Saturday, March 31, 2012

Easter Dessert Inspiration

This is how my life often goes: I wandered into the bathroom, spied the new Bon Appétit, flipped through it, and an hour later, the kitchen was cleaned, the dishwasher was running, and I had a citrus-pistachio pound cake in the oven! YAY ME!

I didn't have any limes on hand, so I used the zest of the lemon. Also, instead of oranges, I used some extra-juicy minneolas. YUMMY! But please, learn from the error of my ways. Either scale the recipe back by a third, or use a larger pan than a standard loaf pan. Otherwise, you will have batter spilling over and burning in the bottom of your oven like I did. Oops! (My friend, Joan, tried this recipe after I posted about it on Facebook, and she used three smaller loaf pans which she reported worked out well.)

This would be a lovely springtime addition to your Easter dessert buffet!

Pistachio Pound Cake
Source: Bon Appétit, April 2012
Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided

Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325°F. Coat a 9x5x3" loaf pan with nonstick spray. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add sugar; beat until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add juices and zests; beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled), 2-3 minutes. Add dry ingredients; reduce speed to low and beat just until blended. Fold in 3/4 cup pistachios. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen; unmold cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Upscale Beanie Weenies

We all tend to overindulge during the holidays, then we must pay our penance in the New Year. But if you manage to survive all of the light/lo-cal/nonfat/healthy dishes featured on cooking magazines and on the Food Network in January, your endurance will be rewarded with all-chocolate recipes in February, and--please God--we'll all be back to comfort food by March!

Bon Appétit did a feature this month where they remade some of our favorite homespun dishes. I really want to try the Hoisin-Glazed Meatloaf, a Bahn Mi(t)loaf, if you will. But another recipe jumped out at me. It was called Chorizo and Gigante Bean Cassoulet, which was basically an uptown version of franks and beans with a Spanish twist. Ultimately, it turned out to be a very good dish, but I have some tips for you (as is my way):

1) Be advised that this recipe will take almost four hours to complete even if you pre-soak the beans, so either save it for a Sunday afternoon or enlist the help of your trusty crock pot.
2) Do NOT go by the recipe on the amount of time to cook your beans, as I went with the low end, and my gigante beans nearly disinegrated! I ended up having to cook some cannellini beans on the side and add them to the sauce to fix the mess I'd made. Thus, check your beans as they are simmering, and pull them as soon as they are just tender, as there's still a lot of cooking time to go after that.
3) Do NOT be tempted to substitute regular paprika for smoked. In my opinion, it is the defining flavor in this dish!
4) I only used a pound of sausage, which I thought was plenty--but maybe that's because I had extra beans.
5) Lastly, for the bread crumb topping, I toasted up some panko in olive oil and butter in a skillet, added the parsley and lemon zest and called it a day!

Chorizo and Gigante Bean Cassoulet
Source: Bon Appétit, March 2012
Yield: Makes 8 servings

3 cups dried gigante, corona, or large lima beans
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
8 fresh Spanish chorizo or hot Italian sausage links (About 2 pounds)
1 leek (white and pale-green parts only), cut into 1/4"-thick rounds
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, crushed with your hands
7 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary

Breadcrumb topping:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh coarse breadcrumbs (from three 1/2"-thick slices white sandwich bread)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Ingredient Info: Fresh Spanish chorizo, a link sausage that’s milder than Mexican chorizo, can be found at specialty foods stores, Spanish markets, and (try hot or mild). Smoked paprika is available at most supermarkets.

For beans and chorizo:
Place beans in a large pot and cover with water by 3". Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.

Drain beans. Add fresh water to cover by 3". Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender but not mushy, 1 1/2-2 hours (time will vary depending on size and age of beans). Drain, reserving 1 cup bean broth.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until golden all over, 7-8 minutes. Transfer chorizo to a plate and set aside.
Place 2 tablespoons oil, leek, and onion in same pot. Season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and anchovies; stir 1 minute to break down anchovies. Add tomato paste and paprika; stir constantly until paste is caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add reserved 1 cup bean broth, beans, chicken broth, and next 4 ingredients; bring to a boil.

Cover and bake until beans are very tender, about 30 minutes. Add chorizo (and any accumulated juices) to pot, pressing to submerge. Bake until liquid is reduced and slightly thickened, 40-45 minutes longer.

For breadcrumb topping:
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. Add bread- crumbs and cook, stirring often, until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over beans and drizzle with remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Bake cassoulet until breadcrumbs are browned and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. Sprinkle parsley and lemon zest over just before serving.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Little Dollop of Crème Fraîche

OOPS! In my rush to post my new Disney-fied recipes, I neglected to share some exciting spring break news. I brought a little something extra in my carry-on luggage back from Arizona. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Douglan's Crème Fraîche de Bellevoix, or Dollop for short. (All together now: AWWWWWWWW!)

My sweet old basset hound, Rosie, died in December of 2010, I finished both Canadian and American championships on my last PBGV over three years ago, and I have been waiting to acquire a puppy from a particular Australian breeding program for NINE years! So the time was finally right to add another dog to the household.

This is a very exciting litter, as the dam--a French import--was Winners Bitch and Best of Opposite Sex to the national specialty winner in 2009, and the sire is an Australian grand champion and a Best in Show winner who has already sired many champions Down Under.

CH Correze des Rocs du Plessis (Dam: "Cosi")

BIS Aus. GCH Rokeena Esprit Naturel (Sire: "Sam")

I have great hopes for this little one as a show dog, but right now, we're just working on learning to be a well-behaved house pet. Needless to say, we are in the "No!" and "Stop that!" phase, and the living room is veritably swimming in enzymatic cleaner. But this little Dollop of badness has already wormed her way into our hearts and brings us much joy as a cheerful, energetic (emphasis should be noted here), and adorable companion.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

A friend of mine from high school who is quite the foodie mentioned on Facebook the other day that she was preparing turkey and artichoke stuffed shells for a special family dinner, and I thought that sounded delicious. She told me it was a Giada recipe, and I had to try it. I must say, it was a LOT of work; also, it was a rather pricey dish to make. Thus, it’s probably best for a weekend meal or special event. But it was YUMMY! Here are my recipe notes:

1. I used Barilla shells, cooked for 9 min as the box directed--2 boxes to be safe (as recommended by recipe reviewers) but only needed one. I got 36 stuffed shells, 24 in a 9x13 pan, and an 8x8 with 12, frozen for another time.
2. I used the whole onion and doubled the garlic. And I used extra cheese in the filling and on top, because that's how I roll!
3. I used turkey sausage and added some dried herbs: 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and rosemary, and a teaspoon of oregano.
4. I used a 15 oz. can of artichokes, drained and chopped finely.
5. I also increased the sauce. I cheated and used 2 24 oz. jars of Classico Spicy Red Pepper plus a pint of homemade sauce, yielding 7 cups. Since these sauces were already spicy, I pulled back the red pepper to a scant teaspoon.
6. The store I was at did not carry pancetta, so I used a 1/2 pound of low-sodium bacon instead. It added a little smokiness, not unlike fire-roasted tomatoes.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce
Source: Food Network, Giada De Laurentiis
Serves: 6 to 8

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

P.S. I shared the extra half pan of shells with my wonderful friends, the Padulas. (They do freeze beautifully, by the bye.) And Janice said after finishing dinner, "I feel like I ate at a fancy Italian restaurant!"

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mickey Mousing Around in the Kitchen

Just back from spring break, and man, am I EXHAUSTED! As is often the case, I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation! I actually left last week Wednesday for our PBGV National Specialty in Mesa, AZ, then on Sunday, I hopped on over to sunny southern California to visit The Mouse with my dear friend, Mike, something I haven't done since the Millenium! (I've been to Orlando since then, but not to my beloved Magic Kingdom in Anaheim.) In fact, the last time I was there, California Adventure wasn't even open yet! So it was fun to check them both out this time with our Park Hopper passes. But I was younger and more fit in 2000, and three days tromping around both parks nearly did me in! Now that I'm home again, I wanted a little taste of Disney that would involve less money and physical exertion.

Since I already tried clones of Dole Whip and Bengal Barbecue, I decided to make some treats as an homage to California Adventure upon returning home to New York state. The strange thing is--I never actually sampled these items. We were going to have lunch one day at the Pacific Wharf Café, but the line was WAY too long, and we had Fast Passes to use for Soarin' Over California (my FAVORITE "new" ride--new to me, anyway). So Mike and I enjoyed some delicious noodle bowls and chilled edamame at The Lucky Fortune Cookery. But I regretted not trying some of the savory dishes served in Boudin Bakery sourdough bread bowls at the Pacific Wharf Café. What was I to do but make a couple of them for myself at home?! Of course, I have no reference point of whether my versions were close to the real deals or not, so one of you will have to try them and give me some feedback. In the meantime, we'll call these recipes "inspired by" menu items at Disney's California Adventure.

The first is a spicy twist on a traditional corn chowder that the Pacific Wharf Café calls Santa Rosa Corn Chowder. It's the addition of peppers--hot peppers for kick and sweet roasted red for both flavor and color--that give it that California flair.

Santa Rosa Corn Chowder

1 lb. jowl bacon*, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 large red (or orange) pepper, seeded and diced
1 Cubanelle pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
1 can creamed corn
2 lbs. (about 8 smaller) potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 lb. frozen corn
8 oz. roasted red peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
few dashes of hot sauce, to taste

Brown the bacon in a large Dutch oven*. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions, fresh red pepper and the Cubanelle pepper to the pot and saute until tender, about ten minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot the whole time. Add the chicken stock and stir until combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add the cream, creamed corn, potatoes, frozen corn, roasted red peppers, and the remaining seasonings. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the reserved bacon pieces (or just sprinkle some on top of each bowl), garnish with chopped chives, and serve.

*To make this to serve for vegetarians, sweat the veggies in olive oil, and then do as the Pacific Wharf Café does and top each meat-eater's serving with some julienned ham instead of the jowl bacon that I used. And if all of your eaters are carnivorous but you don't have jowl bacon rattling around your freezer as I did, try frying up maybe a half pound of regular bacon, and sweat the veggies in the bacon fat after you remove and reserve the crispy bacon pieces.

Another item I had hoped to try at the Pacific Wharf Café was the Sonoma Chicken and Apple Salad, also served in a bread bowl. And Disney actually published the recipe for this item. But I made a "cheater" version that I tailored a bit for my tastes. I will post both versions, and you can decide which to make for yourself.

Sonoma Chicken and Apple Salad
Pacific Wharf Café, Disney's California Adventure Park

4 cups water
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup celery, diced small
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into wedges
2/3 cup honey mustard dressing (your favorite brand)
4 individual-sized bread bowls*
4 leaves Romaine or leaf lettuce
8 fresh chives sprigs, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. In a medium pot, boil 4 cups of water. Add chicken bouillon, stirring until the bouillon is dissolved in the water. Lower heat, and bring to a simmer.
2. Add chicken breast; cover pot and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Put chicken in the refrigerator to cool down.
3. Thinly shred the lettuce; set aside.
4. Dice chicken into 1/4" pieces and put it in a medium-sized bowl. Add walnuts, celery, apple wedges, and honey mustard dressing and toss well.
5. Hollow out the bread bowls; fill with the shredded lettuce. Place one lettuce leaf on the edge and place the chicken salad at the center. Sprinkle the salad with chives and cranberries just before serving.

* Sweet, salty, and crunchy, this salad is a hit at the Pacific Wharf Café, served in bread bowls made in the adjacent Boudin bakery (where a secret family recipe for sourdough dates back to 1850).

Yield: 4 servings

Sonoma Chicken and Apple Salad (My Version)

1 deli chicken, skin removed and deboned, cut into chunks
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced small (optional--I hate it!)
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into chunks (I used a large Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup honey mustard dressing (your favorite brand)
black pepper, to taste

Garnish: 8 fresh chives sprigs, chopped

Serve on top of a pile of shredded lettuce, and to be more authentic, inside a sourdough bread bowl.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Two midweek quickies...

I wanted to take some treats to my department meeting tomorrow, but I was too tired to put much effort in. So here's what to do: Stir up a box of Dark Chocolate Ghirardelli Brownie Mix, then put a spoonful in the bottom of a each well of a nonstick muffin tin. Add an Oreo cookie frosted with a big blob of peanut butter in the middle, then fill almost to the top with the remaining batter. Bake for about 35 minutes at 325, and you have Oreo-Peanut Butter Brownie Cups! (You're welcome.)

And since you should probably have some lunch before you polish off one of those Oreo brownie things, consider the following sandwich combination: Toasted oatmeal bread, off-the-bone ham, prosciutto, and swiss, with spicy tavern mustard and cranberry salsa or "strumpet". MMM! SO GOOD!!

(I apologize for my brevity and lack of real culinary effort...thus begins MARCH MADNESS for me, and we ain't talkin' basketball!)