Friday, June 27, 2014

White gazpacho


This lovely light soup, white gazpacho or ajo blanco, highlighted in the July/August issue of Cooks Illustrated, caught my eye. Since we had all the ingredients on hand, I was able to prepare it this week and enjoy it for dinner the next night (slightly obvious warning: as gazpacho is served cold, it will need at least 3 hours to chill!).

I stayed pretty true to the recipe as printed (which I think is the best course with Cooks Illustrated recipes) but ran out of good olive oil and had to supplement with some generic grocery-store brand. I didn't drizzle with extra olive oil at the end - a nice fruity olive oil drizzle would have been lovely. Oh, and I didn't have sherry vinegar so I subbed some white wine vinegar. I'm sure my 'don't-want-to-drive-to-the-store' modifications did not improve the recipe but it was still delicious as it was. Surprisingly creamy. Mr Leaven insisted there was cheese in the soup somewhere, and I get it - the almond milk extracted from the ground almonds plus the olive oil really give it a cheesy, unctuous texture. I like the technique for adding just a drop or 2 of almond extract. I love almond extract, but even a hint too much and the soup would taste like almond extract soup.

It's quite filling. The 2 of us had very large portions, probably ~12 ounces each, as our main course, and neither of us came close to finishing our soup.


White Gazpacho
from Cooks Illustrated, July-August 2014
Serves 6 to 8 (6 ounces per serving)

6 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed
4 cups water
2 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/8 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vegetable oil
6 oz seedless green grapes, sliced thin (1 cup)

Combine bread and water in a bowl and let soak for 5 minutes. Process 2 1/2 cups almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of food processor as needed.

Using your hands, remove bread from water, squeeze it lightly, and transfer to blender with almonds. Measure 3 cups soaking water and set aside; transfer remaining soaking water to food processor.

Add garlic, vinegar, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and cayenne to food processor and process until mixture has consistency of cake batter, 30 to 45 seconds. With blender running, add olive oil in thin, steady stream, about 30 seconds. Add reserved soaking water and process for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Strain soup through fine-mesh strainer set in bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid. Discard solids.

Measure 1 Tbsp of soup into second bowl and stir in almond extract. Return 1 tsp of extract mixture to soup; discard remainder. Chill for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

Heat vegetable oil in 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Add remaining 1/3 cup almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to bowl and stir in 1/4 tsp salt.

Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Mound an equal amount of grapes in center of each bowl. Sprinkle cooled almonds over soup and drizzle with extra olive oil. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Grilled corn ice cream


Fifteen years ago I spent a week in Shenyang, China, and lots of cool stuff happened but one of the things I recall most clearly was a corn ice cream Popsicle I picked up at a convenience store down the corner from our dorm. Actually, it's funny, some of my best memories from the trip (a medical mission trip) were some fantastic local foods - sweet potatoes covered in syrupy sugar that pulled off in long strands as you take each piece, incredible Peking duck prepared in front of us (and about $6 a person for a feast), this unforgettable tomato seafood soup at a restaurant run by Korean missionaries. But I digress - the corn Popsicle. I went back two or three times for repeat Popsicles. And when I vacationed with my family in Beijing 10 years ago I searched futilely for more corn ice cream. Our tour guide had never heard of them, and I finally found something similar but it did not live up to my memory.

I've searched in Asian markets in Houston and LA to no avail. 

Yes, I am serious about corn ice cream. Google search turned up a couple of ideas, but for some reason I never quite got around to attempting it. Until this weekend.

We grilled 6 ears of corn and cut off the kernels for street corn (oh so so delicious, by the way). I took the ears and steeped them in hot milk/cream, then added some sugar, made a custard with egg yolks, added a pinch of salt, and chilled then made ice cream. 

And it was good. No idea how it compares to that glorious 15-year-old corn Popsicle but compared to every corn ice cream I've eaten in the past 10 years it was amazing. So corny (hee hee) and the pinch of salt made it taste like hot buttered corn. Ice cream. 


Grilled corn ice cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
4-6 corn cobs
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
3 egg yolks

Heat milk/cream in medium pot. Add corn cobs to warmed milk and transfer to bowl or freezer bag, then chill 4 hours or more (overnight is cool). Put 3 egg yolks in a small bowl. Reheat corn-milk mixture with 1/2 cup sugar and pinch of salt till dissolved. While warming, transfer the cobs to a fine mesh strainer over a bowl in an ice bath. Squeeze from the cobs as much of the milk as possible. Remove cobs. When milk is warm, ladle small amount of milk into egg yolk bowl and whisk (temper the eggs). Continue to add ~1/2 cup milk. Add the egg mixture to the milk and stir continuously with a heat-proof spatula until mixture thickens. Pour custard through strainer. Stir over ice bath till cooled. 

Prepare in an ice cream machine per machine instructions. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cauliflower frittata

Another winner from Ottolenghi's Plenty.

We used our lovely cauliflower and chives fresh from the CSA, eggs from our nanny's sister's farm, and cheese from our Yankee Hollow Cheese of the Month box in a delicious frittata.


You parboil the cauliflower, then caramelize it for a few minutes before adding the custard, cooking stovetop a few more minutes and then finish it in the oven. I like this method. The caramelized cauliflower mingles with the browning custard and forms a lovely crust.

I only had half a cauliflower head so I added a carrot (a ginormous CSA carrot). It was good but not very pretty.

The recipe calls for smoked scamorza (apparently in the mozzarella family) which I did not have. I used some baby Swiss and a wonderful coffee-rubbed cheddar (?) which definitely contributed smokiness to the dish.

Cauliflower frittata
adapted from Ottolenghi's Plenty

1 small cauliflower, cut into medium florets (or 1/2 a large cauliflower and a huge carrot cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
6 eggs
4 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
5 oz smoked scamorza (or coffee-rubbed maybe cheddar), grated
2 oz mature Cheddar (or baby Swiss), grated
salt and black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Simmer the cauliflower in a large pot of boiling salted water for only 4-5 minutes, or until semi-cooked. Drain and dry.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Break the eggs into a large bowl, Add the yogurt, mustard and paprika and whisk well, making sure the eggs and yogurt are thoroughly blended. Stir in the chives and 3/4 of the cheeses, and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat up the olive oil in a 12" cast iron skillet. Fry the cauliflower for about 5 minutes or until golden brown on one side. Pour over the egg mixture and use a fork to spread the cauliflower evenly in the pan. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Scatter the remaining cheeses on top, then carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the frittata is set.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes before cutting into wedges. Eat immediately.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tabbouleh-ish with roasted vegetables


We got to try Plated.com for cheap this week. It's a service where you choose a menu and they mail to you all the ingredients so you can assemble the meal yourself. They sent 4 meals for $20 - usually it's around $50 for 4 meals. 

The first meal we tried was pretty blah. Poached haddock with vermicelli stir fry. 

Tonight's meal was a winner, though. And it was the one Mr Leaven was prepared to hate, as he disclosed (after cleaning his plate) that he hates tabbouleh. Well, this was a very Americanized tabbouleh, basically just quinoa with cucumber, parsley, tomato, and lemon juice, and it was excellent. The roasted vegetable accompaniment was also delicious. We will make this again - though next time I'll just pick up the veggies at the grocery store all by myself. 

Quinoa tabbouleh with spring vegetables
Adapted from plated.com

Serves 2

1/2 bunch scallions, trimmed and  cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pint cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/4 bunch parsley, leaves roughly chopped
1 lemon
2/3 cup quinoa
1 Tbsp tahini paste
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Toss the scallions, asparagus, mushrooms, and 1/2 the tomatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast for 12 minutes. 

Combine quinoa, 1 cup water, and a pinch of salt in a medium pot over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat. 

In a small bowl whisk together tahini, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and 2 Tbsp warm water. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

In a large bowl combine quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley. Squeeze over juice of 1 lemon and add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Divide the tabbouleh onto 2 plates. Top with roasted vegetables and drizzle tahini over both. 


Brown butter sage cream sauce

Every time I go to the local grocery store I glance at the Bertolli ravioli section to see if maybe they've added a butternut squash ravioli to the lineup. Lo and behold, last month it happened! Tonight I finally got around to preparing them and I was pleased.



My go-to sauce for butternut squash ravioli is brown butter sage with a little sun-dried tomato tossed on top and sometimes a sprinkle of Parmesan. Tonight I thought I'd experiment with cream and Mr Leaven enjoyed it so much he asked that I write down the recipe - so here I am, writing it down! But really, how can you go wrong adding cream to brown butter? This was a freebie. Honestly, the sauce was flavorful enough that it almost overpowered the butternut squash so it might be good just over farfalle or capellini. It's just good.  

I threw in some caramelized onions Mr Leaven had just prepared and they really added a nice sweetness but they aren't essential. 

Brown butter sage sauce

1/2 stick butter (I used salted because I knew I would be adding a lot of salt anyway)
10 sage leaves, coarsest chopped
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped (didn't have any packed in oil so I used Bella Sun Luci Zesty Pepper sun-dried tomatoes)
Splash of white wine (I used cava)
2/3 c heavy cream
1/4 c caramelized onions
Salt

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add sage leaves and sun-dried tomatoes and cook till butter is brown. Turn up the heat, add wine and cook off for a minute or two. Turn heat to low and add cream and onions. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until cream is reduced to a thick sauce. Add salt to taste. Great over butternut squash ravioli or any other pasta. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dang good chocolate chip cookies


These are Mr Leaven's favorite chocolate chip cookies. With good reason - the recipe comes from David Lebovitz by way of Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen.


Our home currently smells of chocolate chip deliciousness. My husband is about to get very lucky (I would guess he's just now identifying that scent). He's been a very good boy this week and he deserves a treat.

Mr Leaven's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Makes ~24 cookies
 
 
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped finely
 
Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
 
Beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.
 
Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.
 
Scoop the cookie dough into 2 Tbsp balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches apart, on each of the baking sheets.
 
Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
 
Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
 


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Yum sweet cornbread

This is our favorite sweet cornbread recipe so far. 

From allrecipes.com 

Golden sweet cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole milk
1 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400F. 

Soak cornmeal in milk for 10-15 minutes. 

Mix dry ingredients. Add egg, oil, and milk/cornmeal. 

Pour into greased 9" round cake pan. Bake 20-25 minutes.