Monthly Archives: January 2010

Butternut squash soup

Curried squash with apples and onion

Roasted butternut squash soup is another example of sweet mixing with savory flavors in a lovely dinner entrée. The squash’s natural sweetness blooms when you roast it, along with crisp apples and sweet yellow onions. The soup has surprisingly few ingredients, but the important one is curry powder. Just half a teaspoon completely changes the soup – and even though it may look like baby food, it becomes most certainly adult.

It is also a very healthy soup because it is meat-free, butter-free and cream-free.

Here’s a fun fact: squash last forever! I think I bought my butternut squashes on Oct. 5, 2009. Still good, four months later. Glad I saved this warm recipe for a snow day.

Ina Garten uses all sorts of curry condiments to top her soup: bits of banana, toasted coconut, roasted cashews and green onions. I opted for the onions. Know what else would be good? Fried shallots. Duh.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into thick chunks
  • 2 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick chunks
  • 3 T EVOO
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2-4 c. chicken stock (1 box)
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder

Preheat oven to 425.

Toss squash, apples and onion together with olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Place in single layer on sheet pan (or two) and roast 35-45 min., tossing occasionally, until very soft.

Process the vegetable mixture in food mill or food processor, adding chicken stock to help it become a coarse puree. Place the pureed mixture into a soup pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Heat to a simmer, adding curry powder and S&P to taste.

Serve hot with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of scallions.

Puree to your desired consistency

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Snickerdoodles

I like chocolate just as much as the next female, but in my heart, I would choose a sugar cookie over a cocoa cookie any day. Snickerdoodles are big sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon and sugar – like my favorite childhood treat: cinnamon toast.

They are easy to make, don’t require any butter and have a tasty combination of sweetness, spice and a hint of salt from the dough. I whipped these up while waiting for Jesse to rise one morning.

Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. shortening
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 c. sifted flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 T sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix shortening, 1 1/2 c. sugar and eggs until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt. Stir into shortening mixture until well mixed. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and 3 T sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on a nongreased cooking sheet. Bake 8-10 min and cool on wire rack.

If you notice the cookies aren’t completely cooked in the middle, feel free to put them back in the oven until they finish. They might get a bit browned on the edges, but they will taste great.

Enjoy with a glass of milk, friends! xoxo

Scalloped tomatoes

Summer flavors baked together

Cari has made it known that these things are true: she doesn’t cook; she doesn’t consider herself a foodie; and she doesn’t like watching “The Food Network.”

I don’t know if East Coast living has influenced her, or her cat or what … but my party-girl college friend has started getting a little more Write Gal in her. 🙂

For example: yesterday, we got up late and watched FN while I made cranberry-orange scones. While we watched, we saw Ina Garten make an easy-enough “scalloped tomatoes” dish, which looked like a panzanella salad baked with parmesan cheese.

We thought this would be a nice, quick lunch for us two gals. I had homemade focaccia that I needed to use or toss. All we needed to buy were a few heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil.

This dish is simply delicious. Perfect use for leftover bread – it would be great with any chicken or fish, as a first course or appetizer. We both helped ourselves to two servings (and then somebody finished it off at around 2 a.m.) and it was perfect with a crisp glass of white wine.

We looked for the recipe online, but it wasn’t posted yet. So here, we present:

Flipflops and Write Gal’s scalloped tomatoes

Ingredients

3-4 good quality tomatoes, cut into wedges or big chunks

10 basil leaves, shredded

Four thick slices of good bread, cut into cubes

Olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 c. Parm-reg, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a large skillet, heat 2 T olive oil and add the bread, tossing to brown. After 2 min., add garlic and stir for 1 min. Add tomatoes and stir for another 2 min. to combine and cook the garlic. Off the heat, add the basil and season with S&P to taste. Pour into a baking dish and drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle over all the Parmesan.

Bake until the cheese melts and the bread starts to brown, 15-20 min. You really can cook it as long as you want – we liked the bread still soft, but the cheese crispy.

Cut into squares and serve hot or at room temperature. There is no bad way to eat this.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Sweet potato ravioli

One evening at the office, I quietly ate leftovers at my desk while finishing up some projects. Not five minutes later, I heard my boss yell from her office, “What smells so good?” and then the girls on the other side of the cube echoed her question.

“It’s just me and my sweet-potato ravioli with browned butter and sage sauce!”

One thing lead to another and I was soon promising to post the recipe for everyone.

I first ate this at the Pretentious Thanksgiving party. I normally hate sweet potatoes, but they are soooo good wrapped inside wanton wrappers and then drizzled with a sauce of nutty butter, earthy sage, a pinch of pepper flakes, pine nuts and fried shallots. What can’t be good with that combination of flavors? One thing everybody says is that the red pepper flakes add a nice balance to the sweetness of the sweet potato, so don’t leave those out. Also, fried shallots and toasted pine nuts are good on about anything.

Every time I make these, they take a bit of a struggle. I recommend making the ravioli the day before and then freezing them. Drop the frozen bundles into boiling water as you would any ravioli and lightly boil until done. Other than that, the sauce and fried shallots are easy.

Also, the ravioli stick together easily, so don’t cry if they tear. It will still taste wonderful. And don’t crowd the boiling water with them or they will most certainly seal together.

Taken from Epicurious, here it is:

Sweet potato ravioli with a browned-butter and sage sauce:

Ravioli

  • 2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 12-ounce package wonton wrappers
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Fried shallots and sauce

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large shallots, cut crosswise into thin rounds, separated into rings
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • 8 large fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

For ravioli:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise; place cut side down on baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 35 minutes; cool. Scoop potato pulp out of skins into small bowl. Spoon 11/3 cups pulp into medium bowl. (Reserve any remaining potato pulp for another use.) Add sugar and butter; mash well. Season filling with salt and pepper.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place wonton wrappers on work surface. Using pastry brush, brush wrappers with beaten egg. Place 1/2 tablespoon sweet-potato filling in center of each. Fold each wrapper diagonally over filling, forming triangle. Seal edges. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature while preparing fried shallots and sauce. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead. Freeze, then cover and keep frozen. Do not thaw before cooking.)

For fried shallots and sauce:
Heat vegetable oil in heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry shallots until crisp and dark brown, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shallots to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cook butter in large pot over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add sage and red pepper.

Meanwhile, working in batches, cook ravioli in pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Add ravioli to pot with butter sauce; toss to coat. Transfer to plates, drizzling any sauce from pot over ravioli. Top with fried shallots and pine nuts; serve immediately.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chicken teriyaki

When my sister and I were growing up, we naturally followed mother on her regular Costco trips. Costco has helped moms feed their kids for years, and one of our favorite treats was what we called “Costco Chicken.” It was a recurring stand in which some lady with a hair net cooked chicken bites with that Yoshida teriyaki sauce on it. We were totally those annoying kids who just hang out around the food, begging for more and blocking others.

Up until this year, I still loved Costco Chicken and would cook it up over white sticky rice. Yum! However, my gentle roommate wasn’t so thrilled. In fact, I think the word he used was “hate.”

Which brings me to earlier this week, when I had a craving for Costco Chicken but was too tired to go to the store after work to buy the sauce. So I used whatever was in my cupboard and I must say it was deeeelish! It tasted restaurant-quality. Gentle roommate LOVED it, and I happily gobbled up leftovers at work the next day.

Write Gal’s Chicken Teriyaki:

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 c. soy sauce

1 c. water

1/2 tsp ground ginger (sure, you could use fresh!)

1/4 tsp garlic powder (duh, you could use fresh, but who cares?)

5 T brown sugar

1 T honey

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 T cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 c. cold water

Red pepper flakes

Cracked black pepper

toasted sesame seeds

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients – soy sauce through cornstarch mixture – until combined. Add red and black pepper to taste. In a large skillet over medium, heat a dash of oil. Stir-fry chicken until slightly browned, but not cooked through. Add the sauce mixture and stir to cook. Bring to boil and simmer until thickened and the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook a pot of brown rice.

To serve, on a bed of rice, spoon over chicken and top with sesame seeds and more scallions, if you have them.

This dish has a nice combination of sweet and spicy, but feel free to add more garlic or pepper as you wish. But remember that this is a convenience food meant to mimic that craving you have for cheap Asian take-out. Don’t spend more time or money than you would at the local Panda Express.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Cold pizza

(DIY fast food)

Cold pizza brings me back to college. You wake up from a night of heavy socializing and eat a remaining slice of pizza that may have been stuffed (with box) into the fridge, or maybe was just left out all  night. The breakfast of university coeds.

Now I am older and much more mature. Instead of eating leftover frozen or delivery pizza, I eat leftover homemade pizza. The process of making pizza appeals to both the adult and child within – you get to play with dough and decorate it and have the satisfaction of knowing that you made everything with your own two hands.

Last night, Jesse and I had a little DIY pizza night. I made the dough the night before (recipe below) and then we rolled it out for pies.

Mine was margherita style: topped with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, fresh diced tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella. I also sprinkled it with cracked pepper and sea salt (and red pepper flakes). It was yummy and salty and scratched my itch for some fresh basil.

Jesse really hit a homerun with his. First of all, he shaped his into a perfect sphere, whereas mine was a sort of random shape, which is totally what I was going for. Secondly, the boy made his own marinara sauce! I told him I could buy him some, or he could just make it himself:

Saute a chopped yellow onion in olive oil, add 2 cloves chopped garlic, stir, then add one can of diced tomatoes, simmer, season with S&P and dried oregano. Puree in a blender to make smooth.

I didn’t expect him to actually do it, but something lit a fire under him and I am still amazed by how good it turned out! I’m not a big marinara fan myself, but I tell you it looked and tasted at least as quality as the stuff you can buy.

Next, he topped his with a ton of Boar’s Head pepperoni and shredded mozarella cheese.

His took a little longer to cook because of the mounds of meat on top, but it was so, so good. Hot, or cold. Jesse declared that he is “never going to buy pizza again!”

We now have dinner for two nights and the leftover ingredients to make pesto-tomato-mozarella panini tomorrow night. All I have to do is make the focaccia…

Recipe for pizza dough, adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Baking book

(If you don’t have a KitchenAid, use a wooden spoon)

2 packages dry yeast

2 1/4 c. warm water

2 tsp sugar

1/4 c. olive oil

5 c. flour, plus more for kneading

1 T sea salt

Semolina flour, for shaping (or corn meal)

Note: this is best made a day in advance.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar in water and let stand until foamy, 5-10 min. Add oil, flour and salt. Using a dough hook, stir on slow until smooth and elastic, 8-10 min. Turn out on a floured work space and knead another 5 min., adding flour as needed. Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place, until it doubles in size. Punch it down, cover again and place in the fridge. Let it come to room temp. before shaping.

Preheat oven to 500. Turn dough out on floured surface and cut in half. Shape each half into a ball and let rest for 10 min. Lightly dust each ball with flour and roll or stretch into your crust shape. Transfer to a pan sprinkled with semolina flour and shape it as needed. Brush away extra semolina, as it will burn.

Top with your desired toppings and bake until everything is melted and the crust is browned and cooked all the way to the middle.

Serve hot, and enjoy, friends! xoxo

How to bake bread

I baked bread! I baked bread!

To appreciate this fact, you have to appreciate that I have avoided baking bread for ever. It was sort of like how I used to insist on buying $4 lattes every morning instead of getting a coffee maker: I finally took the plunge and wondered what I had been thinking.

Same with bread. It’s daunting to bake. You have to deal with something alive. Something called yeast, which is apparently a finicky little bitch – don’t get it too hot, don’t get it too cold, feed it sugar, let it rise on its own schedule, etc.

Martha metaphorically held my hand through this process with a simple white sandwich bread recipe in her recent Valentine’s Day issue (recipe to come).

The recipe had all of six ingredients, I figured it would be a cinch to make. It also cost me less than a dollar.

After mixing the flour, yeast, water, salt and honey together, I kneaded it for five minutes of tactile heaven. Then, it rose and I punched it down, put it in these buttered bread pans and it rose again. I dusted one loaf with flour, for a rustic look, and brushed the other with melted butter.

It has risen...

It only baked for 25 minutes in my stupid oven, but all was well:

Jesse couldn’t wait until it cooled before slicing a piece. They came out with a nice, thin crust and a light, airy bread within. I cannot wait to make myself a PB sammie with Skippy’s creamy peanut butter!

Classic white bread —

2 envelopes dry yeast (1 T plus 1 1/2 tsp)

2 1/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)

3 T plus 2 tsp honey

4 T unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing

7 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 T coarse salt

Sprinkle yeast over 1/2 c. water. Add 2 tsp honey and whisk to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy, at least 5 min. (there will be a sizeable “head” of foam in the bowl, like an inch high). Transfer to bowl of a mixer with hook attachment. Add butter and remaining water and honey.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour with salt. Add 3 c. to the yeast and mix on slow until mostly smooth. Add remaining flour, 1 c. at a time, mixing until dough comes away from the sides. Butter a large bowl.

Knead dough on floured surface for five min. It will be smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place for at least 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.

Butter two rectangle bread pans. Punch down dough, then divide it in half. Fold the long sides to the middle, pinching to seal, so you have one nice, smooth side. Place dough in pans with smooth side up. Brush each loaf with butter or sprinkle with flour.

Preheat oven to 450. Loosely cover doughs with plastic wrap and set on TOP of oven to rise again, at least another hour. The dough should rise an inch above the pan edge. Reduce oven temp. to 400 and put loaves in. Bake, rotating after 25 minutes, until tops are golden, 45 min (or less!). Transfer to wire racks, cool slightly, then remove from pans. Let cool completely, slice and enjoy!

Blueberry crumb cake

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to express my appreciation for those I love. Food, of course, is one of the great loves of my life. So I made this recipe for my love of food and my favorite blue-eyed blueberry fan, who makes me tortilla soup when I am too sick to even prepare a packet of Top Ramen.

This cake is like a coffee cake and we have enjoyed it in the mornings with a cup of coffee or tea. It would be delicious with other berries – I’m thinking blackberries or huckleberries or raspberries – but blueberries were on sale at Harris Teeter, so that’s what I went for. The cake is moistened with sour cream, like Ina Garten’s blueberry muffins, and topped with a streusel spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.  A tasty combination of textures.

Ina’s Blueberry Crumb Cake

For the streusel:

1/4 c. sugar

1/3 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 lb. unsalted butter, melted

1 1/3 c. flour

For the cake:

6 T unsalted butter at room temp.

3/4 c. granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

2/3 c. sour cream

1 1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. fresh blueberries

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel: Combine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in melted butter, then flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake: Cream butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixter with paddle, on high speed, 4-5 min. Reduce to low and add eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla, lemon zest, sour cream.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With mixer on low, add flour mixture to batter until just combined. Fold in blueberries and stir with spatula until mixed.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread with a knife. With your fingers, crumble streusel topping over the batter. You may  not need all of it. Bake for 40-50 min. until cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.

Crunchy crumb topping

I baked this while my other love rolled around in the sunlight:

Cats and sun spots = happiness

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Stars and stripes forever

Now I can die happy…

Me and Julia!

Speaking as someone who 10 months ago didn’t know she would be moving to the east coast and/or visiting our great nation’s capitol…I am beyond excited about living an easy five-hour drive from DC. Not only is that city full of a diversity of food and restaurants, but it is rich with history and free entertainment to the history-lover’s content. As you can see from the photo above, I did indeed visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History. This is the  museum that houses all the First Lady inaugural gowns, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Carrie Bradshaw’s Mac and…Julia Child’s entire kitchen!

Le sigh…

Insert me here

I  had read about them building this exhibit, but forgot all about it until I was in the museum and the clouds parted and I saw it…

It looked so bright and warm, I could just imagine sitting at the table while that giant of a woman stomped around preparing fragrant delights.

When I wasn’t doing all the touristy stuff, I ate a lot. On New Years Day, I attended a DC blogger meet-up at a hotel near Dupont (Carlisle Hotel?), where we had a beautiful buffet of gourmet foods. All-you-can-eat food and cocktails for $20 each! It was a yummy way to get over the New Years Eve headaches.

Vanilla pudding with a sugar-cookie spoon

Lox with capers

Baklava

But better than the food, I had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of rad DC-area blogger femmes, many of whom I’ve been following for years. They included the likes of Flipflops in the Rain, I Hate So Much, Live It Love It, Lemmonex, SlapTheBag, Alice’s Wonderland and Marie’s Blog Cafe. Now, what isn’t awesome about a bunch of broads at an all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch? Nada.

Later that day, Cari from Flipflops in the Rain, me, Rebecca and Maxie from I Hate So Much went to this amazing pizza place near Chinatown, called Matchbox.

Maxie got the dessert pizza, which had a mascarpone drizzle, balsamic vinegar, basil, fresh berries and shortbread.

I ordered a half white-pie, half sausage and sundried tomato. Next time, I’ll get the white anchovy and arugula pizza…so many to choose from! I just love a good woodfire pizza, and that restaurant has a great ambiance – a sure bet for DC residents.

The next day, we took it easy and ate pho for lunch at this little Asian shopping center. I realized that the secret to good pho is in the broth. This was not just chicken broth – it was deeper and richer than any stock I have ever made from scratch! So perfect on a chilly day.

My last night there, I made my perfect roast chicken with roasted vegetables, and cheesy broccoli on the side. Sometimes it’s nice to NOT eat out. 🙂

Hope everybody had a happy and healthy New Years! On to 2010, friends! xoxo