Monthly Archives: March 2009

cookin’ class-perfect hard boiled eggs

egg-hard-boiled

i love a good hard boiled egg. in fact, i have been known to go through phases of eating them, almost to the exclusion of all other foods. for breakfast with a slice of whole grain toast, chopped up in a fresh egg salad, as the perfect snack in the afternoon, etc, etc, etc. but i know not everyone’s a fan. sometimes i wonder if more people had them prepared properly, more people would like them the way that i do. ah, the elusive perfect hard boiled egg. almost as intimidating as steamed rice. i hesitate to use the word ‘perfect’ for just about anything, but i will with this stipulation: perfect is as perfect does, or perfect is relative. if you like your eggs the way i do, these will be perfect for you. i like a hard boiled egg cooked all the way through, no underdone centers. having said that, i love a soft boiled egg, but that’s not i’m going for here. you can experiement on your own, adding or subtracting time to your taste.

 i don’t know about you, but for years i wasn’t even aware that there could be an improvement over just boiling them to death (or until i remembered i was even cooking something!), then running cold water over them. the greenish-gray ring that appears around the yolk when this method is employed is the reason many people are turned off by eggs cooked this way. it is a result of sulphuric acid buildup which emits a rather, well, stinky odor. then i did a little research and took some tips from the experts. here are the results.

egg-raw-in-multi-colored-shells

perfect hard boiled eggs

1. first off, start with eggs that are 1-2 weeks old. they will be so much easier to peel if you do. i am giving you a few weeks until easter if you plan on dying the eggs, then peeling and making a good ol’ egg salad after the holiday. and buy the best eggs you can afford-it really does make a difference.

2. put them in a pan with about 1-2 inches of cold water covering them. turn your flame to high and bring to a boil. once the eggs have boiled for a minute or 2, turn off the flame, cover and set your timer for 10 minutes (elise from simply recipes gives the tip that if you have an electric stove, you can turn the heat off just as it comes to a boil–there will be enough residual heat to get the same results).

3. when your timer goes off, submerge the eggs in a cool or ice water bath for a few minutes. this will aid in the peel ‘shrinking away’ from the white of the egg, also assisting in the peeling process. sometimes, if i have enough eggs, i’ll take one out of the hot water before i ice them all down and use it as a tester. if it’s done to my liking, i’ll eat it. if not, then i toss it and allow the remainder of the eggs to sit in the hot water for a few more minutes.

4. voila! you have perfect hard boiled eggs to use in egg salad or amaze your friends with deviled eggs at the next party. you can store them peeled for a few days or unpeeled for up to 5 days in the fridge.

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cowgirl granola

oats-in-bowl1

well, it’s official. granola is not just for hippies anymore. it has enjoyed a real resurgence lately, even a boutique status, if you will. but for many of us, it has been part of our lives for years. the simplicity of the ingredients really speaks for itself: grains, nuts, seeds, and pure and naturally sweet fruit, the flavor intensified by drying.

seeds-oats

i used to be one of those chumps who would buy it by the pound at the health food store until our friend, doctor mark, passed on this recipe for homemade granola from alton brown, his culinary hero. i have changed it up a bit over the years; tweaking measurements of this and that, changing the ingredients around, basically using it as a base recipe. it is best topped with a big dollop of plain yogurt.

yogurt2

cowgirl granola (adapted from alton brown)

3 cups rolled oats (old fashioned, not instant or quick cook)

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup raw pepita seeds (aka pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

3/4 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, depending on your sweet tooth)

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

1/4 cup neutral oil (like vegetable or canola)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried fruit of your choice (raisins, dried cherries, figs, banana chips-go crazy!)

 

preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

in a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. in a separate bowl, combine honey or maple syrup, oil, and salt. it’s important to to mix wet & dry ingredients separately. combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 foil or parchment covered sheet pans (this is important for clean up purposes only). bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes to achieve an even color. you might also want to rotate pans about half way through baking in case your oven has some uneven heat spots. i like to take the mixture to a pretty deep golden color, but you should take it out when it has achieved your favorite level of golden brown. remember, also, that there will be a bit of residual cooking once mixture is removed from the oven.

 transfer to a large bowl and let cool a few minutes. add dried fruit while mixture is still warm and mix until evenly distributed.

allow to cool completely, breaking up large chunks as it cools if you prefer ( i like to leave it kinda chunky). store in an airtight container in the freezer for best results-that way your fruit won’t make your oats soggy. lasts indefinitely.

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leek confit

leeks-raw-chopped
leeks may well be the harbinger of spring, at least for me. i mean, look at those colors-from white to the palest pear green all the way to the color of grass. it just screams spring. here in austin, we see this season a little earlier than the rest of you folks up to the north. but don’t worry, it IS coming. and when you are feeling the grass for the first time under your feet next month, we’ll be sweltering in the 90’s.
until then, let’s just enjoy it while we can. if you like carmelized onions, you will love this. confit is a term more often used when referring to meat cooked for a long period of time, usually in it’s own fat. it imparts a lovely, velvety texture unlike any other method of cooking. it also means, in a more general way, to cook something very slowly. this slow method, like roasting, can bring out the sweetness and essence of a fruit or vegetable. this is one of those recipes that can be used to enhance so many fabulous dishes, like topping broiled or baked fish, adding to pizza, or as an appetizer. we spooned it over fresh goat cheese spread on freshly toasted baguettes slices–truly heavenly.
add leeks to melted butter in saute pan:
leeks-melted-butter-in-pan
leeks-in-pan
stir to coat with oil, add your salt and water:
leeks-add-water-to-pan
put the lid on and turn flame down to very low:
leeks-put-lid-on-pan
after 10 minutes of cooking, give it a stir and check your water level, add more if most of the water has absorbed:
leeks-10-min
and after 20 minutes it looks like this. i ended up using a bit more water– about 1/2 cup total:
leeks-20-min
and the requisite shot of all things confited, chutneyed, or jammed; the mixture in a glass jar with a beautiful wooden spoon:
leeks-requisite-shot
leek confit (adapted from bon appetit)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only and washed well to remove any sand or grit), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
1/3-1/2 cup water water
1/2 teaspoon salt

melt butter in large pot over medium-low heat. add leeks and stir to coat with the oil. stir in water (start with 1/3 cup and add more as needed if it evaporates) and salt. Cover pot; reduce heat to very low heat. cook until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring often, about 25 minutes. uncover and cook to evaporate excess water, 2 to 3 minutes. serve warm or room temperature. stores well in fridge for up to a week. warm up before using.

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irish car bomb cupcakes

irish-car-bombs-frosted

          yes, you read that right. perhaps you’ve ordered one of these drinks at your fave irish pub. perhaps someone else ordered one for you against your will. but you drank it anyway. and it was so good. let’s see, a shot glass full of irish whiskey and bailey’s irish cream dropped into a pint of stout. what’s not to like? when i first encountered this recipe, i thought it so brilliant that i had gathered all the required ingredients and had them made with in hours. the booziness made me swoon!

liquor-trilogy

first make the cupcake batter. traditionally, if you can call anything about this ‘traditional’,  this drink is made with an irish stout, like guinness. i used st. arnold winter stout. it is a bit sweeter than irish stout and works well in this recipe (unfortunately, it is only available in texas for now). it seems counter intuitive, but add butter and stout to a pan and melt:

stout-butter

stout-butter-in-pan-unmixed

then add your cocoa powder:

stout-butter-add-cocoa1

stir until smooth and remove from heat. allow to cool slightly.

stout-butter-mixed

then beat the sour cream and eggs in a large bowl. i prefer crema mexicana rather than sour cream. it is more like creme fraiche, a little thicker and richer than sour cream. you can find this in the supermarket if you live in an area with a large hispanic population. i thank the heavens everyday that i do.

crema-mexicana

then add your stout mixture after it has cooled a bit:

irish-add-stout-mix-to-crema

irish-add-stout-3

 add the flour 1/3 at a time. mix on low to prevent flour from flying all over kitchen:

irish-action-flour

after you bake the cupcakes, you will need to scoop out the centers to add your whiskey ganache. you could use a apple corer or grapefruit spoon. i used my melon baller like this:

irish-melon-ball-1-really1

irish-melon-ball-2

irish-melon-ball-3

then make your whiskey ganache and pipe (or spoon) in!

irish-ganache-chopped-chocolate

irish-car-bombs-baked-and-stuffed

you may notice that the ganache is no longer shiny–i filled the cupcakes the day before frosting. i was glad i did because it made it a lot easier to frost. you can pipe or spread your frosting. i like the homemade, sweet look of hand spreading. i topped it with some turbinado (coarse grain, raw) sugar.

slainte!

 

 

irish car bomb cupcakes (adapted from smitten kitchen)

for the cupcakes:

1 cup stout (such as st. arnold (or stout from your own local micro brew) or guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream (i prefer crema mexicana)

preheat oven to 350°F. line 24-28 cupcake cups with liners. bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. cool a bit off the heat.

whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl until blended. add cooled stout mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. add flour mixture about 1/3 at a time and beat briefly on slow speed. using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. try not to overmix. divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way. bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back about half way through, about 17 minutes. cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

ganache:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons irish whiskey (i used bushmill’s)

chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. if mixture is not completely smooth after stirring, 10-20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will help.  add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (or spooned in). meanwhile, using your melon baller or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. you want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. you can eat the centers while you are working to give you energy to finish up! put the ganache into a piping bag–or just use a spoon (no one will see the top of the ganache. it will be covered by frosting)–and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

frosting:*

3 to 4 cups confections sugar
2 sticks (1 cup or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons baileys irish cream (or milk or heavy cream)

*this is a double batch of frosting. be careful–this stuff is pretty rich!

whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes–you want to get it very light and fluffy. slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. i only ended up using 2 cups of the powdered sugar using this method! then add your bailey’s or cream. spread or pipe frosting and enjoy!

houston found the rest of the stout:

houston-found-the-stout

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crispy ricotta gnocchi with pine nuts and spinach (ricotta-part trois!)

library-2587

oh, you are gonna thank me for this one. pasta…that you can fry until crispy and brown? and add toasted pine nuts and cheese? and a drizzle of olive and some fresh baby spinach? oh my word.

the inspiration for this dish came from a blog i subscribe to called 101 cookbooks. in it, heidi swanson, the creator of this blog uses the golden gnocchi to add to a pasta salad, of sorts. given the fact that we are, well technically at least,  still in winter, i thought a warm application of this would be in order. you can use packaged gnocchi, if that’s all you can come up with, but buy or make fresh if you can.

 

crispy gnocchi with pine nuts and spinach

1 pound fresh gnocchi, cooked, drained and patted dry  (add to simmering water until rise to the surface, about 2 minutes)

1 TBSP olive oil (plus extra for drizzling-use the best you have)

1 TBSP unsalted butter

salt

pine nuts (you can toast ahead of time for 7-10 minutes in a 375 degree oven or throw them in towards the end of sauteeing the gnocchi like i do)

a few handfuls fresh baby spinach

freshly grated parmigiana reggiano

 

heat olive oil and butter in  a large skillet over medium-high heat. add gnocchi and toss to coat. allow to saute in a single layer, undisturbed until golden brown. flip gnocchi over with a spatula to brown on the other side. add pine nuts to pan when you have a 1-2 minutes left before gnocchi are crispy on second side. remove from pan and salt to tase. add spinach and toss, allowing spinach to wilt a bit with the heat of the gnocchi. grate parmigiana and drizzle good quality olive oil over top.

 

 


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ricotta, part deux (makin’ gnocchi!)

gnocchi-uncooked

remember all that ricotta i made several weeks back? did you wonder what i was going to do with all of that? well, I did. so who better to get some much needed lessons for making gnocchi from than mario batali. i love him. he is serious about his italian food but not snobby about it. and you gotta love the orange crocs.

library-2568

i already had everything i needed to make them. so i wondered that if i had anything to lose, i didn’t know what it was. maybe time…but as usual i would rather be nowhere else than playing in the kitchen.

library-2571

mix everything together by hand and form a ball of dough, adding flour as necessary to keep from being too sticky.

library-2577

i tried to form into the little gnocchi shapes using the ‘2 spoon’ method–i was not successful. i ended up rolling a large handful at a time into ropes, then cutting into about 1″ pieces. sorry i didn’t get any shots of that part of the process. there is a great tutorial on this method which i used from elise.

gnocchi-adding-to-pot

gnocchi-floating-to-top

then off to the boiling water they go. try not to overcrowd the pot. after about 2 minutes they should float to the top. that’s when you pull them out and add some more.

gnocchi-pulling-out-of-water

you can toss these with your favorite marinara sauce (use the one on elise’s page) and freshly grated parmigiana reggiano OR you can wait and i’ll post a recipe next time that will blow your mind. 

gnocchi-pillowy-and-lovely

 

homemade ricotta gnocchi

1  1/2 lbs fresh whole milk ricotta, drained if you are not making this from scratch

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (i like king arthur)

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley or spinach (optional)

 

if using store bought ricotta, place the ricotta in a fine sieve over a bowl. cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. in a medium-sized bowl, stir the drained ricotta, 1 cup of the flour, the eggs, parsley (if using), salt, pepper and nutmeg together gently but thoroughly until a soft dough forms, adding a little more of the flour if the dough is sticky to the touch. forming the gnocchi: dip 2 tablespoons in cool water. using 1 spoon, scoop up a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta mixture and use the other spoon to form it into a smooth, pointed oval. alternatively, you can use elise’s method i used above (HIGHLY recommended!). place the gnocchi on a baking sheet lined with a lightly-floured kitchen towel.

bring 4-6 quarts of water to a gentle boil. add the gnocchi a few at a time, trying not to over crowd. as soon as they float to the top, they are ready to fish out with a slotted spoon or strainer. this should take about 2 minutes from the time they are put in. you can add more as soon as you take a few out.

these freeze well (before cooking, of course). lay in a single layer on a sheet pan in the freezer. then when they are fully frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer safe bag. do not defrost, put straight into boiling water from the freezer.

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taco night!

finished-taco-yum

fond food memories for me always include names like taco night, friday night-pizza night, and potato bar. to this day whenever i finish making loaded baked potatoes and salad for dinner i always tell houston that “the potato bar is now open”. that sentence must be deeply imbedded within my genetic code. it just spews forth without hesitation. anyway, i still get a kick out of ‘themed’ dinners like these–they make me feel child-like.

everyone once in awhile taco night means going out for tacos (there are so many places to get fabulous tacos in austin, don’t even get me started…), but mostly it means making the taco filling (we use ground turkey–it has a very meaty bite, but is much lighter than hamburger) and fryin’ up the shells and serving the whole mess with fixin’s. that way everyone gets to eat tacos exactly how they like ’em.

fixins

i like to get those ready first and keep them in the fridge nice ‘n’ cool ’till everything else is ready. you can go tradtional tex-mex with ice berg lettuce and yellow cheddar or put another spin on it like i have here. this is more california baja-style with shredded purple cabbage and queso fresco.

lawrys-taco-seasoning

do you remember these? everyone used them. sometimes i still do if i’m feeling lazy. but really, you already have everything that’s included in this packet hanging out in your spice rack. really. go look right now.

taco-seasonings

the only thing you might have to get is some cocoa powder (unsweetened). but you should get some of that anyway and add it to your next pot of chili. it adds a nice depth of color and flavor that will really surprise you.

raw-red-tortillas

you should NOT under any circumstances, however use store-bought taco shells. go the extra mile and fry them yourself. this is the differnce between ok and delicious. it’s really easy. i found these red tortillas at our local mexican mega-mart. they’re made with red chili powder-purdy, huh?

my-first-le-creuset

bring a shallow frying pan 1-2 fingers full of vegetable or canola oil you’ll want something fairly inocuous here. can you tell i’ve had this pan since the time my mother fried taco shells in it? ah, my first (and still only) le creuset!

fry-thermometer-on-oil

use a deep fry, a.k.a. candy, thermometer to get the oil to about 350 degrees F. this is the perfect temperature to get fried things crispy, not soggy.

tortilla-in-oil

add in your first tortilla, sliding it in carefully as not to splatter yourself. let it puff up a little. after about 5-10 seconds, while it’s still pliable, fold it over but not all the way. you want to be able to get fillings in there after you take it out. fry on 1 side for about 5 seconds, then flip over to the other side. each tortilla should only take 15-20 seconds in the oil.

folded-tortilla-in-oil-11

folded-tortilla-in-oil-21

drain on some paper towels. you can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven if you like.

taco-shell-on-paper-towel

fill ’em anyway you like and enjoy!

 

homemade taco night tacos

1 lb ground turkey

1 small onion, diced

2 fresh jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced or sliced thinly

3 garlic cloves, minced

a few tablespoons of canola oil (plus more for frying)

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (find this in the baking aisle, it was what you once used to make hot chocolate before they came out with those little packets)

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp mexican oregano (fresh or dried)

1 cup of your favorite salsa

1/4-1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 lime

fixin’s and hot sauce or salsa of your choice—get these chopped, shredded and ready to go. put them in the fridge so they’re nice and cold when you build your tacos. the contrast with the hot, spicy meat and the toppings is all part of the package.

in a large skillet over medium high heat, saute the meat up in a bit of canola oil until almost no pink, breaking it up as you go. take it to just underdone because you will adding it back in and it will cook for a little longer. this will prevent it from drying out. drain the grease from the meat through a colander. set aside. add a bit more oil to the same pan and saute the onion and peppers until soft. add the garlic and saute for about a minute, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t brown (this will make it bitter). add the chile powder, cocoa powder, cumin, and oregano and stir often for 30 seconds to a minute. add the meat back to the pan as well as the salsa and water. i start with 1/4 cup or so of water, give the whole thing a good stir, then add more if it appears too dry for my taste. you want it a little soupy, but not drowning. turn the flame down to low and cover, simmering for 5-10 minutes. turn off the heat and add the cilantro and lime juice.

fry up the tortillas. heat a shallow pan with about an inch or so canola oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fry or candy thermometer. fry tortillas one at a time, folding each over after about 5 seconds in the oil, then cooking for about 5-6 seconds for each side. drain on paper towels.

get your toppings and hot sauce out and open up the taco bar!

these go great with a cold beer like st. arnold fancy lawnmower.

favorite-salsa-with-lime-wedges

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