Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Journey to Ethiopia

Ever since my first taste of Ethiopian, I've wanted to try and recreate it.   Eaten with your hands, a spongy, sourdough flatbread (injera) is used to scoop up tasty dishes that get piled on top of it.   Beware...  monster post below ;)

Image Source

With some willing subjects in tow, I decided on several dishes...  doro wot (chicken stew), yekik alicha (split peas), atakilt (potato/carrot/green bean) and chickpea wot.    Yes, too much food for one meal!    Due to someone's dislike of alliums, I prepped all of the onions ahead of time and added them to completed dishes after reserving an onion-free portion.  My big fail for the evening was injera.   Barely edible, it's definitely something I need to try again.

I can't believe I'm showing this photo...  excuse my appearance, I was still sick ;)

It all starts with Berbere, a spicy mix that many recipes called for equal parts paprika and cayenne.  Yeah, I've definitely improved my spice tolerance, but I knew there was no way I could handle that.   Here's what I cobbled together...  I don't recall things being that spicy, just flavorful, but perhaps they had dumbed things down for American taste buds?    Feel free to play around with this mixture!!  I'm thinking maybe I'd cut back on the cayenne and add in more of a different (less potent) ground chile powder.

Berbere Spice Blend
Yield:  ~1/2c

1/4c paprika
1T smoked paprika
2T cayenne powder
2t salt
1t ginger
1/2t freshly ground cardamom
1/4t garlic powder
1/2t ground nutmeg
1/8t cinnamon
1/8t allspice
1/8t cloves
1/t ground fenugreek seeds

Combine all spices and mix well.  Use cautiously, start with less than the recipe calls for and adjust from there!

And the rest of the recipes...  I used this recipe for Atakilt.  I used 2t of my berbere, which was a bit too much for me but enjoyed by others ;)

Doro Wot
Doro Wot/Wat/Wet/We't (etc...)
Serves 4-6

1T butter
1 lg garlic clove (or 2 smaller ones), minced/pressed
2" knob of ginger, grated
1/4t freshly ground cardamom
few grinds of pepper
pinch of numeg
1 clove
1/2t cinnamon
1-3t berbere (see above)
chicken stock
1lb chicken, cut into bite-size pieces (1" cubes or so)
4-5 hard boiled eggs

Melt butter in a medium dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until they turn golden brown.   Add garlic, ginger and rest of spices (cardamom through berbere).  Cook until the onions soften and take on the color of the spices.

Add chicken and enough chicken stock to cover the chicken.  Bring to a simmer and poach chicken for ~15min, until chicken is cooked through.  Use a fork and prick the eggs (don't go all the way through the egg), then add to stew.  Season to taste with salt and keep warm until serving.

Yekik Alicha
Yekik Alicha
adapted from Wasabimon
Serves 6-8

2T olive oil, plus more as needed
2 yellow onions, finely minced
2 tomatoes, chopped fine
2T tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced/pressed
3" knob of ginger, grated
4-6c warm/hot water
1lb yellow split peas
2t tumeric
1t berbere
1/4t black pepper
1t cardamom
salt to taste

Rinse split peas in warm water, drain and set aside.

In a medium-large dutch oven (or other heavy-bottomed pot), heat 1-2T olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add tomatoes and garlic and cook for 5min, adding more oil if they begin to stick or brown/burn.  Add ginger and cook for 5more min, again adding more oil if becomes too dry.

Add the rest of the spices (tumeric through cardamom), split peas and enough water to cover the split peas.  Cook for 20min (I think mine took 30-40min), adding more water as needed.  The goal is not to make a soup, but enough water to cook the split peas.   Cook until split peas are tender, salt to taste.  Let cool before serving.

Chickpea Wot (don't mind all the peas on top...  i forgot to add them earlier!) 

Chickpea Wot
Serves 4-6

2T olive oil
1 lg red onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 potato, chopped
1t berbere
1T tomato paste
1c chickpeas
1 1/2c water
1c frozen peas, thawed

Heat oven in medium pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Add carrots and potato, cover and cook for 10min, until softened.  Add berbere and tomato sauce, stirring until well inocrporated.  Add chickpeas and water, cover and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until water has evaporated (veggies should be tender, if not add more water).  Add peas and cook a few minutes more.  Salt to taste, cool and serve.

My plate...  Elina's plate

I think things turned out pretty well, my favorite being the chickpea wot (although I'd add more chickpeas next time!).   Like I said, I need to try the injera again so I'll be making the journey to Ethiopia again :)

Action shot!  Thanks Elina...  apologies for showing you my armpit :)

Have you tried Ethiopian cuisine?  Any good injera recipes out there??

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe Impossible: Winter Squash

The Challenge: Pair two ingredients from a top secret mystery package (courtesy of Marx Foods) with winter squash that will help Joanne's orange complexion this year ;)

In the mystery package?   Anji Panca and Pasilla Negro Chilies, maple and coconut sugar, ginger and espresso salt, fennel pollen and vanilla beans.

Roast your butts

The wheels immediately started turning and I came up with a few ideas.  I was thinking of a chili (brandi's looks delicious...  although i don't know that i should be linking to my competition ;) ), but there was one thing I couldn't shake:  Espresso Salted Caramel Sauce.  Oh yes.

Ready to bake

Given espresso's penchant for bringing out the best in chocolate, I decided to whip up with a butternut chocolate cake.  I wanted the butternut squash to be a major player, so I added some into the cake itself and then put some more on top for good measure ;)

Moist and delicious.

Butternut Chocolate Cake w/Espresso Salted Caramel Sauce, indeed.  I was seriously excited when I took my first bite and thought about how I didn't want to share...

Oh the drizzle...  I'd bathe in that salted caramel sauce.

But I did, and it got rave reviews!  Can I interest you in a slice?

Espresso Salted Caramel Sauce
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: a dangerous amount (just shy of 2c)

While I created this for the butternut chocolate cake below, this would also be amazing over some ice cream, apples, off the spoon...  use your imagination, not restraint ;)

1c granulated sugar
6T unsalted butter, RT
1 1/2t espresso salt*
2/3c heavy cream, RT

In a 2qt saucepan over medium heat, whisk sugar until it turns dark amber.  Add butter and espresso salt and whisk until butter has melted and is well incorporated.  Remove from heat and pour in heavy cream (it will bubble up) and whisk until combined.  Cool 10-15min before using.  I almost filled 2- 8oz glass jars.  Store in the fridge, just be sure to warm before using!

Butternut Chocolate Cake, cooling...  temptation.

Butternut Chocolate Cake
adapted from Eating Well & Oh She Glows
Yield:  8" round cake

I was tempted to try some of the ground chiles in the chocolate cake, and I totally think it could work.  I might just have to make it again soon!!

Dry Ingredients
3/4c + 2T white whole wheat flour (or AP flour)
1/3c maple sugar*
1/4c + 2T unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4t baking powder
3/4t baking soda
1/2t cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/8t fine ginger salt* (I ground in my coffee grinder)

Wet Ingredients
1/2c buttermilk
7.5oz roasted butternut squash puree
1/4c sucanat (or brown sugar)
seeds of 1/4 Madagascar vanilla bean*
3T egg substitute (or 1 egg)
2T mild flavored oil
2T agave (or honey, I'm guessing maple syrup also would've worked but I just thought of that!)

Butternut layer
1/2c roasted butternut puree
1 1/2T buttermilk (or your favorite milk)
seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean
1T cornstarch/arrowroot
2T +2t sucanat (or maple sugar or brown sugar)
1/3t cinnamon
1/4t ginger
1/8t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350deg.   Spray an 8" cake pan with nonstick spray (I used the one with flour).

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and cocoa powder.  Add rest of dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Add butternut squash, buttermilk, sugar and seeds of the vanilla bean to the bowl of a mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment if you're using a stand mixer).   Beat on low speed until well combined.  Add the egg and mix.  Stir in oil and honey.  Fold in dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Pour into prepared pan.

For the butternut layer, stir together cornstarch, sugar and spices.  Add pumpkin, vanilla and milk and mix well until there are no clumps.  Spoon butternut squash mixture on top of cake batter (I used a little more than half) and swirl around with a knife.  Bake in preheated oven for 35-45min, until a toothpick comes clean.  Mine took 40min, and while there will be a little moisture from the top butternut layer, there should be no batter from the chocolate cake.  Cool on a wire rack  (try to let it cool completely...  I had trouble with this!).

Slice and serve with espresso salted caramel sauce.  Swoon.  Lick your plate.  Go back for seconds :)

Thank you Joanne and Marx Foods for this opportunity-- this was alot of fun, and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!!!

*Disclaimer:  samples were provided at no cost from Marx Foods.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mushroom Madness

Happy Tuesday everyone :) 

Wanna help me win some mushrooms?   I feel like I've been asking alot of you lately, but...  if you wouldn't mind one extra click, I'd love it if you'd vote for my Summer Corn & Wild Mushroom Risotto!  Voting is open until Friday @ midnight, no registration required and one vote per IP address.  Thanks ;)

I'm still recovering from this cold, but I have some good stuff coming up...  until then, go make some Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls w/Maple Icing for a delicious fall treat or Wild Mushroom Pasta for a new twist on pasta!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wild Mushroom Pasta

It's been a long week.   I discovered a crack in my bike frame...  unrideable.  I'm not running while I spend alot of money trying to fix my hip alignment.    And I've been fighting a cold.   Fantastic.

The one redeeming thing from last week was that I discovered how easy it was to make fresh pasta!   I had taken a class when I was in Italy this summer, but I hadn't braved the process on my own so I still expected it to be worse than it was.

I'm sure there is room for improvement, but it turned out well and I couldn't be more pleased :)     Well, unless my bike didn't need to be fixed and I didn't have so many biomechanical issues...     anyways...

Luckily I had some wild mushrooms from Marx Foods to distract me.   I've had alot of "flavored" pasta that didn't live up to the hype, so I really wanted to create a mushroom pasta that really fit the bill.   To do this, I ground up the dried mushrooms and used that in place of some of the flour.   It made the dough a little more difficult to work with, but a little bit of extra water was all it needed.

I love how light fresh pasta is, truly amazing!   Topped with, an earthy Mushroom-Goat Cheese Sauce, this was certainly a winning dinner :)

Wild Mushroom Pasta
adapted from in Tavola
Serves 2

150g Italian Style '00' flour (I had gotten some from KA, but you can use all purpose flour)
50g  dried porcini mushrooms* (1.8oz), ground in a spice grinder
2 large eggs
salt to taste (we didn't taste the raw dough in class, just a generous pinch :) )

Mound the flour and ground dried mushrooms on your work surface (a granite countertop or a large wooden pastry board work well).  Make a well in the center and crack eggs into the hole.  Add a generous pinch of salt.

Beat the eggs well with a fork, then slowly begin to incorporate flour from the inside perimeter of the well into the eggs.  Once enough flour has been incorporated, knead dough until smooth and elastic.  If the dough is too dry (maybe your eggs are a little small or the mushrooms are absorbing more liquid), add water, a few drops at a time, until it is easier to knead.  If the dough is a little wet (eggs a little large, etc), add a little extra flour until the dough is not sticky.  Wrap the dough ball tightly in plastic wrap and let rest while you prepare the sauce.

As I was making the sauce, I brought a large pot of water to boil.   For this pasta, I simply sauteed some sliced baby bellas, shiitakes, and red onion in a little olive oil/butter until browned.  Added some fresh thyme and saute until fragrant, then crumbled in some goat cheese.  A little pasta water to thin it out, and it was ready for the cooked pasta!

Divide the dough in half, and wrap one half back up as you work with the other.  Roll out one part of the dough on a slightly floured surface.  Fold in thirds, roll out with rolling pin.  Repeat two times.  I really wanted to get more pictures while I was doing this, but I needed another pair of hands.  To get the idea, check out this post!

Run dough through the widest setting of your pasta roller (this was a 1 on my machine), fold in thirds, and repeat twice more, almost like you were making puff pastry.  Adjust your pasta roller to the next thinnest setting and run dough through.  Continue this process until your pasta dough is nice and thin (I did this to 7 or 8), the dough will start to ripple a little bit and if it was regular dough would almost be transparent.    If the dough breaks apart when you're running it through the roller, don't worry, gather it back together, roll it out and repeat the process.  This happened a bit more than when I made a simple egg pasta, I think because the dried mushrooms were probably not ground as fine as flour, but it still came together with a little extra work.

To finish the pasta, cut your pasta sheets into desired shapes using appropriate cutter (I chose fettucine).  Cook in boiling, well-salted water for a few minutes.  Remove with large slotted spoon and toss directly into the sauce.   Serve, garnished with some fresh parsley!

I also tried drying some of the noodles overnight.  They're wrapped up in the freezer, so I'll come back and let you know how that worked out when I use them ;)

Have you ever made your own pasta? 

*Disclaimer:  I received some wild mushrooms from Marx Foods to have fun and create some recipes, my sweet corn and wild mushroom risotto being another!

I'm entering this into the Grow Your Own #46, being hosting this week by MomGateway!   Maybe one day I'll forage for my own mushrooms :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Seriously delicious.   
I'll let the pictures do the talking.
And thanks to my friend Adeeb for taking pictures of the process, I think he enjoyed them ;)

Clockwise from top L:  ingredients, dry ingredients, activated yeast, unactivated yeast

Combine wet and dry ingredients until a dough forms

(for a video of this, click here!)


Roll out dough to a 9x13ish rectangle

Spread out filling, roll tightly, and cut into 8 sections

Don't forget to take pictures along the way ;)

I'm going to call this the Cinnamon Roll Stretch ;)

From left:  pre-rise, to bed, post-rise


Icing the beauties

Totally worth it.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls w/Maple Icing
adapted from Peas & Thank You
Yield:  8

If you want to prepare these ahead of time, you can prepare the dough up to the point where the cinnamon rolls are placed into the pans, just cover and set in the refrigerate overnight.  Then you can bake them off when you wake up!!

1c milk, warmed (I had Lactaid on hand this week, but feel free to use your favorite nondairy liquid)
2 1/4t active dry yeast
1/2c pumpkin (increased a bit from the original recipe)
2 1/2c white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry or AP flour), plus more for kneading
1T baking powder
2T evaporated cane juice (sugar)  (Lactaid is a little sweeter than normal milk, so I used less sugar, up to 1/4c if you'd like it to be a little sweeter)
1t cinnamon
1/8t fresh grated nutmeg
dash cloves
1/4t salt

1/2c sucanat (or brown sugar)
1T cinnamon
1/2t fresh grated nutmeg
dash cloves
2T butter, softened
2T pumpkin (I'd use 1/4c next time, or a little more)
2T raisins
2T chopped pecans

Maple Glaze:
3/4c powdered sugar (I'd use 1c next time)
2-3T maple syrup (I used grade B)
1/8t maple extract (optional)
1/4t vanilla extract
milk to thin

Sprinkle yeast over warmed milk (be careful it's not too hot, you don't want to kill the yeast!), set aside.  In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt).

To prepare the filling, combine sucanat and spices in a small bowl.  Cut in butter and pumpkin, then add in raisins and pecans.  Set aside.

When yeast mixture has become frothy and yeast has activated (5-10min), stir in pumpkin.  Add this mixture to dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms.  Transfer dough to a clean, floured surface and knead until dough becomes smooth, adding extra flour as necessary (I used another 1/4c or more).  Set aside for a few minutes.

Re-flour your work surface and roll out dough to ~9x12 rectangle (~1/4" thick).  Spread filling mixture over dough, leaving 1" border around the edge.  Starting at one of the 9" sides and tightly roll the dough.   Cut the dough into 8 pieces.  Spray a 9" pan with nonstick spray and arrange rolls in pan (I used two pans, as I wanted to give them room to rise).

Preheat oven to 350deg.  Cover rolls with a towel and let rise on the preheating oven until doubled in size (or as long as you can wait ;)).  Bake for 20-25min (I should've pulled mine out  at 20min), or until golden on top.  While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze by stirring together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, maple extract (if using) and vanilla extract.  Add in as much milk as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency.

When rolls are done, drizzle with icing and serve!   Definitely enjoy warm!

My favorite part of any good cinnamon roll :)

And if you're looking to fuel your next ride, perhaps I can suggest this filling?  :)

Kidding...  it's too thin ;)

What's your favorite part of a cinnamon roll?  The crispy outside?  Gooey filling?  Sweet icing?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More Summer Squash!

Sorry for another phantom post, but it'll be up later this week, promise :)

Remember how I mentioned a summer squash bigger than my forearm??

I wasn't kidding!!  (Yes, I've been meaning to post this for awhile...  what can I say, it's been busy around here!)

This sucker made more than enough for cornbread, so I tried another treat, this time going the sweet route.  While they could've been cupcakes, I didn't have any cream cheese so I opted not to frost them.  Does that make them muffins?   Muffcakes?

Summer Squash Cupcakes
adapted from a London Foodie in New York
yield: 12-14

I liked the subtle sweetness of these cupcakes.  The yellow flesh almost disappeared into the batter, and a discerning tester didn't realize there was a vegetable in there ;)  I could see a maple cream cheese frosting adorning these cupcakes, or even a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

2c white whole wheat flour
2t baking powder
1t cinnamon
1/2t cardamom
1/2t salt
1 egg
1/2c greek yogurt
1/4c evaporated cane juice (or sugar)
3/4c unpacked brown sugar
1/3c canola oil (or other mild-flavored oil)
1t vanilla
2c lightly packed, grated summer squash (dry with paper towels before measuring)

Preheat the oven to 350deg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through salt).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, yogurt, sugars, oil and vanilla.  Add dry mixture and stir until just combined.  Fold in summer squash.

Spray cupcake tin with nonstick spray (or use liners).  Divide batter batter evenly among wells (probably ~2/3 full).    (An ice cream scoop or ladel can make this easier!)  Bake until springy to the touch and a toothpick comes clean, ~25-30minutes.  It may take longer than this, but it's always better to check on things ahead of time in case your oven (or mine) isn't quite accurate.  Let cool on a wire rack before frosting and serving!

Maybe muffins are just an excuse to eat cupcakes for breakfast after all ;)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Checking In...

Some days it seems strange to me that I don't have any console tables in my current apartment.  We've always had one in front of the couch, and on the side of dad's chair, but when I moved to Boston I decided I'd rather have the open space.  Why am I telling you this?  Because CSN is giving me an opportunity to review a product, and I'm thinking of getting a table next to my couch...  decisions, decisions!  Stay tuned for a product review ;)

I also wanted to thank everyone who took time to vote for me along the journey that was Project Food Blog.   There was some stiff competition and in the end my dinner party didn't have enough guests ;)  I've got some goodies coming soon, but I'm going to try and catch up on some much-needed sleep.   I'll leave you with a picture from my lastest creation...  thanks to my friend Adeeb for taking photos, you'll see many more in an upcoming post!

Name that ingredient!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sweet Basil Ice Cream

This was the dessert for my Fall Back to Summer Luxury Dinner for Project Foodbuzz Challenge 3.  Check out the full menu and entertaining tips, and if you would like to be a guest please vote for me!!!  Voting this round narrows the field from 200 to 100, so your vote means alot!  Thank you so much :)

Ever since I saw the Tomato Tarte Tatin in August's Bon Appetit, I knew I wanted to make it.  In fact, I had tried it once before but cooked the sugar a bit too long and burned it.   I can't say this time went without error- while I made sure the tomatoes didn't stick before putting it in the oven, they were definitely stuck after baking with the puff pastry.  It was easy enough rearrange them on the top, but it wasn't quite the prettiest!

To pair with the dessert, I decided to go out on a limb and try basil ice cream.  I've never had it before, but I had just seen it at Megan's blog and it seemed like it would be just the thing to accompany the unique tomato tarte tatin.   This was my favorite course of the meal.  Sure, I loved the soup, but this got me excited.  The caramelized tomatoes were like candy, and the basil ice cream?  Loved.  Not too herb-y, subtle and delicious.  Together it was a party in my mouth :)

Sweet Basil Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop and The Vegan Scoop

1c packed basil leaves
3/4c evaporated cane juice (or sugar)
2 cans light coconut milk
2T arrowroot
pinch of salt
zest of 1/2 lemon

Add basil and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and run, essentially creaming the basil and sugar.  (Mine actually got a little liquidy as I ran it)  Open one can of coconut milk, reserve 1/4c, and add the rest to the food processor, mixing to combine.

Add the other can of coconut milk to a saucepan, then add the basil mixture from the food processor and a pinch of salt.  heat over medium heat to boiling.  Meanwhile, whisk 2T arrowroot into the reserved 1/4c of coconut milk and set aside.   When the basil/coconut milk mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat and whisk in the arrowroot mixture and lemon zest.

Let cool, then refrigerate until mixture is well chilled.  Can be prepared a day ahead.  Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.  Serve with tomato tarte tatin ;)

Vote now if you haven't yet to help me advance to the next round!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sweet Corn & Wild Mushroom Risotto

This was the main course for my Fall Back to Summer Luxury Dinner for Project Foodbuzz Challenge 3.  Check out the full menu and entertaining tips, and if you would like to be a guest please vote for me!!!  Voting this round narrows the field from 200 to 100, so your vote means alot!  Thank you so much :)

Viewed as a transitional course in my fall-to-summer menu (with fall being the appetizer and a summer-inspired dessert), putting corn and squash in the main course was an easy decision.   I decided on using some frozen sweet corn (fresh is no longer available) and dried wild mushrooms in a risotto seasoned with garlic and thyme.  After roasting acorn squash with some warming spices, I used that as a serving "dish" for the risotto.   While the risotto didn't quite come out how I envisioned it, it was delicious and I think almost everyone had seconds (even some thirds)!

And the cod?  Well, I'll have to work on the recipe.  I didn't say much about it during dinner, but I wasn't thrilled with the way it came out.  A low and slow, relatively hands-off method seemed like it'd be easier, but indeed I wish I had caught it a little earlier.   I served it over some arugula that I dressed with a quick balsamic vinaigrette, then topped it with some chopped fresh parlsey, chives and lemon zest and served it with a lemon slice.  We'll wait for a better version, and skip right to the risotto!

Sweet Corn & Wild Mushroom Risotto
loosely adapted from this recipe
Serves 8

My changes mostly reflected the fact that I wasn't able to use fresh corn.  You could certainly use raw corn, fresh off the cob, simply add it after sauteing the onions!  Also, if you have the cobs available, the corn broth from the original recipe would certainly add to the flavor!

3-4T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1-2T butter
1 large onion, diced (or 2 smaller ones)
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced/pressed (I think I used 2 large cloves)
1T finely chopped fresh thyme
2c Arborio rice
1/2c white wine (optional, I left it out this time)
2qts liquid (I made this up with 1qt veggie stock, mushroom broth from reconstituting the dried mushrooms, and water)
~1oz dried Matsutake mushrooms * (I'd use at least 2oz if you have them)
1-2c boiling water
2c cooked corn kernals (mine were from a steamer bag)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1c (loosely packed) freshly grated white cheddar cheese
2-4T freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In your largest pot/dutch oven, add butter and a few tablespoons of oil and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook a minute more.

Add dried mushrooms to a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let steep for a few minutes while you tend to the risotto, then chop before adding to the risotto.  Reserve water and use as part of the liquid, making sure to not use all of the mushroom water so the sediment stays in the bottom of the bowl (not in your risotto ;)).

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring occasionally until all of the rice has been coated (with so much rice, this took a little longer than normal).  If you were using wine, you would add it at this step, stir a bit and let the rice absorb most of the liquid.

Continue adding the stock into the rice ~1c at a time, stirring gently.  Stir a few more times until the liquid is absorbed (not dry), add more stock and continue the process until rice is fully cooked (not crunchy or mushy...  somewhere in between, chewy and soft).   Stir in corn and reconstituted mushrooms after a few additions of liquid.

Taste the risotto and season with salt and pepper.  Taste again.  Drizzle the remaining few tablespoons of oil and add the cheeses.  Stir until everything is fully incorporated.  Cover and allow the risotto to sit a few minutes (or longer) before serving.

As mentioned, I served a large spoonful of this over acorn squash roasted with a little extra virgin olive oil, a good dusting of cinnamon and cumin, and a hint of nutmeg.

*I received these mushrooms (at no cost) from Marx Foods.

Vote now if you haven't yet to help me advance to the next round!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chilled Apple Soup

This was the appetizer for my Fall Back to Summer Luxury Dinner for Project Foodbuzz Challenge 3.  Check out the full menu and entertaining tips, and if you would like to be a guest please vote for me!!!  Voting this round narrows the field from 200 to 100, so your vote means alot!  Thank you so much :)

When I was talking to my mom about the menu for the dinner, she recalled an apple soup she had at some point this summer.  I couldn't recall trying it, but I tried a couple of recipes based on what mom could recall and fell in love.  While it was good on its own, the addition of greek yogurt and chopped salted peanuts really made it shine.  Give it a try while it's still apple season and let me know what you think!

Chilled Apple Soup
adapted from this site
Serves 8

5c apple cider (or unsweetened apple juice)
10 large apples (I used a mix from Smolak Farms, I believe there were some Mutsu, tart Mac's, and maybe a Cortland or two in there)
4c white wine (I used Honey Moon Viognier from TJ's and a semi-dry apple wine from a CT orchard)
zest of 1 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks (~3" long)
4T fruit jam
1/4c dry unseasoned bread crumbs (I may have used Fiber One Crumbs)
juice of 1 lemon
~1/2c 2% greek yogurt
1/2c chopped salted peanuts

Bring cider to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir in apples, wine, zest and cinnamon stick.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for ~15min.  Stir in jam, bread crumbs and lemon juice and simmer for ~10min.  Remove from heat and transfer half (or 1/4, depending on the size of your blender or food processor) to a blender (I used my Vitamix) and puree.   Transfer soup to a bowl, then puree the rest of the soup.   Add the soup back to the pot, taste and adjust seasonings (you may want more lemon juice to balance out the sweetness).  Heat the soup back up to boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer until it reaches your desired thickness.   Refrigerate until chilled, can be prepared a few days ahead of time.

Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and a good sprinkling of peanuts.  Don't be afraid to add more peanuts, as we all went back for more!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

PFB#3: Fall Back Into Summer Luxury Dinner

Thank you to everyone who voted for my latest entry into Project Food Blog!   I was so excited to hear the news, and very grateful to you for helping me move on to the next round.   That recipe was really a winner, so if you're looking to make saag paneer at home you should check it out.  

With the news of advancing to the next round, it was time to celebrate!!  The next challenge?  A luxury dinner party that introduces guests to a new tastes and textures.   I love cooking for others, so I was looking forward to the chance to get some friends together my apartment.   Entertaining can be tricky, so I always try to follow some guidelines to make sure that I enjoy it as much as my guests :)

1.  Plan ahead.   In ideal world, you won't realize on Monday that you need to host a dinner party on Friday.  Give yourself a few weeks to get things together and make a plan.

2.  Invite guests.   Preferably not more than your apartment can hold ;)  Yeah...  let's just say I wanted to make sure I had enough people for the challenge.  I ended up with 8 including myself, and if you've seen my apartment you'd be surprised!  Don't worry, no one sat on the floor :)

3.  Create your menu.   My train of thought for this took several things into consideration: what ingredients I already had, what flavors I wanted to play with, a theme for the meal, and my guests preferences.  Other good pieces of advice are to cook dishes you've already made, or ones that you're comfortable making.  I don't always take this to heart, as I always like to try new things, but I will use a familiar technique with new flavors.  One thing I have learned over the years is to not do too much, choose dishes that you can prep ahead of time, and/or don't require alot of hands-on time right before serving.

4.  Create lists.  The first thing I do is to create a shopping list from the recipes.  Then I make a plan of attack for creating the dishes.   Like I mentioned above I try to chose things I can make ahead of time, and I also do alot of the prep work the night/day before (i.e. chopping vegetables, grating cheese...).  The few days before I also try to stay on top of dishes, so I have an empty dishwasher when it comes time for loading those dinner dishes in!

5.  Cook.  This is the fun part!  Another option for entertaining is to have your guests participate in the process, whether it be assembling their own pizzas or making pierogies (already planning that one!).   Allow yourself some shortcuts to save time if you need it, you don't need to be superman/woman!!   Also, if guests offer to bring something, don't be afraid to take them up on their offer!  I sent my guests the menu ahead of time and said that they could bring beverages of choice (I'm still learning my wine, and usually leave it to others!).

6.  Have a good time!  Always important to remember to enjoy the night as much as your guests :)

I came up with the menu (see above) on Tuesday as a result of my love for both summer and fall flavors.  I'm always so conflicted this time of year that I thought it would be fun to incorporate both into the menu.  To play with things a bit, I put some things where you wouldn't expect them-- apples in the appetizer and tomatoes and basil in the dessert.

Plan of attack:  I made the soup Wednesday evening and the ice cream base Thursday night.   Friday morning before work I vacuumed and set the table.   I came home from work a few hours early to do the rest, starting with the tomato tarte tatin (it was served room temperature).   After that I got the ice cream churning, put the squash in to roast, and began chopping the rest of the vegetables/herbs and measuring out the rest of ingredients.  That brought me up closer to the arrival to my guests, so I started with the risotto, and finally the fish just after they arrived.
Plating the main course

I'll be sharing recipes over the next few days, but I'll leave you with some pictures of the meal and comments from my guests about each of the dishes.   Things went fairly smoothly, and everyone left happy and with a full belly, so no complaints here!


Chilled Apple Soup
"I loved the crunch of the peanuts in the apple soup and thought that the Greek yogurt was a great textural compliment as well. It tasted like a caramel apple, but somehow less sweet (maybe the yogurt?). A wonderful start to the meal for sure."

"It reminded me of a less sticky sweet version of apple butter (which I love) and the combo of it and peanuts was amazing.  ...that the apple was thinner and a little sweet plus a little tart really made it pop.  I know the peanuts were meant to be more decorative but I couldn't stop adding more:)"

Main Course

Slow Roasted Cod with Corn & Wild Mushroom Risotto over Roasted Acorn Squash
"My favorite of the dishes was the risotto with roasted squash. The squash was soft and perfectly roasted and provided a soft and flavorful addition to the risotto which was delicious. Some might even say 'holy yum'  :)"

"I was crazy about the risotto.  It was the perfect combination of earthy fall flavors with the mushrooms and late summer sweetness with the corn.  The rice was perfectly al dente and if I was alone I could have sat with the whole pot and totally cleaned it out."

"The risotto was amazing.  I mean, come on...corn AND going wrong there.  Loved that flavor combo.  The cod was mild (which I really appreciate) and flaky and I loved getting the little pops of balsamic in some of the bites.  I never thought mixed greens, balsamic, and cod all in one bite would taste good but I really liked it.  Additionally, while I'm usually not a fan of squash, I ate all of yours."    
Tomato Tarte Tatin w/Sweet Basil Ice Cream
"Wow.  The basil ice cream with the tomato tarte tatin was amazing.  It was savory and sweet.  Some bites tasted solidly like traditional, sweet dessert while other bites evoked a pizzeria.  A wonderful end to a beautiful and tasty meal."

"[While I'm usually not a fan of tomatoes], I ate about half of [them] and really was amazed at that.  Not only did you change the consistency of them (which allowed me to eat it while not liking tomatoes in their original form), but the carmelized flavor was great.  And the combination of it and the pastry with the basil ice cream really sang...I think that eating that dessert without a bite of everything at the same time wouldn't do it justice."

Meghan's comment was extremely touching, and summed it up perfectly, "Great company, stellar food and a creative menu: the recipe for a lovely evening."  Amen!
     Does your grandmother continue to wear 3" heels into her 80s?
     Have you (or someone you know) ever dated 28 people in one month?
     Do you have a good nickname or wear a fanny pack?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you're invited to my next dinner party :)  We had some great (and funny) conversations and it was a perfect way to celebrate my participation in Project Food Blog.   It has been such a great experience and I feel like I have so much more to give!  Voting opens tomorrow, so if you would've liked to have been my guest, please help vote me into the next round!! 

What's your best entertaining tip??
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