Sunday, February 28, 2016

Salt and Wind: Spiced Persimmon Pudding

So, apparently I have too much food in my freezer.  So sayeth my mother.  I thought that was actually a good thing, having food saved up, ready for when you need it.  But then again, she does have a point.  I have a habit of squirreling away food that looks interesting, and I fully intend on cooking it...someday.  So I'm attempting to clean out the full freezer (to of course make room for new interesting things).  And one of the first things I laid my eyes on was my final package of persimmon puree from back in the fall when I went wild persimmon picking.  And I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it.  A soft-ish cake, full of delicious spices, best served with whipped cream.

Spiced Persimmon Pudding
From Salt and Wind blog

2 cups pureed persimmon pulp, from 6 to 7 very ripe Hachiya persimmons
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon packed orange zest
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and briefly cooled, plus more for coating the baking dish
¼ cup Calvados brandy
Ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt, for garnish (optional)
Roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and orange zest in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.

Combine the persimmon pulp, half-and-half, brown sugar, and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until evenly blended. Add the melted butter and brandy and whisk until just incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture in four parts, letting the flour incorporate before adding the next part and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary until the flour is totally incorporated.

Turn the batter into the prepared dish and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted hazelnuts and ice cream, yogurt, or whipped cream.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

Lately I have been having the absolutely worst cravings for seafood.  Apparently that means I might be deficient in fatty acids or protein.  Or I just want some seafood.  And it certainly didn't help that I started coming across pictures of tuna poke ("poh-kay") from Hawaii, which is becoming the "it" food of 2016 according to the internet.  And we know the internet is never wrong.  So here you are, the most up-to-date food trend.  Because I've always wanted to be trendy.  Okay, not really, but it fulfills my seafood craving and makes my tummy happy, and that's all that really matters.

Note: My furikake was ebi fumi (shrimp-flavored), but you can use whatever flavor makes you happy.  And honestly?  This is kind-of like making tuna salad.  Just add whatever you want in whatever amounts taste good to you.  The basic poke is ahi tuna-onion-soy sauce-sesame oil-candlenuts.  Explore from there.  Also feel free to explore sashimi-grade salmon instead of tuna.

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

1 pound sashimi-grade ahi tuna, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons chopped green onions
4 tablespoons furikake
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon minced roasted garlic
¼ teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
¼ teaspoon Hawaiian pink sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise (optional)
½ Hass avocado, cut into ½-inch cubes (optional)
Chopped candlenuts or macadamia nuts, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except avocado and nuts.  Refrigerate, covered, for two hours to let the flavors meld.  Mix in avocado and sprinkle with nuts before serving.

Makes 2 meal portions or 4 appetizer portions

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)

If you believe Julie and Julia, Boeuf Bourguignon is the pinacle of French deliciousness.  It is comfy and heartwarming and harkens back to a simpler time.  So, of course I had to make it.  Because who doesn't want comfort, a warm heart, and a simpler time?  Apparently me, because this sucker took a total of about 5½ hours over two days and was by no means simple.  I was expecting for my socks to be blown off with that level of dedication going into it.  And it was...good.  But no socks were blown.  I definitely think this recipe could stand some editing, because no little French farmer's wife is going to spend that many hours working on a beef stew.  I will say that the onions are pretty fantastic.  I'll probably make those on their own again another time.  But for the stew itself, I think I'm going with a one-pot approach from now on, instead of trashing my entire kitchen.

Note: My bacon did not have a rind.  It came sliced like all normal modern bacon.  So it did not go swimming, it just got browned.  I did my stew over two days, refrigerating it after its long oven simmer.  The next night I spooned the hardened fat off the top and cooked up the mushrooms and onions.  I also pulled the meat out of the sauce and ran the sauce through the blender since the carrots refused to melt into the ether.  Then everything went in the pot together for a quick warm up session.

Note 2: I learned something interesting when I went to buy some wine for this stew.  Burgundy red wine is more than likely going to be a pinot noir.  And according to the wine expert I spoke with, all the subtlety gets cooked out, so there's no point in buying more than the cheapest wine for this.  So go all California if you want.  I did get a real Burgundy pinot noir just to be authentic (2012 Albert Bichot Vieilles Vignes de Pinot Noir).  It was the cheapest Burgundy they had at $18.  New retirement plan: buy a pinot noir vineyard.

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

1 (6-ounce) chunk of bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef (such as rump, chuck, or round), cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups of a full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, Bordeaux-St. Émilion, or Burgundy, or a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
A crumbled bay leaf
Oignons Glacés à Brun
Champignons Sautés au Beurre

Remove the rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, ¼ inch thick and 1½ inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a 9- to 10-inch casserole, sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325°F.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2½ to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Oignons Glacés à Brun (Brown-braised Onions)
18 to 24 peeled white onions, about 1-inch in diameter
1½ tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons oil
½ cup brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, ½ bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves tied in cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling in a 9- to 10-inch skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet.

Champignons Sautés au Beurre (Sautéed Mushrooms)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, quartered if large

Place a 10-inch skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bon Appétit: Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake and Michael Symon: Bourbon Cherry Sauce

When your pregnant sister calls and invites you over for dinner on Valentine's Day, and she requests a cheesecake, you had better make a fantastic cheesecake.  And since it's Valentine's Day, the scourge of single ladies everywhere, you'd better include a heavy dose of chocolate.  And just for the heck of it, you might as well throw some bourbon in, too, because everything is better dowsed with alcohol, right?  Well, I managed to hit all three green lights with this doozy of a dessert.  You'll probably want to cut the pieces small unless you really enjoy having a stomachache, because this is one rich piece of V-Day luxuriousness.

Note: I used Ghirardelli 70% bittersweet chocolate, as my local store was out of Scharffen Berger.  I used Valrhona for the cocoa.  I couldn't find the usual Nabisco chocolate wafers, so I substituted with some chocolate Moravian wafers.  You could also use Oreos with the filling removed.  I used Maker's Mark for the bourbon.  No one will know if you snag some on the side.  Chef's prerogative.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, October 2006

24 chocolate wafer cookies (from one 9-ounce package)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted

10 ounces high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup whipping cream
6 ounces high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Chocolate curls (optional)

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend cookies in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:
Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Mix in espresso powder.  Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable.

Prepare a water bath: wrap the springform pan in a large piece of heavy duty foil, making sure all edges reach the top of the pan.  Set the pan in a large baking pan and pour water around the pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the springform pan.  Make sure none of the water gets between the foil and the springform pan, or the crust will be soggy.

Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in vanilla extract.  Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour.

Turn off the oven and crack the door.  Let cheesecake cool in the oven for an hour.  Remove from the oven and remove the springform pan from the water bath.  Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.

For topping:
Stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within ½-inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour. Do ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated.

Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

Bourbon Cherry Sauce
Adapted from Michael Symon

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed (about 2¼ cups)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cinnamon stick
½ vanilla bean, split and beans scraped, OR ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup water

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, bourbon, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cherries are bursting and the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat to cool.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Commander's Palace: Coconut Beer Shrimp with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce

Okay, I admit it, I'm probably the only person I know who isn't watching the Super Bowl.  Is it just me, or does it seem like the Super Bowl is becoming a national holiday?  I don't seem to remember this level of obsession from when I was younger.  But hey, who can complain when it creates a fabulous opportunity to make delicious tailgating food, right?  And this year I decided to celebrate a game I'm not watching (hey, at least I know it's Broncos versus Panthers) with some delicious coconut shrimp.  Now, I used some shredded coconut that I shredded fresh and froze, and the shrimp aren't really sweet at all.  If you like your shrimp to have a sweet coating, go ahead and use that blue bag of sweetened shredded coconut instead.  Hey, it's a holiday, so calories are excused.

Note: I used Stella Artois for the beer and Crosse and Blackwell for the orange marmalade because that's what I had.

Coconut Beer Shrimp with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
Adapted from The Commander's Palace: New Orleans Cookbook by Ella and Dick Brennan

4 eggs
1 cup beer
3½ teaspoons Creole Seafood Seasoning (below)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
48 large raw shrimp, peeled but with tails on, deveined
1½ to 2 cups shredded coconut, fresh or moist-pack
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
2 cups orange marmalade
¼ cup Creole mustard or Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons shredded horseradish

Combine eggs, beer, 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, flour, and baking powder.  Blend well.

Season shrimp with remaining seafood seasoning.

Dip the shrimp in beer batter and roll in coconut.  Fry in oil heated to 350°F in a deep-fat fryer, wok, or deep saucepan.  The oil should be at least 1½ inches deep.  Drop shrimp in a few at a time and fry until golden brown.  Remove and drain on paper towel.

Blend together dipping sauce ingredients.

To serve: Put a small bowl of the sweet and tangy sauce in the center of each plate.  Arrange 8 shrimp around it and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Creole Seafood Seasoning
4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated or powdered garlic
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1½ teaspoons dried basil
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons paprika
2¼ teaspoons granulated or powdered onion

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or mixing bowl, and pour the mixture into a large glass or plastic jar. Seal it so that it's airtight. It will keep indefinitely.

Makes about ½ cup

Saturday, February 06, 2016 Tex-Mex Deviled Eggs

What do you do when you have a whole carton of eggs in the fridge, and you've been out of town, and generally inclined to just get something on the way home instead of cooking, and the eggs are reaching their expiration date?  Well, you can either have a big 'ol omelet for several days running, or you can make some deviled eggs.  While I love a good omelet, I'm not inclined to make one in the five minutes before work that I spent contemplating breakfast, so deviled eggs it was.  I remembered trying some deviled eggs at a potluck years ago that were made with salsa, so I figured I would give them a spin.  A bunch of alterations later, and I think I have something most people would like.  Also, I will note this is just in time for the Super Bowl, so snack-tastic!

Note: I used Joe T. Garcia's salsa picante because that's what was in the fridge, but since it's a local brand, just try to use something yummy.  I also think these would be fantastic sprinkled with bacon bits, because...bacon and eggs.  As you can see, it didn't happen this time for me, but don't make my same mistake.

Tex-Mex Deviled Eggs
Adapted from Kittencal on

¼ cup medium salsa
7 large hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1½ teaspoons sour cream
½ cup finely grated Cheddar cheese
2 to 3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice (or 1 additional teaspoon white vinegar)
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper

Drain the salsa over a fine mesh strainer.  Push the liquid through the strainer with the back of a spoon to speed up the process.  Set aside.

Using a sharp knife, slice the hard-boiled eggs in half.  Carefully remove the yolks from all 7 eggs and place into a food processor.  Save the whites from 1 egg for another use or discard.  Place the 12 remaining egg white halves on a plate or serving platter.

Add all remaining ingredients to the food processor.  Process for about 10 seconds or until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Spoon or pipe about 1 tablespoon of filling into each egg white half.  Sprinkle each egg half with paprika.  Cover the eggs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours before serving.

Makes 6 servings (2 egg halves per serving)

Friday, February 05, 2016

Plenty More: Pomelo Salad

I am not a salad girl.  When all the other ladies are ordering lunch, and it's one salad after another on the waiter's notepad, I do not join the crowd.  I'm not sure when exactly I started disliking salad, but I think it has a lot to do with the absolutely miserable salads you used to get in most restaurants.  White iceburg lettuce, unripe tomatoes, everything looking like it has spent the better part of a month in the walk-in.  No thank you.  That, and the fact that I'm generally hungry again about an hour later, which, depending on exactly where you are and what you are doing, is not exactly convenient.

All this said, when I picked up a copy of Plenty More, written by the god of vegetable-dishes-that-carnivores-might-actually-want-to-eat, Yotam Ottolenghi, this beautiful salad caught my eye.  It also certainly helps that I've been eyeballing those big, beautiful pomelos in the store, trying to figure out what to do with one.  I will say that actually peeling the pomelo is not something I'm anxious to repeat anytime soon, but this salad is very fresh, very bright, and very delicious.

Note:  I used light brown sugar, as I could not find my palm sugar in my pantry anywhere.  Unfortunate that the palm sugar has gone MIA, but the salad was still delicious.

Pomelo Salad
From Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¼ cup palm sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
1 (1¼-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 red chiles, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 large pomelo (about 2¼ pounds)
1 small mango, peeled and cut into thin strips
⅔ cup cilantro leaves
⅓ cup mint leaves
4 baby red or regular shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups watercress leaves
2 teaspoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

First make the marinade.  Place the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and warm gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat, add the orange blossom water, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, and chiles and set aside.

Use a sharp knife to peel the pomelo skin.  Divide into segments and use the knife to remove and discard the pith and membrane.  Break the fruit segments into 1 or 2 bite-size chunks, put in a shallow dish, and pour in the marinade.  Leave for at least 30 minutes - the longer, the better.

Remove and discard the star anise and cinnamon.  Drain and save the marinade.  Place the pomelo, ginger, and chiles in a large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of the reserved marinade along with the mango, cilantro, mint, shallots, watercress, peanut oil, lime juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Gently toss, add more marinade, if needed, and then sprinkle with the sesame seeds and peanuts and serve.

Makes 4 servings