Archives for October 2010

coconut cream tart

Don’t you hate when the only coconut in something that’s supposedly coconut cream pie is a garnish of coconut shreds over the top? Or strawberry cake that’s actually vanilla cake topped with gluey strawberry gel? Or, worse – brownies that have just enough cocoa to look chocolate-flavored, but after one bite, you realize are just sugar-flavored. If a dessert is going to claim to have a primary flavor, that flavor had better really dominate.

I wanted to stuff as much coconut into this tart (that turned into pie when I couldn’t find my tart pan) as possible, so I was excited when I stumbled upon coconut flour in the store. What a perfect way to turn the crust into a tender coconut cookie that’s still sturdy enough to hold up an inch or so of pastry cream.

I love Tartine’s pastry cream because it uses whole eggs instead of yolks, which results in a lighter, looser, silky cream. Its only downside is that it’s quick to form lumps when it’s cooked, although a quick whisk and a pass through a fine-mess strainer smooths it out. However, my friend and I were working on this pie/tart together, and she slowly dribbled the tempered custard mix into the hot milk, carefully stirring all the while, and what do you know – no lumps. I should try being careful more often myself.

With coconut extract and unsweetened coconut flakes stirred into the pastry cream, coconut flour in the crust, plus a spinkling of sweetened toasted coconut over the top of the pie, this was coconut all the way. You could add swirls of whipped cream, but wouldn’t that dilute the coconut that you tried so hard to make shine? This pie is perfect just the way it is.

One year ago: Sun-Dried Tomato Jam
Two years ago: Sushi Bowls

Coconut Cream Tart (crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan; filling adapted from Tartine)

If you can’t find (or just don’t want to buy) coconut flour, replace the coconut flour in the crust with an additional ¼ cup all-purpose flour (to make a total of 1½ cups all-purpose flour).

Consider using half coconut milk in the filling instead of some of the whole milk! I forgot, but I think would add another delicious layer of coconut.

For the filling:
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon coconut extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
1¼ cups (3.5 ounces) unsweetened small-flake coconut

For the crust:
1¼ cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons total) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted, for garnish
whipped cream (optionial)

1. For the filling: Add the milk and salt to a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then whisk in the eggs. When the milk boils, pour just a bit of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and very gradually add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pot and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just starts to boil; it will only take a few minutes. Quickly pour the pastry cream into a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl (I use the same bowl I originally mixed everything in). Use a rubber spatula to push the pastry cream through the strainer. Let the pastry cream cool for a few minutes, occasionally stirring it, and then mix in the butter, 2 cubes at a time. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate it until completely chilled, 3-4 hours or overnight.

2. Prepare the crust: Add the flours, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is cut into the dough but some pieces are still pea-sized, 2-3 seconds. Add the yolk and process continuously until the dough begins to form clumps, 30-45 seconds, stirring once or twice.

3. Spray a 9-inch tart pan (or a pie pan, but then your crust will be thicker, like mine) with nonstick spray. Lightly pat the dough onto the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Freeze the lined pan for at least an hour before baking.

4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray one side of a 12-inch square of foil with nonstick spray; press onto the crust, oiled side down. Bake 25 minutes; remove the foil and continue to bake until the crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes more. Cool completely.

5. Assembly: Remove the chilled pastry cream from the freezer and stir in the unsweetened coconut. Spread the pastry cream into the cooled crust; smooth the top. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the filling and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. During this time, the coconut will soak up moisture from the filling, become softer and thickening the filling further.

6. When ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap and top with toasted coconut and whipped cream, if desired.

pomegranate-glazed salmon

I’m fortunate that my job doesn’t have a strict start time each morning, because I’m not the most punctual person. I pretty much get there 15 minutes after I intend to everyday. Some days I try to get there early, and those are the only days when I’m on time – but never early.

It gets worse in the kitchen, where the half an hour I expect to spend on a meal turns into an hour, or the one minute I allot to spend photographing a dish turns into five, or the five minutes I’m hoping to spend cleaning takes twenty. So when Dave and I had to leave the house at 5:30pm (about 2½ hours before our normal dinner time), and I told him I was determined to eat dinner first, he was understandably worried.

Not only is this dish simple enough so that I was able to get it made with time to spare (and “time to spare” is not a phrase I get to use often), but it was tasty enough to make again within a week. That sweet-sour glaze was a great compliment to the salmon. Plus, there’s just the tiniest bit of cooking fat in the recipe, which means I ate something healthy on the weekend! This meal was out of character for me in a lot of ways, and I think I like it.

One year ago: Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Two years ago: Mulled Cider

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Pomegranate-Glazed Salmon (adapted from Food and Wine via …so many recipes) (via Cara who pointed me in the direction of the recipe in the first place, and then went her own direction with it)

Mix the marinade and the glaze at the same time, since they use so many of the same ingredients. If you don’t keep agave nectar around, just use 4 teaspoons brown sugar instead, in both the marinade and the glaze.

Serves 4

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets

For the glaze:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ cup pomegranate juice

1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large, shallow dish. Add the salmon fillets and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.

2. Make the glaze: Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix all of the glaze ingredients except the pomegranate juice. In a small saucepan, simmer the juice over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Stir into the other glaze ingredients.

3. Adjust an oven rack to 4 inches below the broiler; heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil; arrange the salmon fillets, skin side down, on the prepared pan. Season with salt and brush with half of the glaze. Broil for about 3 minutes, until the fillets begin to brown. Brush the fillets with the remaining glaze and broil for about 3 minutes longer, until richly glazed and the fish is just cooked through. Serve immediately.

all-american, all-delicious apple pie

I’ve made all manner of banana cream pies for Dave, and yet he remains convinced that nothing beats Baker’s Square’s. I have my doubts, as I don’t believe he’s been to a Baker’s Square since I started baking for him. But I keep trying.

By contrast, he declared the first apple pie I made for him the best apple pie he’d ever had. Not that that keeps me from trying new recipes. Just last month (a few days before October’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipes were announced and I realized I’d be making more apple pie soon), I made a rum raisin apple pie that sounded great, but didn’t have quite the perfection of my normal recipe.

Clearly this calls for a comparison, especially because Dorie calls for tapioca as a thickener instead of apple pie’s standard flour. My original plan was to make side-by-side versions of Dorie’s recipe and my old favorite, but, like many cooking endeavors when I’m rushed, this one went awry. I underfilled both mini-pies (although at least I underfilled them equally), forgot the breadcrumbs and butter in Dorie’s, didn’t adequately stir the zest into the filling… Because the recipes are very similar, with the same ratio of apples to sugar to spices to thickener, it really ended up being a comparison of tapioca versus flour.

I couldn’t tell a difference – not in taste, not in texture, not in soupiness. Dave really enjoyed them both as well. Now I just need to keep him from trying Baker’s Square’s apple pie. One impossible pie standard to live up to is quite enough, thank you.

Emily chose this recipe for TWD, and she has it posted. My other favorite apple pie recipe is by Cooks Illustrated. It’s very similar, with an equal amount of flour substituting for the tapioca in Dorie’s, no breadcrumbs or butter, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice instead of the larger amount of zest that Dorie recommends.  In all photos, Dorie’s recipe is to the left (with the crimped edge, not forked).

One year ago: Allspice Crumb Muffins
Two years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes

red kidney bean curry

When my schedule picks up, I tend to fall into a weeknight dinner rut. I think we ate pasta with chopped tomatoes and fresh mozzarella ten times during the month or so of peak tomato season. Fish tacos are in no short supply around here year-round. Red beans and rice, salmon pesto pasta, braised white beans, jalapeno-baked fish

Surely there must be new recipes for me to try that fit my tough weeknight standards – quick, light, fully balanced, vegetarian or seafood-based. And yes! This is perfect. Plus I love my one other Indian curry standard and knew there must be similar-but-different dishes out there to try.

It’s such a basic recipe – sauté aromatics and spices, add beans and other flavorings, simmer, serve over starch. It makes me wonder how many other cuisines I could do this with. I suspect I’ll be trying a few, because you can never have enough quick healthy balanced vegetarian meal ideas.

One year ago: Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Two years ago: Mulled Cider

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Red Kidney Bean Curry
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

This recipe has another trait I love – it takes well to freezing. Make a large batch, freeze in portions, and your next meal is that much easier!

The first time I made this, it seemed a little bland so I’ve increased the spices and added garam masala. I love garam masala. I’ve also changed the tomatoes around to something that makes more sense to me.

I know Deb’s looks like soup and mine looks like a paste. My only explanation is that this batch was frozen and defrosted, and I was too busy catching up on The Office episodes to see that it needed more liquid.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked beans)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to brown at the edges, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and spices; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the beans, and the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, taste for seasoning, and serve over rice or with naan.

caramel pumpkin pie

Bringing desserts to work is awesome. It gives me a chance to bake without wondering what in the world we’re going to do with all this stuff, people come by and say thanks, and I become known as “the girl who brings treats” instead of “the girl whose desk faces the men’s bathroom.”

The disadvantage is that sometimes I only eat just enough of what I bake for quality control. And by quality control, I mean, is this edible? And not, can I taste the caramel in this?

I didn’t detect the caramel in the few bites I had, and neither did the coworkers I accosted in the hallway when they were trying to enjoy their tartlets (pie-lets?) in peace. But we all agreed that it was good, and that’s all that matters.

Janell, who chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Split-Level Pudding
Two years ago: Pumpkin Muffins

fold-over pear torte

You didn’t think I’d miss a week of Tuesdays with Dorie, did you? I’ve been in the group for two and a half years, haven’t missed a week yet, and don’t plan to start now. Being late is, of course, a different story. Being late is what I do.

Although if I’d realized how involved this recipe was, I might have procrastinated enough to be even later – pie crust, peeled and chopped fruit, and a custard that involves a mixer. Having overzealously planned my weekend cooking (as always), I jumped in, rushed, without looking at the recipe, with the kitchen counters covered in dinner dishes.

My measurements were imprecise, my rolling was sloppy. While the tart baked, I shaped over-risen bagel dough, realizing too late that the tart and the bagels needed the same oven at the same time but at very different temperatures. The bagels won and the tart (torte?) was under-browned.

But good nonetheless. Pears and rummy custard and dough are such a great combination. Even if it was a lot of steps. It’s worth it to keep my unbroken record of not skipping a week (although not necessarily being on time).

Cakelaw chose this for TWD and has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart
Two years ago: Lenox Almond Biscotti

sauteed cabbage with hot sauce

I don’t know what convinced me to save this recipe. It’s just cabbage. I didn’t even know what sambal oelek was. Molly certainly doesn’t give it the most raving recommendation.

I’m so glad I did though, because I got to see this line again: “…sometimes, when I sit very still and let my mind go to the places where it goes when I don’t stop it, I miss those days so much.” I want to read that over and over. I have read it over and over.

What days am I missing so much?  Does it even matter?  I can think of a few in particular, but there are so many times that I wouldn’t mind going back to visit.  Maybe someday I’ll look back on today and miss it so much.

Fortunately, the cabbage is worth making not just because it accompanies a beautiful blog entry, but because of its flavor and ease. A few simple ingredients provide a salty spicy savory mix to what starts as a rather bland vegetable. Sometimes I miss this cabbage so much.  But then I just go make some more.

One year ago: Applesauce Snack Cake (Don’t let fall pass you by without making this!)
Two years ago: Green Chile Rellenos

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Spicy Sautéed Cabbage (adapted from Orangette)

All of the ingredient amounts in this simple recipe will vary depending on your taste and the size of your cabbage.

½ head green cabbage, quartered, cored, and sliced into ¼-inch-thick ribbons
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1-3 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat a 12-inch not-nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the cabbage, oil, and salt. Add the cabbage mixture to the hot skillet and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the hot sauce and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is browned and wilted. Stir in the soy sauce; taste for seasoning, adding additional salt or soy sauce if necessary; serve.

classic burritos

This is not my most gourmet meal. It’s mostly fancy Taco Bell. It kind of looks like dog food. It’s delicious and easy and kinda healthy. I like it.

It’s at least fancier than we made it when I was a kid. Back then, we (usually my brother) browned some ground beef, dumped in a packet of burrito seasoning and some water, and stirred in a can of refried beans. Then we glopped it on tortillas with fixin’s and were happy.

Then my brother started getting creative. He would add green chile to the mix or use shredded chicken instead of ground beef. I don’t like change. I just want my fancy Taco Bell.

What I have changed is to get rid of the sodium and preservative-filled spice packet and the pasty canned refried beans for some good stuff – browned onions, fresh garlic, spices that I already have anyway, and pinto beans I mush up myself. Plus I use ground turkey instead of ground beef, because it tastes the same once it’s mixed in with everything else, and it’s a little healthier. Same goes for Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.

Sure, it’s just a regular old burrito, and it costs 79 cents at a fast food chain. But if you make it yourself, you can use high quality ingredients – lettuce that is actually crisp, cheese that has flavor, spices that are fresh – and it isn’t much harder than going through the drive-thru.

One year ago: Bran Muffins
Two years ago: Spinach Artichoke and Red Pepper Strata

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Classic Burritos

4-6 servings

The filling also reheats really well, so I usually make enough for more than one meal and have an easy leftover night a few days later.

These are my favorite fillings for these very basic burritos. Obviously you can go wild here with whatever you like – salsa, hot sauce, green chile, guacamole…

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 pound ground turkey (or other ground meat of your choice)
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup water

flour tortillas
green leaf lettuce, sliced
tomatoes, diced
cheddar cheese, shredded
black olives, chopped
sour cream (or Greek yogurt)

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just browned around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the spices and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the meat and salt and cook, stirring occasionally to break up large chunks, until no longer pink. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the beans to it; use a potato masher to break up the beans slightly. Stir in the water and simmer over medium heat until the liquid mostly evaporates. Serve the filling with toppings of your choice.

roasted vegetable bean soup

I keep to a strict food routine at work. Yogurt and fruit for breakfast, then a whole wheat bagel, more fruit, a hard-boiled egg, a banana with peanut butter, vegetables with hummus, lettuce with feta. Nutritionally, it’s exactly what I want, and, for a while, it was exactly the flavors I wanted too. The first ten or twenty times I ate some sort of lettuce with feta, I was wowed again by how something so simple and healthy could taste so good. Bananas and peanut butter? A classic combination, and for good reason! Hard-boiled eggs – such a great balance between the rich creamy yolk and the lighter white.

As the months pass, the charm of my snack routine is wearing thin. I need more variety. I’ve tried changing lettuce types, cheese types, vegetable types, bean dip types. It isn’t enough. The only thing I truly look forward to these days is the bagel.

But I’ve been struggling with how to keep the perfect nutritional balance with completely different foods. I wasn’t thinking outside of the box. I forgot about hot food. Sure, the microwave at work is a little scary, but so is eating the same five snacks everyday for the rest of my life.

Soup with vegetables and beans is the perfect substitute for vegetables with bean dip. Ree got me started with this classic minestrone enhanced with some roasted vegetables. Not only is it healthy and delicious, but soup is so much fun to make. And it has the added bonus of warming me up after a day spent typing in my over-air-conditioned office. I see a lot more vegetable soups in my future.

One year ago: Herb-Roasted Onions
Two years ago: Roasted Carrots
(Apparently this is the time of year that I roast vegetables.)

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Roasted Vegetable Bean Soup (adapted from the Pioneer Woman)

8-10 servings

Ree specifies to roast the vegetables on two sheet pans so you don’t overcrowd them. I used only one pan. The vegetables were overcrowded. I recommend using two pans, so your squash gets browned but not mushy.

I skipped the pasta that Ree calls for (and therefore decided not to call this minestrone – even though I realize that pasta isn’t what makes a soup minestrone). For one thing, it doesn’t fit into my nutritional specifications (see above re: strict rules for food at work). For another, pasta in soup doesn’t make for good leftovers. And finally, pasta in soup like this is just a tease for me; one morsel of pasta in every other bite just isn’t enough.

2 zucchini, diced into ½-inch cubes
2 summer squash, diced into ½-inch cubes
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
parmesan cheese, shaved

1. Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle position; heat the oven to 500 degrees. Toss the zucchini, squash, and mushrooms in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Divide the vegetables between two baking sheets and roast in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until brown and black parts begin to show. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat another tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions, and celery; cook until just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Pour in the broth, tomatoes with their juice, and 1 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cannellini beans and green beans; simmer for fifteen minutes, until the green beans are just tender. Stir in the roasted vegetables. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Serve with parmesan.

double apple bundt

I’m all confused about fall this year. I see bloggers baking with pumpkin. Pioneer Woman is sharing her Thanksgiving recipes. People are planning their Halloween costumes. And I just keep thinking: Isn’t it a little early?

It really isn’t. It’s October, which for years has been my official welcoming of fall. That’s when I accept that summer is over and that it’s time to bundle up, enjoy the leaves, and cook with pumpkin and apples. But in southern New Mexico, fall just means that it isn’t quite so hot all the time. It’s still hot. Just not in the morning.

Tuesdays with Dorie is going to convince me it’s fall even if the weather doesn’t, with a month of apple and pumpkin recipes.  Bundt cake with apple flavor coming from both fresh grated apples and apple butter is enough to make me pretend it’s fall here.  I’ll just close my eyes, enjoy this perfect cake, and imagine I’m surrounded by tall trees with fire-colored leaves.

Lynne chose this and has posted the recipe. I doubled the salt, left out the nuts and raisins, and did some complicated thing (you don’t want to know, trust me) to the glaze to make it caramelly.

One year ago: Cottage Cheese Pufflets
Two years ago: Caramel Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake