Monday, May 27, 2019

German Traditional Cooking: Gurkensalat (Cucumber Salad)

I feel like I've been planning to make this cucumber salad for what seems like forever, but it just never happened.  I always enjoy this dish when I go to German restaurants, but considering how easy it is to throw together, I'm shocked it's just now getting made.  Light and delicious for summer.

Gurkensalat (Cucumber Salad)
Adapted from German Traditional Cooking

1 large hothouse seedless cucumber
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
Sea salt and ground white pepper

Peel the cucumber leaving some of the green rind.  Slice it very thinly.  Mix the salt and sugar into the vinegar, and marinate the cucumber in this mixture for 30 minutes.  Drain off the liquid, mix the sour cream, dill, and chives with the cucumber, and season to taste with additional sea salt and pepper.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Cooking Classy: Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

I wasn't sure what my contribution to Mother's Day dinner would be until a strawberry shortcake was requested.  Normally strawberry shortcake is a pretty involved affair, with multiple separate cakes and a complex layering process to be repeated over and over.  It's not such a big deal if there's four or less people, but when you get above six, it can feel like forever before you get to your own dessert.  I decided to try making a trifle, which means just one layering process, and then dessert is ready!  The trifle was absolutely delicious, everyone was a fan, and I especially liked the cream cheese in the whipped cream.  I'll definitely make this again.

Note: When I took the cake out of the oven, I poked it all over with a toothpick and then I brushed it with Licor 43 (Cuarenta y Tres), a vanilla-flavored liqueur.  Absolutely not necessary, but I love to gild the lily a bit now and then.

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle
Adapted from Cooking Classy blog

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

Strawberry layer
3 pints fresh strawberries, diced, plus several additional whole berries, for garnish
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Kirsch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon grated orange peel

Cream layer
2 cups heavy cream
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¾ cup powdered sugar

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda and baking powder, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment whip together butter, sugar and lemon zest until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time then mix in vanilla. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix just until combined then add in half the sour cream and mix just until combined, repeat with flour and sour cream once more then end by mixing in last third of the flour mixture and mixing just until combined (scrape down bowl to ensure it's evenly combined).
Pour and spread batter evenly into prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 to 24 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into 1-inch cubes (you'll have some leftover cake which you can chill or freeze and serve later with more fresh fruit and whipped cream).

For the strawberry layer:

Toss diced strawberries with the remaining ingredients. Let rest 20 minutes.

For the cream layer:

In a large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer whip heavy cream until soft peaks form (no need to clean beater blades for next step). In a separate medium mixing bowl whip cream cheese until smooth, add powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste and whip until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese mixture to heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form.

To assemble trifle:

Place a layer of cake cubes in the bottom of a trifle dish. Add half of strawberries over the cake. Spoon half of cream mixture on top of strawberries and smooth to the edges of the bowl. Repeat layering process once more. 

Garnish with fresh strawberries. Serve within an hour for best results (the cake can be made a day in advance and covered, just wait to prepare the cream mixture and strawberries until almost ready to serve).

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Emeril Lagasse: Sautéed Ramps with Applewood-Smoked Bacon and Luquire Family Foods: White Cheddar Cheese Grits

Every year around this time, those beautiful ramps show up at my local grocery store for a brief shining moment.  And every year, I basically buy out the stores entire stock.  This is eating ultra-seasonally - enjoying a food product that is literally only available for about two weeks.  I've extolled the virtues of ramps before, so I won't repeat myself, but if you have any chance to grab some of these wild beauties, I would highly recommend it.  If not, you could probably do a passable rendition with sliced leeks.

Sautéed Ramps with Applewood-Smoked Bacon
From Emeril Lagasse

2 pounds ramps, trimmed and cleaned
¼ pound applewood-smoked bacon, julienned
4 tablespoons chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Trim the leaves from the stems of the ramps.

In a medium sauté pan cook the bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain.

Add the stems of the ramps to bacon fat in skillet and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until lightly caramelized. Add the chicken stock and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add the leaves and cook until wilted. Serve immediately, on top of White Cheddar Cheese Grits, garnished with reserved crispy bacon.

Makes 6 servings

White Cheddar Cheese Grits
Adapted from Luquire Family Foods

2½ cups chicken stock
¾ cup heavy cream
¾ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup stone-ground white grits
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces sharp white Cheddar, shredded

Mix all ingredients except for cheese in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 40 minutes, stirring often.  Add water to thin if necessary.  When grits are thick, add shredded cheese and stir until completely melted.

Makes 6 servings

Friday, April 26, 2019

Nikky Phinyawatana: Enjoy Mint's Red Curry

My favorite Thai restaurant in Dallas is Asian Mint, which is run by Nikky Phinyawatana, but it's a bit of a hike from where I live.  About a year ago, she opened another outpost closer to my house called Enjoy Mint; same delicious foods, but more of a take-out atmosphere.  Then she started offering monthly cooking classes.  Let me tell you how fast I signed up.  One of the best things on the menu is the red curry, so I was super excited when she chose that dish for a class.  I think the big thing that impacts the taste of the curry is the curry paste, and the one she calls for below (Maesri) does not have any shrimp paste, so it's actually vegetarian.

Note: This curry is amenable to most any addition you want to make.  You can add Japanese eggplant, kabocha squash, baby corn, broccoli, onion, carrot, mushrooms, whatever really.  Just make sure that everything is in about the same size pieces, and hard vegetables like kabocha and broccoli get added with the chicken, with softer veggies added later in the cooking.

Enjoy Mint's Red Curry
From Nikky Phinyawatana

2 tablespoons Maesri red curry paste
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup sliced chicken
1 cup bamboo shoots
1 red bell pepper, cubed
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
6 to 12 ounces water
1 teaspoon paprika
8 to 12 Thai basil leaves

In a medium pot, heat the oil and red curry paste on medium heat.  Stir to release the fragrance.

Add chicken or your choice of protein, stirring occasionally until the chicken is almost done.  Add the eggplant and coconut milk and bring it to a boil.  Add the water and bring back to a boil.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the basil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until it reaches your favorite consistency.  Taste and adjust flavors to your liking.  Stir in the basil and garnish with a few more leaves, if desired.  Serve with jasmine rice.

You can make green curry with this same recipe by substituting green curry paste for the red.  You can also substitute 2 teaspoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon fish sauce for the salt.  You can substitute palm sugar for the granulated sugar.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, April 20, 2019

James McNair: Egyptian Twice-Cooked Eggs and Yotam Ottolenghi: Dukkah

When I was first flipping through James McNair's breakfast book years ago and came across this recipe, I was intrigued, but a little put off.  I mean, eggs are great for breakfast, but what is this seasoning blend?  And eggs that are fried after being boiled?  I put the recipe aside, and sure enough, I remembered the interesting concoction when I got a large carton of eggs from my sister and brother-in-law's busy hens.  I decided it was time to give the twice-cooked eggs a try, but I used a much more involved version of the dukkah, one that seemed a little more authentic.  I am so glad I overlooked my initial hesitation.  These eggs are delicious, and if you leave off the bread for serving, you have a pretty spectacular low-carb breakfast.  Definitely worth the wait.

Egyptian Twice-Cooked Eggs
Adapted from James McNair's Breakfast

6 tablespoons salted butter
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and havled lengthwise
4 tablespoons dukkah (see below)
6 slices toast or pita bread, if desired

Melt the butter in a skillet over low heat until frothy.  Add the eggs, cut side down, and cook until they begin to brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Turn the eggs, baste, and continue cooking, turning and basting occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes more.  When the eggs are almost done, turn them cut side up and sprinkle with the dukkah, making sure some of the seasoning gets into the butter as well.

Place two slices of toast on each plate.  Top each slice with two egg halves.  Drizzle with the melted butter from the skillet.  Serve immediately.

Serves 3

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

1½ ounces raw hazelnuts, with their skins
1 ounce raw pistachios, shelled
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon dry green peppercorns (or white, as an alternative)
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1½ tablespoons sesame seeds
½ teaspoon nigella seeds
½ teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Heat the oven to 285°F. Spread the hazelnuts and pistachios on a baking tray and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Add the sunflower seeds to the tray halfway through, keeping them separate from the nuts. Remove from the oven and leave to cool while you toast the seeds.

Put a cast-iron pan on medium heat and leave for five minutes to heat up well. Spread the fennel seeds inside and dry-roast them for 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and cook for another 30 seconds, or until they start to pop, then tip both into a little bowl. With the pan back on the heat, roast the peppercorns until they start to pop, about 30 seconds, then transfer to a separate bowl. Cook the coriander seeds for up to a minute, until they start to pop, and tip into a third bowl. Reduce the heat to low and cook the sesame and nigella seeds together, stirring occasionally, until the sesame turns light brown, then remove from the pan.

Rub the hazelnuts between the palms of your hands to discard some of the skin. Use a pestle and mortar to chop them and the pistachios coarsely, then transfer to a medium bowl. Lightly crush the cumin and fennel seeds, and add to the hazelnuts. Repeat with the coriander seeds, followed by the peppercorns and then the sunflower seeds. Add these to the nut bowl, along with the sesame and nigella seeds, add salt and paprika, and mix well.

Makes about ½ cup, enough for two recipes of the eggs above

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Suraya Karjeker: Gajar ka Halwa (Carrot Pudding)

Because I had leftover milk solids, and because one good Indian dessert deserves another, I decided to also knock out some carrot pudding.  I like to think I'm being a little bit healthier by eating something with a ton of vegetables in it, but I'm not quite sure it counts once you coat them in sugar and cream.  Nevertheless, this is a delicious end of a meal, and I love to serve it warm with extra nuts on top.  I could also probably get on board with some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream on the side.

Gajar ka Halwa (Carrot Pudding)
From Suraya Karjeker

5 ounces ghee
2 pounds carrots, peeled and grated
8 green cardamom pods, crushed, seeds and pods separated
1 cup water
1⅜ cup granulated sugar
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (7.6-ounce) can Nestlé table cream
8 ounces milk solids (khoya/mawa), finely grated
1 ounce pistachios, roughly chopped
1 ounce blanched slivered almonds

In a large pot, heat the ghee, add the cardamom seeds, and stir for 2 or 3 minutes over a medium-low heat.  Add the shredded carrots and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 7 minutes.  Cover and cook the carrots until they are nearly cooked and dry, 10 to 15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare a syrup by boiling the water and sugar plus the cardamom pod skins until syrupy, about 10 minutes, or until reduced to 1 cup.  Skim the cardamom pods out and discard.

Add the cardamom syrup along with the evaporated milk and table cream to the carrots and cook until the mixture is almost dry (ghee is beginning to come out of the mixture), about 50 to 60 minutes.  You will need to stir the mixture more often as it thickens to prevent burning, stirring almost constantly near the end of the cooking time.  Add ¾ of the milk solids, almonds, and pistachios.  Stir well and remove to a serving dish, using the remainder of the milk solids and nuts as garnish.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Cook with Manali: Gulab Jamun (Rose Berries)

Every time I go to an Indian food buffet, I'm always scoping out the gulab jamun dish.  Even before I get my first plate of food.  If there is none, you're pretty much guaranteed that I won't be returning.  Luckily, this seems to be a standard dessert these days.  Because who doesn't like fried dough soaked in sugar syrup?  Answer: no one.  At least no one honest.

Note: The recipe below calls for 1½ teaspoons rose water in the syrup, and according to a good friend at work, this amount of flavoring is more of a Bengali thing.  If you're aiming for more of a northern Indian take, I'd probably back it down to just ½ teaspoon.

Gulab Jamun (Rose Berries)
Adapted from Cook with Manali blog

4 ounces milk solids (khoya/mawa), finely grated
¼ cup cake flour (maida)
Pinch ground cardamom
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ tablespoons melted ghee, plus additional for forming dough
1 to 2 tablespoons warm whole milk, as needed to knead the dough
Oil, for frying
Chopped pistachios, for garnish

For the sugar syrup:
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ teaspoons rose water
¼ teaspoon pandanus essence (kewda/kewra) (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together grated milk solids, cake flour, ground cardamom, and baking powder. Mix until well combined.  Add melted ghee to the bowl.  Use your fingers to mix the ghee with the milk solids mixture.  Start adding warm milk, little by little, until it all comes together as a dough. Don’t knead the dough too much; just bring it all together to a smooth dough. Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to a wide pan, add the sugar, water, ground cardamom, and lemon juice.  Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and let the syrup simmer for 6 minutes.  Stir in the rose water and pandanus essence (if using), remove pan from heat, and set aside. Keep the syrup warm.

Now give a quick knead to the dough.  Coat your hands with ghee, and make small balls, about 15 grams each, working with soft hands and squeezing the ball between your palms to shape it.  Form a smooth round ball with no cracks.  Repeat with the remaining dough until you have formed 14 balls.

Heat oil in wide kadai or pan on medium heat.  Heat the oil for 5 minutes on medium heat and then lower the heat to medium-low.  The oil should be 300°F.  Add the dough balls to the oil, and fry until golden-brown, approximately 7 minutes.  Keep rotating the dough balls regularly with a spoon so that they get cooked evenly.  Once they are dark brown in color, remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels for 1 minute.

Drop the fried balls in the warm sugar syrup.  Let the balls soak in the syrup for at least 30 minutes.  Garnish with pistachios and serve warm or cold. You may also decorate them with edible silver leaf (chandi ka vark).

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Let's Dish: Irish Soda Bread

I had some grand plans for St. Patrick's Day, but it snuck up on me.  I was going to do a from-scratch corned brisket and all, but that takes about 10 days of advanced planning that wasn't meant to be.  And normally bread isn't exactly a short-term notice kind of thing, but this bread scores in two ways: it's quick and it's amazingly delicious.  No yeast, just buttermilk and baking soda for lift.  It smells scrumptious and tastes even better slathered with melting butter.

Note: I added 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter since I could only find low-fat buttermilk.

Irish Soda Bread
From Let's Dish blog

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1¾ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir in the buttermilk until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky ball.  Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead gently a few times. Form the dough into a ball and then press into the prepared pan so that the dough resembles a large disk. The dough should reach the edges of the pan, but may spring back slightly.  Cut an X into the dough with a sharp knife, about ¼ of an inch deep. Cover the pan of dough with another round cake pan turned upside down.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, covered, then remove the top pan and bake uncovered for about 10 minutes more or until the crust is dark golden brown.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sanjeev Kapoor: Kelphulachi Bhaji (Banana Flower Stir Fry)

When I walked into my local fabulous grocery and saw these big red flowers for sale, I was immediately interested.  Turns out they were banana flowers, and I bought some without already having a plan for what to make with them.  I figured maybe a curry of some sort.  Turns out banana flowers are used in mock fish curries (I assume because of their texture?), but then I looked further and saw multiple references to a banana flower stir fry.  This dish is actually a pretty delicious use of banana flower, which to me tastes a little like a green banana (because it basically is?).  While not something I'll make every day, this was definitely a fun experiment with a new ingredient.

Note: I used Kashmiri chili powder instead of the hotter red chili powder called for (which is similar to cayenne in heat), but I'm also a hot pepper baby.  I also only used half of a serrano pepper instead of the 2 or 3 called for below.

Kelphulachi Bhaji (Banana Flower Stir Fry)
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor

1 large banana flower
½ cup dried split mung beans (moong dal)
3 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 to 6 curry leaves
Pinch asafoetida (hing)
2 to 3 green chilies, finely chopped (such as serrano)
1½ teaspoons red chili powder (lal mirch)
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon grated jaggery
¼ cup shredded fresh coconut
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Remove the outer redish leaves of the banana flower, separate the inner white stalks/flowers and use these flowers for this stir fry. Wash the thin white flowers, drain, and chop.  Keep the flowers soaked in water overnight.  Soak the mung beans in one cup of water for at least thirty minutes. Drain.

Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds.  As they begin to change color, add the curry leaves, asafoetida, and green chilies.  Stir well.  Add the split green gram and sauté for a minute.  Add the banana flowers, mix well, and then add the chili powder, turmeric, salt, and jaggery.  Cover and cook until the banana flower is done.  Add the coconut and mix well.  Serve hot garnished with the cilantro.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Home and Plate: Boursin Creamed Corn with Pancetta

Let me just admit right now that this is basically just a continuation of my fascination with Boursin cheese.  Much like bacon, I'm starting to believe it makes everything taste better.  So I've been finding all sorts of dishes to stick it in, and I have yet to be disappointed.  This is a cheesy version of creamed corn, and it works beautifully.

Boursin Creamed Corn with Pancetta
Adapted from Home and Plate blog

4 ounces cubed pancetta
8 cobs fresh corn, husked and cut from the cob
1 bunch sliced green onions
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (5.2-ounce) package Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin cheese 

Over medium-high heat in a large pan, fry the pancetta until it begins to crisp. Add the corn, green onions, and butter and stir until corn is cooked through, about 7 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and season with the salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium and stir the creamed corn until it has thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes.  Add the Boursin cheese and melt into the cream sauce.  Reduce further, if desired, until corn is as thick as desired.

Makes 8 servings