PINK PRALINE BRIOCHE

Sometimes I wonder what makes me try a new recipe. Of course, reading tons of cookbooks and food blogs, new things show up on my radar often. I might make a mental note to try it at some point, labeling them as intriguing or interesting, but for the most part I move on. Then, there’s Pink Praliné Brioche. And no easy way to get it out of my mind. Having lived in Paris for a few years, it was hard to accept I’d never even seen one. Pink praliné. The stuff dreams are made of.

PINK PRALINÉ BRIOCHE
(adapted from Murielle Valette’s Patisserie)

3.5g fresh yeast (I used osmo-tolerant yeast)
25ml milk, at room temperature
250g bread flour
5g salt
15g sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature (about 150g)
125g soft butter
120g pink praliné, crushed lightly in a food processor (recipe follows)
egg wash

Whisk the yeast in a small bowl with the milk.  Put the flour, salt, sugar and eggs into the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer. Add the milk and yeast, and knead it for about 10 minutes at low-speed.

Little by little add the butter and continue kneading in low to medium speed until the gluten is well-developed.  Place the dough in a bowl lightly coated with oil, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The following day, turn over the dough on a work surface and gently press it as a rectangle of around 8 by 12 inches, then cut it lengthwise in three strips. Roll each piece to flatten it slightly, sprinkle a line of crushed pink praliné in the center, and enclose it with the dough, rolling it well to seal. Do the same with the other two strips, then braid them together, keeping the seam side down at all times.

Sprinkle more pink praliné over the shaped bread, letting them fall in the folds of the braid.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it at room temperature for a final rise until it almost doubles in size. Mine took 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 F, and right before baking, brush the surface of the braid with the egg wash.  Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Brioche dough contains not only flour and yeast, but additional fat in the form of eggs, milk and butter. This type of enriched dough does well with a slow fermentation, so I prefer to mix it the day before. It also makes the actual baking day a lot easier, as you can shape the bread straight from its overnight proofing time in the fridge. It warms up quickly and it’s not hard to work with at all. You could ferment the dough at room temperature for 4 hours or so, but it will be a long baking day. Your kitchen, your call.

If you prefer to buy the pink praliné, amazon sells it, but be prepared to wait, no free 2-day shipping for this one. To make your own, follow the recipe below. 

PINK PRALINÉ
(from Cooking with Bernard)

450 g sugar, divided in 150g amounts
A few drops of red food coloring
125g whole hazelnuts, peeled (about 3/4 cup)
125g whole almonds (about 3/4 cup)

Place one-third of the sugar (3/4 cup / 150 g) in a large frying pan with just enough water to moisten it. Add a few drops of red coloring.  Stir well and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil. When large bubbles start forming, add the hazelnuts and almonds, stirring non-stop. Control the heat, so that the nuts don’t burn. The syrup will begin to crystallize, and look very grainy. Don’t despair, keep stirring so that the nuts are well coated in sugar. Keep simmering, the sugar that does not coat the nuts will slowly start to melt and turn into a thick liquid. Transfer the contents of the pan to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. You should have nuts and some “free” caramel-sugar. Reserve the nuts and place the sugar in a clean saucepan.

Add another third of the sugar (150g). Add a little more red coloring and water – just enough to moisten the sugar. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue until all the pieces of sugar are completely melted. Switch off the burner, add the reserved nuts to the frying pan, but don’t switch turn the heat on yet. Wait until the syrup in the saucepan reaches 255°F. When the syrup is almost at the desired temperature, switch on the burner below the frying pan. It should be at medium heat. Pour the syrup over the nuts, stirring as you pour. You will need to wash this pan to use it again, so make sure to take it right away to the sink and fill with water.

Coat the nuts. The syrup will once again become grainy. Allow the sugar that does not coat the nuts to melt. Transfer the contents of the pan to a sheet of parchment paper and set the coated nuts to one side and the remaining sugar to the other. Place the remaining pink sugar in the saucepan and add the last third of the sugar (150 g) with more food coloring and enough water to moisten it. Allow to melt and bring to 255°F / 124°C. Return the nuts to the frying pan and pour in the syrup when it reaches the right temperature, stirring constantly. At this third stage, the syrup should coat the pink nuts quite well. Stir and wait for the syrup to become grainy and any sugar that does not coat the nuts should melt again.  Pour all the contents of the frying pan onto a sheet of  parchment paper. By now, there should be almost no sugar left unstuck to the nuts.

Final step: Heat the oven to 160°F and bake the candied nuts for at least 45 minutes to dry them out completely. Mine took almost double time to dry.  Let them cool and store in an air-tight container. They are ready to nibble on or use in recipes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Making pink praliné is a labor of love. You can buy it ready, but  the whole process of making it seemed fascinating enough to make me go for it. Essentially, you are slowly covering hazelnuts and almonds with a red-dyed caramel syrup. The coating happens in three stages. It is a bit time-consuming and also potentially dangerous. I got a burn with one tiny microscopic drop of super heated caramel and trust me, it hurt like hell. Then, it left a tiny scar, perfectly round and brown. Kind of cute, actually. But I don’t recommend it.

Pink praliné is a wonderful snack, and the pups tried some, yes they did. There was intense wagging of three tails. In São Paulo, when I was growing up, they sold a type of peanut made by Japanese immigrants that comes close to pink praliné but not nearly as good. It is called “amendoim doce” (translates as sweet peanut) and you can see it in the link that it also has a pinkish sugary coating, just a bit lighter. Anyway, if you are fond of nuts and feel crazy enough to be around boiling caramel for an extended period of time, try making these babies. They keep for a long time, which is a bonus.

So here it is, the Pink Praliné Brioche! It is absolutely delicious and yes, it was worth the trouble. If you google for photos, you’ll see it in many different sizes, shapes, and variations on how to incorporate the praline in the dough. Some just sprinkle a huge amount on top of a roundish loaf. I like this method better, because some of it gets truly deep inside the bread. The sugar that glues to the nuts melts slightly during baking, and when you bite into it, you get this concentrated sweet taste, truly delicious.  It is not sweet like a spoonful of sugar, of course not. The caramelization process gives the sugar a slightly bitter edge. Perfect, according to my taste buds.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Spinach Salad to Write Home About

TWO YEARS AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

SIX YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

NINE YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain

 

RASPBERRY ALMOND BRUNCH CAKE FOR A SWEET MONDAY

Almost exactly three years ago I reviewed The Global Pastry Cookbook, a cookbook that is very dear to my heart, as I’d been following Gayle’s blog for a very long time. Today I share with you one more recipe from the book, which Gayle gave me permission to publish in full. It is a delicious cake, easy to prepare, with a soft crumb, intense raspberry flavor, and the perfect textural topping given by sliced almonds. Perfect. Just perfect. As it’s often the case, this cake was a Sunday baking project to be shared with our departmental colleagues next day. My goal? To turn the least appreciated day of the week into… something sweet…

RASPBERRY ALMOND BRUNCH CAKE
(from Gayle Gonzales’ Global Pastry Table)

6 oz fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons (26 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1/ 2 teaspoon baking powder
1/ 4 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
1 egg at room temperature
1/ 2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/ 2 oz) sugar
1/ 2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk at room temperature
3 oz (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/ 4 cup (3/ 4 oz) sliced almonds

Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease an 8” x 2 1/ 2” cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.

Combine raspberries, sugar and lemon juice and set aside to macerate. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Use a fork to stir in the flour mixture and mix until moistened and there are no streaks of flour.

Spoon a little over half of the batter into the prepared pan, making sure to cover the entire bottom surface. Top with the raspberry mixture. Dollop the remaining batter over the raspberries and spread out in an even layer. There will be some raspberries exposed and that’s fine. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges and gently turn out the cake. Invert again and cool.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

It’s hard to find a more beautiful color than that of fresh raspberries…  I always catch myself smiling at the bowl, feeling it’s almost rude to cook them or hide them in a cake batter. But it’s for a great cause. They melt down into a single layer, topped by the moist cake and crowned with the almonds and their delicate crunch. Almonds and raspberries, at the risk of repeating myself, it is one of those perfect matches. This is a cake you can make with kids, very easy and it will be a hit with anyone who tries a slice. Or three…

Before I leave you, let me invite you to re-visit my old post and get a tour of Gayle’s book. Hard to believe it’s been three years. When I wrote her to ask permission to publish this recipe, I though the review was maybe a year old, 18 months tops. Almost fell off my chair when I realized it was written in November 2014.  This type of time-shock happens to me quite often these days. I wonder why… (sigh)

ONE YEAR AGO: Paalak Paneer, a Farewell Post

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, November 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Helen Fletcher’s Oatmeal Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Thai-Style Pesto with Brown Rice Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp

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PAUL HOLLYWOOD: THE WEEKEND BAKER

In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

TORTA CAPRESE
(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…

 

And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.

 

The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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A SMASHING PAIR

No, I am not talking about Phil and I, although the thought crossed my mind…  It is actually a quote from my newest cookbook:

Have you tried roasted carrots and avocados together?
What a smashing pair!

I don’t think I ever thought of mixing carrots with avocados, but the other day a simple email with notification of a new post by Kelly arrived, and I dropped everything I was doing to check it out. She shared the recipe for a gorgeous quinoa concoction found in  “The Clever Cookbook.”  Cute name, almost as cute as the blog hosted by the author, Emilie: The Clever Carrot. I can see you’re smiling now, it’s impossible not to smile at the name. I need another cookbook as I need a third eye, but my will power for certain temptations is non-existent. I don’t even try to put up a fight anymore, just go to amazon and get the job done.  Ordering the Kindle version minimizes the amount of guilt, in case you are wondering how I deal with my weaknesses.

That night I laid in bed for a long time reading the book,  and could not wait to make this salad, because who could resist getting acquainted with a smashing pair? Less than 24 hours later the salad was part of our dinner, and it was a tremendous success!  I urge you to try it too. I modified the recipe a bit, but you can find Emilie’s original in her book,  which by the way is a total delight! You need to have it, so don’t even bother resisting.

Spice Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

SPICE-ROASTED CARROT AND AVOCADO SALAD
(adapted from The Clever Cookbook)
printed with permission from Emilie Raffa)

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 heaped tsp Southwest spice blend (I used Penzey’s)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
a few yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1 ripe Hass avocado
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of salt
arugula leaves

Heat your oven to 425 ° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the carrots in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and sprinkle with Southwest spice, and a little salt. Toss well to coat. Spread the carrots out on your sheet pan. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are caramelized and tender. In the final 5 minutes, add the slivered almonds on top. Remove from the oven, add the tomatoes.  Give it a good stir. Allow the mixture to cool slightly while you dice the avocado and drizzle the pieces with lemon juice to prevent browning.

Add the avocados to the carrots, and toss gently to combine. Place the mixture on top of arugula leaves on a serving bowl, drizzle olive oil and some more lemon juice, adjust seasoning with salt. Toss very gently and serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

clevercookbookcomp

Comments: Talk about a delicious dinner! It’s not everyday that a salad draws enthusiastic compliments from my beloved husband. We both went crazy for this one, and Phil in particular thought that the grilled chicken was a perfect match, making the meal worthy of a fancy French style bistrot. On a slight tangent: the chicken was super simple.  I marinated boneless, skinless chicken thighs early in the morning in a mixture of yogurt,  a touch of olive oil, lemon juice, paprika and turmeric. A smidgen of agave nectar just because. When it was time for dinner, I scraped the marinade off, seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, and grilled until done. The combination of sweet roasted carrots, the hint of spice, and the creaminess of the avocado was irresistible!

served
The salad has enough substance to stand proud on a fully vegetarian menu. Maybe paired with a hearty pasta dish, or next to crostini with mushrooms and cheese?  Or you can skip the greens and use the smashing mixture over grains such as farro or quinoa. Your call.

Emilie, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe…
I must say you are absolutely right, roasted carrots and avocados are “a smashing pair!”

Now, a little bit about the book…

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The book is organized in a slightly unusual way. You won’t find chapters for Main Dishes, Appetizers, or even a particular kind of ingredient. Instead, her approach is to divide the book in strategies that make your life easier in the kitchen. For instance, the first chapter is called “Prep Ahead Vegetables”, and shows how if you invest a little time in prepping veggies they can help you out in many recipes. The chapter includes soups like 30 minute Broccoli and Feta Soup which immediately called my name.  The following chapter, “Back to Basics”  lists her “non-negotiable” items. Stuff that she always has around like toothpaste, chocolate, and the cell phone  (yeah, she is adorably witty). In that chapter, you’ll learn how to make her Triple Duty Chicken Stock, Basic Tomato Sauce, and Master Stir Fry Sauce. Well, you get the gist of it. A little investment of time to make batches of those, and cooking on a daily basis will be a breeze.   But my favorite chapter was one called “Process This.” Clever ways (it is a clever cookbook, after all) to use the food processor. I must try her Banana Cloud Cake included in the chapter, and the user-friendly No-Peel Butternut Squash Soup (sounds like a dream, right?).  Two other chapters that I was quite fond of: “Batch Cooked Grains” and “Freezer Marinades.” The Clever Cookbook is definitely one that will not sit collecting dust in your shelf.  If you are a busy person, with or without kids around, this book is a must-have. To order, follow this link. And while you are around the ordering process, go ahead and subscribe to Emilie’s blog too. I did, because I don’t want to miss her future culinary adventures…

Kelly, thanks for the heads up about Emilie’s cookbook and blog. Loved “meeting” her through you…

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

TWO YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

THREE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

SIX YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

 

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS

Saw this recipe in Bon Appetit.  Made it that same evening for dinner. Lightning speed. Not that usual for me, but I had all the ingredients and was also anxious to cook millet for the first time. One of our grocery stores carries a very nice assortment of grains, seeds & flours in bulk. It is quite convenient when I feel like baking a special bread but do not want to carry home 1kg of oat flour or some other exotic being.  Millet was one of the goodies I brought home from a recent visit.   This recipe, a perfect way to welcome it in our kitchen.

MilletCouscous3

 

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS
(from Bon Appetit)

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (I used a bit less)
1 cup millet
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 + ¼ cups chicken broth
6 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems (I omitted, did not have any around)

Heat oven to 400°. Toss carrots with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add millet and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until millet is tender, 25–35 minutes (it took me closer to 35 minutes).

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil (I used about 1 teaspoon instead) in a small skillet over low heat; cook almonds and cayenne, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve millet topped with carrots, cilantro, and almond mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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When I told Phil we were not having “real couscous”, he was a bit surprised. It looks almost exactly the same as semolina couscous. It takes longer to cook, though, and has a firmer texture. The flavor is slightly more “nutty”, but still quite mild.  I imagine most people will love it, there’s really nothing not to like about it. Plus, like your regular couscous, it will absorb the flavors of everything else you cook with it. Use  a flavorful chicken or veggie stock if you have it around.  The roasted carrots and sautéed almonds turn it into almost a complete meal.  Of course, we enjoyed it with a nice roast chicken, just because… Full disclosure: the roast chicken was prepared at the grocery store.  And I am not even slightly ashamed to admit it.

On a slight tangent,  a couple of years ago I read a pretty good article written by one of the popular celebrity chefs, I don’t remember who it was,  it was not Thomas Keller, but some other star almost as bright.  Anyway, he went on and on about never buying a roast chicken from a rotisserie. That he could have a much better dinner by buying the chicken (organic, of course), sticking it in the oven with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, a lemon or two quickly placed inside the bird.  I am all for cooking from scratch, but I must say a chicken ready for me on my way home from work is very handy. It makes life so much easier! I don’t have to deal with the raw chicken, I don’t have to wait for my oven to warm up to temperature (it does take a while with our potent Supernova), and I can concentrate on making a quick and easy side dish such as couscous, or from now on, millet…   So, yes, 8 times out of 10, I reach for a rotisserie chicken.  And 6 times out of 10, I resort to cheese pre-shredded, from a bag.

Confession: good for the food blogger 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Mozarella-Stuffed Turkey Burger

TWO YEARS AGO: Happy Halloween!

THREE YEARS AGO: Clay Pot Roast Pork

FOUR YEARS AGO: Panmarino

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Classic Roast Chicken

 

 

 

FENNEL SOUP WITH ALMONDS AND MINT

I am sure that each blogger has a favorite approach to getting their posts prepared. The Bewitching Kitchen has been around for almost 5 years, and I more or less settled on a pace of two posts per week, which suits me  well. It is not too stressful, and allows me to work on new articles exclusively during the weekend.  For the most part, I  have a backup of 8 or more posts lined up, so the recipes you see on my blog were probably at our table several weeks earlier… but sometimes I make something so tasty that I feel like blogging about it right after finishing the meal.  It was the case for this soup, simple ingredients, quick to prepare, but it feels like something worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant.  Creamy, luscious, without a single drop of heavy cream in it.  I had noticed the recipe on Cooking Light, and even jotted down the ingredients on my shopping list.  But the weather turned a little warmer, and soup left my mind. What changed all that? Steve’s post at Oui, Chef…  His description of this fennel entity left me craving for a bowl, no matter the temperature outside. End of story.

FennelSoup
FENNEL SOUP WITH ALMONDS AND MINT
(slightly modified from Oui, Chef)

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups sliced fennel bulb (I used two large bulbs)
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (I added 1 tsp)
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons small fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 ounce grated Parmigiano cheese

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat.  Add fennel, onion, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 6 minutes or until crisp-tender (do not brown), stirring occasionally.

Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 cups water, vinegar, and beans.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.  Place half of mixture in a blender.  remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.  Place a clean towel over opening in the lid.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with the balance of the mixture.

Combine almonds, mint, zest and cheese.  Divide soup among 4 bowls; top with almond mixture and if desired drizzle a little olive oil before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  You know one of my greatest pet peeves?  Soups that are finished off with a load of heavy cream.  A couple of years ago, while watching a show by Pioneer’s Woman,  I literally screamed at the TV when she shared a recipe for the “best ever” cauliflower soup.  I swear that her version was 5% cauliflower, 15% butter, 20% cheese, 20% milk, 40% heavy cream. Heck, you can omit the cauliflower, add powdered rocks instead and people will be licking their spoons!  And now that I elegantly stepped out of my soap box, I can tell you that this soup takes the exact opposite approach.  Using white beans to improve the texture is a trick I shall not forget. The fresh mint they had at the store was not looking very good,  so I used some dried mint instead (added it together with the beans) and topped the soup with minced fennel fronds. Fresh dill would be great there too.

At Oui, Chef you can see a gorgeous photo for the soup, with mint leaves floating on top, quite artistic. Pay Steve a visit and say hello…  He is an impressive guy: father of five (!!!!), with a cool one-line bio…

I’m a blogger on a mission to encourage parents to teach their kids how to cook and eat well”.

But don’t take that statement lightly, he spent two years in France, got “Le Grande Diplome” at Cordon Bleu, and also studied at The Ritz Escoffier,  Lenotre, and Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin. Beyond impressive.  If that was not enough, he is also a fan of Tony Horton’s P90X. See? P90Xers are slowly taking over, one food blog and one pull-up at a time…   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

TWO YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

THREE YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

FOUR YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PENNE WITH TRAPANESE PESTO

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Not sure how we made it so fast to the end of May, but here we are!  And the last Monday of the month brings with it the Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club.  Bloggers are paired in secret, stalk each other’s site for a nice recipe, and blog about it on the same day.  This month I was paired with Erin, from The Spiffy Cookie.  She is a graduate student working on her PhD in Microbiology and that immediately puts us both in a similar page.  Granted, I probably had my PhD before she was born, but still… I know what it takes and how frustrating it can be to get there.   As I always say to the students in the lab, “science is not for sissies“.  But, I digress.   I spent quite a bit of time on her site, tempted by many of her recipes. A few examples for you:  Chicken Burgers with Garlic & Rosemary Yogurt, Apple Oatmeal Breakfast MuffinsNutella Mousse (that almost made my final cut), and Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread Snack Cake (do I need to say anything more?).  But, in the end, my heart was set on Penne with Trapanese Pesto, because it seemed like the type of recipe Phil and I would love.  Plus, the almonds in the sauce take me to a Persian aura that is quite welcome in our kitchen these days. So, without further ado, my contribution to the SRC this month…

Sally(photo kindly optimized by an angel called Sawsan…)

PENNE WITH TRAPANESE PESTO
(slightly adapted from The Spiffy Cookie)

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup almonds, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
12 basil leaves
1-2 anchovies filets (or to taste)
2 tsp capers
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, anchovies, capers, crushed red pepper, cheese, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to get it going. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Taste it. Add a little more salt if needed.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pot.  Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss to combine.  Store whatever is left in a sealed container in the fridge for a week. Serve  with more cheese and basil.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients
Comments: I made two small modifications in the recipe, adding capers and anchovies to the pesto. Now, for those who personally know me, it will be shocking to learn I added anchovies were anchovies were not called for.  Yes, indeed, I don’t like anchovies, but have been working on improving our relationship.  For one of those virtual coincidences, a food blog I recently fell in love with (Chef Mimi Blog) had a post on Trapanese Pesto, and she added anchovies.  Being a certified anchovy-wimp, I added only 1 small filet, carrying it with the tip of the fork, arm extended as far as I could to avoid its pungent aroma…   🙂  Capers seemed like a natural partner for all other ingredients,  so into the pesto they went.

This was a delicious meal! For my taste, Trapanese pesto beats the Genovese by a long shot.  Less oily, less pungent.  The recipe made more sauce than needed for our pasta dinner, leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days.

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Erin, it was great to stalk your blog for recipes and get to know your site better (although I’ve visited your blog many times before) through this month’s adventure with SRC.  For those who want to see the full collection of recipes posted by members of our group, click on the funky frog and have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Superman

TWO YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

THREE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango