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Posts Tagged ‘Epicurious’

The weather is warm and gorgeous and the dark days are definitely over in this part of the country, though the challenge continues for a few more weeks.  In solidarity with my brethren in colder climates, I made a warm, hearty wintery dinner this week.   Our meat CSA, Marin Sun Farms, delivered to us this beautiful top sirloin roast, so I went for pure comfort food.   At the farmers market, I came across spring shallots.  I’m not entirely sure what they are, though I guess they are just what shallots look like when they are still young.  The flavor is a little grassier and more oniony than a regular shallot.  I bought a bunch, along with some creminis to make a sauce for the beef to serve along with some mashed potatoes.

The beef I used here was a 1 and 1/2 pound sirloin roast.  I rubbed it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and a bit of rosemary.  Then, I roasted it at 425 for 10 minutes, then at 300 for another 40 minutes or so.  I found timing the cooking a little tricky and I think I need a good meat cookbook, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

When the meat came out of the oven, I tented it under some foil.  I chopped up the shallots and reserved the juice.  To make the sauce, I heated a pat of butter and a splash of olive oil in a pan.  Added a couple cups of sliced mushrooms and sauted for a few minutes.  I then added the pan drippings and a half a cup of red wine, and the diced shallots.  I reduced it to a simmer for about 5 minutes.

For the potatoes, I used this recipe from epicurious, except I only had skim milk on hand.  Not a problem – the potatoes were still really rich, earthy, and delicious.  All and all, when paired with a glass of a Bordeaux blend from Sonoma – a delicious winter meal…at the beginning of spring.

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It’s a lazy Sunday here in Berkeley, and I was getting the cooking itch.  My dinner tonight is easy – meat is marinating and there’s not much left to do.  I was having a cookie craving and decided to whip up a batch of shortbread.  This recipe could not be easier.  As proof, I offer up the fact that it’s just 2 hours since I decided to whip these up, and I’m now on the couch with a couple cookies, a glass of Lemon Verbena Elixir straight from my freezer, my laptop, and a Law & Order SVU on the DVR.

Life is good.

Citrus Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest from a lemon and an orange
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Directions
Preheat oven to 300°F.  Butter or grease a 9-inch-diameter springform pan.  Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Add the butter and using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers until it starts to come together.  

At this point, the recipe suggests rolling it out, then pressing it into a pan.  I skipped that step and just pressed it evenly right into the greased pan.  Using tip of small sharp knife, score the into 8 equal triangles, then pierce all over with fork.   It’s a little flaky, so just do it gently and carefully. 

Bake until shortbread is cooked through and pale golden, about 40-45 minutes.  At the 30 minute mark, I pulled it out of the oven, re-scored it again to make sure it wouldn’t crumble when I cut it, and gave it a light sprinkling of sugar.

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My husband hates lentils.  They were a staple in my kitchen for years, back in my fresh out of college, underpaid world saving vegetarian days.  I moved in with my husband almost six years ago, and I don’t think I’ve cooked them since. 

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I miss them and I frequently joke that one day, I’m just going to make them and he will just have to deal.  I haven’t carried through with this threat yet, probably because I don’t want him to take out his revenge on me through steaming bowls of French onion soup.

Well, he’s out of town this week, so I made myself a big pot of lentil soup for dinner, using carrots and sweet potatoes from our CSA box.   The carrots I used were Thumbelina carrots.  I felt guilty for chopping them up into unrecognizable little bits and not taking advantage of their adorable, pudgy shape, but such is life.

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I don’t remember how I used to make my old lentil soup since it had been so long, but I found a great recipe on Epicurious.  Maybe it was like stumbling upon an oasis after a long walk through the desert or maybe my cooking skills have just improved a lot over the last six years, but either way, the soup was better than I remember.   I may need to make him go out of town more often. 

The original recipe comes from the May 1998 issue of Bon Appetit and can be found here.  I halved it because I didn’t need 6-8 servings and tweaked it a bit, so I’m giving you my version. 

Curried Lentil Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion or large shallot, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, chopped
1 cup of carrot, peeled, chopped
1-2 tablespoons curry powder 
pinch or two of cayenne pepper
   * with the spices, I recommend starting with 1T and 1 pinch, then adding
      more later in the cooking process if needed
3 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice 
1  cup lentils (about 6 ounces), rinsed, drained
Fresh cilantro for serving

Directions

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, potato and carrot and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Mix in curry powder and cayenne and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

Add broth, tomatoes with juices and lentils and bring to boil.  Cover pot, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lentils are very tender.  The recipe suggests 45 minutes, but I needed closer to an hour. 

Season soup to taste with salt and pepper and additional spices if needed.  Garnish with a bit of fresh chopped cilantro.

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Easy Cheese

Not the nuclear orange stuff in an aerosol can.  Real, homemade cheese.

I had seen homemade ricotta pop up here and there and I finally decided to give it a try.  It is so unbelievably simple that you will wonder why people don’t just make it themselves all the time.  Really.   It’s like brewing your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks.  It’s that simple.  And it’s delicious.  It’s fresh and soft, and it doesn’t have that weird, grainy texture that the stuff in the plastic containers at the grocery store seem to have.

It’s also fun.  I felt like I was performing a science experiement in my kitchen.  The basic idea is to separate the milk solids (the curds) from the liquid (the whey), and you do this with heat and acid.  There’s a few different methods of doing it, using lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk.  But they are all fairly similar.  I got this recipe from Epicurious.

Homemade Ricotta

Ingredients

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

In a large pot, bring the milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil, stirring occassionally.

Add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring once about halfway through, until the milk has completely curdled. 

Remove from the heat and pour into a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.  Let the cheese drain for about an hour and refrigerate.  It will make about 2 cups, maybe a bit more, and will keep for 2-3 days.

That is it.  That’s all it takes to make cheese. 

 

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The commenters on Epicurious suggested omitting the salt if you wanted to use this cheese for a dessert.  I didn’t find it salty at all, so I don’t think I would, but it’s something to consider. 

I used the ricotta in a spread which I’ll post about next, and tossed the rest with some lemon pepper papperadelle from Trader Joes and sauteed spinach from Eatwell.  It was delicious.  I also think it would be great on pizzas too.

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Growing up, a staple at family parties was keilbasa in grape jelly.  There was other stuff in it, like ketchup or barbeque sauce, and probably some Lipton French Onion Soup mix, because wasn’t that stuff in everything in the 70s and 80s?  The dish was usually served warm, in a crockpot or on a hot plate or something, and we’d spoon it up onto our paper plates right next to the macaroni salad dressed with Miracle Whip.  It was the type of recipe that probably originated on the back of a jar of Smuckers, designed by The Man to find new ways to help the hungry masses injest sodium and high fructose corn syrup.  It was chock full of processed pork scraps and chemicals, but it was sweet and spicy, and went perfectly with a styrofoam cup of Sprite.

Since this blog is a Sandra-Lee-Free-Zone, I’m not even going to try to recreate that dish.  But The Man did strike gold when he combined pork products with grapes.  Thankfully, Bon Appetit has come up with a version of that delicious combination that won’t make you hang your head in shame when you eat it.

The recipe is amazing.  It’s a perfect fall or winter dish, so since there’ll inevitably be another cold, blustery day before the warm weather hits, I recommend filing this away for that occassion.  The original recipe didn’t involve polenta, but I thought it needed something to absorb the broth.  Polenta was definitely the right choice, since it’s a little sweeter than rice or potatoes so it compliments the grapes nicely.    Mashed potatoes might work with this, though I think they might be too earthy for such a fruity dish.   Though, you could always go for Miracle Whip macaroni salad.

Braised Pork with Grapes and Balsamic over Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

For the pork

 1 3 1/4-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed, cut into 3 equal pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 large shallots, halved, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
3 cups seedless black grapes (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large fresh sage sprigs
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs

For the polenta

1 cup polenta
3 cups water, broth, or a mix
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.  Add pork to pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 13 minutes total.  Transfer pork to plate; discard fat in pot.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium heat.  Add shallots and grapes; sauté until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.  Add sugar; sauté 30 seconds.  Add vinegar; bring mixture to boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.  Add broth, all herb sprigs, and pork with juices from plate.  Bring to boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. 

Braise the pork for 1 hour.  Using tongs, turn pork over and continue braising until meat is very tender, about 45 minutes longer. 

Meanwhile, make the polenta.  Bring the water, broth, and milk to a boil.  Add the polenta and the butter, and reduce to a simmer.  Whisk the polenta in thoroughly to make sure there are no lumps.  Keep the pan on simmer, whisking every few minutes, for approximately 25 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency.

When the pork is done, remove it from the oven, and using slotted spoon, transfer pork to platter; tent with foil.

Remove herb sprigs from pot and skim fat from surface of cooking liquid.   At this point, the grapes should have completely disintegrated, leaving you with a rich, flavorful broth.  Boil that over high heat until thickened.  The recipe suggested boiling for 7 minutes, but I had a lot of liquid in the pot, so I boiled it for about 15 minutes.    Season sauce with salt and pepper.   Pour over pork and serve.  Or, just place the pork back in the liquid and serve everything from that pot.

Spoon the polenta into shallow bowls and serve the pork and broth over everything.

It does not make for the most elegant presentation, but it definitely tastes wonderful.  If I were cooking this for guests, I might sprinkle some fresh thyme over the dish to give it a bit more color.

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The recipe suggests pairing the dish with a 2003 Rosenblum zinfandel.  By sheer coincidence, we had a Rosenblum zinfandel on hand, just a later year and a different vineyard.  But, close enough to justify opening it. 

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It went perfectly with the dinner.  If you can’t get your hands on a Rosenblum wine, I would definitely recommend sticking with a zinfandel.  The dish is fruity, and the peppery zinfandel compliments it nicely.

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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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This is a belated post on a dish I made a couple weeks ago, when my CSA box contained collard greens and apples. I had never tried collard greens before, and found this recipe on Epicurious and thought I would give it a try.

The recipe was essentially a salad, and the collard greens were raw. I didn’t realize this until halfway through my preparation, at which point, I tried a nibble of raw collard greens and realized that they really don’t taste good raw. Maybe some people like them, but I don’t. So, I decided to try wilting them a bit, but keeping the basic flavors of the recipe. That worked, and my husband really liked it, but if I were to do it again, I’d cook them down a little more than I did because they were just too raw tasting for me.

The flavors are excellent though, and really unique. So, I recommend trying this, but adjusting the cooking time based on your personal preference for the green. I think this would be really good with chard or even spinach as well.

Ingredients

2 red apples such as Gala or Idared
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pickling spice
1/2 cup walnut halves (3 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch collard greens (1 pound)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 shallot, finely diced (this is my own addition)

Note: I didn’t have any pickling spice so I used a half a teaspoon mustard seeds, a bay leaf, a pinch of cinnamon, a couple of cloves, and salt & pepper. There’s a bunch of different suggestions for pickling spice combos online, so if you don’t feel like buying a jar of it, you can google for ideas.

Directions

Pickled Apples

Quarter and core apples, then cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Boil vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pickling spice in a saucepan, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add apples and return to a boil. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and cool. Chill, uncovered, until cold, about 1 hour.

Walnuts

Coarsely chop 1 tablespoon nuts and finely chop remaining nuts. Toast walnuts in olive oil in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until a shade darker. Cool nuts in oil.

Collard Greens

Halve each collard leaf lengthwise with kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cutting out and discarding center ribs. Stack leaves and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

To Assemble

Here’s the part I made up. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of the walnut infused oil in a large saute pan. Add the finely chopped shallot and saute for a couple minutes, until the shallot is soft and starts to brown.

Add the remainder of the oil and the walnuts, then add in all of the collard greens. Add water…about a quarter of a cup to help braise the greens. Cook for a few minutes, until the greens are soft enough for your liking.

Strain the pickled apples. When the collard greens are just about done, add the apples. Stir together and add salt and pepper, if needed.

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This delicious little cake from Gourmet, via Epicurious, has been all the rage on the food blogs lately, it seems. It sounded so good, and I thought it would be a wonderful Christmas morning breakfast. Unfortunately, as I discovered earlier this fall, cranberries are in short supply out on the west coast. After checking at several stores, all of whom said that they stop carrying cranberries in November, I found a small, overpriced pint of them at the fabulous Ferry Building on Christmas Eve. They were $6, but I didn’t care. Cranberry vanilla coffee cake would be mine.

The recipe is easy and absolutely delicious. It’s not too sweet and it smells heavenly.
Ingredients
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
Note: I actually used an addition splash of milk…probably about 2 tablespoons worth. The batter seemed incredibly sticky and it just wasnt’ absorbing all the dry mixture. You may find you need to do the same. Also, while the recipe calls for a 9 by 2 cake pan, I think I will do this in a spring form pan the next time I make it. It would probably make the cake easier to remove.
Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife (reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.
Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).
Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.
Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Top with remaining batter and smooth top. This was the trickiest part because the batter is thick and hard to spread. I just dollopped it on in small spoonfuls all over the cranberries and gently spread the dollops together with a spoon.
Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, crumb side up.

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I love these.

They are savory, salty, crunchy, and perfect with wine. Being that they are biscotti, they last for a while, so they’d be great for gift giving. The recipe also makes a lot…about 5 dozen or so. I’ve made them a few times, and they are usually a hit.
They are pretty easy to make, but you do need to stay near your oven and set the timer numerous times.
The recipe comes from Epicurious.
Ingredients
1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

Directions
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
The recipe suggests putting the peppercorns in a coffee or spice grinder and grinding until coarse. I don’t have a spice grinder, and I didn’t feel like finding peppercorns in my coffee the next morning, so I just put them all in a plastic sandwich bag and banged the hell out of them with a hammer. You wind up with something a little chunkier than “coarse” but I prefer it that way. I love pepper, and I like being able to see the peppercorns in the biscotti.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups cheese, and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 3 eggs with milk and add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quarter dough. Using well-floured hands, form each piece into a slightly flattened 12-inch-long log (about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch high).
Transfer logs to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging logs about 3 inches apart.
Whisk remaining egg and brush some over logs, then sprinkle tops of logs evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper.
Bake, rotating sheets 180 degrees and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until logs are pale golden and firm, about 30 minutes total.
Cool logs to warm on sheets on a rack, about 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
Carefully transfer 1 warm log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining logs, transferring slices to sheets.

Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 35 to 45 minutes total. Cool biscotti on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.
And that’s it. They’ll stay fresh in an airtight container for a couple weeks.

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Cranberry Sorbet

This sorbet is wonderful, though it didn’t taste how I expected. The recipe on Epicurious said it was “Cranberry and Orange Thyme Sorbet.” You know how obsessed I am with putting herbs in my desserts, so I was really excited to try this. Unfortunately, it has no thyme flavor whatsoever. I used lemon thyme, which may have been the problem. I’ll definitely make it again, but next time I’ll either omit the thyme completely, or use a woodier, stronger tasting thyme. It still tastes delicious and would probably be a nice alternative to heavy Thanksgiving desserts.

Ingredients

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Thinly sliced zest of 2 oranges (removed with a zester)
8 to 12 3-inch springs fresh thyme, such as orange balsam, lemon, or English thyme(1/2 ounce)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

I wasn’t paying attention to the recipe closely enough and didn’t have thin orange zests, but rather just removed the peel in a large chunk. So, my sorbet wasn’t really orange-y tasting, but I liked it that way anyway. And, as I said above, I recommend using English thyme if you want the ice cream to pick up the herbal flavor, since the lemon thyme just isn’t flavorful enough.

Directions

Bring the cranberries, sugar, water, and orange zest to a boil in a medium (3-quart) saucepan.
Partially cover the pan and boil until most of the cranberries pop, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme sprigs, remove from the heat, cover tightly, and steep for 30 minutes.
Pour the fruit mixture into a fine sieve set on top of a deep bowl. Stir and press down on the fruit with the back of a large spoon to extract as much juice and pulp as you can, leaving the skins and thyme behind in the sieve.
Refrigerate the strained mixture until thoroughly chilled. I actually just put the bowl in the fridge with the sieve right over it to let it chill, then pressed again. A fair amount more liquid came out after just letting it sit for a while.
Stir in the orange juice and then pour into an ice cream maker for 30-40 minutes. Freeze for a few more hours and there you have it. Cranberry (and orange and thyme) sorbet.

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