Thursday, August 20, 2015

Free-Form Peach Mousse

This "recipe" is easy-peasy. You are basically going to make sweetened whipped cream with a bit of liquor and then stir in some peach purée and eat it.

If you want, you can chill it a bit before eating, but this mousse won't really hold up for days. Think more like you make it right before dinner and then eat it right after, or if you are making a single serving for yourself, just chill your ramekin or cup or whatever you are going to eat it out of before you start preparing your dessert. No chilling of the finished product is necessary, especially if you are working with cold ingredients. If you've got a jar of peach purée that you, say, made right after buying peaches at the farmers market, then this takes no time at all. If you don't have one, you should probably go to the farmers market, buy some ripe peaches, and make one. Heck, make more than one and freeze the extra.

This recipe makes one reasonably-sized serving. If you want to go big, as I have lately, multiply everything times 1.5. If you are not single or have a date or a dinner party or a family, multiply times the number of people and maybe add a serving (or more) because some people want big helpings or seconds or what-have-you.

This is based on my recollection of a recipe from what claimed to be a French monastic cookbook based on the principal of seasonal eating. This recipe was pretty much the only thing I made from the book and liked, but as the cookbook cost less than $5 in the basement of the Harvard Book Store, I never felt bad about that. However, in one of my recent moves, I apparently didn't feel like I needed to keep the book either, so when I went to find the recipe a few weeks ago, I realized I must've gotten rid of the cookbook it was in. Oops!

However, as I was sure I remembered the basic ingredients, I decided to tinker till I got something I was happy with. This is it.

I know lots of fruit mousses call for gelatin. This one doesn't—not only because the original didn't, but also because I'm a vegetarian—albeit not the strictest one—but despite my occasional marshmallow, I generally don't eat gelatin because it isn't vegetarian. Besides, this is delicious without it and holds up fine so long as you eat it within a few hours of making it. Why add ingredients you don't need, after all?

Lastly, I encourage you to get crazy and use different sorts of fruit purée. I think a number of stone fruits would work. However, whatever you use should be about the consistency of peach purée and shouldn't have seeds in it. I guess you could strain out the seeds if necessary, or if the texture doesn't bother you, do what makes you happy. Also, you are likely going to have to adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the fruit you use, so keep that in mind.

(for a single serving)
¼ cup cream
2 tsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp brandy (option, but why wouldn't you?)
3-5 tsp of peach purée (to taste)

1) Add the cream to a mixing bowl. It would be awesome if the bowl were metal and chilled, but it's not necessary. Using a mixer of whatever sort you've got, start mixing the cream on low as you add the sugar bit by bit and the brandy.

2) Once you've added the sugar and brandy, turn the mixer up to high speed until you've got whipped cream. You'll recognize it because the cream will hold its shape. Don't over mix, or you'll end up with sweetened alcoholic butter, and I'm not really sure what that's useful for. (Perhaps you could make a cake with it.)

3) Once you've got whipped cream, gently fold in the peach purée and spoon into ramekins or tea cups or whatever you plan to serve the mouse from and cover it and put it in the fridge till you are ready to eat it.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Baking Saturday for a Week of Good Eats

I’ve just started a new job—well, two new jobs, actually.  Both are teaching, and for the next ten weeks, it’s going to be all teaching all the time—well, much of the time.  It’s a bit overwhelming to go from no job to two jobs, but as hard as it is, I can recognize the blessing in it as well.

As a result of all this new work—and anyone who knows a teacher knows there’s so much more work than the time spent in the classroom—I’ve been worried about feeding myself.  When you come home mentally—and sometimes physically—exhausted, the last thing you want to do is cook yourself a meal, which is why last week, I made a noodle dish that would be lunch for a few days, went the The Family Store for some easy lunch and dinner food (Hummus, anyone?), and ordered out.  I can see that making food in quantities that will provide leftovers and going to The Family Store are going to become fixtures in my life, but I want to avoid too much eating outside of the house.

These last few months of being broke have shown me how much cash eating out can eat up.  While I do love eating out when the food is amazing, what tends to happen when you are exhausted is that your standards become lower.  As a result, you end up spending too much money on food that is neither all that tasty nor all that healthy.  Not having the money to do that over the past few months has opened my eyes to what a waste it is on every level.  Though it is more work and though it takes time, cooking at home is a cheaper, healthier, and more delicious option.

To that end, I spent yesterday baking.  I meant to do it last week, but last week was my first with two jobs, and I was too overwhelmed.  Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I loved sweet baked goods.  I sort of cannot live without them, which is why it is lucky that I’m such a good baker.  For my weekly sweets, I made my new go-to, Apple Custardy Squares, as well as banana muffins for a healthy-ish AM snack. 

The Apple Custardy Squares are some Dorrie-Greenspan goodness, and I have made mine the past few times with 2 tbsp. of dark rum and a great mix of apples—Fuji, Mutsu’s Mother, Honeycrisp, and whatever other sweet and juicy apples they have at the farmers market.  When it comes to apples, I’m pretty exclusively a farmers-market girl.  Now, of course, all the apples are apples that have been in storage since last fall, but they have been great so far.  My biggest apple discoveries of late have been the Mutsu’s Mother—a sweet, juicy, almost pear-like apple—and Braeburn—which seems to me the Platonic ideal of apple, a position previously held by the Honeycrisp.  Braeburn has this apply scent that is pretty much what you imagine if some asks you to think of the scent of apples.  It is rocking my world right now.

As for the banana muffins, I followed my own recipe, one I developed after years of using my mom’s shortening-based recipe.  I got tired of the blandness of shortening, but when I used all butter, I found it too overwhelming, so I came up with this happy medium.  However, I am pretty annoyed with myself at the moment.  I’d meant to try browning the ¼ cup of butter I use in the recipe, but I forgot to.  I decided to try this after making Dorrie Greenspan’s Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake.  In the batter, the smell and taste of the brown butter was divine, but I’m not totally sure how much of a difference in made in the taste of the finished product.  Still, I meant to give it a try in my master muffin recipe, but in the exhaustion of last night, I totally spaced it.  Oh well!  I guess it just means I’ll have to make muffins again in a week or two.  C’est dommage!  Actually, I plan to try a few ways: first, I’ll just substitute brown butter for the melted butter in the recipe, and if that tastes good, I’ll try again using ½ cup brown butter to replace all the fat.  I’ll let you know how it goes when I do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Baking Chez Moi is très magnifique!

I know I haven’t posted anything in forever, which is a shame because I’ve been meaning to. I have a kick-ass lentil soup recipe that I’ve been meaning to write down. (The secret is red wine vinegar and French lentils.) Plus, there is my almost-entirely-from-scratch enchilada recipe. (I make everything except the tortillas, though I do have a tortilla press, so maybe one day.) I should actually write those out because I wing them every time.  

However, today, I am all about the Apple Custardy Squares from Baking Chez Moi. If you like apples, these are near perfect food. The recipe can be found here. (Thank you, Boston Globe and Dorrie Greenspan!)

How perfect is this food? Well, I didn’t get a picture because it didn’t cross my mind because it smelled so good I had to cut and eat it immediately, or after the obligatory fifteen-minute waiting period. Since I’ve basically eaten the whole thing myself, it is good that it only makes a small pan, and it’s great that it only requires ingredients you probably have around the house anyway.

The Apple Custardy Squares are the second recipe I’ve tried from Baking Chez Moi, and I just have to say how excited I am about this cookbook. It was one of my two Christmas gifts from my boyfriend, and sadly, it arrived during a period of immense tummy trouble for me. That’s why I tried it out for the first time only two weekends ago.

I did look at it as soon as I opened it, of course, and the recipes had me salivating and planning what to cook. What’s more, I immediately fell in love with the tone of the writing. It feels like Dorrie Greenspan is in your kitchen chatting you up and offering stories and advice. Every recipe comes with helpful info regarding serving and storing, but the most useful feature might be the Bonne Idée, or good idea. Not every recipe has a Bonne Idèe, but when the recipe does, it lives up to the name. The Bonne Idèe typically offers substitutions or additions to the recipe that might be good to try. For the Apple Custardy Squares, for example, she suggests adding some alcohol or almond extract. (I opted for two tablespoons of dark rum, which I had around because it was an optional ingredient in the first recipe I made, the Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake. This is a lady who doesn’t mind a little liquor in her baked goods, yet another reason to love her.) She also suggests using pears or a combination of pears of apples or going tropical and using mangoes in the place of apples.

And this pretty much exemplifies what is so fantastic about this cookbook: there’s no dogma here. Greenspan encourages her readers to have fun, experiment, and make the recipes fit their tastes. I love that because it is how I approach cooking and because I think the dogma keeps a lot of people out of the kitchen. When you are scared of doing it wrong, you are less likely to try. Greenspan’s breezy tone and her many Bonnes Idèes make cooking seem less like a rigorous discipline and more like a fun and enjoyable way to feed yourself, your friends, and your family. Of course, yes, there is and can be some rigorous discipline in cooking; some recipes require it if you want them to turn out properly.  However, my idea of perfect in the kitchen is something the cook is happy with and enjoys eating.  Beyond that, I’m not sure there is a right and wrong so much as a good and even better.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Green Pasta "Recipe"

The recipe of the title is in quotes because this is going to be a recipe in my mother's style: add some of this, do that, add some other stuff, and voilà.  That's how my mom rocks it, and that's how I'm going to rock it.

I'm calling this stuff "Green Pasta" because most of the ingredients were green and because I purchased most of them at the Farmer's Market.  Ever since finishing Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I've been feeling like a food slouch.  The book got me thinking a lot about how I've been eating and how changing what I eat can help to change the world.  And no, I really don't believe that's an exaggeration.

Before reading the book, I was already trying to make ethical food choices.  I'm a vegetarian; I try to buy local food when it's available; I shop at the Farmer's Market with some regularity.  However, Kingsolver made me see that I can be doing more, and one area in particular that I felt I could improve in was seasonal eating.  I would go to the grocery store and buy what suited me with little thought about where it came from and how far and how it was made to grow.  I picked organic when it wasn't cost-prohibitive, and beyond that, I didn't give it much thought.  Well, now I am.  

I want to make a serious effort to eat local, and by extension, that means eating seasonal.  What better way to know what's in season if you aren't a gardener than to cruise around the Farmers' Market and see what they have?  That's what I did.  I knew already that it was pea season, and fresh peas and I go way back.  Even as a kid, I was always eating peas raw right off the plant so much so that my mom complained she could never get enough for even one bowl of them.  Some people worry about rabbits munching their gardens; my mom had to worry about me.

Anyway, as a long time pea-lover, I figured I'd make that the centerpiece of a pasta dish.  I was thinking of using sunchokes, which I'd seen at the market the week before, just because I was curious.  I also figured on some lavender honey goat cheese, which I'd also seen the week before.  Well, there were no sunchokes because the stand that sells them wasn't there, so I needed a plan B.  It came in the form of a pea dish I'd tried--yep--the week before at the market.  It had mint, so I bought some of that.  I decided to get some spring garlic as well, and since there was a scape attached at the top, that went in to the recipe, too.  In lieu of the sunchokes, I decided I'd get zucchini.  While buying the zucchini, though, a woman fervently recommended the lita squash, so I grabbed some of that, too.  

In the true Shana style, a style I clearly inherited from my mom, I made up the "recipe" on a whim and eyeballed the whole thing and wrote down nothing as I did it.  Still, it was super tasty, so I figured I'd recount the whole process here.  I bought a lot of the ingredients from organic farm stands at the market, and obviously, that's best, but if you get whatever you can at the farmers' market, I think you can call it good enough.  I will say that it is fresher and tastier from the market, and you can feel good about supporting local farmers.  Plus, you may find some things you are addicted to and happy to spend your money on week after week.  I'm pretty sure I'll be plunking down $6 for the lavender honey goat cheese I bought whenever the opportunity presents itself.  It might be my new "drug" of choice.

Green Pasta

  • Whole wheat pasta or whatever sort makes you happy (I used whole wheat organic fusilli.)
  • Salted butter & olive oil enough to saute the veggies in and make you happy
  • Spring garlic, at least a whole head because spring garlic heads are small and the taste is delicate
  • 1 garlic scape (Use more if you've got them.  They were quite nice.  I bit into a raw piece, and it was really peppery and pungent.  It mellowed a lot when cooked.)
  • Sweet peas, preferably fresh and obviously shelled
  • Squash, sliced not too thin and cut into half moons or some other easily edible size (Mine was zucchini and lita.)
  • Mint
  • Salt & pepper if it suits you
  • Goat cheese (I was worried that the lavender honey stuff I got might be weird with the mint.  It so was not.  The slight sweetness of it was perfect.)

1.  Prepare your ingredients.  Shell the peas, chop the garlic and scapes, and slice the squash.  Go with whatever quantities you think will match the amount of pasta you intend to make.  I made it for two and used the whole head of spring garlic, so if you are making more pasta, add more of everything.  Also, unless you chop like a three-toed sloth, you can put the water for the pasta on to boil after you shell the peas.  

2.  Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, and melt the butter in a skillet with some olive oil over medium-low heat.  First, add the garlic and give it a couple of minutes.  Next, throw in the scapes and the peas.  Give those a few minutes and add the squash.  Cook until you are happy with the doneness of  the squash.  I like mine barely cooked, which is why I slice it thicker than some people would.  It still needs to be something I have to bite into.  After the squash is done enough, add the salt & pepper and then the mint.  To be honest, I forgot salt & pepper.  It occurred to me afterward that I could've added a little, but I thought it was tasty as it was.  I'm a big fan of letting the veggie flavors shine.

3. At this point, the pasta should be done.  For God's sake, don't over do it.  Al dente, people!  Also, since you'll be adding it to the skillet to cook a minute or two, it's okay if it is on the less done side of al dente.  Drain the pasta, and catch some of the water in case you need to add it to the skillet to prevent sticking and give it all a nice taste.  Add the pasta to the skillet, and toss it around or stir it up or whatever it is you do to mix the flavors.  Add pasta water as needed.  Cook a couple of minutes till everything has cozied up to one another and the flavors seem like they are mixing.  

4. Move the pasta to an appropriately-sized serving bowl, add a few big spoonfuls of goat cheese and stir.  The heat should get it melty, but you can always leave the quantity you plan to use on the counter to get it to room-ish temperature before you mix it in.

5. Eat and enjoy.  You can feel like you've done something healthy for you and your planet and bask in the knowledge that healthy can totally equal tasty as hell.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Easy Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

Soups, stews, and chilis are my favorite things about fall--well, aside from sweaters and scarves anyway.  I love eating steaming bowls full of veggie goodness that warm you from the inside.  There are very few things that give me more pleasure.  With that in mind, I've decided to share my vegetarian chili recipe.  It's adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook.  One thing that Mollie Katzen does right without fail is hot stuff like soups, stews, and chilis.  This one is a version of hers made even simpler by using canned beans and more flavorful by adding a few of my own touches, like using V-8 instead of plain old tomato juice.  Plus, the V-8 lets me ditch the celery because, to be honest, I'm not wild about the stuff.  I think it was all those forced grade-school snacks of celery and peanut butter.  Just thinking about it grosses me out.  This chili, though, is far from gross, especially if you serve it over whole wheat spaghetti and cover it in sharp cheddar cheese.  Yum!

Easy Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

  • 3 15-oz. cans of beans—1 each of kidney, black, & pinto
  • 1 cup V-8 (more can be added in step 4)—feel free to use Spicy V-8, the organic stuff from Knudsen, or just plain tomato juice
  • 1 cup uncooked bulger wheat
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 6 to 8 large cloves garlic, minced (ok to use garlic from a jar, ½ tsp.=1 clove)
  • 1 medium carrot (or more), diced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (more to taste)
  • 1 tsp. salt (more to taste)
  • black and cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ bell pepper—use red, green, orange or, yellow in any combination
  • 1 14½-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbs. tomato paste (½ a small can)
  • grated cheese for the top—sharp cheddar is great
  1. Heat the V-8 to boiling.  Add it to the bulgur in a small bowl, cover, and let stand for at least 15 minutes .  (You can do this step before you begin chopping the onions.)
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Add onion, carrot, seasonings, and half of the garlic.  Sauté over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, then add bell pepper, and sauté until the peppers are tender, about 5-7 minutes more.
  3. While the veggies are sautéing, use a colander to rinse the beans thoroughly under running water.  Keep rinsing until the water coming out of the colander is clear and the beans have ceased bubbling.
  4.  Once the peppers are tender (but not soft or mushy), add the tomatoes (au jus), tomato paste, bulger, and beans to the contents of the Dutch oven.  Gently stir until mixed.  (At this point, you can add more V-8 if you want to make the chili less thick.)
  5. Simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally for approximately 30 minutes longer.  After 15 minutes, add the remaining garlic.  Taste and adjust seasonings, then serve hot with grated cheese, if you like.  For a yummy change, serve the chili over spaghetti.  If this appeals to you, I suggest using whole wheat spaghetti, which is healthier and just as delicious.  Even if whole wheat spaghetti isn’t usually your thing, the chili will cover any difference in flavor.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes

Generally speaking, I'm more of a French toast girl than a pancake girl.  Perhaps it is because French toast and grilled cheese are the first things I learned to cook back when I was about 5 years old.  In any case, living with roommate over the past year, I've gotten into the habit of making pancakes on the weekend.  I've tried a few recipes and have come to the conclusion buttermilk is a must.  Plain old pancakes are just blah.  Also blah are mixes.  I haven't used one of them in years.  Besides, it doesn't make sense to spend money on a mix when homemade pancakes can be made with ingredients I keep in the house anyway and taste so much better.

The recipe I've come up with has the benefit of being small.  It probably makes 6 to 8 pancakes depending on the size.  The recipe makes enough food for my roommate and me with enough batter left over for me to have a second batch the next morning.  Also, because it is small, it doesn't take much in the way of ingredients, so even if you have only one egg in the fridge, you can make these.  This recipe isn't my best recipe, but it is good.  It's especially good if you add fruit.  I like to put the fruit right into the batter instead of just on top.  You can use fresh or frozen, but out of fear of having half-frozen berries in the middle of my cooked pancake, I defrost the frozen ones first.  When I'm in a hurry, I do this by putting the berries in a ziploc baggie and running warm water over them.  They don't have to be completely defrosted, just enough that the heat of the stove can do the rest.

Buttermilk Pancakes
  • 1 cup cake flour (You can use all-purpose, but the pancakes are more tender with cake flour.)
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (I go with one, but I once used 2 by accident, and it was fine if you like them sweeter.)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp.baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp of melted butter or canola oil (I like to do 1 tbsp of each.)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, but don't get too zealous or you'll end up with flour all over the place.  Add egg and buttermilk, and begin whisking together.  Once everything is wet and lumpy, add the butter/canola oil to smooth it out.  Mix until most of the lumps are gone.

2. Heat a skillet on medium for a few minutes until the pan is good and hot.  (By trial and error, I've come to know how hot this is, and it's probably best for you to figure it out yourself, too.)  Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet.  Let the pancake cook till bubbles begin to form and edges look dry.  Using a spatula, flip it over and cook until done. 

A final word to the wise: Do not turn up the heat so your pancakes will cook faster.  You'll end up with the outside cooked and the inside runny.  When I first started making pancakes in my teenage years, I often ended up with pancakes whose middles were uncooked.  Finally, my mom saw what I was doing, reached over, and turned down the stove.  I've never had that problem since.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Actually, it is from The New York Times, but it has my notes because I'm practically incapable of following directions.  My notes are in italics.  If you want the original recipe along with the article, which is very informative and explains some of the whys for the recipe, go here.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres
  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour (Can be done with all-purpose flour, I have, but cake flour is better.  It's makes the cookie more tender.)
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour (Non-negotiable.  You need the gluten proteins for binding or something like that.)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (The big crystals are because you have to let it sit in the fridge a few days, but if you aren't going to do that, which would be a mistake, use smaller salt crystals or they won't be able to dissolve and you'll get salty bites.)
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter (Seriously.  Unsalted.)
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar (Not dark, which will have a different flavor.)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (The fresher, the better.)
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (I think the fèves are too big, but I use Ghiradelli chocolate chips which are bigger than Nestle and tastier, too.)
  • Sea salt (I have tried it with and without and find it unnecessary.  People I have made these for mostly liked it either way.)
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside. (Do not try to sift coarse salt. It doesn’t work. It just gets stuck in the sifter.  Sift the rest and whisk in the salt afterward. Actually, if you don’t have a sifter, just whisk everything together really, really, really well.)

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. (Or, if like me, you don’t have a fancy mixer with a paddle attachment, just use your beaters, but make sure they have a good motor because this is thick.) Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. (It takes longer with beaters.) Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. (Do this with a rubber spatula unless you have the paddle attachment thingy.) Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. (This is super important.  Err on the side of 36 hours.)  Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. (I do not make my cookies quite this big. I go for a little smaller than golf balls. To give you a sense, I get about 20 to 22 cookies from one batch of dough.) Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (This is the part I skip. My apologies, Jacques.) and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. (Smaller cookies need less cooking time. Better to err on the side of undercooked than to overcook them.  I think I go with 16 to 18 minutes.) Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. (Cooling racks are another must in my view.  Really any old thing that will let air circulate all around will do the trick.  I have been known to improvise.)  Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.