Friday, October 28, 2011

Recipe: Creamy Parsnip Apple Soup with Crispy Shallots

Those who know me may be aware that I’m a hypochondriac. Those who don’t know me, hi! I’m a hypochondriac.

How do I know this? When the nurse at the doctor’s office greets you with a, “Oh, you’re here again?”, it’s pretty clear. Then your parents, weary from 12 too many 3 AM phone calls, ban you from late-night WebMD-ing. Hmph.

This past week, it was a food allergy test and a self-diagnosed brain aneurism that led to 2 appointments with the doc. Apparently, my medical judgment is a tad bit off kilter, as I don’t have a dairy allergy, an egg allergy, nor a brain aneurism. Whatever. I’m still not convinced, and will be on self-mandated bed rest for the next 2 days.

So now I’m curled up on the couch, nursing a brutal headache that feels an awful lot like something to be alarmed about, and cradling a bowl of this soup. The first time I had this silky puree of parsnip and apple was during a weekend home in NJ. Asking my mom for the recipe, she showed me 4 short lines in the latest issue of Real Simple. Sautee onion; add parsnips, apple and broth; simmer until tender; puree. It was so good – incredibly creamy without any cream, and a distinct bite from the peppery parsnips, yet simple. Real simple. Ha.. blaming that one on the painkillers.

Whether you’re suffering from an imaginary medical ailment or not, make this soup. It’s as perfect an accompaniment to a brisk fall day as it is to a migraine.

[Original recipe from Real Simple]
Ingredients (Makes about 6 cups of soup)
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
Olive oil
¼ tsp salt, plus extra
¼ tsp pepper, plus extra
1 lb parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
2 apples (about ¾ lb), peeled, cored and roughly chopped
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (gluten free)
1 shallot, thinly sliced (optional)

Lightly coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil, and place over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add chopped onion, and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft.

Add chopped parsnips and apple to pot, and pour in enough stock to cover the veggies (approx. 4 cups). Turn the heat up to high. Once stock is boiling, turn heat down to medium and cover pot. Cook for 20-30 minutes until parsnips and apples are fork-tender.

Meanwhile, make crispy shallot garnish (if using). Add a few glugs of olive oil to a small skillet and place over medium-low heat. Once oil is hot, add sliced shallots. Cook for 6-10 minutes, stirring often, until shallots are brown and crisped. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to a paper towel to drain.

Once parsnips and apples are cooked, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth and creamy. Add more stock until you reach a desired consistency. (I added an extra 1.5 cups.) If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree in a blender in batches.

To serve, reheat if necessary, and top with crispy shallots, a sprinkle of black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Southwestern Quinoa Salad

You may have noticed me casually name-drop Poker Group from time to time (i.e. here). Before the referrals to Gamblers Anonymous start rolling in, allow me to do some explaining.

Everyone has a group of people in their lives who aren't officially family, but were around so much growing up that they're not just friends either. That’s Poker Group. 4 families, 8 adults, 13 kids, no biological relation, and a whole lotta crazy. Though we’ve all shared beach trips, city trips, and ski trips over the years, it’s the parents’ monthly poker parties that have made the name stick. What qualifies as a name ‘sticking’ you may ask? They had matching t-shirts made. Seriously. Borderline inappropriate quote on the back and all.

So instead of being embarrassed that our parents party harder and gamble harder than we do, I can only hope that years from now my friends and I will still have the gall to conga-line around the kitchen table raising pumpkin martinis.

With that out of the way, here’s a recipe for a super fast and completely filling quinoa salad. It’s actually being posted at the request of one of the moms who has plans to make it for an upcoming Poker Night, hence the intro. So Mrs. Wagner – Here ya go!

PS. No idea if this is legitimately Southwestern. Could be Mexican. All I know is I did not singlehandedly invent this flavor profile. Can tell you though, that it definitely works.

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¾ cup frozen corn, thawed
½ small red onion, diced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced and zested
2 tsp ground cumin

Add 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a medium-sized pot and place over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover pot with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from heat, and fluff quinoa with a fork. Pour cooked quinoa into a large bowl.

Drizzle the warm quinoa with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl – this includes the beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest and cumin. Toss well to combine.
Serve at room temperature, cold, or warmed. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Meringue Cookies with Mini Chocolate Chips

Some days, I think I should have been a chemist. There’s something undeniably mesmerizing about that split second when egg whites transform from a puddle of clear goo to glossy, opaque, white meringue. So mesmerizing that I need to know why it happens. Denatured proteins! Coagulated amino acid chains! Them big words is magic, folks.

Then I do something stupid like leave the coffee maker on for 26 hours and realize I should probably stick to a profession that doesn’t require operating Bunsen burners. Marketing, it is then.

Regardless of if your eyes glazed over after reading the first paragraph of this post or not, you should still absolutely make these chocolate meringue cookies. They’re light as air, so you can feel perfectly good about eating, oh, 60 of them, yet the studs of chocolate make them slightly more indulgent than your morning egg-white omelet.  

Be forewarned that meringue can be a bit of a drama queen in the environment department - so the time it takes to beat the egg whites, the cooking time, and the final cookie texture will all be dependent on the humidity wherever you are. These keep pretty well for about a week, at which point they’ll turn into space ice cream. If you don’t know what space ice cream is, get yourself to a planetarium gift shop ASAP.

[Original Recipe from Bakerella]
Ingredients (Makes ~60 cookies)
7 egg whites from large eggs (about a cup)
1 ½ cups sugar
5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (or about 5 oz. chopped chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place a pot with a few inches of water over high heat. In a large glass bowl that will fit on top of the pot without touching the water, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Turn the heat under the pot down so the water is just simmering. Place the glass bowl over the pot, and whisk the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved into the egg whites. (Touch it with your fingers to make sure you don’t feel any grains of sugar.) This should take about 5 minutes.

Remove the glass bowl from the pot, and beat the sugared egg whites with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (if you have one). Keep beating on high until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks. This could take anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour depending on your humidity.

When the whites are ready, sprinkle the cocoa powder and chocolate chips over the top. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold both chocolates into the mix, being careful not to deflate the whites. You’ll know you’re done when there are no visible streaks of cocoa powder.

Using a spoon, scoop heaping tablespoons of meringue batter onto the cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches in between. (They’ll spread a little, but not as much as a regular doughy cookie.)

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, then turn both baking sheets (so they cook evenly) and bake for another 10 minutes. Bake for additional time if necessary until the cookies are puffed, slightly cracked, and not sticky to the touch.

Once meringues are done cooking, slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto the counter or a cooling rack. Once cool, gently peel the cookies off of the parchment. (If you don’t want to wait to do the next batch, just re-line the baking sheets with additional paper.)

If not eating right away, store in an airtight container. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe + Review: Baked Italian Herb and Parmesan Crusted Zucchini Chips // Schar Gluten Free Breadcrumbs

While the days of locally sourced, farm-fresh summer squash pasta are behind those of us in the Northeast, I’m fairly certain zucchini of one origin or another are a year-round staple in supermarkets coast to coast. You may not have the pleasure of meeting the kind fella who nursed that squash from a tiny seedling, but I’m sure there’s a driver of a produce-toting 18-wheeler somewhere who would be more than happy to shake your hand.

After grabbing two small, likely well-traveled zucchini from Gristedes I set out to make these baked zucchini chips, which I’ve been meaning to get around to all summer. Don't be misled by the 'chip' descriptor. There are definitely some crispy, browned parts, but what you’ll be most pleasantly surprised by is a flavor profile eerily similar to deep-fried mozzarella sticks. Must be the combination of Italian herbs, marinara, cheese and of course – gluten free bread crumbs.

Now, I’m sure there are some fresh breadcrumb purists out there. But I can tell you this. If I’m going to fuss around the kitchen all day waiting for things to bloom and rise and bake, you can bet I’m not about to turn around and pulverize that oven-fresh loaf of bread into sawdust. (Blooming is the yeast, by the way. Though it wouldn't kill me to grab flowers instead of food at the farmer's market one day.)

Enter Schar’s Gluten Free Bread Crumbs. I’ve never been disappointed by a Schar product, and this time was no different. Texturally I couldn’t discern the difference between these and regular bread crumbs, and Schar’s are unseasoned so you have the freedom to doctor them up however you’d like. These are great to have on hand, and I’m already envisioning the other half of my bag of bread crumbs going into a batch of meatballs. Bon app├ętit!

Other dip-friendly things:

¼ cup milk (any fat content)
½ cup gluten free bread crumbs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (preferably grated with a microplane), plus extra
2 tsp dried Italian herb mix (combo of thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 small zucchini
Marinara sauce, for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with foil. Coat each with baking spray.

Set out two shallow bowls. Pour the milk into the first. In the second, add the bread crumbs, Parmesan, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands or a fork.

Cut off both ends of each zucchini, then slice them into discs about 1/4 inch thick. Drop a few slices of zucchini into the bowl of milk, and toss so they’re coated. Then, transfer one zucchini slice to the bowl with the bread crumb mixture. Push it down into the mix, and pat more coating on top. Move the covered zucchini chip to the foiled baking sheet. (You can work in larger batches, tossing multiple zucchini in the bread crumb coating at once, but I found it more effective to work one at a time.) Repeat until all of the zucchini are coated with milk then covered in the seasoned bread crumbs.

Once all of the zucchini are on the baking sheets (not overlapping) generously spray the tops with cooking spray. Place the trays in the oven and bake for about 7-10 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

Remove trays from oven and flip all of the zucchini. (I tried tongs, but using a fork and my hand ended up being faster.) Spray the newly exposed sides with cooking spray. Return to oven and bake for another 7-10 minutes.

After the zucchini chips are done cooking, immediately sprinkle them with additional cheese. Serve warm with warmed marinara sauce. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recipe: Brown Butter & Pumpkin Blondies with White Chocolate Chips

Some people get their kicks from tempting fate by willfully engaging in life-threatening activities. Me? Tweaking a baking recipe really gets my adrenaline flowing.

I can’t remember what trail of digital (gluten free) bread crumbs led me to this recipe on a sweet Australia-based baking blog, but the combination of pumpkin and brown butter sounded far too enticing to pass up.

The first 80% of the recipe-following drifted by blissfully well, until I started mixing in the flour. In a split second, it went from “wait, what was that I read about the blondies not rising?” to “oh shit how did that baking powder get into my perfectly creamy pumpkin batter.” I wish I could tell you what happened in between those two thoughts, but it’s kind of a blur. You see, I mentally block out stress-inducing, life-altering situations. Like adding leaveners when they’re not called for and accidentally dialing 911 from the office.

Lucky for my anxiety, the blondies turned out moist and delicious and 911 never bothered to return the call of the flustered girl who hung up on them.

Note: If you prefer your blondies on the lighter, cakier side, follow the recipe as is. For thinner blondies with a more dense texture, omit the baking powder.

[Original recipe from Raspberri Cupcakes]
Ingredients (Makes 9 large or 16 small blondies)
1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup gluten free flour mix (if you’re not GF, regular all-purpose flour)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted (can substitute pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay a piece of parchment in an 8-inch square pan so that it hangs over 2 of the sides. Coat the paper and the exposed pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Once completely melted, cook for an additional 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently so the milk solids don’t burn. Once the butter smells nutty and is light brown in color, remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, white sugar and brown butter until the sugars have a consistency of wet sand. Add the egg, vanilla and pumpkin puree and whisk until completely smooth. Then, add the salt, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, flour and baking powder. Whisk one last time until the flour is completely worked into the mixture.

Switching to a rubber spatula, fold the white chocolate chips and nuts (if using) into the batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and evenly spread it out.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow the blondies to cool completely, then use the parchment paper ‘handles’ to lift them out in one piece. Cut into individual bars and enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Recipe: Creamy Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip with Lemon and Thyme

“Eat this.”

“That looks like (insert unappetizing frowned-up food blog word here). ”

[10 minutes and half a bowl of dip later]

“Wait, this is really good. What is it??”

If that exchange doesn’t cause you to sprint to the kitchen and make this dip, I’m really not sure there’s much hope for you. There is a special place in culinary heaven reserved for foods that pass the roommate taste-test but aren’t 99% comprised of starchy carbs and/or cheese – And this roasted garlic and white bean dip is one of them.

If you don’t own a food processor, this recipe is reason enough to buy one. This dip takes no time at all to whip up, can be made a few days ahead, and works equally well as a mid-week snack than it does an appetizer. Most importantly, it can be eaten with one hand while the other hand is busy whipping egg whites for 30 minutes. (If you follow me on Twitter, you may have put 2 and 2 together that a meringue recipe is coming soon!)

Tip: If you serve this with veggies leave the carrots and bell peppers raw, but you’ll want to blanch the asparagus. To do so, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cut the woody ends off the asparagus. Add the asparagus to the boiling water, and cook for 2-3 minutes. With tongs, remove the asparagus from the water and immediately submerge them in a large bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking so the asparagus maintain their crunch and bright green color.  

One head of garlic
One 15 ounce can white cannellini (kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp)
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
1 tsp fresh thyme
Small handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Veggies, pita chips, or crackers for dipping

Roast Garlic: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice entire head of garlic in half, so that all of the cloves are exposed. Place both garlic halves on a piece of foil, and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Close up the foil, and roast for about 45 minutes. Allow the garlic to cool, and then use your hands to squeeze all of the roasted cloves from the paper.

Make Dip: In the bowl of a food processer, add the roasted garlic, cannellini beans, lemon juice and zest, thyme, parsley, olive oil salt and pepper. Run the food processor until a smooth dip is formed. For a thinner consistency, add more olive oil. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve cold or room temperature with veggies, pita chips or crackers.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Potato Hash with Apple Cider Caramelized Onions

This dish stemmed from an intense craving for a bi-weekly brunch special at Friedman’s Lunch in Chelsea Market – short rib and sweet potato hash topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Just typing it out has me drooling (not literally, ew), even though I just devoured the plateful you see above.

After much deliberation over what to replace the short rib with – Bacon? Pancetta? Shredded chicken? – I decided to abandon the protein component entirely. If you want a perfectly succulent meat-studded hash, go to Friedman’s. If you’re cool with a just as flavor packed vegetarian hash, get in the kitchen and make this.

The apple cider and vinegar absorbed by the caramelized onions isn’t overpowering, but instead imparts a subtly sweet tang. This and the fresh thyme pair wonderfully with the earthy sweet potatoes. Top it with two poached eggs, and oh hey, you’ve got breakfast for dinner. Or I guess you could go all conventional and enjoy it for a savory weekend breakfast.      

Tip: To poach an egg, bring a small pot of water + 1 tbsp vinegar (helps egg whites stay together) to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, turn it down so it barely simmers. Crack 1 egg into a small, shallow bowl. Swirl a spoon around the water in circles to create a whirlpool, and carefully slide the egg into the center of the water. The swirling ‘tornado’ effect of the water will help wrap the whites around the yolk. After about 3 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer egg to a paper towel to drain. This will give you set whites and a runny yolk. For a firmer yolk, increase cooking time.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
1 large white onion, cut in half then sliced lengthwise
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp apple cider
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1/3 cup sliced scallions
Poached eggs (optional)

Place a large, heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat, and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When oil is shimmering, add onions, thyme, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break up the slivers of onion and distribute the seasonings.

Cook the onions for about a half hour, stirring occasionally and keeping a close eye so they don’t burn. If they start to look dry, drizzle with a little more olive oil. After 30 minutes if the onions look like they’re getting too brown, turn the heat down to low. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Add the apple cider and vinegar, then turn the heat back up to medium and use the spoon to scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until most of the moisture is absorbed, 1-2 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside.

Place the pan back over medium heat and drizzle with more olive oil. Add the potatoes, and season with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so all of the sides brown evenly.

Once a fork can be inserted into one of the cubes, turn the heat down to low. Add the caramelized onions and scallions to the pan, and toss to combine with the potatoes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the hash is warmed through.

Serve the sweet potato hash warm, and top with poached eggs if you’d like.
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