Friday, May 23, 2014

Blackberry-Bourbon Sorbet

No matter what the calendar says, Memorial Day weekend will always be the official kick off to summer in my world.  It's always plenty warm by then and that extra day off gives us all time to be with friends and family--often outside with the music and the grill going.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit, chips, and potato salad are standard fare for many people, with ice cream often coming in for dessert.

I've got lots of great recipes for homemade ice cream, all of which I'd gladly make over and over again.  Instead of an old favorite, though, I've got a new favorite for you today.  In their April issue, Fine Cooking did a truly fabulous feature on homemade sorbets.  It shared a base recipe with countless combinations and endless adaptations.  They must know summer starts now, as well!  

Along with the recipe, the magazine showed a trick I'd never heard of before.  By gently placing the egg in a tall vessel filled with the sorbet base, you can check to see if you've got the correct ratio of sugar to fruit puree.  If it sinks, you need more sugar.  If it floats, your ratio is correct.  How cool is that?  My best friend's mom and I had so much fun with this new trick.  In fact, we made two kinds of sorbet so we could keep playing with the egg!  The teacher in me kept thinking what fun this would be to do with students as they learn about buoyancy and density.  With summer break fast approaching (happy dance!), you could certainly make this an entertaining way to get your kids in the kitchen!

Blackberry-Bourbon Sorbet
from Fine Cooking, April 2014

1 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 c. water
1 lb. fresh blackberries
2 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon or lime juice
3 TBSP bourbon (optional)
1/8 tsp. guar gum (optional, but makes for a creamier texture)
1 raw egg, in its shell, washed and dried

1.  To make the sugar syrup, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small pot over medium heat.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are combined and sugar granules are thoroughly dissolved.  Set aside to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes.

2.  In a blender, puree the blackberries and lemon juice.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.  Place in a covered container and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

3.  Put the blackberry puree, 1 c. sugar syrup, and bourbon and guar gum, if using, in a blender.  Strain mixture, once again, to remove any remaining seeds.

4.  Check the density of the sorbet base by gently lowering the egg into the container with a slotted spoon.  If it sinks, remove it and stir in and additional 2 TBSP of the sugar syrup, repeating as necessary until the egg floats just below the surface with a quarter-sized exposed area of shell.  When density is right, pour sorbet base into a covered container and refrigerate until very cold, at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.  For a visual, click here.

5.  To freeze, pour base into an ice cream maker and run according to manufacturer's directions.  Alternately, pour the base into a tightly sealed container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.  Sorbet will keep up to two weeks.

Yield: 1 quart

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meatless Monday--Savory Cheddar Cheese Bread

I was recently in charge of bringing breakfast for my Sunday school class and, being the blogger I am, couldn't wait to peruse recipes and choose just the right ones.  I knew I wanted to bring a sweet muffin or scone and a more savory bread option.  As soon as I saw this recipe on the King Arthur Flour site, I knew my recipe search was over.

At first glance, the recipe looks a bit time and labor intensive because you actually make two separate batters and marble them together, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.  Both batters are super simple.  I made each of them in one bowl in about five minutes.  With just one simple ingredient swap, I made the recipe a bit more summery, but you could easily adapt it, just as I did, to include your most favorite dried herb or herb blend.  I'm sure I'll do just that, as well as experiment with using different cheeses.  The end result was a savory loaf of bread with an almost biscuit-like texture that was a big hit with my Sunday school class.  I think you'll like it, too.

Savory Cheddar Cheese Bread
slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

For the herbed whole wheat batter:
1 large egg
1 c. milk
1/2 stick thoroughly softened unsalted butter
1 TBSP baking powder
1 TBSP your favorite dried herb (I used summer savory, but you could use rosemary, basil, dill, whatever!)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. white whole wheat flour or King Arthur stone-ground whole wheat flour
1 c. (4 oz. by weight) grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, whatever you'd like)

For the cheese batter:
1 large egg
1 c. milk
1/2 stick thoroughly softened unsalted butter
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease two 9" loaf pans.

2.  To make the herbed whole wheat batter, beat the egg, milk, and softened butter in a bowl until combined.  The butter should be in very small pieces, which will contribute to the bread's texture.

3.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the baking powder, herbs, salt, and flour.  Form a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in egg mixture, and stir to combine.  Set aside.

4.  To make the cheese bread batter, beat the egg, milk, and softened butter in a bowl until combined.  Again, the butter should be in very small pieces.

5.  In a separate medium bowl, mix the baking powder, salt, cayenne, black pepper, and flour.  Stir in the cheese and toss to coat.  Form a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in egg mixture, and stir to combine. 

6.  Put half the herb batter in each of the prepared pans.  Add half the cheddar batter to pan, filling in spaces around and on top of the rosemary batter.  Put a butter knife, point down, into the batter in each of the pans.  With the tip gently touching the bottom of the pan, drag the knife through the batter in curving motions to marble the batters.

7.  Bake the loaves 50-60 minutes, or until nicely browned and a cake tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Yield: 2 loaves

Friday, May 9, 2014

Recipe Redo--Classic Brownies

Just this week, I got together with two new friends I've been so blessed to meet through my new job.  The school year's been taxing on all of us because we're all in new positions.  But we've almost made it all the way through the year, one of the girls is newly engaged, and well, we just want to have some wine, plenty of laughs, and a bunch of fun!

The bride-to-be is a huge fan of brownies, so naturally, I volunteered to bring some.  I jumped on the blog to find my favorite recipe and YIKES!  That picture!  I immediately knew it wouldn't do a single day longer.  A recipe this great with such a terrible picture?  No, no, no.  

But now, I've taken a better picture and reminded y'all of one of my classic go-to recipes.  Oh yeah...and eaten brownies with new friends.  Life is good.

Classic Brownies
from Cook's Illustrated

1 c. (4 oz.) pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 1/4 c. (5 oz.) cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 TBSP (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-in. pieces
2 1/4 c. (15 3/4 oz.) sugar
4 large eggs
1 TBSP vanilla extract

1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle and preheat to 325° F.  Cut two lengths of foil and fold to neatly line pan with edges overhanging.  Spray foil with baking spray.  For a picture, click to my original post.

2.  If using nuts, spread them evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5-8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter until smooth.  When completely smooth, remove bowl from double boiler and gradually whisk in sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth and thoroughly combined.  Whisk in vanilla.

4.  Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

5.  Add flour mixture in three additions, folding in with a rubber spatula until batter is smooth and even in color.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread into the corners of the pan.  If using nuts, sprinkle them over the batter.

6.  Bake brownies until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack in the pan, up to two hours.  Remove brownies by lifting foil overhang at the corners.  Cut brownies into 2-in. squares.  Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.

Yield: 24 brownies

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crispy Salt and Vinegar Potatoes

I'm not a huge potato chip fan, but every once in a while I find myself craving the salty, sour bite that only salt and vinegar chips can provide.  It's a strange thing, I know, but what can I say?  When you get a craving, you get a craving.  

But now, thanks to the current issue of Bon Appétit magazine, I have a new way to take care of my craving.  As I flipped through the issue, I saw plenty of recipes that looked interesting, but this one caused me to stop, read through, tab the page, and put the recipe on the following week's menu.  And whoa.  The recipe did not disappoint.  Just like the method described, boiling the potatoes not only made them soft and buttery, it also completely infused them with the vinegary bite I was hoping for.  With a quick toss in a buttery skillet and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, I had found myself a fun new way to jazz up roasted potatoes.  Served alongside a perfectly flaky salmon filet, these potatoes made for one fabulously fancified version of fish and chips.  A new favorite, for sure.

Crispy Salt and Vinegar Potatoes
from Bon Appétit, May 2014

2 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved or quartered, if large
1 c. plus 2 TBSP distilled white vinegar
1 TBSP Kosher salt, plus more
2 TBSP unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper
2 TBSP chopped fresh chives
flaky sea salt, to taste

1.  In a medium sauce pot, combine potatoes, 1 c. vinegar, and 1 TBSP Kosher salt.  Add water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.

2.  Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add potatoes and season with kosher salt and pepper.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 8-10 minutes.  

3.  To serve, drizzle with remaining vinegar and top with chives and sea salt.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meatless Monday--Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Enchiladas

With Cinco de Mayo (You know, the holiday Americans have lovingly adopted, taken all meaning from, and turned into a boozefest....I digress.) around the corner, it seemed only fitting that I feature a meatless option for those of you who want to get into the spirit without feeling awful the next day.  Or those of you who are just old.  Like me.  Sigh...

It's quite early for zucchini season, so I know you won't be able to make these with homegrown vegetables.  Still, I can always find good zucchini in my grocery store year round and I love it so much I don't judge.  I know local and homegrown are always best, but it's just not always possible for me.  Plus, when you have a recipe combining so many of your favorite ingredients (black beans, tortillas, and goat cheese, anyone?), it's tough to hold out for two more months.

The filling for these enchiladas is colorful, healthy, and quite sturdy, which means you could put it together in advance, making for a really easy weeknight meal.  Like so many of my favorite recipes, this one is easily adaptable and sure to please anyone.  I'm thinking charred corn and green chiles would be a great addition in the future.  If you like things spicy, go ahead and add some chipotle to the filling and/or the sauce.  Make it your own!

Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Enchiladas
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-in. cubes (about 4 c.)
3 tsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced (optional)
3/4 c. chopped cilantro, divided
6 oz. soft goat cheese
10-12 corn tortillas
12 oz. enchilada sauce, homemade or store bought
2 avocados
2 limes, cut into wedges

1.  Preheat oven to 425 F.  In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 2 tsp. olive oil along with the salt and pepper. Toss to coat.  Spread zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet.  If zucchini looks crowded, divide between two baking sheets.  Roast on the middle rack of the oven, until edges begin to brown, 30 minutes.  Remove and set aside to come to room temperature.  Turn oven down to 375 F.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine onions, black beans, chipotle, and cilantro.  Set aside 1 oz. of goat cheese and crumble the rest into the bowl.  Add cooled zucchini and stir gently to combine.

3.  Over a gas burner or in the oven, lightly char tortillas, about 1 minute per side.

4.  Pour 1/2 c. enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 casserole or baking dish.  One at a time, fill tortilla with about 1/4 c. zucchini mixture.  Roll it up and place it seam side down in the dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas, fitting enchiladas tightly into dish.  Brush the tops with remaining tsp. of olive oil.  Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce down the middle and sprinkle with reserved goat cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the tops of the tortillas are crisp and the filling is warmed through.  Let cool and set 5 minutes before serving.

5.  To serve, place two enchiladas on each plate and garnish with avocado slices and a squeeze of lime.

Yield: 5-6 servings