November 30, 2008

Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart

I spent this Thanksgiving in Washington D.C. with my boyfriend and his family.  They asked me what I'd like to cook and since I'm much more confident in my baking skills, I decided I wanted to make a dessert.  I also think I just like baking better because the finished product is always so much prettier if things go as planned... 

Anyway, for days (literally) I was trying to decide what I should make.  I wanted to try something new but I didn't want to go out on a limb and try something that might be horrible. Also, I really didn't want it to go wrong and look like a bad cook, so needless to say it was difficult to choose.  I had been thinking about the Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart listed on smittenkitchen because it looked so festive and had gotten such great reviews by both Deb and The Wednesday Chef, two people I trust for cooking reviews.  But I was worried about the shrinking crust (something they both also mentioned).  I didn't really want to risk it coming out terribly (although even with the shrunken crust Deb's looked pretty delicious) so I looked and looked for other possible recipes.  

Truthfully though nothing else seemed as fitting and someone was already bringing apple pie and my boyfriend's sister was making pumpkin, so that left two major Thanksgiving food groups off limits for me.  But then- then I saw this post and was a little bit too excited because it seemed to be the answer to and end of my Thanksgiving dessert pondering.  

So I made the crust a day ahead and it was SO crumbly.  I did everything the recipe said and even used frozen butter to make sure it was cold enough, but I didn't get any oatmeal or pea sized flakes before the egg was added, or clumps and curds after.  When I turned the dough out on the counter to ball it together before I stuck it in the fridge it would hardly hold its shape.  It just crumbled everywhere and would not stick together.  So I was nervous and confused about what had gone wrong but was hoping overnight in the fridge might solve the problem. Unfortunately it didn't really. 

I took the dough out and attempted to work with it right out of the fridge but it was a rock.  I tried to warm it some in my hands and mash it a little but it just crumbled and crumbled.  I let it get warm for a while, attempted to work with it again and was slightly more successful.  I ended up doing a combination of smushing it with my hands and rolling it out between wax paper and eventually it started working.  But then it was a mess flipping it into the tart pan and I was pushing parts that fell off into the pan with my fingers.  Finally after all that it ended up working but not looking too pretty.  Then when I pre-baked it, some of the dough stuck to the buttery foil (which I had made sure to extra buttery in order to avoid such a situation) it cooked under but the uneven parts were covered with filling later so it didn't really matter.

The filling was pretty easy, except I tried to stir the sugar too early and it ended up forming some hard clumps, luckily they melted once the caramel heated through.  Also pouring the butter and cream mixture into the caramel was a bit messy and the caramel ended up hardening some because the butter and cream had cooled.  I put it back on the heat and after some careful stirring with my caramelized utensils things turned out alright.

                 Un-baked Tart

It ended up looking beautiful out of the oven (see first picture) and while I wasn't blown away by the taste the first time I tried it (thought it was too nutty) other people at Thanksgiving seemed to really enjoy it.  I had another piece a couple days later and definitely appreciated it more.  The caramel was really tasty, sweet, and sticky.  The almonds were slightly crunchy, the crust was buttery and the cranberries burst in your mouth.  All in all I think it turned out to be a pretty successful endeavor. 

Sweet Tart Shell
Dorie Greenspan via smittenkitchen

Makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust*  I used a 10 inch pan and it worked fine too

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk


1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out.

Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart
Maury Rubin, chef and owner of City Bakery via smittenkitchen

Filling and assembly

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 cups unblanched sliced almonds (I used blanched by mistake)


1. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.

2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.

3. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.

4. Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.

6. Carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

November 23, 2008

Kale for Brunch

Thinking (i.e. not thinking) it would be a great idea to buy lots of fresh vegetables only a little more than a week before I'm supposed to leave for Thanksgiving break has left me trying to think of creative ways to put all these veggies to use so they don't go to waste.  Thus, I've been eating kale with pretty much everything.  I got the idea for this recipe from Orangette's post entitled "Pleasantly Sogged" and yes, it was.  

So for a new (or maybe not so new?) twist on kale I decided to have it, instead of spinach, with toasted homemade bread, tomatoes, gouda, and an over easy egg.  It was satisfying, warm, and a great way to incorporate a healthy seasonal vegetable into a quick meal.  

A Seasonal Take on an Egg on Toast

1 large stalk of kale
1 roma tomato
1 egg
1 thick slice rustic bread, lightly toasted
a few slices gouda (or your favorite cheese)

oil for the pan
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the kale width wise in long thin ribbons, about 1/4 inch thick, place in a pan, cover with salted water and place over high heat.  Chop the tomato, slice cheese, and toast the bread.  Boil the kale for about 7-10 minutes (or longer depending on your taste- I like mine still with some bite).  Drain the kale in a colander.  Add a tiny bit of oil, drained kale and tomatoes to the pan. Saute until heated through then lay over toasted bread.  Place cheese slices over top.  In the same pan, crack an egg and fry with a tight lid over the top, this will create an over-easy egg.  Once the white has hardened and there is a white layer over the still runny yolk, remove egg from pan and place over the veggie/cheese mixture on toast.  Add salt and pepper and enjoy.

November 15, 2008

Fall Harvest Pasta

Yesterday I went to the Farmer's Market close to my house and was really surprised at how great everything looked and how much variety they had. Usually the market by my house is not so great (bruised produce, not a big selection) but yesterday (and hopefully the rest of this season?) was definitely an exception. I bought a bunch of stuff there for only $9, which made me feel a lot less guilty than my trip to Whole Foods the day before when I bought not much at all for $54.
Seeing all the seasonal fall vegetables really made me want to try cooking something with them. I've only made butternut squash once before and the result was less than pleasing and I've never cooked with kale but I thought I might as well go for it. How hard could it be?

Very hard actually, butternut squash that is. It is so hard my shitty knives and even my good knife had quite a bit of difficulty cutting though it, but it was definitely worth it. The baked/ broiled squash cubes were so tasty, they kind of reminded me of sweet potato fries. I couldn't stop popping pieces into my mouth while the rest of the food was cooking.
Pretty pomegranate from the Farmer's Market

Fall Harvest Pasta

1 butternut squash, cubed
about 1 1/2 cups kale, chopped
1/2 medium red onion
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
parmesan cheese
cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cube butternut squash, coat with 1 1/2 tbsps olive oil, spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with cayenne and salt. Bake for 20 minutes, broil for about 10 until slightly browned and crisp on the outside. While the squash cooks, boil water for the pasta and saute an onion and garlic in remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil. After the onion is translucent, add the kale and saute. Drain the pasta and combine with cooked vegetables in a large bowl, mix, add more olive oil and salt if desired. Grate some parmesan cheese over top.

November 14, 2008

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Last spring break when I stayed here in St. Louis instead of doing anything cool and fun I thought it would be a great idea to get into baking bread.  At the time I didn't really understand what "getting into baking bread" entailed so one day I went to Barnes and Nobles and looked at tons of bread cookbooks, finally settled on one (I think it was one Peter Rinehart's) and bought it.   Then when I got home and got to reading it, I began to realize all of the intricacies involved in the bread baking process and all of the equipment (not to mention time or patience) that I didn't have.  And then I returned it. Oops.

But luckily that wasn't the end of bread baking for me. I found a simple recipe for whole wheat bread from Gourmet, made that and ended up thinking that maybe baking bread doesn't have to be so intimidating after all.  Of course there can be a lot of complexity to it if you so desire, but it can also be fairly simple and very do-able (sp?).

I've been wanting to delve back into it for awhile and last night after a disappointing paper grade, a food sample binge at whole foods and a cocktail, I decided it was time.  At first I wanted to make this recipe for honey wheat bread but because of the long pre-ferment and my aforementioned lack of patience I decided to use this one from Martha Stewart instead. 

And now I must say that Martha Stewart is no bread baker.  While the final product turned out well, there was a definite problem along the way.  Her flour measurement was completely off, which resulted in this (see below) sticky, doughy, difficult to work with hand. Humph.

I halved the recipe in order to make only one loaf because I thought having two around would probably result in a "this is going to go bad soon so I have to eat it carb overload," but I am pretty positive I didn't mess up any of the measurements and I used about 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup more flour than the recipe called for (so if you were making the whole recipe that would be 1- 1 1/2 cups more!).  Also even though I did this it was still fairly sticky but I didn't want to add too much flour and ruin the recipe. 

Anyway the final product ended up tasting pretty delicious.  It's doughy and thick with a hint of sweetness and tastes great toasted.  Today I had a slice with half peanut butter, half almond butter and maple syrup poured on top.  Really really good idea.

Some changes I made are: putting a pan of water on the rack below the bread so that a nice crusty crust forms, fermenting the yeast for longer in the hope of extra flavor development, (although I don't really know if it changed anything or not) and sprinkling some poppy and flax seeds over the top.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Martha Stewart

2 loaves

3 1/2 cups warm water, 100 degrees to 110 degrees
3 tablespoons honey
2 packets active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons salt
Canola oil, for bowls, plastic wrap, and pans


Combine warm water, honey, and yeast in a large liquid-measuring cup. Stir until dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 1/2 cups of the bread flour, the whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually drawing in the flour until well combined.
Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead in the remaining 1/2 cup bread flour a little at a time until dough is smooth and elastic, 10 to 15 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Transfer to a warm place, and let rise until double its original size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in center. Brush two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with canola oil. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and punch down. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Flatten one piece of dough into an oval, and roll up lengthwise. Place the roll, seam-side down, into a prepared pan. Repeat process with second piece. Cover with oiled plastic wrap. Place the loaves in a warm place, and let rise again until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake until deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes (the loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom). Transfer pans to a rack, and let cool 5 minutes. Invert the loaves onto the rack to cool completely.

November 10, 2008

Deliciously Warm Sandwich(es)

I can't really take much credit for this because I got the idea for the sweet half (caramelized onions, brie, apple butter) from my roommate Pamela when she was telling me about a similar omelette she made and I got the idea for the salty half (caramelized onions, swiss, pickles, dijon mustard) from this post.  So needless to say I was feeling indecisive (as per usual) about two very similar yet quite different lunch options and decided to make them both as halves of one sandwich. 

And they were SO GOOD.  A little bit difficult to eat, with onions and melted cheese squeezing out of the sides with each bite and of course there were some things I would have done differently: I didn't time the toasting of the bread very well so it was a little on the hard side after sitting for a bit waiting for the onions to finish caramelizing, I would have made the pieces of onion bigger (I cut the onion in half widthwise before slicing it), I would have remembered which side of the sandwich and was sweet and which was salty so I didn't have to turn one piece of bread upside down so as not to mix the spreads... but it didn't matter because it was still delicious.  Just right for a cold day or my cold house everyday.

I had a bite of each half first to try them but then I ate all of the salty half because I always like to have something sweet to finish off a meal.  I don't think either half was better but I may be partial to the sweet side because it had a mix of sweet (apple butter) and salty (brie, onions).

Caramelized Onion and Cheese Sandwich

1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp olive oil

Sweet Half:
sliced brie
apple butter

Salty Half:
sliced swiss cheese (or gruyere)
sandwich slice pickle
dijon mustard

Add olive oil to a pan on high heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion slices and brown sugar and turn heat down to medium. When the onions are almost done caramelizing put the bread in the toaster oven. When partially toasted place swiss cheese and brie on opposite sides of the same piece of bread. Continue toasting till cheese is melty. Spread apple butter and dijon on opposite sides of non-cheesed toast.  Place pickle on top of mustard. Pour caramelized onions on top of cheese, put toast slices together and cut. 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blackberry Compote

I had some leftover ricotta cheese from when I made baked ziti (sorry no photos or recipe) over fall break- surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, it takes a relatively long time to go bad. Anyway I was trying to figure out some ways to use it that didn't include pasta and red sauce, not that there's anything wrong with that but it's just so regular.

I came across this recipe on smittenkitchen and I already had everything it called for, plus Deb's pictures always make everything look so good that I really wanted to try it. Instead of doing these pancakes with the sauteed apples that the original recipe calls for, I decided to use some frozen blackberries I had to make a compote instead.

And just look at how well I whipped these egg whites. I'm glad too so I can evidence that perhaps it's not my lack of ability which created that mess (see 3rd photo) last time. I think whipping the eggs also added a lot of fluffiness to what could have been a really dense pancake- you know with all of that cheese and no real liquid...
They were so pillowy and thick and although I guess I wouldn't say "light" considering the ingredients, they definitely weren't as heavy as they could have been. And even though I haven't tried them with the sauteed apples I thought the blackberry compote worked better because it was a nice complement to the lemon-y flavor of the pancakes.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blackberry Compote
Adapted from Gourmet via smittenkitchen

For the Blackberry Compote:
1 cup frozen blackberries
Juice from 1 small lemon
1 tbsp brown sugar

For the Pancakes:
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
melted butter for brushing the griddle

maple syrup as an accompaniment


Prepare the Blackberry Compote:
Add the blackberries, lemon juice, and brown sugar to a pan over medium high heat. Once the the mixture begins to bubble, squash the blackberries and continue cooking over medium until the blackberries have cooked down and the mixture has reduced.

Make the Pancakes:
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

Serve the pancakes with the blackberry compote and the maple syrup.

November 9, 2008

Pappardelle Pasta with Fresh Roasted Vegetables

Yesterday afternoon my boyfriend and I went to the Soulard Market to get some food for dinner later that night. It's so nice to go there because the market is huge, everything is fresh and really well priced. They even had some live turkeys and... er, I guess it can't get much fresher than that, right? We didn't really have anything particular in mind for dinner so we just ended up picking out a bunch of fresh vegetables like these miniature sweet peppers, which were $1 a box.

Later on we passed a stand with lots of different varieties of pasta. They had so many combinations I'd never even heard of or thought about like chocolate linguini, lemon, tangerine, and beet flavored pasta, and so many other colorful mixes of orzo and rotini. We settled on some whole wheat toasted onion pappardelle because I think the thickness of pappardelle just makes it heartier and more flavorful, plus it looks pretty.  I'm pretty sure I could actually taste the toasted onion when we had the pasta and it pleasantly reminded me of the dry lipton soup mix I used to use to make french onion dip when I was little.

Before we started cooking I looked at some recipes for pasta with eggplant because since it's only recently that I started liking eggplant, I've never cooked with it before. Most of the recipes I read talked about roasting the eggplant in the oven instead of sauteing it, which is how I usually cook my vegetables. So I decided to roast all the vegetables (except the tomatoes and some onion which I used for a light sauce) in the oven.

Pappardelle Pasta with Fresh Roasted Vegetables

1/2 lb pappardelle pasta
2 tomatoes
1/2 medium eggplant
7 miniature sweet peppers (or 2 regular sized)
3/4 large zucchini
1 yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter

pinch of oregano and red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for grating

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Chop the eggplant, peppers, zucchini, 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 the onion in medium chunks. In a casserole dish or glass baking pan toss the chopped vegetables with 1 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper until coated. Place in the oven and roast for 25- 30 minutes*.  

While the vegetables are cooking put a large pot of water on the stove for the pasta then chop the tomatoes and finely chop the other half of the onion and 3 cloves of garlic.  Once the water is boiling add the pasta and cook until al-dente.  Add the onions and garlic to a hot pan with the butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook until slightly browned, then add tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down.  Add some pasta water to the sauce if it cooks down too much (I added about 2-3 tbsp).

Remove the vegetable from the oven and toss in the pan with the tomato sauce. Plate the pasta and cover with vegetable sauce and grated parmesan cheese. Serve.

*This is how long I roasted them and I found that some of the vegetables had gotten a little soft for my taste; however, I usually like my vegetables very very crunchy.  To avoid this perhaps it would be better to only roast the eggplant and brown the other vegetables in a pan with some oil.

November 5, 2008

Low-Fat Banana Bread

I have been ripening some bananas in a paper bag for at least a week and finally they seemed ready to make some banana bread.  I found this recipe on Epicurious for Low-Fat Banana Bread and there were so many reviews (424 of them!) and most of them were positive so I was excited to try it.  After borrowing my boyfriend's sifter (why he has one and I don't is beyond me) I came home to start the bread making.  I made some changes on the original recipe based on what some of the reviewers on Epicurious said because I find that the reviews on that site are for the most part helpful and worth taking into consideration. One of the changes I made was using part brown sugar and part white sugar (this was before I knew a whipping of eggs was involved).  So after adding the brown and white sugar with the eggs, and realizing they needed to be whipped "until thick and light" at this point I was kind of regretting my decision about the brown sugar.  Then after beating them until my arm was sore, which unfortunately wasn't that long, I was wondering why I didn't have an electric hand mixer. My mom bakes all the time and has never used one- I would watch her beat the egg whites for Angel Food Cake on her own all the time, so that's what I've always been doing too, but now maybe I'm coming around to the idea of baking technology... This is as whipped as I could get them before I felt like my arm was on fire and it probably wouldn't make that much of a difference anyway- and it didn't. 

I had my first piece of bread right when it came out of the oven because I was so eager to try it so I definitely didn't give it any time to cool etc. but after having some I was kind of disappointed.  It was good but not THAT good, not very sweet and not really that banana-y even though I added more than the cup of bananas the recipe called for.  The sweetness thing was probably partially my fault because I cut out a little of the sugar after reading reviews.  Later though when I came back after class and the bread had cooled and been sitting for awhile I thought it was much better and me and this little guy enjoyed some with peanut butter.
Maybe if I make it again I'll add some more bananas and only use white sugar but aside from that I also felt like something else was missing and I'm not sure what. Despite that though I still feel like it is a good recipe for a healthier banana bread.

Low-Fat Banana Bread
Adapted from Epicurious

2 large eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup smashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 8 1/2x4 1/2x2 1/2-inch pan; dust with flour. Using electric mixer; beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in smashed bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt over mixture; beat until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake bread until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto rack and cool.

November 3, 2008

Everyday Yellow Dal

I've always loved going out for indian food but for some reason I never thought about making it at home. Probably because a lot of the time international cooking calls for really specialized ingredients that are either difficult to find, expensive or things you'll use once and then end up sitting in your cabinet collecting dust. But then I read about this Everyday Yellow Dal on smitten kitchen and it seemed pretty inciting. After reading the ingredients I was surprised to realize that I already had basically everything (except the yellow split peas and cilantro, which i hate anyway) on hand. I made it last night and it was very simple but did take some planning because you need to soak the split peas for an hour and simmer the dal for about an hour as well. I was a little bit nervous that it wouldn't be that great because there weren't many ingredients, just a lot of spices, but it ended up tasting amazing. To make it healthier I added less oil because I thought a 1/4 cup was just too much and less butter. I don't think it affected the flavor or texture at all. Aside for being a great meal with a side of rice or naan, today I used it as a spread on my turkey sandwich and that was good as well.

Everyday Yellow Dal
Adapted from Ruta Kahate via smittenkitchen

1 cup yellow split peas, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1 large tomato (about 8 ounces), cut into 8 wedges
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds [I used ground cumin]
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground [I used ground coriander]
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup cilantro [I omitted this]
1 teaspoon salt

Drain the dal (split peas) and place in a large saucepan. Add the tomato and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until peas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pick out any tomato skins and whisk dal to emulsify it. Keep warm over very low heat.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the cumin, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. After the seeds have stopped sputtering, add the onion and saute over medium heat. About 3 minutes later, add the garlic and saute until most of the onion has turned dark brown, about 5 minutes altogether. Add the coriander, turmeric and cayenne, stir and pour mixture over the dal. Add the butter and salt to the dal and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

November 1, 2008

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine

After having a delicious appetizer- a salad stuffed poached pear with a goat cheese croquette at Stellina Pasta in St. Louis, I haven't been able to stop thinking about poached pears. Also since pears are in season now and the farmers market is basically right outside my door I thought I might as well try to make some myself. I looked at a bunch of different recipes online but ended up making up my own. I used a Zinfandel, which on the back was described as having "boysenberry, blackberry pie and vanilla notes" and while I can't say my palette is refined enough to pick out all those subtleties, I thought it worked well with the pears because of its sweetness.

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine
2 bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into thirds
2/3 bottle of Zinfandel (or enough to fully cover pears)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tbsp brown sugar

Pour 2/3 bottle of Zinfandel and all ingredients but pears into a medium pot over high heat. Peel and cut pears. Once the wine is boiling add pears and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer pears for about 15 -20 minutes depending on how soft you want them and how hard/ ripe they were when you put them in. Using a slotted spoon remove pears from heat. You can put them in the refrigerator to chill and have later on salad or enjoy them hot with vanilla ice cream.

**I didn't want the spiced wine to go to waste so I continued to boil it until it reduced to about 1/3 cup. I'm thinking about using this as a glaze for meat, as a salad dressing, or on top of some vanilla ice cream.