Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Farro Goat Cheese Salad

I have been to a number of farm to table style restaurants where I have had some fabulous farm fresh salads that incorporated farro in lieu of or in addition to lettuce or fresh greens. Farro is a nutty cereal grain that is perfect in a salad, served slightly warm. The two best farro salads that I have tasted, with a variety of garden fresh, farm to table ingredients, have been at Al Di Li, here in Park Slope, as well as Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, Vermont last summer. Here's a picture of that Hen of the Wood salad that incorporates farro, here. So, I decided it was time to try my hand at preparing some organic farro as part of my own salad. I knew putting in some goat cheese was a must, and a bit of mint. I considered but opted against basil this time, and added some baby spinach greens with the farro. A bit of sweetness was needed to balance the flavors, and since Brad is not a big fan of beets (which might have been my first choice), I opened for apple, which i caramelized in a bit of passion fruit juice.

My husband Brad didn't think he would like this (he kept calling it Pharaoh all week in preparation for the upcoming holiday of Passover, referring to the Steve Martin King Tut song from SNL). But he wound up loving the farro in the salad.

Sasha's Farro Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Apples (makes two salads)
2/3 cup of farro grains (cook in water, like rice)
two large handfulls of baby spinach
1 granny smith apple, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup passion fruit juice
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 T fresh mint leaves
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup canola oil, 2 T balsamic vinegar, 3 T lemon juice (for the dressing)

Cook the farro according to package instructions, much the same way you would cook rice. While the farro is still warm, assemble the other ingredients for the salad. While the farro is cooking, prepare the apples by caramelizing the apple slices in a saute pan with the passion fruit juice until they are browned nicely, but not burnt. Top with the dressing. This salad was amazing, fresh, healthy and delicious. My husband was a huge fan of the farro, so we will be making it again soon.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I made these chocolate chunk cookies about a week ago, and they were delicious. The recipe is loosely based on a Martha Stewart recipe. The cookies are soft and chewy, which is quite delicious. If you bake the cookies for longer (as my husband requested for some of them) they will be harder and crunchier, but still delicious. I prefer somewhere in between Martha's recommendation and my husband's preference, so I am suggesting about 15 minutes so they are chewy but don't taste undercooked. I used chopped up chocolate chunk for the cookies, rather than chocolate chips, and it gave them a nice texture. This recipe makes quite a few cookies - about 36 in total, which was perfect for the occasion that I was making them for.  Another important note - using the mixture of brown sugar and granulated sugar is important for getting the texture and chewiness of the cookies just right, so don't substitute here. I also found that using an extra egg helped me get the cookies just right.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
2 cups of chocolate chunk (chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350. In a small bow, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the salt, vanilla and eggs. Beat until mixed well, about one minute. Add the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Drop tablespoon heaps of balls of cookie dough about two inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies until golden around the edges only but still soft in the center. For me this took about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool. They will firm up a bit as they cool, so never fear if they seem to soft initially.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Amasea's Kitchen in Sun Valley: Mache salad with Manchego, pine nuts and tortilla strips

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.
I was on my honeymoon in New Zealand, where we had some lovely meals, including a lamb Greek salad that is, I think due to the quality of the meat, the best Greek salad I've ever had. And it was at an English pub?

Also, have you tried fried taro root? Or what I think may be my favorite flavor of ice cream EVER, Hokey Pokey? The candy is good, but not nearly as good as the ice cream...

(Or seen Hobbiton? I hate to gloat, but OMG, if I could legally show you pictures of the fully dressed sets for "The Hobbit" that we saw, I totally would. Here's a taste, from someone else who can get in trouble instead of me.)

More importantly for you, while we were gone, most of the snow melted and the local farms and greenhouses started churning out the spring greens.
This week, I ordered some mache from Idaho's Bounty. I think I've had it in restaurants before, but never purchased it until now -- and apparently, according to a Google search I just did, I'm a little behind the times. It's a vaguely sweet, vaguely nutty leaf, but delicate in flavor, with not a lot of green leaf per stem, at least in the early-season version I got today.
I'm not sure if this is fortunate or not, but mache apparently can't be machine harvested, so its cost is usually much higher than other lettuces, but most of Idaho's Bounty's greens are a bit higher in price than grocery store greens anyway because they're hand-harvested, so I think I came out on the good side of that equation.

I started by looking up recipes for mache on Epicurious, my go-to site for recipe exploration. None of them had the mache heated, which after having a salad of it, I understand. It'd just disintegrate if you tried to wilt it, I think. Most of the recipes paired the mache with a fat (olive oil, avocado, pancetta, etc), and something with texture (green apples, Bing cherries, pistachios, etc).

So I threw some olive oil and a sprinkling of powdered chipotle in a fry pan, cut two small (stale) tortillas into 1/4" slices, and browned them in the medium-heat oil -- though in retrospect I should have let them brown a bit more -- then let them dry on paper towels. I trimmed the greens and tips off the mache (ending with probably about three to four very loose cups) and put them in a bowl, added a few tablespoons of pine nuts. Incidentally, is anyone else incredibly disappointed by the high price of pine nuts this year?
I then shaved some Manchego cheese (from Costco!) on top, drizzled on a tablespoon or two of the Persian lime olive oil (oh, nom nom nom) from Stonehouse California that we got for our wedding, and ground some fresh peppercorns over all of that. About half the fried tortilla strips topped it off, and voila...

This salad was surprisingly satisfying, I think primarily because of the oil, nuts and tortillas, but also delicious, thanks to the previously mentioned ingredients plus the mache, which stood up quite well to what I layered all over it.

(Above, the first image is my salad; the second is one I found on Google images, and I'm probably stealing it from someone. Sorry about that.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Brooklyn Restaurant Roundup

Recently it was Dine Out Brooklyn week for two weeks, the equivalent of Manhattan's famed restaurant week - except we have better bargains, better restaurants, more bang for your buck here and less snobbery in Brooklyn ($20 for a three course lunch, $25 for dinner). We had three fantastic restaurant week meals here in Park Slope at Al Di La Trattoria, Rosewater and Applewood, as well as a great non-resturant week meal the week before at Williamsburg's Loreley (which also has a location in the LES in Manhattan). These are some of my favorite dining out spots in Brooklyn so I am excited to share these four terrific meals, or parts of them.

Farro salad with goat cheese, different types of beets and herbs at Al Di La

Tomato onion soup with poached egg at Al Di La

Amazing duck confit with apples and cherries and potatoes at Al Di La

Veal ravioli at Al Di La

Amazing chocolate bread pudding at Al Di La

Cheese platter at Applewood

Pan seared Rhode Island Bay Scallops with greens, buttermilk vinaigrette and black bean puree - Applewood

Red wine braised grass fed beef with spatzle, parsnips and swiss chard at Applewood. So good!

Orange bread pudding and sorbet

German bratwurst at Loreley - a German style beer garden with lovely outdoor seating

German schnitzel sandwich at Loreley

Fried goat cheese with prosciutto, clementines and honey at Rosewater 

Sauteed fluke with maitakes and swiss chard - amazing! - at Rosewater

Meyer lemon cake with lavender ice cream at Rosewater. This lavender ice cream was amazing as was the rosewater tinged lemonade I drank with dinner. So refreshing!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: New Orleans Style Beignets and Creole Bloody Mary

So, for the second time on this blog, I am sharing a recipe for beignets. But, as I discovered in the New Orleans Brunch class I took at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg, this recipe is much, much better. First off, the beignets were much lighter - perfect and airy, just the way they should be using this recipe for the dough. I think this one is much closer to the classic Cafe Du Monde recipe. Furthermore, traditional beignets are closer to square shaped and much smaller that the giant donut-hole like beignets that I made last time. If you want them to be small, like I did, this recipe makes quite a few, still. So last week when I made these beignets for dessert of a nice brunch, I still cut the recipe in half. But I am posting the entire recipe here. In addition, I am including a recipe for creole bloody mary's that is a perfect brunch pairing that I learned in the class, but I recommend serving beignets with Cafe Du Monde's chicory coffee (a treat we had in the class).

Beignets (recipe from the Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine by John Folse)
1 package dry active yeast
4 T warm water
3 1/2 cups plus 2 T flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
 1 1/4 cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup melted butter
canola oil for deep frying
powdered sugar for dusting

Combine the yeast and warm water and set aside for about 10-15 minutes until it gets foamy and frothy. Stir in the yeast mixture, milk, eggs and butter. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a separate bowl. Combine the dry and wet ingredients until it forms a dough. I did this using my mixer, but you could also do this by hand. Allow to rise in a warm place, covered with a damp dish towel, for one hour. Knead the dough once or twice on a floured surface, and then roll out to 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3'' squares (2'' is really fine as well, remember ing that they get much larger when fried). Cover and let rest for ten minutes. Deep fry the beignets in canola oil (which is much healthier than vegetable oil - my substitution) in oil heated to 350 for about two minutes on each side until golden brown and puffed. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel. Dust with powdered sugar and serve right away. This full recipe makes about 30-40.

And for the perfect brunch, serve with the pickapeppa recipe for creole bloody marys:
3 oz vodka
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
2 1/2 oz bullion or beef stock
1 T lime juice
2 tsps pickapeppa sauce
2 tsps worcestershire sauce
2 drops hot sauce
1/4 tsp salt
celery stick (I actually recommend using spiced, pickled green beans instead if you can either make or buy some)

Combine all ingredients except the celery or green beans, shake and serve!

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