Sunday, August 2, 2009

You're Turning Violet, Violet

Gosh dang, I'm a slacker. Not in the cooking department or in the blogging department, for that matter. But when it comes to blogging what I cook, yikes, I suck. Perhaps you'll forgive me when you enjoy a slice of old-fashioned buckle for breakfast tomorrow. No? Well, what if it's full of blueberries and topped with the most perfect streusel topping you've ever experienced?

I was feeling a bit remorseful after convincing my mom to buy me a giant, not so cheap, tub of blueberries. It's not that they weren't delicious, but I can only eat so much in so many days. I knew they were going to go soft on me if I didn't use them fast. I couldn't bear the waste. Fortunately, I stumbled across a Cooks Illustrated recipe for a Blueberry Buckle from the American Classics magazine edition, before I had to gorge myself a la Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factor.

The recipe is simple, and the streusel is divine. In fact, if I didn't have better manners I might have kept the entire lid of the cake for myself.

Blueberry Buckle, from Cooks Illustrated

Streusel Topping:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of table salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in 8 pieces, softened but still cool


1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
4 cups, fresh blueberries

1.For streusal: In mixer, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt on low speed. Add butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand. There shouldn't be any large pieces of butter. Set aside.

2. For cake: Preheat over to 350. Butter a 9 inch round baking pan. Fit parchment paper in the bottom, butter, and dust with flour all over.

3. Whisk flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In mixer, blend butter, sugar, salt, and zest until well combined. Add vanilla, blend. Add eggs one at a time on low speed until just incorporated. Slowly add in flour mixture until barely combined.

4. Remove the bowl from your mixer and add the blueberries by hand. The batter with be very thick, so you'll have to fold the berries in very slowly. Scoop into the pan and gently flatten out. Top with streusal by clumping it between your fingers first before breaking it apart.

5. Bake for 55 minutes or until the top is dark golden brown and the center is firm. Let cool for 30 minutes to an hour before removing from the pan.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Polenta, Food for the Poor

Because of certain circumstances (ahem, lack of jobs), The BF and I have been eating out less and less, which means our kitchen is getting put to good use. Whereas once we might have cooked one or two exceptional meals once a week, supplemented by take-out, now we cook a lot of basic weeknight dinners and one pot wonders, with a truly stellar, time-consuming meal once every other week. Our bellies are angry, but our bank accounts thank us!

I whipped up this hearty meal of polenta topped with a spicy tomato sauce for myself when I was enjoying a night alone. It's simple, delicious, cheap, and something that I love to make for myself: no fuss and just the flavors I enjoy. Plus, these rainy days have left me longing for foods that I can enjoy in a dim-lit room, curled up on the couch. The sauce is as basic as it gets and very forgiving--I don't think it's possible to screw up tomatoes and garlic!--so feel free to add your own mix of ingredients.

Oh, and don't let the anchovy scare you off! It cooks down into nothing so that all you're left with is a nutty undercurrent.

Polenta with Spicy Tomato Sauce, for one

1/2 cup polenta, and water for cooking
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 anchovy, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 14 oz. can tomatoes, chopped.
Salt & pepper, to taste
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp. parsley (basil would be just as appropriate, but it's far better in the

1. Cook the polenta according to package instructions. This will take about 25 minutes, unless your using quick-cooking polenta, which I've found to be just as good for a small meal such as this one. If you choose the latter, you may to keep it warm while your sauce is cooked.

2. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium might heat. Once hot, add in the garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes. Gently stir and allow to cook for a minute or two. You want to anchovy to melt into the oil and the garlic's aroma to ignite.

3. Once the anchovy has all but disappeared and the oil has taken on a rich yellow color, add your chopped tomatoes. (If you're adding in any other hearty ingredients, like mushrooms or kale, you may want to give them their own turn in the garlic-pepper oil before you add the tomatoes.)

4. Allow the tomatoes to simmer for a good 15 minutes. It's important your flavors have time to meld together. Add a hefty pinch of salt and bit of pepper, and taste for flavor. If you need more salt, don't be shy. You want the flavor to be distinct against the polenta.

5. Finally, hit the sauce with the lemon juice and the parsley. Let it cook three to five more minutes, just long enough for the acid of the lemon to develop. Spoon your hot polenta into a bowl and top with your sauce. Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

No Chopsticks Needed

Anyone who knows me is probably well aware of the fact that I can be fairly controlling. Control freak may be too strong of a title, but I could do with a little loosening of my grip, which is what I decided to do today!

The BF and I cook a lot together, but he often has his own projects, which are usually spicy (as in lots of spices, not necessarily heat) and involve red meat. So in honor of one of his more recent fabulous dishes, I decided that he should be allowed to guest post. So here I go, relinquishing control . . . Take it away, BF. And don't screw it up (just kidding!)
My first exposure to this type of Asian-style ribs came when I was taken on a trip to Jennie Low’s Chinese restaurant in Marin County when I was about 8 years old. Thinking back on my first encounter with Chinese barbecue spareribs, I remember how thrilled I was at the prospect of being allowed to use my hands in what at the time seemed like such and\ exotic restaurant. No chop sticks are needed to devour this type of pork rib preparation as the beauty of this dish comes in the form of the sticky, sweet resin of barbecue sauce that accumulates on your fingers while enjoying.

These mouthwatering baby back ribs deliver all the same bright flavors as traditional Memphis-style ribs, only with a pungent Asian twist. However, don’t expect them to taste like your typical barbecue spare rib; these are a bit more refined. Delicious meaty pork baby back ribs are rendered fall-of-the-bone tender as they are continuously lacquered in a tangy and sweet Mongolian marinade over two and half hours of slow cooking in the oven.

Sticky Asian-Style Baby Back Ribs adapted from Cindy Pawlcyn’s Big Small Plates

Mongolian Marinade:

½ cup hoisin sauce
1 ½ tsp. sugar
2 ¼ tsp. tamari or soy sauce
2 ¼ tsp. sherry vinegar
2 ¼ tsp. rice vinegar
1-2 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced
½ tsp. hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
¾ tsp. black bean chili sauce or hot garlic sauce
2 ¼ tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
2 ¼ tsp. fresh garlic, minced
¼ - 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tbsp. minced cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 ½ tsp. sesame oil

1 slab pork baby back
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2-inch piece of ginger, sliced into coins
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1.Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

2.Slather half of the marinade over the ribs and wrap snuggly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate over night.

3.Preheat over to 275º. Remove the ribs from the fridge, and allow them to rest for a half an hour at room temperature.

4.Meanwhile bring a half cup of soy sauce and half cup of water to a simmer, with the remaining garlic and ginger. Set aside.

5.Set the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan larger enough to accommodate the length of the ribs. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the bottom of the roasting pan. Place in oven and roast, basting every hour with remaining marinade, for approximately four hours.

6.After four hours, remove the ribs from the oven and preheat your broiler to high. Caramelize the ribs under the broiler, turning and basting several times, until you’ve used up all the remaining marinade and the ribs are sticky and have formed a crust. Slight burnt patches only add to the flavor.

7.Allow the ribs to rest ten minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Preserved Meyer Lemons

It's been a while, a long while since I've written. Perhaps the shorter days are bringing out the food blogger in me again, but whatever it is, I'm ready to write (and cook and eat). In preparation for the winter months I decided some preserved lemons were an absolute necessity. They're found in practically every recipe I'm determined to try over the next few months. And the best part of making these pungent salt-pickled lemon peels is that it's incredibly easy as long as you're willing to wait a few weeks.

I got this particular recipe from the A16: Food + Wine cookbook, but most recipes are fairly similar as far as I've seen. I used homegrown Meyer lemons, and I recommend avoiding the waxy grocery store variety.

Kosher salt
Lemons (ideally thin-skinned)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice as needed.
One glass jar

1. With a pairing or chef's knife slice each lemon from the blossom end cutting down through the flesh, stopping just before you break through the stem end. Make a second slice perpendicular to the first.

2. Carefully, open the four segments of each lemon and pack generously with salt.

3. Place the lemons in a glass jar leaving as little room as possible. They should really be stuffed in there. Cover with another generous couple tablespoons of salt.

4. Cover the jar tightly, and let it sit in a cool dark place (unrefrigerated) two to three days. The salt will draw out the juice from the lemons' flesh during this time.

5. When you feel as though the lemons have given up most of their juice, open the jar and top off the lemons with extra lemon juice until they are completely submerged.

6. Cover the jar tightly and leave it in your refrigerator three to four weeks.

When ready to use take a lemon from the jar and slice away the slice from the rind. Discard the flesh and use the preserved lemon rind as desired.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lemon Wishes And Meringue Dreams

Well it's been about a month since my last post, and my excuse, should any of you care, is that I started a new job and while I was out of school I got lazy. It seems somehow backwards that when I have far more time than usual, I find less time to blog, but that's how I work I suppose. Laziness is always chasing me, and as soon as I slow, even for a moment, it catches up to me. It's only when I'm forced to fight my way from it's grip--when my semester begins again--that I start to be productive again.

But I'm back, and I don't think there could be a better way for me to start back up again then with the newest Daring Baker delectable expedition. This time I was taken for a wild ride with lemon curd and meringue, in a combination so classic that it shames me to say, until now I'd never tasted lemon meringue pie.

The recipe and idea came from Jen of Canadian Baker, and I have to say, I was absolutely excited about making this, if for nothing else than being able to say that I had made (and tasted) a lemon meringue pie. Truth be told, I'm not crazy about lemon desserts. I eat them, but they're just not my number one order off the dessert menu. But there's something about lemon meringue pie that's so dreamy. Maybe it's the sticky meringue cloud, piled about four inches high, or maybe it's just because they remind me of roadside diners and hot, white mugs filled with steaming coffee.

Even slipping this tangy, yet gentle sweet in my mouth made me nostalgic for an era that I wasn't even alive to see. What a pleasure it was as it all came together--the beautiful daisy pie grew taller with each layer. What a treat.

Can't wait to see more of everyone this month.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:

¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces

2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour

¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt

⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:

2 cups (475 mL) water

1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar

½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch

5 egg yolks, beaten

¼ cup (60 mL) butter

¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

5 egg whites, room temperature

½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar

¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt

½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract

¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Friday, December 28, 2007

These Muffins Are Healthy, I Swear

Well look at me posting two days in a row. I guess this really means I’m on vacation with time to spare. I could certainly get used to this life. And (and this is truly worth a tad of bragging), I said I was going to make something and then I DID. Within twenty-four hours. I’m really on a roll.

Those lemon poppy seed muffins I was drooling over last night from my new Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours, well, it’s confirmed they are drool worthy. Sneaking two at time up to your room to eat alone worthy too. They’re damn good. So moist, lemony, and soft. Even the kids, who usually say things like “what are those black things?” didn’t question. They just ate, and then said “these are really good.” You heard it here folks: these are really good. Even my nine-year-old sister, Chuckie, liked them.

Let me tell you something about Chuck, she’s a sugar fiend. She doesn’t like apples without peanut butter; she doesn’t like strawberries without sugar (who heard of a child that doesn’t like a plain strawberry?); she asks for a bagel with cream cheese, only to lick every ounce of the cream cheese off without a bite of her bagel. My mom cooks kale into her spaghetti sauce, pays her to eat spinach, but she won’t have it. She wants twizzlers, jello, pretty much anything with fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient or red dye #40 lingering somewhere near the end. It’s concerning.

I’m not trying to pretend that lemon poppy seed muffins are health food. White flour, butter, sugar…not exactly legumes and veggies. But at least it’s homemade. At least I know what went in to it. And she ate it. Maybe next time I can sneak in something or better yet, just bribe her with them (extra glaze and all that).

Because you know what? These are bribe worthy.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins out of Baking From My Home To Yours


2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest & juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp. poppy seeds

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1.5 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1.Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter a regular size muffin pan.

2.In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3.In a separate bowl whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and melted butter together until blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk until just blended. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

4.Bake for 18-20 minutes (mine were actually done after 16 min.) or until tops are golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool. Remove muffins from the pan and place directly on the rack.

5.For icing, whisk the sugar and lemon juice together until just liquidy enough to drizzle over the muffins when completely cool.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Now What?

Christmas has come and gone. How did that happen? I’ve had six days off work. I’ve spent time with my family, chaotically Christmas shopped, wrapped and wrapped some more, baked pie after pie, not to mention a few dozen cookies, roasted a turkey, napped (maybe once) and yet, it feels as if I’ve done absolutely nothing.

When I’m at work, I fantasize. Really good fantasies too. Waking up early. Heading down to the coffee shop and getting a lemon scone and latte. I sip slowly, and pinch crumbly bits into my mouth, while I thumb through my newest book (Faulkner, or something just as academic). Maybe I even write brilliant thoughts in a small, worn notebook. Then I stop at the market, pick up ingredients for dinner that night—a meal I’ve methodically planned the night before—and then head home for a quick snooze. I wake up and cook. Perhaps watch an episode of The Office while I wait for my chicken to roast or my water boil. Eating is insanely satisfying (a nice glass of wine helps) and then I fall into bed. I’m out like a light, ready to do it all over the next day.

But when I actually get that day off, I don’t manage anything like that. It’s much more spontaneous and chaotic. And I think now I’m in some kind of post-holiday stupor. I keep making pumpkin pies in the hopes of perfection, stuffing cookies down people’s throats one day and throwing them out the next, and all to what avail? I’m not sure. Trying to figure out what’s next, I suppose.

Based on my Christmas present from The BF, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours, I’m guessing the next thing will be something baked, first thing tomorrow morning, or the thing after the first thing, you know, in lieu of the latte and scone. Reading in pajamas is way better than reading at a coffee shop anyways.