Friday, March 29, 2013

spaghetti squash and black bean tacos with queso fresco.

























I know what you're thinking.  That the idea of spaghetti squash in a taco sounds absurd.  That the idea of any type of squash in a taco is just absurd and ridiculous but, you should leave logic by the way side and try them.  These tacos are life-changingly good.  I'm still unsure of what makes them so irresistible.  Perhaps its the combination of tender squash, and creamy avocado.  Or the loads of hot sauce mingled with lime and cheese, but whatever it is, these are pretty perfect (I should have never doubted it considering the recipe comes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Deb can do no wrong in my book).  We ate them twice last week and I imagine these will land on heavy rotation considering how quick, easy, and satisfying they are.  

Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos with Queso Fresco
Recipe adapted (slightly) from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Serves 4 generously 

3 pounds (1360 grams) spaghetti squash (either 1 large or 2 small)
2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed chipotle chili flakes (hot smoked paprika would also work)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Sixteen 6 inch corn torillas
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained, and rinsed
4 ounces crumbled queso fresco
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, sliced

To serve: Lots of Hot Sauce

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and roast the halves facedown in an oiled baking pan for about 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  

When the squash has finished cooking and cooled slightly, working over a bowl, scrape the squash flesh with a fork, loosening and seperating the strands as you remove it from the skin.  Discard the skin.  In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, with chili powder, crushed chipotle, cumin, and salt.  Pour over the squash strands and gently toss them together.  Taste the squash and adjust seasonings as you wish.  

Heat a dry, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Warm and slightly blister each tortilla, about 30 seconds per side.  Transfer with tongs or a spatula to platter and sprinkle with black beans.  Top with some of the squash, some cheese, avocado, and cilantro.  

Serve with tons of hot sauce.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

spring light.

I noticed the light a lot today.  The way it streamed through the windows as I got dressed this morning.  The way it reflected off the Freedom Towers on my walk home.  The way I saw the last rays of light create beams of white across my slate counter top as I arrived home in my apartment.  It isn't until the days get longer that I begin to notice the bright light - it's like being awoken after a long winter slumber.  

The April issue of Bon Appetit arrived in my mailbox yesterday and it's filled with all the beautiful spring things I've been dreaming about, namely peas and asparagus.  I keep having visions of myself standing barefoot in a white tee shirt and worn in jeans rolling out pizza dough for shaved asparagus pizza and noshing on an appetizer of smashed pea crostini as the late afternoon light illuminates my kitchen.  Spring (and spring produce) can't come soon enough. 























Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

grandmother bread.


























As promised, the bread recipe for using your leftover ricotta whey (because its really silly to waste the whey since its perfectly wonderful milk and my parents raised me to never ever waste good food).  This is a tender sandwich style bread.  It makes amazing grilled cheeses, excellent peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and really good toast as a side to scrambled eggs!  It also freezes incredibly well so you can devour one loaf now and save one for later.   

Grandmother Bread
Adapted from Chickens in the Road

Makes two standard loaves

3 cups warm ricotta whey or warm water
1 tablespoon yeast (1 packet)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour (or half white half whole wheat) 

In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Let sit five minutes until slightly bubbly. 

Stir in first three cups of flour with a heavy spoon. Add the next cup of flour a little at a time as needed, stirring until dough becomes too stiff to continue stirring easily. Add a little more flour and begin kneading. The amount of flour is approximate, I've used as little as 6-1/2 cups to as much as 7-1/2 cups depending on the temperature and weather conditions. Continue adding flour and kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. (About 10 minutes of hand kneading.  This can also be done in the bowl of kitchen mixer if you are lazy like I sometimes am.)

Let the dough rise in a greased, covered bowl until doubled, about an hour. Uncover bowl; sprinkle in a little more flour and knead a few more time. Form into an even ball and divide the dough in half. With floured hands, shape dough into loaves and place in two greased loaf pans. Tear off two pieces of waxed or parchment paper and grease with oil spray (to prevent it from sticking to the loaves as they rise) and cover loaf pans. Let loaves rise for about an hour until they are tall and beautiful. 

Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Recipe can be cut in half.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

homemade ricotta.


I spend most of my work week coming up with weekend food projects.  The types of things that are impossible to tackle during the hours of 6:30 - 10:30 during the week because I am going to the gym, making sensible dinners, showering, and reading something other then the never ending stream of emails I seem to get.  I delegate Saturday's and Sunday's to making homemade breads and fresh pasta and all other illogical foods that most people don't think twice about buying from the supermarket which is why I devoted last weekend to ricotta. Perhaps it's just me, but I find the ricotta cheese that is sold in the plastic tubs at the supermarket to be completely off-putting. The texture is always bizarre, the taste is always too sweet, and it's always filled with all sorts of strange additives.  I knew there had to be something better, something homemade to fill this void between the Polly-O ricotta I can't stand and the Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta I adore.  And there is!  There is a whole world of ricotta making that seems to be happening in kitchens across the country.  There are case studies discussing the merits of vinegar vs. lemon juice and how much cream is necessary or if buttermilk is better.  I did a lot of cross referencing and I cobbled a recipe together that encompassed everything I love about ricotta.  The end result is the complete opposite of anything you will ever find in a supermarket.  This is impossibly creamy and rich.  The taste is pure and simple - the milk knows how to steal the show in the best possible way.  I love this slathered on a simple baguette with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of flaky salt and black pepper, but I am sure you can come up with a million other ways to eat it (by the spoonful is also suggested.)  

Homemade Ricotta
Adopted from about every source I could find on the subject

I imagined making cheese would be difficult but it really isn't at all.  You watch the pot boil pour the cheese into the cloth (without spilling it all over the stove like some people do...) and let gravity do its thing.  The leftover whey can be saved and used for homemade bread and I will be back with that recipe later this week (because no one should waste really good milk.)  They key here is to buy the best milk possible - local, organic milk is ideal.

Makes about 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan combine the milk, cream, and salt and heat over medium heat.  Cook the mixture until it reached 190 degrees, stirring on occasion so the milk doesn't scorch.  Remove the pan from the heat, and pour in the lemon juice. Gently (very gently!) stir the mixture and then let sit 5 - 10 minutes.  

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Ladle the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least two hours.  it will be spreadable but a little firm, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm more as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Save the whey in a air-tight container unless you are silly and don’t want homemade bread. 

You can store the ricotta in a air-tight container for about 5 days (maybe even longer if your milk is super fresh.) 

Serve the ricotta on toasts, tossed in pasta, or as I suggested above, by the spoonful.   

Thursday, March 21, 2013

world peace cookies.

























The amount of chocolate I've been consuming as of late seems to be directly correlated to the amount of stress and anxiety I've been under.  Some people are fortunate that when faced with stressful situations they loose their appetite, for them stress is a diet (maybe not the healthiest diet out there but a diet none the less). I fall firmly into the opposite camp.  I crave comfort foods (which may explain how I ended up consuming grilled cheese and french bread pizza for dinner this week).  I also crave chocolate.  Rich, dark chocolate (My personal favorite is the Theo Salted Almond Dark Chocolate. Heavenly.) that I stock up on and then keep stashed in my work drawers so when the the afternoon gets the best of me I have something to reward myself with.  For last weekends baking project, I knew nothing short of the best chocolate cookie would make me satisfied which is how I found myself reacquainting myself with Dorie Greenspan's cookbook.  These World Peace Cookies are oh so dreamy.  They  don't look like much but after a single bite you will look at them in a completely different light.  These pack a big salted chocolate punch - the flavor is so pronounced that you will find it hard to imagine a silver dollar sized cookie could be so flavorful but they are which is why they are so satisfying and so rewarding.

World Peace Cookies
Recipe via Baking From My Home to Yours by the amazing Dorie Greenspan (seriously her cookies are the bomb if you are in NYC go visit Buerre and Sel)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel.

Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them. Sprinkle with sea salt. 

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.
Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a couple minutes to the baking time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

white.

Dying for a clean, orderly, and neat space because everything in my life feels all over the place at the moment.  White on white on white seems to be the perfect backdrop for a more organized life.  Or at least a more organized kitchen (I'll take a little organization anywhere I can get it.)  

























Image via Pinterest. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

seared pepper steak with arugula salad.



























When people find out I cook a lot more than the average 20 something, I usually get one of 2 responses.  The first is how are you not the size of a house and the second is your boyfriend is really lucky.  Both of these responses always make me laugh.  The boy is rather lucky but he also puts up with a ton of cleaning.  I manage to make a lot of messes and he cleans them all up (usually with some grumbling but I wouldn't expect anything less). As for why we are not the size of a house - the answer to that is cooking doesn't always mean cooking overly indulgent food.  Don't get me wrong, I bake more batches of cookies then should be allowed but I also eat more produce then most since I shop almost exclusively at farmer's markets.  As much as people like to think I am serving 4 course gourmet feasts each night, the opposite is far closer to the truth.  Dinner most nights is a hodge-podge assortment of leftovers and figuring out how to use up the random bits of food I tend to acquire when going on cooking binges.  My default meal for weeknight evenings is some kind of salad (great for using up leftover bits) and a wedge of really good cheese or some kind of protein.  Lately I've been on a arugula kick (something about the peppery bite) and pairing it with something substantial (to appease the boys eating habits) which is how this salad came about.  Nothing revolutionary about it (Italians have been doing this for year) but the combination is superb which is why it's such a classic.  

Seared Pepper Steak with Arugula Salad

½ - ¾ pound flank steak or other similar cut
5 - 6 cups of arugula
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Wedge of Pecorino or Parmesan with which you can cut shavings
Salt and pepper to taste

About an hour before you plan on cooking, remove the steak from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  10 minutes before cooking the steak, heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.  (If you don't have a cast iron skillet you can use a regular skillet, just make sure it can go in the oven.  It will probably only need a 3 minute warm up on the stove then).  

While the skillet is heating generously (and I mean generously) salt and pepper the steak on both sides.  Place the steak in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes (depending on the thickness of your steak).  Flip and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes.  Take the steak off the burner and place it in the oven to cook for another 3 minutes.

While the steak cooks, place the arugula in a large bowl.  Salt and pepper the lettuce.  Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the steak and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings (sometimes I add a drizzle of hot honey here).  

Remove the steak from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.  Slice against the grain into slices.  Place the salad on the plates and top with shavings of cheese.  Place the sliced steak on top (along with any accumulated juices!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

our (bedroom) nest.

Our bedroom finally feels like home (the living room/kitchen is another story...where is the couch?!).  It's funny because I had a very defined vision in my head when putting together our new home.  I felt like I could make it as beautiful and put together as all of the rooms I admire a great deal on Pinterest (even though my life is far less put together).  Somehow it managed to turn out exactly the way I wanted it to.  There is still a lot more that I want to accomplish (finding a couple more throw pillows is where I plan on starting) and add (Mom if you're reading I would like a couple more paintings!) but overall it exudes the look I adore (a quirky mix of vintage and modern with a lot of texture and a lot of gold) which is exactly what a home should be.   If you have questions about where I bought anything, please let me know in the comments and I would be happy to share! 
























Saturday, March 16, 2013

soda bread buns.

























Maybe you're celebrating St. Patty's Day tomorrow by drinking a couple (or several)pints of Guinness and devouring a large plate of corned beef and cabbage or maybe you have a neighborhood parade you plan on watching or maybe you're like me and you just want to bake something that reminds you of when you celebrated St. Patty's day as a kid.  Every March 17th my mom would always make the requisite corned beef, boiled potatoes, and cabbage as an ode to her Irish roots.  I could never get behind this meal (maybe I just don't have enough Irish in me to appreciate it) but I would always love the loaf of Irish soda bread she would make as well.  It was golden brown, subtly sweet, and studded with currants and caraway seeds.  It was simple and delicious and I could never get enough of it.  I've made it a point to make my own soda bread because they are super easy(beyond easy) to make and I love the familiar taste but this year I wanted something different so I decided to make the Soda Bread Buns the NYTimes wrote about this past week.  These are adorable individual portion buns (that taste exactly like the original I know and love) that make for the perfect breakfast or accompaniment to a pot of afternoon tea.  

Soda Bread Buns
Recipe via the NYTimes 

Makes 8 Buns

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed, more for greasing pan
155 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cups), more as needed
95 grams whole wheat pastry (or regular) flour ( 3/4 cup)
55 grams sugar ( 1/4 cup)
7 grams baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons)
5 grams salt (1 teaspoon)
5 grams baking soda ( 3/4 teaspoon)
2/3 cup buttermilk, more for brushing
1 large egg
90 grams dried currants (about 2/3 cup)
8 grams caraway seeds (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg. Stir wet mixture into dry one until they just form a moist dough. Stir in currants and caraway seeds.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a 7-inch round about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Using lightly floured hands, roll each wedge into a ball and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Using kitchen shears, snip a small “x” into the top of each bun. (You can also use a knife.) Brush tops with a little buttermilk, and dust lightly with flour.

Transfer baking sheet to oven. Bake until buns are golden brown and firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.  Buns can be stored in an air-tight container for a couple of days.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

bourbon spiked maple lemonade.

Today was one of those days that I struggled to survive and upon returning home I felt dead from exhaustion.    I am not a cocktail every night kind of girl, but when I returned home this evening the bar cart was calling my name and I answered.  Bourbon is my liquor of choice.  I love it's smoky taste and how it makes me feel grown-up and a little old-fashioned.  I reserve drinking it neat for those really horrible days and thankfully today was not that bad so I resorted to my favorite cocktail - the bourbon spiked maple lemonade.  This is everything a cocktail should be - easy and quick to make and requiring ingredients most everyone (probably) already has at home (and if you don't I would consider these to be three very necessary ingredients to have around at all times). It's tart and sweet and smoky and utterly refreshing.  It warms you in the winter and cools you down in the summer making it the perfect year round drink.  It's a wonderful reward for those really stressful days.  


Bourbon Spiked Maple Lemonade
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup freshly squeezed lemonade (about 8-10 lemons worth)
2 1/2 cups of cold water
1/4 - 1/2 cup maple syrup
Bourbon
Lots of ice


Mix lemon juice with 2 1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Taste for sweetness. If you like your lemonade sweeter, add remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup. If you found the sweetness just right, add an additional 1/4 cup cold water instead. Stir to mix. This will yield 1 quart of maple lemonade.

Fill a glass with ice. Pour  1 or 1 1/2 shots of bourbon over the ice, fill the glass the rest of the way with maple lemonade.  Stir and drink.  


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

fried fresh chickpeas.

























I owe this recipe to Mama Bear.  As food obsessed as I am she is equally so (I wonder where I got it from...) and most of our conversations revolve around discussions of the latest recipes we've tried and ingredients we've found.  When I came home this weekend and she told me about how she found fresh chickpeas, I became rediculoulsly excited.  Fresh chickpeas share little resemblance to the chickpeas we are used to seeing mostly because they are green, but they are utterly adorable.  The come in a pod that is reminiscent of a tomatillo shell or an edamame shell and after doing a quick Google I found that most people are calling them the new edamame.  Frying them is quick and easy (all they need is a dusting of salt and pepper after!) and doing so turns them the perfect snack for a simple dinner party.

Fried Fresh Chickpeas
Recipe from Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller

My mom found her's at a Spanish supermarket in Westchester, NY.  I did a little investigatory work online and it seems they can be found at most specialty food markets or Whole Foods.  

Peanut or canola oil for deep frying
Fresh chickpeas in the shell, rinsed and thoroughly dry
Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet and line the rack with paper towels.

 Heat about 2 inches of peanut oil in a large deep pot over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.  Add a handful of the chickpeas to the pot, not more then will fit in one layer; the chickpeas will rise to the top and the moisture in them will cause them to pop, so stand back!  If you have a splatter screen, use it.  Fry for 2 - 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas stop popping and are golden brown.  With a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas to the paper towels to drain.  Sprinkle immediately with fleur de sel and pepper.  Fry any remaining chickpeas in batches and serve while they are still warm.  Eat them as you would edamame, removing the green chickpeas from the pod. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

review: breads bakery, nyc

This past weekend I finally made it to Bread's Bakery near Union Square in New York.  It's been on my list for about 6 weeks now (or about as long as it's been open) because I've heard nothing but the most glorious things about their chocolate babka.  When I hear the words "homemade chocolate babka" my heart skips a beat and my mind races to see how I can conveniently find myself near the store before they close and run out of chocolate babka (I seriously have a one track mind).  This chocolate bread is the epitome of the most perfect version I have ever had - the top is crunchy, the inside rich and buttery and dense as can be. The ratio of chocolate to bread is an almost perfect one to one. The loaf manages to taste as good on day 3 as it does on day 1 which I consider to be a feat of bread engineering (it's also a feat that I managed to still have bread left on day 3).  I can also say nothing but wonderful things about their cheese and spinach phyllo.  I would also review the feta phyllo but a puppy named Bandit managed to eat it before I could (bad dog with good taste).  

Monday, March 11, 2013

orange cake with chocolate frosting and flaked salt.



























My idea of the quintessential birthday cake involves an impossibly tall three layer yellow cake filled with creamy chocolate fudge like frosting.  The cake is crowned with a heavy hand of rainbow sprinkles and a respectable number of sparkling candles.  The slices must be generous and it must be served with a tall glass of ice cold milk.  My sisters idea of the perfect birthday cake is the complete opposite.  The reason being she has about 1201 food allergies (I kid you not which is why eating with her is always an adventure - be forwarned potetnial suitors!) so when I was assigned the responsibility of producing a birthday cake that would satisfy Papa Bear and also cater to little sister's food allergies, I knew I was going to be challenged.  I scanned a lot of food blogs, I researched all my cookbooks, I hemmed and I hawed and I decided that all of my typical go to cakes weren't going to work (the reason being about 95% of celebration cakes contain butter). I decide to challenge myself and kind of just wing it and rather surprisingly it worked better then I could have ever imagined.  This cake which is almost-vegan (it has eggs) and 100% dairy free (a word that usually illicits fear in the minds of butter-lovers because it tends to scream "healthy") is wonderfully (and surprisingly) decadent tasting.  The use of coconut milk in the frosting gives it a tang that you usually only get when baking with buttermilk.  The cake itself has a subtle orange flavor which surprises me since it contains two whole oranges (peel and all!).  The coconut and orange complement each other and pair perfectly with the rich dark chocolate frosting. The sprinkling of flaked salt keeps things super interesting.  I must say, I wouldn't mind getting this cake on my next birthday.  

Orange Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Flaked Salt
Recipe adapted from Desserts for Breakfast

Makes one 8x3 or 9x2-inch round cake

Ok!  I adapted this recipe to suit the dietary needs of the Birthday girl.  The cake didn’t really need any adapting except for an oil swap from olive oil to grapeseed oil since I thought a more subtle oil would work with all the coconut flavoring in the frosting.  If you don not have any dietary restrictions (or if you prefer using more commonly found ingredients like regular butter over coconut butter) you can find the original frosting recipe on Desserts for Breakfast (whose blog I highly encourage you to look at since she takes the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen).  Despite the frosting being vegan, Papa Bear gave it rave reviews and said it didn’t even taste vegan which coming from him is a huge compliment (the man loves butter). 

Cake

2 medium-sized oranges
2 1/3 cups (467 grams) sugar
2 ½ cups (350 grams) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral flavor oil
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Frosting

5 ounces (142 grams) unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons coconut butter (can be found at Whole Foods)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (215 grams) sugar
1 cup coconut milk (not lite coconut milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Flaked finishing salt

Make the cake: In a pot bring 6 cups of water to boil.  Trim 1/2-inch from the tops and bottoms of each orange. Once the water is at a boil, submerge the oranges and cook briefly, about 1 minute. Drain the oranges, discard the water, and repeat the boiling, cooking, and draining two more times.

Combine the blanched oranges, 1 cup (200 gr) sugar, and 4 cups water over medium heat. Cook for about 30 minutes while stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves and the orange rinds are fork-tender. Let cool until room temperature.  Drain the oranges and remove the seeds. Reserving the cooking liquid for glaze.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 8 x 3-inch cake pan or  9 x 2-inch and set aside.

In a bowl, mix to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In a food processor, blend the cooked oranges (including rind) until a chunky puree.  Add the remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and flour mixture. Process for 2 minutes until well-incorporated.  Gradually drizzle in the olive oil and process until incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, mix to combine 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid, and orange juice.  Remove the cake from the pan. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork and brush the liquid on the cake.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting. Chop the chocolate and butter and set aside.  In a saucepan, bring the sugar and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6 minutes. Do not let the saucepan overflow. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and butter until melted.  Stir in the vanilla extract. Let the frosting cool completely, whisking occasionally during cooling. Once completely cool at room temperature, the frosting will be spreadable. 

Sprinkle the frosted cake with finishing salt.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

mallorcas.

























I don't think that much about breakfast mostly because 5 of the 7 days of the week I eat oatmeal.  It's not that I don't want to deviate from the norm (trust me I love variety), it's more that eating something other then oatmeal requires far too much time and planning.  I find my time better spent doing things like agonizing over the perfect pair of boyfriend jeans (seriously, I have spent way too much brain power thinking about an item of clothing I can wear at most once a week).  For this reason I save my variety breakfasts for the weekend when I can enjoy my morning meal in a more leisurely fashion.  Usually a relaxed Sunday morning breakfast involves me making us pancakes or omelets (and the boy making me a large latte) but on occasion I feel like splurging and testing one of the many breakfast recipes I have bookmarked for the fancy brunches I always imagine myself hosting.  Recently I came across a recipe for a Puerto Rican specialty that intrigued me in a way that only guava and cheese empanadas typically do (guava and cheese empanadas make my knees week).  The recipe was for Mallorcas which is an eggy bun that seemed to me to be a cross between challah and a hot cross bun.  I imagined myself dipping the sweet, eggy, buttery bread in my coffee and devouring it so that all remained was a mess of confectioners sugar all over my plate.  That is exactly what I did after patiently waiting for the bread to rise and bake.  The wait was worth it.  

Mallorcas
Recipe via the NYTimes

Makes 12 Buns (but this recipe halves beautifully)

I read that they also make ham and cheese sandwiches on this bread and while I enjoyed that I have to say I preferred the simplicity of eating it plain with a heavy dusting of confectioners sugar.  

1/4 ounce dry yeast (1 package)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm milk (110 to 115 degrees)
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional as needed
6 large egg yolks
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted, plus additional melted butter for brushing
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, granulated sugar, milk and 1 cup lukewarm water. Mix well, sprinkle with 1 cup flour, and mix again until smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place until batter is risen and foamy, about 45 minutes.

By hand, or using a mixer, mix egg yolks into batter one by one until well blended. Gradually add remaining 4 cups flour. Add 4 ounces melted butter and mix until batter is very smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Brush two baking sheets with melted butter. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Dust a work surface with flour, and divide dough into 12 portions. Shape each portion into a rope about 12 inches long, and brush lightly with melted butter. Coil gently but tightly to make a slightly rounded bun shape, tucking the inside end of the rope into the center of the bun, and the outside end under the bun. Place buns on baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Brush tops with butter, cover lightly, and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Uncover buns and bake until light golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and dust generously with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

currently reading: the omnivores dilemma.

I am currently reading The Omnivores Dilemma.   It has been on my to-read list for a while now but life and a plethora of other books got in the way of me tackling it until now.  I'm only a little more then halfway through it so I really shouldn't even be discussing it as of yet, but it has totally transformed the way I think about food.  I am a girl who prides herself on buying almost all my produce exclusively from the farmers market, I buy humanely raised eggs and meat, I support as many local and independent food purveyors as possible, and I cook almost all my meals myself but not I am not perfect and I've realized that there is so much more I can and should do.  Food shouldn't travel hundreds and thousands of miles to get to our plates. It doesn't seem logical for an apple to take such a long journey.  Our grandparents and great-grandparents would have never dreamed of eating anything outside of their farmland or their neighbors farmland.  At that time everything was local and seasonal.  Food meant something to people because they went out each and every day and worked the farms to make their meals.  As a society we've lost sight of what it means to eat quality food.  I know so many of my co-workers and friends who value the highest quality phone or clothing or car but they don't think twice about where the turkey in their sandwich came from or even if it tastes good!  It's a shame because we should think about what we're eating and what it's made of and how it got to our plate.  

Every spring when the first strawberries appear at the farmers market and I buy my first quart, I always think to myself that there are people in this world who have never tasted a strawberry that is red all the way through.  A strawberry that's juicy and sweet and entirely red.  And every time I think about that I get sad because nothing tastes better then a perfectly ripe strawberry.  To me that's what food is about.  It's about eating the best most local and most seasonal food because it's always ripe and pure and of the highest quality.  Here's to eating a lot more food that actually tastes good.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

scallion pancakes.


























The scallion pancakes I had discussed earlier this week were made again last night (when I like something I become obsessed to the point that I eat it until I find something new to obsess over).  There is something about the simplicity of this pancake that I find irresistible (simplicity seems to be the current name of the game since I am finding that preference being extended to my wardrobe as well!).  They are chewy and light with the most wonderful onion flavor dispersed throughout.  I could eat these plain any day of the week but they are best dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and Sriracha and served with Sriracha scrambled eggs (can you tell I love Sriracha) or fried rice made with the leftover Korean marinated beef!  Simple and utterly satisfying and best consumed while watching Homeland! (Halfway through Season 2!  I am obsessed with this show.)   


Scallion Pancakes

Makes 6-8 pancakes

1 ½ cups/180 grams all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons fine grain sea salt
3 green onions or scallions, green parts only, trimmed and cut into small rounds to yield 1/3 cup
½ cup boiling water
Oil, for frying (any neutral-oil but no olive oil!)

In a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of your electric mixer), whisk together the flour, salt, and scallions.  Slowly add the boiled water to the flour and scallion mixture.  Briefly knead the dough until it’s no longer sticky.  If the dough is too dry, keep adding tablespoons of hot water until a soft dough forms; it should be similar in consistency to chewing gum. 

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a clean, lightly floured surface until soft and smooth, about 10 minutes. (You can also beat this in the electric mixer for about 4 minutes.) 

Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes, or up to a day in the refrigerator. 

Once rested, divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces.  Using your palm, roll each piece of dough into perfect rounds (avoid adding flour when shaping the pieces of dough.)

Once all the pieces of dough are shaped into perfect rounds, lightly dust the tops and bottoms of each round of dough with some flour.  Then slightly flatten each dough round. 

Using a rolling pin, roll each round of dough into discs , starting from the center-out, into 5 ½ inches to 6 inches in diameter.  When rolling out the dough rounds, avoid adding too much flour to the work surface as this results in hard, greasy pancakes.  To get perfect discs, give the dough ¼ turn each time you roll. 

Once all the discs are rolled0out, heat a dry stir-fry pan, cast-iron skillet, or heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Pour in about ¼ inch of oil into the pan or skillet.  Working quickly, dust any excess flour off of the dough disc and shallow fry each side of the pancake until light golden brown (about 1-minute for each side), pressing down around the edges of the pancake with a large spoon or spatula.  The pancake should slightly puff up in places.  Add more oil to the skillet, and repeat for the remaining pancakes, always making sure to dust off any excess flour before placing the discs in the pan.  Serve immediately.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

california kitchens.

Currently obsessing over patterned floors (I think my search for the perfect patterned rug started this latest obsession) and all things California (because I've done nothing but think about my vacation that is still about 2 months away).  I've gotten it into my head that all homes out west have kitchens the size of my apartment here on the east coast and are light bright and airy and all look exactly like the below.  Every time I look at this picture I keep imagining myself wearing my new Maje maxi dress and chopping vegetables from my garden out back.  (My imaginary life is so much better then my real life.)  



























Image via Pinterest.