several minutes, stirring often, until the leeks soften but do not allow them to brown.  Stir in the sage and thyme.  Cook for another couple of minutes, until fragrant.  Pour in the wine and allow to cook, uncovered, until the wine evaporates.  Turn the heat down to low.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, using the package directions as your guide and tasting to make sure.  Place the pasta pot and the sauté pan on burners right next to one another.

Once the orecchiette is done, use a slotted spoon to scoop the noodles directly from the pot into the sauce pan.  Immediately add the goat cheese, the roasted squash, and the red pepper flakes.  Scoop a ladle-ful of pasta cooking water from the pot into the saucepan, and give everything a good stir.  Add the Parmesan cheese and another ladle-ful of water.  Taste for seasoning.  You may need more water, so just keep adding it until the dish is the consistency that you want.  Garmish servings with additional Parmesan and parsley.

Guess Where I Am

November 18, 2010

You might think I am sitting at front of my computer at home in Seattle, looking out the window at the rain and the wind.  You might think I have something yummy simmering on the stove or baking in the oven.  But you would be wrong.

I am somewhere sunny and warm.  I am in a place where there are palm trees and fruity drinks with lots of rum.  I am in a place that has fancy restaurants from celebrity chefs (although, from the quality of the food, I doubt those chefs visit very often – if ever), and even fancier shopping.  You can buy a Diet Coke for $4 here or a large bottle of water for $10.  But, again, I am somewhere sunny and warm and that is nirvana to a sun and heat starved Seattle woman who didn’t really get a summer this year.

Guess where I am.  I would offer a prize for correct guessers but I let it slip on Twitter right before I left and don’t want to exclude the people who already know.  I wish I could send you all a fruity drink.

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