Tuesday, January 31, 2012

dinosaur eggs!

I kid, I kid.  But they look like dinosaur eggs, right? Maybe? Ok, fine. Chia seeds...they seem to be all the rage don't they?! Poppin' up all over the place, making waves in the health world, adding a bit of zest to the cooking world...looking like miniature dinosaur eggs.  But WAIT, these guys have popular for MUCH longer than the past year or so.

mini. dino. eggs.
Ch-ch-ch-CHIA! Yeah, you heard me.  Before we realized how scrumptious and healthy these little guys were, we were wasting them to grow plant hair on random terra cotta planters. A la Rabbit of Seville. 

my brother has had this serigraph in his room since we were babes. LOVE it.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs have been chowin' down, NOT having all fun and games.  They're packed with Omega-3's, ALA (alpha linoleic acid), and protein.  Furthermore, these little guys are hydrophilic (so am I?), and they drink up water like a cactus in the desert.  That being said, they were also a necessary element in the olden days diet because they could make the eater feel sufficiently full, even with a small amount of chia seeds in the mix.  Facts and history aside, these seeds are DELICIOUS.  You've probably seen them around town, potentially in GT's Kombucha.  

Courtesy www.synergydrinks.com

At a trip to Organic Avenue, I noticed that they had chia seed 'tapioca pudding'.  WHAT! I must make this.  And off I went! Upon first inspection, I was a bit perplexed, but after realizing the seeds' hydrophilic properties, it all made sense.  And by sense, I mean I was able to make an absolutely delicious, filling, and fun dessert that is super healthy for you and just about as easy as picking an apple off a tree.  On we go!

Chia Seed Pudding
1-2 servings, depending how excited/hungry you are
1/4 c chia seeds
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened vanilla or otherwise
Flavor options - pick one, or get creative:
- 2 drops cardamom oil (or ground cardamom!)
- 1/2 t ground cinnamon
- 1 T cacao powder
- 1 t vanilla
- How about some coconut milk? Shredded unsweetened coconut?

The options are endless - so get down and experiment! You won't be let down - I promise.  The process is easy.  Mix together the seeds, almond milk, and whatever flavoring you choose until combined.  Place in the refrigerator and let the seeds soak up the liquid - you can chow as soon as 30 minutes later, or let it sit overnight for the next day.  

Seriously? That easy, and still delicious? There's got to be some kind of catch - but alas, there is not!

You can recreate the delicious flavors in rice puddings of Greece, the kulfi of India, and the gullac of Turkey - just to name a few! And they won't wreak havoc on your body like the aforementioned may.  The texture of this dessert is great as well, with a bit of crunch from the seeds - you really can't beat it!  Get cracking and enjoy this super healthy dessert!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sweet potato, onion, and apple, oh my!

Latkes.  Latkes?! It's not even the time of year anymore for latkes...or is it!? Seriously though, these latkes are good ANY time of the year.  Why, you ask? Of course I'm going to tell you.  Because they're made with sweet potatoes! And a bit of onion...and a touch of apple.  Finished with some Greek yogurt (or creme fraiche!) and smoked salmon - it's every bit as decadent as it sounds.  If you want to really get down to business, top it with a touch of caviar...why not?  Also, if you're in NYC, I suggest you go to Russ & Daughters for all of your appetizing needs.  They're smoked salmons are outstanding, they have the best prices for caviar, and their smoked whitefish salad is to die for...and that's HUGE coming from a Michigan girl, where we take some serious pride in our smoked whitefish and various preparations.  Basically, if you've never been to Russ & daughters, make a trip out of it.  They're bagel sandwiches are outstanding if you're in the need of a giant snack!

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie.  I have no idea where the recipe first came from, but I do know that it's a permanent fixture in my hippocampus.  I also know that my mom was making these long before my hippocampus started operating as a memory storage bank - usually for special occasions and dinner parties.  This snack, among other things, definitely transports me back to various dates throughout my childhood every time I take a bite!  Although it may sound strange to people that have never had them (latkes...made with SWEET potatoes?!) - it sure will never be the last time they'll be tasting them! I made these for the boy's family once, and they about lost it! I also overshot my recipe and ended up making what seemed like 2,000 latkes - and thankfully! They went like hot (potato pan-) cakes!

So, if you're having some friends for dinner or some cocktails, or even if you're feeling like something absolutely scrumptious - whip a few of these up and enjoy the little dance your tastebuds will start performing!

Sweet Potato Latkes with Smoked Salmon
1 large sweet potato, grated
1/2 sweet onion, grated (or thinly sliced - some graters turn this to mush!)
1/2 apple, grated 
1 egg, whisked up with a fork
Grapeseed Oil
Sea Salt
Smoked salmon, cut into strips, or torn haphazardly
Greek yogurta large skillt, heat
Chives, minced (optional)

To start, combine the sweet potato, onion, and apple together in a bowl.  Mix in the egg until combined.  Next, add flour, about a tablespoon at a time, to the mixture until you can readily form little patties that don't fall apart.  The amount of flour used will vary, depending on the water content of your apple and onion, so keep an eye out here! 

In a large skillet (seriously, large...the bigger the better, since you'll have to cook in batches!), heat up enough grapeseed oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium high heat.  You want this oil to be super hot, but not smoking.  We're using grapeseed oil here because it has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so you can get a nice golden brown crust without having smoke alarms go off!  When the oil is hot, gently start placing the latkes into the oil, ensuring that they aren't crowding one another.  My technique is to take a ball about the size of a ping pong ball (maybe a bit smaller), placing it into the pan, and flattening it with a spatula - this is easy and works well! Otherwise, your latkes may start falling apart before they hit the pan.  Let the latkes cook a couple minutes per side, or until they are golden on both sides.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and continue with the remaining latkes until all are finished.  

To plate, place a dollop of Greek yogurt on each latke.  I like to use Greek yogurt here because it's a) good for you, b) delicious, and c) if you get creme fraiche, you most likely will have to get an entire TUB of it.  You could also make your own creme fraiche.  I digress...to each her own! Top with a couple slices or a hunk of sweet potato, sprinkle with chives, and voila! Taste a few just to make sure they're "okay and not poisonous."  Let out a a happy sigh and crack a smile, and behold the deliciousness that you just experienced!!  Serve hot, and watch these goodies get gobbled up like they're going out of style.  Except they will NEVER go out of style. 

The latkes themselves are absolutely divine - they really don't even need anything atop, but accoutrements just take it to the next level.  They are perfectly golden with a bit if crunch on the edges.  The yogurt cuts through the fattiness of the smoked salmon, as well as the slight oiliness of the latkes, and the salmon itself gives a nice velvety, tender texture to the whole package.  I may have to run to the kitchen to whip up another batch...happy cooking!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

pea shoots and ladders

So I've been in a frenzy.  A RICE frenzy!! About a week ago, I found some sweet pea shoots at the grocery store, and it triggered a memory of a recipe - obviously.  Ever since, the seed has been planted in my mind to cook this amazing "side", although it's so good I could just eat it as a meal.  It's been what seems to be forever since I've last had this, and it's way past due.  Farro, black rice, garlic, and pea shoots.  Doesn't sound exciting? Add in that it's originally a Suzanne Goin recipe from Lucques, and you're moving on up.  S.G. can take these humble ingredients and take it to the next level - in her book, almost all of recipes have a certain level of complication, but the results make a few extra steps well worth it!

First off, let's chat about black rice.  If you've never had black rice, you're seriously missing out.  (Also kinda like how if you've never had seriously, legitimate wild rice, you're seriously missing out!)  It's a kind of sticky rice used often in Asian cultures, but you can see it more often around these parts - for this recipe, I used Lundberg rice, which sells a mix of black rice and mahogany rice.  If you can find "Forbidden Rice" or any other straight up black rice, go for it! The rice grain's deep black husk contains lots of great antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins - think blueberries, acai, pomegranate, red wine - which are not only great for you, but also give the rice a beautiful deep magenta/purplish hue after cooking! Then we've got farro - one of the oldest grains cultivated, originally from the Middle East, but now grown primarily in Italy - and it's a great grain to mix in with the black rice, both aesthetically and texturally! The farro is like a wheat berry, and when cooked al dente, has a great toothiness to it - a great juxtaposition next to the sticky black rice.  But enough of this health talk, lets move on to the recipe!

Before you start, remember, Miss G sometimes makes recipes complicated, so be sure to read through the recipe first! If you don't you could end up spending hours on this! (Unnecessary). Get out a couple big sauce pots out and get cooking!

Farro and Black Rice with Garlic & Pea Shoots
(Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)
6 T olive oil
1 c diced onion
2 chiles de arbol
2 bay leaves
1 cup black rice
1 T thyme leaves
1 cup farro
1/2 cup thinly sliced green garlic, or 1/4 thinly sliced garlic clove
4 oz pea shoots
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper 

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Swirl in 2 T of olive oil.  Add 1/2 cup of the chopped onion, one chile, and a bay leaf. Cook until the onion is traslucent, stirring often.  Add the black rice, stirring to coat it with the oil, allowing it to toast lightly.  Add 2 cups of water (or stock if you have it), a pinch of salt, and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for about 45 minutes, until the rice is tender. When it's almost done, stir constantly until any leftover liquid is absorbed.  Season with a few grinds of black pepper and transfer to a baking sheet to cool.  Discard the bay leaf and the chile.

In a second medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.  Add inthe remaining onion, the thyme, and the bay leaf.  Cook, until the onion is translucent.  Add the farro, stirring again to coat with oil, allowing it to toast a bit.  Add at least 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt, and bring to  boil.  Turn the heat to low, and summer about 30 minutes, until the farro is just al dente.  If you are using pearled farro, it may take less time - be sure to read package instructions as well just in case!  Once cooked, strain the farro, discarding the bay leaf.

Finally, in a large stockpot or large sautepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the garlic (green garlic if you're lucky!), the sliced chile, and a pinch of salt - saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the farro and a few grindings of black pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the rice and cook until heated.  Finally add the pea shoots, cooking until they are just wilted.  Taste for seasoning and transfer to a serving platter.

The fact that I haven't had this dish in so long really makes me question my prioritization of things.  It's absolutely stunning - all by it's lonesome! Granted, a lot of pans get used, but it's worth every extra bit of elbow grease you're going to use later for cleaning!  Also, I used virgin coconut oil (!!) as my oil for sauteing the onions et al. for the grains - I think it added a deep hint of coconut to the dish which is AWESOME! Obviously, using olive oil as the recipe states will result in a stunning dish no matter what.  The flavors in this dish are amazing - the chiles de arbol and the bay leaves with the grains really make a difference.  There's a hint of heat in the dish that just slowly warms you up while chew the perfectly al dente grains.  And of course, the wilted pea greens brighten the dish up with that sweet vegetal taste.  Absolute perfection I say!!  This recipe does make a pretty decent amount, but you'll want more after having you're first bite.

Monday, January 9, 2012

La Forêt Enchantée

Well, I haven't posted anything since LAST YEAR! *snare drum - high hat* All jokes aside, it's been awhile! The holidays came and have gone too quickly, but I definitely had was able to pack a bunch in.  A bit of travel, a lot of eating and cooking, and of course, spending time with family and friends. And to say that it wasn't an indulgent close to one year and beginning to another would be a straight up lie! We kept the old, and brought in some new - in terms of recipes that is. (Shout out to elementary school friends - who remembers that "Silver and Gold" song about making new friends but keeping the old? Yeah, that's a throwback.)  Of course, the new recipes add a little pizazz to the selection, but the old never lose their appeal - I mean, come on...when will oysters in champagne sauce EVER not be amazing? And, a Christmas without a Bûche de Noël would be sacrilege.  Point being, it seems like every year it just keeps getting bigger and better! It makes me start to feel like this guy.  Hopefully that's not a sign that my life is going to turn into Charles Dickens novel.  In addition, I think that the holidays are also the equivalent to a legitimate reason for eating many sweets, treats, and desserts. Also a reason I feel like the aforementioned "guy".  So, since Serbian Christmas JUST passed by this weekend, I think it is still appropriate to give you an recipe for a delicious, but also impressive cake to whip up for dessert!

This recipe comes from the book The Cake Bible - my mom has had this book since before I can remember, and it's definitely gotten it's fair share of usage out of it.  Because it LITERALLY is the cake bible.   It's also where we get our Bûche de Noël recipe! But that's not what you're getting (this time) - instead, you're going to get the wonderful recipe for the "Enchanted Forest".  First of all, let's talk about how this cake is called THE ENCHANTED FOREST.  How can anyone turn down anything called that? Thank you, Cake Bible.   Second, it's basically all chocolate in some form, and to be quite frank, I'm not so big on chocolate desserts unless they are absolutely AWESOME. And this is awesome. I hate when the deliciousness of chocolate is wasted on a garbage preparation! Anyways, the cake itself is made with whipped egg whites, so it results in a fluffy and not at all dense texture (hence, Cloud Roll - you'll see).  It's then topped with a light chocolate ganache, where the chocolate flavor really comes through, and is topped with cocoa meringue sticks, which we know are light as a feather. You get the chocolate in a few of different preparations and voila! The Enchanted Forest. Let's get started!

This cake has three components - and most of it can be made 2 days ahead of time if necessary.

The Enchanted Forest
(Adapted from The Cake Bible)
All Recipes at the bottom of this post.
- 1 Cocoa Souffle Roll
- 1 Whipped Ganache 
- 1 recipe Cocoa Meringue, piped into sticks

To Assemble:
Using an oval hand, or just going free hand, cut 2 ovals of equal size (about a 7-in oval) from the cocoa roll and remove all the surrounding pieces.  Test the pieces for quality control (true.).  Slide a long metal spatula under each in case they are sticking to the parchment paper.  

On your cake platter (or cardboard if your transferring it later) place one oval down and cover it with about 2/3 of the ganache.  Place the second oval on top and spread the remaining ganache around the top and sides of the cake - it should be about 1.5 inches high.  Lay some meringue sticks with the flat sides down around the side of the cake just up to the top.  All these steps can be done two days ahead! If this is the case, refrigerate the cake, uncovered.  

One hour before serving remove the cake from the fridge and insert the remaining meringue sticks into the cake.  Break the sticks into uneven lengths, placing the broken ends into the cake.  For looks, you can dip the tops of the meringue into powdered sugar, or as I do, sift powdered sugar all over the top.  Frankly, I find that more exciting - it's like it's snowing!

So, needless to say, this cake is visually stunning! All of the thin sticks of meringue of different hieghts really do make it look like an Enchanted Forest.  The cake and ganache combination is perfectly chocolately and not at all heavy.  And each bite that contains some interior meringue is especially perfect! Because about an inch or so of each meringue stick was in the cake for an hour, they've sucked in some moisture and gotten just a tad bit chewy.  Getting a piece of everything in one bite is like a textural explosion! It may sound like a lot of work to make this care, but in the long run, it's worth it! 

And the aftermath:

Cocoa Souffle Roll
1/3 C + 1 T unsifted cocoa powder
¼  C boiling water
1 t vanilla
2 T unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 C sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1/3 C finely ground toasted almonds, optional

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Prepare 17x12 jelly-roll pan, lining it with either a silpat or parchment paper.  Use a dab of butter to grease the parchment paper. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the 6 egg yolks with ½ C of sugar and beat for 5 minutes with an electric mixer (longer if you're doing it like the olden days!)  until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture, and the ground almonds if using, and beat until incorporated and well-blended, scraping down the sides.
In a large bowl (again, preferably copper), beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually, as you continue beating, add the rest of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. With a large whisk, slotted spoon or spatula, fold about 1/3 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it before folding in the rest of the whites in 2 or 3 additions. Fold in the whites extremely gently until completely blended in.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 18 minutes. The cake will have puffed, faded in color and lost its shine and the surface will spring back when lightly touched. Remove the cake from the oven, and leaving it in the pan, place it on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder evenly all over the cake.  Finally, wet a clean dishtowel and ring it out well.  Cover the cake with the damp dish towel. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Whipped Ganache
1 pint heavy cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine - leave chocolate inside. In a saucepan, heat the cream until it boils.  With the food processor running, slowly pour the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large electric mixer bowl and refrigerate until cold - about 2 hours, stirring once or twice. When ready to assemble the cake, remove the ganache from the fridge and mix in the vanilla.  Beat with the mixture for a few minutes until it has lightened a little.  Be careful not to overbeat, or it will become grainy.  If this DOES happen, remelt the mixture, chill, and rebeat.

Cocoa Meringue
4 large egg whites
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/2 C + 1 T superfine sugar
1 C powdered sugar
2 T cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 200 F.  While the oven heats up, line a large baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.  In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa, and set aside. In a mixing bowl (copper if you have it!) beat the whites until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar, and beat at medium speed.  Gradually add 3 T of superfine sugar.  When stiff peaks form, gradually add in the remaining sugar and beat until very stiff and glossy.  Fold the powdered sugar and cocoa powder mixture into the meringue gently until combined.  Place the meringue into a pastry paper with a 3/4 inch tip.  Pipe onto a baking sheet in sticks, about 1/2 inch wide.  Bake for 50 minutes or until the outside is crisp, but not browned.  Remove and let cool.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The holiday season...

I hope everyone had a FANTASTIC holiday season! Mine was filled with amazing food, friends, and family - it just didn't last nearly long enough.  Great new recipes for 2012 are soon to come!