Monday, October 31, 2011

Spinach phyllo borekas

I don't claim to understand what counts as a boreka—the internet makes it look like almost any hand-held veggie- and/or cheese-filled flaky pastry with a vague connection to the Balkans or the Mediterranean could fall under that heading (although the spelling may vary). This one is pretty much like spanikopita, although I feel less comfortable claiming that name without Candace or Manos's approval. Regardless of what it's called, it's tasty and filling and not as heavy-feeling as you might expect. (At least with the amount of fat I used on the phyllo, i.e., the bare minimum.) Now, what to do with the rest of the phyllo?

1 medium zucchini (3/4 lb)
few dashes of salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion
5 cloves garlic
12 oz spinach
2 T pesto
1 T sherry
1 egg
1/2 c pinenuts
4 oz feta (1 c crumbled)
pepper and paprika to taste
9 13"x17" sheets phyllo dough (defrosted if needed) (half a Safeway pack)
2 T melted butter + several T olive oil

Grate the zucchini, toss it with some salt in a colander, and let sit until you need it. Give the spinach a rinse, and let it sit in another colander. Mince the onion and start sauteing it in the olive oil in a large pan. Mince the garlic, squeeze any liquid out of the zucchini, and add both to the pan. Continue to saute while you chop the spinach. When the zucchini liquid has cooked off, add the spinach, pesto, and sherry to the pan, and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has cooked off (about 20 minutes). Turn off the heat and let sit at room temperature to cool down and dry off a bit more, about half an hour.

When you're ready to start forming the pastries, mix the rest of the filling ingredients (egg through paprika) into the veggies. Prepare a large ungreased baking sheet, two damp dishtowels, a large work surface, melted butter mixed with olive oil, and a pastry brush. Lay the stack of phyllo sheets on the surface and cut into 3"x17" strips by cutting through the whole stack with a sharp knife. Cover whatever phyllo you're not actively using with one of the damp dishtowels. Take one strip of phyllo from the top of the stack, brush it lightly with butter+oil, lay a second strip on top of the first, and brush that one with butter+oil too. Put 1-2 T of filling at one end of the phyllo and fold up in triangles like you're a patriotic American folding a flag or like you're Brandi making samosas (steps 3 and 4 here). Place on the baking sheet and cover with the second dishtowel. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, making 18 triangles total. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes until golden. Roast some padrons and pumpkin seeds at the same time, and serve to Lester and Pat between carving pumpkins.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mocha rads

To those people who think it's a good idea to buy one of those silly all-corners brownie pans: just make these rad cookies instead. Happy non-fail birthday John!

3/4 lb TJs Pound Plus dark chocolate, chopped
3 T butter
1.25 c sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1.5 t instant espresso
6 T cake flour
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1.5 c Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips

Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler (or today's approximation thereof, a metal bowl in a metal colander in a pot of simmering water). Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl, and let cool slightly. Add the sugar and butter, and beat with the electric mixer for several minutes until thick and glossy. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and espresso powder, and beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients until just mixed, then fold in the chocolate chips. Put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes while you eat dinner.

Preheat the oven to 350F and line three baking sheets with parchment. Scoop out 32 cookies with a 1.5T spoon, leaving plenty of space between the cookies. (More smaller cookies would be good too, this is almost prohibitively large given the cookies' intensity. Almost, but not quite.) Press the cookies with moist fingertips to flatten slightly. Bake two sheets for 13 minutes until the tops are starting to look crackly, switching the racks halfway through. Transfer the cookies on the parchment to cooling racks, then bake the last pan. Cool all the cookies completely then store in a tupperware.

Gingerbread porter ice cream

Why are birthday desserts the only ones I mess up? And why have I messed them up with very disappointing regularity since I moved to CA? At least I was able to recover this one. If you follow the recipe as written, you should be fine.

2 c cream
2 c half-and-half
1/2 c porter
4 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods
dozen whole allspice
6 pieces crystallized ginger
2 large slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed
3 T butter
1.5 T molasses
1.5 T + 3/4 c brown sugar
4 egg yolks (do not use whole eggs)
1 t vanilla

Combine 1 c cream, 1 c half-and-half, beer, and whole spices in a saucepan. Bring to a very low simmer, and heat uncovered for half an hour or until richly fragrant and tasty. The beer may curdle the cream a bit, but that's ok. Strain to remove the spices and any cream solids.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Grind the bread into coarse crumbs in the food processor. Melt the butter and molasses together, then mix the butter, molasses, and 1.5 T brown sugar into the bread crumbs in a couple food processor pulses. Spread the mixture in a thin even layer on the baking sheet, and bake for 13 minutes until toasty but not burnt. Let cool on the counter while you finish making the ice cream. Break into small pieces before putting in the ice cream.

Beat the eggs and 3/4 c brown sugar together until thick. Gradually stir in some of the spiced cream, then pour the eggs back into the saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, to make a custard. Strain into a clean bowl, stir in the vanilla plus enough cream and half-and-half to bring the volume up to 3.5 c (about another cup of each), and chill in the fridge overnight. In the morning, churn, adding the brown bread when the ice cream is almost done.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Eggplant pizza

2 pizza crusts

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 c olive oil
5 long skinny eggplants, or enough when sliced thin to cover your pizzas
4 medium heirloom tomatoes, or enough when sliced thin to cover your pizzas
grated Parrano to taste
2 t spicy Italian mix
1-2 T thinly sliced basil (several sprigs)

A few hours before dinnertime (eg when you're making the pizza dough) combine the garlic and olive oil in a small bowl, and let it sit and steep on the counter.

Get out two baking sheets, line them with foil, and brush the foil with some of the garlic oil. Slice the eggplant thinly and evenly into ~1/4" slices, and lay them in a single layer on the baking sheets. Brush the tops of the eggplant slices with more garlic oil, and sprinkle with some salt. Broil until done: I did 5 minutes on the first side, 12 on the other side, then another 3 minutes on the first side again (brushing with more oil after each flip). Let the eggplant slices and baking sheets both cool down for a bit.

While you're waiting, slice the tomatoes and grate the cheese. Transfer the garlic out of any remaining oil and onto a cutting board, and mince it up a bit. Fry the garlic and the spice mix in the remaining oil, plus a drizzle if needed. Return the garlic and spices to the garlic-oil bowl, toss with the basil to wilt it, and set aside.

When the baking sheets are ready again, line them with parchment and dust with semolina, and preheat the oven to 450F. Form the pizzas and lay them on the baking sheets. Place on a layer of tomatoes, then a layer of eggplant, then sprinkle on the cheese, then sprinkle on the garlic-basil-spice mix. Bake until done, about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Persimmon whoopie pies

You can't ask for a better cookie for whoopie pies, at least texture-wise. These guys are soft with a tight crumb, more like muffin-tops than like a typical cake or cookie, and held their shape beautifully. The taste overall is more sweet than spicy or zingy, although it has elements of both—up the spices or lemon as you wish.

1 c persimmon pulp from 4 hachiya persimmons
1 t baking soda
3/4 c walnuts
6 pieces crystallized ginger
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
2 T limoncello
1/2 t vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t allspice

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease three baking sheets. Blend the persimmon pulp with the baking soda until smooth and gelling, and set aside. Grind the nuts and ginger together in the food processor, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the persimmon gel, egg, limoncello, and vanilla until well blended, breaking up any last persimmon chunks if you can but not worrying about it too much. Beat in the dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in the walnuts and ginger. Scoop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets to make ~3 dozen cookies and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets half-way through. Transfer immediately to cooling racks and let cool completely (overnight).

1/3 c old dry currants
1 T liqueur (eg 1/2 T maraschino + 1/2 T amaretto)
boiling water
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 stick butter (4 T)
1 T lemon zest
2 c powdered sugar

Let the currants soak in the liqueur overnight. This didn't do much, so in the morning cover them with boiling water and let them plump up while you pop to the shops to get cream cheese. With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and lemon zest, then beat in the powdered sugar. Drain the currants and beat them in. Spread a generous blob of frosting on the flat side of half of the cookies, and sandwich another cookie of the same size on top. Store in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Okra and red bean gumbo

You may notice I haven't been posting much in the way of full balanced meal type recipes lately. That's largely because TAing takes a lot of evening time away from cooking dinner, but it's also because I was getting bored of taking badly-lit photos of mushy-looking piles of veggies. But that's silly: the main point of this endeavor is for me (and maybe you) to remember what went into those ugly but delicious piles of veggies, and making them look nice for you (and maybe me) is just a bonus.

For instance, I made the Persian eggplant from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest on Saturday night. It was really really good, exactly as written (although with a bit more mushrooms and a bit less eggplant), and I would definitely make it again. But no photo, so no post. Boo.

Thus, some gumbo! With beans cooked from "scratch," which is something I want to try more of this winter. And with file powder, which somehow I didn't realize was vegetarian but it totally is, and without roux.

1 c dry kidney beans
lots of water

Soak the beans overnight in more than enough water to cover. Drain and rinse. Put in a large pot with lots of water (about 3:1 water:beans) and simmer until fully cooked (45 min-1 hr for me). Drain, reserving the liquid.

3 T butter
1 large onion, minced
3 fresh bay leaves
2 t thyme
1 t paprika
6 ribs celery, minced
5 shishitos and 2 poblanos, minced (or some other combination of sweet flavorful peppers)
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
6 c chopped okra
4 medium momotaro tomatoes, diced (1.5 c)
2 T file powder
2 t salt
ground pepper
4 c cooking water from beans
2 c cooked kidney beans
2 T chopped parsley (several sprigs)

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and spices, and saute for a few minutes. Add the celery, peppers, garlic, and carrot, and saute until softening. Add the okra and cook for several minutes, then add the tomato and cook for a bit more. Stir in the file powder, salt, and pepper, then pour in the bean broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and let cook covered for 20 minutes. Add the beans and parsley, adjust the seasonings, and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Serve with rice and cornbread.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Turtle ice cream

Turtle candies are made of caramel, pecans, and chocolate, just like this ice cream. (Salted caramel ice cream with a pecan-fudge swirl, that is what we have here.) And wikipedia says that Turtles used to be made just down the street in that weird pink house-looking shop in Temescal! Who knew. I'm not one of those folks who gets all excited about over-salting their desserts, but turns out salted caramel does work extremely well as a base for a fudge-nut sauce. Not pictured: dark-chocolate-covered pretzels for scooping it up.

salted caramel ice cream:
1.5 c sugar
4 T salted butter
1/4 t kosher sea salt (or taste)
1 c heavy cream
5 egg yolks
2 c whole milk (I used 1/2 c half-and-half + 1.5 c 1% milk)
1/2 t vanilla

Just click on the link and follow David Lebovitz's recipe. I was apprehensive because 1.5 c sugar is about twice as much as I normally use for a batch of ice cream this size, but it doesn't turn out too sweet. (It's sweet, of course, but not too sweet.) The amount of dairy fat works well too. If you have fancy salt, you can probably get away with using more, but this amount was quite enough for the fanciest salt we have around.

pecan-fudge swirl:
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c dark corn syrup
1/2 c water
6 T cocoa powder
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 c pecans, chopped

Heat the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder together in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve everything. Cook for 1 minute after it starts to simmer, then pour into a tupperware and stir in the vanilla. Store in the fridge until ready to use. When it's time to churn the ice cream, stir the chopped pecans into 1/2 c fudge sauce, and put the rest of the chocolate sauce in the fridge for another occasion.

to assemble:
Churn the ice cream until done (or for half an hour until it's time to go see Mean Streets with Chris and Lester, whichever comes first). In a flattish tupperware, layer 1/3 of the ice cream, then 1/2 of the pecan-fudge sauce, then 1/3 ice cream, then 1/2 sauce, then the rest of the ice cream. My ice cream was soupy enough after churning that just glopping the next layer of ice cream on top essentially swirled the lower layers together, but if yours is firmer then it might be nice to quickly run a knife through it to give it a bit of swirl. Freeze for 4 hr or overnight, and eat with dark-chocolate-covered pretzels.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Braided fig and cream cheese danish

Oh wow, I am really pleased with this one. It's just as pretty as the other braided danish/bread I made. But whereas the dough of that one was somewhere between a bread and a cake (as befitted a banana bread), this dough is somewhere between a bread and a pastry (as befits an actual danish). I've never made a real laminated dough, but this was easy enough that there may be croissants in the future.

1 T yeast
1/4 c warm water
4 T white sugar
2 T brown sugar
1/2 c milk
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
at least 3.5 c all-purpose flour
1 stick salted butter, softened
4 oz spreadable cream cheese

Combine yeast and water in the Kitchenaid bowl, and let sit for a minute until the yeast is visibly active. Add the sugars and wet ingredients and stir to combine. Dump in 2.5 c of the flour, put on the dough hook, and knead for 4 minutes. Dump in that whole stick of softened butter, and knead with the dough hook for another 6 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Scrape the dough (which will be barely firmer than muffin batter, although definitely more elastic) onto a surface that has been covered with a layer of some of that remaining cup of flour. Knead by hand as best you can, incorporating up to 1/2 c flour. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with a plastic bag, and let rise until doubled (this will take longer than usual, eg more than 2 hours on a fairly warm day, because the yeast has to be pushing around so much fat). You'll notice we haven't used the cream cheese yet; don't worry, we're getting there.

3 oz cream cheese
2 T white flour
1 T white sugar
2 T greek yogurt
1 T honey
zest and half the juice from 1 large Meyer lemon
~1/3 c mulled fig jam

Stir together everything except the fig jam until smooth, and set aside until ready to spread on the dough.

to assemble:
Flour your surface again, and get out the rolling pin and some parchment paper. Turn the dough onto the floured surface, and roll or press it into a 1 foot square. Now's the time for that 4oz of cream cheese—spread it evenly over the whole surface of the dough. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter, then fold it in thirds the other way, to make a square 1/9 as large and 9 times as tall as your original square of dough. (The thin cream cheese layers between the layers of dough will make the final pastry flakier than your average bread, but not as flaky as more traditional laminated doughs like croissants.) Roll this square into a large rectangle ~10" wide and as long as it gets. (If your rectangle is larger than you want your loaf to be, cut off some of the dough and make it into a second loaf afterward.)

Transfer the dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread the cream cheese filling in the long strip down the middle third of the dough, then spread and/or dollop the fig jam over the cream cheese. Form into a "braid" as described previously.
Let rise for an hour or so, then bake at 375F for 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fig newtons

Happy birthday Lester (last weekend)! Alternate names for these include boozy newtons and fig Leibnitzes, depending on which friend you ask.

cookie dough:
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
2 T brown sugar
1/2 t salt
6 oz cold butter, cut into cubes (1.5 sticks)
1/4 c half-and-half

Put the dry ingredients (flours through salt) in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture is uniformly sandy. Add the half-and-half and pulse to make a dough. Scoop the dough onto plastic wrap, form into a rectangle, wrap the plastic wrap tightly around the dough, and stick in the fridge for at least an hour.

to assemble:

~1 c jam (I used ~1/3 c each of mulled fig, Drambuie fig, and blackberry)
floured pastry cloth and rolling pin
parchment-lined baking sheet
room for the baking sheet in the fridge

Cut the dough into three strips. Put two of the pieces back in the fridge, and start working with the other one. Roll it on the floured pastry cloth into a ~12"x5" rectangle, carefully flipping it over from time to time and re-flouring the other side *before* it starts sticking. Carefully transfer onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, and put in the fridge. Roll out the other two strips the same way, always keeping the dough you aren't working with in the fridge. When all three strips are rolled out, return to the first one and spread one kind of jam down the middle third of the dough. Carefully fold the two jamless sides over the jammed center, then press together the folded sides where it split and the seam in the middle, but don't worry if it doesn't seal back up perfectly. Repeat with the other dough strips and jams, slice each roll into 10 ~1" cookies, then put all the assembled cookies in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F while you're waiting. Put the cookies in the oven, immediately turn down the temperature to 350F, and bake for 25 min until nicely golden.

Two boozy fig jams

Serving suggestions: stir into mostly-churned vanilla ice cream; fill fig newtons; spread in sandwiches with sliced roasted beets, cheddar or chevre, and a grind of pepper.

Drambuie fig jam:
1 lb black mission figs
1/4 c honey
1/4 c Drambuie
1 t Meyer lemon juice

mulled fig jam:
1 lb black mission figs
3 T honey
3 T port
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 cardamom pods
3 pieces preserved lemon peel
1 t Meyer lemon juice
pinch salt

for either:
Trim off the fig stems, and cut the fruit into 8ths. Put everything in a saucepan and cook over low heat for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1.5 cups or less. Remove the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods, if using (but not the lemon peels). Grind in the food processor until the fig skins are chopped up, then put in the fridge until you want to use it.

Savory bread pudding

Bread pudding for brunch! The yogurt makes it tangy and light, while the leek and bread cubes makes it smell like it's Thanksgiving in your oven. Other veggies or greens would work great instead of the kale, of course.

1/2 baguette (about 1 foot long), almost but not quite too stale to slice
6 eggs
1/2 c plain greek yogurt
1/2 c milk
1/2 or 1 t salt
lots of pepper
1/2 t paprika
1 t oregano
butter for the pan
1 large leek, sliced
3 medium-large leaves kale, sliced thin
1/3 c crumbled cheese (eg English mature cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the baguette into 1" slices, then cut each slice into quarters. Whisk together the eggs with the milk, yogurt, and spices, and set aside. Saute the leek and kale in a bit of butter in a 10" cast-iron pan for a few minutes, but don't worry about cooking them all the way through. Turn off the heat on the pan and let it cool down for a few minutes; meanwhile stir the bread cubes into the egg mixture and let them soak. When the bread seems sufficiently egged, pour the egg and bread into the cast-iron pan and arrange things until the veggies, egg, and bread are each evenly distributed around the pan. Sprinkle with the cheese, and bake for 35 minutes until set. Cut into 6 wedges and serve after a night out dancing. It might stick slightly to the pan if you didn't use much butter for sauteing the veggies, but it stuck less than I thought it might.