Friday, December 8, 2017

The Way Too Easy - No Butter Scone

Last Year's Post:  Baked Egg Bowls
Two Years Ago:    Southwest Eggrolls (baked not fried)

If you like scones, this recipe is for you.  And if you've ever had a dried-out hockey puck of a scone in a bakery, give this one a chance.  Yes, you can buy a scone mix, but this recipe is easier than making cookies and you can customize it any way you want.  My favorite part is that you can mix up the dough the night before and then just bake the scones in the morning while you sip on coffee.  Warm scones for weekend breakfast!  Since I'm not particularly a morning person that really appealed to me.  (Thanks to my good friend Brad for the recipe!)

Scones seem to be sort of a cross between a biscuit and a muffin.  Some recipes lean more toward the more tender/crumbly biscuit end of the spectrum such as this cornmeal herb scone or this savory breakfast scone, but this recipe is soft and skews more toward the muffin side.  You can add your favorite spices, dried fruit, chocolate chips, flavored extracts and even grated lemon or orange zest to make it your own creation.

If you're having people for breakfast or brunch, this is an easy way to serve warm, fresh baked goods without fussing around with muffin papers or fancy pastries.

The Way Too Easy – No Butter Scone
Makes 8

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon (or other spices)
1 ¼ cups raisins (or cranberries, chocolate chips, nuts, or a combination)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups cream, cold
1-2 teaspoons flavored extract (vanilla, orange, etc.), optional

Eggwash (one egg beaten with one tablespoon water) or melted butter
Coarse sugar (can substitute regular sugar, just not as pretty)

Preheat oven to 375d.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, stirring in raisins or other add-ins last.  Add cream and stir until ingredients are just combined.  Form a ball of the dough and place on a floured surface.  Flatten and then fold a few times, then flatten into a circle about 1” thick if you’re going to cut wedges, or into a log about 12” long if you’re going to cut rounds.

Cut the circle into 8 wedges and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  If you formed a log, cut it into 8 equal pieces and put it on the parchment lined sheet.  Brush the tops with egg wash or butter, then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake about 15 minutes until golden.  Let cool on baking sheet about 10 minutes before serving warm.

Make Ahead:  Follow the recipe until you’ve formed the round or log.  Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to overnight.  Remove and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fall Wild Rice Salad with Persimmon

Last Year's Post:  Wheatberry Salad
Two Years Ago:    Turkey Farro Salad with Candied Chickpeas

I found the inspiration for this recipe a year ago and sent it to my vegetarian friend Nikki, but never got around to trying it.  Then this year, I bought several persimmons as decorations for the Thanksgiving table and decided to find out more about them, since I've never actually tasted one.  (Why didn't we ever have persimmons when we were growing up?)  Several sources described their taste as a cross between apricot and honey, which I would agree with when I tried one. They're available October through February. There are also two kinds of persimmon - Fuyu and Hachiya.  Fuyu are more common and are perfectly edible and sweet even when hard.  The Hachiya are very astringent until they ripen to a squishy gel-like consistency, which didn't sound too attractive to me.  This is what Fuyu persimmons look like.

Anyway, after we tried the raw persimmon on Thanksgiving, I wanted to use them in a dish and remembered this recipe.  The original recipe included cooked beans (as well as wild rice), which I eliminated.  I used a new technique to char sliced Brussels sprouts rather than steaming individual leaves, and was please with the smoky yet firm results.  And I added some Gruyere cheese for protein and taste since I eliminated the beans.  Of course, you could substitute blue cheese or goat cheese (or any other cheese, for that matter) if you prefer.

There are a number of steps and ingredients, so my suggestion is to cook the wild rice, Brussels sprouts and squash in advance.  Then it's just a matter of making the vinaigrette and tossing everything together at the last minute.

The result is a truly beautiful and  spectacular fall or winter salad, full of complex flavors and textures.  It could accompany a roast pork, chicken or turkey, and would be the star centerpiece of a vegetarian feast.  It's perfect for a buffet table since it's served at room temperature. Accompanied by  crusty bread and a glass of wine, it was a very satisfying and sophisticated dinner.

Fall Wild Rice Salad with Persimmon
Serves 4 as an entree, 6-8 as a side dish 

1 cup uncooked wild rice
6-7 Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper 2 cups cubed butternut squash (bite-sized cubes)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dried cranberries, rehydrated in hot water and drained
2 fresh small Fuyu persimmon, quartered and thinly sliced
1 cup baby arugula
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup Gruyere, cut into small cubes (or blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles)

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs such as lemon thyme, chervil, or marjoram
Salt and pepper

1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

Cook the wild rice according to package directions.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to broil.  In a medium bowl, toss the sliced Brussels sprouts with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the center of the oven for 3 minutes.  Stir, then broil for an additional 2-3 minutes until lightly charred on the edges, watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove and let cool.  Turn the oven down to 400d.

 In a medium bowl, toss the squash cubes with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until tender, turning halfway through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and let cool.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and herbs together in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, combine all the salad ingredients except the walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Mix in the vinaigrette, then taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle the walnuts (and pomegranate seeds, if using) over the top of the salad and serve.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Honey Garlic Shrimp Bowl

Last Year's Post: Three Sisters Quesadilla
Two Years Ago:  Dried Fruit Sauce

I thought this recipe sounded and looked good, but was a little concerned that it would be too sweet.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the honey adds a smoothness and a lightly sweet note that's much nicer than sugar.  It's also not overly garlicky despite having a tablespoon of minced garlic - I'm not sure how that works but it does.

If you use a quick-cooking brown rice this would be a very easy dinner to prepare in less than 30 minutes during the week and it's also very healthy.  A total win in my book.

Honey Garlic Shrimp Bowl
Serves 4

Note: the shrimp need to marinate for at least 15 minutes, giving you time to prepare the rice and broccoli. Cooking the shrimp takes only a minute or two.

1/3 cup honey
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
Hot cooked brown rice
Steamed broccoli
Sliced green onions, for garnish

Whisk the honey, soy sauce and garlic together in a medium bowl.

Place the shrimp in a zip-top bag and add about a third of the marinade.  Seal, shake the bag, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 10 hours.  Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade.

Prepare the rice and broccoli while the shrimp marinate.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the shrimp from the marinade and place in the pan, discarding the remaining marinade.  Cook on one side about 45 seconds, then flip the shrimp and add the reserved marinade.  Cook an additional 1 minute more, or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Divide the brown rice, broccoli and shrimp between shallow bowls and drizzle with the remaining sauce from the pan.  Garnish with sliced green onions.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fall Spiced Pecans

Last Year's Post:  Whipped Goat Cheese and Green Olive Dip
Two Years Ago:    Split Pea Soup

A year ago I published a recipe for spiced pecans that are spicy, sweet and salty - one of my favorites.  Most recipes along that line have cayenne and other spices along with sugar and salt, but not everyone likes heat.  So, this recipe uses all those wonderful fall spices - cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg - instead of cayenne.  The taste is very reminiscent of pumpkin pie spices and would be great for a big gathering where children and adults can both enjoy the nuts.  The original recipe called for the higher amount of sugar given in the recipe, which would result in a definitely sweet nut.  I cut the sugar in half because I don't particularly have a sweet tooth and found the result to be lightly sweet and warmly spiced.

The typical way to use spiced nuts is for an appetizer or for a gift, but as I snacked on these nuts they also seemed very suited as a garnish for a number of other dishes:
  • chopped and sprinkled on roasted or mashed sweet potatoes
  • on top of roasted squash
  • sprinkled on an ice cream sundae with buttered rum sauce or butterscotch sauce
  • chopped up in wild rice
  • sprinkled over pumpkin pie 
You get the idea.

Fall Spiced Pecans
Makes 3 cups

Note: Using the lesser amount of sugar results in slightly sweet nuts; if you want them sweeter, use the higher amount.

1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
3 cups pecan halves
¼ cup - ½ cup white sugar (see note)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250d.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg white with the water until foamy.  Add the pecans and stir well.  Transfer the nuts to a strainer and shake, then let drain at least 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and wipe out the bowl, then add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and mix well.  Add the nuts back to the bowl and stir until all the spices have evenly coated the nuts and none are left in the bottom of the bowl. 

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake at 250d for 40 minutes, stirring once at 20 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 200d and baking 20-30 minutes longer until dry, watching to make sure the nuts don’t get too dark.

Remove the foil from the baking sheet and let the nuts cool, then loosen any that are stuck to the foil.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Jerusalem Salad

Last Year's Post: Lemony Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
Two Years Ago:  Dutch Baby

The reason I'm posting this particular recipe now is because Thanksgiving is coming up, which means one thing: leftover turkey.  Serving this salad in the days following Thanksgiving will accomplish several things, all good - it's a dramatic departure in taste from what you'll have been eating, it's very light and healthy, and it's very easy to make.  Since it's served at room temperature, it's also very accommodating for a house full of guests.  And if some of them happen to be vegetarians (or you are), this salad is excellent with tofu in place of turkey, or without either one because it has plenty of fiber and protein already.  It would be fun to set out a big bowl of each of the ingredients and let everyone make their own salad, taking as much or as little of each as they want.

I call this recipe Jerusalem Salad because I found its inspiration in a recipe from the cookbook "Jerusalem" by the famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  I'm a big fan of his Middle Eastern style of cooking and the flavors and textures of that cuisine.  The original recipe was for the vegetable salad and the spiced chickpeas; I added the rest of the ingredients to make it an entree salad.  But the vegetable salad and the chickpeas are the stars.  The vegetable salad isn't just tomatoes and cucumbers and onion, but adds radishes and red peppers for additional crunch and flavor.  It's delicious on its own.

The chickpeas are the exotic taste in the salad due to the spice mix of cardamom, cumin and allspice.  I toned down the amount of spice slightly from the original recipe solely due to personal preference.  My suggestion is to toss the chickpeas in the spice mix as written and then taste one before putting them in the skillet, adding more of one or all spices to your taste as desired.

The key to success for salads is to have a variety of textures, colors and flavors so I added pistachios for crunch, quinoa for nuttiness, and yogurt for creaminess.  Sumac is a fun garnish for the yogurt because it adds a little color and has a slightly sharp taste, but paprika would be a good substitute.  Or just don't worry about a garnish.  I'm aware that I worry more about garnishes than most people, although I'm not completely sure what that says about me.

Split, toasted pitas broken into large pieces are excellent served on the side.

Jerusalem Salad
Serves 4

Note: this salad is excellent served with toasted pita on the side.

For the dressing:
5 tablespoons olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper

For the spiced chickpeas:
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent amount of dried chickpeas, cooked)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the salad:
½ English cucumber
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4-6 radishes, trimmed
1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
½ red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 cups cooked couscous or quinoa
8 large leaves of Bibb or butter lettuce
½ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked shredded turkey or chicken, optional, or can use tofu instead
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Ground sumac or paprika for garnish, optional

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar with a lid and shake vigorously.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To make the spiced chickpeas, put the spices in a shallow bowl and mix well.  Add the drained chickpeas and stir to coat evenly.  Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and toast the chickpeas in a single layer for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking (you may have to do 2 batches).  Set aside.

To make the vegetable salad, chop the cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, red pepper and red onion into bite-sized pieces.   Toss together with the cilantro and parsley.

To plate the salad, place 2 lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates.  Top with optional turkey, spiced chickpeas, vegetable salad, couscous or quinoa, and pistachios.  Add a dollop of yogurt to each plate and garnish with sumac or paprika, optional.  Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Last Year's Post: White Chicken Chili
Two Years Ago:   Baked Potatoes with Broccoli Cheese Sauce

I used to actively dislike Brussels sprouts until I tried this recipe which was a total revelation.  For some reason, roasting them until tender gives them an entirely different flavor.  They're so good you'll want immediately start popping them in your mouth like a snack, which is why I like to serve them with a little crunchy salt on top as an appetizer with drinks.  Of course, they're a perfect side dish to any meal and a great addition to a holiday table but they're so good you really need to eat them more often than just at holidays.

Try to get the smallest Brussels sprouts you can find, because they're easier to eat and more tender.  Plus they're cute.  I had to go to three different stores to find these because the big box grocers had giant, unappealing sprouts. I finally found these cute fresh ones at guess where, my local Sprouts store.  :-)

If you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, try them this way to see what you think.  And if you like Brussels sprouts already, you'll love this.  They even smell really good when they're in the oven.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

1 ½ pounds small Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coarse salt for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400d.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.  Mix in a bowl with olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Spread them out in a sheet pan and roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned on the outside and tender on the inside.  Sprinkle with coarse salt (or more regular salt) and serve immediately.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Halibut Nicoise

Last Year's Post:  Halibut with Cucumbers and Ginger
Two Years Ago:   Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches

I sometimes get inspiration for a recipe when I see a new and interesting fruit or vegetable at the store.  I might not immediately know what to do with it, but it gets filed away for future reference.  In this case, I noticed a bag of tiny multi-colored potatoes at Whole Foods that just begged to be part of a salad.  So, when I came across this recipe for Halibut Nicoise I knew exactly where to buy the potatoes.

This is a new and sophisticated take on the typical Nicoise salad that's not really a salad at all, but a warmer and more substantial dish.  Beautiful baby vegetables surround a warm, meaty halibut fillet for a great fall or winter dinner.  It's definitely a restaurant-quality dish in terms of presentation and taste which makes sense because it comes from Lost Kitchen restaurant in Maine.  And I need to warn you, it's also a fair amount of work and will probably trash your cook top when the oil starts spattering.  But it's definitely worth it.  Just don't try it on a weeknight when you're tired and rushed - a weekend is much better where you can prepare the various ingredients (eggs, beans, potatoes) throughout the day to lessen the workload right before you eat.

The halibut cooking process is classic restaurant style - sear the skin side until it releases, flip and add butter to the pan, then put it in the oven until done,  basting with butter along the way.  Finished with an olive/garlic/anchovy garnish,  it's one of the best-tasting pieces of halibut I've had.  Ah, butter.  Of course, you could substitute sea bass, salmon or tuna for the halibut if that's what looks good at the seafood counter or suits your taste.

Halibut Nicoise
Serves 4

2 eggs
Salt, as needed
½ lb tiny green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
1 lb baby potatoes, any color
½ cup mixed kalamata and green olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Ground black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 halibut fillets, 5-6 ounces each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head bibb or leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 lemon, quartered

Hard boil the eggs:  heat a saucepan of water to a boil, then gently lower the eggs into the water.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 11 minutes.  While the eggs cook, prepare an ice bath (ice and water) in a medium bowl.  After 11 minutes, remove the eggs and place in the ice bath for 15 minutes.  Drain and remove the shell under cool running water.  Place in the refrigerator.

In a small bowl, mix olives, anchovy and garlic, and set aside.

To cook the beans and potatoes, fill a large pot with water, season generously with salt, and bring to a boil.  In the sink, prepare another ice bath.  Add the green beans to the pot and cook for 1 minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath.  Add the potatoes to the same pot of hot water and simmer for 12 – 15 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and set aside until cool.  When cool, cut the potatoes in halves or quarters depending on size.  Remove the beans from the ice water and pat dry.

In a large bowl, mix shallots and rice wine vinegar, and let stand for 20 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and a few turns of ground black pepper.  Add the green beans and toss to coat, the remove to a separate bowl.  Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the remaining dressing and toss to coat.  Season the beans, potatoes and tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 425d.

Divide the lettuce between 4 plates.  Slice the eggs and divide between the plates, then add the beans, potatoes and tomatoes around the sides (leaving a spot in the middle for the halibut).

Heat a large ovenproof skillet, ideally cast iron, over medium-high heat.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Pat the halibut dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Add the fillets to the hot pan skin-side down and let sear until they release easily from the pan, 2-3 minutes.  Flip fillets, add butter to pan and transfer to the oven.  After 2 minutes, baste fish with melted butter, then return to oven until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes more.

Place a fillet in the middle of each plate and drizzle with any leftover pan juices.  Spoon the olive-anchovy mixture over each fillet, garnish with lemon quarters, and serve.