Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Beet Risotto

I had a collection of root vegetables (beets, parsnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes) laying around so one night I decided to roast them all.  I cut everything up and on one baking sheet mixed the parsnips, potatoes and some sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper.  On another baking sheet I had the rest of the sweet potatoes on one side and the beets on the other (both mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper).

I decided to use the variety tray to make a soup (I pureed the veggies with chicken broth).  The roasted beets made their way into risotto, and the leftover sweet potatoes were used as a side/garnish.  I filled a measuring cup with risotto then turned it upside down on a plate for a fun presentation.

I was really happy with how this turned out!  You get a nice roasted earthy flavor from the beets mixed with the creaminess of the rice and cheese.  Plus it's bright pink, so it'll make any dinner plate more colorful!

Beet Risotto
Original Recipe
Yield: about 3 cups of risotto

4 small beets, scrubbed, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with foil and add the diced beets.  Drizzle olive oil over the beets, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, then mix it all around so the beets are evenly coated.  Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally) for about 40 minutes or until the beets are tender.

After the beets have been roasting for about 20 minutes, heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan (not boiling).  In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, saute the onions in butter until soft, 3 minutes.  Add the garlic to the pan for 30 seconds before adding the rice and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes without browning the rice.

Pour 3 cups of the hot stock into the rice mixture and stir.  You don't have to stir constantly, but keep an eye on it so the rice doesn't burn.  When almost all the stock has been absorbed by the rice, add the roasted beets and the last 1/2 cup of stock.  Stir until the stock is absorbed.  Remove the risotto from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pasta with Clams

The day I made this pasta, we were going to have leftovers for dinner.  That plan went out the window when I read a passage from Heat.  Bill Buford (the author) described how to make the clam pasta from Mario Batali's Babbo.  It sounded fantastic and I just had to make it!

I stopped at the market on the way home to pick up some clams only to find out I didn't have enough long noodles.  Instead of heading back out to the store I just whipped up some fresh pasta.  Fresh pasta doesn't take very long to cook (3-4 minutes) so keep that in mind if you decide to make some (the recipe below mentions 6.5 minutes for dried pasta).

This dinner was really easy to throw together and it tasted amazing!  The clam, porky, and buttery flavors were so good together.  I will definitely make this again.

Pasta with Clams
Adapted from Babbo as described in Heat
Serves about 3

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 oz pancetta (I used 2 slices of bacon), chopped
3 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc or an un-oaked chardonnay)
6 oz linguine or fettucini
2 dozen clams, soaked and scrubbed and kept cool until ready to be cooked
Parsley, chopped (optional)
Baguette, for sopping up the juices

Boil some salted water for the pasta (it should taste like sea water).  While the water is heating up, heat a pan to medium-high and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When the oil gets hot, add the garlic, red pepper flakes, onion and pancetta.  When the onions get soft, add the butter and wine.  Remove from heat until the pasta water is boiling.

Put the pasta in the boiling water.  Turn the pan's burner up to high, put the pan back on and add the clams to the pan and cover it.  The objective is to cook them fast, the clams will open in 3-5 minutes.  Remove cover and discard any clams that have not opened.  Swirl the contents of the pan to mix the clam juices and the buttery, porky, onion mixture.  

After six and a half minutes in the water, the pasta will be ready.  Use tongs to pull the pasta out and add it to the clam mixture.  It's okay that some of the pasta water comes along too, this will help make a nice sauce.  Swirl everything around so the pasta gets coated with the clam mixture.  If it looks too dry, add a little more pasta water; if it's too wet, pour some out.  Let the whole thing cook away for another half minute or so, swirling until the sauce streaks across the bottom of the pan, splash with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Angel Food Cake

I made this cake way back in March of last year.  I've had this post sitting as a draft forever, I'm not really sure why I haven't posted it before now.

I knew angel food cake was a favorite between the two celebrants of a shared birthday party I was attending so choosing a cake was a no brainer.  To top it off, I got to cross off another item from my culinary to do list.  Some people frost entire angel food cakes, I think that's crazy.  In my opinion, frosting doesn't belong on angel food cake at all, but since I was in the middle of Wilton cake decorating classes, I needed an excuse to practice making roses.

Angel food cake was a lot easier than I expected.  All the fluffy egg white batter was a little intimidating because I didn't want it to deflate, but I didn't have any problems.  Angel food cake is great when you want a nice light dessert that incorporates the summer berries.

EGG NOTES:  I already had a good start on saving whites after making ice cream, so I only had to separate a few more eggs.  Separating eggs is a lot easier when the eggs are cold, but when you start making the angel food cake, make sure the whites are at room temperature.  

Since this recipe takes 12 egg whites, that's a lot of leftover yolks.  If you can't use them all right away (by adding extra yolks in your scrambled eggs or making ice cream, pasta or hollandaise), then you can freeze them.  Check out these tips from eHow.  I found out the hard way that if you freeze yolks without the salt or sugar, they do get gelatinous and difficult to manage.  Once you mix the salt or sugar into the bowl of yolks, I recommend measuring 1 Tbsp of yolk mixture and putting it into an ice cube tray (it'll be easier to grab the amount you need without defrosting the whole mixture).  Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the ice tray, and store them in a freezer bag noting that they contain salt or sugar so you use the correct yolks (salt for savory recipes, sugar for sweet recipes).

Angel Food Cake
From Baking Illustrated

Sift both the cake flour and the granulated sugar before measuring to eliminate any lumps and ensure the lightest possible texture.

1 cup (3 oz) sifted plain cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) sifted sugar
12 large egg whites (1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp), at room temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract

For Serving:
Fresh berries or thawed frozen berries
Whipped cream

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325. Have ready an ungreased large tube pan (9-inch diameter and 16-cup capacity), preferably with a removable bottom. If pan bottom is not removable, you must line it with parchment or waxed paper, but DO NOT GREASE or the batter won't be able to climb the sides of the pan and you will have a very flat angel food cake.

Whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl. Place the remaining sugar in another small bowl near the mixer.

Beat the egg whites with a mixer at low speed until just broken up and beginning to froth. Add cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until whites form very soft, billowy mounds, 2 to 3 minutes.

With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form soft peaks, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, lemon juice and almond extract and beat for about 30 seconds at highest speed.

Resift the flour/sugar mixture and spoon it over the egg whites, about 3 tablespoons at a time, folding in gently with a large spatula.

Gently scrape batter into pan, smooth top with spatula, and give the pan a couple of gentle raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles in the batter.

Bake until cake is golden brown and top springs back when pressed firmly, 50 to 60 minutes.

If cake pan has feet, invert pan onto them. If not, invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle or funnel (or two stacked wire cookie cooling racks) so air can circulate all around it. Allow cake to cool completely for 2 to 3 hours.

To unmold, run a thin serrated knife around the edges, being careful to dislodge as little of the crust as possible. Slide the cake out of pan and use the same technique on the bottom, or peel off parchment or waxed paper if using. Place cake, bottom side up, on a platter. Cut slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife.  Serve with berries and whipped cream.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cake Balls

Cake pops, cake balls, cake truffles whatever you call them it's the same idea:  crumbled cake, mixed with frosting, chilled, then covered in chocolate.  They are extremely easy to make, just time consuming.  Some people decorate them with a lot of detail (a la Bakerella) but I went the simple route with sprinkles on top.

For Valentine's Day, I sent out these treats for a few friends and family members.  I knew I wanted to have chocolate, and I decided on strawberry for the second flavor, a sort of chocolate covered strawberry.  I made the cake and frosting from scratch because I ended up having time, but feel free to use a box mix and canned frosting.

The chocolate balls came out great, but I was disappointed in the strawberry balls.  Since I made the cake from scratch, there were actually strawberries in the cake which kept it moist.  If we were eating a piece of cake, it would have been fine.  Since I was adding moist frosting to moist cake crumbles, the strawberry filling turned out wetter than the chocolate filling.  They rolled into balls just fine, it wasn't until after sampling the finished cake balls that I realized they were mushy.

The treats were well received from everyone (even though there were issues with the post office).  Everything was sent from the same post office on the same day.  Packages sent to Dayton, WNY, Central NY and VA all arrived on Valentine's Day as expected.  It took 6 days to get to the other side of Cleveland, and over a week to get to NYC and CA.  What?!  I don't usually use this post office location to send packages, and I will not be using it ever again.

I will definitely make cake balls again, but not using strawberries.  The chocolate balls were a hit, and I'd try a yellow cake or carrot cake version.  I'm not a fan of red velvet, but that's a popular flavor as well.

Cake Balls
Inspired by Bakerella
Yield: about 100 1" balls from each cake

Chocolate Cake* (I used this recipe from Coconut & Lime)
1 1/2 - 2 cups Chocolate Frosting (I used Hershey's recipe on the cocoa container)

Strawberry Cake (I adjusted the servings for this AllRecipe to 36, then baked in 9x13 pan)
1 1/2 - 2 cups Buttercream Frosting (I made Wilton's using all butter, no shortening)

*UPDATE: Chocolate and yellow are my favorite cake flavors to use. These are the recipes I like to use, tastes great and no extra egg yolks or anything crazy: Chocolate Cake and Yellow Cake

Chocolate Bark/Chocolate Melts for dipping
Assorted Sprinkles or other decorations (optional)
  • Bake cakes according to instructions, then allow to cool completely (a couple of hours).  Once the cakes are cooled, make the frosting according to directions.
  • Using your fingers or two forks, work the cake until they are small crumbs and transfer to a large bowl.  Repeat the crumbling with the second cake and transfer to another large bowl.
  • Combine about 1 1/2 cups chocolate frosting to the chocolate cake crumbs.  Stir until there are no more dry crumbs or globs of frosting.  Add more frosting if needed.  Repeat with strawberry cake.
  • Roll the cake mixture into 1 tablespoon balls (about the size of a walnut) and place them on wax paper lined trays/cookie sheets.  
  • Chill for a few hours in the fridge or in your cold garage if it's winter.
  • Melt the chocolate according to instructions, then dip the chilled balls one at a time using two forks (clean off chocolate buildup from forks as needed).
  • Place the chocolate coated cake balls on a piece of wax paper. The chocolate dries fast since the cake balls are cold so top with sprinkles immediately.  Repeat until all the balls have been dipped.  

Tip:  If you make multiple kinds of cake balls, you'll want to decorate them differently in order to distinguish each flavor.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cherry Pie

This cherry pie was the first pie I've ever made!  I'm pretty sure I've helped make pie when I was a kid, but never a whole one by myself.  In my adult life I don't have many opportunities to make pie because Kevin is not a fan of pie.  He's got something against cooked fruit and flaky crusts or something.  Because of this, pie isn't the only pastry he avoids.  For my first time, I was pretty proud of myself though.  I made an old fashioned strawberry pie for my dad for Father's Day, but that was the last time I made a fruit pie.

My aunt always makes cherry pie for the major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter).  As a kid I wasn't a big fan, but now I tend to choose her cherry pie over the other desserts offered.  This pie has a great sweet tart cherry flavor with a hint of cinnamon and a flaky crust.  

This recipe uses a quart jar of tart cherries and their juices.  My aunt and gram can them over the summer.  If you don't have access to home-canned cherries (or fresh cherries), hopefully you'll be able to find a few jars in your grocery store (if you have access to a Trader Joe's they sell Dark Morello Cherries that should work).  I don't know if frozen tart cherries would have enough juice after they are thawed (or if that product even exists).  Whatever you do, do not use a can of cherry pie filling!

Cherry Pie
From my Aunt Ginny

Dough (makes 2 double crust pies):
4 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening (butter flavored Crisco)
dash of salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1 tsp vinegar
1 egg

Filling (for 1 pie):
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
32 oz of tart red cherries with their juices reserved (not cherry pie filling in a can!)

Heavy Cream/Milk
Course Sugar (such as sanding sugar or raw sugar)

Making the Dough:
Combine flour, salt and sugar.  Cut in shortening until consistency of small peas. Combine water, vinegar and egg.  Mix into flour mixture and form a large ball.  Divide into four equal sections (one for each crust) and flatten them each into disks.  Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.  You will need 2 disks for this recipe, the extra dough can be put into a freezer bag and frozen.

Making the Filling:
Before you make the filling, adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on it and heat the oven to 500.

  • Whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and cherry juices until the flour is dissolved, then stir in the cherries.

Constructing the Pie (from Baking Illustrated):

  • Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator (if it's been chilling for over an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable).
  • With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  As you roll out the dough, if the dough is sticking to the surface below or to the rolling pin, add a few sprinkles of flour to prevent sticking. Alternatively, you could roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. 
  • Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around a rolling pin and unrolling over the pan.  Working around the circumfernce of the pan, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the pan bottom with the other hand.  Leave the dough that overhangs the lip of the pie plate in place.  Refrigerate the dough-lined plate until needed.
  • Add the cherry filling to the dough-lined plate.
  • Roll out the second piece of dough to a 12-inch circle; place it over the filling.  
  • Trim the edges of the top and bottom dough layers to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the pan.  Tuck this rim underneath itself so that the folded edge is flush with the pan lip.  Flute the edge using your thumb and forefinger or press with fork tines to seal.
  • Cut 8 slits in the top using a sharp knife.  If the dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Brush the top of the pie with heavy cream and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Baking the Pie (from Baking Illustrated):

  • Lower the temperature to 425.  Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the crust is set and begins to brown, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Rotate the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 375, continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown and the juices bubble, 25 to 30 minutes longer.
  • Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pi Day Pie Party

Image Source: neatorama.com

Pi Day is coming up!  Last year on March 14 at 1:59pm (3.14159) we had a Pi Day Pie Party.  Since St Patrick's Day is a few days later, I ended up giving it an Irish theme.  

The Menu:
Cheese and Crackers
Rueben Hand Pies

Chicken Pot Pie
Shepherd's Pie
Irish Soda Bread

Cherry Pie (my first pie)
Apple Pie (Mike's first pie)
Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Black & Tans
Green Vodka Lemonade (for the non-beer drinkers)

Rueben Hand Pies:  I was looking for a pie that could be an appetizer.   When I found these ham and cheese bites, I knew I had to turn them into baby ruebens.  I made extra dough when I made the chicken pot pie, so I used that instead of store bought.  Instead of the ham and cheddar, I used corned beef swiss cheese.  I also drained some sauerkraut really well and added some of that also.  It's not a rueben without the sauerkraut right?  I made some Thousand Island dressing for a dipping sauce because it wasn't worth buying a whole bottle just for these apps. 

Chicken Pot Pie:  I used a recipe from an episode of Jacques and Julia.  On the TV version they use only a smidge of cream, but in the cookbook for that show they used a lot more.  I've tried making it both ways and it's definitely better with only a smidge of cream.  The additional cream drowns out the delicious flavor of the concentrated chicken stock.


Shepherd's Pie:  I used a mish-mash of shepherd's pie recipes that I found online.  I plan on making it again, and when I do I'll share the final recipe.  I created some texture on the potatoes to encourage browning.


Irish Soda Bread:  After looking at a bunch of recipes, I noticed some had raisins, currants and caraway seeds.  I didn't want any of that so I went with this recipe from Taste and Tell.

Cherry Pie:  This was is the first fruit pie I've ever made!  I used my Aunt Ginny's recipe for the crust and filling which I will reveal in the next blog post (found here).


Apple Pie:  Our friend Mike wanted to contribute so he made his first pie also.  He made an apple pie decorated with pi's equation for an area of a circle and pi's number up to the first 10 decimals.  Not only did it look good, but it was really tasty too!  It was everything an apple should be: flaky crust with a warm mix of apple and cinnamon flavor.

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie:  Here's a quick and dirty recipe for you:

Crush about 2 sleeves of Oreos and mix with a bit of melted butter (~5 Tbsp) then smush into a pie pan or spring-form pan.  Make or buy mint chocolate chip ice cream (1.5-2 qts) or Mint Ting a Ling if you're in Perry's country.  Give it a chance to soften a bit, then spread it evenly into pan.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil, then set it in the freezer for a few hours to harden and set up.  Make or buy your favorite fudge sauce.  When it's time to serve, cut the pie with a hot knife, then spread the hot fudge over each slice.  Dollop with whipped cream if desired.
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