Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sweet recall

Guava-Almond Biscotti – yields approx. 30 pieces
4-ounces unsalted butter
¾-cup sugar
2-teaspoons vanilla extract
¼-teaspoon rose water
2-cups flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3-ounces guava paste – diced
¼-cup sliced almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy in a standing mixture or with a hand held beater.  Add in the sugar and beat for a few minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly incorporated before the next addition.  Mix the vanilla and rose water into the butter.  Add the flour mixture into the butter and work until just combined.  Then on a slow speed mix in the guava paste and almonds. 

Chill the dough for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

On a lightly floured surface form the dough into thirds and gently roll into logs that are about 10 to 12-inches in length. Then place a lined baking tray.  Bake the cookies in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the logs are just golden brown and set.  Remove from the oven, and let cool.  Slice the logs into ¼-inch pieces on an angle.  Place back on a baking tray and bake again for about 10 minutes to dry out.  You may want to turn the cookies over in order to insure that both sides dry out well.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I like

As a child I remember my mother taking us grocery shopping with her, almost everyday we would end up at Pathmark, Waldbaums or the Big Banana procuring provisions for the household that never saw a cupboard go bare. As a matter of fact, we had a spare pantry in the garage that could have served as a neighborhood mini-market.  My mom was a coupon shopper, so we were usually on the hunt for advertised and unadvertised bargains. I think she should have been a very successful professional shopper.

As for me, I did not fall far from the tree. Like my mom, I tend to shop everyday going to specific stores, markets, and shops for a particular item. I obnoxiously know the prices of items from store to store, and while I am not a coupon user I will go the mile to get the better price. When I find myself in a new farmer’s market the first thing I do is a walk-thru – sizing up seasonal offerings and who has the competitive price.
Unlike my mom I rarely stop at the “deli guy.” My appetite for sliced bologna with French’s mustard has disappeared and I am more apt to head to a favorite Spanish grocery for waft thin slices of Serrano ham. The one purchase I made from a traditional deli, when I was in my twenties, was rice pudding. I always begged my mom to buy some rice or bread pudding from the shiny refrigerated case decorated with frills of purple kale. I was always told no, followed up with a justification for the negative response, “our people don’t eat it.” Our people!? I never quite got it though I assumed it was not kosher, however, we did not keep a kosher household and a matter of fact she made a fabulous pineapple/clove baked ham which I was sure was not kosher. Years lately my mom confessed that she were not a fan of either dessert, and that is why she won’t buy it. Guess, this apple has rolled out of the orchard.

Much to my mom’s amusement I have become a great fan of the these simple, humble indulgences and have produce quite a few over the years for family gatherings – though she never warmed up to them.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding – yields 13x7x2

1-loaf good quality white bread or brioche (approximately 1-pound)
1-quart cream
1-cup chopped white chocolate
6-egg yolks
½-cup sugar
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
½-cup dried cherries, apricots or blueberries
½-cup sliced almonds
¼-cup sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 325-degrees.

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, and hold to the side.

In a 2-quart saucepan add the cream and white chocolate. Over a low flame warm the cream to melt the chocolate – don not let it come to a boil.

In the meantime, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy. Once, the cream has warmed, and the chocolate is melted slowly whisk it into the egg yolks – taking car not to curdle the eggs. Then whisk in the vanilla.

Spread the bread cubes and dried cherries into the baking pan. Pour over the egg/cream mixture. Gently press down on the bread in order to make sure it is soaked in the egg/cream mixture. Sprinkle the almonds then remaining ¼-cup of sugar over the top.

Place in to the oven n for 45 minutes, or until the center, when gently pressed, is set. Serve warm or cold.

Caramel Sauce – yields approx.1-1/2-cups
2-cups sugar
¼-cup water
¼-cup orange flavored liquor (such as Grand Marnier)
2-teaspoons unsalted butter
½-cup cream

In a 1-quart saucepan bring the sugar and water to a boil. Don’t stir the mixture just let the sugar fully dissolve – this will lessen the chance that the sugar will re-crystalize creating a look like rock candy. Once the sugar has completely dissolved add the Grand Marnier. Continue to boil the mixture until it takes on a dark amber hue. It is a slippery slope between prefect caramel and burnt.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the butter, and then the cream. Allow the mixture to cool before using. This sauce can be held at room temperature. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Preheat the oven

I have decided that the month of December is going to be dedicated to baking. Anyone who is familiar with my cooking career I would never be considered a baker. Now, of course, I can pull off what I need to do as long as I don’t have to present an iced layer cake; give me a cookie, pie, trifle or ice cream request, and I can find my groove. The irony is that a white cake with vanilla buttercream is crack for me. If I had to present one that I made to a client I could never pull off a professionally made one. In culinary school applying buttercream evenly, smoothly, seamlessly was not one of the many culinary attributes I exhibited. I was fond of that peaked, mom’s styling application probably because I quickly recognized my inability to improve upon a Duncan Hines styling. So, I made it my business to befriend bakers.

Not all baked goods are for dessert. I love making bread, and refuse to use an electric aide in bringing together the dough – I view the action of kneading as an upper-body workout, and won’t stop until a bead of sweat trickle downs my back. The winter months also have me baking main courses: shepherd’s pies, phyllo encased fish filets and empanadas becomes part of my repertoire. Clearly, my natural pull towards savory foods causes me to season these swathed dishes with a myriad of spices, herbs, meats and vegetables. And, they are prefect one-dish meals or freezer-friendly concoctions that can be whipped up on one of those days when the weather says it is best to stay in doors. For those friends who are prepared to brave wind, precipitation (wet or frozen) and the general ambient temperature will find a homey meal waiting for them slightly lopsided cake included.

Chicken and Sausage Pie – yields 6 to 8 servings
½-cup coconut milk
1-cup coarse cornmeal
1-tablespoon grapeseed oil
1-large onion – sliced into ¼-inch half-moom shape
4-garlic cloves – roughly chopped
4-celery stalks – sliced into ½-inch pieces
½-pound smoked sasage – such as Andouille, chorizo
1-whole chicken breast
3-cups chopped greens – such as kale, beet, mustard, collard
¼-cup chopped fresh oregano
2-tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
¼-teaspoon whole cumin seed
¼-teaspoon whole celery seed
1/8-teaspoon whole caraway seed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a 2-quart sauce pan bring the coconut milk plus 2-1/2 cups of water to the boil over a high flame.  Once the coconut has come to the boil, add the cornmeal, salt and pepper and using a whisk. Continue whisking the cornmeal to make sure there are not lumps. Then switch to a wooden spoon and lower the flame to medium low, and stir constantly for about 10-minutes. The finished cornmeal mixture should look like wet mashed potatoes. Remove from the flame, and reserve.

Pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet add the grapeseed oil, onion, garlic and celery and start cooking over a medium low flame. Allow the mixture to cook until the onions are golden brown – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow the onions brown slice the sausage into ½-inch pieces, and 
the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Once the onions have cooked turn the heat up to high and mix in the sausage, chicken, cumin, celery seed and caraway. Cook for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the greens, oregano and thyme – you will need to add the greens in probably three batches. Remove from the heat, and spread the reserved cornmeal over the top of the mixture. Mositen the back of a spoon with water to more easily spread the cornmeal across the top.

Place in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes – the top should be golden brown.