Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spaghetti with Red Bell Pepper & Egg

(2 servings)

When I was a child I didn't care for bell peppers, especially the green ones. These days I still don't really care for green peppers although occasionally I'll add one to a dish for it's colour. Red bell peppers are another story. Over the years I have fallen in love with them. They are delightful, raw, roasted, or cooked. I usually have at least one or two of them in my crisper.

Today I combined them with garlic, onion, goat cheese and egg which I served over spaghetti. This simple dish was delicious!

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped or sliced
1 1/2 red bell peppers, washed, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp water
3 tbsp goat cheese crumbles
2 eggs

about 4-6 oz dry spaghetti

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Fry for about a minute then stir in the onion. Lower the heat a touch if needed and saute the onions until they are translucent.

Add the bell peppers and vinegar. Cover the skillet with a lid, set the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes or until the peppers are to your liking. At 20 minutes mine were soft, but still a bit crisp in the centres.

While the bell peppers are cooking, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and drop in the spaghetti. Cook until it's al dente. Rinse the pasta to keep it from sticking.

Stir the parsley, salt and pepper into the red pepper mixture. Add the water. Sprinkle the goat cheese over the top. Drop the two raw eggs onto the vegetable mixture.  I like to grind additional black pepper over the eggs. Cover the skillet again, raise the heat a touch; to about medium-low and cook the eggs for 4-7 minutes, depending on how well done or runny you like them.

Divide the spaghetti between two plates and top each with an egg and the vegetable mixture.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sweet Potato & Brie Soup

(2 servings)

I'm without a car this weekend, and will be without, until my new car arrives (hopefully) within a week. A friend who drove me to work and back yesterday offered to take me grocery shopping, but I declined her generous offer. I thought this weekend would be a good opportunity to try to finish a few things off.

I found one sweet potato, an onion and some brie cheese in my refrigerator. I also keep several jars of Better Than Bouillon in a variety of flavours, so soup it was! It was very tasty for what seemed like very little effort on my part. I'm always pleasantly surprised when something turns out so well!

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 small cloves garlic,  minced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced (about 1/2 lb)
1 medium sweet potato, cut into small dice (about 1/2 lb)
2 small sprigs lemon thyme
1/2 tsp Harissa (or hot sauce), to taste
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon, Beef
1 tsp cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 1/2 oz brie, diced

Heat the oil in a small pot. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute. Turn down the heat if necessary and add the onions. Saute those until they are translucent.

Stir in the diced sweet potato, thyme, Harissa, water, Better Than Bouillon flavouring and vinegar. Cover the pot and simmer very gently for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are done.

Check and adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper. Add the brie and cook, stirring for another 3 minutes. The brie didn't completely melt as I had expected, but then I left on the rind. However, I quite enjoyed the little bits of cheese in my soup.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shirataki (Tofu Noodles) with Vegetables

(2 servings)

This has been an unusually hectic week for me. My beloved 17 year old BMW 318ti finally died. Catastrophic engine failure, whatever that means.  There was fuel all over the engine compartment and no pressure where it was supposed to be. The entire engine needed to be replaced. It only had 68K miles! It's the age of the car and the Texas heat, I'm told. The mechanic suggested I look for a new car which is exactly what I did after work this week. I've settled on a Mini Cooper, but they only have two cars available with a manual transmission in the colour I want (Ice Blue). I will have to wait another two weeks or so before one's here in Dallas. In the meanwhile I still have to figure out what to do with my old clunker, but there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel!

I have done almost no cooking this week. They fed me lunch at work all week for which I was extremely grateful. I made this today with a few things I found in my refrigerator. It came together in about 12-15 minutes. You can swap out any of the vegetables for asparagus, squash, beans, peas, or whatever you have on hand and like.

This delicious meal is quite low in carbs and calories thanks to the Shirataki noodles. They are made out of soybeans and are only 20 calories per serving.

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, bite size slices
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 large mushrooms
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp agave nectar
1/4-1 tsp hot sauce, to taste
2 tbsp corn starch
1 8 oz pkg shirataki noodles, rinsed and parboiled for 2 minutes
1 green onion, sliced

Heat the olive and sesame oils in a small wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and fry for about 30 seconds, then add the bell pepper, broccoli and mushrooms. Stir the vegetables to coat evenly with the oils and garlic, then add the water. Cover the wok and steam the vegetables for about 3-5 minutes, depending on how crispy you like them.

Meanwhile combine the tamari, rice wine, peanut butter, ginger, agave nectar, hot sauce and cornstarch. Stir until the mixture is lump free.

Remove the lid from the wok and stir in the tamari sauce mixture. Stir until the sauce thickens.

Serve the vegetables with the drained tofu noodles and sprinkle with the sliced green onion.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cuatro Leches Cake from La Duni

The first time I tried this at La Duni Latin Cafe, I was in heaven. This has become one of my favourite cakes and I was thrilled when I came across their recipe online.

I have made this cake a few times, but always a smaller version using half the ingredients listed. This time I tried whole wheat pastry flour and loved it. I add slightly less sugar and  don't make my own dulche de leche. I'm not fond of the idea of simmering an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk on my stove top for several hours. The ready made stuff is easy enough to find in Dallas. :)

Cuatro leches cake (from Chef Dunia Borga from La Duni Latin Café in Dallas)
Serves 10

Vanilla Mantecada Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for buttering pan
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk

Arequipe (dulce de leche sauce)
1 (14 oz) unopened can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup whole milk, warmed

Tres leches sauce:
¾ cup evaporated milk
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
¾ cup heavy (whipping) cream

Stir these three ingredients together and set aside for the assembly.

2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 cup egg whites (from 7 large eggs)
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for decorating

1. To make cake, preheat oven to 350˚F and arrange an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Butter an **8-inch cake pan, line with a round of parchment paper, and butter the paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until very fluffy. Add the sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating after each addition, until blended. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Finally, beat in the dry ingredients, alternating one with the milk: first, about one third of the dry ingredients, then ½ cup of the milk, another third of the dry ingredients, the remaining ½ cup milk, and finally the remaining dry ingredients. Beat until fully mixed, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do not over beat.

**I make half the recipe in an 8-inch pan and would probably use a 9-inch pan if making the full recipe.

Pour patter into the prepared cake pan and bake until the center of the cake springs back when touched an a tester inserted comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn it out on the rack to cool completely.

2. To make the arequipe sauce, place the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a perforated insert such as a pasta pot) inside a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, and simmer for 2 hours, turning the can twice during cooking, once after 45 minutes, then again at 1 ½ hours. (Make sure the can is always covered by water, or it may explode.) Remove can from water and let cool before opening. Be careful when opening it, as the contents will squirt out; pour into a bowl, whisk in the milk, cover and refrigerate.

3. To make the meringue, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, undisturbed, until the syrup reaches 240˚F (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. When the thermometer registers 200˚F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed in an electric mixer fitted with the wire whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and with motor running, gradually pour syrup into the egg whites. Once all of the syrup has been incorporated, continue to beat at medium speed until cooled to room temperature and meringue is thick and glossy (15-20 minutes).

4. To assemble the cake, turn the cake out onto a cardboard round and remove the parchment. With a long serrated knife, cut the cake into 3 even layers. Remove the top 2 layers. Use a fork, to pierce the bottom layer all over; brush with about ¾ cup of the tres leches sauce, giving the sauce time to soak into the cake. Place the second layer on top, pierce with the fork, and brush with another ¾ cup of the sauce. Spread top and sides of the cake with about 1 inch of meringue, finishing the top with peaks. Use a blow torch (or run under a broiler, if possible) to caramelize the meringue. To serve, cut the cake into wedges, drizzle with the arequipe sauce, and sift confectioners’ sugar over it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chili con Carne

(8 servings)

Chili con Carne is one of those dishes I usually associate with fall or winter; a spicy mixture that warms your stomach on a cold and dreary night. Between the storms this spring, the weather in Dallas has been quite warm. Warm enough to encourage a few folks around here to run around outside wearing next to nothing, and it's now that I'm craving the chili.

Texans as a rule don't add beans to their chili, but having grown up in the north I just can't imagine them not being in there. I have always used kidney beans and lots of them, but decided to give pinto beans a try (just one can, and I liked them!) after a brief chat with one of our producers at the office. He told me he switched to pinto beans a while back and that now kidney beans strike him as "chalky".

When I lived in Canada, I used to just add three to six tablespoons of chili powder to my meat and bean mixture, but that changed after moving to Texas. The choice and availability of chilies and peppers are amazing down here. There's often an entire shelf set aside for them in the produce section at most grocery stores. I love trying out various combinations, so my chili is always a little different. This time I used a couple of canned chipotle peppers which added a wonderful smokey depth of flavour. I will admit I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to the heat factor, so I often pick the milder varieties, but if you prefer your chili con carne hotter, then increase the amount of the chili de arbol.

1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 dried chili mulato (mild)
2 dried chili ancho (mild)
2-6 dried chili de arbol (hot), (depending on your heat tolerance)
2 canned chipotle peppers (medium) in adobo sauce, reserve the rest for another use
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 lb)
2 lbs lean ground beef
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1  cup water
2 tsp Better than Bouillon, Beef
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 2 oz disk Mexican chocolate (mine was sweetened, but unsweetened chocolate is really good here too)
1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp masa harina or blending flour

sour cream for serving
fresh cilantro for garnish

Place the dried peppers into the hot water and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy pot with a tight fitting lid on medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute them, taking care they don't burn, until they are golden brown. Remove them to a plate and return the pot to the heat.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and increase the heat. Add the ground beef and fry it until it's nicely browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

While the beef is browning, place the water and dried peppers, along with the garlic and chipotle peppers into the bowl of a food processor. Process the mixture until it's smooth.

Add the onions, the dried pepper and garlic mixture (from the food processor), paprika, coriander, cumin, oregano, marjoram, salt, cinnamon, the chopped fresh peppers, water, Better than Bouillon and the tomato paste. Stir until everything is well combined.

Bury the chocolate disk in the middle, cover the pot with the tight fitting lid and cook over very low heat for about 4 hours giving the chili a good  stir about midway.

Stir in the pinto beans and check and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Stir in the masa harina or blending flour, cover the pot and cook over low heat for another hour.

This chili seems to get better when it's reheated the next day. It also freezes really well.

Serve with sour cream, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rose's Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache

(8 inch cake)

Happy Easter!

The other day I was looking for a book and noticed Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible, which I hadn't looked through for quite some time. At one point it was my favourite cookbook which I took to bed with me each night, to read. Many people find her recipes frustrating and hate having to follow them in order for their cakes to turn out. Let's face it, we aren't making a stew here where an additional onion, potato or cup of wine make a huge difference. Baking a cake is more exacting if you expect a similar result each time.

That being said, Beranbaum's banana cake is a lot more forgiving than some of her other recipes. I rarely make it exactly the same way, yet it always turns out; a moist, buttery and flavourful cake. I have no patience for certain things, like sifting flour. I just pull out my kitchen scale and weigh out the amount I need. The Cake Bible provides both weights and measures for all recipes. For this recipe, I loosely recalculated the ingredients to make a smaller 8 inch cake.

Recently I have fallen in love with meringue-like frostings which are light and smooth. I tried making one for this banana cake, with browned butter which quickly turned into a soupy mess. I ended up rescuing that disaster with 4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate and 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate; just enough to create a spreadable frosting. The frosting was nice, but I probably should have made the tangy chocolate ganache in the first place.

Adapted from Rose Levy Barenbaum's Recipe for an 8 inch cake
1 1/2 large ripe bananas/3/4 cup/170 grams
1/4 cup sour cream/60 grams
1 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, minced/3 grams
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour/ 150 grams
1/2 cup fine sugar/115 grams
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened/3/4 stick/85 grams

Equipment: One 8-inch by 2-inch cake pan or 8-inch springform pan, greased, bottom lined with parchment or wax paper and then sprayed with Baker’s Joy or greased again and floured.

Preheat oven 350°F.

In a food processor process the banana and sour cream until smooth. Add the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla and process briefly just to blend.

Using a hand mixer, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half the banana mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to high speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides.

Gradually add the egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. Scrape down the sides. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pan will be about 1/2 full.

Bake *30 to 50 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and unmold or remove the sides of the springform pan. Allow the cake to cool completely before wrapping airtight.

Finished Height: 2 inches to within 1 inch of the side; 1 1/2 inches at the side.

Store: Airtight: 2 days room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.

Serve: Room Temperature

*Although the original recipe calls for 30-40 minutes baking time for a 9 inch cake, I have always needed 40-50 minutes for an 8 inch cake in a convection oven.

I did not make this chocolate ganache, but if I were to make it for this cake, I would probably just make half this recipe.
Rose Levy Barenbaum's Sour Cream Ganache Frosting
4x 3oz semi-sweet chocolate bars(no higher than 62%)/340 grams
1 2/3 cup sour cream/400 grams

In a double boiler set over hot water or a microwave oven on high power, melt the chocolate, stirring every 20 seconds. Remove it from the heat source and stir in the sour cream until uniform in color. Use it right away or store it in a tightly covered bowl. When ready to frost the cake, soften it if necessary in a water bath or microwave for a few seconds, stirring gently.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Miso Coleslaw

(4 servings)

Cabbage is in season, so I have been trying out different types of coleslaw at home. This was the first time I've ever had one with miso dressing and I quite liked it. I found this recipe on the Whole Foods site, but as is often the case with me it underwent a few changes, one of them was quite unintentional. I forgot to add the peanuts! I remembered them when I was nearly finished eating, so I tossed a few in with my remaining few forkfuls. They were really nice!

Recipe adapted from Whole Foods

1 tbsp light miso
1 tbsp deli mustard with horseradish
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/3 cup orange juice
2 lb (small) green cabbage
3-4 carrots
2 small green onions, sliced
1/3 cup roasted peanuts

Combine the miso, mustard, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey and orange juice. Set aside.

Wash the outer cabbage and cut into quarters. Shred into a large bowl.  Wash the carrots and grate those. Add them to the cabbage as well as the green onions.

Pour the miso dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss. Toss in the peanuts.

This salad may be made the day ahead and chilled. I thought it was quite good right after it was made.