Saturday, November 03, 2012

Grandma Irene's Pancakes

Mihai is guest blogging this so that he has a digital copy of the recipe, instead of always having to dig up the piece of paper that it's on.

Wet Ingredients
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted in the microwave
1 egg
1 tablespoon extra-light olive oil

Dry Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt

1. Put the milk, butter, and egg into a large bowl and beat lightly. Set aside.

2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient bowl all at once and mix slightly.

4. Add the olive oil to the batter and mix a bit more.

5. Add more milk (about ¼ cup) to the batter until it gets to the consistency of heavy cream. It shouldn't be perfectly smooth, small lumps are OK.

6. Heat up oil in a frying pan on low-medium heat.

7. Drop dollops of the batter using a small ladle and cook until bubbles stop popping (usually a couple of minutes).

8. Flip over with a spatula and cook the other side (usually for another minute).

9. Instead of maple syrup, accompany with sour cream and jam: mix a tablespoon of each on your plate, and top each pancake with a thin layer.

Serves two.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tart Tuesday

Ricotta and Plum Tart from (where else?) Food52

Substitutions made:
2 teaspoons sugar instead of honey,
turbinado sugar instead of dark brown sugar (per Jenny),
40 minutes of baking instead of 20 (due to using a 9-inch round tart pan since, like Jenny, I do not own 3.5 inch ring molds).

P.S. I blame the Olympics for the lack of a proper post here.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Apricot Crumb Bars

If you are fan of not-too-sweet-but-delicious fruit desserts, you should make these crumb bars as soon as possible, while apricots are still in season. As you can see in the ingredient list, you'll need quite a few apricots - it was actually my goal to use a bunch, since we sometimes buy more fruit from Costco than we have time to eat - but the large quantity is absolutely worth it. The recipe is really easy and non-fussy, at least the way I made it (Deb had a few additional steps in order to incorporate browned butter, but I simply skipped all that). And while both Mihai and I like the sweetness level as is (the apricots get to shine), you could probably sprinkle a couple tablespoons of sugar on top of the fruit layer before scattering the crumb topping if you prefer your dessert on the sweeter side.

Apricot Crumb Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
10 apricots, pitted and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees. Butter and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg using a whisk.

3. Using a box grater, grate in the cold butter, mixing with the dry mixture along the way so the small butter pieces are interspersed throughout the bowl (rather than clumped together).

4. Crack the egg into a small bowl, beat lightly with a fork, and then stir into the flour and butter mixture. After incorporating the egg using a fork, finish mixing the dough with your hands - it should be crumbly.

5. Spread approximately ¾ of the mixture in the pan. Pat down firmly.

6. Arrange the slices of apricots on top of the crumbs, and scatter the remaining crumbs on top of the apricots.

7. Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool completely in pan before cutting into slices (squares or rectangles are easiest).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Rhubarb

For me, one of the many wonderful things about this time of year is the availability of rhubarb in the produce section. The pretty pink stalks can become wonderful dessert quite easily - this roasted rhubarb is a prime example. With 10 minutes (or even less) of prep and 15-20 minutes in the oven, you have something that can be a tart topping for a sweet ice cream (creme fraiche gelato, not pictured) or a (somewhat) more healthy oatmeal with sliced almonds, as shown below.

(Note: for reasons I don't fully understand, not everyone loves rhubarb as much as I do. I think it's because it is not very common and not everyone is familiar with it. Due to my enthusiasm for it, I tried serving rhubarb at more than one dinner party, more or less successfully depending on the attendees. Just throwing this out there as a warning - if you want a universally crowd-pleasing dessert, this might not be it. Save it for yourself instead.)

Roasted Rhubarb
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 pound rhubarb
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon or ½ orange (I've used one in one batch, the other in the second - both are great)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Cut the rhubarb into pieces about 1 inch long and toss them into a baking dish that will hold them comfortably. (I used a 9-inch round baking pan.) Sprinkle over the sugar and zest and stir everything around until the rhubarb is covered with sugar. (It will seem like you have too much sugar. You do not - rhubarb is very tart and the ½ cup sugar is just right.) Set aside for about 5 minutes.

3. Cover the baking dish with foil and roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes. Take a peek and if the sugar isn't almost completely melted, stir the rhubarb, re-cover the pan with the foil and roast a few minutes more. Then remove the foil and let the rhubarb roast for another 5 minutes or so, until the syrup is bubbling.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and let the rhubarb cool to just warm or to room temperature; chill, if you'd like.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tartine Tuesday

Avocado Asparagus Tartine from 101 Cookbooks
(with pine nuts instead of caraway seeds)

Who says eating at home during during the first weeks of a baby's life has to consist solely of takeout and frozen meals?

P.S. For full disclosure, lunch on all the other days has consisted of toast, cold cuts, cheese and (store-bought) egg salad. Also, Mihai made (and is writing) this.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cheesecake Brownies

This week our office held a bake sale for a very good cause. Though I am not taking part in the athletic events and training given to the big life change Mihai and I are about to experience, I was happy to at least help out by making something for the bake sale. From everything I've seen of bake sales, they are not the place to whip out anything too exotic, so I decided to go with a classic American staple: the brownie. But, in order to satisfy my need to try out new things, I finally attempted this cheesecake brownie recipe I've had starred in Reader since 2007.

The results of this experiment were mixed, I would say. On the one hand, these brownies sold out, so they must have looked appealing. On the other hand, I would make one or both of the following changes next time around: 1) mix the cheesecake batter with the brownie batter more thoroughly, and 2) try out a different brownie batter. Mihai and I both agreed (we had a small piece each before giving the rest of the pan to the sale) that the brownie batter was a bit dry. However, the cheesecake portion of the brownie was deliciously moist - so perhaps mixing the two together more would be sufficient. But it's also possible that the brownie batter really needs some chocolate chips/chunks in it (not just cocoa) to make it be as rich as I personally like my brownies to be.

All this said, this recipe is still good enough to be posted here - it just might need some tweaking to be a truly successful one.

Cheesecake Brownies
Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande

For the brownie batter:
⅔ cups cocoa
1 stick unsalted butter, diced
¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
⅔ cups all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake batter:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
⅓ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Mix all the cheesecake batter ingredients together to obtain a smooth creamy texture. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper.

3. To prepare the chocolate batter, start by melting the cocoa and butter in the microwave. Let cool slightly.

4. Beat together the eggs and sugar with a pinch of salt until light and pale in color.

5. Fold in the chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mixture first, then the flour. Do not overmix.

6. Pour the chocolate batter into the pan. Add the cheesecake batter on top and make a swirly design in it using a fork or knife. (See notes above - don't be afraid to intermix the batters more than in my pictures.)

7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beef Skewers

I've been trying to eat more protein lately, so on a recent weeknight, we made a beef variation of these lamb skewers that we've made lots of times before.

This is so easy, you hardly need a recipe - just some meat and veggies, as well as a hot oven - but I outlined what we did below just in case.

Beef Skewers
Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

1 lb beef
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
½ red onion
2-3 large tomatoes or ~8 campari-sized ones

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F degrees.

2. Prep your vegetables: core the bell peppers, slice the onion, remove the innards of the tomatoes. Your end goal are vegetable pieces that have about 1 square inch of surface area so you can easily thread them on the skewers - though the shape definitely doesn't need to be exactly square (that's easier with the peppers than with the tomatoes or onion).

3. Prep your meat: cut away any extraneous fat, and cut into ~1-inch cubes.

4. Assemble your skewers: thread a slice of each vegetable, followed by a meat cube. Repeat.

5. Place your skewers across a oven-proof dish and salt them.

6. Cook the skewers in the hot oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on the desired doneness, rotating the skewers half way through the cooking process.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chocolate Biscotti

On the weekends, Mihai makes himself a latte using his (fancy, and getting even fancier soon) espresso machine and has some biscotti with it while reading. I am ashamed to say that the biscotti are usually store bought, though he doesn't seem to mind that too much. But, a couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to do something I'd been meaning to do for a while - actually make some biscotti at home.

I have made biscotti before (even if I haven't blogged about it) - both of these were quite good. But the previous versions were sorely lacking in chocolate, and I really wanted to make chocolate biscotti this time. Fortunately, there's been a chocolate biscotti recipe stowed away for ages in my very long list of starred items in Reader, so finding a recipe was easy. My favorite part of biscotti is the "soft stage" of the cookie, after you slice them but before you bake them again. However, these are good even once you've made them into "proper" biscotti - Mihai says he likes them.

Chocolate Biscotti
Adapted from David Lebovitz

2 cups flour
¾ cups top-quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
¾ cups chocolate chips
¼ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a large bowl, beat together the 3 eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then mix in the nuts and the chocolate chips until the dough holds together. Note: my dough was much too dry at this point, which is why I added a bit of milk to the original recipe, since there was no way my dough was going to come together otherwise. (If ¼ cup does not seem like enough, feel free to use up to ⅓ cup. You want a dough that holds together but is not too wet, or it will be hard to work with in the next step.)

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into two logs the length of the baking sheet. Transfer the logs onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.

5. Gently flatten the tops of the logs. Bake for 25 minutes, until the dough feels firm to the touch.

6. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and cool 15 minutes. On a cutting board, use a serrated bread knife to diagonally cut the cookies into ½ inch slices. (I struggled with the "diagonally" instruction, but they biscotti turned out OK anyway.) Lay the cookies cut side down on baking sheets and return to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm.