Greek Yogurt Extravaganza

17 Apr

 

This week I gave in to my deep love for greek yogurt.  If you haven’t used it in recipes, you’re missing out.  Besides the obvious parfait and breakfast uses, it’s a great, healthy substitute in many recipes that use mayo or sour cream.  I decided to search for a recipe that involved both salmon and greek yogurt.  My main gal, Martha Stewart, came through for me with a recipe for Roasted Salmon and Herbed Yogurt.  With that recipe in mind, I thought asparagus would be a good side dish, and heck why not use greek yogurt with the asparagus as well.  A quick google search, and I decided to go with an asparagus soup.  I modified a recipe from whole foods for Creamy Spring Asparagus Soup substituting greek yogurt for sour cream.

The two dishes were relatively simple, but for timing I enlisted my favorite sous-chef.

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Chris as given the task of snipping parsley and dill from our potted patio herbs, and then chopping them into tiny bits.IMG_0933

He then mixed the herbs in with our greek yogurt of choice, Fage.

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Meanwhile, I chopped the light green and white parts of our gigantic leek, and then browned the pieces in a bit of butter.

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While the leek browned, I peeled and chopped a yukon gold potato into one inch strips.

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After about ten minutes, I added the potatoes and chicken broth to the leeks, and brought the liquid to a boil.

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I then reduced the heat, added the chopped asparagus, and let the mixture simmer until everything was nice and tender.

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While the soup simmered, Chris mixed together the herbs, greek yogurt, dijon, salt and pepper.

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Everything for the salmon was ready long before the soup, so Chris stuck the yogurt mixture in the fridge and relaxed while I prepped the blender.  I had some time to spare, so I improvised and chopped a bit of garlic for the salmon.

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With approximately 10-15 minutes to go on the soup, Chris placed the salmon in a baking pan, covered in the herbed yogurt sauce, and topped it off with chopped garlic.  He couldn’t resist giving our three cats a taste of raw salmon.  They are definitely sushi lovers like their mama and papa.

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Once the potatoes and asparagus were tender, I poured the mixture into a big blender and set it to purée.  Chris finished off the purée and then complained about how tightly I put on the top to the cat rubbing up against his legs looking for more delicious, raw fish.

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Once pureed to our satisfaction, I poured the soup back into the pot and brought it to a boil.  The timer sounded for the salmon just as I finished the soup.  Could we have actually timed everything perfectly tonight?  Unfortunately, no.  Chris cut into the salmon and found it still a bit raw in the center after 15 minutes at 450.  We had to stick the salmon back in the oven for another 10 minutes, and that was even a bit too much.  It amazes me how quickly fish goes from undercooked to overcooked.

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Before realizing the salmon needed more time, I had spooned the soup into bowls, and topped it with croutons, parmesan, and freshly ground black peppercorn.  Not wanting our soup to get cold, we finished it off while the salmon baked.  It was absolutely delicious!  I loved the flavor and texture, and the topping I improvised was perfect.  It tasted like spring in my mouth.

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When the salmon finished, we cut a small portion for us each, added a bit of lemon, and sat down to finish the latest Game of Thrones episode.  The salmon was delicious.  I always worry about salmon tasting fishy, but it didn’t at all.  The garlic roasted perfectly on top, and was a great addition.  The herbed yogurt was fresh and moist.  Overall a fantastic dish, and I’m sure it would have gone great with the asparagus soup.

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My Kitchen Is Now A Thug Kitchen

17 Apr

Spinach Cooler

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I am in love with the recipes and photos on thugkitchen.com.  I’m planning on trying a few recipes this week.  There’s no finesse needed for this smoothie.  Frozen bananas, cucumber, spinach, pineapple, coconut water, orange juice, flax, and mint.  Toss it all in a blender and done.  It was good, but not perfect.  I feel like the banana overpowered everything a bit.  I’m going to tweak the recipe a bit the next time.  Maybe less banana, more pineapple.

 

 

 

My Favorite Cold Weather Soup

10 Mar

  Back in college, I worked at Mimi’s Cafe and became addicted to their corn chowder.  When I lived in Long Beach, I decided that I wanted to make my own and see how it turned out.  I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com for Gramma Brown’s Corn Chowder.  It is a fabulous, rich soup that beats Mimi’s chowder any day.  Since then, I have made this soup several times and tweaked it to include my favorite spices.  I also usually make the soup without bacon, but I decided to add it as a special treat for a few wonderful people this time around!

To start, I cooked the bacon until almost done, and then sautéed it with onions and celery.  I usually add a bit more celery than the recipe recommends.  I also add more carrots.  The result is more of a hearty stew, than a soup.

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This being the first time in well forever I made bacon, I did not have the foresight to first chop it and then cook it.  I ended up cutting it into pieces in the pan while it simmered.  The pan I used is well-loved, so I didn’t worry too much about adding a few more scratches.

I then transferred everything to a big pot with 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth and cooked it with the carrots and potatoes.

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The final step involves adding the milk and a paste of flour and water.  This thickens it up and makes it creamy.  You can add more flour if you like your soup thicker, but I think the flour plus the starch from the potatoes are plenty.

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Once everything is nice and soft and hot, you can top it off with some salt, pepper, and any other spices you’d like.

IMG_0890   I typically add a bit of cayenne, onion powder, and basil.  This gives it just the right amount of kick.  This soup is fairly easy and it always gets rave reviews.  This time around I added a side garnish of chopped tomatoes, avocado, and lime juice.  Some chose to add it to the soup, others just ate the avocado, but all in all I think it went over well.  I also like to buy or make a round loaf of sourdough and serve it warm with the soup.  Let me know if you think of any more exciting spice combos or interesting ways to serve it!

 

Cranberry Christmas Scones

10 Mar

Chris and I bought our very first home this past August.  It’s just a small condo, but it’s such a perfect fit for us.  We also absolutely love our new neighborhood.  It feels remote and rustic, there’s hiking nearby, and just down the hill there’s just about every shop you could ever need.  Getting everything in order took a while, so we ended up hosting a holiday/housewarming party.  At the party, I made a big pot of wassail and a big pot of vin chaud (I will take pictures and post the next time I make these beverages.  They’re delicious!).  As garnish, I planned to sugar cranberries.  Well in the madness of getting everything ready for the party, I completely forgot the cranberries.  We were driving up to the Guidotti’s for the holidays the next day, and I didn’t want the cranberries to go to waste, so I poked around online and found a cranberry scone recipe on marthastewart.com.

The beginning of the recipe is pretty basic – mix the ingredients, cut in the butter until it resembles crumbs, and then mix with the cream.

You then need to knead the dough on a floured surface, and the cranberries do not make this easy!  The recipe makes this step seem like it’s a breeze, but trust me your arms will get a work out.  I continued to knead the dough until the flour was completely incorporated and I had a nice smooth texture.  I rolled the dough into a roundish square, and then sliced it into 8 equal pieces.

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The next part was also a bit tricky.  I had to separate the pieces gently to maintain their shape.  I decided to bake them on a silpat to prevent them from browning too much on the bottom.

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The recipe then instructs you to “brush” the scones with the remaining half and half.  Well I had lost of half and half left, and brushing them lightly somehow seemed wrong.  I poured the remaining half and half over each unbaked scone, hoping that the extra cream would give them a bit more moisture.

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I then sprinkled each scone with a bit of turbinado sugar, and topped them off with red and green sprinkles.

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They came out of the oven with an all-over light brown color, and they smelled wonderful.

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Chris and I had a scone with coffee the next morning, and absolutely fell in love with this recipe.  The cranberries added a tartness to an otherwise sweet treat, and the texture was moist and light.  Knowing that Chris’ mom would be busy preparing holiday dinner, we packed the remaining scones up and brought them to the Guidotti’s for breakfast.  They were perfect in the morning heated with a bit of butter.  We had a wonderful time visiting, and hope everyone enjoyed the scones!

Madeleines Turned Petit Almond Citrus Gateau

10 Mar

In a stroke of genius the other week, I remembered that I had not yet used my gifted Madeleine pan.  Chris and I were going to the store anyway, so I found this beautiful recipe at food52.com: Citrus Madeleines.  Instead of a grapefruit, I grabbed an orange and paired it with the lemons already in our fridge.  The first step required lots and lots of zesting.  Towards the end my arms grew tired and I zested my finger a bit – Ouch!

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One of my favorite parts came next: mixing the zest with sugar.  The sugar coated the zest perfectly and it just looked beautiful.

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The rest is your basic baked good recipe.  Mix the dry and the wet separately, and then combine them until just barely mixed.  I really attribute this step as a make or break moment in any baking project.  It’s the difference between dry and dense or moist and fluffy.  The latter of course being the preference.

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A little more…

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Stop!

Here’s where my Madeleines turned gateau.  While I was mixing the perfect batter, I asked Chris to pull out the Madeleine pan and prep it for baking.  Just as the batter reached the barely mixed goal, Chris exclaimed that he couldn’t find the pan.  I too searched high and low, but came up empty-handed.  Thinking fast on our feet, we looked through the cabinet and chose a mini cake pan as a stand in.  I was slightly disappointed, but still hopeful that they would taste delicious.  Chris buttered the pan (with Smart Balance) and I lightly dusted it with flour.  We then evenly divided the batter into each rectangle.

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I topped them off with a few sliced almonds and popped them into the oven.  They turned out a beautiful golden brown, although slightly sunken in from the weight of the almonds.

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Taking a look at my final product, I dubbed the tiny cakes Petit Almond Citrus Gateau.  I cut one in half and sampled the fruits of my labor.  It was light, fluffy, and balanced.  Chris had 2 cakes exclaiming that they were, “the best things we ever made.”

The next week Chris asked me to make the cakes again for his friends dessert and wine birthday party.  We decided to bake them in a mini cupcake pan this time around.

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These small cupcakes turned out a bit dry.  I think they were just a bit overcooked.  Next time I’ll adjust the baking time a bit more to accommodate for the smaller size – OR I’ll just get a Madeleine pan so I can do the batter justice in that playful shell shape.

 

A Blast From the Past: 1950s Muffins

10 Feb

This past Wednesday, I had plenty of blackberries left in the fridge and not enough appetite for blackberry oatmeal or blackberry yogurt breakfasts.  I searched my favorite recipe site Food52.com and found retro black berry muffins.  The author of the recipe cites the “Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book” from 1955.  I was curious to discover if the muffins from the 1950s were any different, so I set the oven to preheat and got to work!

Here’s a look at the fresh blackberries that I chopped

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Next I mixed the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  I could already tell at this point that this muffin had the makings of something much denser than my 21st century muffins.

IMG_0829IMG_0827IMG_0832Yup, much, much thicker than usual.  I should add here that the recipe called for a long-lost ingredient – shortening.  Does anyone really keep that on hand anymore?  Can you still find it in stores?  Ah well, I read up on it and found that I could substitute oil for melted shortening, but that I should expect a different (read not ideal) texture.

I kept mixing until everything was just incorporated and then divided it into a muffin pan.  This step was a rather sticky event.

IMG_0833IMG_0835I popped the pan into my preheated oven, and fretted over the small amount of sugar in the recipe.  Only 2 tablespoons!  These muffins dough balls were becoming bland, dense bricks in the oven.  I had to think of something quick.  I threw together a maple soaked oatmeal crumble topping and spread it on the muffins.  Unfortunately half of the baking time had already passed by the time I did this, so the topping did not stick very well to the tops of the muffins.

IMG_0836Once the muffins were back in the oven, I cleaned up my mess and relaxed.  All I could do at that point was wait.

When the timer went off the muffins looked and smelled done, but the topping looked like it would just fall off when I took them out of the pan.  I popped them back in at a high temp for a short time hoping that could help seal the tops a bit more.

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These 1950s blackberry biscuits (definitely cannot call them muffins) were okay.  As expected, they were a bit more dense and dry.  The topping helped, but it did crumble off a bit.  The next morning I served them warm with a bit of syrup and half a banana.  I figured every biscuit is better with gravy, so maybe the blackberry variety is better with syrup.  It was.  Chris had two.

IMG_0843I wouldn’t call my trip to cooking’s past a complete success, but it gave us a quick snack/breakfast for a few mornings.  I also had two just before my run this morning.  They gave me the perfect amount of energy.  I might try to play around with the recipe a bit more, or I might keep my focus on muffins from the here and now.  Either way it was a fun journey and now I know what a 1950s muffin tastes like.

Blackpeachrange Tartlets on a Sunday Night

23 Jan

This past Sunday evening, I had a hankering for something sweet. As you’ve no doubt noticed when we get a sweet-tooth, we bake. So I started to sift through desserts on Epicurious.com trying to find something delicious to cook up.

Here’s the problem – we had no eggs.

Since pretty much every dessert recipe under the sun (related to baking anyhow) includes eggs I had a problem. Then I remembered that we could make tarts.

A while back (not sure if we blogged about it here), we made a delicious lemon tart. I remember it distinctly, because I’d never run across a crust that when complete (prior to baking), was completely crumbly. Like, not bonding, or sticking together at all after you finish food-processing it. This recipe didn’t use any eggs what-so-ever (vegans pay attention).

So, I tried to find that particular recipe again, aiming to make a blackberry tart (as we still had some in the fridge from earlier in the week). I searched…and searched…and searched. Completely failed in my Google-Fu. You’d think that if you search for “Blackberry tart without eggs,” or “Blackberry tart no eggs,” that you would be successful. It took me over 30 minutes of looking to find the first recipe without eggs.

Anyhow, I should have seen that as a sign I should give up on the idea for the evening…but no I continued on, blissfully unaware of what was to come…

Eventually I found one – and it’s not linked here because I cleared my browsing history… Basically, it’s a “mix it all together and food process the hell out of it” recipe. The problem was, we only had 1/2 a stick of butter (out of the requisite 1 stick). Strike 2 in recipeville. So, I ended up adding the difference in soft-spread margarine. The main difference was the final dough was slightly stickier than I would have expected for an eggless recipe. Anyhow, I did process the hell out of it, using a spatula ever so often to pull additional flour away from the edges to fold into the dough.

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I had already pulled our tartlet pans out (yes, we actually have tartLET pans). And began to pack to dough into them. It made four, and I tossed them into the oven to start baking while I turned to the filling.

So, remember that “package” of blackberries that I had mentioned? Yep, about 1/2 a pack left. Strike 3. So at this point, I pulled a “Chris cooking without Colleen’s adult supervision” and  started to wing it.

I crushed up the blackberries into a pot (with my hands – squishing the juices out of the little buggers – and yes, it was QUITE cathartic), then proceeded to rummage in the fridge for other, possibly, complimentary flavors. I found some not too ripe peaches, that were starting to shrivel from the cold. I sliced them up and tossed them in with the blackberries. Next I added some orange juice (I really have no idea how much exactly) and a poured about four seconds-worth of sugar. I cranked up the heat and let it stew for about 20 minutes.

I pulled out the cornstarch next and added about 3 tablespoons of it to the mixture (which by this time was frothing and bubbling like a cauldron). I figured that it’s about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per cup of liquid (I think I read that somewhere), and it looked like it was “about” 3 cups of liquid.


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I spent the next 20 minutes whisking the mixture like a mad-man trying to break up the clumps of cornstarch. Pro tip: when you’re adding cornstarch to a liquid, first mix it with liquid to form a paste before adding it to the liquid.

Onwards. It actually tasted delicious. I took the mixture, and poured it into the newly cleaned food-processor and then blended it well so that it appeared to be a purple jelly. By this time a quick check of the crusts revealed them to be nice and golden brown. I popped them out of the oven and then poured the purple goo into their centers, and then returned it to the oven for another 5 minutes.

I shouldn’t have – that was just enough for the nice golden brown crust to go only slightly brown. If this has ever happened to you with a butter crust you know that the flavor is still ok, it’s just that the texture gets hard as a rock, really fast. Regardless, after the five minutes, I pulled them out of the oven and set them aside to cool.

Voila! Blackberry/Peach/Orange tartlets. They were actually quite delicious, albeit hard around the edges. The inside crust was perfectly cooked and Colleen raved about the filling. I’m going to count it as a success.

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Oh, and I have only some idea of how to recreate them. Sometimes things come to mind with madness, never to return…

 

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