Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Salmon with Puff Pastry and Pesto

I've had this recipe on my list of recipes to try for some time and finally got around to making it last night. This recipe was as delicious and wonderful as I had hoped it would be. This would be a perfect dish for easy entertaining. The dish plates beautifully and takes virtually no time or effort to make. Your guests however, will think you spent a lot of time on this one. I served mine with a lemon and spinach couscous and sauteed green beans with tomatoes. This one is a keeper!

Salmon with Puff Pastry and Pesto

  • 4 pieces of purchased puff pastry, each cut to be just larger than a piece of salmon
  • 4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup purchased pesto
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the 4 pieces of puff pastry. Also place the 4 pieces of salmon, being careful to make sure they are not touching. Sprinkle each piece of salmon with 1 tablespoon of the sliced almonds. Bake for 10 minutes.

To serve, place each piece of puff pastry on a plate. Top each puff pastry with 1 tablespoon of pesto. Top the pesto with 2 slices of tomatoes each. Top the tomatoes with the salmon and serve.

Source: Giada de Laurentis, Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites, Clarkson Potter, 2008.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Barefoot Blogger's Gazpacho

I've never had Gazpacho before so I wasn't really sure what to expect from this recipe. Honestly, I hate to say it, but I didn't love this one. My husband liked it but said he would want it in a smaller appetizer type serving if we had it again. . Me on the other hand, I really wasn't loving the cold soup or the texture. The flavors were fine and I can't really say it didn't taste good. It was also really easy to make. I wish I had halved the recipe because this one makes a lot. I'm contemplating add some jalapeno and cilantro and processing it in the food processor to turn it into salsa. Probably not what Ina was contemplating! Thanks to Meryl at My Bit of Earth for picking this one. It was definitely one I wouldn't have tried on my own and seemed a perfect summer pick with the ingredients and simplicity. Don't forget to check and see what the other Barefoot Blogger's thought of this one.

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, 1999.

One Lovely Blog Award

Thanks to Amy at Skinny Food by Amy for awarding my blog the One Lovely Blog Award! Its always fun to get recognized by other bloggers!

These are the rules:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

I would like to pass this award on to some of my new favorite blogs:
Tide and Thyme
Vintage Victuals
I Pray to Feta
Taste and See

Friday, June 26, 2009

Coconut Layer Cake

This was a very involved cake recipe but well worth the effort. Definitely a show stopping cake! Having three layers it is also a very large cake. It has a beautiful coconut flavor. The cake is very delicate and the addition of the rum brushed on the layers keeps it really moist. I would definitely make this cake again. The only thing I would do differently is to assemble the cake the day it is made. I originally planned on doing that, however, the recipe recommended chilling the coconut filling first. I decided to make all of the components and assemble the next day. I ended up having to reheat the coconut filling because it was not spreadable and I also had to reheat the frosting over simmering water as it had completely hardened. The day I made the cake and components everything was the perfect consistency. The refrigeration only hampered the process for me. Despite those challenges, we had one delicious and decadent cake. Also, as my with all my coconut recipes, I used Let's Do Organic finely shredded unsweetened coconut. I just love the texture of this coconut, it does not have the stringy, gritty texture of regular coconut. The recipe called for sweetened coconut, however there was enough sugar in this cake that the unsweetened coconut didn't make a difference. I used coconut rum but didn't find the rum flavor very pronounced. I do think it enhanced the coconut flavor in the cake and was part of the reason the cake was so moist.

Coconut Layer Cake

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 11 ounces (2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, unsweetened (see Notes)
  • 7 egg whites (9 ounces) (reserve 4 yolks for the filling)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup Cruzan coconut rum (see Notes) (optional)
  • Coconut Cream Filling (recipe follows)
  • Coconut Frosting (recipe follows)
  • 3 cups coconut, sweetened, flaked, toasted, for garnish

  • Cooking Directions

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 10-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Cut three circles of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with the parchment, then grease the parchment with nonstick cooking spray, and then lightly dust the parchment and the sides of the pans with flour.

    Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl.

    In a standing electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on low speed until light and fluffy.

    In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut milk, egg whites, and vanilla together. With the electric mixer still on low speed, begin alternately adding the liquid and the dry ingredients to the creamed butter in three stages, beginning with the liquid and mixing well after each addition (to minimize mess when adding flour, add just a bit at a time). Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Tap the pans lightly on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles, and place them in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely. Brush the cooled layers with the coconut rum, if desired.

    To assemble the cake, place a cooled cake layer, bottom side up, on a serving plate, and spoon 3/4 cup of the coconut filling onto the middle of the layer. Spread the filling evenly to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Repeat with the second layer and another 3/4 cup of filling. Stack the two filled layers on top of one another, and top with the final cake layer, top side up. Lightly frost the top and sides of the cake with some of the coconut frosting (this is called a crumb coating), and refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes. Then generously frost it again. Press the toasted coconut into the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. (This cake will keep for 2 days at room temperature.)

    Coconut cream filling

    1 cup coconut, sweetened and flaked

    4 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the cake batter)

    1/2 cup sugar

    1/8 teaspoon salt

    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (see Notes)

    3/4 cup whole milk

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat the oven to 350°F.

    Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake it, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. The color should range from dark brown to light. Set the toasted coconut aside.

    Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Then whisk in the butter, coconut milk, milk, and vanilla. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously with a heat-resistant rubber spatula or whisk, until thickened, taking care not to let it get so hot that the yolks scramble, about 10 minutes. The pastry cream will have a pudding-like consistency. Transfer it to a clean metal bowl set over an ice bath.

    When the pastry cream has cooled, stir in the toasted coconut. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or up to overnight. (It works best when chilled overnight.)

    Yield: 1 1/2 cups

    Coconut frosting

    8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    8 cups confectioners' sugar, plus up to 1 cup more if needed

    3/4 cup whole milk

    1/4 cup Cruzan coconut rum (see Notes) or milk

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Place a small saucepan of water on the stove and heat to a simmer. Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer, and position the bowl on top of the saucepan. Once the butter has melted, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the 8 cups confectioners' sugar and the milk, rum, and salt. Place the bowl back on top of the simmering water and cook for 3 minutes, whisking occasionally (be sure not to cook longer than 3 minutes or the frosting will become grainy). Fit the electric mixer with the whisk attachment, and attach the bowl of frosting. Add the vanilla and whisk on medium speed for 15 minutes, or until cool.

    Transfer the frosting to a container, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it aside until ready to use. Whisk it again right before frosting the cake. If the frosting seems too thin, whisk in up to 1 more cup of confectioners' sugar.

    Yield: 5 cups

    Source: Emeril Lagasse, adapted from Emeril at the Grill, HarperStudio Publishers, New York, 2009.

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Summer Berry Pie

    Most recently I purchased the cookbook Baking Illustrated. I was really impressed with the detailed illustrations in the book. These illustrations provide especially useful when taking on complicated baking projects. I also enjoy reading the science and method behind the recipe's development. I knew I wanted to make a pie to go along with our Father's Day menu. I had seen this recipe recommended on a few blogs including Sara's blog, the Piggly Wiggly. I showed the picture in the book to my husband and gave him a couple of other options. He quickly nixed the others and said, "definitely that one!" This pie is really easy to make. Another plus, you don't have to roll out a pie crust and its a no bake recipe. I used cinnamon graham crackers since I already had them on hand. This pie got rave reviews from everyone. The mix of pureed fruit with whole fruit melds nicely in the pie and gives it a great taste and texture. My only quibble with this recipe, is that it is really messy to serve. Since we were already having a coconut layer cake that was rich, I opted not to serve whipped cream on the side with this as recommended .

    Summer Berry Pie

    For the Graham Cracker Crust:
    9 graham crackers, broken into rough pieces
    2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm
    For the Berry Filling:
    2 cups fresh raspberries (about 9 ounces)
    2 cups fresh blackberries (about 11 ounces)
    2 cups fresh blueberries (about 10 ounces)
    1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    1/8 teaspoon table salt
    1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
    2 tablespoons red currant jelly
    For the Whipped Cream:
    1 cup heavy cream (cold)
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F.

    In food processor, process graham crackers until evenly fine, about 30 seconds (you should have 1 cup crumbs). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Continue to pulse while adding warm melted butter in steady stream; pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch glass pie plate; form crust using
    1/2-cup dry measuring cup. Bake crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to wire rack and cool completely while making filling.

    Combine berries in large colander and gently rinse (taking care not to bruise them); spread berries on paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet and gently pat dry with additional paper towels.

    In food processor, puree 2 1/2 cups mixed berries until smooth and fully pureed, about
    1 minute. Strain puree through mesh strainer into small nonreactive saucepan, scraping and pressing on seeds to extract as much puree as possible (you should have 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups). Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in small bowl to combine, then whisk mixture into puree. Bring puree to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon; when mixture reaches a boil and is thickened to consistency of pudding, remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and set aside to cool slightly.

    While puree is cooling, place remaining berries in medium bowl. Heat jelly in second small saucepan over low heat until fully melted; drizzle melted jelly over berries and toss gently to coat. Pour slightly cooled puree into cooled pie shell; top with fresh berries. Loosely cover pie with plastic wrap; refrigerate until chilled and puree has set, about 3 hours (or up to 1 day).

    Just before serving, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds longer. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, nearly doubled in volume, and forms soft peaks, about 30 to 60 seconds.

    Cut pie into wedges and serve with whipped cream.

    Source: Baking Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, March 2004.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Emeril's Slow Cooked Bam-B-Q Baked Beans

    I'm a bit on the fence about this recipe. Don't get me wrong, these beans were really good and everyone enjoyed them. I think my issue is just a matter of personal preference. My favorite baked beans growing up and to make to this day are brown sugar baked beans. Mine are mostly sweet with a little bit of tang from the addition of some mustard and garlic powder. I actually start mine by doctoring a pre-made can of baked beans. This was my first time making baked beans from scratch. These beans had molasses and brown sugar in them. Additionally, I used a brown sugar barbecue sauce. Despite those ingredients, these beans were still more savory than sweet. To me, the mustard was the most prominent flavor. It was fun learning to make my own beans from scratch and I would definitely use this recipe as a starting point. I think next time, however, I would add less mustard and increase the browned sugar. I probably would also make my own sweet barbecue sauce and add that instead of the prepared barbecue sauce. I think my homemade sauce has many of the ingredients I like in my baked beans and is sweeter than the store bought. Be prepared if you decide to make this recipe, the cooking time is approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes.

    Emeril's Slow Cooked Bam-B-Q Baked Beans

    4 slices bacon, diced
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
    2 sprigs fresh thyme
    1 pound dried navy beans, rinsed and picked over
    1 cup brewed coffee
    1/2 cup Emeril's Kicked Up Bam-B-Q Barbecue Sauce or your favorite (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory and Brown Sugar)
    1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
    1 1/2 tablespoons Creole mustard or other whole-grain brown mustard
    1 tablespoon molasses
    1 teaspoon red hot sauce
    1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    8 cups water
    2 teaspoons salt

    1. Preheat the oven to 300.

    2. In a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium high heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp, 4-6 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring until it is softened and lightly caramelized, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for 1 minute longer. Then add the beans, coffee, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, hot sauce, and pepper, and stir to combine well. Add the water and salt, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and bake for 2 hours, undisturbed.

    3. Remove the pot from the oven, and stir the beans. Re-cover, the pot and continue to bake until the beans are tender, about 1 hour longer.

    4. When the beans are tender, remove the cover from the pot and continue baking until the liquid has reduced to a thick, sauce like consistancy and the beans are thick and flavorful, 1-1/14 hours. Remove the pot from the oven, and remove the time sprigs. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve the beans either hot or warm. Makes 6 servings.

    Source: Emeril Lagasse, adapted from Emeril at the Grill, HarperStudio Publishers, New York, 2009.

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Chipotle Deviled Eggs

    This recipe comes from Emeril's newest cookbook, Emeril at the Grill. I just purchased this book and used it in my menu planning for our Father's Day barbecue. My husband loves deviled eggs, somehow I only found this out a year ago! He also loves spicy food so I figured these would be a perfect combination. It was a bit of a pain to press the egg yolks through the fine-mesh sieve. I'm undecided as to whether that step was really necessary to the process. I didn't pipe the filling into the eggs as I wasn't sure how that would work with the bits of jalapeno and chipolte chile. I was a bit worried these would be too spicy but they were not. They had just a little bit of a kick after each bite but not over the top blazing heat. I really liked this recipe as it was a nice change from the traditional deviled egg. These are definitely a great addition to a barbecue or party. As an aside, I often hear people asking how to easily get the peels off deviled eggs. My secret is that I steam the eggs in my vegetable steamer and then immediately put them in an ice bath. All of my eggs peel perfectly every time. Also, a note as to ingredients, I could not find Emeril's Southwest Essence so I made my own using a recipe I found online. I halved the recipe and had a ton left over. The recipe is included below. Also, I intended to sprinkle my eggs with paprika and planned on using my favorite, Penzey's Smoked Paprika. However, I used a lot of paprika making the dry rub for the ribs and the Essence and I ran out of both the regular and the smoked!

    Chipotle Deviled Eggs

    12 hard boiled large eggs, peeled
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    2 tablespoons, finely minced pickled jalapenos, drained
    2 tablespoons finely chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce
    1/2 teaspoon Emeril's Southwest Essence spice blend
    Pinch of salt, or more to taste
    1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika, such as Pimenton de la Vera, for garnish

    Emerils Southwest Essence:
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

    Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 1/2 cup

    1. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise and carefully remove the yolks. Set the whites aside. Press the yolks through a fine-mesh sieve into a mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, jalapenos, chipotle in adobo, Southwest Essence, and salt to taste. Stir to blend well. Spoon the mixture into the hollowed egg whites (or alternatively, pipe with a pastry bag). Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

    2. Just before serving, sprinkle the paprika over the deviled eggs. (If the paprika is added to early, it will stain the eggs).

    Source: Emeril Lagasse, adapted from Emeril at the Grill, HarperStudio Publishers, New York, 2009.

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    Father's Day Menu

    We had a wonderful Father's Day celebration with family yesterday. Our two and a half year old provides the best entertainment any party could ask for! Its so nice to have family close by so we can all celebrate together. For the menu, my husband requested ribs so I put together a barbecue menu using some tried and true recipes and added a few new ones to the mix. All in all the meal was fabulous and I will be posting the recipes this week. Here is the menu:

    Chipotle Deviled Eggs
    Memphis Style Ribs
    Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
    Emeril's Slow Cooked Bam-B-Q Baked Beans
    My Mom's Famous Potato Salad
    My Mother-in-Law's Gorgeously Styled Fruit Plate
    Coconut Layer Cake
    Summer Berry Pie

    Father's Day 2008:
    Italian Grill
    Cherry Pie

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Cherry Turnovers with Cream Cheese Crust

    I'm not much of a pie baker or eater. I much prefer cake. However, when these popped up on Tastespotting as seen in Recipe Girl's blog, I was inspired. I love the free form nature of this dessert much better than preparing a whole pie. The crust was absolutely delicious. I wasn't completely sold on the filling but I think you could use any filling your like. The filling wasn't quite sweet enough for my taste and that may have just been a difference in how tart the cherries were. Cherries are just coming into the store here, so sweeter ones may be forthcoming. My husband asked as I served these, "is this like a McDonald's pie?" After eating one he discovered they were definitely not a McDonald's pie, they were much better!


    1½ cups (7½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
    1 tsp granulated white sugar
    pinch of salt
    1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
    8 ounce package of cold cream cheese, roughly cut into tablespoons

    2½ cups pitted & halved fresh cherries (about ¾ lb.)
    2 Tbs white granulated sugar
    1 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
    1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
    1 Tbs cornstarch
    ¼ tsp salt

    1 large egg yolk
    2 Tbs milk or cream

    coarse grain sugar

    1. Prepare crust: Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend. Add the cold butter pieces and process for just a few seconds, until the mixture looks like crumbs. Add the cream cheese and pulse quickly about 25 times (or until a clump of dough has formed). Turn the clump of dough onto waxed paper and knead gently 2 to 3 times to bring dough together. Flatten into a 7-inch square. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).

    2. Prepare filling: Mix cherries with sugar, lemon zest & juice, cornstarch and salt; set aside until ready to fill the turnovers.

    3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.. Roll into a square that is roughly 15×15. At this point, you can decide if you’d like to make round or square-shaped turnovers. If you make round (half-moon shape) turnovers, you can simply use the top of a 6-inch diameter bowl as your cutter. If you’d rather make square (triangle-shape) turnovers, use a chef’s knife to trim a 15-inch square. Mark 5-inch increments along all sides of the dough & with the ruler as a guide, cut the dough into nine 5-inch squares. Re-roll scraps as necessary.

    4. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

    5. Assemble Turnovers: Place cut-out dough onto prepared baking sheets. On each square or circle, use a knife to lightly mark a line showing the halfway mark (make sure it’s just a line indentation & not cut all the way through). Spoon a couple of Tablespoonfuls of the cherries onto each “half”- keeping it on one side of the dividing line and leaving about a ¼-inch border along the edge. Brush edges on the fruit side of the turnover with egg wash (egg & milk whisked together). Carefully fold the other side over the fruit and use the tines of a fork to press the edges together and seal them. Move baking sheets to refrigerator and chill for about 20 minutes. Adjust racks in oven to top and bottom thirds of the oven, and preheat oven to 375°F.

    6. Bake Turnovers: Brush the tops of the turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Use the tip of a paring knife to carefully cut three slits in the top of each turnover to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake turnovers on bottom and top third racks for 15 minutes. Then rotate the sheets and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

    Yield: About 9

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Barefoot Blogger's Curried Couscous

    I was really happy with both recipe picks for this months Barefoot Blogger's challenge. Both screamed summer and easy! This first pick was most assuredly a winner. Despite, a little prep work chopping the vegetables, this dish came together in about 15 minutes. I loved the punch of flavors in this dish. Don't be scared of the curry, it really wasn't overpowering it just imparts a nice savoriness to the dish. This is a great healthy side dish due to the addition of the raw vegetables, raisins, yogurt and spices. I served this alongside soy and tamarind glazed grilled chicken breasts but I think it would also be a perfect accompaniment for fish. Some of the other Barefoot Bloggers made their own variations adding tomatoes, sugar snap peas and pine nuts . All of which would be wonderful in this dish. This is another versatile Ina dish. I look forward to making this one again. I made it even healthier by using organic whole wheat couscous. Thanks to Ellyn at Recipe Collector and Tester for starting the summer right with this recipe. Stay tuned for Ina's Gazpacho next week.

    Curried Couscous
    • 1 1/2 cups couscous (organic whole wheat)
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
    • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1/4 cup good olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon curry powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup small-diced carrots
    • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
    • 1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds (I omitted)
    • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
    • 1/4 cup small-diced red onion

    Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

    Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

    Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, 1999.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

    Seems every week I see a new blog post for another home cook making bagels. Deb's post on Smitten Kitchen was my original inspiration for this project. I have made a couple of recipes from her blog and all have been stellar. Honestly, before seeing these posts I never really considered making bagels at home or even thought that was really possible. I took on this task with some trepidation. After all, the recipe was 2 pages long! I worked step by step methodically through the recipe with a few challenges along the way. I actually started this recipe a few weeks ago and had to scrap it and start over. See my tips in red below to avoid such catastrophes! In the end, however, I am proud to say I ended up with 14 beautiful and delicious bagels. My fresh baked bagels straight out of the oven were far better in taste and texture than any I have purchased. I also love knowing exactly what went into them. I look forward to trying this again and perhaps with some other flavors like jalapeno cheddar or sesame seed. I'm also considering investing in an electronic scale to help perfect the measurements in this and other bread baking projects. I'm really excited about having completed this project. It marks off another project on a list of cooking/baking challenges that I would like to complete in the coming year. I definitely recommend this project. It takes some time and patience and possibly some trouble shooting but the end result is definitely worth it.

    Past Smitten Kitchen Recipes:
    Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
    Blueberry Pancakes

    Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
    Adapted from Smitten Kitchen as adapted from the Bread Baker's Apprentice

    Yield: 12 super large, 16 regularly large or 24 miniature bagels

    1 teaspoon instant yeast
    4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
    2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

    1 teaspoon instant yeast
    3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used King Arthur's Bread Flour)
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (I highly recommend Vietnamese Cinnamon)
    5 tablespoons sugar
    2 3/4 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (I used brown sugar)
    2 cups loosely packed raisins, rinsed with warm water to remove surfact sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast (I used organic raisins)

    To Finish
    1 tablespoon baking soda
    Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting (I used organic cornmeal)
    Melted butter for brushing (optional)
    Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (optional)

    1. Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop. I had some issues with this part of the process. My dough did not double in size even after two hours. In an effort to assist the dough, I turned my oven on to 200 degrees and then immediately turned it off. I put the bread in the warm oven and the dough did become foamy and bubbly and double in size as the recipe describes.

    2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), (I suggest covering the bowl of the mixer with a towel to prevent flour from flying everywhere) add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour, cinnamon, sugar, salt salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough. In the last two minutes of mixing, add the raisins. (I ended up adding a bit of flour with them, as mine were still wet and made the dough a little sticky.) Also, if doing this step in the stand mixer, keep close tabs on your mixer. This dough is very stiff and I did smell some burning of the motor so I immediately stopped the mixer. I also had some issues with getting the raisins to stick to the dough. I'm not sure if the flour helped or hurt the process. I did eventually get them to stick by pressing them and hand kneading them into the dough.

    3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour - all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should 77 to 71°F. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

    4. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4 1/2 ounce) pieces for super sized bagels, 16 (3.375 ounce) regular-sized bagels, or 24 (2.25 ounce) perfectly smaller bagels. Form the pieces into rolls. At this step, it would be particularly helpful to have an electronic kitchen scale. I tried to divide the dough as evenly as possible. I ended up with 14 bagels and they were the perfect size for us.

    5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

    6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter for a supersized bagel, two inches for a large one or just slightly more than one inch for a miniature. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

    7. Place each of the shaped pieces two inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

    8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

    9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels, see head notes), preheat the oven to 500°F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

    10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)

    11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on two middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately five minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only one pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450°F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer. (I found I needed to cook these about 5 minutes longer to get the desired brownness).

    12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving. Optionally, when they come out of the oven and are still hot, you can brush the tops with the melted butter and dip them in cinnamon sugar to create a cinnamon-sugar crust, if desired. I didn't try the cinnamon sugar step but I definitely want to try it next time I make them.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    World Peace Cookies

    The cookies are totally capable of inspiring world peace! They are also capable of destroying the peaceful nature of your house if you don't make enough of them! These are amazingly delicious. My husband summed it up best when he described the salty afterbite as equivalent to the taste sensation of eating chocolate covered pretzels. These have a deep rich chocolatey flavor that is enhanced with the salty afterbite. Words cannot describe how good these are. These are best eaten with a glass of milk because they are rich. As usual Dorie's instructions were spot on and these cookies came out perfectly as described. This is my second cookie success from Dorie's book. The first with my pumpkin version of Dorie's Granola Grabbers. This gives me hope that I might become a good cookie baker after all! This makes my cookie loving husband very happy!

    World Peace Cookies

    1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used organic flour)
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Green and Black Organic Cocoa Powder)
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    1/4 cup sugar (I used pure cane sugar)
    1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used gray salt)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used organic vanilla extract)
    5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips (I used organic chocolate chips)

    Makes about 36 cookies.

    Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

    Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

    Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

    Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

    GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

    Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

    Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

    SERVING: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

    STORING: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

    Source: Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Black Bean, Avocado and Chicken Wraps

    I don't know that I really consider this a recipe, but I do know I liked it enough that I plan on making this many times over the summer with different variations. The original inspiration for this dish came from the May/June 2009 issue of Clean Eating magazine. I added several more ingredients to my wrap as indicated below in red.

    Black Bean, Avocado & Chicken Wrap

    1/4 cup avocado, mashed with fork
    1/4 cup salsa (I used Muir Glen organic cilantro salsa)
    2 oz roasted or baked chicken breast, chopped (I used chicken tenders that I roasted in the oven)
    1/4 cup low sodium canned black beans, drained rinsed and lightly mashed with a fork (I left mine whole)
    1/2 cup organic canned corn
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    1 lime
    2 small (6 inch) whole wheat flour tortillas

    Mix salsa with mashed avocados. Scoop avocado mixture onto center of tortilla. Add layer of beans, corn, chicken and cilantro. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top. Tightly roll to enclose filling.

    Adapted from Cleaning Eating May/June 2009.

    BLT Pasta

    The original name for this dish was too long for me so I renamed it BLT pasta. I think its a much more fitting name! This has to be my new favorite quick and easy weeknight dinner. As I've mentioned before, I have a habit of buying cooking publications at the grocery store. My most recent addition is a Weight Watchers publication, called 5 Ingredient, 15 minute recipes. What attracted me to this publication is that it had easy recipes that looked flavorful and most did not require processed products that I would find objectionable. The fact that the recipes are healthy calorie wise was only an added bonus. This recipe was actually the cover recipe on the book and it was the original enticement for me to buy this publication. I'm looking forward to trying several more recipes from this book.

    Bacon and Sun Dried Tomato Alfredo Pasta (or BLT Pasta)

    8 ounces uncooked multigrain penne
    1 10 ounce package refrigerated light Alfredo sauce
    1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed without oil and cut in julienne strips (I chopped and added 2 fresh tomatoes)
    10 sliced precooked bacon (I used my regular nitrate free bacon I buy at Whole Foods)
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

    1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat, drain and keep warm.

    2. While pasta cooks, combine Alfredo sauce and tomatoes in a saucepan. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes or until thoroughly heated and tomatoes are juicy and plump. While sauce cooks, microwave bacon according to package directions. Crumble bacon and set aside.

    3. Combine cooked pasta and Alfredo sauce mixture in large serving bowl. Top with crumbled bacon, basil and black pepper.

    Weight Watchers Five Ingredient, 15 Minute Recipes, Summer 2009.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Salmon Roasted in Cilantro Salsa with Quinoa Sopa Seca

    My husband and I absolutely love cilantro. When I saw this recipe in the March/April 2009 issue of Clean Eating I knew we had to try it. This dish was full of flavor. I roasted the pepper over the gas burner on my stove and it turned out perfect. I had a few moments when I wondered if I might set the house on fire, but luckily all ended well with the pepper being the only thing roasted. The accompanying sauce has a nice fresh flavor with a punch of heat from the poblano and a nice tartness that balances the dish. As suggested in the magazine I served this with the quinoa sopa seca. Overall, it was a delicious, healthy dish. I made a smaller portion of fish than the recipe called for so I had a little bit too much sauce on the dish. The sauce has a lot of flavor and a little goes a long way.

    Salmon Roasted in Cilantro Sauce
    1 poblano pepper
    1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    2 green onions, sliced
    1 cup packed fresh cilantro, chopped
    1 tsp canola oil
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    1 18 0z salmon fillet skinned

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Roast pepper by laying it directly on a gas burner or beneath a broiler, turning with tongs as needed, until charred and blackened all over. Place in a bag and let steam until cool to the touch. Under running water, rub off blackened skin. Pat pepper dry with paper towel, then slit open. Scrape out seeds and interior ribs and pull off stem. Cut pepper into thin strips. In a blender, combine pepper strips, lime juice, onions, cilantro, oil and salt, puree.

    Place salmon in a baking dish just large enough to fit fillet. Pour cilantro salsa from blender over salmon turning fish to coat both sides. Baked, uncovered until fish is cooked to your liking in the center, 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. To serve, slice fillet into pieces and spoon salsa from pan over each portion.

    Quinoa Sopa Seca

    1 tbsp olive oil
    3 green onions, thinly sliced
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1 tsp dried oregano leaves
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 cup quinoa
    Pinch sea salt
    1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
    1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

    In a medium saute pan with a lid, warm oil over medium high heat. Add onions and pepper and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Add oregano and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in quinoa, then pour in 2 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and grains show opaque lines around the edges, about 12 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in peas and tomatoes. Cover pan again and let stand until vegetables are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

    Source: Clean Eating Magazine, March/April 2009.