Ruth Reichl’s blueberry crisp

March 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s back in the 40’s here in Ithaca (darn you Mother Nature!), but I’m protesting the cold weather and making spring-ish desserts. Using this simple, easy recipe from Ruth Reichl on GiltTaste, I was able to pull a bubbling, heavenly-smelling blueberry crisp out of the oven within an hour with minimal mess and effort.

I only had regular frozen blueberries, which I defrosted and drained before using for the crisp. Other small modifications: mixing the blueberries with a teaspoon of cornstarch to better soak up and thicken the juices, adding a few drops of good vanilla extract to the topping, along with a handful of old-fashioned oats and flaxmeal. This recipe would probably work equally well with strawberries, raspberries, even apples. It’s a great dessert to pull together when you’re in a tight spot, since you’re bound to have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. Slivered almonds would be an awesome addition as well.

Good vanilla ice cream with this dessert is a must. I can’t wait to eat leftovers tomorrow for breakfast.

Blueberry crisp

1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups brown or white sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 handful old-fashioned rolled oats (optional)
1 tablespoon flaxmeal (optional)
4 cups of frozen blueberries, defrosted and drained
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)

Preheat the oven at 375. Combine melted butter and sugar, and stir in the sugar. Add salt and cinnamon and mix. Slowly incorporate the flour, until you have a dry and crumbly mixture. Mix in oats and flaxmeal if using.

Pour the mixed cornstarch and blueberries into a well-buttered pie plate (I actually used a loaf pan) and sprinkle the crisp topping over the blueberries. Use all of it, even if it seems a little excessive. This topping is that good. Bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is nice and golden. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Alice’s Tea Cup

December 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

Christmas is the time for kitsch. Laura and I celebrated the end of her first round of college finals by embracing everything cute and corny at Alice’s Tea Cup, where the food and ambiance come together to create a really enjoyable and relaxing experience. The restaurant/tea shop itself is excessively decorated and eye-poppingly colorful, especially in the storefront area, but the actual dining room is more toned down, with old wooden spinning tables (machines removed of course) and mismatched tea settings which add to the place’s charm.

Alice's Tea Cup

We started with a pot of Alice’s Tea, their custom blend of Indian black Vanilla with Japanese green tea and rose petals, which was “smooth and subtle.”

Alice's Tea

Laura indulged in some of their Scones Benedict, with two poached eggs over a split savory scone healthily smothered in rich rosemary hollandaise sauce and served with a side of crispy potato hash. As soon as she broke into that first gooey, golden yolk, we knew we were in the right place for breakfast.

Our breakfast spread

Scones Benedict

But nothing, not even potatoes and yolky eggs, could deter me from the enormous lemon poppyseed glazed scone served with raspberry preserves and clotted cream. It was one of those moments where something so seemingly simple turns out to be so frikkin’ amazing. I spent most of breakfast just focusing on the scone (which is big enough to be breakfast in itself) and pretty much ignored my very good cornmeal and blueberry pancakes with maple syrup.

Lemon poppyseed scone with raspberry preserves and clotted cream

Cornmeal pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup

So buttery and flaky, the tart lemon tasted so delicious against the thick, dreamy cream and sweet, fruity preserves, and it was a perfect accompaniment to the hot, only slightly bitter tea. It was hard to walk pass the pastry counter on the way out without getting some more scones to go, and I was still dreaming about them this morning. Next time, I think I might just get their small pot of tea and 2 scones for $10 and spend all morning eating crumbly bite after crumbly bite.

Pastries and scones

Alice’s Tea Cup
102 West 73rd Street
New York, NY
212.799.3006
http://alicesteacup.com/

Pumpkin spice granola

September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes, a shortage of ingredients and a bit of flexibility results in a pleasant surprise. A couple weeks ago, I was looking through the pantry trying to find ground cinnamon and vanilla extract to make basic granola, only to realize that I’d left it all at my parents’ house in NJ.

Pumpkin spice granola

It was probably more laziness than (I like to think) creativity, but instead of running to the store to buy some more, I just used some extra pumpkin spice, almond extract, and olive oil (since I also didn’t have the canola oil I typically use) as substitutes.

And I have to say that I might never go back to the original recipe. That same week, temperatures reached below 50 F in Ithaca, so having breakfast with some spice was the perfect way to wake up in the morning. This granola still had all of the things I love – a healthy amount of salt to balance the sweet, large and textured clumps of oats, and the crunch of walnuts – but became so much more with just a few modifications.

Just goes to show that sloth isn’t always a sin.

Pumpkin Spice Granola 

This recipe lasts about 1 – 1 1/2 weeks for one person. Store in an airtight container.

2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used slightly less since I like my granola to be less sweet)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup walnuts (I like to add more)
1/2 cup dark raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Mix the rolled oats, salt, and pumpkin spice in a large bowl. Pour onto a foiled baking sheet and spread in one even layer.

Mix honey, brown sugar, olive oil, and almond extract in a small bowl. Microwave for about 20 seconds (don’t have to do this but I find it softens the sugar and makes whisking a bit easier) and then whisk until everything is thoroughly blended. Pour honey mixture over the oats mixture in the baking sheet and mix thoroughly so all the oats are evenly coated. If you like a clumpy granola, gather some of the mixture in your hand and make a fist so you get some clumps.

Bake for 10 minutes. Take out, stir granola, and add the walnuts. Bake for another 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and toasted in color. Take out of the oven and stir in raisins, if using. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Butter and blueberries: a sign of spring?

April 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

I saw this on Smitten Kitchen a while back and decided that I had to try it for the name alone. Plus, the sun finally came out this weekend, blessing us with 60 degree weather, and I thought a blueberry dessert would be perfect. And since my parents came to visit this weekend, they were able to bring some home for my sisters, meaning I wouldn’t end up eating the entire pan by myself (though I would have no difficulty in doing so, trust me).

Folding blueberries into the batter

Cooling in the pan

I was surprised by the lightness of the cake. For some reason, I imagined it would be a really heavy, dense dessert but this would be a perfect, crumbly, buttery accompaniment with Earl Grey tea for an indulgent afternoon snack, which is exactly what I’m having as I type this in the law school carrels.

Perfect with Earl Grey

Blueberry Boy Bait (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 16, generously

For the cake:

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (Don’t defrost if they’re frozen, otherwise they’ll get mushy)

For the topping:

3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (don’t defrost)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the cake:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking pan.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract and then the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated and scrape down the sides. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then add half of the buttermilk.  Then beat in the remaining half of the flour mixture and the remaining half of the buttermilk. Toss the blueberries in the leftover tablespoon of flour until they are fully coated and then fold gently into the batter with a rubber spatula. Spread batter into the baking pan.

For the topping:

Scatter the blueberries on top of the batter. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan for another 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Do-it-yourself granola

April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Another unloading-the-pantry recipe. Yogurt and granola always sounds like such a healthy combination, but in undergrad, yogurt for me meant sugary, strawberry goop from the dining hall and granola meant even sweeter crushed Nature Valley bars. No doubt having giant bowls of that for breakfast contributed to the poundage I gained during freshman year. If only I had known how easy it is to make granola at home.

This recipe is simple and versatile; you could probably substitute the honey for maple syrup, walnuts for pecans or almonds, dark raisins for dried cranberries, the possibilities are endless. And I like getting  little pops of the coarse sea salt with the overall sweetness so I tend to add a little more, but to each his own. I’ve gotten into the very good habit of making a batch every Sunday morning, which makes the whole apartment smell spicy and toasty, and having a little bit each day for breakfast with some tart Greek yogurt.

Homemade granola

Everyday Granola

2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon neutral oil (I used canola)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark raisins

Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, stir together oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla until completely combined (I found that microwaving the mixture for about 30 seconds made mixing a lot easier). Pour honey mixture over the oats and mix, using your hands. If you like clumpy granola, gather some of the mixture in your hand and make a fist. Repeat until all oats are evenly coated.

Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spreading it out evenly. Bake for 10-12 minutes and then remove from the oven. Flip the granola with a large spatula, add the walnuts and stick the granola back in the oven. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the granola is golden brown. Let cool completely and then sprinkle with raisins. Store in an airtight container.

Pistachio and chocolate chip blondies

April 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

When my parents visit, they never fail to bring Costco-sized bags of roasted and salted pistachios, rolled oats, dried mangoes, and Stacey’s pita chips. And while I love to eat all of these things, it’s now come to that point in the spring semester where I look around my kitchen and wonder how I’m ever going to empty the pantry before moving out.

Rosy, green pistachios

Yesterday, I was craving something sweet and remembered Mark Bittman’s minimalist approach to blondies. I doubled the original recipe, managed to use a good portion of that 4 lb bag of pistachios (and yes, I had to shell 1 1/2 cups’ worth), and finally finished that bag of chocolate chips leftover from a batch of chocolate chip cookies I’d made last month.

Pre-baking

For some reason, I imagined the mix to be similar to brownie batter and became worried when it turned out almost as thick as cookie dough.  Don’t worry if you have to spread the dough when it’s in the pan. These turned out just right – chewy, nutty, and not too sweet – and I really do think that the almond extract imparted something special and subtle. And even though the blondies tasted great straight out of the oven, I think they taste even better the next day.

Pistachio and chocolate chip blondies

Pistachio and chocolate chip blondies (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. Mix melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract, if using. Add flour and salt. Using a spatula, mix in pistachios and chocolate chips. Pour and spread mix into baking pan and bake for 40 minutes or until the center is set. Cool on rack before cutting.

Snow days and Snickerdoodles

February 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

The snow has really been pounding down on us here in D.C. This past weekend we got about 2 feet and now, it’s supposed to be another 8-10 inches from what I’ve heard. So, where the heck does that leave me? Baking, reading, catching up on television shows, eating and sleeping. Because I only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and because this coming Monday is President’s Day, I’ll have had no classfor two weeks! (Yeah, I don’t care if I’m rubbing it in. I’m bound to pay for it later. Maybe evening make up classes?)

And of course, because nothing is better than the smell of sugar, butter, and cinnamon in the oven, and because they were the only ingredients I had on hand, I decided to make snickerdoodles. I don’t bake that often when I’m at home (I think it may be an Asian family thing…not many Chinese recipes require use of an oven), so this was a pretty big achievement for me. Especially since the cookies came out absolutely perfectly – doughy and cinnamon-y – and made the entire apartment smell like absolute heaven.

Snickerdoodles

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (two sticks) butter, salted is fine but make sure it’s at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Beat butter and sugar using an electric whisk until smooth. Beat eggs into the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides and then add vanilla and mix again. Add flour, salt, and baking powder to the mixture, a little at a time, and beat until you have a smooth dough that comes together.  Form into a ball and chill the dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll into 1 inch balls. Coat the balls of dough with the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges start to get slightly browned. Cool and serve.

Story of the Leo’s onion

November 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

About a week ago, Danielle was standing in line at the pasta station at Leo’s dining hall when she noticed a display of vegetables, including this GIANT white onion. I don’t know what made her take it straight from under the pasta lady’s nose, but I’m definitely glad she did.

It took a long time for me to appreciate good cheese, especially anything blue and extra stinky. Maybe it’s because in my family, we didn’t really eat too many dairy products growing up. But now, there’s nothing I like better than a slab of melted brie slathered on bread.

I’d done the sweet topping + brie combination before, so after picking up about a 1/4 wheel of brie at Dean and Deluca yesterday, I thought we’d go the savory route for our apartment wine and cheese night.

I think that caramelized onions taste pretty much good on anything, even by themselves. They take a while to make, but once you have that wonderful onion jam, you realize that the constant stirring and vigilance is completely worth it, especially when it’s combined with gooey triple cream cheese.

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

4 large onions, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil

generous wedge of Brie (we had a pound of Belletoile Triple Creme split among 5 of us)
sliced baguette or crisp french toasts

On medium heat in a large saute pan, heat the olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add all the onions, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir occasionally. * The key is allowing the onions to brown a little, leaving crusty goodness on the bottom of the pan and then scraping up the bits with a wooden spoon. This trick gives the onions that wonderful mahogany color. If it looks like the scraps on the bottom of the pan are about to burn, add a little water (don’t be scared of a little sizzling), and it’ll be easier to scrape them up. No matter what, you have to make sure you stir them, especially towards the end when most of the moisture from the onions has evaporated.

This whole caramelizing process will take about 45 minutes to an hour, but you want to keep an eye on them; otherwise they might burn.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F. Once the onions are dark brown, place the wedge of brie on an oven-safe dish, top with the onions, and stick in the oven for 7 minutes or until it starts to get gooey, but doesn’t melt completely.

Serve with the slices of baguette.

Baked Brie at Emily’s 21st

September 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

My roommate, Emily, turned 21 on September 21st, but because it was a Monday evening, we decided to celebrate with a small dinner party.

There was a lot of great food involved – spinach salad with blue cheese, craisins, and candied pecans, mushroom tortellini in an alfredo sauce – but the best dish definitely was the appetizer, a baked brie with walnuts and honey.

Emily always gets Le Parisien salad at SweetGreen which has arugula, brie, pears, and almonds, so even though she isn’t a big cheese fan, we thought it’d be a good idea. Plus, the recipe is super easy and we already had the ingredients on hand.

It was even more of a success than we thought it would be. Some of the guests proclaimed themselves to be anti-French food, but that didn’t stop them from helping themselves to extras. Within 10 minutes, the entire wedge, walnuts and all, was wiped clean from the plate and the rosemary garlic crackers were gone.

Baked Brie

Wedge of soft Brie
honey, as much as you want
walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Set the wedge of brie onto an oven safe serving platter and scatter with walnuts. Drizzle with as much honey as desired. Put serving platter on sheet pan and bake for 6-8 minutes or until the brie has started to ooze but not melt. Serve with crackers or slices of French baguette.

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