Monday, May 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Kale Pizza

I don't know who came up with this pizza at Emma's, but I need to thank them.  Simply known as the #3, a thin, crispy crust is topped with baby spinach, caramelized onions, garlic, rosemary sauce, mozzarella and goat cheese.  Yes, please.  Might've been the quickest decision I've ever made in a restaurant!

Love at first bite, I knew I'd be recreating it at home.  Especially since I didn't get the leftovers ;)

I switched things up a bit and it came out just as delicious.  Maybe even better?   This time there were no leftovers, so I need to make it again.    Soon.

Sweet Potato & Kale Pizza w/Rosemary Goat Cheese Sauce
Recipe by Shannon, inspired by Emma's
Serves 2

The components of the pizza can be made ahead of time-- my dough came out of the freezer, the onion caramelized and sweet potato roasted ahead of time, making for an easy week-night dinner.

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-2T olive oil
1 medium-large sweet potato
pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
kale, chopped/ripped into small pieces  (I didn't measure this, maybe ~1c)
3oz goat cheese
1T chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic (or more if you'd like), chopped or run through a garlic press
1/4c milk (nondairy is fine)

Preheat the oven (anywhere from 350-400deg will be fine).

Poke some holes in the sweet potato with a fork and wrap in aluminum foil.  Roast for ~1hr, until nice and soft (a fork will slide right through when it's done).  Let cool, then cut the sweet potato in half and remove the flesh for the pizza.  The skin is still delicious, I'd recommend eating it right away :)

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet (or dutch oven) over medium heat.  Add onions and stir to coat in the oil.  Cook for a 1-2min, then turn down heat.  Cook over low heat for 15-20min, until onions become browned and nicely caramelized.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Raise oven temperature to 450deg.  If you have a pizza stone, make sure it's in the oven now!

To prepare the rosemary goat cheese sauce, put goat cheese, rosemary and garlic into a small bowl.  Add milk and whisk until it becomes smooth and spreadable consistency.

Roll out pizza dough on a surface dusted with a little cornmeal (or more flour).  I rolled mine out pretty thin, so it was more like a flatbread, but feel free to make whatever style crust you prefer.

Once the oven is preheated, remove the pizza stone and assemble your pizza.  Spread the rosemary goat cheese sauce over the dough, then top with chopped kale, sweet potato and caramelized onions.  Bake 10-12 min, until crust is crispy!

How was everyone's weekend?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Moroccan Roasted Veggie Pilaf

Lately I've been craving carrots and brussels sprouts roasted in a bit of coconut oil with some coarse salt.  Easy and delicious, I've cooked them up quite a few times recently.  Something about the coconut oil makes these root vegetables irresistible.

Take a moment and let that sink in Mom...  I've been craving brussels sprouts :)  I never thought I'd say that!!

My most recent creation used something else hiding in my cupboard- a Moroccan Curry Kashi Pilaf.  I played up the spices a little bit on the veggies, added some chickpeas and feta, and called it a meal! 

Moroccan Roasted Vegetable Pilaf
Serves 2-3

1lb carrots, peeled
1lb brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 red pepper
1-2T melted coconut oil
moroccan spices
2c Kashi Pilaf (or cooked quinoa, wheat berries, or other grain)
1 can chickpeas
2-3oz feta (I recommend a block made from sheep/goat's milk; or goat cheese)

Preheat oven to 400deg.

Cut up your veggies so they're a relatively uniform size.  My carrots got thickly sliced on the bias and brussels sprouts got halved or quartered to match.  The red pepper also got chopped into chunks about the same size.

Add veggies to a large bowl and toss with coconut oil.  Season with coarse salt and moroccan spices.  I went with eye-balled amounts of cumin, cinnamon, ginger and a dash of cayenne.  (If you want a more precise mix, try Joanne or Dawn's recipes)  Spread on a sheet pan and roast for 30-45min, until cooked through and nicely caramelized around the edges.

While the veggies are roasting, prepare whichever grains you're using and rinse/drain the chickpeas.  Toss the roasted veggies with the cooked grains and chickpeas, then serve up topped with feta. 

Have you tried coconut oil for roasting your root veggies yet??   How about your most recent favorite easy meal??

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Latest Project

We'll need:

7c cake flour
1c AP flour
18.5 sticks of butter
27 eggs
1c shortening
10 1/2c sugar
20c powdered sugar
5c heavy cream
24oz raspberries
1c sliced almonds
12oz white chocolate
4 1/2c mango puree
32oz cream cheese

Any guesses as to what Rebecca and I will be doing in less than two weeks??  Full recap to come ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lunch at L'Espalier

I was lucky enough to get the chance to experience a tasting menu at L'Espalier some time ago and have been meaning to recap ever since.  Hopefully you'll forgive the delay and enjoy our fabulous meal with me now-- I hope you saved room!

We started the meal (although to call it just a meal seems to short-change it) with an Island Creek Oyster with cucumber foam and American caviar.  You'll have to imagine this presentation, as this was the one course I missed :(

Butter-poached Maine lobster

Next up was butter-poached Maine lobster with squash soup and piccalilli; Siberian caviar.  The hand-crafted dish this was served in was incredible, I wish I could've taken it home!  I'm not a huge fan of lobster, but it was certainly done well and sat above a tasty soup.

Risotto with preserved lemon

Risotto with preserved lemon.  Wow.  I was totally amazed by the preserved lemon risotto and need to try to recreate it at home!!  It came with parmesan crisps (tasty of course) and escargot, which was...  earthy.   Kind of reminded me of a mushroom?

Hudson Valley foie gras terrine

Hudson Valley foie gras terrine with apple puree, ginger snap biscuit, and candied ginger.  I had a feeling foie gras would be a part of the meal and here it was.  I tried not to think about it too much and give it an honest chance.  With a texture of butter and a taste that was spicy, almost like Christmas, it actually paired really well with the ginger snap biscuit and topped with some of the candied ginger or apple puree.  It was quite a large piece of foie gras however and I couldn't eat it on its own, so our waiter graciously brought me some more ginger snap biscuits to finish it off...  because, you know, there wasn't going to be more food coming ;)

Georges Bank cod

Onto the Georges Bank cod with PEI mussels, black pudding gnocchi and grilled endive.  The cod was great and perfectly cooked.  The grilled endive, however, was my least favorite bite of the night.  Bitter and ick.  I tried the gnocchi and mussel as well, and that's all I'll say about that :)

You would've thought that was the main course, right?  Well I suppose it was...  along with the next dish of black garlic and oat-crusted lamb loin with fennel pure and Apple Street Farm winter vegetables.  I don't eat lamb that often, but this was delicious!  And the fennel puree a very yummy accompaniment.


Of course there was a cheese course!   From mild to pungent (L to R): Brie de Meaux (France), a sheep's milk cheese (Vermont), Le Chevrot (France), Organic Champlain Triple (Vermont), Cabot Cloth-Bound Cheddar (Vermont), Colorouge (Colorado), Caveman Blue (Oregon).

To accompany the cheese there were wine-poached apricots, candied walnuts, local honey and baguette slices.  This could've been a meal in itself!!  I seem to recall my favorite being the Champlain Triple, but it was tough to choose.

Pear Jasmine Sorbet

The pear jasmine sorbet that followed was delightful.  Light and delicious, this was definitely a winner.   That was dessert, right?  Wrong.

Chocolate Decadence Cake

We ended the meal (appropriately!) with the chocolate decadence torte, served with vanilla ice cream.  Rich but not too dense (or maybe my senses had been skewed by this point?), it stood no chance!!

Beyond stuffed.

A wonderful afternoon with a good friend, incredible food, and a kings' treatment, lunch at L'Espalier was one for the books!  I was proud of myself for trying so many things I hadn't tried before or thought I didn't like (oysters, lobster, escargot, caviar, mussels, foie gras), but if I ever have another opportunity to do something like this, I'll likely opt for the vegetarian tasting :)

Which course would have been your favorite?  One you might not have wanted to try?

*Disclaimer:  This was a gift from a friend (not the restaurant), but was such a fun experience I wanted to share!*

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Better Stuffing

I went through a phase in grad school where I made a bunch of recipes for stuffed chicken.  Unfortunately more often than not they were bland and tasteless, so I thought it was hopeless

These days, I splurge for better chicken (organic, vegetarian-fed, hormone free...) every once in awhile and decided I'd put it to good use and really punch up the flavor.  I wanted something in tune with the warmer weather, so basil pesto was getting used.  I decided that sundried tomatoes and feta would be perfect partners.

I made this twice, since the first time I didn't have my camera.  The first time I served up the stuffed chicken with some fresh pasta tossed with basil pesto.  The second time, shown here, the side was kale massaged with avocado, lemon juice and coarse sea salt, tossed with some cooked quinoa, apples and roasted beets.  Both ways were delicious :)

Chicken Stuffed w/Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes & Feta
Serves 2-3

Some chopped olives would also be a good addition here, if you like them :)

~1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2-3 breasts)
2T chopped sundried tomatoes
2T crumbled feta cheese (it's better in a block, and with sheep/goat's milk)
1-2T basil pesto, prepared or homemade
salt and pepper

For the filling, combine sundried tomatoes and feta in a small bowl.  Add pesto, 1T at a time, and mix until the mixture begins to stick together.  Be careful to make sure it's not too wet, otherwise it will ooze out of the chicken.

The thickness of your chicken breasts may determine how you roll them up-- for thicker ones, cut a slice down the middle, fan open and stuff as shown in the above photos.  The chicken should be able to seal over the filling, but you can always secure with a toothpick if necessary. 

If the chicken is on the thinner side, pound them out (between layers of saran, if you'd like), add some of the filling and then roll up.  Secure with a toothpick or twine, so it doesn't unroll when cooking.

Heat a medium (nonstick) pan over medium heat.  Cook, 5-10min on each side (2-4 sides depending on how you rolled it), based on the thickness of your chicken.  You don't want to see any pink, and the juices should run clear.  Remove from heat and set aside a few minutes to rest.  Slice on a bias if you want it to look pretty, then serve!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

CI's Choc Chip Cookies

Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there!!   I know you're all great, but I think mine's the best-est :)

Love you Mom!!  Don't worry, the bear's not real :)

In honor of my mom, who never let me eat raw eggs (aka cookie dough), I figured it would be appropriate to post about some chocolate chip cookies...  the best chocolate chip cookies?  That's what Cook's Illustrated claimed, and I had to find out for myself!

A fan of America's Test Kitchen (at least, when I used to watch cooking shows on tv), I love their scientific approach to finding out which things worked best and telling you why!  It's the why that helps you learn in the kitchen, giving you tools to become a better cook/baker/recipe creater/etc.  Cook's Illustrated is also my first stop when it comes to buying new kitchen equipment for reviews!

Cook's Illustrated-approved

Ok, the cookies.  I followed Cook's Illustrated's recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookies, browning butter (most amazing smell ever.), weighing my flour, using CI-approved semisweet chocolate chips...  and threw in some of my own tests ;)  I just can't leave well enough alone!

There was a reason though...  I was going to use my (very well seasoned) stoneware, as I do for pretty much everything else, and wasn't sure if this would affect their baking.  My first batch was with parchment paper, the second was not.  I liked the way they baked up without, so I continued on and then tried out a smaller cookie.

Does size matter?

The winner?  The smaller cookie, at least in my book.   I'm wondering if this had to do with the stoneware or my bigger cookie scoop (the silver one in the above photo).  Looking at the pictures it appears that my bigger scoop is a #20 and they called for a #24...  oops!

Of course, both sizes of cookies were delicious (I tested both, just to make sure).   And don't tell my Mom, but I tasted some of the dough...  I know, I know, but it contained browned butter!  Browned butter!!  One of the more amazing smells your kitchen can create.  Browned butter should definitely be used more often.  And I continue to be enamored with the melting properties of the Ghiradelli 60% bittersweet chips.

Who can resist a warm chocolate chip cookie?  Clearly, not I.

Have you tried CI's recipe for chocolate chip cookies?  Or have another that you think is better?  I might need to do some more testing...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kicked Up PB Blondies

I blame Rebecca.  She mentioned that she was in need of a home-baked good, but in the process of packing her pots and pans (along with the rest of her apartment).  When I inquired what she was thinking of, she sent me a link to Jessica's Better-than-crack Brownies.  

I didn't have the necessary ingredients (not enough butter or chocolate...  how did that happen?), but slept on it and came up with this version using ingredients I already had on hand.  Feel free to do the same!   I don't think there's anything else for me to say, the recipe speaks for itself!

Kicked Up PB Blondies
inspired and adapted from How Sweet It Is & Peas and Thank You
Yield:  16-25

Peanut Butter Blondie Base:
3/4c peanut butter (I used a mix of Cinn Raisin Swirl and White Chocolate Wonderful)
5T Earth Balance or butter, softened (I used an EB stick)
1/4c unsweetened applesauce
1/4c milk (almond, dairy, soy...)
1/2c brown sugar (not packed)
1/2c evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1/2-3/4t vanilla extract (I eye-balled it)
1 1/4c flour (AP, white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry)
1t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt

1/2c chopped roasted, salted pecans (or other salted nut)
2/3c Cadbury mini eggs, chopped (or other confection)

PB Choc Rice Crispy Topping:
3/4c semisweet chocolate chips
3/4c peanut butter (I used White Chocolate Wonderful)
1c crisped brown rice (mine was heaping)

Preheat the oven to 350deg.

For the blondies, cream the peanut butter and butter/earth balance in a stand mixer.  Add applesauce, milk, sugars (brown & white) and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and mix well.  Slowly add flour mix to peanut butter mixture and stop mixing when combined.

Pour batter into an 8" sq pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Use a spatula to spread the batter around and make sure it's in an even layer.  Bake in preheated oven for 20min.

Check the blondies at 20min, top with chopped pecans and mini eggs and bake for another 5-10min (or more).  While the original recipe only called for a 20min baking time, mine were definitely still jiggly after 20min so I'm adjusting accordingly.  It can't hurt to check them earlier, but bake until the batter isn't still sloshing around in the middle.

While the blondies are baking, add peanut butter and chocolate to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat to melt.  Stir and once well combined, add brown rice crisps, stirring until well coated.  Keep on low heat until blondies are done baking.  Once the blondies are done baking, remove from the oven and pour rice crispy mixture over the top, using a spatula to make sure everything's covered.

Cool, then refrigerate a few hours before cutting and serving.  Share with as many people as you can, since you can't be trusted with something this peanut buttery and delicious.  Oh, that's just me?   Ok, you can keep them all to yourself if you'd like!

Warning:  These are dangerously delicious.  If the peanut butter fairy and the easter bunny had a baby, well, this would be their love child.  Imbibe at your own risk ;)
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