Friday, April 30, 2021

Batch of links

- How 1971 changed the way we eat forever – Bon Appétit really found a lot of things that started that year! 

- I enjoyed this newsletter about trusting your child to eat (and navigating food allergies within a family). 

- Waffles + Mochi is out! I really like this kids’ show produced by Michelle Obama, about where our food comes from. It’s a little advanced for the attention span of the Fox, but hopefully we can get back to it next year. 

- Someone made garum at home. Garum is basically the ancient Roman recipe for fish sauce, and it reminded me of this episode of Spilled Milk

- I found The Ghosts of Brooks Brothers both interesting and disheartening. It’s about how small service providers are left dealing with the consequences of large corporations filing for bankruptcy. 

- My last link is a personal recommendation: I bought a butterfly garden with live caterpillars from Insect Lore last month. We got a little cup containing five tiny caterpillars, along with a pop-up mesh “cage” and detailed (but simple) instructions. We watched the caterpillars grow over the course of a week and a half, then they turned into chrysalises. We waited patiently, and one morning, we had painted lady butterflies! We observed them for a few days, then released them outdoors. It was a really fun experience, and not just for the kids! The caterpillars ship to the continental U.S., and Insect Lore also has ladybug larvae.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Mini-Muffins


These sweet potato oatmeal mini-muffins are hearty and delicious! I love making mini-muffins because I can stash them in the freezer, then periodically add a few in the Little Prince’s lunchbox – they’ll thaw by lunchtime. The recipe makes 30 mini-muffins, and since my pan only holds 24, I have to make these in two batches. By my calculations, you could also make 10 standard muffins with the same recipe; just increase the baking time accordingly. For breakfast, I’d prefer standard-size muffins, but the mini ones are great for a snack or as a sweet treat after lunch! 

For the sweet potato purée, I always just prick sweet potatoes with a fork, wrap them in foil, put them on a baking sheet and put them in a 425-°F oven for 1 hour. Once they’re cool enough to handle, I slice them open, scoop out the flesh, and put it in the food processor to make a smooth purée. Any leftovers can be frozen. 

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat) 
1 cup old fashioned oats (I used instant oats) 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1 tsp. baking powder 
½ tsp. baking soda 
½ tsp. kosher or fine sea salt 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
2 large eggs, whisked 
1 cup sweet potato purée 
½ cup lactose-free milk (vegan works too) 
¼ cup vegetable oil 
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a mini-muffin tin. 

Place the first 7 (dry) ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining (wet) ingredients. 

Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients just until they are combined (be careful not to overmix the batter). 

Place 1 tablespoon of batter in each cup of the mini-muffin tin and bake for 15 minutes.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Passover Pancakes


We finally had a special Passover dinner in our own home this year – we had been saying for a long time that we should celebrate, and I guess it just took the second year of a worldwide pandemic to do it? Well, on the morning of the first day of Passover, I made these pancakes that I had bookmarked forever ago. (I also made a shredded apple kugel a few weeks later, but it was only okay. Kugels can be noodle-based or potato-based, and for Passover, this is obviously the latter.) 

I couldn’t find matzo cake meal anywhere, but since I needed it for another recipe I wanted to make this year, I decided to buy it online. Apparently, you can use 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. of matzo meal, blitzed in the food processor, instead of 1 cup of matzo cake meal. That being said, the consistency of matzo cake meal felt so fine and uniform to me that I’m glad I bought the container! I’m not sure what to make with the rest of it, though – there’s a recipe printed on the back for brownies, but it calls for 2 ½ cups of sugar and 1 ¼ cups of oil, so that’s not happening. I’ll probably just make more pancakes! 

As for the tapioca starch, that’s what makes the pancakes so chewy and, in my opinion, they would be different without it. However, the original recipe does say you can use potato starch instead. You can also use more milk to thin out the batter for crêpes. 

I made a double batch (the salt amount below is mine) and got 13 small pancakes (so the amounts below would probably yield only 6 small pancakes). I never bother keeping them warm in the oven, though! 

2/3 cup matzo cake meal 
1/3 cup tapioca starch 
1 Tbsp. sugar 
1 tsp. kosher for Passover baking powder 
1/8 tsp. salt 
1 ¼ cups lactose-free milk 
2 large eggs (lightly beaten) 
2 Tbsp. lactose-free butter, melted 
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 

Preheat the oven to 200 °F. Have an ovenproof serving platter or baking dish ready so you'll be able to keep the prepared pancakes warm in the oven. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the matzo cake meal, tapioca starch, sugar, and baking powder. 

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk well until the ingredients are well-combined and the batter is smooth. 

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Grease the skillet with a little oil or butter. Drop the batter by spoonfuls (about 2 to 3 tablespoons each) into the skillet (mine were bigger). Depending on the size of your skillet, you should be able to make 3 or 4 pancakes at a time. 

Allow the pancakes to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the edges are set and you begin to see bubbles on the surface. Use a wide, thin spatula to carefully flip the pancakes, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until golden brown on both sides. 

Transfer the cooked pancakes to the platter, tent with foil, and keep warm in the oven while you make the rest of the pancakes. Serve warm with jam, cinnamon and sugar, or pure maple syrup.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Barbecue Sauce

I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, where Deb Perelman explains that she adapted it slightly from Ina Garten’s recipe. What I like so much about it is that it mixes a lot of “types” of barbecue sauce into one neat package – if you’re an Eastern / Southern / Asian purist, then this is not for you, but for the rest of us, this might just be the perfect homemade sauce! 

I don’t like things spicy, so I didn’t use the chili powder or red pepper flakes (though the heat of those two can vary from batch to batch as well). I did use a pinch of Korean pepper instead. This is very adaptable to your taste, and also to what you have on hand (I didn’t have quite enough Worcestershire sauce or hoisin sauce and it was still great). I halved the recipe and got two jars (Bonne Maman size), one of which is currently in the freezer. I’m writing down those amounts below (slightly adapted for the size of cans) because I can’t imagine needing more at any given time. 

¾ cup minced yellow onion (from 1 small onion) 
1-2 garlic cloves, minced 
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil 
6 oz.-can of tomato paste (about ½ cup) 
½ cup apple cider vinegar 
½ cup (165 g) honey 
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce (I only had 2 Tbsp.) 
½ cup (120 g) smooth Dijon mustard 
¼ cup soy sauce 
½ cup (165 g) hoisin sauce (I only had ¼ cup) 
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin 
1 generous pinch of Korean pepper 
(mild chili powder and/or red pepper flakes, to taste) 

In a large saucepan on low heat, cook the onions and garlic in oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent and soft, but not browned. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to a month (longer in the freezer).

Monday, April 12, 2021

Turkey Zucchini Burgers


I saw this recipe on Weelicious and decided to make it. I doubled the amounts to have leftovers (though I left the amounts of yogurt sumac sauce as is and had too much sauce even then). I did have some trouble making it, though: the Weelicious recipe called for a large zucchini and no bread crumbs, but when I made it, I realized that it was much too wet with one large zucchini (I didn’t even add the second one) and I had to add 1 cup of breadcrumbs to compensate. After some digging, I found that the original recipe was by Yotam Ottolenghi, who had made it into meatballs. His version specifies a weight of zucchini (200 g), so I’d go with that next time. That being said, the burgers were really good!

For the burgers (4) 
1 lb. ground turkey, light or dark meat 
1 large zucchini, coarsely grated (see note above) 
3 scallions, thinly sliced 
1 large egg 
2 Tbsp. chopped mint 
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1 tsp. ground cumin 
1 tsp. kosher salt 
4 hamburger buns 

For the yogurt sauce (consider halving this) 
1 cup lactose-free Greek yogurt 
1 tsp. grated lemon zest 
1 Tbsp. lemon juice 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1 Tbsp. olive oil 
2 tsp. sumac 
½ tsp. kosher salt 

In a large bowl, combine first 9 ingredients. Mix well. With dampened hands, form the mixture into burgers about 1 inch thick. 

In a large sauté pan or stove top grill over medium, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and add the burger patties. Cook burgers 5-6 minutes on each side. 

Place all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. 

Place the burgers on buns and top with the yogurt-sumac sauce. (I added a few extra cilantro leaves.)

Friday, April 09, 2021

Marbled Hamantaschen


These vanilla-chocolate hamantaschen are absolutely not traditional. For one thing, they’re dairy instead of pareve, and for another, well, chocolate. But the recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, and I felt like Deb Perelman couldn’t steer me wrong, so I made them. 

The result was delicious! The Engineer was actually on the fence before tasting these, then he ate one, and a second, and was pensive for a while before declaring, “Two things are true. One: these are not hamantaschen. Two: they are fantastic.” I didn’t grow up with hamantaschen, so I don’t care that these aren’t traditional, and I’ll make them again. It just would have felt disingenuous to simply call them triangle cookies, though, so I kept the name. Honestly, what’s not to love? The dough is buttery, not unlike shortbread, and the whole confection is not overly sweet, but still has some contrast with two flavors. 

Note that I found the cheesecake filling to be very runny as I was assembling them, even with (lactose-free, dairy) cream cheese that was cold instead of at room temperature. I’m not sure how big a deal that is, or whether it would be worth exploring ways to thicken it (starch? flour? powdered sugar instead of granulated?) – I will try next time. Maybe I’d also halve the amounts (and either keep the egg yolk whole or omit it entirely), since there’s definitely too much of it. Also note that if you’re making the dough in a food processor (like me) or even a stand mixer, you can use cold butter, but with a hand mixer, you’re better off with butter at room temperature. 

I got 24 hamantaschen from this recipe. 

For the filling (see note above) 
1 cup (8 oz) lactose-free cream cheese, ideally at room temperature 
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar 
2 pinches of fine sea salt 
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 tsp. lemon juice 
1 large egg yolk 

For the dough 
1/3 cup (40 g.) powdered sugar 
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar 
½ tsp. fine sea salt or table salt 
2 cups (265 g) all-purpose flour 
12 Tbsp. (1 ½ sticks = 6 oz = 170 g) lactose-free butter, cut into cubes 
1 large egg 
½ tsp. vanilla extract 
1/3 cup (45 g) additional all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup (30 g) cocoa powder 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. 

For the filling 
In a small-medium bowl, mash cream cheese and sugar with a fork (this will be easy if the cream cheese is at room temperature and will take a couple minutes longer if it’s cold, but will work either way). Add salt, vanilla, lemon juice, and egg yolk and continue to mash and blend until smooth. Transfer to refrigerator until needed. 

For the dough 
Combine the sugars, salt, and 2 cups of the flour in the work bowl of a food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until it disappears, then keep running the machine until it just begins to clump. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined into one big or a few smaller masses, scraping down the bowl as needed for even blending, then keep running the machine until the dough is smooth and easily forms one big blob. This might take up to a full minute longer. (If you are using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the sugars with the butter and salt until creamy, a few minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat until it disappears, then keep mixing until the dough is smooth and forms one big ball.) 

Scoop half the dough into a separate bowl. You can eyeball it, or, if you have a digital scale, Deb Perelman’s dough halves weighed 308 grams each. Add remaining 1/3 cup flour to one half of the dough, and 1/3 cup cocoa powder to the second half, mixing until blended. Once again, run the mixer or machine until the dough is no longer crumbly and is in one big mound; this can take 30 to 60 seconds longer. (It makes more sense to me to blend the flour half first, then reuse the bowl for the chocolate half – fewer dishes to wash that way.) 

To marble the dough, place a large piece of parchment paper on your counter. Spoon little dollops of chocolate and vanilla doughs all over, alternating dollops a little but no need to be very checkerboarded about it. (My dollops were too big – I would use smaller spoonfuls next time.) Use an offset spatula, bench scraper, or even a spoon to smoosh and mush some of the pieces together, creating areas that are more blended and leaving some unblended. 

Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper and roll doughs out into an even 1/8”-thick slab. (I would make them thicker – the ones that broke in my case were too thin. Of course, you’ll get fewer that way.) If you started with cold butter, the dough will probably be solid enough right now to skip it. If it feels very mushy/warm, however, slide the onto the back of a large baking sheet and pop into the freezer for 3 minutes. We do not want the dough to be hard, just somewhat firmed up but still very bendy. 

Return the dough slab to your counter. Carefully peel the parchment sheet off the top and replace it. (This loosens it.) Flip slab over onto the loosened side and remove the top parchment sheet entirely. Use this to line a large baking sheet (or use a silpat). 

Cut dough into 3-inch rounds. Place a measured 1-teaspoon dollop of cream cheese filling in the center of each. Fold up the edges in 3 sections and pinch the corners closed; continue to pinch/”zip up” the cookie, pinching it closed, until only a marble-to-quarter-sized opening remains. Don’t worry if the center looks underfilled; the cream cheese expands in the oven. Transfer each to the parchment-lined baking sheet. These do not spread, so you can fit them fairly close together on the tray (about 1-2 inches apart). 

To reroll scraps, pile them in the center of the piece of parchment paper and place a second sheet on top again. Repeat the process of rolling the dough thin, briefly cooling it, loosening the back, and cutting it into circles until all the dough is used. (In my case, I preferred the appearance of the marbling in the second batch, but in the third batch the pale parts of the dough were getting too indistinct.) 

Bake hamantaschen for 20 to 25 minutes, until pale parts of dough are golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Orzo with Vegetables and Chicken

I found this recipe on Annabel Karmel’s site, though interestingly, the version in her video was different from the one written out underneath it. I decided to include the video ingredients, because it all looked better to me, then mixed both versions, and that is what’s written out below. This was delicious! My only change would be to increase the amount of chicken from 2 breasts to 4, to make more servings. The original recipe just said to cook them and slice them, but I seasoned them with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and I cooked them for 20 minutes at 425 °F – they were great! This dish gets 3 thumbs up (the Fox is still unsure about food in general, unless it’s pizza). 

1 red onion, in small cubes 
1 red bell pepper, in small cubes 
1 zucchini (75 g), in small cubes 
1 carrot (50 g), in small cubes 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika 
1 tsp. brown sugar 
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar 
1 cup orzo (125 g) 
2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable), hot 
1 cup passata (strained tomatoes) 
1 tsp. dried thyme 
10 cherry tomatoes (I used way more), halved 
2 to 4 cooked chicken breasts (see note above), sliced 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet. Add the onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and carrot and fry for a few minutes, until starting to get tender. 

Add the garlic, paprika, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and orzo. Stir to coat orzo in the mixture. Add the stock and passata. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the orzo is cooked. 

Add the thyme and tomatoes and stir until the tomatoes have softened slightly (I left them raw). Add the chicken (warm it up right in the pan if necessary) and serve.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Apple Cake

Today is a happy day. You see, there’s this apple cake recipe that the Engineer’s mother makes, and it’s his absolute favorite. His Bubbie made it too. The recipe is in Second Helpings, Please!, and I had both his Bubbie’s annotations and his mother’s tips. But it just wasn’t working! When I had made it the first time (back when we lived in Montreal), I had used 5 apples and had been told that it was too few (when I got my hands on Bubbie’s notes later, she did circle “6” in the “6-8 apples” called for). It was supposed to be made in a 9” square glass dish, but that’s not a standard size and I couldn’t find a pan that size. Last fall, I tried a 9” springform pan (which has a comparable volume) and used 5 apples again, which I weighed (roughly 250 g on average), but it was definitely too *many*. 

Eventually, my mother-in-law admitted that she uses fewer apples and was now using a different kind of pan anyway. So I tried again, still with my 9” springform, this time with 1 ½ (large) Envy apples. AND IT WORKED! I finally have the cake I want from this recipe, and the Engineer has approved my version. So here is our apple cake, heavily adapted from Second Helpings, Please! by three generations. I’m simply writing down a weight of apples below and you can adjust the number depending on their size. 

1 ½ cups (180 g) all-purpose flour 
2 tsp. baking powder 
½ tsp. baking soda 
¼ tsp. salt 
550 g apples (see note above), pared and thinly sliced 
½ cup brown sugar 
2 tsp. cinnamon 
2 eggs 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 tsp. vanilla 
½ cup vegetable oil 
3 Tbsp. water 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease a 9” springform pan. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 

In another bowl, stir together the apples with the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside. 

Beat eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in oil. Add half of dry ingredients, then water, then the rest of the liquid ingredients, beating after each addition until just smooth. 

Spoon half of batter into the prepared pan. Gently top with the apples, spreading them evenly, then top with the rest of the batter. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out free of batter.