Tuesday, July 21, 2015

nice and airy

You have a sneaking suspicion that something is up with these muffins. They're not your regular banana muffins. There's a tiny bit of grit in there. Is this gluten-free, you ask? You don't trust gluten-free. It just doesn't taste right to you - you can always tell.

But then you start thinking about how this might be the softest, airiest, most delicious banana muffin you've ever had, and you eat it so fast it gives you the hiccups after. You know what I mean?

This is truly the best use of 3 over-ripe bananas I've ever come across. Totally amped up with coconut oil, peanut butter, honey and cinnamon, and everything breakfast (or a 4:00p tea time nibble, midnight snack...) should be.

A couple tricks:

- Just use one bowl, a fork, and some arm strength to mash and combine everything. No need to dirty up an electric mixer.

- Measure out the coconut oil first out of all of your liquid ingredients. Honey has never exited a Tablespoon quite so fast after you use it for oil first. Same with peanut butter.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
slightly adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
makes 12 muffins

3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 T. liquid coconut oil
1 T. honey
4 T. peanut butter
1 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
2 oz. dark chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add the coconut oil, honey, peanut butter and vanilla extract, and mix until well combined. Add the eggs, and mix until combined. Add in coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; mix again until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and remove each muffin from the tin to let cool before serving.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

an apple a day

I am quite comfortable admitting that I don't like apple pie. But in taking a survey of my wedding guests to inform my pie-making decisions, apple pie was the 2:1 favorite over the runner-up, pecan pie (which I would take over apple any day of the week). There is just something about cooked apples I can't get into.

But, I am not here to disappoint my audience, so recipe-testing this weekend consisted of bringing 2 different pie recipes, in 4 different formats to a friend's barbecue.

I do have a hands-down preference, and it was the Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Pie that I decorated with hearts up above. It was wonderfully caramel-y, strongly cinnamon-y, and just delicious. 

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Pie

2 balls of your favorite pie dough

For the filling:
4-5 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. kosher salt
juice of half a lemon

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your apples and toss them with your sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and lemon juice. Set aside.

2. Generously flour a work surface, then roll out your favorite pie dough, large enough to fit inside of your pie dish. Cut off any excess dough, then use your fingers to crimp the edges of the dough around the dish. Pour your apple filling into the prepared pie crust. 

3. Roll out your next ball of dough. Make the top crust of your choice - rolled out for a full double crust, cut into strips for a lattice, or punched out into different shapes for a fun topping.

4. Place the pie in the oven, then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are bubbling. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving.

However, the experiment wasn't only for the filling. I also need to figure out if there were any better ways to transport pie than via 15-20 individual pie plates. I'm usually not the kind of person who is a sucker for anything in a Mason jar via Pinterest, but when I found photos of pies in Mason jars, I freaked out. So, you're saying I can bake a pie in a glass jar, which basically makes it individualized, and then put a lid on it, and stack them in any sort of flat carrying case (cases which I can then continue stacking into the back of my vehicle)? And I can potentially also freeze the pies unbaked, and stick them in a cold oven to come to temperature at the same time the oven does, and continue baking? What is this miracle? (I have yet to experiment with the straight-from-the-freezer option, but I have 3 pies waiting for me when I get home).

There were many jars involved. The top 3 are small 4 oz. straight-sided jars with the cutest gold lids. The bottom 2 are 8-oz. Ball and Kerr jars, respectively - one a little too deep (but hello tons of filling - too bad I don't like apple), and one wide-mouth which was actually perfect size-wise, but annoying to press crust into. All things one needs to know way in advance of one's wedding.

This pie recipe was fine - just not as interesting the last. Less brown sugar (although more sugar, period) and less cinnamon. This recipe also required pre-cooking the apples, which I found to be tedious, especially since I didn't see or taste any discernible differences in texture. 

Wedding apple pie, check.

Sauteed Apple Pie
from KCRW

2 balls of your favorite pie dough

For the filling:
7 medium apples
3 T. butter
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt
2 heaping T. of corn starch
3 T. cold water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice apples into 1/4-inch thick slices. Add water to cornstarch and stir and set aside.  

2. In a large pan, melt 2 T. butter with sugars and spices. Add the apple slices and cook until “al dente.” Add the cornstarch and water mixture on high heat, and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1 T. butter. Set aside to cool.

3. Roll out our pie dough into two circles. Line the pie tin with one of the dough circles. Fill with the apple mixture. Lay the second dough circle on top, and press down the edges. Trim the excess dough. Cut vents in the top, and crimp or pinch the edges as you like.

4. Place the pie in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, July 13, 2015

what summer brings

Gorgeous, bountiful summer.

After a major move, the herb garden is doing better than it ever has. I wish I could lay claim on that stunning heirloom tomato in the caprese salad, but that honor goes to the farmers market, and I can only brag about the basil, and the mint in the pasta dish, but brag I will.

I have killed every single basil plant that has ever crossed my threshold, usually within days of its arrival. This one nearly looked like it wouldn't be an exception, but some careful pruning, and a lot of strong wishing and hoping, it's growing into something that might even allow me to make pesto at the end of summer!

And the mint. Mint is insane. We literally transplanted three sprigs, and it's now spread like wildfire. Why not throw it in with some handmade pasta and crab (and some jalapenos, also from the garden)? No reason at all.

Garganelli with Crab, Chile + Mint
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

12 oz. garganelli
8 oz. crab meat
1 jalapeño, stemmed and finely chopped
1/4 c. minced red onion
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 T. butter
1/4 c. mint leaves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the jalapeños and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for three minutes, or until tender.

3. When the pasta is done, scoop it over to the skillet. Turn the heat to high, and add the crab meat. Cook for a minute to warm the crab, and then add the mint and lemon juice. Add some pasta cooking water if it seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

tea for two

I've been terrible at blogging, but I'm hoping to be more focused with the cooking and archiving. Be on the lookout for plenty of back-dating. I think I have about 18 drafts open in Blogger.

If ever there was a meal to kick off this new beginning, for both the blog, and for a focused return to healthier eating after semi-letting myself go over the last few weeks.

My new favorite way to cook salmon - pat with flavorful spice crust, cook undisturbed for 8 minutes, half uncovered, half covered. Absolutely effortless, perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of crisp to the skin. I'd love to try coconut oil next time, and I imagine this is endlessly adaptable to all kinds of tea as well. I can't wait to experiment. Ginger tea seems obvious, but there are is a whole aisle of tea at Whole Foods I was already eying when I bought the genmaicha for this recipe.

The corn is my hello to summer - warm and comforting from the flavors of garlic, ginger and soy sauce butter, but bright with mint and lemon juice. This was a great complement to the salmon, and is going to be a good barbecue potluck offering this summer.

Tea-Crusted Salmon
slightly adapted from The Los Angeles Times
serves 4

1 lb. skin-on salmon fillet
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. genmaicha tea (from 4 teabags)
1 T. olive oil

1. Pat the salmon dry. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper and tea. Stir to combine, and then pat the mixture on top of the fillet.

3. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the salmon, skin-side down. Cook until the skin crisps, about 4 minutes, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking until the salmon is just cooked through, an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Slice into four pieces, and serve immediately.

Garlic and Ginger Corn with Soy Sauce Butter
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 6-8

1 t. minced garlic
1 t. minced ginger
2 T. finely sliced green onions
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. butter
4 ears corn, kernels removed from the cob
1/4 c. finely sliced mint leaves
lemon juice, to taste

1. In a large skillet, combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, butter and green onions. Stir until the butter is melted.

2. Add the corn, and stir to thoroughly combine. Heat through, but don't overcook, only about 5 minutes. Add the mint and lemon juice, to taste; stir to combine, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

on a Tuesday

I'm post-dating this one for Taco Tuesday - a meal that was actually made on a Tuesday, but an entire month ago, so I have no recollection of what's in that roasted cauliflower, except that it went really well with the Black Bean Filling from the Thug Kitchen cookbook. And I'm sorry if this makes me about 7 years old, but cursing makes me giggle, so I have a real good time with that cookbook.

But the whole point of pulling this out of the photos archive is to talk about the "fish" tacos I made out of hearts of palm and my go-to tempura batter of equal parts flour and beer.

I was first introduced to this mind-blowing concept by an LA chef during a lunch in Miami, probably not on a Tuesday. I really love a good Baja fish taco (no grilled fish tacos for me, thank you), so I was a bit skeptical, but thoroughly impressed, and ultimately won over. Why it's taken me an entire year to replicate it in my own kitchen defies logic, but when we hosted our vegan friend Jason for his birthday, I knew it was time to pull this one out of the memory bank. Unfortunately for Jason, I probably ate most of them. Happy birthday?

Hearts of Palm Fried "Fish"
inspired by Chef Aaron Elliott

equal parts flour and beer
as many hearts of palm as you like, drained
peanut oil, for frying

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and beer until no lumps remain.

2. Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a Dutch oven until a bit of batter thrown into the oil sizzles and quickly browns.

3. Dip the hearts of palm pieces into the batter, and then fry, turning until golden brown on all sides. Drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and repeat until you run out of hearts of palm.

Black Bean Filling
slightly adapted from Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook

1 t. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. chili powder
3/4 t. ground cumin
3 c. canned black beans, drained
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté it until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook for another 30 seconds.

2. Add the beans and broth, and stir. Mash the beans, but leave some texture, and continue cooking until it is the consistency of chunky guacamole. Season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

on the strawberry swing

Here's another one for the wedding pie chart.

I can never choose between strawberry and cherry pie. Whichever one I'm eating at the time is my favorite.

This pie makes a strong case for strawberry, though. It's just jam-packed with flavor (pun completely intended). In fact, there may be slightly too much - watch that ginger, and watch the sugar. If I get my way, I'm only going to use Harry's Berries and brown sugar, and cut the granulated completely, but I will be at the mercy of the Farmers Market.

(Also, can we talk about what the hell a "heaping" measure means? Is it just 1 1/2 whatever the measure is? It is, isn't it? Then just write that!)

Strawberry Pie
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

2 balls of your favorite pie dough

For the filling:
5-6 c. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
large pinch of salt
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 t. ground ginger

1. Tin a medium bowl toss together the strawberries, sugars, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, and ground ginger. Toss until all of the cornstarch has disappeared into the strawberries and let rest for 10 minutes. The strawberries will begin to produce juice.

2. To assemble the pie, on a well-floured surface, roll the bottom crust 1/8″ thick and about 12″ in diameter. Transfer it to a pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan. Spoon the filling into the pie crust.

3. Roll out the top crust in the same manner. Use a pizza slicer to slice the dough into 1-inch wide strips, and weave the crust strips on top of the pie.

4. To finish, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake the pie for 30 minutes more, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool completely before serving.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

always want more

Literally the only thing I would change about this recipe is to double the vegetables (original quantities in the recipe below). Both the kale and cabbage shrink down considerably when cooked, and I would have preferred more vegetables on my plate. As it was, I supplemented with some brown rice, so it was still a nice, balanced meal, but I would have skipped the rice altogether with more veggies.

In any case, this was a great, simple weeknight meal. Endlessly scale-able in case you have company, and the presentation belies the ease of preparation.

Salmon with Crispy Cabbage + Kale
slightly adapted from PopSugar
serves 2

2 c. shredded kale
3 c. shredded Napa cabbage
3 T. olive oil, divided
salt, to taste
2 salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each)
1/2 t. lemon zest plus 1 T. lemon juice
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 t. Dijon mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. On a quarter-sheet pan, toss kale and cabbage with 1 T. oil, and spread in an even layer. Season with salt, and bake for 6 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together lemon zest and juice, thyme, mustard, and remaining 2 T. oil.

4. Spread 1 t. of dressing on each salmon fillet, season it with salt, and add it to the baking sheet. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 8-9 minutes.

5. Drizzle the salmon and vegetables with more dressing before serving.