Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Buttermilk Shortcakes With Quince (or Strawberry)

Just wanted to give a quick recipe for making buttermilk scones. Yes, scones do contain a deceptively large amount of butter. But once and awhile, it's okay to indulge and share the extras with others. This recipe made about 16 and I shared them while visiting my family earlier today. I adapted my buttermilk scones recipe from reading Martha Stewart's recipe for baking powder biscuits and writing my own buttermilk based recipe. (Note: Martha's baking book is a great baking resource that taught me how to bake in the beginning).

4 cups all purpose flour
2 T baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks of butter
2 cups buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients and put in the basin of your artisan mixer. Then cut in the butter and mix. Mix into the heavy cream and fold into the dough.

Mold into scones – the recipe made about 15 for me. I separated them about an inch or two apart on the baking sheets and molded into scone like shapes. Before baking, glaze each with an egg wash (from a beaten egg) and sprinkle some sugar on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I love to eat scones with fruit. In the summer, I turned this recipe into strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries. Cut up two pints of strawberries. Mix with 2 T of lemon juice and 3 T of sugar and put on top of the scones. It’s instant strawberry shortcake. Today, I did the same thing, but cut up a quince. I think the recipe would also taste great using kiwi.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Flourless Chocolate Cake (and how not to make a sticky mess)

I was not attempting to make a flourless chocolate cake. However, I made a very good one, even though I was able to eat only a very small amount of it. This is my first post since starting this website that I made something that, quite frankly, did not work out.

What I learned tonight is that there is a very short list of things I should never again try to make (unless I can get a tutorial from someone who knows how to make it) and should let other people make for me. This list only includes two foods (everything else I either can make if I try to, or have no interest in making, or haven't yet tried), which are:  1) saltwater taffy; and 2) baked alaska / meringue. Also, tonight's lesson is sometimes you don't have to make the most complicated thing in the world - i.e. a baked alaska. A chocolate cake or something less exotic is usually just fine as long as it looks and tastes good. (Having said that, I will be making creme brulee tomorrow).

In all fairness, I am sure with a little practice, I could figure out gnocchi. It just didn't work out the one time I tried. But the other two were colossal disasters. Candy making is very precise (more so than even baking) and you must use a candy thermometer to get the temperature exactly right. I tried making saltwater taffy using a recipe from a science museum (I think in Chicago). I used the candy thermometer I had - a thermometer a friend of my mom's gave me years ago in case I ever wanted to make candy. Little did she know 20 years later I would actually try . . . I think part of the reason it didn't work was because the candy thermometer may no longer be calibrated correctly after all these years, something that never occurred to me until after the fact. The first time I made a hard candy (not terrible, just not saltwater taffy); the second time I made a gelatinous gooey mess. I bet I could get it right with a new thermometer, but honestly, I don't need to waste anymore time making taffy than I already have when I can make rainbow cookies and fondant cakes and pasta dishes instead. I will eventually invest in a new candy thermometer though.

If you are reading this post to find out how to make a good flourless chocolate cake, here's the recipe:

5 T sugar
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted (you can buy baking squares)
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites (separate the eggs)
1 tsp vanilla

First, beat the sugar and egg yolks in your artisan mixer (if I haven't yet convinced you that this machine is the coolest thing since the invention of the wheel, I don't know what else I can say to encourage you to buy one). You should beat at medium speed until pale and yellow, for about 10 minutes. Then add the melted chocolate and vanilla and mix to combine.

Next take the chocolate mixture out of the artisan mixer and put in a bowl. If you have a handheld mixer, like I do, you can leave it in the artisan mixer and do the next step using your handheld.

Either using a handheld mixer or artisan mixer, beat the 3 egg whites until stiff and fluffy, with a inch of salt and 2 T of sugar, and then fold this mixture gently into the chocolate mixture, using a spatula.  Be gentle.

Spray a pan with pam and put into a circular 8 inch cake pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes at 350. The end result should be a light and fluffy but decadadently chocolate cake.

If you are smart, you will stop here and enjoy eating the cake. If you're like me, you might experiment further. I decided to top with ice cream, make meringue on top and put in the oven, to make a Baked Alaska. It did not work, and in fact resulted in a sticky mess. Basically my delicious cake was covered with a pint of melted ice cream and gooey marshmallow fluff. Note: the oven is still clean but when we tried to cut the baked alaska it was melted and gooey. The cake underneath was still great though.

I am great at making stiff peaks with eggs - I can make awesome souffles for this reason, and pretty much anything else requiring puffy egg whites. But I cannot make meringue, no matter what I do. I guess even in doing our passions we have our shortcomings. I made a gooey marshmallow mess that was about 50% meringue like. If you ever bought a jar of marshmallow fluff (I used to live next door to Peanut Butter & Company on Sullivan Street, which by the way, has the best cinnamon raison peanut butter ever), you know what I actually made. It did not create a proper seal for the ice cream, and let's leave it at that. My husband was less than thrilled about the cleanup but at least it didn't get all over the oven.

My mom told me later that she once made meringue and her Baked Alaska and it worked out fine. She said we should make it together. So perhaps Baked Alaska will have it's chance to succeed with me cooking with my mom - in her kitchen, using her oven!!

If you have tips on how I can make a better meringue and Baked Alaska please comment here and let me know. I feel like I should at least figure out the meringue part someday without wasting anymore eggs and sugar since I hate knowing that there's something I can't cook/bake. Hope you enjoy the flourless chocolate cake in the meantime. My husband has requested that I make it again soon so he can actually eat it!


Sasha's Kitchen: Crab Cakes With Spiced Corn and Pistachio Aioli

Today, for our Jewish Christmas, my husband and I decided to try out another recipe from the Marcus Samuelsson book, New American Table. We enjoy making crabcakes, and in the past we have made and enjoyed Goan Spice Crabcakes. Tonight’s recipe, which I made for lunch (we will be having leftovers again for dinner) is on pages 40-41 of Marcus Samuelsson's cookbook, and involves making three dishes: the crabcakes, a side of spiced corn, and a pistachio aioli.

To make the crabcakes, Samuelsson supplies the following recipe:

1 lb of baby yukon gold potatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 pound lump crabmeat
1 tsp mild chile powder
2 tsps dijon mustard
2 T mayonnaise
2 tsps chopped cilantro
2 tsps chopped mint
2 T cornstarch (note, I used 2 T)
1/4 cups panko breadcrumbs (note, I used 1/2 cup of panko)
olive oil

Coat in the mixture of panko and cornstarch. I had actually never made my other crabcake recipes with panko breadcrumbs in the past. I should have known better as the recipes always called for panko and not ordinary breadcrumbs. They always tasted great so I didn't pay attention to this. However, I used panko for the first time tonight and I can't believe I didn't realize this before. Panko breadcrumbs are much lighter and taste and look completely different from regular breadcrumbs. The end result is a lighter, crisper crabcake thanks to the panko. Lesson learned.

The next stage is to heat the oil (olive or canola) in a saute pan over medium heat and to fry the crabcakes. This recipe made about 17 small-ish crabcakes, and we each ate about three of them for lunch. Thus, expect to have lots of leftovers or invite some dinner guests.

To make the Pistachio Aioli Sauce

3 yukon gold baby potatoes
1/4 red wine vinegar
juice of lemon
2 garlic cloves
2 T pistachios
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup olive oil (or canola oil)
1 tsp pistachio oil
1 T heavy cream
1 tsp tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

I was familiar with aioli before preparing this recipe. My mom used to make pecan chicken with basil aioli when I was growing up, so I knew that by definition, aioli is prepared with raw egg yolks, just like a good caesar salad dressing. If you can get past that, it is delicious, totally safe and does not taste eggy at all (having said that, do not make this sauce if you have a health condition that makes it unsafe for you to eat raw eggs).

Boil the three small potatoes (with the rest and separate) and skin them. combine the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic and simmer to reduce to 2 tablespoons. Note that this will not take long and you will have to do it twice if you get distracted by something else in the middle of the reduction, as it will stick to the pot and make a mess.

Add the reduction to the potatoes and pistachios in the blender and puree. Add the egg yolks, olive oil, pistachio oil, mustard, 2 T water and puree/emulsify until smooth. The pistachio oil is very strong and thus you only need a small amount. It is, however, a bit on the expensive side.

Mix in the heavy cream and tarragon and serve with the crabcakes. I also topped the crabcakes with a bit of plum chutney from the Bombay Emerald Chutney Company. I normally do not use store bought sauces and salad dressings, but this one is the exception to the rule. It always tastes amazing with crabcakes, no matter what recipe I use and what other condiments I make to accompany the crabcakes. During months other than the winter, we can buy this wonderful chutney (and other great produce and goodies) at the farmers market at Washington Park in Park Slope.

Finally, to prepare the side of the corn, here is Saumelsson's recipe:

Spiced Corn

1 T olive oil
1 can of corn
2 tomatoes (I only used one because that's all I had and it's Christmas, so I wasn't going grocery shopping)
juice of 2 limes
2 T soy sauce
1/2 tsp mild chile powder
2 scallions
1 T cilantro (I intentionaly omitted this)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the corn, garlic and tomato until golden in the oil for about 4 minutes. Then add the lime juice, soy sauce, and chile powder and season accordingly. Once it is fully cooked, add the scallions. I like cilantro but was not feeling it with this dish, so I left it out entirely.

Crab Cakes on Foodista

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Lemon Pepper Chicken

This is a recipe I learned while working in the kitchen of The Daniel Packer Inne (or DPI to the locals), in Mystic, CT. It was after my first year of college, I quit an internship in NYC where I was basically a free delivery service for a video editing studio and I wasn't get paid. So I went home and all the jobs waiting tables were already taken so I went to DPI and they put in me in the kitchen since I had experience as a prep chef and dishwasher at another local restaurant. The experience was humbling but I learned a great deal that summer. Two of the things I learned were how to make some great mashed potatoes and how to make the breadcrumbs for one of the house favorites, lemon pepper chicken. The head chef would make it often for the kitchen workers as our meal for the night and it was by far my favorite part of working there. After that summer I perfected making the dish at home and it's been a stand-by for me ever since. It was even the first thing I cooked for my girlfriend Jenn on our second date. And she's still with me 4.5 years later so it must have been good!

Here's what you'll need for the chicken and taters:
1lb chicken
5 medium sized red potatoes
1/3 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup flour (I use whole wheat flour now)
1 lemon
minced garlic
olive oil
cracked pepper
2 egg whites
cajun seasoning
Parmesan cheese

The first thing I do is start boiling the potatoes. They take a while. Then I season the breadcrumbs with fresh cracked pepper and zest from the lemon. You can use a fork, peeler or cheese grater to get the zest from the lemon peel. Your end result should look something like this. I have some multi-colored pepper corns in my pepper mill if you're wondering why there is red stuff in my mix.

The next step is to dredge your chicken with some flour, then egg whites and then your breadcrumb mix. Get some olive oil hot in a frying pan and then let it get nice and browned.

On to the potatoes. Your potatoes should be soft enough that you can mash them with a fork. I am all about simplicity and so I leave the skin on (make sure you wash them) and just start mashing them with a fork and add milk, minced garlic, butter, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and a little cajun seasoning. The more milk you add the smoother the potatoes will be. If you end up making too much (I always do), add a little milk when you reheat them. I basically season it until it's declicious. This is what it looked like tonight before I started mashing.

So one last touch if this isn't already decadent & unhealthy enough for you. You can slice the chicken a bit and add a little warm milk and butter (heat them up together) on top like a gravy. This is how they served it up at DPI and it they always did it really well. See the picture at the top for reference. I plated it with some broccoli, steamed over chicken broth with some pepper, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Sushi Rolls (And The Story Of How I Got Engaged)

Sushi has long been one of my favorite foods, since I first had sushi in 1998 on a date junior year of college. As it would turn out, about four years ago, my husband actually proposed to me (with a personalized fortune cookie) the first time that we made our own sushi in our apartment in the Upper East Side. Since then, making sushi has always been a special tradition in our home.

The key to making good sushi maki (rolls) is the quality of the fish that you start with. If you are not using fresh, high quality sushi grade fish, don't bother because you will be disappointed in the result. Further, given that I was making this at home with raw fish, I needed to feel comfortable that the fish market I was using was top notch and that there wouldn't be unpleasant repercussions.

When we lived in Manhattan out fish source was Wild Edibles, in Murray Hill, which in my opinion is the best fish market in Manhattan, with the friendliest service. At the time that I shopped there, they had both sushi grade salmon and tuna for sale. I would still purchase all my fish there today, but for the fact that we moved to Park Slope in Brooklyn about a year and a half ago.

Fortunately, we found a fish market here in Park Slope that might be even better, Ocean Market. Ocean market carries sushi grade salmon, tuna and yellowtail, and all are excellent. Plus, the prices are extremely reasonable and a huge drop from typical Manhattan fish prices. Yet the quality and selection of fish is much better than at virtually any Manhattan fish market.

When you purchase fish for sushi, you do not need to buy a lot of fish. In the beginning, I always wound up with a lot of leftover fish. In total, about 8-10 oz of fish total is more than enough for two people, as you do not need to use a very large amount of sushi in the rolls (just a long strip) and the rice-component of the rolls is very filling. When you purchase the fish, you should have the fish market personnel thoroughly skin the fish for you and mention that you are making sushi, so they will direct you to the freshest (and most expensive, in all likelihood) sushi grade fish. Further, you may want to direct that they cut the fish in a certain part of the fish that has a fairly even thickness and texture (i.e. from the middle).

I have made four basic types of rolls that we have enjoyed - tuna, salmon, shrimp tempura (cooked) and yellowtail. I always enjoy making sushi rolls with my husband, as it is fun to do together and also great to do with friends, or to invite friends over to partake in homemade sushi.

The first step is to make the rice. You must use special sushi rice, which is different from regular rice. I usually make about 2 cups, which is plenty for four people. First, the rice mush be carefully rinsed in cold water. The rice needs to be rinsed over and over (for about 10 minutes or so) until the cold water that you are using to rinse it runs clear.

Put the rice in a saucepan (2 cups) and add 2 1/2 cups of cold water and heat until boiling. Cover and simmer like you would ordinarily cook rice, and do not lift the lid during the simmering process.

While the rice is cooking, I prepare a sauce in a saute pan of 3 T of sushi rice vinegar, 1 T of sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. This is then mixed with the prepared rice, once it has cooled. You can alter this recipe a bit to taste, but this is a pretty standard recipe. Once mixed, the rice is fairly sticky.

For the next step, you will need to purchase a sushi rolling mat (about $4)and of course some nori, which is the black seaweed paper used for rolling sushi. It is very tricky to explain in writing how to roll the sushi, but is is pretty easy to get the hang of it with a little bit of practice. Here are some instructions that may help a bit.

Basically, place the nori on the mat the long way. Spread the rice on the surface of the nori, fairly thin (but thick enough to evenly cover the nori) about 1/4 of an inch thick. Whne you are spreading the rice, you should make sure the shiny side of the nori is facing down. Only spread the rice about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way to the top of the nori, leaving the top portion without any rice spread on it.

Then cut a strip of your favorite fish and place horizontally across the roll. You may also want to add other ingredients - a mixture of wasabi and mayonnaise is perfect to make a spicy tuna or salmon roll and we usually add either avocado or cucumber.

If you want to make shrimp tempura rolls, you should shell and de-vein the shrimp and then coat in egg and panko breadcrumbs, before frying it. Then you can put pieces of the shrimp tempura inside your roll. I have also made delicious rolls using two kinds of fish.

The next step is to roll into one long roll using the sushi mat, by folding the mat over and tucking the nori's end. Use the mat to squeeze the sushi roll once you have rolled it into a log and you can modify the shape with your fingers.

Next, place on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut off the ends. Cut the roll in half and cut into about 6-8 sushi sized pieces.

I would suggest purchasing some nice sushi plates for serving the sushi (we have several sets), and making sure to have plenty of wasabi and soy sauce handy.

If you start with quality fish, this should be a lot of fun to make with your spouse, family and friends, and great to do with a group. I just wouldn't necessarily expect your first sushi experience to turn out quite as well as mine did and end in a marriage proposal :)

(I should note that I actually did not cook tonight, as we went out for dinner, so the sushi in the photos are pictures that were taken about two months ago.)

As always, if you have questions, comments or suggestions, please comment and one of our writers will get back to you shortly.


Homemade Sushi on Foodista

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: Slightly Spicy Tomato Arugula Angel Hair Pasta

For tonight's dinner, I explored another recipe from Marcus Samuelsson's new cookbook, New American Table. Unlike with my recent post on German Street Pretzels and Beer Braised Short Ribs, where I stuck closely to the recipes as laid out in the cookbook, with tonight's pasta dish, I couldn't resist making some considerable variations, despite the fact that I am attempting to test the recipes in the cookbook. However, the dish that I did come up with was a winner, was inexpensive, fast and easy to make, and will make for great leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Here's the recipe that I followed with a discussion below that sets forth how the recipe deviates for Samuelsson's "Spicy Tomato Arugula Angel Hair" on page 276 of his new cookbook.

Pasta Recipe

5 red tomatoes off the vine
1 T sea salt
1 box of angel hair pasta
2 T olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
3 shallots, chopped
one 24 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped baby arugula
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 anaheim Chile
1 polambo Chile
3 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese

First I cut the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the salt and allowed them to absorb the salt while I worked with the other ingredients. Samuelsson's recipe actually calls for a mixture of yellow and red tomatoes, but it is pretty hard to find yellow tomatoes in December in the Northeast, so I had to make due with red ones off the vine.

Next, I started boiling the water and when it reached a boil, added a box of angel hair pasta.

In the meantime, I prepared the sauce in a large saute pan. I first added the olive oil, garlic and shallots and sauteed for a few minutes. I used a bit of extra garlic, since I like the taste of garlic in my pasta. Then I added the crushed tomatoes, which I chose to add more of than Samuelsson, whose recipe only calls for a 14 ox can. I also added the peppers at this point, because I prefer to have them cooked into the sauce to mix the flavors, rather than crunchy and added at the end like the recipe called for.

The recipe in the cookbook calls for 2 Anaheim Chiles. It is a misnomer that all chile peppers are spicy, because anaheims are actually extremely mild. I decided to add only one anaheim and throw a polombo chile into the mix because I thought the mild taste and distinctive smokiness of the polombo would go well with the tomato and arugula. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as I loved the smoky hints in the sauce that were introduced by the polambo.

I added the oregano, pepper an thyme (my addition) and sauteed for about five minutes. Then, I tossed with the fresh tomatoes, arugula, Parmesan, red pepper flakes and angel hair. Red pepper will make your pasta spicy in a hurry and I wasn't in the mood for more than a tiny bit of heat, so I cut down on the red pepper flakes accordingly (the original recipe calls for 1 tsp). So if you prefer to have a spicy sauce, you can add more of the red pepper flakes. The arugula is key in this dish, as it adds just a touch of bitterness that goes nicely with the other flavors. I love arugula in my "italian" cooking (in pizza too), so I added extra.

When I was making this dish, my husband wasn't sure I needed to add the tomatoes at all, since he thought the sauce looked so delicious. But in the end, we were glad that we did. The fresh tomatoes, which were not cold at all by the time they were mixed with the hot sauce, added texture to the dish and brought out the flavors in the sauce nicely.


Pasta on Foodista

Monday, December 21, 2009

Amasea's Kitchen in Sun Valley: Visit to Il Naso in Ketchum

Sorry for the lack of photos -- I didn't go to this restaurant anticipating writing a review!

Il Naso (no Web site) is an Italian-influenced fine-dining restaurant in Ketchum, the main city in the Sun Valley area. Recently, they started occasionally hosting live music by No Cheap Horses, a local country/folk/rock band, and that inspired the fiance and I to go last Friday. Although he went to school with the executive chef, Doug Jensen, we haven't made Il Naso part of our regular dining-out routine, but we were pleased to visit again.

The fiance ordered the filet mignon, which came with potatoes au gratin (which I ate for lunch the next day, as he hadn't recognized "au gratin" meant "with cheese", his least favorite ingredient) and brocollini (which was unfortunately too al dente). The meat, he said, was excellent, and he polished off every morsel.

I started with Celeriac Agnolotti (menu description: Celery Root and Roasted Hazelnut Stuffed "Half Moons," in a Chanterelle Cream Sauce with Pecorino Toscano), which was utterly delicious and extremely flavorful. The roasted hazelnuts were chopped fairly coarsely, which created a very nice diversity of texture. I think I would have licked the plate if we hadn't been in public.

I really like mushrooms, and chanterelles are among my favorites -- on the Washington State island I grew up on, they grow wild, and since childhood some of my favorite food-gathering memories are of tromping through the woods hunting for them and then wolfing them down later. As I attained adulthood, I created what I think is my favorite recipe using chanterelles: simply sauteed with butter, salt, pepper and vanilla-flavored vodka -- the vanilla pulls the delicious nuttiness out of the mushrooms.

Sticking with the beautifully wintery mushroom-and-pasta theme, I had as my entree Pappardelle Tartufo (menu description: Mushroom Ragout, Marsala, Fresh Thyme, Asiago Cheese and White Truffle Oil).
The asiago cheese was shaved into large strips that were just a bit wider than the pappardelle noodles, and laid over the top so it softened as I dug into the dish. I would have used slightly thinner strips to get a greater softening, and I might have used a slightly more flavorful cheese.
In large part, that is because the white truffle oil flavor was so dominant -- so much so that I could still taste it an hour and several glasses of pinot grigio later. Overall, the meal was fantastic, but that truffle-oil persistence literally left a bad taste in my mouth (well, not bad, because truffles are delicious, but overwhelming). I'm not sure if using less oil would have solved the issue, because no matter how much was used, it still would have coated my taste buds and held on.
Does anyone know what might cut the flavor of truffle oil? I'd like to play with it more myself, and don't want to get into this problem.

We considered dessert, and I nearly went for a bread pudding with a marsala hard sauce (somehow, despite a family tradition recipe we have EVERY Christmas, for a plum pudding that is served with a hard sauce and a lemon sauce, it had never occurred to me that a hard sauce could be flavored!) but decided I was too full.

With an inexpensive bottle of wine and a coupon from -- check out their regular 80% off sales for some amazing deals! -- our bill came out to less than $80, which was a good value for such an excellent meal.

Molly D's Kitchen in Seattle: Butter Mochi

American pastries are usually made with wheat flour, which can provide great flakiness or a delicate cakey crumb, but if you’ve lived elsewhere and love food, you know that there are other textures out there. I grew up in Hawaii, and one of my favorite local treats is springy, soft rice-based mochi.

I know some mainland residents believe mochi is the ice cream-filled dessert they get at Japanese restaurants, but that’s mochi ice cream. Mochi is that little rice flour dumpling encasing the ball of ice cream. At its simplest, Japanese mochi can be made with just rice that is pounded into a paste and shaped, or it can be sweetened, flavored, and colored and wrapped around bean paste or peanut butter or fruit or anything else you want.

In Hawaii, cooks are also used to other Asian and Western influences, so we eat Chinese gau, deep fried poi mochi, and mochi banana bread. Most home cooks nowadays use mochiko flour instead of pounded rice, and the dishes they make can be sweet or savory and steamed, baked, microwaved, or fried for different results.

Hawaii’s Best Mochi Recipes is one of my favorite local cookbooks and a great source of all of the above. Today I wanted something eggy, and the butter mochi recipe on page 9 fit the bill. I've adapted it for my own, low-sugar needs, but if you want the beloved dense, crusty treat instead of the bready option I made, use two or three cups of sugar instead of my lowly 1/2 cup.

Butter Mochi

1 lb mochiko *
1/2 c sugar (see note above)
1 Tb baking powder
½ c butter or margarine
5 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 can coconut milk (12-oz)**

Melt butter and set aside to cool. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth. Pour into greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into squares. (If your knife sticks, try a plastic take-out knife.)

*I’ve included an Amazon link for mochiko in order to show you the box, but in many areas of the U.S. you can buy mochiko at Asian grocery stores, and in Seattle (and our last home in Denver) I could pick it up at the closest supermarket. By the way, brown rice flour will not produce the same result at all. It's a fine product, but it's not for mochi.
** The coconut milk does not add coconut flavor; you can sprinkle toasted coconut on top if you like.


Mochi on Foodista

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sasha's Kitchen: German Street Pretzels & Braised Beer Short Ribs (from Marcus Samuelsson)

As part of doing this project, I am trying to experiment with new types of cuisines, new culinary experiments and new cultural influences in my food. I had heard quite a bit about the Chef Marcus Samuelsson, and I decided to purchase and review his new cookbook, New American Cuisine, in a series of posts over the next several weeks.

Marcus Samuelsson, a well known American chef, was born in Africa (Ethiopia) in 1970 and, after tragically losing his mother at a young age, he and his sister were adopted and raised in Sweden. He currently lives in the United States, where he is currently an advisor to the Institute of Culinary Education, in New York. He came to New York in 1991 to serve as an apprentice at the Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit, where he eventually became executive chef at the age of 24. He subsequently has published numerous books exploring his cultural and culinary roots, including a Scandinavian Aquavit Cookbook and an African cookbook.

Samuelson's new cookbook, A New American Cuisine is intended to be a cross-section of the culinary influences that make up the melting pot that is America. It includes influences of his multi-cultural background, as well a mixture of the the variety of cuisines and ethnic traditions that have become part of American society. What's interesting is that his recipes aren't really German, Japanese, Ethiopian, Creole or French per se, but they often mix different culinary influences and it is this that make them distinctly American. Really, then there is no such thing as American food without adding a cup, dash and a pinch of the different ethnic and cultural traditions that make up America. We have become such a melting pot that we don't even notice it that our cuisine seamlessly mixes these influences, just like we do in our everyday lives.

With that background, it is not surprising that the President invited Marcus Samuelsson to be the guest chef at his first state dinner (yes the very same state dinner that was crashed by the wanna-be reality TV stars). The link above includes a full discussion of the state dinner and menu.

I decided to try two of his German-American Dishes: Beer Braised Short Ribs (page 277) and Caraway Pretzels (page 117).

Beer braised short ribs are a dish I have been meaning to try as I am not crazy of the other short rib braises that I have tried that use a very heavy tomato sauce. Samuelsson describes his beer braised short ribs as having been influenced by the Germanic traditions he discovered in Milwaukee, but they are purely American (rather than simply German) because of the Asian influences in his recipe.

The recipe, found on page 277 of his new cookbook is as follows:

2 T red Chile paste
3 pounds beef short ribs
1/2 cup of soy sauce
4 cups beer (I used a lager, Blue Point Toasted)
q tsp salt
3 T olive oil (I used truffle olive oil)
2 red onions, diced
one three inch piece of ginger
3 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup mirin
2 T ketjam mains (An Indonesian soy sauce; I substituted regular soy sauce)
1 T honey
2 scallions
1 T butter
I also added a couple handfulls of carrots, which were delicious with the braise

First, I smeared the chile paste on the short ribs, as Samuelsson instructs, in a baking dish. I added a mixture of the beer (1 cup of beer, although he only says to use 1/2 a cup, and 1/4 cup of soy sauce). I allowed this to marinade for 4 hours, rotating the ribs once.

Next, I heated the truffle olive oil and sesame oil in my Le Creuset Dutch Oven (I love Le Creuset and it is so pretty; I wish it was cheaper). I added the garlic, ginger, bay leaves and onions and sauteed. Then I added the ribs, beer, rest of the soy sauce, chicken stock and mirin and brought to a boil. We cooked for about two and a half hours at 350 F (he says 300 F but we wanted it done a little faster).

After the braise was done, the ribs were removed and we prepared the sauce by mixing 2 cups of the remaining liquid with 1 T honey, 2 T soy sauce, another 1/2 cup of beer, 1 tsp salt and the butter. Then I added the scallions. The sauce was delicious with the ribs and had a beautiful color. You could taste the flavors of the beer, but without the alcohol. This was great because it didn't have the heaviness of most tomato-based braises.

We also made his recipe for Caraway pretzels, on page 117, which are supposed to be similar to German street pretzels. These were delicious and came out perfectly the first time.

1 T dry active yeast
1 T dry active yeast
2 T sugar
2 T brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp plus 1 T salt
4 cups flour
1 T baking soda
1 egg plus 1 T water for wash
2 T cheddar cheese
1/4 cup caraway seeds

First, I combined the yeast (I used more - 2 packages of 1/4 oz each, and I suggest that you do the same), water and sugars and let the yeast activate for a few minutes. Then I combined this mixture in artisan mixer with the flour and 2 1/2 tsp salt to form a dough.

Samuelsson says to let this rise overnight - but I didn't want to wait that long, which is why I added the extra yeast and my dough rose just fine in about 3 hours. The I divided into 10 balls (he says 12, but I only made 10 perfectly sized pretzels). I rolled it out and shaped into pretzels after printing out a picture of a pretzel from the Internet to use as a model.

Then I let them rise for about 45 minutes, as he instructs in his cookbook (they didn't change much), and then boiled in water with the baking soda, much like is done with bagels. I boiled for 20 seconds or so on each side. Before baking at 400 F for 20 minutes, I did the egg wash and sprinkled with healthy amounts of lowfat cheddar cheese and caraway seeds.

20 minutes later, the end result were some delicious German pretzels, which were a big hit. We have some friends living overseas in Germany now who are visiting for the holidays and I plan to test them on our friends tomorrow night and see how they measure up to the real thing (if my husband doesn't eat them all first!).

German Soft Pretzels on Foodista

Short Ribs on Foodista



Charlene's Kitchen in Philadelphia: Blueberry Pancakes

I love lazy Sunday mornings, sipping coffee, listening to the radio, and enjoying an unhurried breakfast. Today was a perfect day for hot pancakes, especially when we (and the dog) looked outside at literally two feet of snow.

My partner, Jim, and I have tried many store-bought pancake mixes, always in search of the perfect texture and taste without the trouble of measuring a list of ingredients. Premixed packages requiring only the addition of milk or water are certainly convenient, but we got tired of rubbery, flat, bland pancakes and now make them from scratch. Buttermilk has a decent shelf life, so we've started keeping it in the fridge for mornings just like today (or evenings when we have little else in the refrigerator).

The recipe we use is from the trustworthy chefs of America's Test Kitchen. I frequently rely on their recipes from the Cook's Illustrated series, not only because they are almost always fool-proof, but they also provide a lot of useful information about food science and techniques and tools. For example, we might know it's bad to overmix pancake batter, but America's Test Kitchen will explain why. Here is the recipe for "Light and Fluffy Pancakes" from The New Best Recipe, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated (Brookline, Mass., 2004), page 648-9.

1 Tb. juice from 1 lemon*
2 C. milk*
2 C. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tb. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 Tb. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1-2 tsp. vegetable oil

*or use 2 C. buttermilk

Whisk lemon juice and milk together, and set aside to let thicken.
Whisk dry ingredients together.
Whisk egg and melted butter into milk.
Add milk to dry ingredients and whisk gently until just combined. Do not overmix.
Heat pan or griddle over medium heat; add 1 tsp. oil and coat pan evenly.
Pour 1/4 C. batter onto pan, then add blueberries.
Cook until large bubbles appear, about 2 minutes.
Flip and cook another 1 1/2-2 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve immediately or keep warm in 200-degree oven, uncovered on a cookie rack.

This recipe gives two options for the milk: buttermilk or milk mixed with a small amount of lemon juice as a means of substituting for the tangy taste of buttermilk. We've tried both versions. I prefer the milk/lemon juice combo and Jim favors the buttermilk version. I feel that the milk/lemon juice version is a touch lighter and fluffier and the cakes maintain their texture longer. But both varieties are excellent.

We added frozen wild blueberries (although in summer we'd use fresh) after the batter was dropped in the pan. Despite rinsing the frozen berries under water for a few minutes, some purple streaks still big deal.

And the flip!

Jim gets all the credit here for being in charge of the heat.

With sweet maple syrup and a side of bacon or other breakfast meat, homemade blueberry pancakes are simple and satisfying!


Matt's Kitchen In D.C. - Cooking With Kids: Popovers

Since my son was born almost three years ago, I have unfortunately been up at the crack of dawn nearly every weekend. Over the past year or so, a family tradition has arisen - every saturday and sunday morning, my son and I fix breakfast for ourselves and for momma, who gets to sleep while the cooks are in the kitchen. The only criteria is that the breakfast has to be something special that doesn't get eaten during the week - so no toast or cereal. Most often, we make pancakes or waffles, sometimes with bacon if we have some. Occasionally we will make muffins or coffee cake. These types of recipes work well with a toddler as sous chef because they involve three simple stages - mixing dry ingredients, mixing wet ingredients, and stirring them all together. Thus, there are plenty of opportunities for my son to help out (see picture).

One of my son's favorite weekend breakfasts are popovers. They come out of the oven looking and tasting impressive, but they couldn't be easier. The only problem is that, unlike pancakes, you have to wait awhile for them to cook, which can be difficult. But once they do they are well worth it.

1 cup flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. melted butter, plus more for greasing muffin tin

Put a 12-cup muffin tin in the oven and preheat to 450. Combine the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately, then stir them together quickly - just until they are combined, the batter doesn't have to be 100% smooth. Remove the muffin tin from the oven (careful, that thing is hot!) and brush them thoroughly with melted butter, or a neutral oil. Pour the batter in each cup until about 2/3 full. I find this will fill about 9-10 cups.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. During this time, do not open the oven - if you don't have an oven window then you will just need to have faith that they are cooking properly. When finished, remove quickly from the tin and put them in a basket, wrapped in a towel. They really need to be eaten warm (read: as soon as possible) so you want to keep them from cooling.

When done right, they should puff up high above the tin they are baked in, with a crunchy browned exterior and a soft, eggy interior. The exterior should be browned and firm and cooked enough to maintain its shape even when you pry them out of the muffin tin. If they are undercooked they tend to deflate when you remove them - they still taste great, but don't have the pleasing puffed up shape. Of course, cooking times may vary by oven, so if you find that they are overdone or underdone according to my timing above, then adjust accordingly.

They can be eaten just plain, with a little salt or with honey or maple syrup. Also, for a variation try sprinkling some grated cheese on the batter in each cup right before it goes in the oven. My son refuses to eat them with cheese, but I think most people will like it. As a note, a large single popover cooked for a crowd is called a yorkshire pudding, and is a traditional accompaniment for prime rib or a similar meat dish. But that is a subject for another post.

Popover on Foodista
Related Posts with Thumbnails Share