Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pine Nut Cake

I’m going to take a little break over the holidays, but I figured I’d leave you with a pine nut cake recipe. It’s not too sweet and is very versatile, so it’s perfect for breakfast, brunch or tea, or just as a snack (or a dessert, of course). Even though I’d never made it before, it tasted very familiar. The top was golden and crispy, while the crumb was fluffy and moist. I loved it, and the Engineer had seconds (though he would prefer it if the pine nuts were ground). It’s from I made that; I halved the recipe to get one loaf, which is what I wrote below. Bon appétit!

1 cup pine nuts
½ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
½ lb (2 sticks) margarine (or butter at room temperature)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 whole eggs
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp lactose-free yogurt (I used lactose-free cottage cheese, and you can round up to ½ cup)
2 large egg whites
¼ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Toast the pine nuts over very low heat in a dry sauté pan until they have just begun to take on a golden color. Remove from the stove and reserve.

Meanwhile, cream the sugar, margarine and lemon zest together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go to make sure everything mixes evenly.

When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour and baking powder. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated and then begin adding the whole eggs, one by one, waiting until each egg is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Turn the mixer up to high for about 5 seconds to combine everything thoroughly, then scrape down the sides and the bottom with a spatula and mix in any bits that have failed to incorporate.

Add the yogurt and mix in with the paddle attachment until it’s thoroughly incorporated. As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula. Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

In a clean bowl, with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs whites to soft peaks, adding the sugar a little at a time. Fold a third of the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined. Fold in the pine nuts, reserving about 1 ½ Tbsp for the top of the cake.

Brush a 9”×5” loaf pan with melted margarine or butter and line the bottom and sides with paper (the recipe didn’t say this, but that’s what the images showed, and in hindsight, it IS what you should do). Fill the loaf pan with the batter. Smooth and flatten the top with the spatula and sprinkle with the reserved pine nuts.

Bake the loaf on the middle rack until you can put a knife into it and bring it out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Décorations chouettes

Bon, je ne sais pas si vous avez remarqué la même chose que moi, mais il y a des chouettes et des hiboux partout ces temps-ci. J’ai d’abord vu un t-shirt avec un hibou (que je me promets de reproduire à la maison en imprimant le dessin sur du papier transfert; non mais regardez comme c’est mignon!).

Juste pour vous montrer qu’il y en a partout, voici ce que j’ai vu ce mois-ci seulement : toutes sortes de sacs cadeaux chez World Market, des tasses, un coussin, des figurines (de chez West Elm, mais Via Catalog Living), des décorations de Noël en plastique doré, et une dizaine de coussins faits maison chez Pioneer Woman (dont je mets deux photos ci-dessous).

Toujours est-il que quand j’ai vu ces décorations de Noël en forme de chouettes faites en tissu et décorées de fils et de boutons chez Crate & Barrel, j’ai failli craquer et les acheter. Mais heureusement, je me suis rappelée un tutoriel que j’avais vu il n’y a pas trop longtemps pour faire de petits hiboux avec de vieux bas (photo ci-dessous). J’ai donc décidé de me lancer dans la production de hiboux en recyclant de vieux bas (propres, mais troués) en décorations de Noël; il s’agit encore une fois de transformation de vêtements!

C’est tout simple à faire, même pas besoin de machine à coudre! Pour chaque paire de chouettes (ou de hiboux, si vous faites de petites « cornes »), il vous faut : une vieille paire de bas, du feutre beige, du feutre orange, du fil, deux boutons, du rembourrage (genre Cluster Stuff), du ruban pour les accrocher et des retailles de tissu en couleurs coordonnées pour les ailes. J’en ai fait quatre paires en tout, avec deux carrés de feutre à 0,25 $ chacun (donc 0,50 $ en tout et pour tout, et j’ai huit belles décorations de Noël). J’ai pigé tout le reste dans mes retailles. J’ai commencé avec les chouettes dans les tons de rouge et de vert, puis ensuite j’ai fait celles en mauve, parce que j’avais ce qu’il me fallait.

En fin de compte, j’avoue avoir une petite préférence pour la chouette rouge avec les yeux différents (c’est une paire de boutons provenant du même morceau, mais ils ont différentes tailles). Je trouve que ça lui donne un peu de personnalité. En tout cas, j’ai vraiment aimé ce projet!

Roasted Red Onions with Pomegranate Gremolata

I halved this recipe, since there were only two of us and the original (reprinted below) serves 8 people as a side dish. I did change it a bit by deciding to make the onions “bloom” on a whim. (Well, here’s how it happened: The Engineer and I were re-watching a trilogy starring, among others, Orlando Bloom. And now when I hear his name, I can’t help but think of this skit by Robot Chicken, hence the Orlando Blooming Onions. That’s how my mind works sometimes.) It doesn’t really matter how you serve the onion, as long as it’s in big pieces. They’re quick to prepare, though they stay in the oven a while; this gives you times to make the gremolata. I got this recipe from Not Without Salt, though I had seen it in Bon Appétit as well. I’d definitely make it again, perhaps for guests. Here, I served it with rice and chicken cooked in apple-basil jelly.

While I’m at it, I’d also like to share my method for seeding a pomegranate. I mean, obviously the easiest way is to buy the arils straight from Pom. Barring that, though, there is an easy way to do it. I’ve seen people have a lot of trouble, just because they’re using the wrong method and cutting into the fruit willy-nilly. Here’s a video on how to do it properly; you don’t even need to do it underwater. (If you do get a stain on your clothes, the best way to remove it is to pour boiling water over it – tried and true.) What to do with leftover arils? I suggest sprinkling some over yogurt, granola or crêpes for breakfast, or throwing them into a salad (green or grain). They also look fantastic in a pitcher of water with a few citrus twists. Arils keep well in the fridge.

For the onions
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
5 medium red onions, peeled, each cut into 8 wedges through core, with some core still attached to each piece

For the gremolata
2/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp finely grated orange peel

For the onions
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 °F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add onions; toss gently. Arrange onions close together, 1 cut side down, on baking sheet; spoon juices from bowl over. Roast 20 minutes. Using a small spatula, carefully turn onions over. Continue to roast onions until tender and thickly coated with glaze, watching to prevent overbrowning, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven.

For the gremolata
Mix pomegranate seeds, parsley, and orange peel in small bowl.
Arrange warm or room-temperature onions on platter. Sprinkle gremolata over and serve.

Ginger Chai Granola

I made this granola for breakfast recently; I liked the warm flavours that reminded me of the holidays, including the candied ginger. That being said, the Engineer didn’t think ginger was an appropriate taste for his breakfast. I’m changing the cooking times a bit here, because I almost burned mine by following the recipe, even though I took it out of the oven early.

2 ½ cups organic rolled oats (certified gluten-free if necessary)
1/3 cup sesame seeds
½ cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
½ cup almonds
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup apple sauce
¼ cup honey
¼ cup brown rice syrup
1 Tbsp canola oil
½ cup candied ginger, chopped

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl so everything is evenly distributed. Add the sweeteners and oil, and mix well. (Keep aside the candied ginger to add after baking.) Pour onto a large rimmed baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake in the middle of the oven at 300 °F for 30-45 minutes. How long you need to bake your granola depends on your oven, type of baking sheet, and how toasted you want it to be. Every 20 minutes or so, and more often towards the end, take the baking sheet out of the oven and give the granola a good stir. At the end of the baking time check it often, it only takes a few minutes for it to burn. (The caramelized effect of slightly burnt granola is actually quite tasty as a snack right out of the jar, but is not good with milk.)

When the granola is done take it out of the oven and let it cool in the pan. Once completely cool mix in the chopped candied ginger. Store in a tight jar, zippy, or other container, preferably in the fridge so the nuts stay fresh. However, in my experience there is no need to worry about freshness, it’s usually gone in a few days.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Batch of links

Here’s a batch of links for Friday. Again, these are just things I find interesting, not necessarily recommendations and certainly not endorsements.

- A bathmat made of live moss; it gets watered when you step out of the shower!

- Christian Jackson’s hyper-minimalistic posters of fairy tales: I particularly like the Little Red Riding Hood poster. I’m sure fans of Once Upon a Time will like these too!

- Spent: A simulation game that puts you in the shoes of a single mother earning close to minimum wage, just to see if you would last the month. It’s full of real-world situations as well as statistics and is meant to educate the general population regarding the challenges faced by those living with less. Eye-opening.

- Sepia Town: Find historical photos (and occasional audio and films) of your town. This website matches the photos with locations on Google Maps. Hours of fun!

- Does a strong, kick-butt, non-scantily clad female superhero exist?: Yes, and here are some examples. The Engineer and I remarked recently that when considering solo female superheroes (as opposed to those who are part of teams), DC seems to have a better track record than Marvel.

- Trent Reznor’s thoughts on ticket scalpers: A very well-articulated and educational read.

- Latin tattoos: This is full of awesome. Once you’re done reading that, try Hanzi Smatter for laughs. Just because your tattoo is in another language doesn’t mean it’s not asinine.

- The Backfire effect: It turns out that when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs actually get stronger instead of changing to incorporate the new information.

- The secrets inside your dog’s mind: A fascinating article on how dogs evolved to have skills allowing them to fit in with humans. (That being said, I still think our Darwin doesn’t understand pointing.)

- A great gift to welcome new neighbours.

Green Valley Organics

I’ve found a product that made me so happy I could have cried on the spot: lactose-free sour cream! It’s by a really great Californian company called Green Valley Organics, which makes lactose-free dairy products like yogurt and kefir as well as the sour cream. (I prefer their yogurt to the Lactaid yogurt, both in taste and in flavour choices, though I’m thrilled to actually have a choice in brands. Lactaid mostly sells vanilla and strawberry yogurt, but Green Valley Organics has flavours like honey and blueberry, as well as rich plain yogurt.) You see, while there are lactose-free substitutes like tofu sour cream, the tangy taste is never the same as that of a dairy product. This sour cream, though, has it all – except the lactose. It’s even certified kosher and gluten-free. Not only is it delicious, but I also feel good about Green Valley Organics’ ethics. The cows are raised in a way that is Certified Humane®, are grass-fed and, as the company name suggests, their milk is organic. The processing plants are even solar-powered – how’s that for awesome! I really want to support this company by continuing to buy its products; unfortunately, I’ve only seen the sour cream at Whole Foods, but the yogurt is available at my local HEB. I’ll email the HEB to ask that they carry the sour cream as well, and I hope you do the same with your local stores to taste the Green Valley Organics lactose-free sour cream.

(Note that I am in no way affiliated with this company, simply thrilled both by its product and its practises.)

Emergency kit

The Engineer and I have decided to get an emergency kit in order, with enough food and water to survive for at least a few days if there were to be some kind of emergency, along with useful items like a first aid kit, a flashlight and batteries, a small amount of cash and copies of important documents. The kit is in a big container that could be taken with us in the event of an evacuation, or we could stay at home and survive comfortably without using electricity. We also have a short list of things to take with us if we had to evacuate (things like toiletries, medications, a blanket, tax documents, etc.), just to make sure that we wouldn’t panic and grab useless things or forget important ones.

We also have an inventory of the contents, and I’ve set up automatic reminders a month or two before expiration dates of food items, so we can remember to use them (or donate them), then replace them. We tried to stick mostly to the kind of food that we eat on a regular basis (tuna, beans, chickpeas, crackers and peanut butter, fruit juice, shelf-stable soy milk and cereal, dried fruit, chocolate, etc.).

If you haven’t put together your own kit, let me suggest a few links to help you get started. First, here’s a great summary on BlogHer, inspired by the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami; be sure to watch the video! Of course, you can always buy one ready-made from an organization like the Red Cross.

The Canadian government also has its set of guidelines and tips here, which stresses the importance of having a family plan in place well before an emergency strikes, in case you need to meet up with family members but are unable to reach them by phone.

Finally, here’s a post on The Kitchn about what to cook with the food in your emergency kit before it goes bad, and what kind of food to store in the first place. Obviously, I disagree with posters who have dozens of meals stored in their freezer in case of an emergency – what if the power goes out for three days? All that food won’t keep! We’ve stuck to shelf-stable food that is lactose-free and can be eaten at room temperature. We also stuck to small containers that won’t create leftovers requiring refrigeration. And don’t forget a manual can opener along with disposable utensils!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roasted Squash and Arugula Salad with Pecans, Bacon, and Goat Cheese

I figured I’d get in one last squash recipe before the holidays. This salad, found on The Kitchn, is made up of various things I all love. When I roasted the pecans, they were so addictive and delicious still warm that I almost ate all of them on the spot and pretended that the salad was nut-free. But I couldn’t deprive the Engineer of those pecans, so I restrained myself. The bacon doesn’t stay crisp overnight, so if you’re going to be eating your 4 servings on different nights, consider cooking the bacon in two batches (and assembling the salad only before serving it). With the amount of bacon and bacon grease in this salad, it is by no means healthy, but while it may not be good-for-you, it is oh-so-good!

½ cup pecans
neutral oil such as canola
flaky sea salt such as Maldon
a 2-lb butternut squash
½ lb of applewood smoked bacon
½ cup slivered shallots
3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
7-oz bag arugula
several sprigs fresh thyme
8-oz package goat cheese (ideally lactose-free)

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Toss the pecans with a little canola oil and sea salt, and roast until fragrant, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the squash and cut into ½ -inch cubes. Toss with a little canola oil on two baking sheets (do not crowd) and sprinkle with more of the sea salt.

When the pecans are done, remove from the oven, raise the temperature to 425 °F and roast the squash until it's soft and the edges are deep brown.

While the squash roasts, cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and fry it up in a large skillet. You may need to do this in two batches, pouring off the fat (be sure to save it!) in between. Drain the bacon on paper towels or on a brown paper bag.

Keep the pan hot and make sure there are about 6 Tbsp of bacon fat in the pan. Add the shallots and sauté over medium heat until they soften. Turn off the heat and add the vinegar. Swirl to combine. Add a few turns of the pepper mill's worth of fresh black pepper.

The salad can be served now, with the ingredients still warm, or at room temperature. To assemble: In a large bowl, toss the dressing with the squash and bacon. Add several large handfuls of the arugula. Strip about three or four sprigs of thyme leaves into the bowl and add the pecans (which should be broken into pieces if they're not already.) Toss gently. Dot with the goat cheese (you may not need all of it) and serve.

Sewing with knits - An adventure

I know I’ve said that sewing with knits is hard and that I didn’t want to open that can of worms any time soon. But then I read this fantastic tutorial on Prudent Baby, which explained how to deal with knits. Yes, they stretch, but you can use a walking foot to help minimize the problem! This made a world of difference to me, and also helps in quilting projects, as it moves the fabric along from the top (while the machine’s feeder dogs move it along from the bottom). A serger would help for hems, as would twin needles, but as far as I know, I can’t do that on my machine (and I don’t have a serger). I also don’t have the option to do a stretch stitch (nor do I have a good basting stitch, really, but that’s another issue entirely), so I used a zigzag stitch. I did, however, buy ballpoint needles, which help because they can sew knits without tearing through the fibers.

I installed the walking foot and ballpoint needle and decided to practise a bit by upcycling some old knit t-shirts into trivets. I made two 9-inch squares ones, for each of which I used a piece of 9-inch square Insul-Bright (which acts as heat-proof padding), a 10-inch square of scrap fabric (I used a woven one), three 4”x10” strips of knit t-shirts in coordinating colors, and bias tape (made from the woven scrap fabric). All of this assumes ½” seams. Of course, keep in mind that if you want to actually use your trivets, your fabric has to be heat-resistant (everything I used was 100% cotton, so I’m fine, though linen would work too). I started by sewing the strips of knit fabric together on the long side, then I put them right-side-together with the woven backing and sewed along three sides. I flipped the pouch so that the right side was out, inserted the Insul-Bright, folded the edges in and sewed the last seam. Then I added the bias tape on the perimeter, though it’s optional. You could also use it to make a loop on one corner of the trivet. A walking foot was really a godsend for this project!

That had gone well, so I took the plunge. I bought some knit fabric and polyester thread (which has more stretch than cotton thread and therefore more appropriate than the latter for sewing with knits) and practised. It took me a while to adjust the tension properly, but I finally got it right and was able to sew seams that lay flat. So I used this free pattern to make a skirt. I started by adding an interlining of the same fabric, since I had read that it was recommended for skirts. I ended up with fabric that was too heavy: when the skirt was upright (as opposed to laying flat on the table), gravity pulled the 8 panels of fabric down and made them droop at the seams. I had enough fabric to make a 6-panel skirt without an interlining, so I did that, all the while thinking that I would have to make an additional lining or wear the skirt with a half-slip, but the same thing happened again! I think perhaps the knit fabric really wasn’t meant for this pattern (regardless of the fiber content).

I didn’t want to throw all of it away, so I recycled the interlined skirt into two pleated scarves seen on Make It And Love It. It was an easy project, was good to practise sewing with knit fabric, and gave me something I can use out of this whole thing; the scarves were still cheaper than the store-bought equivalent. I since bought fabric that was better suited for the skirt, using the recommendations directly on the pattern’s website, so I’ll report back on that! I haven’t figured out what to do with the fabric from the 6-panel skirt, so it’s going in my stash for now.

Transformation de vêtements: Robe

Voici mon plus récent projet de transformation de vêtement. J’avais une camisole licou verte, dont j’aimais la couleur et le style, mais je trouvais qu’elle était trop courte. J’ai décidé de la transformer en robe en utilisant mon premier patron pour la jupe. J’ai donc apporté ma camisole au magasin pour trouver un tissu qui s’agencerait avec elle, et je suis tombée sur le bon! J’ai acheté ce qu’il me fallait, ainsi qu’une bobine de fil, et je me suis mise au travail.

J’ai donc fait la jupe à partir du patron de la robe, en laissant tomber carrément la fermeture éclair, et j’y ai cousu la camisole. Puisque celle-ci s’étire, je n’ai aucun problème à enfiler ma nouvelle robe! J’ai essayé de faire une ceinture avec le même tissu, mais en fin de compte, elle ne me sied pas (je crois qu’il faudrait soit une ceinture faite avec du tissu de tricot, soit une large ceinture en simili-cuir). Le projet a été relativement rapide, et pas très cher : 4,5 verges de tissu à 4,90 $ la verge, plus le fil, donc environ 24 $ en tout. Je n’avais pas besoin d’autant de tissu, mais j’en avais prévu pour la ceinture (qui, finalement, ne servira pas). Il me reste assez de tissu pour me faire autre chose, sûrement une camisole; j’ai un patron à l’œil, mais je vais attendre à après Noël pour me mettre au travail. Sinon, j’ai une belle robe d’été à mettre!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Drew's American Grill

The Engineer and I had dinner at Drew’s American Grill last night and were both extremely pleased. We’d had out eye on this restaurant for a few months, having noticed it open after our arrival. It’s a relatively modern place, somewhat upscale, though casual attire is fine. It’s divided into a few sections, with some more casual than others (think greasy-spoon menu with bar-side seats for a late-night craving versus a place to celebrate your anniversary, with family dining in between); we were in the quieter central section which was somewhat like a glasshouse, with windows into the rest of the restaurant and a beautiful mobile hanging from the ceiling. The food seems more “New York” than “Texas”, but with so many places that cater to local cuisine around here, that’s not a bad thing. Service is prompt and attentive (let’s just say your water glass won’t ever be empty).

The dinner menu fits on one legal-sized sheet, which I’ve come to like if only because it makes decisions easier! There are pizzas, salads and sandwiches, but also some specialty main courses (which I refuse to call “entrées” because I know what that word actually means). We started with the slider trio as an appetizer: a pulled chicken with pesto on brioche bun, braised short rib with garlic aioli on onion bun, and lamb with mint and feta on pita bun, all three of which were delicious. The Engineer then had the Sunny Side Up pizza, which had bacon, gruyere, mozzarella, arugula and eggs; he really liked it, and was particularly fond of the dough. I loved the bite I had, though, the arugula was too cooked for my taste (but I don’t like wilted lettuce, and when I have arugula on my pizza, I put it on at the last minute). As for me, I was in heaven with the chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, apricots, dates, and almonds and served with creamy polenta and green beans. It was fabulous! And worth the Lactaid. I’m told that the chefs can tweak the menu to satisfy those with food restrictions (like vegans or people who are gluten-intolerant), though I didn’t ask for myself. We were too full for dessert after that, though I was pleased to see that there were several lactose-free options, like the zeppole and the sorbet trio. (The flavours are up to the chef, but they are from a nearby gelateria and look much more interesting than what you’d get at a grocery store. Plus, Drew’s molten chocolate cake isn’t served with plain vanilla ice cream, but with Mexican vanilla gelato!) However, we were absolutely delighted that the bill came with free cotton candy! There’s always room for a sweet blue cloud after a full meal.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A monthly outing roundup

I mentioned a few months ago that since we got back from our summer in Montreal, the Engineer and I now try to do or visit something in or around San Antonio once a month. I figured I’d give you a roundup of what we’ve done so far.

In August, we went to the farmers’ market at the old Pearl Brewery. I love going to the brewery, as the stores there are all interesting, the restaurants are great and it’s a beautiful place (especially if you take a stroll down the path by the river and go see F.I.S.H. under the bridge). Unfortunately, we got there late in the day and some vendors were already packing up. We did get to extensively check out Melissa Guerra, though, a nice shop which sells kitchenware, with an emphasis on local cuisine and tools. We were disappointed that they did not have a few basics that we were looking for (like a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup and a 9-inch springform pan, both of which we had to replace in our kitchen), but they did have a lot of other nice stuff.

In September, we visited the McNay Museum, which I talked about here; I definitely recommend it to visitors. In October, in an effort to get inexpensive one-of-a-kind furniture to help decorate our house, we went to Bussey’s Flea Market (the one with a giant armadillo in the parking lot). That was a bust, though, as there was very little furniture there, and we came back empty-handed. We’ve since had more luck at Hats Furniture Haus; you’ll see the results here eventually.

In November, we decided to visit one of the many caves in the area; we settled on the Cave Without a Name (a young boy won the contest to name the cave, after declaring that it was too beautiful to have a name). We both really enjoyed the visit. The cave had some beautiful, colourful rock formations, and it was a comfortable 66 degrees down there (the temperature remains steady year-round, as does the almost 100% humidity). We’ll consider seeing Cascade Caverns and Natural Bridge Caverns on future outings.

Finally, this month, we went to Gruene (pronounced “green”) on the weekend of their Christmas Market. The town itself is historic; it was originally settled by Germans who built a cotton mill there. It is also home to Gruene Hall, believed to be the oldest dance hall in Texas (today still fully in use as a bar, venue and occasional movie set). I loved walking through the town itself, and had a lot of fun walking through the stores, the antique mall and the market set up for the occasion. We bought some art and a Christmas decoration, as well as some food items that you’ll be hearing about quite soon.

We’ve got the gist of our outing planned for February already, but January is still up in the air – we’ll see what we come up with!

Carrot and Rolled Grain Galettes

These were originally carrot and rolled barley galettes, found on Chocolate and Zucchini, but I couldn’t find rolled barley at my grocery store (all they have is medium barley, stashed in the soup aisle instead of with the other grains). I used rolled oats instead, and the result was quite good. You could use something other than carrots, too, like sweet potato or zucchini, but keep in mind that it doesn’t get cooked much in the galette, so you might have to cook it beforehand. I also messed with the proportions a bit, so I ended up using an egg to help the galettes hold their shape in the end; however, the four I had cooked without egg were still really good, and vegan to boot. The Engineer thought it was a riff on latkes, but I found them a bit heartier. With a salad, it would be a good lunch, but I used them here as a side to some marinated pork. This recipe makes about 8 galettes.

200 g (7 oz) grated carrots, from 2 medium carrots
200 g (7 oz, about 2 cups) rolled barley or other rolled grain
1 small shallot, grated or finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 ½ Tbsp ground flax seeds (from 2 Tbsp whole flax seeds; this works as a binder to help the galettes hold their shape)
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (or a grated hard cheese like parmesan)
1 cup water
olive or canola oil
fresh cilantro and/or hot sauce, as a garnish

Combine all ingredients from carrots to nutritional yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Add water and stir well. Cover and let stand for at least 1 hour or until the next day (refrigerate if you let it stand for more than 1 hour). The mixture will gradually become more cohesive; the longer it rests, the easier it will be to shape.

Pour a bit of oil in a skillet and place over medium heat. Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions (of about 85 g/3 oz each). Wet your hands lightly, scoop out a portion and shape it into a patty between the palms of your hands. You can make the patties thicker or thinner depending on your preference. Repeat with as many portions as you want to cook. Transfer the patties to the hot skillet and cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden.

Serve immediately, with a sprig of cilantro and a dash of hot sauce. The raw mixture will keep for about 2 days in the fridge, tightly covered. (I made all the patties the first night and just reheated them later, though, and they were none the worse for wear.)

15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta

This is so good, you can’t imagine it. We just had contented, blissful looks on our faces as we were eating this... It’s an unusual use for an avocado, at least for me, but it works wonderfully to make a thick and creamy sauce. Throw in the garlic and lemon, and you’re in heaven! I used tubetti because that’s what I had in the pantry, but long pasta would be great, too. The downside is that this doesn’t keep well, because of the avocado, so don’t count on any leftovers. The following makes 2 servings.

2 servings (6 oz) of your choice of pasta
2 or 3 small garlic cloves, to taste (I used 2 and it was quite garlicky, but if you are not a big fan of garlic, use only 1 clove)
½ lemon, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sized ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
¼ cup fresh basil (I used some from the mammoth basil bush in our garden)
½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta, reduce heat to medium, and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Now add in the pitted avocado, basil, and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Seared Asian Steak and Mushrooms on Mixed Greens with Ginger Dressing

As you know, I try to follow recipes as written the first time I try them, especially when it comes to meat, because I don’t know as much as I’d like to about beef cuts and steak cooking and the like. So when I made this recipe from Bon Appétit, I did as the recipe said and used rib-eye steaks. In retrospect, I don’t think it’s the right cut. Some people might like them, but I feel they contain too much fat and other miscellaneous bits for my taste. While I do think beef steak are a good idea, I recommend that you use whatever kind you want. On the whole, though, this recipe is a keeper; the mushrooms came out perfectly, and the dressing was bright and tasty. It’s also a pretty easy recipe! It serves 4 people as written.

2 Tbsp soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari sauce)
2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
4 ½ tsp vegetable oil, divided
1 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
½ tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce (or equivalent; I think I used some sriracha and garlic salt)
1/8 tsp plus 2 tsp sesame oil, divided
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 12-oz steaks (don’t feel limited to rib-eye)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
8 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, quartered
8 cups mixed greens

Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, 1 ½ tsp vegetable oil, minced ginger, chili-garlic sauce, and 1/8 tsp sesame oil in small bowl. Add cilantro and stir to blend. Set dressing aside.

Rub ¼ tsp sesame oil over each side of each rib-eye steak. Sprinkle steaks with salt, pepper, and toasted sesame seeds; press firmly to adhere.

Heat 2 tsp vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer sautéed mushrooms to plate.

Add 1 tsp vegetable oil and 1 tsp sesame oil to skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Add steaks; cook to desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to cutting board and let rest a bit. Slice steaks. Toss mixed greens with dressing in large bowl; divide greens among plates. Top with steak slices and mushrooms and serve.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Strawberry Basil Sorbet

I’d been meaning to make this for a while, because strawberry and basil are two flavours that complement each other very well. I also love herbal simple syrups in sorbets, as I find the refreshing taste both delicate and adding in depth. I remember making a green apple and mint sorbet that I really liked, as well as a blueberry verbena, and last summer, my friends Rob and Jen served me this wonderful watermelon and mint sorbet that reminded me I should make desserts like that more often. I used my rosewater strawberry sorbet recipe as a base to come up with this one, which I loved as well. I used a liberal amount of basil, as the basil bush in the backyard isn’t showing any signs of slowing down! Have fun experimenting with your own flavours!

1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ¼ cups water
a few big handfuls of fresh basil leaves
2 lbs strawberries, washed and hulled
a splash of lemon juice

Put the sugar and the water in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Take off the heat, throw in the basil, cover and let the simple syrup come to room temperature. Discard basil leaves.

Put the strawberries and lemon juice in the food processor and process until smooth. (You may strain the mixture to remove seeds if you wish.) Add the simple syrup and process again. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions.

Poulet à la gelée d'abricots

Je sais ce que vous allez me dire en voyant cette photo. « Mais Amélie, tu viens juste de parler de cette recette, dans ton billet l’autre jour. » Mais je vous jure que c’est une recette différente! Celle l’autre jour, c’était du poulet cuit avec des haricots blancs et des tomates. Le poulet d’aujourd’hui est adapté d’une recette de Coup de Pouce, et j’ai décidé de le servir avec du quinoa où j’ai mélangé des haricots blancs, des tomates et du parmesan, parce que ce sont des goûts qui vont bien ensemble et que l’Ingénieur et moi aimons tous les deux. Là, en plus, il y avait des céréales entières et un peu d’umami avec le parmesan, que vouloir de plus?

Les changements que j’ai apportés à la recette sont les suivants : enlever la peau du poulet (car toute la saveur y était concentrée, ce qui était d’autant plus dommage que nous ne mangeons pas la peau) ainsi que modifier le temps et la température de cuisson (au lieu de 30 minutes à 350 °F, ce qui n’était nettement pas assez, j’ai calqué ça sur l’autre recette de poulet). Et puis aussi, j’ai utilisé du thym frais au lieu de l’estragon, car c’est ça que j’ai dans le jardin.

2 c. à soupe de gelée d’abricots
1 c. à soupe de moutarde de Dijon
½ c. à thé de jus de citron
1 c. à thé d’estragon ou de thym frais haché
4 à 8 hauts-de-cuisses de poulet, sans la peau
sel et poivre, au goût

Préchauffer le four à 425 °F.

Dans un petit bol, incorporer ensemble la gelée, la moutarde, le jus de citron, l’estragon, le sel et le poivre.

Déposer les hauts-de-cuises de poulet dans un plat beurré allant au four et assaisonner. Badigeonner les pièces de poulet du mélange et cuire au four environ 35 minutes ou jusqu’à ce que les jus de cuisson soient clairs. Continuer de badigeonner les pièces tout au long de la cuisson.

Servir (par exemple avec du quinoa et une salade verte).

Freestyle Ham and Egg Crêpes

The Engineer loves dishes with baked eggs, so I knew this one would be a hit. However, as always, my crêpes turned out a little too thick and therefore didn’t spread enough. They're still good, just smaller and thicker than they were meant to be. The original recipe, however, called for cracking an egg in the middle of a 12-inch crêpe, folding the sides over in a square shape, then baking it. My crêpes were closer to 9 inches, though, so I knew the egg might run off, and the sides would never stay folded closed. I remedied the situation with ramekins, by putting a crêpe in each before filling it. It was a great solution, since there was no mess, and they unmolded very easily once they had been out of the oven for a bit.

I did have a little trouble with the baking time: I started by following the recipe and baked the cups at 350 °F for 12 minutes, but even the whites were still runny and totally liquid (the cups were shaped differently than the squares from the original recipe, though). I followed that with 10 minutes at 400 °F, at which point the crêpes started to burn, but the eggs were still jiggly, so I ended with 5 minutes at 350 °F. Next time, though, I would try 12 to 14 minutes at 400 °F. Keep that in mind if you make a cup version, but use the original recipe’s instructions for the square version.

The crêpe recipe itself is definitely a keeper, as they were delicious! I used canola oil instead of butter in the recipe, but the rest was unchanged. We had some of the baked ham and egg crêpes for dinner, and ate the rest of the crêpes with breakfast on following mornings. That being said, it would be a good dish for brunch, too, perhaps with bacon instead of ham (or turkey bacon, for the more health-conscious and those who aren’t crazy about ham). Keep in mind that the proportions below make a little over 4 servings (if you serve 2 crêpes per person); I made the full recipe of crêpes, but used only 4 to make my ramekins, so 4 slices of ham and 4 eggs (apart from those in the batter) were enough.

1 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups lactose-free milk
4 large eggs
3 Tbsp melted butter (I used canola oil)
9 thin slices ham
9 eggs
chopped fresh parsley

Combine flour, sugar, salt, milk, four eggs and the melted butter in a blender and blend on high for 30 seconds. (I did this by hand, though I’m sure a food processor would work, too.) Let rest for 15 minutes. (I poured the batter through a sieve at this point.)

Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and lightly coat with butter. Add 1/3 cup batter and swirl to completely cover skillet. Cook until underside of crêpe is very lightly starting to brown, about 2 minutes.

Loosen edge of crêpe with spatula and then either using large spatula or your fingers, lift it up and flip it over. Cook another minutes and then slide out of skillet onto wax paper. Repeat until all crêpes are done. You should have about 9 12-inch crêpes when you are done.

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Place crêpes on a rimmed baking sheet (you can fit 3-4 per sheet). Place ham slice in center of crêpe and carefully crack egg onto ham. Fold edges of crêpe toward center, using the egg white as a kind of glue. Season with salt and pepper and bake until egg white is set, about 10-12 minutes. (If your crêpes are in ramekins, like mine, consider setting your oven to 400 °F and baking the crêpes about 12-14 minutes.) Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve at once.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Peanut Butter Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

I got this recipe from Bon Appétit, and I really liked it because the addition of pecans to peanut butter cookies gives them more depth than by relying only on the peanut butter. The downside, though, is that they aren’t very filling at all, so you might be tempted to keep eating them since you’re still hungry. Keep that in mind if you make them!

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup pecans, toasted, cooled
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (or cold margarine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup old-fashioned oats
¼ cup quick-cooking oats

Combine peanut butter and pecans in a food processor and purée until almost smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat both sugars and butter in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter mixture and vanilla; beat to blend well. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Add both oats. Continue to blend at high speed for 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 375 °F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Scoop rounded balls of dough (2 tsp each) onto cookie sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until light golden, 10–12 minutes (rotate baking sheets, top to bottom and 180 degrees, halfway through baking).