Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Couscous with Raisins, Golden Onions, and Butternut Squash

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Prep 30 min | Cook time (couscous) 1 hr 10 min | Cook time (stew) 50 min | Serves 6–8

Here, a simple vegetable stew of butternut squash and onions is spooned atop couscous flavored with cinnamon and dotted with raisins.

Wide 3-Quart Saucepan, 8-Quart Couscoussière, Dutch Oven

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup raisins
1½ cups couscous
½ cup water
Coarse salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, halved lengthwise and cut into vertical slices
1 (2 ½ to 3-pound) butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed, and
cut into ½ to ¾-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
2 teaspoons ras el hanout
¹⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
About 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons diced ¹⁄8-inch preserved lemon peel (page 328) or 1 large lemon, cut into 8 thin wedges, for garnish
Harissa, for serving

1. In a wide 3-quart saucepan or sauté pan, combine 2 cups of the broth, cinnamon stick, and raisins, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the couscous and stir to blend. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover and cool for 10 minutes. Combine ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the salted water on the couscous while simultaneously raking it with your fingers to break up the lumps. Let stand, uncovered, until ready to finish cooking.
2. Add the oil to the bottom section of the couscoussière, a Dutch oven, or 5-quart sauté pan. Heat the olive oil over medium low heat until hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion. Add the onions and cook, stirring, over low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until coated with the oil. Sprinkle with the ras el hanout, 1 teaspooon of salt, and the cayenne, and stir to blend. Add the remaining 2 cups of the chicken broth and the tomatoes and heat over low heat while preparing the top section of the couscousière.
3. If using a couscoussière, lightly butter the inside of the top section and set it on top of the bottom section holding the squash mixture. Cut a length of cheesecloth long enough to go around the rim of the bottom section with a slight overlap. Dampen the cheesecloth with water, squeeze dry, and sprinkle lightly with flour. Fold the cheesecloth into a 2-inch-wide band, and wrap the band around the rim between the top and bottom sections to seal the seam so no steam escapes.
4. Bring the stew in the bottom half of the couscoussière to a boil over medium heat. When the steam begins to rise through the perforations, add about one-half of the couscous in a layer. Then spoon the remaining couscous on top, piling it into a pyramid. Steam, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 minutes.
5. Keeping the top and bottom sections sealed together with the cheesecloth, use a long handled spoon to transfer the couscous to a large platter, spreading it out with the spoon. Cool for 10 minutes, then rake it with your fingers to separate any clumps. (The couscous and stew can be prepared 1 to 2 hours ahead up to this step. Cover the couscous with a dampened towel to keep it from drying and remove the stew from the heat and proceed to steps 6 through 8 about 15 minutes before ready to serve.)
6. While the couscous is cooling, continue to cook the stew over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
7. Return half of the couscous to the top of the couscoussière and spread in a layer. Then spoon the remaining couscous on top, piling into a pyramid. Steam the couscous while simultaneously continuing to cook the stew over low heat in the bottom portion for 10 to 15 minutes. Lift off the top portion and taste the stew and add salt, if needed.
8. Spoon the couscous onto a deep platter or shallow serving bowl. Make a well in the center and spoon the squash and its juices into the center. Sprinkle with the cilantro and add the preserved lemons or lemon wedges. Serve and pass the harissa at the table to be added to taste.

Steam Couscous Ahead
You can steam the couscous the first time several hours before serving. Let it stand, covered with a damp towel, and then spoon it back into the couscoussière to warm just before serving.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sea Bass Poached in Orange, Basil, and Wine with Citrus and Herb Sauce - From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Prep 30 min | cok time (poaching liquid) 15 min |
cok time (fish) 15 to 20 min | serves 6

The traditional liquid for poaching fish is called court bouillon. This is a broth made from cooking vegetables and herbs in water and wine. This recipe deviates from the classic by using orange juice, white wine, and basil. Prepare it ahead of time so it has time to cool to room temperature before you poach the fish. (Used poaching liquid can be strained and frozen for 1 to 2 months for a second use.) You’ll need enough liquid to cover the fish. Remember the fish should be slowly cooked in simmering, never boiling, liquid. Sea bass, a fine-fleshed fish with a sweet, mild flavor, is a good choice for poaching, but almost any firm-fleshed fish can be used.

Large Saucepan, Fine-mesh Strainer or Chinois, Vegetable Peeler, Fish Bone Tweezers or Pliers, 18-inch-long Fish Poacher, Small Knife or Instant-Read Thermometer (or Probe Type), Small Saucepan, Medium Bowl, Sauce or Standard Whisk, Oven Mitts, Rimmed Sheet Pan (Optional), Two Long Flat Spatulas or One Long and One Shorter Spatula, Ladle

Poaching Liquid
4 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups orange juice, preferably fresh
1 (3 by ½-inch) strip orange zest
1 large, leafy stem fresh basil
1 large, leafy stem fresh Italian parsley
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, bruised with knife
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 (3-pound) whole sea bass fillet with skin intact

1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced (about ¼ cups)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 thin slices navel orange, halved, for garnish
3 sprigs fresh basil, for garnish
1 cup tiny cherry tomatoes, for garnish

1. Make the poaching liquid: In a large saucepan, combine the water, wine, orange juice, orange zest, basil, parsley, onion, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Let cool to lukewarm. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
2. To ensure even cooking, the fish and poaching liquid should be almost the same temperature. To achieve this, remove the fish from the refrigerator about 1 hour prior to cooking.
3. Run your hand over the surface of the fish fillet to locate the pin bones and determine the direction of their growth. Use the tip of fish bone tweezers or pliers to pinch the top of the pin bone and slowly tug at the same angle as the bone. If the bone breaks off, you are pulling in the opposite direction of growth, so you must reverse direction.
4. Remove the rack from a fish poacher 18 inches long and 7 inches wide. Lightly oil the rack with the olive oil. Place the fish, skin side down, on the rack. Lower the rack into the empty fish poacher. Gently pour the roomtemperature poaching liquid into the pan.
5. Set the pan over two burners and turn them on to medium heat. Cover and heat the liquid, checking under the cover frequently, until a bubble or two comes to the surface. (This will take about 15 minutes.) Adjust the heat to medium-low, re-cover, and cook, without boiling, for 15 to 18 minutes, until the tip of a small knife inserted into the thickest part of the fillet finds no resistance, or the internal temperature registers 130° to 140°F on an instant-read thermometer.
6. While the fish is poaching, make the sauce: Place the orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to medium and boil gently for 5 minutes, or until the juice is reduced by half. Pour into a bowl and let cool to lukewarm.
7. Gradually whisk the olive oil into the orange juice until blended. Add the lemon juice, green onions, basil, parsley, oregano, orange zest, salt, and a grinding of pepper. Stir to blend and set aside.
8. When the fish is cooked, turn off the heat. Place next to the stove a rimmed sheet pan large enough to accommodate the poaching rack. Remove the cover of the fish poacher. With your fingers protected with oven mitts, carefully lift the rack from the fish poacher and place it on the sheet pan. (Alternatively, you can place the poaching rack with the fish in the sink.) Let the fish sit on the rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the fish by running a large, flat spatula between the fish and the rack. Then, use 2 long, flat spatulas, or 1 long spatula and 1 shorter one, to carefully lift the fish off the rack and place it on an oval platter.
9. Stir the sauce and ladle half of it over the fish. Arrange the orange slices on the surface of the fish in a slightly overlapping pattern to simulate fish scales. Garnish the platter with the basil sprigs and cherry tomatoes. Serve the fish warm, and pass the remaining sauce at the table. Or, cover the fish with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake

From The Art and Soul of Baking

Serves 10 to 12 This soft, moist, towering cloud of a dessert lies somewhere between a cake and a trifle, its lemon syrup–soaked cake layers alternating with lemon mascarpone cream. Meyer lemons are especially fragrant, but this cake is outstanding even with supermarket Eureka lemons. There are a few steps here, but almost everything can be done ahead, which makes putting it together pretty easy.


Sponge Cakes
6 large eggs, separated
7 tablespoons (3 ounces) plus
7 tablespoons (3 ounces) sugar
1 3/4 cups (6 ounces) sifted cake flour

Lemon Syrup
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (4 fl ounces) water
1/4 cup (2 ounces) freshly squeezed
lemon juice

Mascarpone Filling
2 1/2 cups (20 ounces) heavy whipping cream
7 tablespoons (3 ounces) sugar
1 pound mascarpone
1 cup lemon curd, plus 1 1/2 cups for layering and garnish


Two Ungreased 9 by 1 3/4-inch Round Cake Pans Lined with Parchment Paper, Pastry Brush, Small Offset Spatula, Icing Spatula, Pastry Bag Fitted with a 1/2-inch Star Tip

1 Preheat the oven to 375°F. Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven.

2 Make the sponge cakes: Place the egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the mixture is thick and very light in color, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside while you whip the egg whites.

3 In a clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining 7 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until the egg whites hold firm peaks. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the beaten yolks, then sift half of the flour over the top and gently fold it in. Repeat. Fold in the last of the egg whites until no streaks of white remain.

4 Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the top is golden, firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of crumbs. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.

5 Make the lemon syrup: Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Stir in the lemon juice.

6 Make the mascarpone filling: Place the cream and sugar in a bowl and whip to soft peaks. Refrigerate. Place the mascarpone and one cup of the lemon curd in a bowl and stir until blended—it should be the consistency of pudding. Gently fold in the whipped cream until the mixture is homogenous and thick. If the mixture becomes overworked, it will look grainy or separated. If this happens, stir in several tablespoons of cream with a rubber spatula—stir just until the mixture has smoothed out again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chocolate Celebration Cake

From Baking Kids Love by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet

Makes 1 big, yummy cake!

For the cake
1 cup water
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup canola or corn oil
3 large eggs
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened, natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

For the frosting
3 cups unsifted powdered sugar
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Two 9-inch cake pans, lightly buttered or sprayed, and lined with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan
Two medium bowls
Fine sieve or strainer
Two large bowls
Silicone spatula
A 9-inch cake cardboard, or the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan or flat, round plate
Hand mixer
Small offset spatula

1. Before you begin
• Line each pan with a round of parchment paper (see page 10).
• Position two oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Bake the cake
• Place the water, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in the medium bowl. Whisk until the eggs have completely blended into the mixture.
• Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into the larger bowl (see page 11).
• Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk gently at first, and then, as the mixture blends, whisk faster, until it is a smooth batter and you don’t see any more dry patches.

3. Bake the cake
• Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it as evenly as you can. Put one pan in the center of each oven rack. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
• Transfer the pans to a cooling rack. If the cakes are rounded on top, place a clean, dry towel on top of each warm cake and press down firmly with the palm of your hand to level the surface. Cool completely.

4. Make the frosting
• Sift the powdered sugar into the medium bowl (see page 11).
• Place the room temperature cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and beat until they are blended and smooth. Add half of the powdered sugar and beat it in thoroughly. Scrape down the bowl with a silicone spatula. Add the remaining sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is blended and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.

5. Unmold the cakes
• Slide a small spatula around the edges of the cake to separate it from the pan. Set the serving plate upside-down on top of the cake pan. Hold the plate and cake (in the pan) together like a sandwich, then flip them over. The cake will fall out of the pan onto the plate. Peel off the parchment paper.

6. Frost and decorate the cake
• Use a small offset spatula to spread half of the frosting over the cake, stopping about ¼ inch from the edge. When you put the second layer on top, it will squish the frosting out to the edge.
• Unmold the second cake by setting a cake cardboard or tart pan bottom on top of the pan, flipping the two over as described above, then gently pushing the cake off the
• Spread the remaining frosting over the top layer. Decorate the top with sprinkles, confetti candy, sparkling sugar, or whatever you Like. You can leave this at room temperature for a few hours. Otherwise, refrigerate the cake until serving time.

Playing around
This cake batter makes great cupcakes.

It will make 24, so you’ll need 2 standard-size cupcake pans with paper liners. Divide the batter evenly among the cups, filling them no more than ²⁄3 full. Bake on two racks as described in step 1, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely before frosting the cupcakes. If you like chocolate frosting, try the one on page 20. board and into place on the frosting. Peel off the parchment paper.