31 December 2010

Baba Ghanoush - Middle Eastern Dip/Spread







Baba Ghanoush, my second favorite Middle Eastern food (after hummus) is another one of those things my texturally challenged husband won't even try. He's just not a dip/spread kinda guy. But since most people are, you should have some of this on hand over the weekend. Make a big batch, serve some tonight and the rest over the weekend. It keeps nicely for a few days.

As with the hummus, don't get too carried away with the garlic. Remember the garlic is just a minor player, the eggplant is the star. You'll have plenty of time to make the oven-toasted pita wedges (see below) while the baba ghanoush is chilling. Tell me, do you or someone you know have these texture issues, or is my guy the only person on the planet who doesn't like dips of any kind?


Update 08/29/16: I haven't bought any pita bread in some time, not since I started making my own. It's really quite easy, and I hope you'll try it soon!


Baba Ghanoush - Caviar d'Aubergine


(Makes 2 cups)

2 medium (1 1/2 - 2 pounds total) eggplants
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon (1/2 small clove) minced garlic
1/4 cup unsalted tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut eggplants in half, score tops with diamond pattern, rub with just enough oil to coat. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and roast about 30 minutes or until very soft. Cool slightly. Scoop out flesh into colander and let stand a few minutes to drain off any liquid.

2
In bowl of food processor*, place drained eggplant and all remaining ingredients. Pulse 8 to 12 times. Put into serving dish and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving. Can be made a day or two ahead.

3
Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some finely chopped mint, flat-leaf parsley or pistachios. (I didn't have any of those on hand, so I just used some paprika.) Serve with oven-toasted whole wheat pita wedges (see below), sliced baguette or Armenian cracker bread (I love ak-mak!) and raw vegetable strips.

* I have the DLC-10E, which (understandably after all this time--I've had it since I was very young) is no longer available. See Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless and other currently available models.


Oven-Toasted Pita Wedges



(Makes 48 wedges)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a little extra-virgin olive oil on both sides of 6 whole wheat pitas (one package). Cut each into 8 wedges. Place on two large baking sheets. Sprinkle with a little salt, if you like. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until crisp; no need to turn. Can be made day ahead, cooled completely and stored in airtight container.

24 December 2010

Hummus - Middle Eastern Dip/Spread









Hummus, possibly my favorite Middle Eastern food, is one of those things I've been making for decades, and I still love it! It's also one of those things that can be either really good or really bad. The really bad ones are too dry or too runny, too highly seasoned or too bland. When it comes to hummus, I'm a purist and think "real" hummus should have just six ingredients, not counting garnish. And I use all organic ingredients.

I've told you before how I feel about garlic. It's a wonderful thing when used judiciously, but there are other flavors in the world! Many dishes that typically have garlic can be greatly improved by using less or, in some cases, no garlic. However, there are some things that simply must have a little garlic (and when I say garlic, I don't mean garlic salt or garlic powder or chopped garlic from a jar). One of these is hummus. There is no hummus without garlic, but it only needs a tiny bit.


Update 08/29/16: I stopped buying pita bread some time ago when I started making my own. It's quite easy, and I hope you'll try it soon. Also, try my Baba Ghanoush.

Hummus


(Makes 2 cups)

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup unsalted tahini
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon (1/2 small clove) minced garlic

1 In bowl of food processor, place all ingredients. Process until smooth. If you prefer a thinner consistency, add a little more lemon juice or olive oil. If you're not using a Meyer lemon, though, you could make it too lemony, so a little water might be better.

Note: This photo (which I really must change someday!) shows a batch that I made to have a little "texture." I actually prefer my hummus very smooth and now process it for a couple minutes until completely smooth.

2 Put into serving dish and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate for at least a few hours or overnight before serving.

3 Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a little finely chopped mint, flat-leaf parsley or pistachios.

4 Serve with whole wheat pita wedges, Armenian cracker bread and raw vegetable strips. Enjoy the delightful repast!

And now for something completely different ... has nothing to do with hummus, nothing to do with food ... just a little something to make you feel warm and cozy on a cold, winter day. 


 


Tuppence and Lionel (my fave) belong to Judy at Cranberry Morning.

17 December 2010

Brownies - Chewy, Not Cakey, Not Gooey - The Perfect Texture











I'm a little nervous about posting my brownie recipe. You see, several days ago I was catching up on Amanda's posts over at Fake Ginger and saw her October post about someone's brownies that were supposed to be "all that" and they weren't! 

So, helpful person that I am, I had to go and tell Amanda "Maybe it’s just my opinion (’cause we all love our own cooking, right?), but I think my brownies might be just what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet blogged about them." And she wrote back "Please, please, please let me know when you blog your recipe! I am always looking for THE brownie recipe!" Sooooooo ...

Here is my brownie recipe. Made with cocoa rather than chopped chocolate because I prefer a cocoa brownie. If you're looking for a cakey brownie, stop reading. I've always been in the chewy brownie camp. Chewy, but not gooey ("gooey" usually being more flatteringly referred to as "fudgy," though what it really is is gummy!). 


Since Amanda's idea of "the" brownie is a chewy one, this might be "the" brownie recipe she's been looking for. Maybe not. But everyone I've made these for raves about them, so here goes ... (Disclaimer: Notice I simply said "might be just what you're looking for"--NOT "these are the. best. brownies. ever," though they just might be!) Where do you stand in the great brownie debate?

Brownies - Chewy Brownies


(Makes 24 or 25 2-inch squares)

1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural (not "Dutch") unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon espresso powder
4 large eggs

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas4. Butter 11x11x2-inch (or 13x9x2-inch) metal baking pan.

2 In 1-quart bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

3 In 2-quart glass measure, microwave butter for 2 minutes, or until melted. Stir in sugar, vanilla and espresso powder. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to wet mixture; beat until well blended.

4 Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or just until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Do not overbake. I'll say that again: Do not overbake. Cool completely before cutting into squares (24 in rectangular pan or 25 in 11-inch square pan). Brownies will keep for several days at room temperature in airtight container with wax paper between layers.

10 December 2010

Baked Applesauce












Nothing makes me happier than cooking something for someone who really loves that particular food. This weekend I get to make the quintessential autumn dinner for a friend who has been waiting all year for it! We'll have my special braised pork (my own invention) with its rich sauce, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, a crisp and cool autumn salad and this baked applesauce. (My friend's husband has a real craving for eggnog, so I've decided to make a batch of eggnog for dessert.)

Apparently baked applesauce has been around for years--how did I miss that issue of Bon App├Ętit?--but I didn't give it a thought until I happened onto the wonderful blog
Circle B Kitchen. I really like the level of sugar and spices in my own applesauce recipe, so I stayed with that and used my own variation on the baking method Patrice described.

I don't know that it's any "easier" than cooking it on the stovetop, but you don't have to peel and chop then check on it and stir it; you just stick it in the oven and don't give it another thought for 45 minutes. Have you tried it? How do you make applesauce? What is your favorite apple for sauce? I used organic Galas for this batch and left it a bit chunky.

Baked Applesauce

(Makes about 5 cups, 6 to 10 servings)

12 medium apples (about 6 pounds), halved and cored
1/2 cup water
1 or 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 18x13x1-inch half-sheet pan*
with cooking spray. Place the apple halves cut side down on baking sheet and add water to pan.




2 Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until the apples are wrinkly and falling-apart soft. Remove from oven, and leave the apples in the pan. I didn't want to wait till the apples were cool enough to handle, so I just used a dinner fork and soup spoon and mashed each apple half in its place in the baking sheet.


3 Leaving apple halves skin-side up, mash them completely down with fork (one at a time). All the soft apple will squeeze out and you'll be left with a clean piece of peel to discard. Sprinkle the mashed apples with lemon juice.

4 In small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices and salt. Sprinkle the warm apples with sugar mixture. Keep stirring until all sugar is dissolved. If too dry, add a little water one tablespoon at a time.

5 Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

The following are good sauce apples: Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Empire, Rome, Macoun, Pink Lady, Jonathon, Jonagold, Gala.

*If you don't have one of these Sheet Pan Half Size - 12-7/8'' x 17-3/4'' Heavy Duty, 13 Gauge, you need to get one right away!

03 December 2010

Eggnog - A Cup of Classic Comfort



Eggnog, often associated with the winter holidays, was just a winter drink in our family. We usually had it when my English grand- mother came for a visit. My mother always made two batches--one with, and one without, alcohol. So, tell me, are you an eggnog fan or not? It seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" things (and don't tell me you don't like it, if all you've ever had is the store-bought kind). And do you, like me, insist that it have a cooked custard base? Or do you not worry about little things like raw eggs and salmonella? (You should avoid raw eggs if you are pregnant, elderly, very young or have an impaired immune system.)

With the eggnog, my mother always served fruitcake and shortbread. I love a good fruitcake (if not homemade, then DeLuxe Fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery), but prefer it with tea. To me, eggnog (recipe below) calls for shortbread.

When Walkers Shortbread offered to send me a box of products to try, I welcomed the opportunity. As you know, I'm only ever interested in reviewing high quality products or equipment that I would actually have on my table or in my kitchen. Though I hadn't yet tried any of the other sweet or savory biscuits from Walkers, I grew up eating Walkers shortbread. It was the standard for shortbread in my family, the only highly regarded store-bought baked good in a family of excellent bakers.


Every different shortbread I or my mother (and probably her mother as well) made was compared to Walkers. And when you look at the list of ingredients, you can see how it can be compared to homemade. It contains only four ingredients: wheat flour, butter, sugar and salt. No long list of unpronounceable things that have no business in our food!

The shortbread comes in several shapes (I like the fingers). Walkers has other biscuits (cookies), such as White Chocolate & Raspberry, Belgian Chocolate Chunk, Oat & Heather Honey (all delicious) and also savory biscuits for cheese. They even have an organic line now, Duchy Originals, which I would love to try, but it's not available outside the UK at this time.
Eggnog

(Makes about 2 quarts)

6 large egg yolks (Make a batch of meringues with the whites!)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot milk
2 cups cold milk
1/2 cup or more brandy or rum, optional (I just use 3 tablespoons of cognac as a flavoring)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg plus more for garnish
1 cup whipping cream

1 At least nine, or up to 24, hours before serving time: In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.

2 Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers between 160 and 170 degrees (but do not boil). Just pull a tall stool up to the stove like I do 'cause it's gonna take a while, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3 Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a two-quart bowl; stir in brandy* or rum, vanilla and nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours.

*Actually, you could leave out the alcohol and let each person add his own favorite tipple or have it alcohol-free.

4 To serve: Whip cream until soft peaks form. With wire whisk, gently fold whipped cream into custard. Pour eggnog into chilled 2- or 2 1/2-quart punch bowl or pitcher; sprinkle with nutmeg.

Note: You might also like
Hazelnut Shortbread and A Proper Cup of Tea.

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