T’is the season to splurge, indulge, and be jolly!  But, even in time of non-stop celebrations,  it’s good to have a few options of lighter food that won’t make you feel sluggish and heavy.  I’ve had this recipe for edamame dip in my files for a long time, finally gave it a try the week before Christmas. Originally from Alton Brown, this adaptation was published in the  blog Closet Cooking.  Kevin substantially reduced the fat content in the dip by using part of the cooking liquid from the edamame to adjust the texture, instead of olive oil.

(adapted from Closet Cooking)

1 cup edamame beans (I used frozen)
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1/2 cup cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon yellow miso
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
salt, if needed

Place the edamame in a small saucepan, cover with water and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Add the cooked edamame into the bowl of a food processor, together with all other ingredients.  Process until it forms a paste, and adjust the consistency with some of the cooking water reserved.

Taste, adjust seasoning with salt (you may not need it, both miso and soy sauce are salty), and serve cold, with crackers or carrot and celery sticks.


to print the recipe, click here

This is a very nice option of appetizer for a dinner party in which the main dish might be on the heavy side.  Your guests will appreciate the bright flavor, unless they are cilantro haters.   Those people are out there, believe me! 😉 One of my best friends in Brazil  (hello, Fabio!) hates cilantro so much that while traveling through  China a few years ago, he carried a sign in Mandarin with the words: “Please, no cilantro in my food”.   The herb flavor is very pronounced in this dip, so make sure and warn your guests, just in case…

ONE YEAR AGO: Gougeres

TWO YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night


My third assignment for the Secret Recipe Club!  When I clicked on my assigned blog – Kudos Kitchen by Renee – I melted on the spot:  the front page was a post composed by her three dogs  (Ivy, Nutmeg and Nell), and they had a lot to bark about!  😉

Renee is an artist (check her store at Etsy), and that alone leaves me in complete awe, because I cannot draw a tree to save my own life! In fact, back in middle school two things terrified me to the point of losing sleep: physical education and art classes.  I was absolutely horrible at both, and wanted to disappear from the planet when it was time to face them. Back to blogging.  I fell in love with Renee’s 4th of July cookies, and adapted them for a Christmas time motif, switching the colors to green and red.  And, since I’ve always wanted to make shortbread cookies, this was a perfect excuse to bake a batch.  Without further ado, and with apologies to Renee, here is my very first attempt at playing Jackson Pollock. You can understand why I was not very popular with the art teachers…   (sigh)

(adapted from Kudos Kitchen by Renee)

for cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups flour
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts
zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

for dipping cookies
1 + 1/2 packages white chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons Crisco, divided
1 tablespoon milk
red and green food coloring

In a large kitchen Aid type bowl, beat together the butter with the brown sugar until creamy. Add the flour, ground hazelnuts, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Beat until smooth.  Remove the dough from the bowl, form it into a log and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. When the dough is firm enough to handle, remove 1 inch balls and shape as a cookie, flattening the surface. Alternatively, you can slice pieces straight from the log, 1/4 inch thick.   Smooth the surface and edges, and place on prepared cookie sheet.   Bake for 15 minutes on until set and very lightly browned on the bottom.  Remove from pan and place the cookies to cool on a rack. Before icing, place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Dipping the cookies: melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the 2 + 1/2 tablespoons of Crisco in your microwave.  Check on it often and stir it occasionally until the chocolate is smooth and completely melted.

Using a fork and working with one cookie at a time, dip each cookie, turning it over to coat both sides nicely with chocolate.  Place your dipped cookies on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Follow this step until all of the chocolate is used up.  This amount of chocolate will be enough to coat about 12 cookies.

With the remaining 1/2 cup of morsels, melt them in your microwave again, using 1/2 Tbs Crisco and  1 tablespoon of milk to keep the consistency thinner and better for drizzling.

In two separate small bowls, divide the chocolate and color them with the red and green food coloring. Drizzle the cookies with both colors of icing, using the tines of a fork dipped in water, or if you have the right skills, a little improvised piping bag made with parchment paper.

Place the cookies in the fridge until time to serve them.


to print the recipe, click here

A few things I learned from this baking adventure…

1.  Run away from the small tubes of food coloring gel, because even if you squeeze the full tube of green gel in  1/4 cup of melted chocolate, the resulting icing will have a pale lime color. Go for the real McCoy, the type that you need to use a toothpick to grab the tiny amount that gets the job done.

2. White chocolate is not for sissies.   When Renee says to make sure the chocolate is fully melted and smooth, she knows what she’s talking about.  Lumps get together and seem to multiply at a fast rate.  Then, right before your eyes, the whole thing turns into a solid mess.

3. White chocolate is not for sissies. Melted chocolate, when smooth and fluid,  has a remarkable tendency  to splatter.  Certain types of dog fur catch droplets of icing with high efficiency, and don’t wash easily.

4. Have I mentioned that white chocolate is not for sissies?  Buy more than you think you’ll need. Have a cup of chamomile tea before icing your cookies.   You may need three shots of tequila after.

But it will all be worth it, these cookies were amazing!  You can play with the colors to match your favorite football team, or go real artistic and draw something over the white chocolate canvas, like red hearts for Valentine’s Day!  😉

Renee, it was great to get to know your blog, hope you had as much fun as I did with your assignment this month!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Focaccia, with a Twist

TWO YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

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Emeril Lagasse had his trademark “BAM!”  Rachael Ray goes with “Yumm-o,”  and Anne Burrell chimes in again and again:  “Brown food tastes good!”   When they are overused these expressions get on my nerves, but I can’t argue with the importance of browning  your food to pump up its flavor.  So, what is happening to the food?  It all reduces to a series of chemical events known as the  “Maillard reactions,”named after the French chemist who discovered them, Louis-Camille Maillard (pronounced “mah-yar”).
Maillard reactions involve proteins and sugars.  These molecules may react with each other if they contain atoms on their surfaces with a net positive or negative charge.  Proteins consist of tens or hundreds of  amino acids linked together, but the constituent amino acids of a native  protein are not very reactive, because they fold into a  stable 3-dimensional structure.  However, subjecting the protein to high energy (heat) or a basic (high pH) environment destabilizes its structure, exposing the charges of many of its amino acids.  If present, a sugar will react with the charged amino acids  to produce all sorts of different compounds, many of which taste great!  Note that boiling water won’t do the trick: the Maillard reactions need much higher heat, like in a skillet with hot oil, or on a grill.  As we all know, these are the best approaches to browning foods.
Caramelization and Maillard reactions are often used interchangeably, but this is wrong because the former refer to what happens to a sugar alone upon heating, whereas Maillard reactions always involve proteins and sugars.  The two processes are cosmetically and conceptually similar, in that both produce a brown color, but they arise from different chemistry.
and… brown food DOES tastes good!  😉
That brings me to a recipe for caramelized carrot soup, in which just a few simple ingredients….
… come together to create an incredible depth of flavor.  Here increasing both the heat (a pressure cooker works its magic), and the pH (baking soda to the rescue) optimizes the Maillard reactions.  Chemistry never tasted so good!
CARAMELIZED CARROT SOUP (adapted from Food and Wine magazine)
1/3 cup low fat yogurt
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, chopped
salt and pepper
6 tTbs unsalted butter (divided in 4 + 2 Tbs)
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups fresh carrot juice (see notes)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with tarragon, caraway seeds, a touch of salt and pepper, and reserve.  In a pressure cooker, combine 4 tablespoons of the butter with the carrots and cook uncovered until the butter is melted. Stir in the salt and baking soda, cover and cook at full pressure  for 10 minutes.Carefully move the pressure cooker to the sink and run cold water over the lid until the temperature drops down and the pressure is equalized  (one minute under cold water will definitely be enough). Open the pressure cooker, add the carrot juice (or a mixture of carrot juice + water), and stir to release caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender or food processor, add the ginger, the remaining 2 Tbs of butter, and puree until smooth.   Season the soup with pepper and pour into bowls.  Garnish with a small dollop of the reserved yogurt, sprinkle some fresh tarragon, and serve.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments:  Don’t be alarmed by the look of the carrot/butter mixture once you open the pressure cooker.  The brown bits stuck to the pan will dissolve easily and they give this soup the most intense carrot flavor ever!
The box of carrot juice I used had a little less than 2 cups so I completed the volume with water. If you have some V8 juice around the pantry, it could be a nice addition.  This technique won me over, I wonder if other soups could benefit from this treatment. Caramelized broccoli?   Butternut squash?  Only future experiments will tell…  😉  At any rate, this will be my favorite soup recipe for the year 2011.  Hands down!
ONE YEAR AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

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