Thursday, May 31, 2012

To Spoon Over Everything

I'm really a person of utmost class. It's just that no one can tell, because my sophisticated self hides behind several layers of unsophisticated habits. For example: I can't survive one day without a bottle of ketchup. Ketchup is my favorite food in the entire universe and I eat it on eggs, burgers, broccoli, peas, green beans, potatoes, and anything else I can find. I've been wanting to make my own ketchup for like freaking forever, but with a bottle of Heinz in the fridge, I always wondered why I'd bother peeling a million tomatoes.

This afternoon, I decided that I'd finally make my own homemade ketchup. Let's call this semi-homemade ketchup (in the style of Sandra Lee). I was too lazy to blanch tomatoes, peel them, cook them down, and finally strain the seeds, so instead I just started with tomato paste. I made a combination of two recipes with a few adaptations. I swapped some honey for dark molasses for a deeper caramel flavor, I decreased the salt, and I changed the spices. The amounts here for spices are approximations, because I didn't actually measure anything that comes after the salt. All the spices are optional - use what's in the front of the cabinet and don't bother with the rest.

This ketchup is perfect for me. The initial sour bite gives way to a complex balance of sweet, dark spices. It's thick and addicting and makes me crave some steamed broccoli to dip. I believe in the hierarchy of ketchup flavors, sour ought to trump sweet which in turn comes before salty, and all three have to hide behind the deep umami of the tomatoes. Thus, my ketchup has a whole lot of vinegar in it. But I recognize that your ketchup tastes are deeply personal, like what god you pray to or what color you paint your toenails. Feel free to adjust this recipe to your taste.

Spiced Honey Ketchup
Adapted from An Oregon Cottage and Paleo Diet Lifestyle

12 oz tomato paste
1/3 c honey
1/6 c molasses
1 c vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1/2 c water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Whisk until smooth in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer. Partially cover the pan to avoid a big red splotches all over the kitchen. Keep tasting to adjust flavorings. After about twenty minutes, it'll be thick and gooey and dark. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Keep refrigerated. If it thickens too much in the fridge, just add some water (a couple teaspoons at a time) to reach pouring consistency.
Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups.


Want a dessert that pleases absolutely everyone? Something vegan and gluten-free, low in fat, with absolutely no refined sugar... and something that takes two minutes to make? Let me introduce you to banana whip.

Start with frozen bananas - at least one half to a whole banana per serving. You can freeze your bananas sliced or whole, but make sure they're peeled first. They'll keep in a ziplock in the freezer forever.  When you're ready, slice up the frozen banana and pop into a blender, food processor, or just a big bowl if you want to use a hand held mixer. Blend up the banana. At first it'll just look thick and choppy, but after a few minutes, the frozen banana will whip up into a creamy foam. When it's thick and pale, you're ready!

Just like that, your bananas get this crazy soft serve ice cream texture, just a little more gooey. Banana whip is delicious plain, but the list of delicious toppings is infinite. Try a dash of cinnamon, a pile of chopped almonds, lots of fresh fruit, a spoonful of peanut butter butter, a splash of chocolate sauce, a scoop of yogurt, a sprinkle of granola... the possibilities are endless. Oh and rumor has it, if you put the mixture back into the freezer whipped, it'll take on the texture of scoopable ice cream. Of course, that implies there's any left to put back in the freezer.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four Food Rules for Summer

1. Eat loads of vegetables, a ton of protein at every meal, and some fruit. Avoid all dairy, gluten.

2. Avoid processed sugars. Slash all sugar other than fruit.

3. In the words of Mark Bittman: Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.

4. No eating anything with ingredients my great-grandmother wouldn't recognize.

(And number five: Breaking these rules is fine, but no more than once a week, and only on someone else's request.)

And how yummy summer has been so far! I've learned to make poached eggs and shirred eggs. I've eaten piles of salads and sautes. This one was particularly yummy. Green beans chopped up small, with onion, celery, bell pepper, and cubes tofu. We added in some black bean garlic sauce at the end for a very quick dinner. Delicious!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Breakfast Greens

You don't even know how much I've missed cooking fresh green vegetables. I've been out of school for just a few weeks and still, all I crave is kale and broccoli. I stopped by a farmer's market on my way home from a yardsale last weekend and picked up a nice bunch of dandelion greens to add to a light frittata for breakfast the next day. A very easy egg preparation, it was a healthy and fun breakfast for two. 

As frittatas go, this is lighter on egg and heavier on vegetables than usual. Plus I skipped over cheese entirely, while most have a hearty pile of Parmesan. The whole point of this is that you make it as you like it, and I thought my greens were perfect this way. Frittatas are easy enough to make for yourself any time of day, but classy enough for guests at brunch. 

Dandelion Green Frittata

1 bunch dandelion greens
4 shallots
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 ish. Slice shallots. Wash and slice dandelion greens. Add oil to an oven-proof skillet; when hot, add sliced shallots. Add red pepper. When the shallots soften, add greens and cook until wilted. If necessary, cover the pan with a lid to help the greens wilt faster. Remove the greens from the pan when cooked and put on a plate. Beat the eggs with salt and pepper. 

Add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary. Add the beaten egg. Sprinkle the cooked greens mixture onto the egg. Over lowish heat, let the egg cook. When egg is almost set, transfer pan to oven and cook just until the top is solid and golden. 

Slice and serve! Slices look classy over a bed of greens, but for anyone who knows me, you know this is definitely made to be served with ketchup. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Eleventh Course: Lemon Tart with Mint Cream

Most student-run clubs at colleges fizzle out at the end of the year, or maybe they conclude with a casual potluck with jarred salsa on floppy plastic plates. Not the Culinary Society. The end of my first year on the e-board was marked by an eleven course dinner, complete with printed menu cards and a seating arrangement.  Matt hosted and arranged the most obscenely beautiful table at which I've ever had the pleasure of eating. 

Each guest chose a chef as inspiration, then was assigned randomly a course. The muses ranged from Julia Child to Morimoto to Thomas Keller. I chose Deb Perelman. Who else? After choosing my muse and being assigned to make dessert, I spent weeks plotting what to bake. I knew after so many other courses, we'd want something light, so I thought perhaps some refreshing flavors would be appreciated. Citrus? Key lime pie? Oooh or lemon bars? Or maybe I was going in the wrong direction. Mint is always refreshing. What about that mint cream I once used to top cupcakes? I settled on Deb's beautiful lemon tart which I would top with mint whipped cream and garnish with blackberry and raspberry sauce. 

Before I write my recipe, here is the full dinner.

Gougeres with Classic Bechamel, inspired by Julia Child

Salmon and Sorrel Troisgros, inspired by Daniel Boulud

Chocolate Milk, inspired by Daniel Humm

Coffee and Vanilla Eclairs, inspired by Alice Waters

Grilled Asparagus with Prosciutto and Whole Grain Mustard, inspired by Suzanne Goin

Beef Carpaccio, inspired by Michael Anthony

Pan-Seared Diver Scallops, inspired by Thomas Keller

Plum Crostata, inspired by Claudia Fleming

Penne ai Porcini, inspired by Alfred Portale

Sticky Rice with Mango, inspired by Paul Qui


Beautiful, no? And a very refreshing eleventh course.

Lemon Tart 
from Smitten Kitchen

1 partially baked 9-inch Great Unshrinkable Tart Shell, recipe below
1 average-sized lemon, rinsed and dried
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven 350°F. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet, which you can line with foil or parchment paper to make any spills a breeze to clean up.Slice the lemon into thin wheels, remove any seeds, and toss the rounds — lemon flesh and peel — sugar and chunks of butter into the container of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemon is thoroughly pureed. Add the eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse until the batter is smooth.

Pour into prepared tart shell. Fill until just a few millimeters below the top of the crust. If there is extra filling, use it to make lemon bars or a few mini tarts, but don't overflow the tart pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. It might be slightly golden brown on top. 

Let cool on rack, unmold tart pan and serve.

The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell
From Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.

To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.
Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out.