Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Apple Strudel and Apple Picking At Hurd Orchards

Ever since I was a kid, I have made regular visits, often annual visits to Hurd Orchards, wonderful pick your own orchard in Holley, New York, just near my Mom's house in Rochester.  I have picked everything from peaches to apples to strawberries at Hurd Orchards over the years and it truly is one of my favorite family-owned Orchards. Plus, you can't beat the famous Western New York apples.  Last year when we went apple picking, I posted a recipe for my apple pie that I made with the Hurd Orchard apples. One of my favorite parts of a visit to Hurd Orchards is their store - they carry their own extensive line of in-house made jellies, jams and marmalades that are the best jams I have ever had, as well as wonderful other products from caramel to soap to cheese from small, family owned businesses.

This year, I went apple picking with my Mom last weekend, once again. This time, I made a delicious apple strudel with some of the apples, inspired by the great apple strudels that my husband and I had on our trip to Prague in August.

Sasha's Apple Strudel (loosely based on Paula Deen's Apple strudel)
1/4 cup amaretto (I used my homemade amaretto liquor)
1/2 cup dates, pitted and diced
4 medium apples (I used a combination of Gala and an experimental variety that tastes similar to Honeycrisp)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup crushed shortbread cookies
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 T unsalted butter, softened in the microwave
6 sheets of phyllo dough
2 T unsalted butter, melted, for brushing phyllo sheets
1 T granulated sugar
1 cup confectioner's sugar (for the glaze)
3 T of milk (for the glaze)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To make the filling, first soak the dates in the amaretto (microwave on high for 40 seconds) for about 10 minutes. I used my homemade amaretto. Then combine the dates with the apples (peeled and diced), lemon juice, cinnamon, brown sugar, cookie crumbs, pecans and 2 T of butter in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Remove the phyllo dough from the box and lay out 6 sheets. Brush the butter between the sheets (which is a bit tricky to do without ripping the sheets). Stack the six sheets using this technique. You could obviously make another apple strudel recipe where you make your own dough but I do not recommend this. Phyllo is the best for achieving the thin and crisp way that apple strudel is supposed to look and taste to be an authentic dish.

The next step in the process reminded me of rolling sushi. Basically, treat the phyllo sheets like your sushi nori and place the apple mixture on the nearest third of the phyllo stack, spread over that region of the phyllo. Be sure to leave a two inch border, at least. Gently lift the bottom edge of the phyllo stack to cover the filling and roll over - to roll into a strudel. Continue to roll the stack away until the filling is completely sealed in and the seam is on the bottom. Brush with the remaining melted butter and top with granulated sugar.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Glaze with the mixture of confectioner's sugar and milk. Slice into rounds as you are ready to eat, using a bread knife. You can top with caramel sauce, which I forgot to do - it really isn't needed. The result was sweet and delicious. The jams from Hurd Orchards that I brought home with me are pictured below.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Charlene's Kitchen in Philadelphia: Chicken with Grated Beets

Last month I had an abundance of beets on my hands. I had received some golden yellow beets in my CSA share and never got around to cooking them (good thing they keep forever in the frige). Then, red beets were part of the next share. While I like beets, I was feeling bored with the typical roasted beet and goat cheese salad. Epicurious to the rescue! I found a really simple recipe for grated beets and chicken topped with orange butter:

I did as the recipe suggested and grated the beets using my new food processor. Very fun! The recipe is nice because both the chicken and the beets are cooked in the same pan - great for easy clean up. And it utilizes the beet greens, which are a delicious bonus (too bad they cook down so much). Shallots and sherry vinegar gave the beets and greens a nice zesty flavor, which tasted great alongside the refreshing orange butter.

We recently planted beet seeds in our backyard garden and the greens are starting to pop up, so I can definitely see this dish making an appearance in my kitchen again!

Chicken, Grated Beets, and Beet Greens with Orange Butter
serves 2

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 medium red beets with greens, greens stemmed and coarsely chopped, beets peeled and coarsely grated
2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar, divided
1/3 cup water

Mix 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon orange peel in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and sauté until cooked through and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place 1 chicken breast in center of each plate; tent with foil to keep warm.

Melt remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter with 1/2 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; stir until tender and beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add beet greens; toss until leaves are tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon Sherry wine vinegar; stir 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon greens alongside chicken; cover to keep warm. Add grated beets and 1/3 cup water to same skillet; cover and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue cooking until beets are tender and water is almost evaporated, stirring often, about 1 minute. Add remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar; stir 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon beets onto plates. Spoon orange butter atop chicken and serve.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Variations of Sweet Corn Bruschetta

When I was at Eataly a couple weeks ago, I had an amazing sweet corn bruschetta with chives and black garlic (click here for my prior review of Eataly). The black garlic was so amazing (hard to describe the taste, but it was sweet and balsamic infused) that I decided to try making my own sweet corn bruschetta with it. I was in Rochester visiting my mom and stepdad this past weekend, and didn't have any black garlic on hand, but a Wegmans nearby, which is the perfect place to look for other fun and interesting ingredients to pair with fresh local sweet corn to make the perfect bruschetta.  My first creation turned out so well that I wound up doing a second variation with the black garlic when I got back to New York the following evening for my husband, Brad, who enjoyed that version just as much as my parents enjoyed the one I made for them. I think that the ideal bruschetta may have been a combination of the two, though. Only the second version is pictured as I didn't have my camera on hand in Rochester.

At Wegmans, I decided to combine the sweet corn with a Hen of the Woods mushroom, also known as a maitake mushroom. This unusual looking mushroom captured my eye at Wegmans as something I had tasted at gourmet restaurants but never cooked with. The result was fantastic - quite un-mushroom like and much gentler than a portobello or shiitake. When I came back to Brooklyn, I didn't have a Hen of the Woods mushroom on hand so I used a portobello instead. It was still good, but it was perfect with the Hen of the Woods mushroom. The other difference was that the first bruschetta was garlicy in a more traditional sense - which was quite delicious. The second had a sweeter, balsamic flavor based on the use of the black garlic. The thyme worked quite nicely with the other flavors. I am not sure the mint was essential, but it didn't hurt. Finally, the red pepper flakes were key in adding just a slight bit of heat - enough to give the bruschetta some bite without any true spice.

Sasha's Sweet Corn Bruschetta - Variation 1
4 ears of sweet corn, shucked
1 medium sized Hen of the Woods mushroom
6 sprigs of thyme
4 T of olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 cloves diced garlic
pinch of fresh mint
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
French or Italian bread, toasted

Sasha's Sweet Corn Bruschetta - Variation 2 (pictured)
4 ears of sweet corn, shucked
1 medium sized portobello mushroom
6 sprigs of thyme
4 T olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 heads of black garlic
pinch of fresh mint
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
French or Italian bread, toasted

To make either bruschetta, saute the corn with the mushroom and garlic of choice in the olive oil with the thyme until the corn just starts to brown. Towards the end of the process, add the red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and mint. After removing from the heat, mix in the balsamic vinegar. Top on toasted round of French or Italian bread.

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