March 31, 2009

Almond Biscotti

As evidenced in other posts, one of my favorite things to do is bake things to give to other people as gifts, or thank yous, or just because.  I like baking for other people because it usually means that I get to try out a new recipe, I don't feel obligated to eat the whole thing all by myself, and other people (especially those who don't bake) are happy (hopefully) to take whatever I've made.

I made these biscotti for two of my professors who were a huge help to me during the process of writing my thesis.  I was so relieved after finishing and so thankful to all of the time and effort they put in to helping me, I knew I had to give them something more meaningful than a "thank you."

These biscotti are great for gifts because they aren't super sugary or decadent and make a good everyday treat as opposed to cookies or brownies.  Also, the recipe makes a ton (about 40) and they keep well for a whole week.

One thing I would suggest is that if you're thinking about making these, read the whole recipe through first and make sure you have allotted enough time.  I made the mistake of not doing this and realized part way through that I needed to be present for multiple timed bakings.  The whole process, including clean-up, ended up taking me about 2 1/2 hours. 

But, while they may be somewhat time consuming, these biscotti are a wonderful, fairly guilt-free (right??) treat.  I could also imagine them partially dipped or drizzled with dark chocolate for a slightly more decadent dessert.

Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1999 via smitten kitchen

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or orange liqueur [I substituted almond extract, which I think I ended up liking better]
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup whole almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped or sliced almonds [I used sliced and toasted]

1 large egg white

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Mix sugar, melted butter, 3 eggs, vanilla extract, orange liqueur (or almond extract) and zest in large bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Mix in almonds.

Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each dough half into 13 1/2-inch-long, 2 1/2-inch-wide log. Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush over top and sides of each dough log.

Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely on sheet on rack, about 25 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Transfer logs to work surface; discard parchment paper. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over; bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

March 27, 2009

Miso Soup

While I was at the Asian Market here in St. Louis shopping for ingredients to go into the Japanese Noodle Salad I made for a potluck, I also picked up a few more things I have been meaning to try.  One of them being miso paste.  

You see, a while back I read Heidi's post about miso soup and was surprised at how simple the process of making it seemed.  I'm not sure what I had expected it to be like, but I guess I thought it would be more time consuming since it usually takes quite some time to make most American soups from scratch.  

But it was just as simple as it seemed - a few minutes prepping the ingredients you'd like to add (and the combinations are pretty endless) and little bit of waiting for the water to boil, but that's about it.  And it tastes just as good as if you had gotten it from your favorite Japanese restaurant.

Also, the miso paste was relatively cheap to purchase (a little more than $5) and contains about 1 1/2 cups, enough for many many more bowls of soothing miso soup.

Miso Soup

3 cups water
3 tablespoons miso paste
1/3 block firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1/4 head napa cabbage, shredded
1 sheet dried seaweed, cut into thin strips (I found that scissors worked best to cut this)
2 stalks scallions, thinly sliced
dash of shichimi togarashi 

Heat 3 cups of water in a large pot.  When the water boils add the cabbage and cook for 2- 3 minutes, then turn the heat down so the water is no longer boiling and add the miso paste.  Stir until dissolved. Add the tofu and seaweed and cook for about 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with scallions and shichimi togarashi and serve.

March 24, 2009

Caramelized Onion, Pear and Goat Cheese Melt

I don't know why the idea for this sandwich came to me, but it seemed like a good one.  It's really simple but sounds kind of gourmet... maybe?  Anyway, I don't have much more to say about this except that it is very tasty and I wish I had a panini maker.   So try it, and utilize your panini maker if you are lucky enough to have one.

Caramelized Onion, Pear and Goat Cheese Melt

1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 pear, thinly sliced (I used a bartlett)
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
about 1 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
2 slices of bread (I used whole wheat sourdough)
1/2 teaspoon honey

Heat butter in a saute pan, once melted add sliced onions and turn the heat down to medium low.  Cook onions until translucent and slightly caramel in color stirring occasionally; this should take about 10- 15 minutes.  While onions are caramelizing, spread half the goat cheese on each slice of bread.  

Once onions have caramelized place overtop a bread halve and place pear slices on top of the onion.  Drizzle honey on top of pear and cover with remaining slice of bread.

Transfer sandwich to the pan the onions were in and sear each side until it is lightly toasted.  Enjoy.

March 23, 2009

Shichimi Togarashi

I just found out that the lovely and mysterious Japanese spice blend hailed in my last post on Japanese Noodle Salad is actually called shichimi togarashi.  

Gourmet Sleuth defines is as "7-spice blend that typically includes red chile pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, seaweed, and ginger." Need I say more? It's absolutely delicious.

March 19, 2009

Japanese Noodle Salad with Sesame Miso Dressing

I ventured over to the Asian Farmers Market in search of the wonderful Japanese spice mixture picture below, which I first tried in LA at a place called Hide Sushi. Hide Sushi was much more traditional than most sushi I've seen in the U.S. aka no outrageous rolls garnished with "crunch' and the like. But despite my love for shrimp tempura rolls, it was wonderful, and once we sat down the line was out the door. Everything was so fresh and the menu included more traditional Japanese appetizers like cucumber salad and pickled cabbage (yum).

They also had this amazing spice blend which I used to give my spicy tuna rolls a bit more of a kick. It was so good that I even started sprinkling it on the pickled cabbage. Anyway, I went to the Asian market on a mission for this spice. But when I was there I thought it would be the perfect time to pick up some things I could use to make a dish for my friend's potluck later that night.

I decided on making a Japanese inspired noodle salad with soba noodles, tons of vegetables, sesame seeds and a dressing made from miso paste. There was a whole lot of chopping involved in this salad, but I would argue that it is very much worth it.

This salad is also so versatile. You could easily add tofu or shredded chicken or beef to give it some more protein. Or add different ingredients to the very basic sauce such as ginger, honey, lime juice, crushed peanuts etc.

Japanese Noodle Salad

When I originally made this salad I went a little crazy with the toasted sesame seeds and added what I thought was too many, so in the recipe below I have taken down the measurement a fair amount.


10 oz soba noodles*
1/3 head napa cabbage, shredded (regular green cabbage would work as well)
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped or shredded
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped small
1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1- 2 tablespoons water
3 stalks scallions, thinly sliced (white end removed)
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toasted

Bring about 8 cups of salted water to a boil in a large pot, once boiling, add soba noodles and cook about 5 minutes until desired consistency is reached. Two minutes into boiling add chopped cabbage to the water with noodles to blanch.

Drain the noodle and cabbage mixture and add peanut oil to the empty pot. When oil is heated, over medium high heat, add the rest of the vegetables: broccoli and carrot first because they cook the slowest, and bell pepper right at the end. Once the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy remove from heat and pour into the colander with noodle and cabbage mixture. Run under cold water until cool then transfer to a large bowl.

Mix miso paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and water in a small bowl until miso paste dissolves. Add sauce mixture into bowl with noodle/vegetable mixture and mix until everything is coated. Garnish with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

~A little Orange House Spice, which I just found out is called shichimi togarashi (more on that here) sprinkled on to will give this salad some welcome heat.

*Japanese buckwheat noodles, should be available at an Asian market or international grocery store

March 15, 2009

My Version of Smashed Chickpea Salad

I just returned from L.A. yesterday and am feeling bittersweet about vacation ending so quickly.  The trip was fun but it was tiring, exhausting sometimes.  We woke up early, shopped, explored new neighborhoods, walked, ate, walked, walked, walked day in and day out.

Anyway, despite all that walking, I also did a little bit of  'vacation eating.'  You know, the "whatever, I'm going to eat that gelato because this is my vacation!" kind of eating.  And despite other attempts at eating healthy, when you're eating more meals out than in, you're bound to feel like you need to start cutting back.

So when I got home to an almost totally empty fridge but almost totally full of carb lover snacks pantry, I knew it was time to go to the grocery store.  After grocery shopping, I was famished and wanted something quick, healthy and in wrap form (that's not specific or anything, right?).  I stared at my purchases and remembered the smashed chickpea salad sandwich Deb featured on smittenkitchen a while back.  I didn't remember what was in her version, and probably wouldn't have had all the right ingredients anyway, so I decided to make my own and it came out wonderfully.  Bright and citrusy from the lemon juice, aromatic and spicy from the cumin and coriander, and crunchy from the cucumbers.  Light, fast, flavorful and just right.

Smashed Chickpea Salad

1 can chickpeas, drained and smashed
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 medium cucumber, seeds removed and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil and vinegar dressing
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsps coriander
salt and pepper to taste

Pour drained chickpeas into a medium bowl and lightly smash with a fork until chuncky.  Add diced red onion, chopped cucumber, dressing, lemon juice and stir until coated.  Add cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and stir until evenly combined. 

March 4, 2009

A Few Pre-Food Blogging Pictures

Although I'm not sure how many people actually read this, hopefully more than two, I've been feeling a little guilty about not posting something in so long.  I really haven't made anything exciting for awhile now because I have been so overwhelmed with school work (aka my thesis). Also, since spring break is right around the corner and I'll be going to L.A. for the week, I have been trying to finish off most of the fresh food in the fridge, instead of buying more ingredients to try new recipes. But that's enough excuses for now.

Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy these photographs from my pre-blogging days.  I know they aren't as good as having an actual recipe but after break I'll likely be back to a more regular posting schedule. 

 Lemon Tart I made for my friend Diane's birthday

Tiramisu I made for Diane's next birthday

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting I made for my friend Ashley's birthday (notice a trend here?)

Chinese Pork and Vegetable Dumplings I made for my friends and I on New Years

Assorted Christmas Cookies I made to give as gifts to my friends one year