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.

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Kale chips

March 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

A quick and simple recipe for kale chips – a crispy, salty snack that’s actually good for you! This is how to eat your greens.

Baked kale chips

1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 F. Rinse and thoroughly dry the kale, and then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss in the olive oil so all the leaves are evenly coated. Sprinkle generously with salt. Lie the pieces in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp.

 

 

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.

Turning a new leaf

April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m not a big fan of salads or raw vegetables. I think it partly has to do with growing up in a Chinese-American family, where all vegetables were stir-fried, steamed, or cooked in some other way. However, I’ve always been a sucker for the ubiquitous carrot-miso-ginger dressing you see at Japanese restaurants, where they toss some grated carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and romaine together and present it as a throwaway appetizer with the miso soup before your bento box.

Last week, the Ithaca Farmers’ Market opened for the spring season, and aside from the usual baked goods (chocolate brioche oh mah gah), the produce was still pretty sad looking – just some leeks, spinach, greens, and root vegetables here and there. But I remembered the salad dressing from Goop and Smitten Kitchen and I knew that I already had the other Asian ingredients in my pantry, so I figured I’d grab some shallots and carrots, break out the blender, and give this a whirl.

It comes surprisingly close to those restaurant dressings. I threw in a pinch of sugar to balance the bite of ginger and tossed it with some organic mixed greens that I also picked up at the market. And even though I paired this with yet another grilled Brie sandwich, the salad still made it one of the most virtuous meals I’ve had in a while.

Carrot-ginger dressing

Carrot-ginger dressing (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small shallot,  roughly chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
2 tablespoons sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dark toasted sesame oil
pinch of sugar (optional)
1/4 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed
2 tablespoons water

Blend the carrots, shallot, and ginger until finely chopped. Then add the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar (if using). While blending, add the neutral oil and water until you reach the desired consistency (I tend to like a smoother consistency for this particular dressing). Serve and toss with your favorite greens and vegetables.

Buttercup brie sandwich

April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Buttercup brie from Cherry Grove Farms

One of the three cheeses we picked up at Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was a rich and creamy Buttercup brie from Cherry Grove Farms in Lawrenceville, NJ. I usually like to keep things simple and bake Brie with honey and walnuts or caramelized onions, but this weekend I picked up a loaf of buttery brioche from Just Desserts at the farmer’s market and apples at Wegmans, so, with the addition of Honey Dijon I had in the pantry, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich instead. I’ve also seen other combinations, like pears instead of apples, maybe a bit of thinly sliced ham or even crisp bacon, etc but you want to make sure you don’t overpower the subtle richness of the cheese. Easy, quick, but still very special.

Assembly

Buttercup brie sandwich

2 oz creamy brie, at room temperature and thinly sliced
1/4 tart-sweet apple like a Gala or Empire, thinly sliced into wedges
honey Dijon mustard
sea salt and black pepper
2 1-inch slices buttery, eggy bread like brioche or challah
1 tablespoon butter

Assemble first five ingredients, adding or subtracting amounts depending on personal taste, on the brioche slices. Add butter to a non-stick skillet on medium heat. When the butter’s melted, grill the sandwich for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden-brown and the cheese has melted.

Streamlining eggplant parmesan

March 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A healthier and simplified version of the breaded and fried classic. I also like that the servings come in uniform parcels of eggplant stuffed with seasoned ricotta and herbs. Leftovers taste great in a sandwich the next day.

Eggplant Parmesan Rolls (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices (I used three small ones because that’s all that was available in the produce section that day)
coarse salt
extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 15 oz container of whole-milk ricotta cheese (none of that low-fat crap)
1 1/4 cups of grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (supplied by my new hydroponic basil plant)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
about 4 cups tomato sauce
8 oz mozzarella, sliced (preferably fresh but regular mozzarella will do)

Cover bottom and sides of large colander with 1 layer of eggplant slices; sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Continue layering eggplant slices, sprinkling each layer with coarse salt, until all the eggplant slices are used. Place the colander over a large bowl and let stand for 30-60 minutes. Rinse eggplant slices to remove excess salt and then dry thoroughly using paper towels.

Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and grill on grill pan, griddle, or even nonstick skillet, about 2-3 minutes on each side, until each side is browned and the eggplant is fairly tender. Put eggplant slices to the side to cool while preparing the filling.

Filling:

Whisk eggs and pinch of coarse salt in medium bowl. Add ricotta cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, basil, and black pepper.

Lightly oil 15x10x2 baking dish. Spread half of tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish. Divide ricotta mixture filling among eggplant slices, placing about 1 tablespoon filling in the center of each. Starting at 1 short end of each, loosely roll up eggplant slices, enclosing filling. Arrange rolls, seam side down, atop sauce in baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over. Place mozzarella slices in a single layer over rolls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake eggplant Parmesan rolls, covered with foil, until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned on top and bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil.

Three cheese mac and cheese

March 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

When we were younger, my sister Laura loved Stouffer’s microwaveable macaroni and cheese dinners. For the longest time, her after-school routine consisted of throwing her bookbag on the floor after getting home, walking to the fridge and pulling out a mac and cheese dinner, nuking it for two minutes, and then plopping herself in front of the television.

I, on the other hand, hated the stuff. I wasn’t a fan of dairy products in general, and everytime she’d pull out that tray of yellow gunk, I’d gag a little, which was a shame because mac and cheese seemed like such a quintessentially American food and I was all about the hamburgers, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes while growing up.

Then, when I got to college, something changed. Maybe it was because I started baking brie for wine and cheese gatherings and making grilled cheese sandwiches for quick dinners, but one day I went to Trader Joe’s and randomly picked up their four cheese macaroni, and since then, I’ve been hooked.

This past Thanksgiving, I decided it was high time to do a homemade version and went with Ina Garten’s classic, topped with sliced tomato and fresh breadcrumbs. It was a big hit among the guests, but when I made it again last night, I decided to do away with all the embellishments. Even when cut in half, the recipe has a high yield. But for someone who’s trying to get into the habit of cooking batches of food and then saving them for meals during the week, it totally works.

And in relation to a “flexitarian” lifestyle, this obviously falls under “unrestricted” meals due to the generous amounts of butter, milk, Gruyere, sharp cheddar, and parmesan. It’s well worth it though.

Three cheese mac and cheese (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

Ingredients

salt
vegetable oil
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 oz Gruyere, grated
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar (I like Cabot)
1  teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling and salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan but don’t let it boil. In a deep skillet, melt the butter and then add the flour. Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute until it thickens a little and reaches a smooth consistency. Off the heat, add the cheeses and the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and mix well. Pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish or whatever else fits. Top with grated parmesan. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the mac and cheese is bubbly.

A Summertime Salad

July 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s currently 102 degrees in Edison right now, and I haven’t left the house even once over the past 24 hours because it would mean parting my air-conditioned bubble. The suffocating heat also means minimal cooking, minimal physical labor when it comes to food. And maybe a huge bowl of Dutch chocolate ice cream…

I’ve always wanted to make panzanella, the Italian-style bread salad that uses day-old or stale bread. But watching Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie and its episode in Tuscany again finally pushed me over the edge.

This is a really easy light lunch or dinner, perfect for the summer, when tomatoes are at their very best, and there isn’t any need for a recipe since the ingredients are pretty much whatever’s currently in your fridge.

Here’s what I did to make my version:

Cut 6 leaves of romaine lettuce and 1 juicy beefsteak tomato into bite size pieces. If you have onions available, you can caramelize those and include them too. Take day-old Italian bread (or any other hearty bread like sourdough) and tear into chunks. Since the bread is most likely going to be very dry, add just a little water to soften it up again.

Put lettuce, tomato, onions and bread in a large bowl. Add whatever dressing or vinaigrette you prefer; I added my own Dijon dressing (Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, E.V.O.O., salt and pepper) but balsamic would work great here as well. If you have fresh herbs like basil on hand, that adds an extra dimension to the dish. Mix everything with your hands so the flavors marry and the juices from the tomato and dressing soak into the bread. Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

So simple, so filling. And relatively healthy too, at least compared to all the barbecue food I ate this past weekend. Seeing how I’ll soon be leaving for school again in little over a month, it’s time that I started cooking regularly again to develop a good habit.

Making our own dumplings

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I was younger, I used to help my parents make dumplings. About twice a month, they’d take out the huge wooden board, dumpling wrappers, home-made pork filling, and methodically wrap them, each one looking exactly like the one before it. I remember for our elementary cultural carnivals, where each student would bring food from their country of origin, our dumplings would be the first to go.

Making dumplings is definitely a communal or family activity. Usually, we’d set up little stations. Since I was the most useless, I’d always end up being the one lining the dumpling wrappers with water so they’d stick when my mom or dad wrapped them. Once in a while, I was allowed to try my hand at wrapping one, but it’d always come out so ugly that I’d give up and go back to my original station.

This past Chinese New Year, I was especially homesick and decided that I’d not only make dumplings, but I’d go further than my parents ever did and make them completely from scratch, skins and all. The process was surprisingly simple, just flour and water with a little salt mixed together, and rolling out the individual skins became quite meditative, even though I’d occasionally freak out about the Chinese BBQ ribs in the oven.

I stuck with the filling that I’ve been eating since I was a kid – pork and leek. Except I didn’t have any leeks so I used scallions instead, and they still turned out great. Until recently, we always used to boil dumplings at home, but lately, my dad (maybe it’s a regional thing? He’s from southern China and my mom’s from northern) likes to pan-fry them. And I’m a huge fan of anything with golden crusty bottoms.

Pork and Leek Dumplings

2 lb flour
1 1/2 cups cold water
pinch of salt
1 lb ground pork
4-5 stalks of green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs

Mix flour, water and pinch of salt and knead to make a soft dough. Cover for 20 minutes with a damp paper towel.

Marinate ground pork with soy sauce, salt, chopped ginger, and sesame oil. Add the sliced scallions, vegetable oil, eggs and mix thoroughly. This is your pork filling

Knead dough on a floured cutting board and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 2 inches wide. Shape each strip into a round log, and cut into 3/4 in. pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle, and with a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper. Line the outer edges with water using your finger. Take 1 tablespoon of filling and put into the center of the wrapper, fold in half, and pinch.

Place dumplings in a fry-pan with 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until the bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away, uncover, and reduce heat to medium or low. Let dumplings cook another 2 minutes and then serve.

I like to serve my dumplings with a dipping sauce – soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, rice wine vinegar, minced ginger, scallions.

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