SECRET RECIPE ENCORE: CHICKPEA SALAD

When I was a child, becoming an orphan was my greatest fear, and I literally lost many nights of sleep worrying about it.  So, when I learned that one member  from the Secret Recipe Club was about to be an orphan this month (the person supposed to pick a recipe from the blog had a problem and could not complete the assignment in time) I decided to perform a virtual adoption… 😉  My “encore” post for this month’s reveal day comes from Without Adornment, and you can visit it clicking here.  Bean, the hostess, has a site loaded with gluten-free recipes, and absolutely gorgeous photography.   Due to the time constraints (I had less than 24 hours to pick a recipe, make it, and write about it), I had to go with a simple dish.  But, it all ended perfectly for me:  I had no idea what to eat for lunch after working out, and her chickpea salad came to the rescue. Delicious, refreshing, light, healthy, but also filling enough to carry me through a busy Sunday afternoon…
CHICKPEA SALAD
(adapted from Without Adornment)

1 can of chickpeas
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
Grape or Cherry tomatoes to taste
salt and pepper
grapeseed oil
lime juice
white balsamic vinegar

Boil  2 cups of water in a small sauce pan.  Drain the chickpeas from the can, and drop them in the boiling water for 5-10 second.  Quickly drain them and rinse with plenty of cold water.  Reserve until cold.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients from chickpeas to tomatoes.   Make a simple dressing with oil, a squeeze of lime juice, a little balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the salad and….

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This salad gives me the chance to introduce you to a reasonably recent acquisition from the Bewitching Kitchen… a spiralizer! Or a spiral-cutter… or… whatever you want to call it…
I like raw carrots in salad, but prefer if they are cut paper-thin.  This gadget gave me the exact texture I was hoping for.  The very thin ribbons get perfectly seasoned and retain just a little crunch.

Chickpeas & boiling water: this is a tip I learned from Barbara Tropp, in her book Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking.  She recommended to rinse all sorts of canned products in boiling water, to remove what she described as the “tin taste”.  The improvement in flavor is quite noticeable.  So I normally do it whenever I use chickpeas, beans, and water chestnuts.

Bean, it was fun to get to know your blog, I wish I’d had more time to devote to it, your Lemon Cupcakes seemed absolutely scrumptious!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: A Soft Spot for Chevre

TWO YEARS AGO: Seared Tuna, My Own Private Idaho

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: EARTHQUAKE COOKIES!

After one month break,  we are back with  “The Secret Recipe Club“,  and our group even has a new moderator, April, who did a great job coaching us through the changes that took place during the break.   For those who are not familiar with the event, a few weeks before reveal day, each member is assigned a food blog (in secret) to cook a recipe from.   This time I was paired with My Judy the Foodie.  When I get an assignment, I jump straight to the “About” page, to get to know my fellow blogger.   Shari describes herself as  a “kitchen-clueless person”. But one who is ready for a challenge, the challenge of creating new traditions for her own family, inspired by her mother’s cooking.  The whole blog is in fact a beautiful tribute to her Mom.  Her page “About Judy” was particularly touching to read.

I next browsed through her recipes, and it didn’t take me very long to choose her beautiful “Earthquake Cookies“.  Considering the fact that while living for one year in Los Angeles we didn’t have a single earthquake, but the very week we moved back to Oklahoma the earth shook  three days in a row,  I felt these cookies were the perfect choice!   😉
JUDY’S EARTHQUAKE COOKIES
(from My Judy the Foodie)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs beaten
2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar

Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave safe container, stirring every 15 seconds.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the sugar, vanilla extract, and melted chocolate/butter mixture.  Add the baking powder, flour, and salt and beat until very smooth.

Place bowl in fridge and chill as long as 24 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 F.  Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place confectioner’s sugar in bowl large enough to roll out the fudge balls. Take a teaspoon of the cookie dough and form into balls.  Coat the ball with confectioner’s sugar by rolling it around in the sugar many times.

Place on baking sheet with enough room for each ball to “explode” open. Bake for approximately  12 minutes (mine took longer).  Cool and then remove cookies to wire rack (make sure to place foil under the rack as powdered sugar can be quite messy).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  When you make these cookies, don’t forget the cookie dough must sit in the fridge for 24 hours.   Once you mix the dough, it will be very soft, the only way you can shape them is by refrigerating for several hours.   As far as taste goes,  a full day in the fridge seems to be the best option.

Here you can see the dough right after mixing it…

and next day, ready to finish the job…

My cookies did not explode the same way Shari’s did, her cookies looked a lot more “interesting” than mine.  Not sure what happened, I suspect the geologic fault that runs near our home was fast asleep when I put them in the oven.  Bummer! However, exploded or not, these cookies were VERY tasty.  They have a slightly fudgy consistency, and as they melt in your mouth the chocolate flavor will force you to close your eyes and indulge in extremely happy thoughts.  My kind of cookie!

Shari, nice to meet you through The Secret Recipe Club!   Looking forward to checking out what was your assignment this month!   😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Soft Spot for Chevre

TWO YEARS AGO: Seared Tuna, My Own Private Idaho

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THE OSCAR WINNER

A couple of weeks ago we bought a small dog bed for Buck, as he loves to lay near the kitchen island, having learned that pieces of tasty stuff miraculously rain from above around that neighborhood.  But the bed got intense competition from Oscar, who doesn’t quite “get” that the bed is not big enough for him.

So, we did the only sensible thing to do:  bought a bigger bed for Oscar, and placed it next to Buck’s bed.  Problem solved.  Or…. was it really?

And what about Chief?  Well, he’s got his own ideas about getting comfy….

CAULIFLOWER STEAKS

If you love roasted cauliflower, you will go crazy for this recipe,  a nice variation that keeps the crunchy, roasted bits on the outside, but provides a bit of a textural contrast in its smooth center.  I found this recipe in the book  “You Can Trust a Skinny Chef”, by Allison Fishman.  Nice cookbook, by the way, full of little tips to reduce the calories of recipes without compromising flavor.  Plus, she’s got a great sense of humor, I love that in a cookbook author. Actually, I love that in anyone!  😉


CAULIFLOWER STEAKS
(adapted from Allison Fishman)

1 head of cauliflower
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
smoked paprika

Heat the oven to 425 F.

Remove the tough outer leaves of the cauliflower.  Cut the base so that it can stand up without moving around.  With a sharp knife, carefully cut slices to have ‘steaks’ that are about 1/2  inch thick.    Lay them without touching on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice.  Brush each side of the cauliflower slices with a very thin coating of the mixture.  Season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (or use other spices you like).

Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn the slices around, and roast for 10 more minutes, or until the edges start to brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

(click to enlarge)

Comments:  One head of cauliflower will be enough for two.  If I am not sitting at your dinner table, you might even have a couple of slices leftover. But, if I happen to be your guest, forget it!  I love the stuff…  😉

You can vary the dry spices sprinkled on top, cauliflower goes well with many flavors: curry, cumin, chili pepper, coriander…  just use whatever matches the rest of your meal, and appeals to your taste buds.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Stir-Fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TWO YEARS AGO:  Puff Pastry for the Party

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BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL

A while ago I blogged about a special, romantic dinner for no particular reason other than…. it was Wednesday!  This is another example of a meal to brighten up any frantic week, and make the evening feel unique and special.   Phil was busy doing some carpentry work while I cooked, so he had no idea what would be on our menu. When I announced  (as casually as I could) that dinner was served, he was in complete awe…
SCALLOPS AND BLACK PASTA IN ORANGE CREAM SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

10 sea scallops, preferably “dry”
salt and pepper
sugar
black spaghetti (squid ink)
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 minced shallot
zest of 1 orange
1 to 2 Tbs orange juice
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
dash of nutmeg
fresh parsley leaves, minced

Put a large pot of salted water to boil.   Pat the scallops dry, and place them over paper towels to make sure any excess moisture is blotted out.  Reserve.

On a medium size skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the shallots, seasoning lightly with salt and black pepper.  When they are  soft and getting a light color, add the orange zest.  Saute for 1 minute, turn the heat off and close the pan.

Start cooking the black spaghetti, the amount you would normally make for you and your lucky partner. Depending on the thickness of the pasta and the brand, it should take about 8 minutes.   While the pasta cooks,  heat a skillet on high heat, add a smidgen of olive oil, and once the oil is very hot, pat dry the scallops once more, season them with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar.   Sear the scallops about 2 minutes per side, making sure the pan is not too crowded.  Don’t touch them as they cook, they will release from the pan once a nice golden crust is formed.  Reserve (or place in a very low oven – 200 F) to keep them warm).

As the scallops cook, finish the sauce.   Heat the orange/shallot mixture,  add 1/4 cup of heavy cream, season with a dash of nutmeg.  Add 1/8 cup of orange juice and warm the sauce swirling the pan gently over medium low heat.

Once the pasta is cooked, remove a small amount of the cooking liquid, add the pasta to the orange-cream sauce,  add some of the pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce.   Sprinkle fresh parsley over the dish, and serve with the cooked scallops on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Black pasta is made by incorporating squid ink in the dough, so I like to serve it with seafood. It can be a bit tricky to pair with a sauce, but I opted for a mild, creamy sauce with a citric component.  It worked very well.

This is a quick meal to put together, but it could seem a little rushed, as everything must come to a glorious end at the same time.  If you feel insecure about multi-tasking, consider making the orange cream sauce before you do anything else.   Start boiling the pasta, and sear the scallops when the pasta is midway through cooking.    All you have to do is re-warm the orange sauce quickly, incorporate with the pasta and dinner is served!  A salad to round out the meal, and you are ready to celebrate the fact that it’s Wednesday, and you love the person sitting across from you…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TWO YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar and Chive Torpedo (this bread is a complete winner!)

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VOILA’ LES BAGUETTES!

Second chapter on Cooking Projects 2012!

Five weekends. One hundred and twenty six ounces of flour. Blood. Sweat. A few tears. But, I am not afraid of shaping baguettes any longer. Is there room for improvement? No doubt, but the goal now shifts from shaping to baking: I must find a way to optimize the generation of steam.  Apart from that, I am pretty happy with my babies…
UN-KNEADED, SIX-FOLD FRENCH BREAD
(from Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread)

2 pounds + 4.5 oz  bread flour (8 + 1/4 cups)
1 pound + 10.6 oz water (3 + 3/8 cups)
3 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and using your hands or a plastic scraper, bring them together forming a very shaggy mass.  The best way to do it is working the scraper down the sides of the bowl, and then rotating the bowl as you bring it up, and fold that part of the mixture on top. Do this movement about 20 times, which should mix everything together reasonably well at this stage.  Do not worry about how smooth the dough is, it will feel and look very “rough”.

Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. You will fold the dough every thirty minutes, for a total of six times (at that point you will be 3 from the start).  At each cycle, fold the dough on itself using a scraper, for a total of 20 times,  either removing the dough to a surface, or folding it inside the bowl.  After the sixth folding cycle, leave the dough undisturbed for 30 minutes, then divide it in 12 ounce pieces (from the start,  you will be at the 3 hour and 30 minutes mark).  One full recipe makes 5 long baguettes.

Gently form each piece into a cylinder shape, and let it rest for 15 minutes (very important to relax the gluten, don’t skip this step).  Shape as a baguette, then roll the baguettes to stretch them to their final size (make sure they will fit over your baking stone or the surface you intend to bake them on).

Let the baguettes rise (preferably using a couche well coated with flour) for 1 to 1 and a half hours at room temperature (ideally at 76 F).  Score the baguettes and bake in a 460 F oven, with initial steam, for a total of 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments:   I like to do the first four of the six kneading cycles using a different technique:  I coat the granite counter top with a very light amount of olive oil,  and slam the dough on it 15 to 20 times.  You can see the technique demonstrated in this video.  The last two cycles I omit the “slamming”,  and simply fold it, so that the airy structure is not disturbed.   Phil insists that I should let him make a video of my “slamming technique”, but so far I resisted the idea.  Maybe one day… 😉

As to the shaping, I will be forever grateful to Gary, my friend and baker extraordinaire, who went through the trouble of mailing me a DVD of Chef Jeffrey Gabriel CMC, from Schoolcraft College. Gary made the video during his class on French baguettes, and I watched it over and over… and over!   The main difference between Chef Gabriel’s technique and this one, is that he is not too concerned with where the seam of the baguette ends up.   On my initial attempts, I was so worried about keeping the seam up for the final rise, that I ended up manipulating the baguettes too much and messed up their final shape.   Gary’s method is much more user-friendly, and once you score the baguettes and bake them, the seam position seems to have no influence on the final look of the bread.

A few important pointers for success:

1.  Coat the surface where the baguettes will rise (after the final shaping) with flour.   They WILL stick if you forget this step, leading to intense grievance.

2. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before shaping.  You need that or the gluten will keep fighting back like an elastic band.

3. The better you get at shaping the baguettes, the longer they will be.  If you want to bake them covered to create steam, this could be a problem.  Consider making shorter baguettes – not authentic, but easier to bake in a home oven.

4. Baguettes are scored  with an odd number of slashes. Usually 5 or 7.   Some advise you to wet the blade to do it, I prefer to use a dry blade, as I like the “spiky” look of the slashes.

5.  The baker’s blade is sharp.  Make sure you cover it with the protective plastic cap when you are done, or, if using a blade with no cap, put it away. Leaving it sitting on the counter top is a recipe for disaster.   (sigh)

After practicing several weekends in a row, I now settled on making half this recipe, and shaping either 3 long baguettes or 4 medium-sized.   The tricky part is baking them: I can bake two at a time, so the last one must go through a longer rise.  Sometimes it seems to be slightly over-proofed, and the resulting baguette is a bit flat.  However, the taste is spectacular, this recipe produces a very creamy crumb, with a flavor that transported us to the 7eme arrondissement in Paris.  Not a bad virtual trip to take!   😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Cornmeal English Muffins

TWO YEARS AGO: Cornish Hens for a Sunday Dinner

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CARAMELIZED BANANAS

First, let me to introduce the world’s expert on caramelized bananas, my Mom!
If I had to select one recipe to always associate with her,  I’d pick caramelized bananas.  When I was a child she’d make a batch almost every week,  using different types of bananas from the street markets of Sao Paulo.  Sometimes, depending on the variety she found at the market,  the “doce de banana”  turned almost purple when she cooked it, which was quite interesting.  For my Brazilian readers, “banana prata” was the one that acquired the reddish-purple color.  But, the regular Brazilian banana, which is the one on the shelves here in the US, was her top choice, because both me and my Dad loved it the most.  It gets dark brown, with an intense, sweet flavor and a splash of freshness from the lemon juice squeezed at the end.  So, when I saw this recipe in the February issue of Food and Wine I immediately went to work, making a batch of caramelized bananas, and using some for this delicious frozen yogurt treat.


CHOCOLATE FROZEN YOGURT WITH CARAMELIZED BANANAS
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk (divided)
2 + 1/2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 + 1/3 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Squeeze a little lemon juice all over.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to completely dissolve the sugar. Scrape three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and pieces of chocolate. Scrape the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Food memories are so powerful!   As the bananas cooked down in the skillet, their aroma whisked me back to my  parents’ home.  Suddenly I was 17 again and rushing  home from school, dashing to the kitchen, all tantalized by the smell of Mom’s caramelized bananas.  Back home people like to pair them with farmer’s cheese or some vanilla ice cream, but I’m a purist: just a small bowl of “doce de banana,” and a tiny spoon to make sure the pleasure lasts longer…  😉

I never imagined using them as part of a frozen dessert, but it is sublime!  The  yogurt reduces the sweetness, but the bits of banana and the chunks of chocolate bring it back, just enough to make you happy.   It is still a light dessert, much lighter than ice cream, and perfect for someone who’s not wild about sugary concoctions.  Come to think of it, the other day I found a recipe online for burnt orange ice cream, and my antennas immediately went up.  But I found that it called for a cup and a half of heavy cream,  a cup of whole milk, a ton of sugar, and 5 egg yolks.  It’s easy to make a decadent dessert with such a surplus of fat, but as David Lebovitz points out in his book “The Perfect Scoop,”  it’s really not necessary, and this frozen yogurt proves his point.   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

TWO YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

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