January 31, 2010

Lemon pudding cake

Have I mentioned my love of lemon? I really, really love lemon. A friend of mine sent us a copy of Gourmet Today as part of our wedding gift. This is the first recipe I tried from it. We were having guests over yesterday so I wanted to try a dessert. There's very little flour in this and it's not really "cake" like - the pudding part is smooth and creamy and the "cake" part is spongy and moist.

Lemon pudding cake
2 large lemons
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus two tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated, and left at room temperature for 30 minutes
1-1/3 cup whole milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2 to 2 quart glass gratin/baking dish.

Using a microplane, finely zest the lemons until you have one tablespoon of zest. Juice the lemons until you have 6 tablespoons of juice (be careful to not include any seeds).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs yolks, milk, lemon zest and juice. Then add the liquid to the flour mixture, whisking until just combined.

In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until the hold soft peaks. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar a little at a time. Continue to beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Whisk about 1/4 of the whites into the batter and then fold in the remaining egg whites.

The batter will be very thin. Pour into the baking dish and place the dish in a small roasting pan in the oven. Add boiling water to the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the cake is puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

January 30, 2010

Tom Kha Gai (Thai chicken coconut soup)

I love this soup... Slightly spicy, slightly sweet, all around tasty - what Thai food is all about. While this recipe probably isn't truly authentic Thai - it's a decent version with ingredients you can find at many larger grocery stores. Items like lemongrass, fish sauce, and Thai chiles have become much more accessible over the last few years. You may have had this soup as a started at a Thai restaurant as it tends to be pretty popular. The broth takes some time to get really flavorful, but otherwise the soup is pretty simple to make.

This recipe serves two as a main dish or four as a starter.

Tom Kha Gai
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 can (14 oz) unsweetened light coconut milk
2 stalks lemongrass (sliced into about 1 inch pieces)
1-2 Thai chiles (or other small red chiles)
about 6 slices of ginger root (about 1/4 inch thick)
about 1 tablespoon cane sugar
juice of 1 lime
1-1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 chicken breast thinly sliced
about 2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
3 scallions, thinly sliced (whites and greens, but keep separated)
about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
thin rice noodles (optional)

In a large soup pot, add the chicken stock, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger root, chiles, cane sugar, and fish sauce. If you want a mild soup, use only one chile. For a hotter soup, use one-two chiles and pierce the skin. Cook over medium heat until the broth comes to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. 

Remove all the lemongrass stalk, ginger root, and the chiles from the broth and discard. Add the chicken, mushrooms, and whites of the scallions. Bring to a low boil and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Add noodles, if using (they will cook in only a couple of minutes) and the lime juice. When the noodles are soft, serve immediately. Top with the scallion greens and cilantro. You can also top with thinly sliced chiles (if you want a spicier soup), extra fish sauce, and/or fresh basil leaves.

January 23, 2010

French onion soup

Ah, French onion soup... I did not like French onion soup until I tried it again as an adult, and then I loved it. It's become one of my favorite soups and it's also one of my favorite ways to use up old bread. I don't really have a "recipe" I use - more like a method. I use whatever type of onion(s) I have (usually more than one kind), whatever sort of day old bread I have, whatever stock or combination of stocks I have, and whatever dry wine I have open... The below recipe is open to changes and interpretation. You really can't mess it up too much as long as you get your onions properly caramelized and sweet and you have the rest of the necessary ingredients. The below recipe will make about four individual crocks of soup. The crocks make a great presentation for guests as a started to a dinner or for lunch.

French onion soup
3-4 medium to large onions (red, white, sweet, -- or any combination you have), peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 clove garlic, grated
one tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
about 1/4 cup extra dry vermouth (or any dry red or white wine you have)
about 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 cups beef stock (or chicken or vegetable or combination)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
day-old french bread or baguette
about 1-2 cups shredded gruyere and/or Swiss cheese
butter and extra virgin olive oil for cooking

In a soup pot or dutch oven heat a pat of butter and about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir until coated. Add some fresh cracked black pepper. Let the onions cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the are soft and caramelized (about 45 minutes to one hour). Once the onions are finished, add the thyme and some salt. Then add your vermouth/wine and stir. Let the alcohol cook out for a few minutes. Add the
Worcestershire sauce and stock and let the soup come to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pre-heat broiler. Ladle soup into crock bowls (or any other broiler safe bowls). Place chunks of the bread onto top of the soup and then sprinkle a generous portion of cheese on top of the bread. Place the soup crocks in the broiler for about 5 minutes (until the cheese gets bubbly and begins to turn golden).

January 19, 2010

Matcha tea leaf shortbread cookies

I've wanted to make matcha tea shortbreads for a while and had a little birthday gathering where I thought they would be perfect for a fried of mine. I was looking for a recipe and found this one which I've cut in half and modified as written below. This recipe is all over the internet. All posts state that the recipe comes from the book Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson (2009), so I will give that credit here, too. These are not easy cookies to make... the dough is very crumbly and it is also very fragile. It rolls better once your work it a little and the butter warms up. But, they do take patience.

It wasn't difficult to find the matcha powder. I found it at our local grocery store (though they have a very extensive tea section). I also found a cute leaf cookie cutter pretty easily (it was labeled as an aspen leaf). This recipe will make about 30 cookies using a 2-inch cookie cutter. The cookies are also delicate, so take care when transferring them from the track to cooling rack and in storing. 

Matcha tea leaf shortbread cookies
1-1/8 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

pinch of sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1-1/2 teaspoons matcha powder
1/3 cup fine cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a small mixing bowl add the flour and salt and stir together then set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium-high until creamy. Add the matcha and continue to beat together until the green color is uniform and the mixture is very creamy. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Turn mixer to low and add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Beat slowly and continue adding the flour gradually until the dough looks crumbly. Gather all of the dough into a ball with your hands.

Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness on top of parchment paper. Use you cookie cutter to cut out the leaf shapes. Use a butter knife to light draw in the veins on the leaves (optional). Carefully transfer the cookies using a thin spatula to baking sheets. Continue until all dough has been used.

Bake for about 7-9 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to turn golden on the bottoms and edges. Let cool on the trays for about 2-3 minutes. Transfer cookies to cooling racks then keep in an airtight container until serving.

January 16, 2010

Lemon tart with a shortbread crust

I got a tart pan from my friend V for my wedding shower/tea party and have been excited to try it out. Last night we had dinner company, so I decided it would be a perfect time to give a tart a try. I wanted something light and bright --- so I chose one of my favorite flavors of all time - lemon! This recipe seemed a perfect one to try. The crust got a little darker than I would have liked, but it was still delicious.


First, the crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (cold and cut into chunks)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt into a food processor and pulse until combined. Then add the cold butter chunks and pulse until the mixture begins to clump. Spray your tart pan with some cooking spray and then place the pastry into the pan. Spread the pastry out into an even layer and press it with your fingertips onto the bottom and sides of the pan. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

A great tip from the recipe I used is to place the pastry into the freezer for about 15 minutes to let it cool and set. This keeps the pastry from shrinking when you bake it. After it's chilled, place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes (just begins to turn golden brown). Place the pan on a wire rack to cool and then make the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and clean and dry your food processor.

The filling:
5 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup unbleached fine cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs

Place to cream cheese into the food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the sugar and pulse until incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time. Then add the lemon juice and zest and process until smooth. Pour the mixture into the tart shell and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate for about 1 hour (until chilled and set).

Top with whipped cream and some extra lemon zest.

January 10, 2010

Thai sweet pumpkin

I never ate or even saw this dessert when I visited Thailand. I had this at a Thai restaurant near home as dessert for a New Year's Even dinner last year. It was really tasty. I came across a recipe for this dessert while looking on the internet and it called for using a kabocha squash. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find that squash and sort of put the thought of making it out of my head for a while... Then I went to the market yesterday and sitting in this large display in the produce section was a whole box of organic kabocha squash. So, of course, I had to pick one up and get right to trying this dessert.

The squash was very difficult to peel! It was very bumpy. After that part though, this rest of the preparation is ridiculously simple and it has a great Asian flavor that I absolutely love - coconut milk. Coconut milk just screams Thai food to me.

Thai sweet pumpkin
One small-medium kabocha squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized strips
1 (15 oz.) can coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons cane (or turbinado) sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium sauce pan add the coconut milk, honey, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the squash and stir. Cover and cook over low heat until the squash is tender (about 10 minutes). Serve hot.

January 8, 2010

Butternut squash Moroccan stew

Aside from my recent soup obsession - I've noticed I'm also going through an orange-colored (or, the orange family) food kick. Looking at the recent recipes I've been making and posting I've noticed this theme... pumpkin, carrot, tomato, sweet potato, and now butternut squash!

This butternut squash stew was really perfect for a winter dinner (and great for lunch leftovers, too). It was easy to prepare and you could certainly add other vegetables like carrots or cauliflower - or even chicken if you would like. I have a stewed Moroccan chicken recipe that I make from time to time that I'll likely share in the future, too.

Butternut squash Moroccan stew (serves 4)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large white potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
2-3 scallions, sliced
1 can of garbanzo beans (low sodium or no salt added, preferably, rinse if not), drained
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
1-2 cups vegetable stock
1-1/2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (depending on how much heat you like)
salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
about 2 cups of couscous

In a dutch oven or large soup pot, warm the olive oil then add the butternut squash and potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock (start with one cup and then add more depending on the consistency you like), tomatoes, salt, cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper, stir and cook over medium heat until the mixture just begins to boil. Then add the raisins and garbanzo beans and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft (but not mushy), about 15 minutes. The raisins will plump up and be a nice, sweet contrast to the spice and warmth of the stew. Stir in the cilantro just before serving.

Serve in bowls over couscous. Top with extra cilantro.

January 7, 2010

Cornmeal pancakes with fresh cranberries

I absolutely love fresh cranberries. I buy them up at Thanksgiving and Christmas time and then am always looking for ways to use them. I found this recipe and thought it looked really great - so I had to give it a try. I was correct, these pancakes were great! I love cornmeal pancakes and I had never really thought of putting fresh cranberries in pancakes before, but they provide a great tart contrast to all the sweetness.

I had to (as usual) cut the recipe in half because two of us definitely didn't need 24 pancakes (the below recipe will make about 12)! Otherwise I followed the recipe pretty well. I used evaporated milk in my pancakes though because I've been trying to use up some leftover in the fridge!

Cornmeal pancakes with fresh cranberry

5 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease your pan
1 cup evaporated milk (or milk)
2 eggs
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, sliced in half

In a small sauce pan, heat butter and milk until the butter melts. The remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm (so as to not cook the eggs). In a medium bowl, beat your eggs. Slowly stir in the warm milk mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the milk mixture into the flour a little at a time while stirring until the ingredients are just combined. The mixture will bubble slightly.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot. Grease the skillet with some butter. Add about 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancake. Once the pancake batter sets on the griddle, sprinkle with the chopped cranberries. Cook until the pancake begins to bubble and then flip and continue cooking until the bottom is lightly browned. Repeat as needed (adding more butter to your griddle each time).

While the pancakes are cooking, I like to warm real (yes, it must be REAL) maple syrup in a small saucepan over very low heat. You can throw a cinnamon stick in the syrup while it warms, too, if you would like. Serve the pancakes immediately topped with the warm maple syrup.

January 6, 2010

Pumpkin custard

I've been looking for ways to use up some holiday related food items I have leftover...pumpkin, cranberries, evaporated milk, etc. I was looking for a dessert to make in my ramekins, too. I found this recipe for pumpkin custard and thought I'd give it a try. It was good - not too sweet and you could really taste the pumpkin. The recipe below will make four single-serving (6 oz) ramekins.

Pumpkin custard
1 large egg and one egg white, lightly beaten
1/3 cup fine cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves
1/2 can (about 7 oz) pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 can (about 6 oz) low-fat evaporated milk

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, mix well. Slowly whisk in the evaporated milk until well mixed. Pour equal amounts into each ramekin (spray with a cooking spray first).

Place the ramekins in a baking dish and fill the dish with about one inch of hot water. Bake for about 35-45 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).

You can serve these warm or chill them in the refrigerator and serve cold. Eat them right from the ramekins topped with some whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon. If you chill them, you can also turn the ramekin upside down and put the custard on a plate, then top with whipped cream and cinnamon for a slightly fancier presentation.

January 5, 2010

Tomato-basil soup

I've been soup-obsessed lately. This is likely due to the fact that it's been snowing and snowing and about 12-20 degrees outside for the past few days...also maybe because I love my new immersion blender. Anyways, this tomato-basil soup is a yummy, comforting lunch or dinner. It's easy to make and can be easily adjusted to your specific tastes. For example - if you like really creamy soup, add more cream. Or, if you don't like creamy tomato soup, then leave it out. This is the basic recipe I use. I like to use organic tomatoes, but it's not a requirement. This will make about four bowls of soup. 

Tomato-basil soup
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes
about 1-1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on if you like heat and spice)
1 cup vegetable (or chicken) stock
about 1 teaspoon sugar
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
a couple of handfuls of fresh (must be fresh) basil
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half or milk)
olive oil

In a large soup pot or dutch oven cook the onions and garlic over medium heat until the onions become translucent. Add stock, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Heat until it begins to boil then reduce heat to simmer. Tear basil and add to the pot, reserving a few leaves for garnish. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or you can puree in batches using a regular blender), puree until smooth. Add the cream and simmer until warmed through. Be sure to not add the cream when the soup is boiling. Serve immediately topped with reserved basil and some fresh ground black pepper.

January 3, 2010

Sweet potato pie

This sweet potato pie recipe was one of my first blog posts. My husband wanted a sweet potato pie for his birthday, so I took the opportunity to update this post and the photographs. I know I'm still not amazing at posts and photography, but I'm certainly better than where I was with this post originally (see below for the original photo). I'm going to try harder to do this for more of my older posts.

I didn't have sweet potato pie until I was a teenager when someone gave it to my family as a gift around Thanksgiving. I thought it was so weird, until I tasted it and was completely blown away by how delicious it was. My mom and I still remember that as it was her first taste of sweet potato pie, too. It's somewhat similar in concept to a pumpkin pie, but has it's own sweeter flavor that I really love. Sweet potato pie is perfect for Thanksgiving and through all of fall and winter.

Love this Sweet Potato Pie? Check out all my other pie recipes!

January 2, 2010

New Year's Day lentil soup with mint

It is said that lentils bring luck when eaten on New Year's Day. So for our New Year's Day dinner with some family, I made this lentil soup which I adapted from a recipe in this cookbook. I usually make a more spicy lentil soup, but this soup is mild with the fresh taste of tomatoes and mint.

Lentil soup with tomatoes and mint
2 cups dry lentils (I used the green ones)
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
1 large red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

For garnish (optional)
1 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

First rinse your lentils and check for stones, etc. Then, in a large soup pot or dutch oven cook the lentils with the stock, water, bay leaf, thyme, sage, and some salt for about one hour. Heat olive oil in a skillet and cook the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are all beginning to soften. Add the vegetables to the lentils along with the tomatoes. Add salt, red pepper, and black pepper. Simmer for about another 15-20 minutes, or until serving time. Remove bay leaf.

If you would would like to have the creamy, cool yogurt garnish, simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until serving. Place a spoonful (or two) on top of your bowl of lentil soup just before serving.

Happy New Year!