Hello, Austin

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

With Love From, Austin

There are a whole slew of things to get used to when living in a new city.  The roads, the neighborhoods, the restaurants, the markets.  It’s all very exciting, this time of discovery.  And it makes me think that part of the reason that I love moving around is to remind myself of my priorities, and hopefully provoke something new from them.

In Austin I am loving the modest and sincere attitude of nearly everyone.  Albiet, there is a certain kitschy overtone to much of the city and it’s inhabitants which allows me to fly my humble little freak flag with no shame.  It reminds me of Madrid with its defined neighborhoods and their relative populace, spattering of bites to eat at any hour, and seemingly slow as molasses pace of life.  I am drawn to places that have a unique mix of taste, grunge, and reason, and this place has got it.

One of my favorite things to do right now is visit trailer parks.  Ones that serve food.  All day.  Often with a Tex-Mex (one of my least favorite words, along with healthy and sustainable… but that’s a long tangent to get into) theme, but there is this crepe cart that I have been drooling over, and another with beet chips that have been rumored to be fantastic.  Closest to me though, is a the Hill Country Pierogi which offeres sweet and savory pockets at the most random hours.  I walk by this place on the way to yoga classes.  Everyday.  Help me.

Another ritual of mine which I have carried over to my new home is my weekly visit to the farmers market.  And to my delight the Hope Farmers Market is within walking  distance from my house.  It is a great little market where I am greeted by Wunder- Pils Kombucha on draft to the left and handmade tamales on the right.  But what I really seek out in a market is the produce.  Hope’s market is well stocked by four farms bringing their freshest harvest.  I am most excited about the itsy purple and red potatoes,  purple streaked daikon radishes, and über crisp pears.  But the baby cabbages and lovely sweet potatoes will be perfect for our Friendsgving table this week.

My View

Eat Happily

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My Cookie Counterpart: A Buckwheat, Quinoa, Fig, and Nut Delicacy

December 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

Sometimes I get carried away.  I mean, is it abnormal to buy 10 pounds of butter at once?  Typical or not, yesterday my rare visit to the supermarket in search of some unsalted baking butter left me in awe.  Two pounds of high quality butter was on sale for five dollars.  Now, I am not sure if you have noticed the price of the butter recently but it is not cheap.  Usually my go to butter for baked treats costs four dollars per pound alternatively my  bread slathering butter from lancaster costs seven dollars per pound.

Consequentially as I calculated the price of my Christmastime baking escapades my wallet cringed, belly smiled, and my pants tightened.  But now I have a refrigerator full of discounted butter, cabinets full of unconventional flours, and a computer full of bookmarked cookie recipes.  Let the Christmas giving begin.  

During my thorough recipe research to find the perfect cookie escort to Biz’s Cookie Swap next weekend I found what I hoped would be my baked soul mate.  Everyone has one.  Some people are a dense double chocolate.  Some are of the buttery and addictive persuasion.  While some are salty and crumby.  Think about it and I bet your favorite cookie will tell you more about yourself than you realize.  Maybe I have simply indulged in one too many personality tests for my own good.

Personally, I am sweetened with honey, figs, and brandy while still retaining my nutty foundation.  I like to surround myself with intriguing qualities like buttery buckwheat or  toasted quinoa doughs brightened with citrus and then douse myself with Gran Marinier icing.  Tell me about your cookie personality.

Buckwheat/Quinoa Italian Fig Cookies
The inspiration came from here, although the flour experimentation is thanks to Kim Boyce.    I made two exploratory batches; one substituting some buckwheat flour and one swapping quinoa flour in for the all purpose flour.  The buckwheat creates gorgeous blueberry color with a deep luxurious flavor and the quinoa bakes into a cookie which is nutty is appearance and flavor, it reminds me of peanut butter.  Also, I like to make half batches of dough because I make things so often, so I will give the measurements for both whole and half.  On the other hand I love fillings, so I doubled the ingredients, again both are listed.

For the fig, nut, and honey filling:

1 cup | 2 cups dried quartered figs (I used Kalamata, like the olives and Turkish but much prefer the Turkish as they are softer and sweeter.)
1/2 cup |1 cup raisins
1/4 cup | 1/2 cup dried chopped dates
1/2 cup | 1 cup honey
1/4 cup | 1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons | 3 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon | 2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon | 2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon | 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon | 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (really, it makes a difference.  Go get whole nutmeg)
1/2 cup | 1 cup toasted and chopped almonds
1 cup | 2 cups toasted and chopped walnuts
a dash or two of salt
*optional dark chocolate chocolate chips not added into the filling mixture but placed between the filling and the dough

Soak the figs in the brandy while you prepare everything else (i.e. toasting and chopping nuts, grating nutmeg, and measuring).  Now chop all of the dried fruit in a food processor until the pieces are uniform.  If you want more textured cookies (next time I do) stir all of the other ingredients in a large bowl with the diced dried fruit.  Or you can potentially break a vital piece of equipment and add everything to the food processor and whirl it around.  Let the flavors unify overnight or at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

For the buckwheat and/or quinoa dough:

1 1/4 cups | 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups | 1 1/2 cups buckwheat or quinoa flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon | 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (I used Florida Crystals, an organic less refined sugar)
1/2 tablespoon | 1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon | 1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup, 1 stick | 1 cup, 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 egg | 2 eggs
1/3 cup | 2/3 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoons | 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon | 1 teaspoon orange (or lemon) zest

I toasted my quinoa flour, which is hardly imperative but very aromatic, and I would guess adds a wonderful dimension to the dough.  To toast the flour mix the quinoa and all purpose flour together and the put the mixture into a large skillet on medium heat, stir the flours frequently to check the bottom for browning.  My flours took about seven minutes to begin to brown and emit a vivd nutty scent.  Or just skip this and jump to the next step.

Mix the flours together then sift into a big bowl with the rest of the dry ingredients (sugar, baking powder, salt).

Grate the butter into the dry ingredients (Kim Boyce’s idea) using a cheese grater.  This makes breaking up the butter into the mixture much simpler.  Now you can use your fingers pinching to incorporate the grated (or cut into 1/2 inch pieces) butter into the flours until they are pea sized bits.

Add the slight whisked egg(s), milk, vanilla, and citrus zest and give everything a nice stir.  The dough will be shaggy so at this point I use my hands and gather, almost kneading, the dough into a nice ball.  If you are making a whole recipe you now separate the dough into two disks and let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.  I left mine overnight. 

Can you spot the difference in the two photos above?  One is buckwheat and one is quinoa.

When the time comes to bake:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the dough on a heavily floured work surface and begin to roll (with a floured rolling pin) the disk into a large rectangle (13 x 15 inches to be exact) the thinner the better.  My rolling pin is 14 inches so I can easily estimate.  Trim the sides down to a 10 x 13 inch rectangle and save the scraps.  You want to cut the rectangle into four strips 10 inches long, so quarter the long 13 inch side.

Using your most valuable tools, you hands, place a stripe of filling about an inch wide down the center of each strand of dough (here is where you can add the optional chocolate chips under the fig filling).  Wrap the sides of the dough around the filling pinching the edges to secure everything as it may try and escape in the oven.  Now flip each log so the seam side is down and cut each long segment into squares or rectangles depending on your size preference.

Bake the cookies in the middle of the hot oven for 16-20 minutes.

Repeat with the scraps or another disk of dough.

Make the icing while the cookies bake:
1/2 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 tablespoon Grand Marnier Liquor (or as much as you need)
1 tablespoon orange juice (or as much as you need)

Mix everything together until it is a gloopy liquid, adjusting to your taste.

When the cookies are out of the oven, have been transfered to a cooling rack and have cooled for about 10 minutes, coat the goodies with a couple delicate brush strokes of the icing.  Everything is done.  Let the cookies cool before eating too many because you have been staring at and smelling their indecency all day.  

Eat Happily.

A Nutty and Herby Cranberry Sauce from the Oven

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

This past Wednesday night began with roasting a perfectly sweet, tart, and herby cranberry and hazelnut sauce for Thanksgiving.  I got the inspiration here, and modified it until the recipe turned into my own.

Coat one pound of fresh cranberries in:

1 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons walnut oil
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh sage
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Roast the cranberries on a rimmed baking sheet in a hot oven (425 degrees) for about 7 minutes until the berries around the edge begin to split.  While the cranberries are in the oven heat 1/4 cup red wine with 2 tablespoons of water in a little sauce pan until it boils.   When the berries begin to split take the pan out of the oven and mix in the hot wine then return everything to the hot oven for another 10 or 15 minutes.  Stir the mixture a couple of times checking to see when the berries turn into a beautiful syrupy sauce.  Leave the oven on to toast the hazelnuts. The method for the hazelnuts is essentially the same as the cranberries.

Mix 1 cup of hazelnuts with 1 teaspoon each fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage in a rimmed baking sheet.  Then heat 3 tablespoons of red wine and 3 tablespoons of turbinado sugar until the sugar melts and mix with the herbed nuts.  Now heat the coated nut for just under 10 minutes in the hot oven.  Keep the saucy cranberries and the toasted nuts separate until just before devouring the mixture.

Eat Happily.

Let the Brining Begin

November 24, 2010 § 2 Comments

As I walked through my kitchen door this evening I felt like a shop-a-holic.  The weight of my items were almost unbearable, and yet I found myself chuckling at the though of my spending habits.  My products were not boots, jewelry, body products, or any sort of typical merchandise.  The goods in my hands were mushrooms from the Mushroom Cap in Kennett Square; a fresh turkey with extra giblets and bacon on the side from the Country Butcher in Kennett Square; hazelnuts from Spring Run in Kennett; leeks, onions, sage, shallots, cider, and honey from Barnard’s.  Nothing could have made me happier than hauling my shopping bags into the kitchen and unloading my purchases.  I can completely understand how people become addicted to the feeling of new things.  Luckily for me my valuables tend to edible, so I always need more.

My Thanksgiving menu has blossomed into something I feel quite proud of.  Every flavor, from the woodsy mushrooms to the warm hazelnuts to the complexity of herbs, has meandered from one dish to the other.  And most dishes will be a compilation of recipes taken from articles in various magazines and basic knowledge.  I am a bit hesitant to be trying out new techniques and flavors with my usually quite traditionally palated family.  Although when it comes down to it, who could oppose bread pudding baked inside a pumpkin and drizzled with whiskey sauce, or wild mushroom, hazelnut, and olive bread stuffing? And roasting cranberries in red wine has got to outshine canned cranberry sauce, especially when they are mixed with spiced hazelnuts.  These are the dishes which I am fairly confident will be delicious; the bird is another story.  I hardly cook meat and a 14 pound turkey commands some loving care.  From all I have gathered, brining the gobbler will ensure a crackling layer atop a succulent frame, and just to go the extra mile I picked up some extra thick bacon to drape over the bird as he roasts provide some extra flavor and tenderness.  I mean, if I am going to eat meat it better be tender, juicy, and rich.

So tonight I brine and give the salt time to suck the juice fromt the body out to the skin.  The turkey will sit in a bath of citrusy salt for almost 36 hours and will be roasted Thursday morning.

Tomorrow I will roast the cranberries and toast the hazelnuts for the cranberry sauce as well as prepare the stock for the stuffing, basting, and gravy.

Thursday will be full of roasting, rotating, reducing.  The turkey will cook in my oven while I prepare the mushroom stuffing and pumpkin stuffed bread pudding.  Then everything will be transfered to my Grandmothers where the gravy will be made from the drippings from the turkey plus lots of extra innards, the stuffing will be baked, and the desert will be cooking while we indulge.

Recipes, regrets, and photos to come.  Please help me with any suggestions or comments!

Kim Boyce’s Gingersnap Cookies

November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Somehow, seasonal baked good have just as much appeal to me as seasonal produce.  Sure they tend to go hand in hand Really, who craves pumpkin pie in May?  No thanks.  Sugar cookies in August?  Pass (well probably not, but I would prefer coconut almond ice cream or frozen mango popsicles).  Blueberry pie in November?  Actually, I could never turn down blueberry pie, even when filled with questionable frozen berries.  BUT in the chilly breezy months of November there is something exceptionally satisfying about the deeply spicy sweet tang of gingersnap cookies.

My mom adores the solid kind packaged in the telltale bright orange boxes.  And while the taste is fine, their concrete texture has repelled me since childhood.  Despite the fact that I know I will not enjoy the zesty little disks, every year, I drown the cookies in milk and try my hardest to find some delight in the bitty treat.  All of the autumnal I love components are there the clove, the ginger, the cinnamon, the molasses, the butter.  This year, I set out to truly savor this seasonal goodie which has been hiding all of its potential inside garish orange cardboard.

Freshly ground wheat flour from Pete’s Produce

The recipe which became my map to glorious gingery goodness was developed by Kim Boyce in her book Good to the Grain.  She has, in no time flat, become one of my culinary/baking luminaries.  The book is broken divided into chapters each featuring a different whole grain flour.  All in all there are 74 recipes.  The base of the recipes rely on a foundation of all purpose flour for structure finding enchanting flavors and textures from the addition of less common flours.

The journey starts with the most established flour whole wheat in these gingersnap cookies then finds its way to recipes like figgy buckwheat scones, honey amaranth waffles, and quinoa crepes.  The anticipation to create and experiment with this gold mine of recipes is almost too much for me to take.

Melted butter. Turbinado sugar.  Gooey molasses.

All mixed upThe refrigerated dough.The cookies are double rolled in sugar and will be ready in 10 minutes.

Get this book.  If not from a book store or online at least go to the library and take a look first hand.  I am going to share pictures but no recipe just as encouragement.  When my copy arrives in the mail you can bet that there will be endless amounts of mouthwatering baked happiness showing up here.

Eat Happily.

 

Oatmeal Stuffed Pumpkin

November 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

After halloween there seems to be an over abundance of pumpkins.  My mind immediately thinks “eat as many pumpkins as you can”.  Unfortunately not all pumpkins breakdown into the celebrated creamy texture which is baked into pies, scooped into batters, and sliced into casseroles. The pumpkins from my garden fall into the category of not the greatest eating type; their specific name is unknown.

All I know is that for my next pumpkin filling adventure (I have happily survived two in the past 24 hours)  will be in a gorgeous cheese pumpkin i have had my eye on from Barnard’s Orchard.  The long island cheese pumpkin is squatter, smoother, and a creamier color than the generic orange pumpkin found on doorsteps and porches as decoration and their flesh is less stringy than the flesh of my homegrown guys. Other pumpkin varieties I know are yummy are baby pam, peek a boo, small sugar/ new england, winter luxury, and trickster.

In any case, I have now figured out the basics of pumpkin stuffing and am happily formulating experimental stuffing possibilities.  Last night we feasted on curried black rice with leaks, apple, and walnut filled into the pumpkin.  The downside with rice in pumpkins is that the rice must be cooked first and then plopped into the pumpkin’s cavity.  This defeats the whole novelty of cooking things in the hollowed out pumpkin.  I want to use the pumpkin like a dutch oven, filling it with loads of delicious raw ingredients, giving it a stir and letting everything slowly cook together.

That is exactly what I did this morning.  Essentially what I made was baked oatmeal; an Amish classic which combines oats, eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and apples and bakes to perfection.  Of coarse I had to fool with the basic recipe and I fooled around so much that I created something completely different, but completely the same.  Impossible?  Find out.

Oatmeal Stuffed Pumpkin

1 5 pound pumpkin
2 cups whole oats
1 1/2 cups almond milk (or cow’s milk)
1/2 cup apple cider (or juice of your choice)
1 chopped apple
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt
toasted walnuts

Turn the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all of the seeds and gook.   Save the seeds to roast.  Now fill the hollow pumpkin with your dry ingredients and give everything a stir.  Then add the honey, milk, and cider.  Stir everything around again.  Put the top on the pumpkin and place the pumpkin in a dutch oven or on a baking sheet.  Leave in the hot oven for about an hour, this time will vary depending on the thickness of the flesh.  I took the lid off for the second half of cooking.  It is ready to be eaten when the skin and flesh feel like butter upon being pierced.  In the last five minutes throw a handful of walnuts into the oven on a baking sheet to toast then sprinkle them on top of the goodness you just created.

Eat Happily.

Barnard’s Apples

October 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Is there a saying about nothing being better than an apple picked straight from a tree?  I don’t think there is.  There should be.  Because, there is nothing like eating an apple picked straight from a tree.

The apples I gathered from the orchard yesterday had the sweetest, crispest, most awakening flavor of any apple I have ever tasted. No, I am not exaggerating.  They are that incredible.

I just wanted to share my enthusiasm, and some pictures.  In fact, I am so excited about these apples from Barnard’s, that I plan on having an apple tasting party.  More about flavor comparisons after the fact.

For now,  I am still consuming at least two apples a day, mostly Empire, which are my current obsession.  They are sweet and extraordinarily juicy, with a crisp smack.

Eat Happily.

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