Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Pumpkin Flan

I made caramel! That's right, I made real caramel, without burning it or having it harden into a rock.  I'm so proud of myself that I finally got it right, and it wasn't that hard either.  This opens up new avenues for me - maybe I'll try making caramel candies sometime.  This time I made caramel as the top portion of a flan and I was absolutely thrilled with how well this dessert turned out for the first time making either caramel or flan.  To be honest, the dessert is made a bit like creme brulee (minus the blow torch), but for the separate caramel layer that is required. Next week, I am going to try my own recipe for a blueberry flan, but for the first time I used an established recipe I found in Bon Appetit magazine for Thanksgiving.  I enjoyed reading all the great Thanksgiving recipes and decided to try this one out.  Gosh, I really want to make a big turkey - but sadly we can't host Thanksgiving this year like we did last year. Oh well.  But I can still make a killer pumpkin flan!  This was a great Friday night dessert to top off the green apple risotto my husband made for dinner.

Pumpkin Flan (adapted from this recipe, cut in half below) - makes 6
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3 whole cloves
1/2 tsp orange zest (I omitted)
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
scant 1/4 tsp cardamom or one cracked cardamom pod
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 of a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar (for the caramel)
1/6 cup heavy cream (for the caramel)

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar.  Set aside.  In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of the heavy cream, the milk and the cloves, star anise, cinnamon and cardamom to a simmer. Slowly then whisk in the egg mixture.  Allow to steep for thirty minutes.  The  strain.  Whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin, and if you like a half tsp of orange zest (which I omitted) and allow to chill for an hour and a half.  Note: the original recipe says three hours but I found an hour and a half to be sufficient and it worked out just fine. Towards the end of the chilling period, prepare the caramel.

Heat the 1/2 cup sugar with an eighth of a cup of water in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and boil without stirring until the syrup is deep amber in color.  Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and swirl the pan occasionally.  This takes about ten minutes.  The stir in the 1/6 cup heavy cream and the caramel will boil vigorously.  Divide the carmel among six ramekins and allow to sit until it sets into caramel, which won't take long.  Divide the custard op top of the caramel in the six ramekins.

Place remakins in a large pan and add hot water to the baking pan to come halfway up the sides, just like for creme brulee.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes until the center is just set.  Child for about 45 minutes before inverting to serve on plates.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Vegetarian White Pizza

As you probably know by now, I am a big fan of homemade pizza. I wish we had a grill so I could try grilling it on the crust as well, but we've been making some pretty delicious pizzas on our pizza stone for awhile now.  Making your own pizza at home doesn't take as long as you think.  You just need a mixer to combine the dough quickly and an hour of time for the dough to rise, and from there it's pretty smooth sailing.  A couple weeks ago, my friend Robin was visiting from Seattle and we made this pizza together using plenty of tasty vegetables.  The peppadew peppers (pimentos) were a nice touch - they add a bit of mild spice to the vegetable flavors.  This might be one of my favorite homemade pizzas yet!

Sasha's Pizza Crust
1 cup warm water
2 packages dry active yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

Sasha's Vegetarian White Pizza
broccoli, diced
1/4 lb peppadew peppers (pinentos) diced
1/2 large red onion, chopped
3 T Shop Rite's basting oil with herbs
1 package park skim milk mozzarella, shredded
1 package monterey jack, shredded

Combine the ingredients for the dough.  Before combining, activate the yeast with the sugar in the warm water for about 10 minutes until it bubbles and is frothy.  Allow the dough to rise in a well oiled bowl, covered, for about an hour.

Stretch the pizza dough onto a pizza stone.  You can make your own pizza stone as well, a project I've been itching to do - out of a piece of granite from the hardware store.  Dust the pizza stone with cornstarch first!  Top with the cheese (I mixed in the ShopRite basting oil with all kinds of great herbs into the cheese mixture).  You could also buy fresh basil, thyme and parsley and other herbs and cut them up and add to the cheese.  It makes the pizza - trust me!  Top with the broccoli, pimentos and red onion.  I also considered adding some yellow zucchini but felt it didn't need it.  Bake in an oven preheated to 400 for 30 minutes.  Cut into slices and enjoy!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Pan Seared Salmon with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

This new salmon recipe is the perfect recipe for a week night - one I came across that is simple and delicious from my monthly subscription of bon appetit magazine.  You can find the original recipe here on their website.  This recipe is lovely and seasonal with the pumpkin seed pesto, but perfect for those nights when you just don't have the time to cook a complicated meal.  The pesto is delicious, and would be perfect on chicken, steak and vegetables.  But it works nicely with some high quality organic salmon as well!

Pan Seared Salmon with Pumpkin Seed Pesto
2-4 6-8 oz filets of salmon
2 1/4 tsp plus 1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup firmly packed cilantro
1/2 tsp cracked coriander seeds (I used dried coriander powder)
1/2 garlic clove
1 T lime juice
kosher salt and black pepper
1 lime, cut into wedges.

Heat the 1 1/2 tsp oil in a nonstick pan and saute the pumpkin seeds for about 2 minutes until they are brown and pop.  Transfer to a paper towel.

Pulse in a food processor the pumpkin seeds, coriander, cilantro and garlic.  Add the lime juice and oil and water, pulsing after each addition to emulsify.  Season with salt and pepper and more lime juice if desired, and voila - there's your pesto.  It's that easy!

Heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil.  Season the fish and cook on both sides until just opaque in the center, about 3-4 minutes on each side.  Serve hot.
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