Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Feta, Roasted Pepper, and Basil Muffins

From The Art & Soul of Baking

Makes 12 muffins

Who says muffins have to be sweet? These are a great savory accompaniment to eggs or bacon on the breakfast table, and just as good alongside soup, salad, or roasted chicken. Do not substitute dried basil, because it just doesn’t have the punch of flavor these muffins require. If fresh basil is unavailable, substitute a tablespoon of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dried thyme instead.

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
½ cup (4 ounces) jarred roasted red bell pepper, patted dry and chopped into ¼-inch dice
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
¼ cup (2 ounces) olive oil
1 large egg

Standard 12-Cup Muffin Tin, Whisk, Large Bowl, Medium Bowl, 2-Cup Liquid Measuring Cup, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, Large Ice Cream Scoop or Two Soup Spoons, Parchment Paper, Thin Knife or Spatula, Cooling Rack

1 Preheat the oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the muffin tin with melted buter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the large mixing bowl. Set aside. In the medium bowl, stir together the feta cheese, roasted bell pepper, and chopped basil. Set aside.
2 Pour the buttermilk into the measuring cup. Add the olive oil and the egg and whisk together until well blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the well and stir gently with a spatula. Mix only until there are no more streaks of flour or pools of liquid and the batter looks fairly smooth. A few small lumps scattered throughout are fine—they will disappear during baking. Gently fold in the feta cheese mixture until evenly distributed in the batter.
3 Use the large ice cream scoop or 2 soup spoons to divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the tops feel firm and a skewer inserted into the centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin tin to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently run a thin knife or spatula around each muffin to free it from the pan, lift out the muffins, and transfer them to a rack to finish cooling (careful, these are tender while hot). Serve warm. Storing When completely cool, the muffins can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic or sealed in a resealable plastic bag, for 2 days. Reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 325°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until warmed through.

The muffins can also be frozen for up to 1 month, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then sealed in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Thaw, still wrapped, for 30 minutes before reheating.

What The Pros Know
To use parchment in the muffin pan instead of the traditional pleated paper muffin liners, cut twelve 5 by 5-inch squares of parchment. Fit one into each muffin cup in the pan, pleating the sides slightly where they overlap so they lay flat against the pan walls. The parchment will extend above the top of the muffin cup. Put a spoonful of muffin batter into each liner to anchor it in the pan. Adjust each paper, as necessary so they are centered and even. Finish filling with the muffin batter. Bake as directed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Three-Alarm Tofu with Oyster Mushrooms and Spinach

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Prep 15 min | Marinating 30 min | cook time 5 min |
serves 4

Tofu absorbs the flavors of other ingredients with which it is cooked. In this dish, it takes on the earthiness of the mushrooms and the spice of the ginger, garlic, and chiles. To save time, chop the ginger and garlic and prepare the other ingredients while the tofu is marinating.

Cutting Board, Wok, Slotted Spoon, Wire Skimmer, Wok Spatula

12 ounces firm tofu, in a single block, well drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces oyster mushrooms
3 tablespoons peanut, canola, or other oil with a high smoking point
1 tablespoon peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
6 ounces baby spinach
¹⁄3 cup thinly, diagonally sliced green onions, green and white parts, for garnish
Hot cooked white or brown rice, for serving

1. Set the tofu block on one end and cut it into two ¾-inchthick slices. Place the slices on half of a clean kitchen towel, top with the other half of the towel, and press the tofu gently with your palm to coax out excess moisture. Uncover the tofu, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into ½-inch squares. Set aside.
2. Make the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, cornstarch, sesame oil, and red pepper, and mix well. Add the tofu and stir gently to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes, or longer, if preferred. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to a plate and set aside. Reserve the marinade.
3. Trim the base of each mushroom stem. Cut the mushroom caps and the remaining tender stems into ½-inch pieces. Set aside.
4. Heat the wok over high heat until hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle and evaporate on contact, then add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu a small batch at a time, shaking the wok and flipping the tofu over with a wok spatula for 2 minutes, or until evenly browned. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the tofu back to its plate.
5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the wok. Add the mushrooms, ginger, and garlic, and stir-fry over high heat for 1 minute, or until heated through. Return the tofu to the wok and add the reserved marinade and spinach. Stir-fry for 10 seconds, or until the spinach wilts.
6. Transfer the stir-fry to a serving platter and sprinkle with the green onions. Serve at once with the rice.

Where There’s Smoke
Because you’ll be cooking in your wok over high heat, the kind of oil you use is important. Some vegetable oils with a low smoking point, such as extra-virgin olive oil, are not well-suited for high-temperature cooking. Peanut oil, grape seed oil, and canola oil are recommended for high-temperature frying.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meringue Crispies

From Baking Kids Love by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet

3 large egg whites (not even a speck of yolks, please)
¾ cup sugar
Hand mixer and a medium bowl, both very clean
Silicone spatula
One 14-inch pastry bag fitted with a ³⁄8-inch plain round tip
2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper

1. Before you begin
• Position two oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 225ºF.

2. Make the meringue
• Put the egg whites in the clean bowl and whip on medium speed until they are foamy and form soft peaks.
• To check, turn off the mixer, lift the beaters straight out of the eggs, then turn them upside down. The slope leading to the tip of the egg whites should be soft and barely holding its shape.
• With the mixer running on medium, gently shake the sugar over the eggs, letting it blend in slowly. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to high and continue to beat until the eggs are very fluffy and shiny, and form firm peaks, another 1 to 2 minutes.
• Turn off the mixer and check as above — at this point the slope should be nearly vertical.

3. Pipe the cookies
• Put the tip into the pastry bag. Spoon the meringue into the bag until it is half full. Grasp the bag just above the mound of meringue and twist it 3 times (this prevents the mixture from coming out the wrong end of the bag).
• Squeeze from the twisted part of the bag, while guiding the bag with a couple of fingers near the tip. Pipe the meringue into any shape you like, such as letters of the alphabet, rounds, or even zigzags. Keep the tip of the bag about an inch from the surface of the pan and let the meringue fall out of the bag onto the pan in a thick rope.
• Refill the bag with the remaining meringue. Retwist and continue piping until you have used all the batter.

Playing Around
Rattling meringue bones and fingers

For bones: Pipe the meringue into a stretched version of dog bone treats.

For fingers: Pipe a straight line with a knobby center for the knuckle and a tapered end for the fingernail. Just before baking, set a colored candy almond or a sliced almond into the meringue at the tapered end. Once the “fingers” have dried, finish them by dipping one of the ends in melted red coating chocolate for blood. Pipe a ring with melted colored coating chocolate, and embellish with colored sugars, dragées, or candy pearls.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Vegetable Casserole with Manchego

Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

Prep 45 min | Cook time 1 hr 20 min | Serves 6–8

Here, eggplants, red peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and zucchini are cooked separately and then layered in a cazuela and baked until they melt together. This is a good dish for late summer when these vegetables are at their prime. You can cook the vegetables a day ahead, and then layer and bake them just before serving. The topping of Manchego cheese makes this dish hearty enough to be enjoyed as a main course. You can bake it in 1 large or 6 or more small cazuelas.

Two Large Rimmed Sheet Pans, Wide Spatula, Tongs, Medium Saucepan, 10- to 12-inch Skillet,
Slotted Spoon, Colander, 10-inch Cazuela or 2-Quart
Shallow Baking Dish

8 large (about 2 pounds) plum tomatoes, halved
2 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1-pound) eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 10 to 12 ½-inch-thick slices
1 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled and halved
1 pound small zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices
2 cups yellow onion, cut vertically into ¹⁄8-inch-thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika, preferably smoked
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded Manchego cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Arrange the tomato halves and bell pepper halves, cut side down, on a on a large nonreactive rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, arrange the eggplant slices on a second rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven with the tomatoes and peppers and roast for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottoms. Remove the eggplant from the oven, and use a wide spatula to turn the slices over. Roast for about 10 minutes more, or until the eggplant is golden brown. Remove from the oven.
4. At this point, 25 minutes will have elapsed and the peppers will be ready to turn. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and use tongs to turn with them over. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 20 minutes more, or until the peppers are blistered and blackened and the tomatoes have collapsed. Remove the pan from the oven, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil, and let stand for about 20 minutes, or until slightly cooled. Turn the oven off.
5. While the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant are roasting, place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, let cool, and cut the potatoes into ½-inch-thick rounds.
6. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the cazuela or a 10- to 12-inch skillet and heat over low heat. When the oil is hot, increase the heat to medium and add the zucchini in batches. Sauté for about 5 minutes per side, or until browned. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer zucchini to a colander to drain off theexcess juices.
7. Add the onion slices to the cazuela or skillet and sauté, stirring over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the paprika and parsley and remove from the heat. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Transfer the onion mixture to a side dish.
8. Lift the foil from the rimmed sheet pan with the tomatoes and peppers. If the skins have loosened, peel them back with your fingertips and discard. If the skins are not loose, leave them on.
9. In the cazuela or 2-quart shallow baking dish, make single layers of the vegetables in the following order: the eggplant, onion slices, peppers, potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes. Top evenly with the cheese.
10. Place the cazuela or baking dish in the hot oven (it’s fine to put the cazuela in a hot oven because it has been preheated on the stove top) and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
11. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve directly from the cazuela.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grilled Country Pork Chops with Bourbon-Basted Grilled Peaches

From Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America’s Farmers by Sur La Table, Janet Fletcher

Grilling intensifies the flavor of peaches by caramelizing their natural sugars. Baste the peaches with butter, honey, and bourbon as they grill to give them a sheen. Serve them with juicy pork chops that have been brined to season them all the way through. Serves 4


1 1⁄2 quarts water
6 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

4 bone-in pork loin chops, about 3⁄4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons honey
2 large freestone peaches, such as O’Henry or Elberta, halved and pitted

1 Make the brine: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. Set aside until completely cool.

2 Put the pork chops in a nonreactive container that holds them snugly in a single layer. Add the brine, which should cover them. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3 About 1 hour before cooking, remove the pork chops from the brine and set them on a wire cooling rack at room temperature to dry. Discard the brine. Prepare a moderate charcoal fire for indirect grilling (page 102) or prehat a gas grill to moderate (375˚F), leaving one burner unlit for indirect grilling.

4 In a small saucepan, combine the butter, bourbon, and honey. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring until the butter melts and the honey dissolves. Keep warm.

5 Pat the pork chops with paper towels to remove any remaining surface moisture. Set the chops directly over the coals or flame and brown both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Then transfer to indirect heat, cover the grill, and cook until the pork chops offer some resistance to the touch but are still springy, not firm, about 4 minutes longer. On an instant-read thermometer, the internal temperature should measure about 150˚F for medium.

6 Once the pork chops have been moved to indirect heat, grill the peaches. Brush them all over with the butter-honey mixture and place cut side down directly over the coals or flame. Cook until the peaches are lightly charred, then turn, baste again, and cook just until they are tender and juicy. The pork chops and peaches should be done at roughly the same time, but if not, move whichever is done first to a cooler area of the grill. Serve each pork chop alongside half a grilled peach.