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Archive for February, 2009

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I have found that the vast majority of fun appetizer recipes involve carbs with a topping.  Canapes, bruschetta, and even just a cheese tray are all essentially the same thing.  Crackers or bread with stuff on them.  Which is fine, but when you are serving pizza for dinner, bruschetta is a pretty lame appetizer.

This Martha Stewart recipe is perfect for those situations.  And it could not be easier.  Martha calls for 20 ounces of figs for 6 to 8 people.  That seemed incredibly excessive, and I used about 10 ounces for my crowd of 7, which seemed to be just the right amount. 

The original recipe is simply equal parts honey and olive oil whisked together, then use the mixture to coat the dried figs before sprinkling them with coarse salt and baking for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Martha suggests a mix of dried Mission and Turkish figs, but I just used dried Calymyrna figs because that’s what they had at the store.

The finished product was delicious.  The inside of the figs get very soft and almost creamy, and the outside gets this delicious glaze.   So good.  Next time I make them, I’d probably increase the salt a bit because I like salty food.  But, the beauty of this recipe is that its so simple that you can adjust it to your taste.

I served the figs on a platter with thinly sliced proscuitto.  Seriously people, cooking does not get any easier than this.

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img_6211When Sabra is so good, is it really worth it to make hummus from scratch?

I’m underemployed right now, so I’ve got the time to ponder such things.  And I must say, this recipe is pretty damn good.  It’s so creamy and soft, that I’d probably take the time to make it even if I were a contributing member of society.

The recipe was created by Michael Solomonov and was published in Food and Wine

Israeli Hummus with Paprika and Whole Chickpeas

Ingredients

1/2 pound dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon baking soda
7 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup tahini, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt
Paprika, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped parsley

This recipe makes 4 cups.  This seemed like more hummus that I would ever eat, so I halved it and it worked out well.  

Directions

In a medium bowl, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water and stir in the baking soda. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them under cold water.

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In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of fresh water. Add the garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the chickpeas are tender, about 40 minutes.  Drain, reserving 10 tablespoons of the cooking water and 2 tablespoons of the chickpeas. Rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Peel the garlic cloves.

I found they were looking pretty mushy after about 30 minutes, so just keep an eye on them.  I stopped the cooking at 30 minutes, when they looked like this. 

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In a food processor, blend 1/4 cup of tahini, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, one garlic clove, and a pinch of salt.   Pour that mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Then, puree the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and 6 of the garlic cloves. Add the cumin along with 1/4 cup each of the tahini and lemon juice and process until creamy.  Season the hummus with salt and transfer to a serving bowl.

The recipe suggests making an indent in the hummus with a ladle and spooning in the tahini-lemon mixture.  My mixture was on the thick side and strong tasting, so I wasn’t too sure about that.  Rather, I took a butter knife, swirled it through the hummus to make a spiraling indentation, and drizzled the tahini-lemon mixture in to the crevices.  I then swirled the knife through a little more to slightly mix the two together.

It still didn’t look quite as pretty as the picture in the magazine, so I drizzled a little extra olive oil into the crevices.  About a teaspoon or two.  And then it looked pretty.   I finished it off by garnishing with the whole chickpeas, a light sprinkling of the paprika and cumin, and the chopped parsley.

Definitely more work than picking up a plastic container of the stuff at the store, but you have to admit, doesn’t this look a lot more appetizing?

It definitely tastes better too. 

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Welcome to the new place!  I decided to switch over because I liked the design options in WordPress better, and the site has more interesting tools to manage and monitor my posts.  I’ve still got a few kinks to work out (like the tag/categories feature), but I think this should be a better home. 

Now, on to the fun stuff.

Months ago, the spice counter at Oxbow Market in Napa had hibiscus powder on display.  The color was gorgeous, so I couldn’t resist buying a bit.  I had no idea what I would do with it, but who doesn’t want bright pink spice in their spice rack?

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At some point, the idea came to me that hibiscus powder would make an excellent meringue flavoring, as the egg whites seemed like a great canvas.  Alone, the powder is quite sour and not at all floral, so I knew I needed to add other stuff.  It being Valentine’s Day, pink became my guiding theme, and these meringues were born.

If you ever happen to come across hibiscus powder, I recommend picking it up.  These meringue cookies are delicious.  They are very tart and bright, and nothing like the more delicate meringues you usually see.  To make this recipe, I just looked at a few different meringue recipes in Joy of Cooking and on the internet and adjusted them to fit my needs.  So, this is mostly an original recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

Hibiscus Meringue Cookies with Pomegranate and Blood Orange

Ingredients

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon hibiscus powder
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
zest of one blood orange, finely grated
1 teaspoon juice from the blood orange
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse together the sugar, hibiscus, vanilla seeds, and orange zest until completely mixed together.

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In a stand mixer, add the egg whites and cream of tartar and mix on high speed for about 3-4 minutes or until the whites are fluffy.

Slow the mixer down to medium speed, and slowly add half of the sugar mixture, a tablespoon or two at a time, until incorporated.  Add the orange juice.

Slowly and gently mix in the remainder of the sugar and the molasses by hand.

Spoon out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or fill a pastry bag with the mixture and pipe out in desired shape.

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 Place tray in oven and turn off heat.  Leave in the oven for at least one hour for a soft, chewy inside, longer if you’d like them crunchy all the way through.

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I had never cooked a beet before, so I was really excited to find them in my CSA box on Friday. I also don’t think I’ve ever eaten beet greens before, so I really wanted to find a way to use those.

This salad turned out fantastic. The original recipe from Epicurious didn’t call for feta, but I think it makes it even more delicious. I think goat cheese would work well too. I skipped the onion and the garlic, and just used a large shallot instead. I thought garlic would be too strong, and I really liked the way the shallot tasted.

Ingredients

6 medium beets with beet greens attached
2 large oranges
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 large shallot, minced
Feta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim greens from beets. Cut off and discard stems. Coarsely chop leaves and reserve. Wrap each beet in foil. Place beets directly on oven rack and roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Cool. Peel beets, then cut each into 8 wedges. Place beets in medium bowl.

Cook beet greens in large saucepan of boiling water just until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Cool. Squeeze greens to remove excess moisture. Add greens to bowl with beets.

Cut peel and white pith from oranges. Working over another bowl and using small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release segments. Add orange segments and onion to bowl with beet mixture.

Whisk vinegar, oil, garlic, and orange peel in small bowl to blend; add to beet mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Sprinkle with feta just before serving.

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I have been wanting to try farro for a while now. I see it occassionally in magazines or on cooking shows, so last week, I finally just decided to buy a bag and see what all the fuss is about.
Oh my god, it is so good. It tastes like a cross between bulgar and arborio (risotto) rice. It’s nutty, and both chewy and creamy tasting. It’s really good. It’s expensive, but a little goes a long way. It’s also incredibly good for you, with lots of fiber and protein. Definitely check it out.
I stumbled upon this recipe by googling “farro recipes” and going for the first thing that involved items from my Friday CSA delivery. I made a couple changes because I wanted to serve the dish warm, though I think it would work cold too.
This recipe is pretty flexible, so feel free to adjust it based on what you’ve got at home. It makes a ton. I served it as a side dish for dinner, but reheated leftovers the next day for lunch without anything thing else. I’ve still got some leftover, so next time, I’ll probably just halve the recipe.
Finally, the original recipe notes that it is great with a Neanderthal diet, so serve this to your cavemen friends.
Warm Winter Greens and Farro Salad
Ingredients
6 Handfuls mixed salad greens, washed and dried (I used spinach and arugula)
2 Cups farro, rinsed and drained
5 Cups water (or stock)
2 Teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1 orange, zest and juice
1 shallot, chopped
1/3 Cup Parmesan, freshly shredded
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 Cup good quality olive oil
2 Pinchs salt
1/2 Cup Spanish almonds, or toasted regular almonds (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
Directions
Combine the farro, salt, and water in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, 45 minutes to an hour, or about half the time if you are using semi-pearled farro. Taste often as it is cooking, you want it to be toothsome and retain structure.
While the grains are simmering make the dressing. Whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, shallot, Parmesan cheese, white wine vinegar, and olive oil. Salt to taste and set aside.
Just before serving, in a large bowl, toss the salad greens with a bit of the dressing. Add the goat cheese and nuts.
Remove the farro from the stove and drain any excess water. While it is still very warm, add it to the greens mixture, and add another splash of the dressing. Toss again, and add more dressing or salt if needed.
That’s it. The final dish was delicious. If you wanted to serve it cold, I’d recommend holding off on adding the goat cheese until after everything was mixed up. I just put it in before adding the warm farro because I knew it would melt anyway.
I wish I had a better picture of this, but this is what I’ve got. It’s really, really good. I may become a farro addict now.

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