Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fruity Chicken Salad

I think I’ve established that I like salads with fruit in them. I made one from Coup de Pouce with leftover turkey, pearl couscous, carrots and raisins with an orange dressing (granted, raisins aren’t much in the way of fruit, but this was great to polish off leftover turkey from the holidays). I also tried a farro salad with roasted squash, pomegranate, and persimmons, after reading this guide to persimmons. It’s too bad I only caught the tail end of the season, because I really liked them! And of course there was my lemon chicken salad with oranges and pomegranates. All this to say that it should come as no surprise that I’m overjoyed with this so-called rainbow chicken salad with almond honey mustard dressing! Both the Engineer and I loved this salad; the Little Prince liked the grapes, chicken and dressing on day 1 (and asked for more of each), and on day 2, he decided that maybe the blueberries were pretty good too. Note that to make this nut-free, in addition to eliminating the chopped almonds, I’d recommend using sun butter or tahini instead of almond butter in the dressing.

For the salad
2 tsp. vegetable oil
8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or cutlets
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. chili powder (or a pinch of Korean pepper)
2 cups red grapes, halved
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 cups curly lettuce, chopped
½ cup feta cheese (I omitted that)
½ cup almonds, chopped or crushed (mine were roasted and salted; see note above)

For the dressing
3 Tbsp. almond butter (see note above)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. stoneground mustard
½ Tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. salt, more to taste
½ tsp. garlic (I used some garlic powder instead)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt, pepper, and chili powder. Sauté in the oil for a few minutes, flipping the chicken now and then to cook through and get a nice golden color on both sides. When the chicken is cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

Cut and prep all the vegetables and fruits. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite sized pieces. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl - you can either arrange the bowl by ingredient, as in a salade composée, or toss everything together. Refrigerate to chill.

For the dressing, purée all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth (I did this with my immersion blender). Taste and adjust to your preferences. Pour dressing over salad and serve.

Raspberry Yogurt Cake with Meyer Lemon Frosting

This cake was a good way to use Meyer lemons. They go well with raspberries, and in this case the frosting was a wonderful vehicle for their taste. You could even add some Meyer lemon zest in the cake, if you wanted. I’ve changed the frosting recipe a bit, though, because it originally called for “the juice of 2 Meyer lemons”. I hope you realize how arbitrary that is! The amount of juice in one Meyer lemon could be anything between 1 tablespoon and 4 tablespoons, and the amount of liquid in frosting is particularly important! Therefore, I recommend starting with 2 tablespoons and going from there.

For the cake
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup plain lactose-free Greek yogurt
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

For the frosting
8 oz. lactose-free cream cheese, room temperature
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons (see note above)
1 pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 320 °F. Grease and line four 6" round cake pans or two 8" or 9" round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside (I used two 9” pans).

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until mostly combined. Add the yogurt and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to medium peaks, then fold them into the cake batter. Fold the raspberries into it as well.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake 25-30 minutes (this worked well for 9” cakes, but it would be less for 6" cakes), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, mix the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and mix until combined. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until combined. You can adjust the consistency as you wish (more lemon juice to make it runnier, more powdered sugar to make it stiffer). Frost the cake and store it in the fridge.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Muffins à la noix de coco et à la confiture

Cette recette, tirée des Carnets de Miss Diane, s’appelait à l’origine « moelleux » à la noix de coco et à la confiture. Personnellement, je n’ai pas trouvé ces petits gâteaux si moelleux que ça – peut-être qu’il faudrait les faire cuire un peu moins? En tout cas, ça fait de délicieux petits muffins! J’en ai obtenu 8 et je les ai fait cuire dans des moules en silicone, pour un démoulage facile (puisqu’ils ne contiennent pas de gluten). Pour la confiture, j’ai utilisé un reste de confiture de framboise (achetée pour les rugelachs), mais c’est facile à adapter à ce que vous avez sous la main!

½ tasse de yogourt nature sans lactose
¼ de tasse de sucre granulé
½ tasse de farine de riz
¼ c. à thé de poudre à pâte
2 c. à soupe d'huile végétale
2 œufs
¾ de tasse de noix de coco râpée
confiture de fraises (ou de votre choix), maison ou du commerce

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F.

Mélanger les ingrédients, sauf la confiture de fraises, dans l'ordre en brassant bien à chaque addition. Verser la pâte dans des moules à muffins en les remplissant aux ¾ et ajouter environ 1 c. à thé de confiture sur chaque muffin. Enfourner et cuire de 15 à 20 minutes. Laisser tiédir avant de démouler.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Batch of links

- The Oscars are this weekend! Take a peek at the after-party menu.

- There’s a drive-thru that sells salads at fast-food prices! It figures this would not at all be on our way to Quebec from Texas…

- Here’s why and when to bloom cocoa powder, i.e. steep it in warm liquid to develop its flavor.

- Have you seen white stripes on some chicken breasts? Here’s why some people avoid them.

- Would you look at these weird paper towels?

- Produce stickers might be replaced with lasering logos instead, but am I the only one who might occasionally want produce that hasn’t been literally branded?

- GQ had this great interview with Tom Hiddleston recently, and then Bon Appétit set out to recreate his Bolognese recipe.

- Parents had an article about families dealing with food allergies, which made me think I haven’t mentioned the “new” guidelines according to which the best way to prevent food allergies in children is to introduce allergens early, not delay their introduction. I used quotation marks on “new” because technically, those guidelines already existed when I was pregnant with the Little Prince, and those are the ones I followed with him. That being said, it’s true that the information hadn’t made its way into the general population; even my doctor wasn’t aware. I remember having this discussion with my then-neighbor: she had a shellfish allergy and was adamant about delaying the introduction of nuts into her children’s diet. I told her the evidence showed it was actually the opposite that was beneficial, but didn’t press the point so as to avoid an argument, because how one raises one’s children is a very touchy subject. For what it’s worth, both her kids now have food allergies, though there’s obviously no proof of causation here, this is entirely anecdotal. So anyway, there you go, hopefully now everyone is aware of the evidence.

- Related: Mylan, which makes the EpiPen, now makes a generic version. CVS also makes an even cheaper alternative, and Auvi-Q is back on the market. More tips here. There’s also hope for eventual treatment with immunotherapy.

- I thought this article titled To Obama with love, hate, and desperation, about the letters sent to President Obama, was both interesting and moving – his staff selected ten for him to read each day.

- I really enjoyed this article on Leonard Cohen’s Montreal. (Here’s another on the same topic.)

- The Globe and Mail recently conducted an investigation into why so many sexual assault claims are dismissed as unfounded by the police. It’s a long read, but very informative – it turns out that “unfounded” doesn’t actually mean “no evidence it happened”. As a result, some places, like the province of Quebec, are reviewing their policies.

- American Girl released its first boy doll last wekk. Some people are not happy about this, but I’m thrilled! It’s about time boys had a doll – hopefully there will be more eventually. They also have dolls with various disabilities and medical conditions.

- Also, while on the topic of gender equality for children: I love Free to Be Kids, a clothing company that makes “clothing with positive messages, designs that flip the script on gender clichés, and stylish, on-trend design”. I recently ordered a t-shirt for the Little Prince from them. In the same vein, I also like Jessy & Jack.

- Finally, it’s Black History Month. I think the U.S. have (overall) done a good job of integrating topics like slavery and the Civil Rights Movement to school curriculums, and I look forward to the day when we just call it “history” without specifying race. That being said, the whole point of this month is to raise awareness, and we still have a long way to go. Did you know that there used to be Black slaves in Quebec, for example? And here’s an African-American woman with whom I’m not nearly familiar enough, given how much I like rock and roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She influenced musicians like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. I think this is the first performance I saw of hers. I need to get myself one of her compilation albums!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Eggnog Tart

This recipe was originally titled Holiday Nog Pie with Coconut and Gingersnap Crust, and it was vegan. I couldn’t find vegan eggnog, though, so I used Lactaid’s lactose-free pasteurized eggnog. I made a non-alcoholic version, naturally, so that’s what I’m writing below. You can also make this nut-free by using something other than almond milk. For the coconut milk, make sure to use something without stabilizers, otherwise it won’t congeal properly in the fridge.

In the original recipe, one had to reduce 1 cup of eggnog down to ¼ cup and then proceed with making the filling. However, that made a very small amount of filling, more like a little puddle in the crust – it didn’t even reach all the sides! So I went ahead and doubled the amounts, below. I think that the original amounts would be alright for a 6- or 7-inch tart pan, but certainly not the standard 9-inch pan that was recommended! You might have filling left over, in that case, but I’d prefer that to not having enough. I don’t think that simply reducing the eggnog to a lesser extent would be a good idea, from a consistency standpoint.

With the rest of my eggnog, I made bread pudding, which was only so-so – I think French toast would have been better! I also drank a small glass of it, but this isn’t the kind of beverage I would consume in large quantities, even during the holidays.

For the crust
1 bag (10 oz.) gingersnap cookies
¼ cup (30g) coconut flour
1 pinch ground ginger, optional
1 pinch of fine sea salt
¼ cup coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk (see note above)

For the filling
2 cups lactose-free eggnog
2 (13.5-oz) cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (see note above)
½ cup turbinado sugar
½ cup coconut oil
1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For topping
freshly grated nutmeg
coconut whipped cream
gingersnap cookies, crushed

Preheat oven to 325 ˚F. Line the bottom of a 9″ tart pan with parchment paper and spray with oil; set aside.

In a food processor, mix the gingersnap cookies, coconut flour, ground ginger (if using), and sea salt into a fine meal. While the processor is still running, drizzle in the coconut oil and continue processing until the crumbs have completely absorbed the oil (no more than 30 seconds), then drizzle in the almond milk and pulse just until combined. Press the mixture between your fingers to make sure it sticks together. If so, you’re good to go; if not, add almond milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Transfer to the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Once chilled, put on a baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 11-12 minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Put the eggnog in a small saucepan set over medium heat and cook until reduced to a scant ½ cup, about 25-30 minutes (make sure to keep an eye on this, especially if there’s real dairy in your eggnog, as milk can boil over). Once the mixture has been reduced, open the cans of coconut milk and scrape the thick, white cream off the top (you should have at least 400 g. of cream) and add it to the saucepan. (I freeze the coconut water that remains, with the intention of using it for smoothies.) Add the sugar, coconut oil, and nutmeg, and simmer on medium heat for about five minutes, whisking every minute or so. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Slowly pour the mixture into the crust. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, then transfer to the freezer to firm up completely (two more hours).

When you’re ready to serve, remove from freezer, top with freshly grated nutmeg or topping of your choice, and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Black Cherry and Marzipan Bread Pudding

I really like bread pudding. Or at least, I do in theory, even though some recipes fall flat (like orange maple French toast casserole, a somewhat bland dish that called for twice as much syrup as it should have and in which the orange segments completely disintegrated). Luckily, the LCBO’s Food & Drink came through with this recipe for black cherry and marzipan bread pudding, published over the holidays. It was fantastic! A bit nerve-racking, though, because there’s really a lot of bread cubes and liquid to fit into a loaf pan, but it all worked out for the best. And the result was a moist bread pudding sturdy enough that it can be unmolded and sliced – it was delicious as part of an indulgent breakfast, but it could work for dessert as well. I just love the combination of almond and cherry, especially when the almond is in the form of marzipan!

Note that I’m giving you the amounts that worked for me below (including lactose-free substitutions). Also, I recommend putting the marzipan in the freezer for 30 minutes before starting on the recipe, it’ll be easier to grate that way. I used a big loaf of challah (though brioche would work too) and sliced it into roughly 1”-cubes.

¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
9 cups cubed day-old brioche or challah
½ cup good-quality black cherry jam (I used St-Dalfour)
3½ oz. (105 g) marzipan
1 can coconut milk, topped up to 2 ½ cups with lactose-free milk
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract or paste
2 Tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp. coarse decorative white sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Generously grease a 9½ x 4½-inch (24 x 11 cm) loaf pan. Line with a strip of parchment trimmed to the length of the pan (the ends don’t need to be covered), leaving ample overhang along sides to later become handles and aid in the removal of the loaf.

Arrange 3 cups of the bread cubes evenly over bottom of pan; using only half of the jam, spoon randomly in dollops over bread. Grate roughly one-third of the marzipan overtop. Arrange another 3 cups of the bread over, and once again top with half the jam and one-third of the marzipan. Finish with the final third of bread, then the final third of the marzipan. (I pressed everything down gently to make it fit into the pan.) Drizzle melted butter over the top.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk mixture, eggs and egg yolks; stir in vanilla, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Gently pour over bread (really take your time here) and let stand for 20 minutes to allow bread to absorb custard mixture. Sprinkle decorative sugar overtop and bake for 40 minutes or until puffed and golden. Let stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour (hot bread pudding will be too delicate to turn out) before removing from pan and slicing into pieces.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Vegan mac & cheese from a box

I tried three kinds of boxed vegan mac & cheese. First up, Earth Balance’s cheddar flavor. It was delicious, though not quite as orange as I would have expected – perhaps more annatto coloring would do it? I also have a bit of a quibble about serving sizes (this seems to be consistent across all brands, though): the box says that it contains 2.5 servings, which is a weird number to begin with, but I end up eating all of it for lunch! What’s up with that? In any event, this was a really good mac & cheese, I’d recommend it.

As a side note, there’s been a recall on Earth Balance mac & cheese due to possible cross-contamination with dairy allergens… Come to think of it, I haven’t seen it in stores lately.

I also tried So Delicious’ mac & cheese (the pizza flavor, because that’s the only one that was on the shelf). I hated it. The sauce was neither creamy nor cheesy and it didn’t look or taste good. I love other products from that brand, just not their pasta, I guess.

Finally, I tried Daiya’s cheddar-style mac & cheese. This one was a bit different because the sauce comes premade in a pouch, instead of being a powder. It was almost too cheesy (read too thick), though it was delicious. Plus, they nailed the orange color! I really enjoyed this one. Bonus: I had leftovers – there’s actually more in this package than in the other brands. Did I mention it’s allergen-free?

Since I liked it so much, I also tried their Alfredo style macaroni, and I really liked that, too! It should be said that the Little Prince seems to love Daiya’s pastas as much as I do – we always polish off the box for lunch between the two of us.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Mousse Frosting

I had this recipe bookmarked for a while and finally got around to making it recently. The cake itself was good, but what really makes it special is the mousse frosting, made with silken tofu (such as Mori-Nu, which is shelf-stable). It is luscious without being overly sweet, and it would actually make a good chocolate pudding by itself, which I’ll have to keep in mind! Plus, this dish is super easy to make.

For the cake
1 ½ cups white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 tsp. white vinegar
¾ cup cold water

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or 8-inch square pan; line with parchment paper and grease again.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly in a medium bowl. In a 2-cup measuring cup or a small bowl, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter and put it in the oven right away. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

For the chocolate mousse
1 package firm silken tofu
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. almond or soy milk
1 pinch salt
melted dark chocolate to drizzle on top
8 to 10 oz. chocolate chips (a little over 1 1/3 cup), white or dark

Purée tofu in a food processor, scraping down the sides as needed, until completely smooth.

Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, milk, and salt to the mixture, and process until smooth.

Melt the chocolate chips in 30-second intervals in the microwave on 50% power.

Add chocolate mixture to tofu in food processor. Pulse mixture until smooth and completely combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

Spread mousse mixture on top of the cooled cake.

Drizzle melted dark chocolate on top of the mousse and sprinkle it with chocolate chips.

Carrot Tahini Muffins

These muffins from Smitten Kitchen were fabulous! Not only were they beautifully domed, but they are absolutely delicious – almost addictive. Even the Little Prince liked them. Come to think of it, I should make another batch of these! Note that I recommend the glaze, because it was great, but it is optional.

For the muffins
2 cups (260 g.) flour (I used white whole wheat, but all-purpose is fine)
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
½ cup (80 g.) light brown sugar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup (30 g.) well-stirred tahini
2 large eggs
¾ cup buttermilk substitute (or almond milk or apple cider, even)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups (packed) coarsely grated carrots (from about 9 oz. or 5 slim carrots)

For the glaze (optional, but recommended)
½ cup (60 g.) powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. (25 g.) tahini
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) water
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Heat oven to 425 °F. (I confess that I forgot this and accidently baked the muffins at 350 °F – I just left them in the oven a few minutes longer and they came out perfect anyway.) Grease a 12-cup standard muffin pan.

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

Whisk brown sugar, olive oil, and tahini together in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, then buttermilk and vanilla. Then, using a spoon or flexible spatula, mix in the dry ingredients and the carrots until just combined.

Put the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup ¾ full (you may have enough batter for a few more muffins, but I didn’t). Bake muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out batter-free. Muffins should be domed and lightly golden on top. Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

Whisk powdered sugar, tahini and water together in a medium dish. (I recommend adding the water 1 Tbsp. at a time, and leaving the glaze a bit thicker than you think you need, so that it doesn’t get absorbed by the muffin and actually forms a cap on it as it dries.) Either drizzle this over the cooled muffins or dunk them into the puddle. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thai Coconut Soup with Udon Noodles and Tofu

This soup was an unexpected hit! I made it for lunch on a cold day, and I thought it was delicious; what was unexpected is that the Little Prince asked for seconds, and then thirds! For him, I put mostly solids in his bowl (including cut-up noodles), with only a little broth. I’d definitely make this again! Just make sure to store leftovers separately (i.e. tofu, noodles, and broth in individual containers) and only assemble and garnish prior to serving.

For the tofu
1 14-oz. package of firm tofu (this needs to be drained, so note the extra time in the directions)
1 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
vegetable oil

For the sofrito
2 stalks of lemongrass (peel off the outside layer and quickly chop the tender centers of the stalks)
2 Fresno red chilies, seeded and deveined (I omitted those)
2-3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and quickly chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 large shallot, quickly chopped
¼ cup water
1-2 Tbsp. fish sauce

For the soup
1 ½ Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 14.5-oz. can coconut milk
2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 quart chicken broth
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup lime juice (about 1 ½ limes)
10 oz. udon noodles

For garnish
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
cilantro, trimmed
sesame oil

To drain the tofu, wrap it in paper towels and set it on a plate. Place another plate on top to help press out the water. Let the tofu drain for about an hour. Mix together your honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil to make a marinade for the tofu. After draining for one hour, cut the tofu into 1″ cubes, place in a bowl or dish and pour in the marinade. Gently toss and allow it to sit while you prep all the other ingredients for the soup.

Put all the sofrito ingredients in a food processor (lemongrass, chilies, ginger, garlic, water, fish sauce, and shallot) and purée them together. Set aside.

In a bowl, gently whisk together all of the soup base ingredients except for the oil (coconut milk, peanut butter, chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice). Set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Put in the sofrito and cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes. Once it smells really fragrant and sweet, add in the coconut milk/broth mixture. Bring to a low simmer and cook the soup for 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, bring another large pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon noodles until they are al dente, then drain them.

While you’re doing that, heat a large non-stick pan over high heat. Add a bit of vegetable oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Carefully add your tofu cubes to the pan using a pair of tongs. Sauté the tofu until it’s nice and golden brown on all sides. Transfer the tofu to a plate and set aside.

Stir the soup well; ladle it into bowls and add in some noodles. Top with tofu, cilantro, and the thinly sliced shallot. Drizzle with a tiny bit of sesame oil and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saffron Yogurt Cake

This saffron cake was delicious! I replaced some of the oil with applesauce and reordered the ingredients for you below, and I added precisions about the pan I used. Instead of caster sugar, you can put regular sugar in the food processor, or just use regular sugar directly. In order to make it a bit more Persian, I used rosewater in the glaze – you’re welcome. You could also top this with crushed pistachios, though we didn’t find it necessary. The saffron really dominates the tastes, as it should. Enjoy!

For the cake
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 cup caster sugar (see note above)
4 eggs
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup lactose-free Greek yogurt
4 tsp. dissolved saffron (I used a generous pinch of saffron, ground it, and added 1 Tbsp. water)

For the glaze
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
1-3 Tbsp. rosewater
chopped pistachios, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Grease a 9” springform pan; line the bottom with paper and grease again.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Beat caster sugar and eggs for 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and forms a ribbon when the beater is lifted. Add applesauce, oil, yogurt and saffron; beat for a few seconds to mix.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and slowly fold in with a spatula. Scrape into the prepared pan and bake for 45 min. or until it springs back to the touch. Let cool completely.

For the glaze, mix icing sugar with 1 Tbsp. rosewater at a time, until the mixture is the right consistency (i.e., thick and not too runny – I should have used a bit less rosewater, perhaps 1 ½ Tbsp. would have been perfect).

Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and serve.

Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta

This recipe is from Bon Appétit. I had seen it in the magazine, but had decided not to tear out the recipe for some reason. Then I saw it again online, and this time I had to bookmark it. It takes a while to make, but you get lots of leftovers out of it (we have some pork ragu in the freezer as we speak). Plus, it was a huge hit at our table! The Engineer gave it five stars, called it magnificent and said it would be okay to serve it if Anthony Bourdain were to drop by. Isn’t he wonderful? (The Engineer, I mean. I married well.)

For the pork
3 lbs. skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 3 pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ cup full-bodied red wine
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
4 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves

For the polenta and assembly
kosher salt
1½ cups coarse polenta (not quick-cooking)
¼ cup unsalted butter or margarine
½ cup grated parmesan (from about 2 oz.), plus more for serving
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
olive oil (for drizzling)

For the pork
Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Cook pork, turning often, until evenly browned, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a platter and pour off pan drippings.

Wipe out any burned bits from pot, but leave the golden-brown pieces (doing this will keep the finished sauce from tasting bitter). Add onion and garlic to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown and caramelize, 12–15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color, 5–8 minutes.

Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by about half, 5–8 minutes.

Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands or the back of a wooden spoon as you go, then add thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves; stir in 2 cups water. Add pork with any juices accumulated on the platter; season with salt and pepper.

Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until pork is falling-apart tender, sauce is thickened (it will be thicker than a typical pasta sauce), and flavors have melded, 2½–3 hours.

Using 2 forks, break up pork into pieces or shred it (your choice!); taste and season with salt and pepper.
Pork can be cooked 5 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill in sauce.

For the polenta and assembly
Bring 6 cups salted water to a boil in a large pot. Whisking constantly, gradually add polenta; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking often, until polenta is tender and creamy, 20–25 minutes (if polenta becomes too thick too soon, loosen mixture by adding more water and continue cooking). Add butter and ½ cup Parmesan to polenta and whisk until melted; season with salt and pepper.

Spoon polenta into bowls or onto a platter and top with pork. Scatter parsley and more Parmesan over top and drizzle with oil.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bûche de Noël

I am just now getting around to posting about Christmas… Hopefully I’ll be more on the ball next year! Our meal consisted of traditional meatball stew (63 meatballs this year), turkey with a pear and maple glaze, as well as mashed potatoes. But the recipe I want to share is the bûche de Noël, or Yule log. I went with the recipe published in Bon Appétit in 2015, because I’d been eying it enviously for a year. I won’t lie: it’s very involved, as there are many steps, and yes, there was swearing at one point, but everything actually went just fine, and it was a beautiful bûche. I had to make a few substitutions to reduce the amount of lactose, but I didn’t eliminate it completely. The ganache filling isn’t exactly a ganache, as the cream gets whipped; we don’t have lactose-free cream in the US, and the vegan substitutes I know wouldn’t have held up to the melted chocolate, so I used real cream. I think one could use coconut milk and forgo the whipping step. Also, I used lactose-free cream cheese instead of mascarpone.

There is one thing I’m flat-out changing in the recipe, though: the original recipe called for a 26”x18” rimmed baking sheet. I didn’t have anything nearly that size, so I bought the largest one I could find, a 21”x15” rimmed sheet. As it turns out, it was the absolute biggest size that could fit in my oven! Moreover, I felt like there wasn’t enough cake batter for it (ours didn’t quite reach the edge), so honestly, if your rimmed sheet is a bit smaller than that, it’ll be fine. Note too that because our sheet was smaller, the bûche was shorter and looked a bit too squat for my taste with two branches; next time I’d only make one branch, so that the bûche remains a bit longer.

I had a nasty cold that prevented me from actually tasting anything that night, but I stuck a piece in the freezer. I got to it a few weeks later, so I can attest that a) this bûche freezes well (without the meringue mushrooms), and b) it is delicious. It wasn’t too sweet, and the buttercream was glorious!

Again: this is a long process, so it helps to have a sous-chef. Some of these steps can be made ahead of time, which is what I recommend.

Step 1: Make meringue mushrooms and buttercream (This can be done 2 days ahead)
6 large egg whites (ideally pasteurized)
1¼ cups sugar
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
unsweetened cocoa powder (for dusting)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I used vanilla bean paste)

Make meringue
Preheat oven to 225 °F. Whisk egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl (I used the metal bowl of my stand mixer) set over a medium saucepan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water), until egg whites are very liquid (the mixture will be warm to the touch) and sugar is dissolved (rub between your fingers to check), about 5 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and beat with an electric mixer until stiff, glossy peaks form (the bowl will feel cool), about 5 minutes.

Create mushrooms
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dust very lightly with cocoa powder. Scoop out 1 cup meringue. Dollop heaping teaspoonfuls of meringue onto prepared baking sheet, spacing at least 1 ½" apart.
Lightly dust meringue with more cocoa powder and place a sheet of parchment over top. Use an offset spatula or your hands to flatten meringue into irregularly shaped disks about ⅛" thick.
Bake until lightly browned and parchment peels away easily, 75–90 minutes (meringue will be soft when it first comes out of the oven, but will dry and crisp as it cools).

A word of warning: be very gentle when removing the paper from the meringues. Some will break, but don’t panic! You have enough spares that you can still make a beautiful bûche without all of them.

Mix buttercream
Meanwhile, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter into remaining meringue, adding a piece at a time and waiting until incorporated before adding more. Beat until mixture is very smooth. (If it looks very loose or curdled, just keep beating; buttercream will come back together.) Add vanilla extract and scrape in vanilla seeds; beat to combine.

At this point, I feel I have to interject and give you additional information. Yes, it is possible, and even totally normal, for the buttercream to look a bit curdled, and it will come together if you keep beating it. However, if your butter was still slightly too cold, it will separate (think lumpy and loose) and you won’t be able to beat it back together quickly. Again, don’t panic! It turns out there’s a very easy fix: scoop out some of the mixture (maybe ½ cup here) and microwave it until it is liquid. Then, drizzle it back in as you are mixing. I have tried this and can vouch for the method, it works like a charm. This buttercream is surprisingly resilient! You can also give it another whip right before using it.

Step 2: Make the fillings (This can be done 1 day ahead)
Cocoa syrup
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. almond extract

Cook sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add cocoa powder and almond extract and whisk until smooth.

Bittersweet Ganache
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. instant espresso powder (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup heavy cream (see note above)

Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using), vanilla, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat; pour over chocolate mixture. Let sit until chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth; let cool. Using an electric mixer, beat ganache until light and fluffy (it should be the consistency of whipped cream).

Mascarpone Filling
1 cup mascarpone, room temperature (I used lactose-free cream cheese)
1 pinch of kosher salt
½ cup heavy cream (or coconut milk)
⅓ cup powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat mascarpone and salt in a large bowl. With motor running, gradually pour in cream. Increase speed to medium and beat in powdered sugar. Continue beating until mixture forms medium peaks.

Step 3: Bake sponge cake (This can be done a day ahead provided you frost it)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
¼ cup lactose-free whole milk
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
¾ cup sugar

Increase oven to 400 °F. Coat a 21x15” or 13x18" rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on long sides. Spray parchment.

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and ⅓ cup cocoa powder in a small bowl.

Bring milk, butter, oil, vanilla, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, beat eggs and egg yolks with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Increase speed to high; beat until doubled in volume. With motor running, gradually add sugar; beat until very light and fluffy and mixture falls back on itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon (it should be at least quadrupled in volume), about 5 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium and gradually stream in milk mixture. Sift one-third of dry ingredients over top; gently fold in until only a few streaks remain. Working in 2 additions, repeat with remaining dry ingredients, scraping bottom of bowl and using as few strokes as possible to keep eggs from deflating (a few streaks are fine). Scrape batter into prepared baking sheet and gently spread to edges of pan. Tap sheet lightly on counter to pop any large air bubbles.

Bake cake until surface is puffed and springy to the touch, 10–12 minutes. Make sure you move right onto Step 4!

Step 4: Roll up and cool sponge cake
Let cake cool in pan 2 minutes, then run a knife along short edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack and carefully peel away parchment.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust cake with cocoa powder. Cover with a large kitchen towel (I now have one dedicated to the bûche, in addition to the one dedicated to latkes).Place another wire rack on top. Flip cake over so towel side is underneath. Remove top rack; dust exposed side with cocoa powder. Starting at one of the long sides, gently roll up warm cake inside towel.

Let cake cool, seam side down, 30–35 minutes (longer is fine).

Step 5: Fill and reroll sponge cake
Carefully unroll towel and cake on a flat surface (cake will curl at the ends and may have a few small cracks but should stay in 1 piece). Position cake so the end that was in innermost part of spiral is closest to you; brush off any excess cocoa.

Using a pastry brush, gently dab cocoa syrup over entire surface of cake; you may not use it all.

Dollop bittersweet ganache over top and smooth with an offset spatula to create an even layer.

Dollop mascarpone filling over ganache; carefully spread over surface, trying not to blend with ganache and avoiding last inch of cake along long side farthest from you.

Using towel to lift edge nearest you, reroll cake, keeping towel on exterior. Chill, seam side down, until filling is set, about 30 minutes.

Step 6: Create and decorate log
1 oz. marzipan (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted

Transfer filled cake to a baking sheet. Set aside ½ cup buttercream for attaching branches. Evenly spread remaining buttercream over cake with an offset spatula.

Using a long serrated knife, trim ½" of cake from each end to create clean edges; discard (or eat!). If you want to make 2 branches, slice off a 4" piece of cake. Starting 1" from end, divide 4" piece in half, cutting at a 45° angle, leaving 1" at opposite end. If you used a smaller rimmed sheet, I’d recommend making only one branch, so you’d have to slice it off at a 45° angle and trim the end piece again (more taste testing!). Transfer log to a platter.

Place angled side of each small piece of cake against roll to create branches, positioning one on top and the other on the side, using a large dab of buttercream to secure. Cover any exposed cake on sides with more buttercream, but leave cut ends exposed.

Use a spatula to create textured lines in buttercream to look like birch bark.

Knead together marzipan and cocoa powder on a surface until smooth. Roll out on a sheet of parchment paper to less than ⅛" thick, then cut out wavy strips to look like tree knots; drape over buttercream and press gently to adhere.

Using either a pastry bag fitted with a very small round tip or a disposable plastic bag with one corner snipped off, drizzle melted chocolate over log to mimic birch bark striations.

Chill Bûche de Noël, uncovered, until ready to serve.

Just before serving, press mushrooms perpendicularly into log in groups of 2 or 3.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Tourtière pommes et oignons caramélisés

J’ai essayé une nouvelle recette de tourtière cette année. Deux, en fait. J’ai essayé une tourtière végétalienne de Ricardo. J’ai trouvé que la garniture avait beaucoup de potentiel, même si j’aurais remplacé les épices « sucrées » (cannelle et muscade) par de la levure alimentaire, par exemple. Puis bon, la pâte était infernale et m’a tellement enragée que je ne voulais plus rien savoir. Heureusement, il y avait aussi une tourtière de Fraîchement Pressé! J’ai fait la variation pommes et oignons caramélisés, et c’était délicieux! En fait, j’avoue que j’avais un rhume ce jour-là et je ne goûtais à rien, mais j’en ai mis quelques bouchées au congélateur. J’ai pu les tester cette semaine, et vraiment, j’adore! Les autres convives étaient d’accord. J’ai servi la tourtière avec la salade de chou frisé pomme et grenade de Chère Sœur.

1 lb. de viande (j’ai pris du porc, mais on peut mélanger aussi avec du bœuf et du veau)
2-3 gousses d’ail, émincées très finement
1 oignon coupé en deux, tranché et caramélisé
1 pomme, avec la pelure mais sans le cœur, râpée
½ tasse de chapelure (ou plus, au besoin)
½ c. à thé de thym séché
sel et poivre, au goût
2 abaisses de pâte brisée (maison ou du commerce)
1 jaune d’œuf + 1 c. à soupe de lait pour la dorure (facultatif)

Dans une grande casserole, faire chauffer 1 c. à soupe d’huile végétale à feu moyen, faire cuire la viande en remuant souvent, jusqu’à ce qu’il ne reste plus de rose du tout (15 à 20 minutes). Ajouter l’ail et continuer à mélanger pendant 2 minutes. Ajouter l’oignon caramélisé et la pomme râpée, bien mélanger puis éteindre le feu.

Ajouter la chapelure, qui permet d’absorber le gras; ¼ à ½ tasse à la fois, selon le caractère plus ou moins gras de la viande choisie. (Il faut une viande un peu luisante, mais sans aucun gras liquide dans la casserole.) Assaisonner avec le thym, le sel et le poivre, puis goûter et rectifier si nécessaire.

Préchauffer le four à 375 °F. Placer la grille à la position la plus basse.

Si nécessaire, abaisser la pâte dans un moule à tarte. Verser le mélange de viande sur la pâte. Couvrir de l’autre abaisse. Pincer le rebord en le façonnant si désiré et faire quelques incisions dans la pâte, au milieu, pour laisser la vapeur s’échapper. Badigeonner la pâte avec la dorure.

Cuire environ 50 minutes. (On peut aussi faire congeler la tourtière avant ou après la cuisson, puis la sortir du congélateur et la mettre directement au four à 425 °F environ 1 h ou 1 h 30, respectivement, selon la méthode choisie.)