May 27, 2012

Rhubarb bars

Everyone is familiar with lemon bars and maybe even lime bars, but I wanted to use rhubarb to achieve the same dessert. The rhubarb is tart and tangy and I thought it would be a great replacement in this dessert. The only problem was that rhubarb is thicker than lemon or lime juice, so I needed to make sure that the ratio of ingredients would allow the filling to set. I looked all over the net to see if someone had done this already, and I found only one recipe the Quinces and the Pea

When I made my bars, they did not turn out a lovely light pink color, as you can see. I think this is a combination of two things: 1) my rhubarb was not super pink in color; and 2) the pastured eggs I had had very orange yolks. Regardless of the color though, the rhubarb flavor shines through and they were really good. I brought these to a picnic and everyone enjoyed them. I slightly modified the original recipe to the one below. I cut down the amount of sugar, and still thought they were a touch on the sweet side. Everyone else seemed to think they were the right amount of sweetness. Give these bars a try before rhubarb season is over.

May 21, 2012

Steamed artichokes with creamy lemon and chive sauce

Artichokes can be a lot of work for not a lot of reward, in my opinion. I love artichoke hearts, and even baby artichokes, but cooking a regular artichoke is a rare event for me. I did it recently because my husband went grocery shopping with me and decided that he'd like some artichokes. If you are like me and slightly intimidated by the thought of cooking an artichoke, I highly recommend this great tutorial post from Simply Recipes. Once you battle the spines on the ends of the leaves and accept that the artichoke is going to discolor as it cooks, you begin to feel better about cooking them (and figuring out exactly how you eat them). Once that happens, you'll start to enjoy the slow process of peeling apart the warm artichoke, dipping it in a cold sauce, and gently pulling the bit of good flesh off each leaf with your teeth. It becomes sort of a serene process. And, don't forget the heart. Once you pull off all the leaves, scrape out the choke with a spoon, and eat the heart. This recipe will serve four people as a side.

May 17, 2012

Spiced rhubarb cake

I don't know how I came to be on a baking streak this spring when I usually don't even bake that often, especially when it's not the holidays. This cake was made because I had a large bag of fresh rhubarb and because I wanted to make a dessert to bring to Mother's Day dinner at my mother-in-law's house. I saw the recipe on Not without Salt and was excited to make it. This cake seemed very simple and old-fashioned, yet so charming and yummy all at the same time. Rhubarb is something we ate when I was a kid, but I think the only way I ever ate it was in pie. I love the tang and sourness of rhubarb and these qualities are probably what make it quite perfect for baked goods.

I encourage you to try this cake. I took the original post's recommendation and creamed the butter and sugar by hand with a wooden spoon, just like we can imagine our grandmothers doing. There's something satisfying about making the cake with only the muscles in your arm. This cake was enjoyed - even by my three year old nephew who was mumbling "Aunt Amy, what's in this??" as he gobbled it up. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get a photo of the inside of the cake, but I was able to get the one above. Below is my slightly modified version of the recipe.

May 14, 2012

Mexican brownies

If you recall, a couple of months ago I posted these fudgy coconut brownies, which were the first homemade brownies I had ever made. We had a few people over on Cinco de Mayo and I was looking for a dessert to make that would be properly themed for the rest of the dinner. I found Aaron Sanchez's Mexican brownie recipe and thought that I'd give homemade brownies another try. Let me just say how delicious these brownies were! They were so moist and chocolaty and the addition of the cinnamon and cayenne gave them such depth and warmth. Those spices pair so beautifully with chocolate. They are so simple, yet so good. Everyone, even people who I thought may be a little concerned about cayenne in their brownies, loved them. Don't be afraid of the cayenne and don't leave it out - it's not hot in this quantity and with all the other flavors and sugar. It's just delicious.

May 10, 2012

Chicken shawarma wraps

Shawarma is something that my husband often orders when we go out to eat at our local falafel bar. The chicken is coated in Middle Eastern spices and yogurt and then cooked until golden. I'm not sure how authentic the recipe I found is, because all the ones I looked at varied. What I do know is that these wraps were flavorful and easy (and my husband gobbled his up!). Sometimes, that's all that matters!

I've been meaning to make my own pita bread and had all intentions of doing so for these wraps. Unfortunately, these got moved from the weekend to a weeknight, and there was no way I'd be able to make the pitas and have us eat before dark - even this time of year when it's light until almost 9:00 PM. Next time I need pitas though, I'm making them myself! Give this chicken shawarma a try. This recipe will serve two to three people, depending on how hungry they are.

May 6, 2012

Stuffed mushroom pasta bake

Stuffed mushrooms are one of the best party treats around, so the idea of taking the flavors and ingredients of stuffed mushrooms and putting them into a pasta dish seemed pretty smart to me! I saw a recipe in Gourmet Today that inspired this dish. As soon as I read it, I knew I had to make it. I'd never worked with dried porcini mushrooms before, so I was glad to try a new ingredient, too. My husband and I are big, big mushroom lovers (although I despised them as a kid -- it's funny how your tastes change over time). He is also a beginner at mushroom foraging and I'm looking forward to some of his finds this year. We won't find any porcini mushrooms around here, but they are very flavorful and are perfect in this pasta dish.

We enjoyed this meal a lot. I cut down on the amount of breadcrumbs, and would maybe even cut them back a little further. It really did taste like a stuffed mushroom. It was very earthy and also pretty garlicky. This recipe will serve about four to six people as a main dish. Serve it with a green side salad for a complete meal.