Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Women's Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital: Chocolate Squares (Nanaimo Bars)

These little dessert bars are all over the internet.  All. Over.  I think I must be the last person in the western hemisphere to take a shot at making them.  But hey, I finally caught up with the Pinterest crowd.  I immediately decided that I didn't want to make one of the modern interpretations of these bars.  I wanted the original 1950's recipe.  Unfortunately, the provenance of the original recipe is a little hazy, and the supposed original pamphlet a little hard to find.  Luckily, I have a firm grasp of Google's capabilities.  The recipe below has the exact ingredients and amounts as the original, with the exception of the chocolate on top, where I used four ounces instead of three.  Because chocolate.  I extended the instructions to be a little more helpful, but this still turns out the same delicious dessert bar that the ladies of the Nanaimo Hospital were enjoying in 1952.

Chocolate Squares (Nanaimo Bars)
Adapted from The Women's Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cook Book (British Columbia, Canada, 1952)

Layer 1:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup castor sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts

Layer 2:
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
1½ cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons custard powder, such as Bird's
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Layer 3:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli 60%
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For layer 1, heat butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a bowl over hot water.  When butter is melted, remove from heat, and add egg and vanilla extract.  Mix in graham crackers, coconut, and walnuts.  Pat the mixture into the bottom of a foil-lined 8x8-inch baking pan.  Set aside.

For layer 2, cream butter with sugar and custard powder, adding milk a little at a time until of spreadable consistency.  When smooth, spread on top of layer 1.  Set aside.

For layer 3, melt chocolate and butter together, mixing well.  Let cool slightly, then spread on top of layer 2.  Refrigerate bars for at least 4 hours to allow chocolate to set.

When chocolate has set, use foil to pull bars out of the pan.  Peel off foil and cut into bars using a sharp knife.

Makes 16 bars

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pillsbury: Italian Zucchini Pie

Summer is the season of zucchini.  As much zucchini as you can possibly eat.  Zucchini until it's coming out your ears.  So what do you do with all this zucchini?  Stuff it in every possible permutation of a baked good or dinner dish that you can possibly conceive of.  And this little pie is a great way to get rid of four big pieces of zucchini.  It's almost like a quiche, but not so much that quiche-haters will turn their noses up.  Highly recommended with some grilled chicken or sausages.

Italian Zucchini Pie
Adapted from Pillsbury

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup chopped yellow onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, well beaten
½ pound Muenster cheese, shredded
1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust, blind baked
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Heat oven to 375°F.  In a 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and onions; cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.  Stir in parsley, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Remove from heat and drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, mix eggs and cheese.  Add cooked vegetable mixture; stir gently to mix.

Spread baked pie crust with mustard.  Pour egg mixture evenly into pie crust.

Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.  If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil during last 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 10 servings

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bon Appétit: Apricot-Almond Cake

I found a bunch of ripe apricots at the grocery store today, which means I immediately filled a bag full of them.  No, I had no idea what I was going to actually make with them, but that hardly matters.  When nature provides succulent sweets, you just take them and find a way.  I knew I wanted to do something with almonds.  Not exactly sure why, but I probably saw it in one of the billion cookbooks I've browsed in my lifetime.  Except now that I actually needed it, I could find exactly zero appetizing apricot-almond cake recipes.  So after tearing my way through Google images, I finally came across a pseudo-recipe for what looked like a delicious apricot cake.  A bunch of intelligent guesses later relating to actually accomplishing what was pictured, and I had this amazing specimen.  Serve with lots of fresh whipped cream.

Apricot-Almond Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, April 2015, from an idea by Claire Saffitz, Senior Associate Food Editor

7 large, ripe apricots
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 (7-ounce) tube almond paste
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for pan
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup sliced almonds
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Cut a small X in the skin at the bottom of each apricot.  Immerse each apricot in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, then immediately drain and plunge into an ice water bath.  Halve, remove and discard stones, and peel the apricots.  Keep 10 halves for the top of the cake and chop the remaining 4 halves into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch-diameter springform pan and sprinkle with sugar, tapping out excess.  Combine flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Place 1 cup butter, almond paste, ¾ cup sugar, and Grand Marnier in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; reserve pod for another use. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to blend first egg before adding second. Beat until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients, followed by yogurt. Beat, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed, just to combine (batter will be thick). Add in chopped apricots and mix to combine.  Scrape batter into prepared pan. Smooth batter and arrange reserved apricot halves over top; sprinkle with sliced almonds and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Place springform pan on a large rimmed baking sheet (to catch any rogue juices) and bake, rotating once, until cake is golden brown and apricots on top are soft, 70–80 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool before removing from pan.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Makes 12 servings

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Gina Neely: Smothered Pork Chops

I have been jonesing for some smothered pork chops in the worst way.  And the weird thing is that I think I've only had them like...twice.  In my life.  These things just can't be explained.  They just have to be obeyed.  In the best possible way.  After scrounging around on the internet, I finally came across a recipe that looked like it might do justice to my idea of a smothered pork chop.  Meaty, onion-y, creamy, spicy, dreamy.  This one hits all the high notes.  Definitely recommended if you want a superb supper.

Smothered Pork Chops
Adapted from The Neelys' Celebration Cookbook

4 pork chops, 1-inch thick, bone-in
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup peanut oil
1 large sweet yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cups chicken or pork broth
¼ cup buttermilk
Dash of hot sauce, preferably Tabasco (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Pat the chops dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, and some salt and pepper on a rimmed plate.  Dredge the chops through the mixture on both sides and keep the remaining flour for cooking the onions.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, and coat with the oil.  When the oil is hot, slip in the chops and fry on each side, about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Remove the chops to a plate and set aside.

Toss the onions into the pan, and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons of the seasoned flour (left over from dredging the pork chops) to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon until it makes a paste.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, making sure there are no lumps.  Turn up the heat, and allow the chicken broth to reduce and thicken, occasionally stirring.  Once the sauce coats the back of your wooden spoon, pour in the buttermilk, and add a dash of hot sauce.  Stir to combine.

Return the pork chops to the skillet, and simmer for 15 more minutes until the chops are cooked through.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Bon Appétit: Fresh Spinach Gratin with Parmesan and Blue Cheeses

I was going through an old cooking magazine, and I came across this recipe for spinach with blue cheese.  I remembered how I made a broccoli casserole with blue cheese a while ago, and it was delicious.  So I quickly concluded that this would also be delicious.  And I was correct.  Don't mind the picture above; you are correct, there is blue cheese only on the left side.  Someone in my family (::cough cough:: dad ::cough cough::) doesn't have an appreciation for blue cheese the way the rest of us do.  Also, I felt like the casserole needed something crunchy, and what's better than a couple handfuls of fried onions?  Nothing.  Well, perhaps bacon.

Fresh Spinach Gratin with Parmesan and Blue Cheeses
From Bon Appétit magazine, January 2004

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
5 (9-to 10-ounce) packages fresh spinach leaves
1¼ pounds onions, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
French fried onions, for garnish

Butter a 10- to 12-cup shallow baking dish. Melt 1½ tablespoons butter in heavy large pot over high heat. Add 1 package spinach. Toss until volume is slightly reduced, about 1 minute.  Add 1½ more packages spinach; toss until wilted but still bright green, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to colander set over large bowl. Repeat with 1½ tablespoons butter and remaining spinach. Turn all spinach in colander, pressing to release all liquid.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in same heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in flour and nutmeg. Stir 2 minutes to cook flour (do not brown). Whisk in milk and cream. Cook until sauce thickens and boils, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Mix in ½ cup Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Mix in spinach. Transfer to dish. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and blue cheese. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake gratin about 15 minutes (or 20 minutes if refrigerated).  Top with onions and bake another 5 minutes, or until bubbling and brown on top.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tori Avey: Lamb and Fava Bean Curry

So, it's fava bean season.  And it's a very short season, apparently.  And I feel like I should take advantage of this season for some reason.  Even though I hate lima beans and their ilk.  So I figured that I would take the fava beans and immerse them in a spicy Indian curry, and thereby erase all traces of lima bean-ness.  Okay, so it sounded better in my head, but it actually turned out pretty well.  And I did eat the fava beans.  I'm not nuts for them, but I don't hate them, especially if they're just barely cooked so that you avoid that nasty-mushy-bean thing.

Lamb and Fava Bean Curry
Inspired by Tori Avey blog

Oil or ghee
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½-inch piece ginger, grated
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup almonds
1 pound lamb leg, cubed
3 cups water or lamb stock
1½ cups fava beans, peeled
¼ cup Greek or Indian yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat oil or ghee until shimmering.  Add onion and cook until browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for another minute.  Add cinnamon, coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, paprika, cardamom, cloves, and salt and toss for 30 seconds or so until you can smell the spices.

Blend the can of tomatoes with the almonds until smooth and then pour into the pot with the onions and spices.  Cook the tomato mixture until all of the liquid is gone and the oil begins to pool around the tomatoes.  Add the lamb and water or lamb stock, and cook, covered, until lamb is fork tender, at least 1 hour.  Add additional water if the pot starts to get dry.

When lamb is tender, add the fava beans and cook, covered, for 20 more minutes.  When the beans are tender, add the yogurt and garam masala.  The mixture should be thick.  Serve over basmati rice.

Makes 6 servings

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rick Rodgers: Kumquat Upside Down Cake

Well, I think we've reached the end of kumquat season.  The little basket at the grocery store is starting to look bare more often than not.  And I haven't even made anything yet!  Sometimes I think the seasons pass before I can take advantage of the delicious produce.  Not this time though.  I grabbed a back of those little orange globes and went home to make something scrumptious.  I think the tartness of the kumquats works perfectly with the rich sweetness of the brown sugar in this upside down cake.  And I think it's even better served warm with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.

Kumquat Upside Down Cake
From Winter Gatherings by Rick Rodgers

1 pint kumquats
1 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at very soft room temperature
½ cup whole milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

To make the kumquat topping, cut each kumquat crosswise into thirds, removing the seeds.  Stir the brown sugar and butter in a 9- to 10-inch diameter cast-iron skillet over medium heat until the sugar is melted and bubbling.  Add the kumquats and spread them out in the sugar mixture in a single layer.

To make the cake, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix with an electric mixer set on low speed to moisten.  Increase the speed to high and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, for 2 minutes (set a timer to be sure), until smooth and fluffy.  Scrape into the skillet and smooth the top.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly in the center with your finger, about 35 minutes.  Let stand in the pan on a wire cake rack for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the inside of the skillet to release the cake.  Place a round rimmed serving platter over the pan.  Holding the platter and skillet together, quickly invert to unmold the cake.  Let stand until warm or cool completely.  Cut into wedges and serve.

Makes 10 servings

Monday, June 06, 2016

Jugo de Fresa con Leche (Strawberry Milk)

So I recently went to New Jersey to visit a friend of mine who is originally from Guatemala.  I know that seems irrelevant, but stick with me.  She decided she wanted to go strawberry picking, and I gladly accompanied her.  We picked a ton of luscious red berries, so ripe they were on the verge of rot, but at the peak of sweetness.  They were perfection.  But when you have so many strawberries, and their shelf life is about 8 hours, you get really creative in how you're going to stuff every last little bit into your body as fast as possible.  She mentioned strawberry milkshakes, but the kind they make in Guatemala, not the kind we make here with ice cream.  I happily stood aside as she whipped up a batch and then graciously volunteered to taste test.  The whole blender full.  I swear, I think I was turning into a strawberry by the time it was bedtime.

Note:  You can substitute honey for some of the sugar if you like.  My friend says you can also add some ice if you want it more like a smoothie.

Jugo de Fresa con Leche (Strawberry Milk)

8 ounces fresh, ripe strawberries, stems removed, sliced in half if large
1½ cups whole milk
2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

Put all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.  For a thicker drink, use less milk.  For a thinner drink, use more milk.  Add sugar a little at a time, to taste, based on how sweet the strawberries are.

Makes 2 drinks