Wednesday, August 31, 2011

austin-style black beans {cooking from The Homesick Texan}

mention austin, texas 
and my heart skips a beat

soulful-gritty musicians
artists, farmers, chefs
gathering to share
amazing food
freshly harvested
properly spiced 

my vision of austin?
accidentally hip

here is the rub
i have never been there
i thought i was once
i was sorely mistaken

imagine my joy
upon receiving my assignment
as part of 

 i was to make
austin style black beans

at last
my first
 taste of austin

no surprise
just as i imagine 
darkly rich
edged in spice
a bit

i know this
because i was there
i have pictures to prove it
austin style black beans
 (printable recipe)
 from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain
1 lb. dried black beans
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
½ c. cilantro, divided
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. tomato paste
¼ c. lime juice
salt, to taste
rinse and sort through beans, discarding any stones or shriveled beans.  place beans in a large pot and cover with 1 inch of water. bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.
drain and rinse the beans in a colander in the sink.
return the empty pot to the stove and on medium-low heat, warm the vegetable oil.  add onions and carrots to pot and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
return beans to the pot along with the chipotles and half of the cilantro. cover with 2″ water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 1½ hours.
after   hours, add remaining cilantro, cumin, tomato paste, and lime juice. taste and add salt.   cook uncovered for another 30 minutes, or until beans are tender all the way through (will vary depending on the freshness of your beans). when done, smash a few beans against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken, if you wish. stir the pot and serve. 
  *This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at girlichef   

Thursday, August 25, 2011

sugar poached dates

the late summer heat
has me dreaming of all things moorish
exotic spices
grassy mint tea
souks with dark corners
shrouded in
silk -thread canopies
gorgeous sweets
like these
sugar poached dates
look for fresh dates in your local ethnic grocery store
(armenian, middle eastern, east indian)
they look like this
fresh dates have a pleasant albeit astringent taste
the longer they sit on your counter
the softer and sweeter they become
they are meant to be eaten as is

dried dates are sweet and chewy and are great fodder for
nuts, cheese and other salty bits
these fresh dates
are really best left plain
poached to soft submission

the process is lengthy
but i promise
the reward is
a pot full of
amber fruit
stuffed with nuts
in a pool
of rich treacle
heady with spice
sugar poached dates
this recipe takes 2 days to complete
step 1
100 fresh dates--peeled
water to cover
3 Tbs orange blossom water
parchment paper
100 non-pareil  almonds
place the dates in a pot large enough to hold the dates and water enough water to cover. you will want the water to come about 1 1/2 inches higher than the top of the dates. add the orange blossom water.  cut the parchment paper to a round that will fit just inside of the pot, and then cut a small 1/2" circle out of the middle of it. place it on top of the water and simmer the dates, about an hour,  until they are soft but not gushy.(the parchment paper will keep the dates submerged in the water. drain and let cool--discard parchment. using a small knife cut a slit in the date and remove the pit. do not cut completely in half, just enough to remove the pit. 
replace the pit with an almond, and close the date around it.
step 2

3" lemon peel-pith removed
3" orange peel-pith removed
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods--lightly crushed
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs orange blossom water
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
place all ingredients in a heavy pot.  cook to dissolve the sugar. add back dates and simmer on low for 30 minutes.  turn off heat and let sit 12 hours or overnight-covered--once cooled, place in the refrigerator

step 3
remove the dates from the syrup once again, reserving and measuring syrup.  add enough water to make 5 cups.  however much water you added, add an equal amount of sugar. (example, if you needed to add 1 cup of water to equal 5 cups total syrup, then also add 1 cup of sugar). stir
add back the dates and simmer, very gently, until the syrup is very thick and dates are a nice amber color. this may take 1 to 2 hours. do not just let it boil away--keep a good eye on it.  the syrup should not get any more dense than corn syrup.

serve as is
sprinkle grated pistachio nuts and dress with gold leaf
place a few over a bowl of plain yogurt
serve with a simple lemon tea cake
i can't help but think these would make a delicious
amuse bouche
before a colorful
moroccan meal
cumin and carrot soup
lamb tagine
lemon couscous


Saturday, August 20, 2011

eggplant verde

our family 
adults and children alike
gather each august
for a beach vacation
without fail, as predictable as the tides
each of us slides into our
expected role 
as if we never left it
it is instinctual

although we are all competent cooks
putting supper on the table
the remaining 51 weeks of the year
each for our own brood
i am easily coaxed
into cooking
big family dinners

the kitchen is where i do my best work
and my siblings lovingly recognize it

my sister in law
anxious to learn new things
was my willing sous chef
i am happy to report
successfully duplicated this
at a dinner party of her own

i love this recipe
for its simplicity
it can be served
cool or room temperature
artfully showcasing
the beauty of eggplant
melanzane verde
1 large eggplant--cut into 1/4" thick slices
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
3 Tbs finely chopped coriander
2 garlic cloves--finely chopped and smashed to a paste
generous pinch crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
generous pinch kosher salt (more or less to taste)
juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/2 -3/4 cup good olive oil
2 oz chevre

layer the eggplant between paper towels to dry at least 4 hours but as long as overnight.  put the parsley, coriander, garlic, red pepper, and lemon juice in a bowl. add enough olive oil to make a loose dressing.
cook the eggplant:
heat a skillet (it does not have to be non-stick) over medium heat. let it get warm before placing slices of the eggplant directly on it. do not add oil, butter or spray.  the eggplant will not stick.  watch it carefully and cook until it is lightly browned and softened.  i tend to pay attention and flip each one 4 or 5 times before it is fully cooked through.  cook in batches and arrange the warm pieces on your serving platter. as each layer is placed on your a bit of dressing on each piece..use the back of a spoon to spread it. do not saturate, you only want a tasting, not a drowning.  sprinkle a bit of salt on each layer as you go.  once you have cooked and layered all of the eggplant, sprinkle the chevre evenly over the top. serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. this can be made a full day in advance. i like to take it out of the refrigerator about a half of an hour before serving.
the leftover dressing is wonderful on steaks, chicken and shrimp..or just to dip your bread in.  while there is little chance of leftover eggplant, it is wonderful added it to sandwiches and morning omelets.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

black and whites

my parents grew up in new york
although we moved to california
when i was a toddler
"new yorkness" remains in my dna
 i won't apologize for it
(see? i warned you)

my favorite goodies
the old neighborhood
tucked in a pink box
secured with twine
not only sweets
stories of my mother
as a young girl
a nickle in her pocket
walking to and from school
in snow
up hill
both ways
stopping at the local bakery
to warm her toes
carefully choose
an afternoon treat

times have changed
and so have bakeries
fancy cupcakes
mini pies
low-carb muffins
have edged out
old fashion favorites 
slabs of coffee cake
sweet buns
black & whites as big as your noggin

nancy baggett
has a knock-out recipe 
for black and whites 
in her

there is nothing i like more
than presenting
this new york favorite
to my favorite new yorker
my mom

 New York Black and Whites
recipe from Nancy Baggett
(printable recipe)

3 cups all-purpose white flour
Scant 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup (1 stick plus 2 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup white vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Scant 3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup sour cream

Quick Vanilla and Chocolate Fondants:
1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted after measuring, plus more if needed
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the sugar, butter, and shortening until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla, corn syrup, and lemon extract and beat until evenly incorporated. Beat in half of the flour mixture until evenly incorporated. On low speed, beat in the sour cream. Beat or stir in the remaining flour mixture, just until well blended and smooth. Let the dough stand to firm up for about 5 minutes.

Using a scan 1/4-cup measure of dough, shape into balls with lightly greased hands. Place on the baking sheets, spacing about 3 1/2 inches apart. Using your hand, press and pat the balls to about 3 1/4 inches in diameter.**i make mine mini..using a small ice cream scoop as my measurement

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the middle o the oven for 10 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned at the edges and the tops just spring back when lightly pressed in he centers. Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.

For the Fondants:
In a medium, heavy saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water and the corn syrup just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla until completely smooth. Place the chocolate in a small, deep bowl. Pour 2/3 cup of the hot vanilla fondant over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is partially melted. Pour another 1/2 cup of the vanilla fondant over the chocolate. Stirring constantly, thin the chocolate fondant to a fluid but not runny consistency by adding 3 to 4 teaspoons of hot water, a little at a time. Stir until the chocolate melts completely and the water is thoroughly incorporated.
Set the wire racks with the cookies over wax paper to catch drips. Using a small, wide-bladed spatula, spreader, or table knife, immediately ice half of each cookies with the chocolate fondant. (if the fondant stiffens as you work, thin it by thoroughly stirring in a few drops of hot water. If the fondant cools completely, rewarm it over low heat, stirring).
In necessary, adjust the consistency of the vanilla fondant by stirring in additional powdered sugar or hot water until fluid by not runny. Ice the second half of each cookies with the vanilla fondant. Let the cookies stand until the icing set, at least 2 hours and preferably 4 hours.
this recipe comes directly from Nancy Baggett's All American Cookie Book; a book that has been in my library for about 10 years.  I have not bee asked to endorse the book or any individual recipes by the author or publisher.  This is simply a darn good recipe, one of many in this book.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

lemon cooler cookies

i'm not sure if i have actually tasted
the original 
lemon cooler cookie
i. do. know.
i wanted to try them
but, alas

they were in a box
on a shelf
in the grocery store

lest you forgot
we have established
that my mom 
didn't do 
"store bought"

odds are
i only remember these cookies
by how my friends
(insert tongue in cheek )
better brown bag lunches than mine
described them
and not
by taste

which is why
i believe
my version
a perfect impostor
packing a lemony punch
with a
sweet sugar chaser

 lemon coolers
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter--room temp
2 cups powdered sugar-divided
2 heaping tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp kosher salt
 stir together flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl. in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until evenly mixed.  beat in lemon zest and lemon juice. slowly stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.  gather the dough and form into a flat ball.  divide dough into 4 pieces, rolling each into a log.  the diameter of the log is to your own specifications, depending on your desired cookie size. my preference is about 2" round.  wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. you may also freeze the log(s) at this time.  
when ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325.  line cookie sheets with parchment.  remove the log from plastic wrap and slice in 1/4" rounds.  it is helpful to twist the log clockwise each time you cut, so as to avoid a flattened bottom. place cookies 1" apart on the cookie sheet and bake approximately 10-12 minutes. cookies are done when they are just turning golden on the bottom.
while cookies are baking, place the remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. as you remove the cookies from the oven, they will be too delicate to handle.  once they are cooled a bit (not fully cool, still slightly warm), carefully turn them in the powdered sugar, and place back onto same cookie sheet. the sugar will melt slightly and be a bit like frosting. once the cookies are fully cooled, toss them in the powdered sugar a second time.


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