Monday, December 20, 2010

Nothing "Beets" This Salad: Five Leaves Beets with Blood Oranges, Arugula and Macadamia Nuts

On Saturday night I went to Saul for a close friend's "surprise" birthday party. (I put the word surprise in quotations because it was blown the day of the event.) The conversation was great, we dined for over 3 1/2 hours and the food was delicious. I had an incredibly flavorful beet salad for my first course. The salad contained heirloom beets, honey crisp apple, fennel, toasted hazelnuts and was dressed with a golden apple vinegar vinaigrette. It was great. I got inspired to try a unique beet salad of my own and this recipe (below) immediately came to mind. 
Five Leaves in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, puts a unique spin on the ubiquitous beet-and-goat-cheese salad.  This recipe substitutes goat's milk yogurt dressing for goat cheese and adds arugula, toasted macadamia nuts and sliced blood oranges. Delish! This recipe was featured in The New Brooklyn Cookbook- my new cookbook which contains recipes from Brooklyn's brightest culinary stars. (Mentioned in this post.) It has more steps than your typical salad, but it has more flavor too. The beet vinaigrette is so wonderful I might make it on it's own if I am crunched for time (and happen to have half a roasted beet lying around).   I make this salad when my entree is simple to assemble/cook or only needs to be reheated (i.e. Martha's Macaroni and Cheese). 
In addition to being delicious, this recipe also helps me with one of my most recent resolutions. Namely, eating very colorful foods that are rich with antioxidants. Of course this was much easier to do when it was CSA-season. Now that we are entering the duldrums of winter I need to remind myself to go with bright, high-impact fruits and vegetables. Check.
Goat's milk yogurt dressing with honey, orange zest, honey and a pinch of cayenne. 
Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad with Arugula, Macadamia Nuts, and Goat's Milk Yogurt Dressing (From Five Leaves Restaurant)
Serves 4 to 6
For the beets
3 medium red beets, about 4 ounces each, stems and root ends removed
2 medium golden beets, about 4 ounces each, stems and root ends removed
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 garlic heads, broken into cloves, skins on, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups coarse salt, plus more to taste
For the yogurt dressing
6 ounces goats milk yogurt
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of cayenne pepper
For the vinaigrette

2 shallots, peeled
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts
6 ounces baby arugula, about 4 cups
3 blood oranges (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced into rounds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the beets and pat them dry. In a large bowl, toss the beets with the herbs, garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Cover the bottom of a square baking pan with the two cups salt. Set the beets, herbs and garlic on top of the salt, cover the dish with foil, and bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 75 minutes.
Set the pan aside to allow the beets to cool, then peel the beets and cut them into wedges, reserving half of 1 red beet for the vinaigrette.  Keep the red beets and golden beets separate or their colors will bleed together.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the yogurt dressing: Combine the yogurt, zest, honey, and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
To make the vinaigrette: In a blender or food processor, puree the shallots and the roasted red beet half with the vinegar and mustard. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified.

Place the macadamia nuts in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Bake for three to five minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through to evenly brown.  Allow to cool slightly, then roughly chop.

Combine the red and yellow beets with half the yogurt mixture in a medium bowl and toss to coat. In another bowl, toss the arugula with the beet vinaigrette to coat.

To serve, divide the beets and blood orange slices among the four to six plates, top with the arugula, and garnish with the macadamias and a drizzle of the remaining yogurt dressing.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ina's French Toast Bread Pudding

Two weeks ago I got a text from my good friend Kathryn of Cooking Inside the Box. She wanted to know if I had any plans for Monday, December 6th. I texted back that as long as Matt (my husband) could watch Otis (my son), I was free as a bird. She wrote back, "Great. I have a surprise for you. Casual dress, no need for the heels." I tried to figure out what the surprise was and begged Matt to tell me. No go, he's really good at keeping confidences.
Fast forward to the end of the week. I was walking back from the Brooklyn Children's Museum with my friend Charlotta (Swedish Chokladbollar/ Chocolate Balls). We were talking about single ingredients that make dishes pop. I referred to a Barefoot Contessa episode where Ina was talking about the relationship between chicken and tarragon, chocolate and espresso, and how just a pinch of certain ingredient make others pop. Kinda like the espresso in Charlotta's Swedish chocolate ball recipe.  Anyway, Charlotta said, "You know, Ina is going to be signing books in the city on Monday." And I was like, "Aw man, I wish I could go, but I have's a surprise...wait a minute..."  I put it together. Well, it was still a great surprise!  
The lines at the Crate & Barrel on 59th and Madison were very, very long. Lucky for me, Kat was able to hold down a spot (after purchase of Ina's new book How Easy Is That?). And then we met Ina. In person! I told her that she was a huge inspiration, that I started a food blog because of her and that she has totally transformed my life in the kitchen. I told her that I grew up in a non-cooking household (though now my mom cooks a lot).  She asked me, "What do people eat for dinner in a non-cooking household?"  I replied, "frozen blintzes, of course!"  Laughter filled the room.  It was a spectacular moment. 
This is a recipe from How Easy Is That?  
Serves 8
1 challah loaf, sliced 3/4 inch thick.  I made 10 slices.
(Note:If challah is fresh, not stale, slice and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees)
8 extra-large eggs
5 cups half-and-half or milk (I used 1 cup half-and-half  and 4 cups milk)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Confectioners' sugar and pure maple syrup for serving
* Next time I may add some cinnamon!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange to bread into two layers in a 9x13x2-inch baking dish, cutting the bread to fit the dish.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, honey, orange zest, vanilla and salt.  Pour the mixture over the bread and press the bread down.  Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and add enough very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come an inch up the side of the baking dish.  Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting so the foil doesn't touch the pudding.  Make two slashes in the foil to allow steam to escape.  Bake for 45 minutes, remove the aluminum foil, and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
With a small sieve, dust lightly with confectioners' sugar and serve hot in squares with maple syrup on the side.
How easy is that?
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

Espresso and chocolate go so well together. Add bananas to the mix and you are talking about the most wonderful triumvirate of flavor.  
This recipe for Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins is from the Baked Cookbook (which I've mentioned quite a bit recently).  These little treats are an excellent way to start your day and a great way to turn those over-ripe bananas into something more delicious than compost mush.
Note:  Instant espresso powder is not the same as ground espresso - it dissolves instantly in hot water.

1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (I usually go with Ghiradelli.)
Yield: 12 muffins (Halving the recipe is simple, except for the egg part...)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  (I take a paper towel and use the remaining melted butter from the saucepan to grease the muffin pan.)
In a medium bowl, stir together bananas, sugar, butter, milk and egg.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda and salt.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
Fill each cup about three-quarters full.  Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Move the muffin pan to the cooling rack, and let cool for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack.
Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes with a side of Dreidel!

The holiday season is in full swing.  Some of you will put up a Christmas tree or dust off your Kwanza kinara.  Others will lament the holiday season and put their head in the sand until January. But for me, I get out my dreidel and start rolling gimmels. I'm not a religious person (not at all), but I do like cultural celebrations that revolve around light and food.  
And I'm really excited about Chanukah this year because: 1. I like lighting the menorah 2. I just received the gift I sent myself (the Baked cookbook) 3. I really like to eat latkes and 4. *and most importantly* I like having people over to our teeny-tiny living space (only a few at a time) and celebrating the holidays with close friends.
This recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Latkes came to me by way of Jane, the mother of our very close friend.  We got to taste these last year and they are a wonderful alternative to your standard potato latke.  And they have a little kick due to the curry powder and cayenne.  Bring these to your next Hanukkah party and you'll be a real hit!  
(In case you aren't familiar with latkes, they are a shallow-fried pancake, usually potato, that are traditionally eaten on Chanukah.)
Happy holidays.
CURRIED SWEET POTATO LATKES (Adapted from The New Prospect Cafe by Jewish Cooking in America)
Serves 16 2-inch pancakes
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
peanut oil for frying
Grate the sweet potato coarsely.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking power, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
Add the eggs and just enough milk to dry ingredients and make a stiff batter.  (I used less than the 1/2 cup of milk.) Add the potatoes and mix.  The batter should be moist but not runny; if too stiff, add more milk. 
Heat 1/4 inch of peanut oil (I used a bit less) in a saute pan until it is barely smoking.  Drop in the batter by tablespoons and flatten.  Cook several minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve.
Note: I think next time I make these I will cook the sweet potatoes and mash them, then follow the rest of the directions as written.  I guess it comes down to this: do you like your latkes smooth or stringy?  I think I'm a smooth type of gal.  
Also, I made another batch of these latkes tonight.  They were so good.  I left the batter and sweet potatoes in the fridge overnight, and the potato was really soft and all the spices were absorbed beautifully.  But either way, the make a nice holiday treat.
So eat those latkes, light that menorah and spin that dreidel.  
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Calendar, Cookbooks and Poached Egg on Parsnip Puree

To me the holidays mean celebrating with good food, wonderful friends and close family. It also means that 2011 is just around the corner and I need to get a new calendar, lickity-split. Well, I did. I went onto Etsy and did a search for handmade calendars. A nice bunch of options came up, but one in particular caught my eye. Heidi from Redcruiser made a seasonal garden/market calendar that I just had to have. As many of you know, I am completely obsessed with my local CSA, and some of my favorite dishes have come from our weekly farm-share bounty:Panzanella, Pasta with Swiss Chard and Leek Sauce, Polenta with Corn and Thyme, Scalloped Tomatoes, Zucchini and Basil Soup and Tagliatelle with Fresh Pesto (just to name a few). Sadly, the CSA ended for the season and I'm really missing it. This is where my new calendar comes in...
Each calendar month contains a beautiful illustration that corresponds with what is grown at that particular time of year. It matched-up perfectly with what we picked up every week. I'm looking forward to using my new calendar and counting down the months till our CSA starts up again...

Since it was the holidays and all, I also decided to pick up  two new cookbooks that I'm absolutely thrilled to have in my growing collection:
                                                The New Brooklyn Cookbook 
                                           Baked: New Frontiers in Baking 
If you live in Brooklyn (or anywhere on the eastern seaboard), a trip to this bakery in Red Hook is well worth it.  It's absolutely fantastic. This weekend I'm making their Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. and, maybe, the Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins.  Of course Pumpkin Whoopie Pie will get made post-haste as well.  
The New Brooklyn Cookbook features many of the borough's best restaurants. Al Di La, Applewood, Buttermilk Channel,  Convivium, DuMont, Dressler, Franny's, The Good Fork, Marlow & Sons and Rose Water are just a few examples featured in the cookbook.  Rose Water is one of my favorite spots. And if you are lucky enough to get a table, you will probably agree. 
Around the same time as these new cookbooks came into my life, I stumbled upon this recipe for Poached Egg on Parsnip Puree with Mushrooms in edibleBrooklyn. It's an adaptation of a recipe that originally came from Rose Water's then-chef Marcellus Coleman. I adapted it only slightly by adding stock, minimizing the heavy cream (just a bit) and using porcini mushrooms instead of the more costly Black Trumpets, Maitakes, Trumpet Royale and Honshimejis. Serve the puree in a small, shallow bowl. It's very rich, so you don't need much to fill you up...
Enjoy it and happy holidays!
Poached Egg on Parsnip Puree with Porcini Mushrooms
Parsnip Puree
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable stock (more if you want to thin out the puree)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
pinch of salt, more to taste
Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan until parsnips are completely tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, transfer to a food processor and blend puree until smooth. You can also use an immersion blender, which is much easier.

2 lbs. porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
pinch of salt
2 cups of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
fine herbs to garnish such as parsley, chives, chervil or tarragon
Saute mushrooms in oil and salt over medium-high heat until mushrooms start to brown and soften, about 4 minutes. Add stock, butter and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces to a glossy, stew-like consistency, about 4 more minutes.  Remove thyme sprigs. Add herbs.

1 egg per serving (this puree makes 4-6 servings)
capful of vinegar
Bring a pot of water to a simmer and add vinegar. Carefully crack egg into water and cook for 3 minutes.

Serve in a small, shallow bowl. Place one large dollop of warm parsnip puree in the bowl, with a divot in the middle to hold the egg. Gently lift the egg out of the water and place atop puree.  Spoon mushrooms around the puree and season with sea salt and optional garnishes.  
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