Monday, February 27, 2012

Bonnes choses de février

Je veux vous faire part de quelques bonnes choses qui ont marqué mon mois de février et que j’ai beaucoup aimées.

- La série télé 19-2. Mes parents l’ont offerte à l’Ingénieur pour Noël en espérant que ça lui/nous plairait, et ils sont très bien tombés! C’est une série excellente, avec des acteurs bourrés de talent, des personnages réalistes et attachants ainsi qu’un scénario très bien écrit en plus; c’est franchement captivant. Espérons une deuxième saison!

- Le livre The Pillars of the Earth, de Ken Follett (Les Piliers de la terre, en version française). Bon, je n’ai toujours pas terminé la lecture, mais c’est de loin le meilleur livre que j’ai lu récemment, et certainement dans mon top 10 à vie. Encore ici, l’intrigue est captivante, les personnages sont vivants, attachants et réalistes, les scènes de la vie médiévale et l’architecture sont fascinantes… Je lis chaque soir et ne pose le livre que quand mes paupières ne coopèrent plus. Dès que c’est terminé, je vais regarder la minisérie avec l’Ingénieur.

- La série Les Filles de Caleb, que l’Ingénieur m’a offerte pour la Saint-Valentin (parce que quand on se plaint de ne pas pouvoir regarder tou.tv depuis les États-Unis, ça ne tombe pas dans l’oreille d’un sourd). Il m’a dit que le coffret DVD n’a pas été facile à trouver, mais j'affirme que ça valait la peine. Juste la musique du générique m’a envoûtée de nouveau. Bon, j’ai insisté pour que l’Ingénieur regarde un épisode avec moi, même s’il était convaincu que ce n’était pas son style, et malheureusement, j’ai choisi le premier épisode. Avouons que ce n’est pas le meilleur. Tant pis pour lui, je pourrais donc regarder plus d’épisodes quand il sera au boulot!

- Le fait de mettre les pieds chez Sur la Table. C’est un paradis pour les gens qui aiment cuisiner! J’y ai dépensé un certificat cadeau qui m’avait été offert par Chère Sœur; j’ai acheté de superbes assiettes creuses pour les pâtes, deux assiettes creuses pour le plaisir, une tasse à mesurer en pyrex (j’ignore pourquoi c’est devenu si difficile à trouver, mais là, il y en avait) et des moules à tartelettes.

- Le rodéo de San Antonio, auquel on a assisté le soir du concert donné par Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (oui oui, elle chante toujours, et attention, il y a de la musique derrière ce dernier lien!). C’est vraiment génial, un rodéo! Et puis c’est dur de battre une performance de I Love Rock And Roll et Bad Reputation par les vrais de vrais, en plus de Cherry Bomb!

- Les oscars. Un dimanche soir à manger des trempettes pour souper devant la télé, en regardant la plus importante cérémonie dans le domaine du cinéma, avec Billy Crystal comme animateur en plus… Génial! Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman et Michelle Williams (avec sa vieille amie Busy Philipps) étaient super belles, j’ai adoré surtout la robe de Penélope Cruz et je suis tellement contente que Meryl Streep ait gagné son oscar (qu’elle n’avait pas remporté depuis 1982)! Et puis, le petit monologue de Chris Brown était à se tordre de rire. Je crois par contre que le Cirque du Soleil était le clou du spectacle!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Poulet aux arachides avec nouilles Udon


Cette recette est (légèrement) adaptée d’Obsessions gourmandes. J’ai utilisé du beurre d’arachides de marque Earth Balance, qui ne contient absolument aucun sucre, et je l’ai trouvé fade. Ce qui me montre à quel point je suis habituée d’avoir du beurre d’arachides au moins un peu sucré et salé, même si je fais attention à ne pas acheter de trucs qui font trop malbouffe à mon goût (mes deux marques préférées sont le Skippy Natural crémeux et le Smooth Operator de Peanut Butter & Co.). Donc finalement, je trouvais la sauce au beurre d’arachides un peu fade à mon goût et j’y ai rajouté une cuillérée de cassonade, mais même comme ça, ce n’était pas une sauce sucrée. Je n’ai pas trouvé de nouilles Udon, alors j’ai choisi les nouilles asiatiques avec la forme la plus rapprochée; j’ai aussi choisi de les mélanger directement dans le wok avec le poulet, avec la sauce, mais on peut bien sûr les cuire séparément et servir le poulet par-dessus, puis napper de sauce, pour que ce soit plus joli. L’Ingénieur a déclaré le plat « spectaculaire » et il m’en a déjà reparlé une fois depuis que je l’ai fait! Cette recette fait 4 portions pas trop grosses (comme vous le voyez sur la photo; ne regardez pas les traces de sauce). Si vous voulez la faire sans gluten, utilisez de la sauce tamari sans blé, faites votre propre sauce Hoisin et choisissez plutôt des nouilles de riz.

Pour la sauce aux arachides
½ tasse de bouillon de poulet
2 gousses d’ail pilées
1 c. à table de sauce soya
2 c. à soupe de vinaigre de riz
2 c. à soupe de sauce Hoisin
½ tasse de beurre d’arachides
1 c. à soupe de cassonade, ou au goût (facultatif)

Pour le sauté
des nouilles Udon pour 4 personnes
1 c. à soupe d’huile d’arachides ou de canola
1 poivron rouge en dés
1 poivron orange en dés
10 champignons café tranchés
2 poitrines de poulet en cubes
1 c. à soupe de graines de sésame
1 boîte de châtaignes d’eau tranchées
2 oignons verts émincés
1 poignée de coriandre fraîche


Pour la sauce aux arachides
Dans une petite casserole, amener le bouillon de poulet à ébullition. Ajouter l’ail, la sauce soya et le vinaigre de riz. Incorporer la sauce Hoisin.

Hors du feu, incorporer le beurre d’arachides en remuant vigoureusement (ajouter du beurre d’arachides si la sauce n’est pas assez épaisse). Au besoin seulement, remettre la sauce à feu très, très doux pour la faire réchauffer; sinon, la réserver jusqu’au service.

Pour le sauté
Plonger les nouilles Udon dans l’eau bouillante 3 minutes. Égoutter et réserver.

Dans un wok, faire sauter les poivrons et les champignons dans l’huile d’arachides bien chaude. Retirer du feu et réserver.

Baisser légèrement le feu et faire cuire le poulet de chaque côté.

Une fois la viande cuite, ajouter les graines de sésame, puis réintégrer les poivrons et les champignons ainsi que les châtaignes d’eau et les oignons verts, juste le temps de chauffer le tout (quelques secondes). Retirer du feu.

Servir le sauté sur un lit de nouilles Udon, napper de sauce aux arachides et parsemer de coriandre.



Poached Pears with Cardamom and Saffron

I found this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appétit. It had a mix of spices that appealed to me, and it was just the thing I needed between two of the Engineer’s chocolate cakes. I had always poached pears in red wine before, too, so the white wine seemed lighter and refreshing. I chose to halve the pears and core them, because I feel they’re easier to eat that way. I loved the result! I didn’t serve them with the recommended dollop of crème fraîche, obviously, though perhaps some plain yogurt would be nice. In hindsight, and looking at the original picture, I think that when you crack the cardamom pods open, you should not pry them open any further – I released the seeds and put those directly in the wine, but it’s somewhat unpleasant to bite into one. I think just putting the cracked pods in there would give you the same flavor, but they would be easier to avoid as you’re spooning your way through your pear.

½ Tbsp cardamom pods
2 cups dry white wine
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp saffron threads
pinch of kosher salt
4 firm pears, peeled, stems intact OR halved and cored

Gently crush cardamom with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet to slightly crack open pods without releasing seeds. Combine cardamom, wine, sugar, lemon juice, saffron, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer. Add pears; add water if needed to completely submerge pears. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer, turning occasionally, until pears are tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate. Increase heat and boil poaching liquid until reduced to 1 cup, 10–15 minutes. Put one or two pear halves (or one pear) per bowl and spoon some of the syrup over the fruit. I like it best served warm, but it can be served cold as well.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Sexy-Ugly Onion Tart


Let me begin by saying that I did not name this tart myself, but I feel the name is too awesome to dismiss. It’s a recipe from Big Girls Small Kitchen, found via The Kitchn. I used my own recipe for the crust, but you can use pretty much any recipe you want (including the one at the link). This sexy-ugly onion tart was different from my Alsatian onion tart in that it’s less rich and eggy, so it’s less quiche-like, and the onions simply rest on the cheese, as opposed to being mixed in with it. It’s a very simple tart to make and is a nice homely and homey meal.

I used this recipe as the perfect excuse to finally do something that had been intimidating me for a while: make cheese. Yes, that’s right: actually make my own cheese in my own kitchen, using cheesecloth for its original intended purpose. Ironically, I would have never bothered with it had I not been lactose-intolerant, because making cheese had always sounded like so much trouble when it’s so easy to go to the store. I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It was much easier than I thought, too. And as a bonus, I got to eat lactose-free ricotta, which so far can only be obtained by making it yourself. It tastes better when it’s rich, so if you’re in Canada, I recommend that you use 1 cup of Natrel’s lactose-free cream and 3 cups of their lactose-free milk. Unfortunately, I don’t have lactose-free cream here, so I used 4 cups of lactose-free whole milk. The ricotta was delicious in the tart, though it might be too bland to use as a spread on crackers. Nonetheless, I consider this a complete success.

For the ricotta (makes about 1 generous cup)
3 cups lactose-free whole milk
1 cup lactose-free heavy cream (if unavailable, use 1 more cup lactose-free whole milk)
½ tsp coarse sea salt
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190 °F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it will be spreadable but a bit firmer, almost like cream cheese. (It will firm as it cools, so do not judge its final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth.) Discard the whey, or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.





For the onion tart
2 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine
2 onions, halved and sliced into thin half-moons
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (plus a little extra for garnish)
¼ tsp salt
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 egg yolk
pie dough for 1 pie crust

In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until caramelized. The onions should be deep brown and sweet. Add the fresh thyme and the salt, and let cool off the heat. Whisk the ricotta and the egg yolk together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make sure your work surface is clean and cool. Lightly flour the surface and roll out the dough until it is large enough to cover a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll up the dough on your rolling pin and slowly unroll on top of the tart. Use your fingers to press the dough into the tart and a paring knife to trim off any excess. If the dough breaks, don’t worry—just pull it together and patch it. Try to make the walls a bit thicker than the bottom. Chill the tart shell in the fridge for 10 minutes so that the dough remains cold.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 °F.

Remove the tart from the fridge, and use a spatula to spread the ricotta mixture evenly across the surface with a spatula. Arrange the onions on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the ricotta filling is firm and the crust is beautifully golden. Let the tart cool in the pan. Garnish it with thyme leaves.






Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Our dog, Darwin, just turned two. To celebrate, I baked him some dog treats, which has become a tradition. (And I just now realize this means I completely forgot about this blog’s third anniversary – oh, well.) This year’s recipe is actually from a food blog I like, Dessert First. The treats have four ingredients and are simple as can be. They’re also edible by humans (really, they’re not that bad), and were a big hit with Darwin.

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup puréed pumpkin, either canned or fresh
3 Tbsp peanut butter (or more)

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer bowl. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to ¼" inch thick. Add a little water if the dough is very stiff, or a little flour if it is too soft and sticky. Use a cookie cutter to cut out desired shapes. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes until the cookies are dry to the touch. You can bake them longer if you want them to be completely dry and hard, but I prefer them to be slightly soft and chewy.

Let cool on wire rack before serving to doggies.




Escarole with Bacon, Dates, Walnuts and Warm Vinaigrette

I made this recipe to use up the last few slices in the package of bacon that were left after the (glorious) chicken Caesar skewers. It was good timing, too, as escarole is in season. I didn’t have walnut oil, so I used a mixture of avocado and olive oils. This salad was wonderful, and reminded me how much I enjoy dates.

1 7- to 8-oz head of escarole, coarsely torn (but don’t be afraid to chop too small)
6 Medjool dates, halved, pitted, diced (or more)
½ cup walnut pieces, toasted
5 bacon slices, cut crosswise into strips
¼ cup walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
fine sea salt

Combine escarole, dates, and walnuts in large bowl. Cook bacon in medium skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add bacon to bowl with salad.

Discard drippings from skillet; add walnut oil. Place over low heat. Add shallot; sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; add vinegar and whisk to blend. Season vinaigrette with sea salt and black pepper. Gradually add warm dressing to salad, tossing to coat. Divide among plates.


Cranberry Quinoa Breakfast Cookies

This recipe is also from Bon Appétit. I didn’t use the almonds, because I don’t really like nuts in cookies, but I did use the almond extract, which was quite present in the final flavor along with the quinoa – yum! These cookies were absolutely delicious, fluffy on the inside and lightly crispy on the outside, especially when they were still warm. I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the dough evenly, but next time I would flatten them out a little, as they really don’t spread out. You could use dried cherries instead of cranberries, as they go really well with the almond extract.

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat margarine, both sugars, and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and extracts; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture, ½ cup at a time. Stir in quinoa, oats, cranberries, and almonds. Spoon dough in 2-tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets, spacing 1” apart.

Bake cookies until golden, 12–15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.






Black-Eyed Peas with Celery Leaf Salad


This recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit. It originally calls for Sea Island red peas, but I couldn’t find those here, so I used black-eyed peas. I’m pretty sure you could just use whatever heirloom peas you want and adjust the cooking time accordingly. I had premade bouquets garnis (with oregano, thyme, savory, and bay leaves) in the pantry, so I used one of those and put it in the pot with the beans as they were cooking. I feel this gives the peas more flavor than if I add it in later, so that’s what I recommend. I used ground coriander instead of whole coriander, since I had to grind it anyway and I wanted to save a bit of time. I also used an orange bell pepper instead of red, margarine instead of butter, and avocado oil instead of olive oil. I also never really measure out my chopped vegetables – I mean, it’s a salad, after all! Just use what you want. This was a major win. The Engineer and I both loved it. When I had the leftovers for lunch a few days later, I threw in some cooked quinoa, and it was really awesome. This salad makes about 6 servings.

2 cups dried black-eyed peas (or heirloom peas)
1 tsp kosher salt plus more
2 garlic cloves
6 sprigs thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ cup finely chopped celery plus ½ cup celery leaves from inner stalks
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp thinly sliced chives
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
freshly cracked black peppercorns

Place peas in a medium pot; cover with 6 cups water; let soak overnight.

Bring water with peas to a boil (this is where I threw in my bouquet garni of dried herbs); boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; gently simmer, adding water by 1/2-cupfuls as needed to keep peas covered, until peas are tender but still hold their shape, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp salt.

Place garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle with salt and chop, occasionally smearing with the back of a knife, until a coarse paste forms. Tie thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine to form a bundle for bouquet garni (if you are only using it now).

Heat ¼ cup oil in a medium pot over medium heat; add garlic paste, bouquet garni, celery, onion, and bell pepper; cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add peas with their cooking liquid; bring to a simmer. Cook until flavors meld and sauce is thickened, 10–15 minutes. (At this point, I drained the pot, because there was still too much liquid for my taste.) Remove from heat; stir in butter. Set aside.

Toast coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan often, until fragrant and slightly darker in color, 2–3 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely grind in a spice mill, or place in a resealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet. Combine celery leaves, parsley, chives, lemon zest, and crushed coriander seeds in a small bowl; drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Divide peas among plates or transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with salad (or toss everything together).


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brochettes de poulet César


L’Ingénieur et moi avons fait ces brochettes pour un souper de fin de semaine. J’ai oublié de faire mariner le poulet d’avance, alors je l’ai badigeonné de la sauce en début et en fin de cuisson. Les croûtons étaient absolument délicieux, la sauce était réellement savoureuse, et le plat assemblé était à s’en rouler par terre; on n’en revenait pas tellement c’était bon. Tout goûtait l’ail et l’umami, grâce au parmesan et peut-être à la pâte d’anchois… Franchement, un grand succès! La recette est tirée de Coup de Pouce. Les quantités ci-dessous servent 6 personnes, mais nous avons réduit le tout pour nos besoins. Je vous recommande fortement d’essayer ça, vous allez vous régaler!

Pour les croûtons à l’ail maison
4 tasses de cubes de pain baguette ou de pain italien
3 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
½ c. à thé d’origan séché
1 gousse d’ail pressée (ou hachée finement)
sel et poivre noir

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F. Dans un bol, mélanger le pain, l’huile, l’origan et l’ail. Saler et poivrer. Étendre les cubes de pain sur une plaque de cuisson et faire cuire pendant environ 10 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient dorés. Laisser refroidir. (Vous pouvez préparer les croûtons à l’avance et les mettre dans un contenant hermétique. Ils se conserveront jusqu’à 2 semaines à la température ambiante, dans un endroit sec.)

Pour les brochettes et la salade
3 c. à soupe de mayonnaise
4 c. à thé de jus de citron
2 c. à soupe de moutarde à l’ancienne
1 c. à thé de pâte d’anchois
2 gousses d’ail pressées (ou hachées finement)
2 c. à soupe de feuilles de thym frais
½ c. à thé de poivre noir
2/3 tasse d’huile d’olive
1 ½ lb de poitrines de poulet désossées, la peau et le gras enlevés
18 tranches de bacon coupées en deux sur la largeur
2 oignons rouges coupés en 12 quartiers chacun
2 poivrons rouges coupés en 12 morceaux chacun
8 tasses de laitue romaine déchiquetée
croûtons à l’ail maison
copeaux de parmesan

Dans un bol, à l'aide d'un fouet, mélanger la mayonnaise, le jus de citron, la moutarde, la pâte d'anchois, l'ail, le thym et le poivre. Ajouter l'huile en fouettant.

À l'aide d'un couteau bien aiguisé, couper les poitrines de poulet en cubes de 1 po (2,5 cm) (vous devriez obtenir 36 cubes). Mettre les cubes de poulet dans un autre bol, verser la moitié de la sauce César et mélanger pour bien les enrober. Couvrir et laisser mariner 30 minutes. (Vous pouvez préparer le poulet jusqu'à cette étape et le couvrir. Il se conservera jusqu'au lendemain au réfrigérateur. Couvrir le reste de la sauce César. Elle se conservera jusqu'à 1 semaine au réfrigérateur.)

Entourer chaque cube de poulet mariné d'un morceau de bacon. Sur 12 brochettes en métal ou en bois préalablement trempées dans l'eau, enfiler les cubes de poulet en alternant avec les quartiers d'oignons et les morceaux de poivrons.

Régler le barbecue au gaz à puissance moyenne. Mettre les brochettes sur la grille huilée du barbecue, fermer le couvercle et cuire pendant environ 12 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que le bacon soit croustillant et que le poulet ait perdu sa teinte rosée à l'intérieur (retourner les brochettes trois fois en cours de cuisson).

Au moment de servir, répartir la laitue et les croûtons dans six assiettes. Garnir chaque portion de deux brochettes. Arroser du reste de la sauce César et parsemer de copeaux de parmesan.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wheat Berry Salad with Figs and Red Onion

This is supposed to be a wheat berry salad, but my grocery store didn’t have wheat berries, so I made it with faro instead. I’m pretty sure you could also use barley as a grain, but you do want something heartier than couscous. I’m not sure what the deal is with red onions, though. Are people getting milder onions than I am? Or do I need to build up my tolerance? It seems like no matter how small I chop them, they always end up being too strong for my taste. I suggest soaking the onion before using it (its bite is less of a problem if the salad is coming straight from the fridge). I really liked this salad; it was hearty, fruity and crunchy, while remaining quite seasonal. You could use dates or apricots in this salad, too.

1 ½ cups wheat berries
¼ cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup or agave nectar, for a vegan version)
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried figs, chopped finely
½ medium red onion, soaked in water for a few hours
3 large stalks celery
¼ cup good-quality olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 handful fresh parsley or mint, finely chopped
1 tsp flaky sea salt
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Put the wheat berries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and partially cover the pot. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the wheat berries are soft yet still chewy.

While the wheat berries are cooking, whisk the rice vinegar, orange juice, and honey together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the raisins and chopped figs. Turn off the heat and let the fruit steep in the juice and vinegar mixture.

Finely dice the red onion; you will end up with between 1 and 1 ½ cups. Finely dice the celery as well; you will have between 1 ½ and 2 cups. Mix them in a large bowl.

When the wheat berries are tender enough to be chewed easily, drain them, then pour them into the large bowl with the red onion and celery. Toss with the olive oil and lemon zest. Add the vinegar and juice mixture, and all the fruit, and mix. Toss with the almonds, chopped parsley or mint, and with the salt. Add pepper to taste.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for at least one hour before serving, to allow the flavors mix and soak into the grain. Serve warm or at room temperature. The salad can also be refrigerated for up to three days.


Spiced Pork Chops with Peach Salsa

Another recipe adapted from Redbook! (Last one, I promise.) The original called for either 2 tsp canned chipotle chili peppers, minced, or 2 tsp smoky barbecue sauce. I didn’t want it too spicy, and I wasn’t going to buy a whole jar of barbecue sauce to use only 2 tsp! So I improvised and used ½ tsp of Korean pepper and I liked the result. You can of course adapt it to suit your taste and the contents of your pantry. I used small pork chops with the bone removed, so as not to overdo it on the meat, but use whatever size you want.

2 tsp smoky barbecue sauce, ½ tsp Korean pepper or whatever you want
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp lime juice
¾ tsp salt, divided
4 6-oz pork chops (or to taste)
2 cups chopped peaches
3 scallions, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (optional, according to me)
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Heat grill to high. Combine Korean pepper, sugar and 1 tsp of the lime juice in a small bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle chops with ½ tsp of the salt and grill, turning once, until well browned but still slightly pink in the center, 8 minutes, basting with sugar mixture during last minute of cooking.

Combine remaining lime juice and salt with the peaches, scallions, jalapeño and cilantro in a bowl; serve peach salsa with grilled chops.


Teriyaki Turkey Burgers with Grilled Pineapple

This recipe is adapted from an old issue of Redbook magazine (June 2002, to be exact), but it isn’t archived on their website. The Engineer and I made these on our grill recently, and we both really liked them. We omitted the red onion slices and decided to make the pineapple slices ¼-inch thick next time, so that they’re easier to bite through. I’m a big proponent of using fresh pineapple, though, because I used to think I didn’t really like pineapple when all I was eating was canned – now I love the fresh stuff. You can definitely “cheat” and buy a fresh one that’s been peeled and cored for you, especially if that’s all your store carries. Incidentally, slices of fresh pineapple basted with vanilla bean paste and grilled are an excellent dessert!

3 oz Tofutti cream cheese
½ cup coarsely chopped scallions
6 Tbsp teriyaki sauce (such as Kikkoman brand)
1 ½ lb ground turkey breast
1 egg white
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
4 ¼-inch slices peeled, cored fresh pineapple
4 kaiser rolls
slices of red onion

Heat grill to high. Process cream cheese, scallions and 4 Tbsp of the teriyaki sauce in a food processor until smooth; transfer cream cheese mixture to a large bowl. Add turkey, egg white, and breadcrumbs and stir to mix well. Form into 4 patties; grill until cooked through, 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place pineapple slices on grill and brush them with remaining teriyaki sauce; grill, turning occasionally, until well browned, 10 minutes. Grill rolls, cut side down, until toasted, 1 minute. Serve burgers on rolls with grilled pineapple slices and red onion slices.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spiced Coconut Pancakes with Tropical Fruit


I made these pancakes from Bon Appétit the weekend before last. The preparation wasn’t as tedious as it looks, but the first batch came out way too thick. I ended up adding water to the batter, and in the end I suggest using a total of 14 ounces instead of 10, and adjusting from there. I’m using 14 ounces as a reference because it’s easy to just fill the empty can of coconut milk with water. I wonder if my batter reacted that way because I used finely shredded coconut, which perhaps had more of the properties of coconut flour than regular shredded coconut (i.e., absorbing a lot of moisture). I still couldn’t get my pancakes to look as nice as those in the magazine, so that was disappointing, but I really liked the tropical fruit salad. I used a fresh, peeled and cored pineapple to save time, and the salad kept well in the fridge for a day, even though there are bananas in it. I didn’t use the pistachios, becaue I felit like they didn’t’ have their place here, but next time, I would add lime zest and/or chopped mint, because I feel like it was missing something. These coconut pancakes are delicious with maple syrup or ginger syrup.

For the tropical fruit
1 cup diced peeled pitted mango
1 cup diced peeled cored pineapple
1 cup diced peeled banana
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
lime zest and chopped fresh mint, to garnish

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. (Can be made up to 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For the spiced coconut pancakes
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
¾ tsp ground allspice
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 14-oz can light unsweetened coconut milk (about 1 2/3 cups)
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
vegetable oil
additional pure maple syrup or ginger syrup
chopped natural unsalted pistachios (optional; for garnish)

Preheat oven to 250 °F. Whisk first 7 ingredients in large bowl.

Whisk coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla in medium bowl. Fill the empty coconut milk can with warm water, add it to the bowl and whisk again. Whisk coconut milk mixture into dry ingredients until batter is pourable.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat; brush with vegetable oil. Working in batches, add batter by ¼-cupfuls. Working quickly and using back of spoon, spread each pancake to about 4-inch round. Cook until small bubbles appear on surface and bottoms of pancakes are golden, reducing heat if browning too quickly, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

Place 2 to 3 pancakes on each plate. Top with tropical fruit salad, maple or ginger syrup, and chopped pistachios, if using.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Easy Popovers


These popovers, from Real Simple, are almost cheater popovers. They really only require 5 minutes of active time, then they’re in the oven for 30 minutes and that’s it. That being said, they didn’t have the light, hole-ridden structure I was expecting. They were remarkably bouncy and spongy, nothing like “real” popovers. Then again, the Engineer said that if he owned a restaurant, he would serve those instead of bread rolls, so clearly they made an impression! I really liked them as well, and considering how fast and easy they were, I’ll make them again gladly. I served them with a mango black bean salad, but they were great the next morning with a little jam for breakfast.

3 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, melted, plus more for the pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I made sure to use white flour), spooned and leveled
1 ½ cups whole milk
4 large eggs
½ tsp kosher salt

Heat oven to 400 °F. Brush the cups of a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin with butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, butter, and salt until only a few lumps remain (do not overmix).

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups and bake until puffed and a deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not open oven door before 30 minutes or the popovers will collapse. Remove 1 popover to check that the underside is browned.) Serve immediately.




Mango Black Bean Salad


I really enjoyed The Nate Show. Sure, as the series progressed, the shows were less about interior design and more about fashion and cooking (ironic, since Nate can’t cook), but I figured that was due to budget constraints – you can’t make over several rooms and give lavish gift certificates to guests for each episode of a daily series without going into the red. I was starting to get the feeling that the producers were getting desperate when they kept booking the same guests all the time, though. Now, the show’s been cancelled (although for some reason, it seems to still be airing a spring season on some stations, but not in San Antonio). I could spend time mourning for the show, but I’m trying to look at the bright side here: I’m no longer being held hostage by daytime television. Yay!

I did bookmark several recipes from the show, and I’ll try to make them before they are taken offline. This healthy salad was presented by Maria Menounos. I changed it a bit by using a yellow pepper instead of a green pepper – it would have looked better with green, but I don’t like green peppers as much as the more colorful ones. I used two shallots instead of ½ cup red onion, and two mangoes instead of one, as they were small (there was a sale and they were two for $1). The original recipe also calls for ½ cup Italian dressing, but I usually don’t have any store-bought dressing on hand, so I made one with 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 4 Tbsp avocado oil (but olive oil would be great, too); you could even reduce that a bit if you want. The Engineer and I both loved this colorful salad, and I’ll be sure to make it again. It’s pretty easy to make, too, as long as you can be zen and take your time chopping properly. You could also use dried beans and cook them ahead of time, but canned beans are that much faster. The salad keeps well even with the dressing, and you have enough for 4 servings. I served the salad with some popovers.

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced (or 2 small mangoes)
½ cup Italian dressing (4 Tbsp olive oil + 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar, for example)
2 15-oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup chopped red onion (or 2 shallots, chopped)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green (or color of your choice) bell pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor or blender, purée ¼ cup of the mango with the Italian dressing until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining mango with the rest of the ingredients. Add the mango purée and toss. Serve immediately or chilled.



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Natural cleaners

I try to use cleaning products that are as natural as possible. It’s partly for the environment, but mostly for my health and the health of those around me. The brands I buy most are Mrs. Meyer’s, Method and Green Works, but I also rely a lot on baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda is a great, gentle abrasive that does just about anything you want it to (in our house, when the Engineer asks me “How do I clean this?”, 90 % of the time the answer is baking soda), from dishes and jewelry to shower floors and countertops. Vinegar diluted in water is fantastic for cleaning mirrors, windows and floors. And of course, baking soda mixed with vinegar is perfect for unclogging drains. I also throw the occasional half lemon into our garbage disposal, to keep it smelling decent, but there are green ways to clean it more thoroughly.

I decided to give you a round-up of natural cleaner recipes and uses, in case any of you want to be greener. Here is a comprehensive list for the kitchen. The oven can be particularly tough; there are some suggestions here and here. If all else fails, keep in mind that Easy Off has a line of fume-free products, which aren’t as nasty as most (I do have a can of it as back-up). I recommend having an oven liner, or at least tin foil, in place to help clean up any spills.

If you are worried about what’s lurking on the surface of your produce (even if you are buying organic), here’s a recipe for home-made produce wash; I don’t think it keeps for very long, but it should work much better than water. That being said, I usually don’t pull out the baking soda unless I’m dealing with a particularly waxy fruit.

I use microfiber cloths to dust now, since they are reusable (the Swiffer ones, while convenient, generate too much trash). For tile floors, I use an O-Cedar Promist mop, and I fill its container with warm water and vinegar (I considered the Sh-Mop, but I’m a sucker for Peter Walsh, and I don’t regret my choice). Years ago, before I had a dog, I used to have Swiffer wet cloths, but then I realized how toxic that stuff is and I decided to stop using it. I still had the sweeper tool, though, so I ended up getting a washable, reusable cotton cover to fit it (though with cheap yarn, you can make your own); I use it with soap and warm water in our Montreal apartment.



If you sew, you can also make your own; there are several tutorials online, like this one, or you could cut an absorbent cloth such as the Shamwow to the right size. For wood floors, you might want a non-toxic cleaner such as Bona (though I can’t comment on it personally, because unfortunately, hardwood floors are hard to come by in South Texas).

Lastly, I just love Skoy cloths: they’re made with a mix of cellulose and cotton and are super-absorbent. They last a lot longer than J-Cloths, plus you can wash them either in the washing machine or the dishwasher! I try to use them instead of paper towels whenever possible. The link brings you to my Amazon store, because Skoy cloths aren’t available in many brick-and-mortar stores yet. I have to say I’m really thrilled with them!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Meyer Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes



I made this recipe from the Martha Stewart website, but I adapted it a little. I halved it, and those are the directions I’m giving you here, for 12 cupcakes. Even then, I had way too much Meyer lemon curd, so you could even halve that again. If I had known, I would have used my remaining Meyer lemon, but as it was, I didn’t want it to be lost to the great collective, so these lemons were store-bought. I adapted the recipe to use all-purpose flour instead of a mixture of all-purpose and cake flours. I also made my fluffy vegan buttercream frosting with vanilla bean paste, and instead of simply topping it with a raspberry, I put a spoonful of raspberry jam in the frosting as I was making it. (Note to Martha Stewart: If you simply top a cupcake with a raspberry, that’s decoration, not flavoring.) I used sanding sugar on only 3 of the cupcakes; I couldn’t bring myself to do more, because all I could think was, “Yo dawg, I heard you like sugar, so I put sugar on your sugar!” I eat enough sugar as it is.

As for the cupcake recipe itself, I think there might be something wrong with it. I think the butter-to-sugar ratio is too low; it seems to me like the quantity of butter (or margarine) should be doubled. The batter was really weird, more of a dough than a batter, really. It was definitely the wrong consistency for folding in egg whites. I thought it would be a disaster and that I’d have to start over, but in the end, the cupcakes rose beautifully, and even though they were dense, they were very good. I wonder whether the density is required in order to hold the Meyer lemon curd inside without leaking. In any case, since the cupcakes worked in the end and were delicious, I’m leaving the butter-to-sugar ratio as is, but be warned that the batter will be very stiff.

But how were these cupcakes, all things said and done? I loved them. The tartness of the fresh raspberry cut through the sweetness of the curd, and raspberry and lemon complement each other very well; it was a delicious combination. When the Engineer bit through the lemon curd center of the first one, he exclaimed it was an epic win, and he declared them excellent.

For the Meyer lemon curd (considering halving this)
½ cup sugar
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup Meyer lemon juice
½ stick (4 Tbsp) margarine or butter

Prepare an ice-water bath. Set a medium bowl in the ice-water bath and set aside.

Place sugar and lemon zest in a mortar and grind with a pestle to combine and release the oils. Transfer sugar mixture to a medium heatproof bowl along with egg and egg yolks; whisk to combine. Place over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice and continue whisking until mixture is thick and reaches 160 °F on an instant-read thermometer, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add butter and whisk until combined.

Strain lemon mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over the prepared bowl. Cover lemon curd with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface. Transfer to refrigerator until completely chilled.

For the cupcakes
½ cup (1 stick) margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs, separated
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup lactose-free sour cream (or soy sour cream or lactose-free Greek yogurt)
Sanding sugar (optional)
12 fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla; beat to combine. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. With the mixer on low, add flour mixture; mix until well combined. Add sour cream; mix until well combined.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter.

Fill each muffin cup half full with batter. Transfer muffins tin to oven and bake until a skewer inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Let cupcakes cool completely.

Using an apple corer, make a hole in the top of each cupcake, taking care not to push the core through the bottom; remove cake from hole. Fill a squirt bottle with lemon curd and squeeze curd into holes. (I just put curd in there with a small spoon.)

For the fluffy vegan buttercream frosting
½ cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
½ cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
3 ½ cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 Tbsp raspberry jam

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla and raspberry jam, and beat another few minutes. Add a spoonful or two of non-dairy milk or creamer if the consistency is too stiff.

Pipe frosting on top of each cupcake and top with sanding sugar, if desired, and a raspberry.








Forked Oven-Roasted Potatoes


The original recipe for these was in Bon Appétit. I made a half-recipe, to serve 4, and those are the proportions I’m giving you below. I recommend using a baking dish as opposed to a baking sheet, because these potatoes tend to roll around on you, so the higher edges are a bonus. I also recommend adding tin foil, to facilitate clean-up The potatoes take a while to make, but are so worth it! They are crispy and crunchy on the outside, while being fluffy and creamy on the inside. I served them with lime-glazed chicken breasts. The Engineer loved the potatoes and said he was impressed that I had made potatoes and chicken interesting!

3 lbs small Yukon Gold potatoes (1 1/2"–2"-diameter), peeled
½ Tbsp kosher salt plus more
¼ cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 °F. Working in 2 batches, cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, firmly scrape the tines of a fork up and down potatoes, creating a rough, grooved surface.

Pour oil onto a large baking dish covered with tin foil; bake (to heat oil) for 5 minutes. Add potatoes; turn to coat. Season with salt. Roast, turning 3 times during cooking and occasionally basting with oil, until browned and tender, 60–70 minutes.