18 December 2010

Pear & Banana Nut Bread

Dear Bananas,
I don't like you.  I can smell you (and thus, be disgusted by you) from miles away.  Why are you so smelly?  Why are you mushy?  Why can't you be better at being fruit?  No... I don't like you at all, bananas.

Before I continue, let me assure you that this is actually a very good recipe, and I ate and enjoyed the results. Yummy.  I just wasn't expecting the yummy-ness.

I bet there are people out there who like bananas, love pears, and can't imagine life without peanuts.  To them, this bread must seem almost magical.  I am not one of those people.  I don't like any of those things.  I've already expressed how I feel about bananas.  Pears are less bad than bananas, but I really only like them when poached.  Peanut butter is good.  Regular peanuts?  No, thanks.  Why did I make this bread again?

Oh, yes.  I was about to leave town for a while, and found myself needing to use up a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables, lest they spoil while I was away.  I kind of threw this bread together without much of a thought, since if I had thought about it, I would have... well... not done it.  At least some of my least favourite foods got to hang out together.

Imagine my shock when it was actually tasty!  I ate it for breakfast.  Amazing and true.  I had it with some salted butter, and I bet a nice slather of cream cheese would be just the thing for this.

Pear & Banana Nut Bread
Loosely based on a banana bread recipe from Gourmet, found on Epicurious.

1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 very ripe banana
1 very ripe pear, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in large bowl at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in banana, pear (if your pear is very ripe the mixer should chop it up pretty well - if not, dice beforehand), buttermilk, and vanilla. Using a spoon instead of the mixer, fold in flour mixture and peanuts gently but thoroughly.

Pour into loaf pan and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Tent with foil once the top browns to avoid burning the top and edges.

Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn right side up and cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf.

12 December 2010

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

It's Christmas at KitchenLab - the very first one!

First off, you might notice that KitchenLab has a new look.  It's a little early Christmas present for my blog, which is almost one year old.  That new header/logo up top is fancy.  I made it myself (proud Kristen beams and hugs laptop).  Also, please enjoy the festive holiday background.  My PhD supervisor has me learning a few web design tricks (which are useful for lab things) so I'm applying them, judiciously, to my other little habit here in cyberspace.  I actually edited my own HTML.  It was scary, but I lived.

Secondly, Christmas is coming soon, which can only mean that my kitchen has exploded with cookies.  Holy smokes!  So far, I have made 5 6 kinds of cookies, totalling approximately 300 of the little buggers.  They are supposed to be for gifts, and not for putting into my face, but I am having troubles.  Especially with this one in particular.  They are big and soft and full of deliciousness - but have oats and fresh fruit in them, so they can't be that bad for you, right??

Happy Christmas from KitchenLab!

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Original recipe from Bon Appétit

1 cup (120g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 140g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats (porridge oats)
1/2 cup (50g) each milk chocolate, semisweet/plain chocolate, and white chocolate - chopped or chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F/175C. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend.

In another (large) bowl, beat butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in all chocolate chips and cranberries.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are light brown, about 16 minutes (about 9 minutes for fan-assisted ovens). Cool on sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.

At this point you can also drizzle with melted chocolate; I opted not to do so.

Makes about 30 cookies.

03 December 2010

Plum & Apple Jam

I recently found some plums in the reduced section at the grocery store.  Now, I know it's December, and I know I was at a grocery store in Scotland -- so I did have plenty of fair warning that the fruit might not be at its best.  But I simply couldn't help myself.  Plums have a special place in my heart.  And hey, they were dirt cheap.

These plums were, so sadly (but unsurprisingly) nothing like the plums I had over the summer.  At my friend's country home in Portugal, we took a post-lunch stroll through a little grove of plum trees, and the red globes were so ripe they practically jumped off the tree and into my basket.  We ate as many as we humanly could, then I took a nap in a hammock.  This was my favourite day of the whole summer.

So, maybe you understand how I couldn't sit idly back and allow these plums to be terrible - it would be an affront to my memory and a mar on my idea of plum-ness.  I told my Portuguese friend about my plan to rescue my plums by making a jam.  He has a way of pointing out the oddities of the English language to me, and commented amusedly on the concept of rescuing a plum.  Well, consider me the patron saint of plums, because my plan worked out marvellously.

Apple & Plum Jam
This is a take on my Chilli Jam recipe I blogged about not too long ago.

3 apples
3 plums
150g sugar (3/4 cup)
dash cinnamon
1/2 tea lemon zest

Roughly chop apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a saucepan with some water.  Bring to a boil and allow to simmer about 1 hour, until apples are cooked through.  Strain solids out using a fine-meshed seive, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Allow mixture to cool completely (I leave this overnight in the fridge).

Pit and roughly chop plums, and add to saucepan with apple juice.  Bring to a boil, allowing plums to fully cook in apple juice.  When they are transparent, gently smash the plum pieces using a potato masher.  Add sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest.  Simmer, uncovered, until mixture begins to gel.  Turn the heat up and watch the magic happen.  (I had a bit of trouble getting this to gel - make sure the heat is high enough.  It will gel when two things have happened: the water/sugar/pectin ratio is just right - this happens automatically as your mixture loses steam while boiling - and when it reaches the right temperature.)

Pour hot jam into a glass jar and store in the fridge up to one month.

Makes one large-ish jar of jam.

16 November 2010

Simple (and delicious!) Cannellini Bean Dip

I was walking down the hall at the office today with my flatmate.  I thought I'd be fun and silly and try to ride her bike down the corridor (we are both annoying eco-friendly cyclists).  Her legs are much longer than mine, and I totally crashed her too-big-for-me bike after a distance of about 1 foot, at a speed of about 5 metres-per-hour.  Fortunately, it was after hours and no one saw me viciously attack a doorknob all slow-motion-like with the soft part of my arm, which nearly instantaneously bruised to holy heck.  It was the slowest bicycle crash in the history of bike riding.  Fact.

There's no point to that story other than communicating how silly and uncoordinated I feel lately (whereas usually I am the perfect picture of ladylike gentility).  Okok, maybe that's not exactly true.

Anyway, this is the one thing I haven't screwed up in the last few days, which means it must be dead easy.  And (bonus!) if you serve it to someone, they will probably think you're elegant, even if you feel clumsy like me.

Cannellini Bean Dip

~450g (16oz) cooked cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
~60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1 clove crushed garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/4 tea (or less if you prefer) cayenne
pinch ground nutmeg
few sprigs chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

Place beans, oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, nutmeg & cayenne in food processor - or do as I do and use an immersion blender because I'm too cheap to buy a food processor.  Whir until smooth.  Mix in coriander with a spoon.

Serve warm in a bowl drizzled with some extra olive oil & sprinkle some cayenne or paprika over the top.  The end.

10 November 2010

Chilli-Roasted Butternut Squash & Lentil Salad with Feta & Lime

Ladies and Gentlemen, repeat after me:

"I will never make butternut squash soup again."

Trust me, guys.

Now, I've made my share of curried butternut squash soup.  It's alright.  I sometimes make it extra-spicy.  People like this.  I like it, too... but this is better.  Any time I puree a butternut squash soup, I am inevitably reminded of something I've spooned into the mouth of a miniature human.

But, I'm a grown-up.  I am normal-sized and have teeth.  I decided to start demanding more from my butternut squash.

I've seen some people doing really pretty things with butternut squash these days.  They've inspired me.  This is one of the more colourful and flavourful dishes I've prepared in quite a while, and I'll be returning to this recipe for years to come.  Never again will I make butternut squash soup.

Chilli-Roasted Butternut Squash & Lentil Salad with Feta & Lime

Half of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed - reserve seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (or cayenne)
1/4 cup (dry) french green lentils
handful of slivered almonds
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
50g feta, in 1-cm cubes
juice of 1/2 lime

Wash & pat dry seeds from butternut squash.  Spread onto an oiled baking sheet (I used sunflower oil for its neutral flavour) and sprinkle on some salt.  Roast at 200C (400F) until browned, mixing as needed.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and cayenne. When seeds are finished, reuse the baking sheet for the squash.  Roast in a single layer at 200C (400F) until beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and mix around on baking sheet, then return to oven for an additional 10 minutes or so, until completely cooked and nicely browning.  Set aside to cool in a large bowl (where you will mix your salad).

While squash is roasting, bring a pot of water to the boil and add lentils.  Simmer 20-30 minutes, until lentils are fully cooked but still have a little pop to them when bitten.  Set aside.

Toast almonds over medium heat in a dry skillet, add to squash in large bowl.  Once everything has cooled enough that it won't melt the feta, add lentils, chilli, feta & lime juice.  Gently toss together and serve sprinkled with toasted seeds.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish.

07 November 2010

Israeli Mejadra

I have a food crush on Yotam Ottolenghi.

It's kind of the same as the science crush I have on Ben Goldacre.

If I were to meet either one of them, I'd go all soft and giggly and hang on their every word.  I'd gaze at them with admiration.  I'd try to say something witty and charming and intelligent, but come off as a weird girl with boundary issues (as per usual when I have a normal, run-of-the-mill love crush).

So it looks like I've just spilled the beans on myself.  I was never any good at hiding my feelings.

But that's not the point of this.  Ottolenghi.  Food hero.

A recent trip to London left me not caring so much for London.  Overpriced drinks and "style bars" are definitely not my thing, and I had one of the most disappointing meals of my life at an "Italian" restaurant near Leicester Square.  I wish I could remember the name of it, so I could tell everyone in the world to stay far away, but even google maps doesn't recognise it as a restaurant (which should tell you something, indeed).

The saviour of my trip was Yotam Ottolenghi, whose stellar reputation is well-deserved.  I've been tuned into his column at the Guardian for some time now, and my friend and travelling companion humoured me with a late morning trip to the Kensington location of his eponymous bakery/deli, Ottolenghi.  It was as though I had entered the gates of heaven.  There were beautiful cakes and some salads for takeaway, and we picked up a lemon pistachio cake that made all my dreams come true.... and a bagful of other goodies to snack on during the day, including some ridiculously amazing sweet potato wedges, and a blackcurrant meringue as big as my face.  I had to hold back from the temptation to go back to the shop and promise my firstborn child in return for a full day's eating privileges (and maybe that lemon pistachio cake recipe).

Deliciousness at Ottolenghi, Kensington

So, Yotam Ottolenghi saved London in my eyes.  I vowed that I would make his recipes for ever and ever, even the ones that I wasn't so sure about.  Yotam would not lead me astray.

His mejadra recipe intrigued me, as I've never had anything like it.  The combination of spices was unlike anything I'd ever seen... like a curry, but with cinnamon and sugar?  Huh?  Still, I had faith in the power of Yotam.  I persevered.  So worth it.

I ate this as my whole meal, because I was feeling lazy.  It was a little oily, probably because I used brown rice instead of white (brown rice still has the outer layer of bran attached to the kernel, which acts as a barrier and leaves oil on the outside).  Next time I'll leave some of the oil out - ideal proportions are reflected in the adapted recipe below.  I bet it would be a great side dish for any meat (if you eat meat) or baked tofu, roasted squash or aubergine/eggplant (if you don't).


250ml sunflower oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
250g green or brown lentils
2 tsp ground cumin 
1½ tsp ground coriander 
200g  brown basmati rice
dash olive oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
greek yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche for serving.

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium-size heavy-based saucepan. When very hot, carefully add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice, golden-brown colour and turns crispy. Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with two more batches of onion.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, so the lentils are almost done but still have a little bite to them. Drain into a colander.

Wipe clean the saucepan in which you fried the onion and drop in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over a medium heat and toast the ground cumin and coriander for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil, then add enough water to cook the rice.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer (add water as needed).  When the rice is almost finished, add the cooked lentils and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and remove lid from the pot to allow excess water to escape.  Make sure all the water is absorbed or steamed off so the mixture is not wet.  Tip the rice and lentils into a large mixing bowl. Add half the fried onion and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.  Serve with greek yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 4.

03 November 2010

Sweet & Spicy Chilli + Apple Jam

My love affair with chilli jam began a while ago.  I purchased an interesting-looking jar from my favourite deli in Liverpool, and quickly fell hard for the stuff.

The first time I had it, I smeared it inside a baguette, stuffed said baguette with brie, and toasted it in the oven.  I would never love again.

I used it sparingly, savouring every last little droplet.  Then, I ran out.

I had already moved up to Scotland, far away from my specialty foodie shop, so I considered making my own.  Then, upon finding a bunch of recipes online, each one different (and in heavily distinct ways), I gave up on that task.  Then I was wandering along the street at a local farmers' market, and I magically found some that were local and homemade.  I actually had a conversation with the guy who made them.... my hopes were high.

But when I got home, they were actually not very good.  The mixture was far too runny and not hot enough for my liking.  So I fixed them by adding more chillies and heating the mixture up in a saucepan, simmering for a while to see if the pectin just needed some activation.  Some of the extra water steamed out of it and they firmed up a bit, thus renewing my confidence.  I could, indeed, make chilli jam after all, and I didn't need 100 different recipes out there confusing me.  Turns out, I only needed three ingredients and a little bit of science knowledge.

Science fact number 1: Apples + Water + Heat = Pectin.  You need pectin for jellies and preserves.  It's in all fruits and vegetables, but it has a high concentration in apples.  This is something that the evil giants of food industry don't want you to know.  You don't need to buy Certo or jam sugar or any of that extra stuff.  You can make your own, and in the easiest way - by boiling apples in some water.  Tart, unripe apples have more pectin than sweet, ripe apples, so I tend to use Bramley (popular here in Britain) or Granny Smith.

Science fact number 2: Pectin + Sugar + Heat = Jelly.  Pectin by itself is all well and good, but it doesn't do much.  It needs sugar to firm up and make those nice, thick jellies and spreadable preserves.  Don't forget about sugar.

Chilli + Apple Jam

4 large-ish apples, any kind will do (I use Bramley or Granny Smith)
6 red chillies (2 de-seeded, chop the rest with seeds & ribs included)
150g (3/4 cup)  sugar

Roughly chop up the apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a saucepan with some water.  Simmer gently until the apples are completely cooked through, adding more water if needed.  The water will boil off when you're not looking, and it's ok to add more.  Bear in mind that you're looking for about a cup of liquid in the end - just add some more water until you have about 1 cup.

Allow the mixture to cool completely, then strain out solids using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth.  I've seen advice about not pushing down on the solids to extract more juice.  It's true that it does make the juice cloudy, but it doesn't effect the flavour at all, and you DO get about twice as much liquid.  Leave the mixture to chill in the fridge overnight (I waited about 3 days, due to laziness).  Some of the solids will have settled to the bottom - simply leave them behind when you pour the juice out into a saucepan for the next steps. At this point you should have about 1 cup of liquid.  ***

Place juice in saucepan with minced chillies and sugar.  Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Test a few drops on a chilled plate to see if the jam has firmed up enough.  If so, then you're done!  Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator and cherish every spoonful.

*** Stop the presses!  What else do you want to make?  At this point, you can add whatever your heart desires to this mixture, making any kind of jam you like (like plums!).  Or, you can not add anything to it, and make yourself a simple apple jelly.

29 October 2010

Dorie Greenspan's Mustard Batons

Along with the polenta triangles I posted about a few days ago, I served these as appetizers at our recent get-together.  They were a hit!

Hot mustard is one of my favourite secret ingredients.  It does good stuff to mashed potatoes.  Trust me on that.  I've really been loving mustard lately, and putting it in practically everything.  I've gone through 3 jars of mustard (in one form or another) in the last month.  That's a lot.

These batons are so perfect for a dinner party in many ways.  First, I actually made these about a week before the party, when I had some spare time, laid them all out on sheets of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and froze them.  Then the morning of the party, I thawed them (which took only about 20 minutes at room temperature) and baked them off.  They kept very nicely sitting out all day while I made other things.

And they are dead easy.  You just roll out some puff pastry, spread on some mustard, fold, slice, apply eggwash & toppings of choice (I used coarse sea salt, Dorie uses poppy or sesame seeds), and bake.

Mustard Batons
Original recipe by Dorie Greenspan and published in Around My French Table or online here

You will need:
All-purpose flour, for rolling
Frozen puff pastry (each about 8½ ounces), thawed
Dijon mustard
1 large egg
Sea salt or poppy seeds for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out pastry on a lightly-floured surface until very thin and measures approximately 12x16 inches (and as rectangular-shaped as you can get it).

Spread mustard over 1/2 of the pastry, leaving edges un-mustarded.

Fold pastry in half and slice into strips about 3/4 of an inch wide using a pizza cutter.  Transfer to baking sheets.

Lightly beat egg in bowl with a little cold water to create an egg wash.  Brush over tops of each strip and sprinkle on some large-flaked sea salt (Dorie uses poppy seeds or sesame seeds instead).

Bake for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through, or until pastry is puffed and nicely browned (think the colour of a soft pretzel).

25 October 2010

Polenta Triangles with Goat's Cheese, Chilli Jam & Rocket

My flatmate and I had a party.

I fed lots of omnivores a whole bunch of vegetarian food.  I overheard someone say, "this vegetarian food is so good that I don't care that it's vegetarian."  It put a huge, silly grin on my face.  They were talking about these appetizers.

I did, however, make them some roasted pork tenderloin.  I'm told it was tasty.  I did it to be hospitable, since I would expect someone to consider my vegetarian food needs if they invited me over for dinner.  Still... I don't want to talk about it.  I want to talk about this.

A little while back, I was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's version of this, which he blogged about over at the Guardian.  He uses gooseberry and chilli relish, and garnishes with basil.  I had chilli jam hanging around (recipe can be found here), and the rocket was my flatmate's idea.  The whole thing is a much simpler version of the original - so easy and it comes together in a snap.

Keep an eye out for more recipes from the party, which will be coming along soon!

Polenta Triangles with Goats Cheese, Chilli Jam & Rocket

you will need:
Polenta brick, sliced and cut into triangles
Goat's cheese, grated - I use a medium-hard version but you could easily use crumbled soft chèvre 
Rocket leaves
Olive oil

Heat a little olive oil a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add polenta and fry gently until most of the sputtering has stopped (the popping/sputtering is the water in the polenta having a not-friendly reaction with the hot oil), about 4-5 minutes.  Polenta will be slightly golden in colour, but will not brown.  Don't wait for a browning to happen - you'll be sorely disappointed since it will take about 100 years and your polenta will turn into hard little hockey pucks.  (How's that for hyperbole?)

Gently flip over the triangles, adding a little more olive oil if you need to.  While the second side is cooking, add some grated cheese to the top of each piece and allow it to melt.  Remove polenta from pan and arrange on plate.  Drop a little bit of chilli jam on top of each triangle and top each with a small rocket leaf.  Serve warm.

21 October 2010

Spinach & Lentil Curry, Revisited

The first time I told you about this curry was in February.  Probably, no one even saw the post - the pictures were crap and I was kinda brand new to blogging.

I made it a little bit differently this time (but not much) and paid closer attention to the amounts of ingredients I used.  Instead of using shallots as a garnish, I opted this time for a sprinkling of cinnamon over the yogurt.  The warm scent of the spices seemed to really want me to add cinnamon.  It was a good call.

So, here we go again with this recipe, with more accurate measurements and prettier pictures.  Yay.

Spinach & Lentil Curry, Take Two

  • ~1 cup french green lentils
  • ~1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 tea ground ginger
  • 2 tea harissa paste (or chilli of your choice)
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste or puree'd tomatoes
  • 100g baby spinach leaves, stems removed, roughly chopped.
  • 1/2 tea sea salt 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic (~2 tea garlic paste)
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • greek yogurt, ground cinnamon & toast points, for serving

Place the lentils, ginger, harissa and turmeric in a pan, and add enough water to cover the lentils 2x.  Bring to a boil, then simmer over a moderate heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a further 20-ish minutes.  Add bulgur and continue simmering until lentils are cooked through but not over-done - they should still give a little *pop* when you bite into them.  ((Add water as needed, both the lentils and the bulgur will absorb a LOT of it, keep adding it a bit at a time to avoid a soupy consistency in the end.))  Add salt and set aside.

Heat the butter in a small pan. Add the cumin and garlic and allow the mixture to become fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the coriander powder and garam masala, mix well, then pour the mixture into the pan of lentils.  Give the mixture a taste and add more salt if you need it.

Add spinach and stir to incorporate.  As you stir, the residual heat from the lentil mixture will wilt the spinach.  Use a little extra heat from the hob if the spinach doesn't wilt.

Serve hot with a big dollop of greek yogurt and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon.

Serve with toast points or warm naan bread.

19 October 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies

Joy of joys.

You know how the best part of an oreo is the filling?  Did you ever unscrew two oreos and carefully re-sandwich together the two sides with the filling still attached?  I did.  Then Nabisco got smart and started making the double-stuffed version.  I always wished I could eat that stuff by the spoonful.

Once these were all put together, I totally piped leftover oreo filling directly into my mouth.  It was a childhood fantasy come true.  It was amazing.  Definitely not ladylike.

These aren't exactly healthy.  But if we're comparing them to the packaged kind... do you see where I'm going with this?  Plus, you get bonus "cool points" for making something previously only made possible by Nabisco.  Sweet.

Oreo Cookies
From Retro Desserts, adapted by Smitten Kitchen
*As an American living in Europe, I am all too flexible when it comes to measurements.  I've become accustomed to millilitres, grams and Celsius, but cups are still a large part of my vocabulary.  This is an American recipe, but I've added the European measurements where needed.  I generally leave cups alone, since I have a nice set of measuring cups and still haven't adjusted to using kitchen scales.

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 140g) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies.

08 October 2010

Cabbage, Barley & Red Lentil Soup

It's cold in Scotland today.  I made soup for lunch.  It warmed me right up.

I have a thing for soups, it seems.  This one's not the most attractive, but it's hearty and warm and perfect for  this dreary Scottish day, which I will be spending in the lab getting busy with science.  (Yes, I just finished my Master's, like, two weeks ago... and no, there is no rest for the weary.)* I don't know what else to say about this soup, really... it's just a really good soup that's simple and comforting. Give it a try.

Cabbage, Barley & Red Lentil Soup
I used chinese leaf (aka napa cabbage) but have also used sweetheart or pointed cabbage to great effect.
original recipe by me!

1/2 head white cabbage
1 carrot
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
50g (1/3 cup) barley, dry
50g (1/3 cup) red lentils, dry
juice of 1/2 lemon
veg. broth

Get the barley simmering in plenty of water while you work on chopping veg. Let go until cooked, about 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop up your cabbage and carrot. Sauté cabbage in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 5 mintutes.  Add enough vegetable stock to cover veg, then add red lentils - simmer until lentils are cooked.  Add lemon juice and barley.  Blend with stick blender to desired consistency (I like to leave some chunks for texture).  Season to taste with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Serves 4.

*See how I make you think that science has killed me; that I struggle under the weight of impending projects and publications?  The truth is... (NERD ALERT!)... I am bored and lost without it.  Rather than feeling weakened or over-burdened with stress... I am actually quite exstatic.  I am told this will change in time, but for now, I'm pretty excited about my PhD.

06 October 2010

Honey-Soy Soba Noodles with Chestnut Mushrooms and Caramelised Onions

One word: umami.  Umami is a deep, complex, savoury flavour.  It's good stuff.

This dish is full of umami.  You find it in the mushrooms.  It's there in the soba noodles with their nutty, buckwheat flour goodness.  It's in the carmelised onion.  It's in the soy.  It's everywhere.

This is a great autumn dish.  Warm.  Cozy.  Umami.


Honey-Soy Soba Noodles with Chestnut Mushrooms & Caramelised Onions
Original recipe by me!

2 bunches soba noodles
1 large onion
12-or-so chestnut mushrooms
1 clove minced garlic
two shakes white wine vinegar, or really any comparable subsitute will do
2 tea honey
soy sauce to taste, enough to cover noodles**

Prepare soba noodles to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Slice onion and add to hot oil, stirring to cover in oil and allow to cook while you chop the mushrooms, about 4 minutes.

Destem and slice mushrooms and add to pan.  Add a bit more oil if needed, and add the garlic.  Allow to cook until both the onions and mushrooms are nicely browned.  Add honey and a couple swigs of vinegar (really just a touch to add an acidic note).  Stir to combine and add noodles to the saucepan.  Drizzle soy sauce over and stir to incorporate.  Fry until noodles are heated through and serve.

Serves 2 as a main (my appetite's been tiny of late, and I squeezed 3 mains out of this).

**I wish I had better measurements, it's something I try to get a feel for when I cook but usually I just throw things together if I'm not working off someone else's recipe.  Sorry.

04 October 2010

Balsamic Quinoa Salad & Mustard-Crusted Tofu Planks

So, I used to be busy.  One day, I will be busy again.... but not today.  I found my pictures of this salad and got really happy.  Good pictures -- and even better food.  So I thought I'd tell you about it. 

Balsamic syrup is one of my favourite specialty foodie ingredients. Back in the States it's called balsamic GLAZE, and I love to toss it in with some fresh tomatoes, basil and feta cheese for a nice salad, or drizzle over some roasted portabella mushrooms stuffed with red pepper and ricotta cheese. I'm glad I've found another use for it in this salad - so yummy!

I'd been considering this quinoa salad for a few days, and then I ran across this tofu recipe on Epicurious. Both the balsamic glaze and the whole-grain mustard have such strong flavours, but I wasn't overly worried about pairing them together. I was more, rather, intrigued. It turned out absolutely lovely, with the mustard and balsamic flavours playing nicely off each other in an earthy-sweet-savoury-spice kind of way. It was deep and complex without overpowering and somehow remained nice and clean on the pallette.

Balsamic Quinoa Salad with Mustard-Crusted Tofu Planks
Salad recipe is my own, Tofu recipe from Bon Appétit

For Quinoa Salad:
~ 2 cups cooked quinoa
1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed small
2 medium shallots, chopped
1/2 courgette, sliced
handful of mixed lettuce leaves (really any lettuce will do here, especially lamb's leaf, rocket, or chervil)
~ 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze (also called balsamic syrup)
olive oil - enough for sauteeing + 1 tblsp for dressing the salad
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Saute vegetables in some olive oil with a little salt. Add courgettes last since they cook the fastest and you don't want them mushy.

Mix together with all other ingredients in a bowl. Salad -- done.

For Tofu:
6 1.5-cm thick slices of extra-firm tofu* (3 per person)
wholegrain mustard

Spread each side of tofu plank with a generous slather of mustard. Pan-fry in some olive oil over medium to med-high heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side. It may take longer, depending on the heat... you don't want it too high, or the mustard will burn - you want a slow browning here instead of a flash-fry.

Plate-up and serve. Serves 2.

*You might want to freeze, and then thaw your tofu ahead of time for this. So much more of the water releases from the tofu, and you really want it as dry as possible so the mustard doesn't slip right off when you spread it on, or not adhere properly when frying.

21 September 2010

Sunday French Toast for Kisskas

Wow, this is a terrible picture.

I've moved to Scotland. Hence my lack of posting. But, if you lived here, and could get busy doing this...

...would you really be worried about your blog? Nah, me neither.

This time last year, I was freaking out. I quit my job, hopped onto a plane and moved to another continent. I was about to become a scientist, when I'd been a business-gal my whole life since graduating from college (albeit a business-gal with a wild streak for science). Had I made the right choice? What the hell was I thinking?

It was scary. I ate a lot of Tums.

This move was way way way less scary. It was only 4 hours away instead of an entire ocean. I get to do more of what I've been doing, but in a different place. A more awesome place. Nothing against Liverpool, but really, I'm a country girl at heart. Give me some cows, please. Moo. My new university town has mountains to climb and bunnies and foxes. It combines a whole bunch of my favourite things: science, countryside, and Britain. And lots more.

Still, it was a bit of a hectic month for me. I moved up to Scotland, stayed for a week, then returned to Liverpool to write up and deliver my thesis. Two weeks later, I returned to Scotland a free woman, finished with my master's degree with some time to spare before diving headlong into my PhD.

Today is a lazy Sunday. It's overcast and kinda dreary (par for the course in Scotland, really). I made espresso in my сafetière. I put amaretto in it. And then I made this french toast for me and my new flatmate. She's nice and entirely tolerant (enthusiastic, even) about my weirdo food blog. She helped me cook and even grabbed the camera to take action shots.

I can't take credit for this recipe -- one of my friends in Liverpool came up with this Sunday morning treat. He's been making this for years on lazy Sundays for his wife (his "kisska" -- the Russian word for a little female kitten). During my two-week stay with them, I was invited to be a kisska and share this treat with them.

Sunday French Toast for Kisskas

You will need:

Vanilla extract
Soft Cheese (Cream Cheese to you North Americans)
Maple Syrup

Whisk together eggs and a touch of milk, plus a little vanilla. For 4 small pieces of bread, one egg and a few tablespoons of milk was all that I needed. Dip bread slices in eggy mixture, both sides, and fry in a dry nonstick skillet over medium heat, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a baking sheet.

Preheat grill/broiler to medium-high heat. Spread each toast with a layer of soft cheese, then spread on a layer of nutella. Slice up a banana and layer on top of the nutella. Finish by drizzling over some maple syrup. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes until heated through and the outside edges begin to crisp up, ever-so-slightly. The end.

05 August 2010

Mixed Berry and Jam Muffins

Yeah, muffins.

I had some raspberries and blueberries lying around, threatening to spoil.  So I made these!

This might be considered a lesson in buttermilk.  Why it's awesome, why I love it... you know, things like that.

I haven't had it in ages.  So hard to find here in Liverpool, but I finally found a store that stocks it.  I bought them out - cleaned the damn shelf.  So excited.

So when this recipe called for milk and one egg plus an additional egg yolk, I thought to use buttermilk instead, and forego the extra yolk.  Sheer perfection.  I needed a little additional buttermilk when swapping for milk, so as to skip the extra yolk entirely and achieve a correct muffin-batter consistency.  Awesomeness.  Buttermilk truly does make everything better... the ingredient of the gods, I tell you!

The original recipe (by the awesome Joy The Baker) also called for a crumble topping, which I definitely did not feel like making.  I just sprinkled a little demerara over the tops before popping in the oven.  Another minor adjustment I made was to add a bit of lemon zest, which I keep frozen in a little plastic container for just such occasions (whenever I use a lemon for anything else, I zest before juicing and tuck away in the freezer... so handy!!).

Mixed Berry and Jam Muffins
adapted from Joythebaker

6 tablespoons (85g) salted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2- 1 cup frozen or fresh berries, whatever kind you like
3 tablespoons fruit jam (I used strawberry)
zest of half a lemon
2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar, for topping

Put a rack in the upper third of oven and preheat to 375F (190C).  Generously butter muffin cups or line with cupcake papers.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat; remove from heat.  Whisk in milk, egg, vanilla and zest until well combined.

Whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Add milk mixture and stir until just combined.  If the dough seems too stiff, add a little more buttermilk.  Gently but thoroughly fold in the berries and the jam.

Divide batter among muffin cups and sprinkle with demerara.

Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-22 minutes.  Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edges of muffin tops and carefully remove from cups. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12.

17 July 2010

Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Pan-fried Shallots

I've been posting a lot about cauliflower lately.  The produce stands are just full of them, with big, happy, creamy white florets, and they are just huge.  I can't help but get in on the action.  It doesn't hurt that I end up getting at least 3 meals out of one large head, since the leaves and stems can be used to make a soup of their own.

I get a little over-zealous at the produce stands with all the fresh, local vegetables.  I spent many months this winter just anxiously waiting for veg to come in-season in Britain, so I buy too much.  The items I can't get to in time for other meals end up all getting turned into a soup and stored away in the freezer for a time when I'm too busy to cook (or just can't be bothered).  This soup won't make it that far - it's too damn good for that!

I just love the colour of this soup... the creamy, soft yellow-y white soup and crispy browned shallots look so elegant in a simple white bowl.  The flavour of the cauliflower comes right through, too, and the accompanying flavours don't overpower.  I'm very happy about this one, definitely a keeper!

If you can't find these ingredients, not to worry - substitute away!  I used Double Gloucester cheese, but any cheddar-y cheese will do (or even Stilton...).  I'd love to hear about what you come up with!

Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Pan-fried Shallots

1 head cauliflower
1 clove garlic
light vegetable stock
Double Gloucester cheese
2 teaspoons mustard
single cream (I used about 50ml)
salted butter - about 30g
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 medium shallot, for garnish

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat.  When it starts to foam and sputter, add chopped cauliflower and stir to cover it in the butter.  Cook until it just starts to brown, and add garlic.  Cook for a few minutes more, then add vegetable stock to cover the cauliflower.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until cauliflower is completely soft, adding more water if you need to.

Meanwhile, slice shallot and saute over medium-high heat until crispy and well-browned.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a paper towel.

Remove soup from heat and add mustard, cream and pepper.  Blend until smooth with a stick blender, then add grated cheese - as much as you like, but be careful you don't add too much, since some cheeses get very oily when melted.  Stir to incorporate cheese and serve with a little pile of shallots for garnish.

13 July 2010

Chocolate Coma Cookies

This is a recipe of memories.

When I started this foodie life, it began as a baking thing.

I started baking in high school.  My grandmother was an avid baker.  I learned early on that men love cookies.  Hm.  So, I baked cookies.  I couldn't help it.

Fast forward to my post-college life in Atlanta.  I was the ultimate stress machine.  I was stuck in a job I hated (thank you, shitty economy).  Yeah, I was good at it, but I had no passion.  I was overeducated for the position.  They'd fire my friends and make me do their work.  I was a cog in the machinery of business, not really paid to think.  I felt that the way I spent the majority of my waking life had little-to-no valuable impact on the world, when I knew I could do so much more.  I was all sorts of unhappy.

The nice thing, for me, about baking is that it's so *precise*.  You follow an exact set of instructions and have complete control over the outcome of your work.  So, when the rest of my life was a discombobulated, uncontrollable hell... baking became my sanctuary.  I started playing with different ingredients, and before I knew it, I emerged a cooking and baking foodie chick, taking pictures and storing recipes away (long before I grew the balls to make this bliggity-blog).

I still "stress-bake."  My mom says she knows when I am entirely stressed, since the amount of baked goods I produce increases exponentially in comparison to wholesome, healthy things.  Yep, Mom reads the blog.  Hi, Mom!

My thoughts are this: if you're going to be stressed and crave sweet things, why not bake them yourself?  They're not exactly healthy, but they're sure to be healthier than if you buy them in a package that came from a factory, with all those extra, unpronounceable things that were never meant to be inside food in the first place.  Plus, you get the stress-relief of the baking process, and the ultimate satisfaction of tasting something awesome that you made yourself.

Why don't you try these cookies, for a start?  They were the first ones I ever made on my culinary journey - the first pictures in my photo archive entitled "FOOD."  It'll un-stress you.  And if there's a boy you fancy, give him some.  Works every time.

Chocolate Coma Cookies
adapted from this original recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (total) milk choc, bittersweet, white choc, and peanut butter chips

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
-In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
-Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen cookies

10 July 2010

Vegetable Soup from Cauliflower "Scraps"

I live on a shoestring.  I hate it, but I'm a grad student.  Such is the price.

Fortunately, I know how to live cheap.  Before I left my job, it wasn't all gravy.  Money was steady, but still tight.  So I learned how to eat healthy and also keep it cheap.

This soup is a way to stretch out a meal, and it's really good! It tastes just a little like cauliflower but mostly like a really clean, fresh, simple vegetable soup. I had it for lunch with a brie and tomato toasted sandwich, but you might have it as a starter. I can imagine, if you want to bulk this up to a soup you can make a whole meal out of, that orzo or some other tiny pasta would be a good addition, or a grain like bulgur, or chicken for you carnivores out there.  It's made, basically, from scraps.  If you make anything with a cauliflower head (may I suggest this or this), don't throw away the leaves and stems -- make this, instead!

Vegetable Soup from Cauliflower "scraps"
adapted from Lucullian Delights

The leaves and stem/trunk of 1 cauliflower (I left out the really rough-looking, tough, outermost leaves)
2 big tomatoes, peeled
Chopped flatleaf parsley
Extra virgin olive oil

Chop the leaves and the stem/trunk of the cauliflower and sauté them for 3-4 minutes in a pot in some olive oil. Add salt.

To peel tomatoes, cut an "x" in the bottom of each, then carefully add to a pot of boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon after 30 seconds and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Go to where you made the "x" and peel the skin up and off the tomatoes. Quarter the skinned tomatoes, add these to the pot and sauté for another 3-4 minutes.

Add water until the vegetables are well covered and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until all the cauliflower is soft.

Blend until it's on the smooth side, if it's too dense you add some more water and heat it up. Check if more salt is needed.

08 July 2010

Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Coriander and Almonds

Back before I left for Portugal, I was dieting HARD.  I promised some healthy recipes, and never posted them.  Oops.  Here's one of them.

When visiting Spain over the winter, I was dazed and happy about falafel.  Yeah, we ate tapas of roasted red peppers in olive oil, sheep's milk cheeses, patatas bravas, garlicky mushrooms (and the guys ate awesome meats, too).  Those were our late and lazy dinners, compounded with sangria and cañas followed by strolling scenic walks -- or tequila shots, or salsa dancing.  But our days were filled-to-bursting with sightseeing at such a near-frantic pace that sometimes we forgot to eat.  We would happen upon a kebab house and delightedly fill up our pitas with food so good that it was hard to believe we were in Iberia, and not closer to Turkey or Lebanon.

One of the treats that I discovered at these places was the roasted cauliflower.  Until then, I had never really enjoyed the white "broccoli-imposter"... I hadn't liked it when I was a child, and never warmed to it in my adult life until I had it, nearing my 30th year, walking along the streets of Barcelona.  I promised myself I would try to knock it off when we got home.

I figured out how to do it, found an absolutely giant head of cauliflower at a produce stand, and finally did it.  It's so good.  It's amazing.  Really.  Seasoned perfectly with cumin and ground coriander, tossed with some olive oil, and roasted in the oven, it makes a perfect side dish veggie (ok, I'll admit -- I ate it as my whole meal -- I was worried about that teeny weeny polka dot bikini I was scheduled to wear).  Or you can tuck them inside a pita with falafel and roasted peppers, or dip in a nice garlic-tahini-yogurt sauce for an appetizer... but it's also exquisite on its own, and doesn't require any additional flavouring due to the browned and faintly-crisped spices adhered to the outside of the florets.  Muy bueno.

Money-saving tip!
Get a nice big head of cauliflower, and don't throw away the leaves and stems.  Use them to make this soup.  You won't regret it, and you'll have a nice and happily-freezable cheapy-cheapo lunch.  Yum!

Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Coriander and Almonds
adapted from jamieoliver.com

1 head of cauliflower, outer green leaves removed, broken into florets
sea salt
olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground chilli powder
1/4 cup ground almonds
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Blanch the cauliflower in salted boiling water for a couple of minutes then drain in a colander, allowing it to steam dry (you don't want any water left in your cauliflower or it won't roast properly). Toss it in a good glug of olive oil.  Mix spices and almonds with salt and put in a hot, dry ovenproof pan to slowly toast them. After a couple of minutes, add the cauliflower. When it gets a nice bit of colour on it, add the lemon zest and juice and mix around well. Fry for about a minute longer, then pop the pan into the preheated oven for about 15 minutes to crisp up.

05 July 2010

Spicy Dal Mash

This food isn't very pretty.  The only thing it has going for it in the looks department is that vibrant yellow-orange... other than that, it kinda looks like baby food.  But I promise, it's sooooo good.  The perfect food for a great day like today.

So, why is today so great?  I spent time in my kitchen.  I've been travelling around, for business and for pleasure, for the greater part of the last three weeks.  The majority of this time was spent on holiday in Portugal, a great place full of history, beauty, and friendly people who like to party.  It's not full, however, of vegetarians, and I spent the last 10 days eating toast with cheese at least once a day, while my friends feasted on sardines, escargot, chorizo, and "baby pig sandwiches"... I just stared at my plate and tried not to look too miserable.  The abundance of attractive (crazy-hot) men at my table helped shift my focus elsewhere.  Lisbon was a dangerous and happy place for a single gal like myself.  But I'm getting off-topic.

Oh yes, the food.  Other than the lovely meals we ate with my friend's family, I mostly survived on a diet of bread and cheese and beer.  So I was VERY happy to get into my kitchen today, and churned out this spicy dal mash inspired by this recipe, and paired it up with some sauteed courgettes and almond slivers.  It was filling, hearty, flavourful... a perfect side for grilled veggies (or even meat, if that's your style) from your summer grill.  Or, pair it with basmati rice and a nice curry like they do at my favourite restaurant in Liverpool.

Spicy Dal Mash

Split red lentils (think I used about 150g, dry)
1 tea coriander paste (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 shallot, minced
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 tea garlic, minced
1/4 tea ginger powder
1/2 tea turmeric powder
1/2 tea yellow mustard
1 bay leaf
Sea salt, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil, for sauteeing
2 tblsp butter or ghee

Cook the lentils with bay leaf, turmeric, coriander, ginger, and chillies.  Remove bay leaf when lentils are finished.

Saute minced shallot and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to brown.  Add to lentil mixture.

Add mustard and butter to the lentils, stir well and transfer in batches to a mortar and pestle to mash.  Add salt to taste.

07 June 2010

Super-Moist Strawberry Bread

Here's something else for you to do with the abundance of this season's strawberries.

Strawberry bread.  Yeah, it's a thing.

I love strawberries.  I love bread.  But.... wha??

Recently I posted a recipe for Strawberry Preseves, and not just any ordinary ones either; Mom says I'm not an ordinary person.  I take that as a compliment.  Thanks, Mom!

You know what else isn't ordinary?  Bread with strawberries in it.

This stuff is good.  Really, really good.  I wouldn't be blogging about it if it weren't.  Amazingly, it has cinnamon (!!), which I doubted at first.  But it's perfect.  Slather on some cream cheese for breakfast, a snack, or even dessert.  It's so yummy.  Trust me.  You want to do this.

Something else you want to do: don't give away the bits you can't finish.  Pre-slice it, put the slices back together, wrap it in plastic, and stick it in the freezer.  It freezes happily, and doesn't get weirdly soggy when un-frozen.

Strawberry Bread
recipe by Debbie Cascio-van Hees, via Martha Stewart

5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter (about 75g), softened, plus more for pan
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, quartered, and mashed with a fork
1 3/4 cups (about 220g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225g) sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (about 240ml) water

Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Butter an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. In a small saucepan, bring strawberries to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, and eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add half of flour mixture, then 1/3 cup water (about 240ml), then add remaining flour. Fold in reserved strawberries.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour (tent with foil after 45 minutes if top is getting too dark). Cool in pan 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges; invert onto a rack. Reinvert; cool completely.

Makes one loaf.

26 May 2010

Radish Leaf Pesto

I get very excited about produce stands.  Greenmarkets.  Farmer's markets.  Whatever you want to call them.  They are among my favourite things in the world for so many reasons.  The food is local.  It's fresh, picked within just a few days of your purchase, instead of weeks or months ahead like you find in chain groceries like Tesco or Sainsbury's.  You keep the local economy happy.  You keep local farmers in business.  You pay less (since you're cutting out the nefarious middle-man).  They are a treasure.  Interested in buying local?  Here's a whole bunch more reasons to do it, and a handy tool for finding local markets (if you live in the US).

I picked up some amazing veg at the weekend, including a nice bunch of radishes.  With dirt still on them.  With the greens all in a bunch and (seemingly) waving at me.  I have never bought radishes before, but they looked like they wanted to come home with me.  I trolled around for something to do with the greens - were they edible?  Turns out, they absolutely are.  Something about being frugal, avoiding waste, and making something delicious out of things that usually go in the trash... it just makes me feel good... ya know?

I found this recipe for a radish leaf pesto, and thought I'd take a simplified spin on it.  I wanted to really taste the leaves, so I left out the garlic and strong spices, and made a minimalist version with mild ingredients.  I have to say that the leaves smelled GREAT when I chopped them up... like springtime, like laying in the grass, like climbing a tree.  What an amazing scent.  I can't wait to spread this on a sandwich with tomato and feta cheese, to add a little to some risotto or toss it with grilled courgettes.  So excited!

You don't need a food processor for this.  I used my mortar and pestle.  I love that thing.  I have been procrastinating getting a food processor until I settle in one place for a few years... like for a PhD.  I've received an offer from an unnamed university, but haven't accepted the place yet.  No need to buy the big appliances until I know which country I'm going to be living in for a few years, so as not to be confounded with electrical adapter issues.  So, my mortar and pestle is where it's at.

Radish Leaf Pesto

Radish leaves, stems removed and finely chopped
Grated parmesan cheese
Ground almonds
Olive oil
Lemon zest
Dash sea salt

Place all ingredients in a mortar and pestle and mash together, or give it a whir in a food processor.