Friday, January 28, 2011

Apple Quinoa Cake

I have an extremely health conscious roommate. I live with a lot of people, and most of them are concerned about the quality of their diets, but this one in particular is absolutely dedicated to a healthy lifestyle. His favorite and most commonly consumed foods include: quinoa, chicken breasts, almonds, oatmeal and a plethora of vegetables. Olive oil always trumps butter, sugar is only okay in the form of fruit. Dessert is an apple with peanut butter. Needless to say, baked goods are out of the question.
However, when you live with me, you get cake for your birthday and this cake got the stamp of approval of the birthday boy. Everyone who was lucky enough to try it approved of this whole grain, low-fat, low-sugar, fruit and nut filled cake. There is only a quarter cup of both sugar and olive oil, grated apple, dried cherries and almonds but the crispy oat topping and heavy dose of cinnamon adds just enough decadence to keep it feeling like it really is a cake.
Apple Quinoa Cake adapted from Anja's Food for Thought

Serves 8

Cake ingredients
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries

Topping ingredients
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Note: A variety of dried fruit or nuts could be used in this cake. Feel free to use which ever you prefer, just use 1 cup total.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit . Grease or line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and sat.
3. In another bowl, mix the grated apple, olive oil, quinoa, vanilla extract, almonds and cherries.
4. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Pour the batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.
5. Mix the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. sprinkle them on top of the cake batter.
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Let cool before cutting into slices.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Farmers Market Garlic

Most of the garlic that is available in grocery stores is a variety known as Silverskin garlic. However, there are so many more varieties of garlic, than just this one. This past weekend I loaded up on different varieties of garlic from the University District Farmers Market. I was instantly attracted to them because of their distinct purple coloring and their intriguing names. Heads of Oregon Blue, Dujanskji, Purple Glazer and Spicy Korean garlic made it into my shopping bag.

And this week we staged the true test; the taste test. A very simple and not very scientific test, but a solid taste test nonetheless. We lightly fried the farmers market garlic, as well as some conventional Silverskin garlic in some olive oil, drained them on paper towels and then sprinkled them on rice. The farmers chips were garlic chips were noticeably more fragrant and delicious. Better name, better color, better taste, locally and organically grown... this is truly garlic at its best. I encourage everyone to find, buy and grown different garlic varieties, you won't look back.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Honey-Glazed Pear Upside-Down Cake

Winter can be tediously gloomy. I have been keeping my eyes out for the first hints of spring, but they are not quite here yet. So in order to pass the time, I am holding onto the comfort foods of winter. Last winter, I was introduced to the best roasted pears. Vanilla and lemon juice paired with the natural flavors of pears and a little bit of butter, is truly a killer combination. This cake takes these same flavors, adds them to a fluffy, moist batter and tops the whole thing with honey. Swoon. Maybe winter isn't so bad after all.

Honey-Glazed Pear Upside-Down Cake adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite

1/4 cup honey
4 small or 3 large pears, medium ripe, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cored
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. In a 9-inch skillet, simmer the honey until it beings to reduce, caramelize, and darken in color, about 6 to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on the honey, you do not want it to burn, if it starts to smell burnt, turn off the heat.
2. Arrange the pears, close together, cored side down, stem end pointing towards the center, in a circular pattern in the pan. Simmer over medium heat, turning them occasionally from one cut side to the other, until they begin to turn golden, about 1o minutes.
3. Flip the pears over to their curved side and transfer to the oven. (If using a skillet that is not oven proof, transfer the pears to a 9-inch pie pan and drizzle with the honey.) Roast the pears, uncovered, until very tender, about 25 minutes.
4. While the pears are roasting, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and lemon zest. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the flour and salt; stir in 1/2 cup melted butter.
5. When the pears are soft, remove the pan from the oven and brush the edges with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the cake batter over the top of the pears and then scatter the almonds over the batter.
6. Bake the cake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake come out clean.
7. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes in the pan. Run an offset spatula or butter knife along the edges of the pan to loosen the cake; carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter. Serve warm or cooled. Excellent with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Black Forest Biscotti

Some people say that I have a special knack for finding free food. Some call it luck and some call it a skill, I say that it is pretty solid combination of the two. This week I discovered a new source of free snacks, totally by luck. I was getting coffee in a little coffee shop before class, right before the shop closed. As the barista was making my beverage she mentioned that she had to throw away all of the baked goods left in the case in the next few minutes. But that is rather wasteful, so she offered me whatever I would like. Score.
The almond biscotti that I selected from the case left a lot to be desired. It was dry, crumbly, bland and had and almost chalky like consistency. But, I couldn't get biscotti out of my mind, I still wanted another one, a good one. I found a recipe for almond biscotti in Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, but I was distracted by a biscotti recipe on the preceding page. Black Forest Biscotti. A chocolate biscotti loaded with cherries, chocolate chips and flavored with both vanilla and almond extract. The flavor was there, the texture was there. I will never go back to the coffee shop's sad version of a biscotti, especially when I have a box of these around.

Black Forest Biscotti adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup good-quality chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the cherries and water just to boiling. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and well combined. Blend in the eggs one at a time, followed by the almond and vanilla extracts.
4. Drain the cherries and place them on a paper towel to absorb any extra water. Fold in the cherries and chocolate chips to the egg mixture.
5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. With a rubber spatula, fold in the wet ingredients until the dough is uniform and holds together well when pressed with lightly floured hands. (The dough can seem pretty dry, it might help to dump it out of the bowl onto a clean surface and knead it a few times to bring it together.
6. Scoop the dough onto the lined baking sheet. Form the dough into a log shape, about 12-inch x 3-inch in diameter; then press down on the log, flattening it to a thickness of about an inch. The length and width of the flattened log should be about 14 x 4 inches.
7. Back the log for 25 to 30 minutes, until the dough it firm and just slightly brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the log to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces. Lay each biscotti cut side up on the baking sheet. Bake fro about 5 minutes on each side, flip carefully with tongs.
8. Cool completely on a rack and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quick-Braised Chicken with Moroccan Spices, Lemon, and Olives

This weekend I escaped reality by fleeing to my parents for a few days. I made this dish with my Mom and we served it to my family and a bunch of friends in an impromptu dinner party. For Christmas, my parents bought me In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark. This fabulous new book is full of homey, healthy and creative new recipes. There really is nothing better than a weekend away from reality, spending time in the kitchen with the people you love. It was the perfect comfort food dish for a comforting night at home, catching up with good friends.

While I acknowledge that this is not the most aesthetically pleasing meal, it is delicious, comforting and definitely not a boring chicken recipe. It has a complex, deeply flavorful combination of spices and a sauce studded with interesting surprises. The olives, lemons and dried fruit all add depth and flavor to the dish. This was the first time I have braised meat and it was superb. The chicken was not only flavorful but extraordinarily tender and juicy.

Quick-Braised Chicken with Moroccan Spices, Lemon, and Olives adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

Time: 1 hour Serves 3 to 4

1 lemon, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 pounds chicken pieces (thighs or drumsticks), rinsed and patted dry
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 fat garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne*
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup good-quality green olives, pitted and sliced
3 tablespoons dried currants, golden raisins or diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or mint

1. Thinly slice the lemon crosswise into rounds. Cut the rounds into quarters. Place the lemon in a small sauce pan with water just to cover and stir in 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain well and rinse the lemon under cold water.
2. Season the chicken with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and the pepper. In a large, deep skilled, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in an even layer in the skillet (do this in batches, if necessary0 and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
3. If the skillet looks dry, add the remaining tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika, tumeric, and cayenne, and cook for 1 minute more.
4. Add the chicken back into the pan and stir to coat with the spice mixture. Pour the stock into the skillet until two-thirds of the chicken is covered, bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for about 25 minutes.
5. Uncover and add the lemon slices, olives, and dried fruit, stirring to combine. Cover and return to a simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
6. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Raise the heat to high and boil the sauce, uncovered, until it has thickened, about 10 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with cilantro or mint.

*The cayenne adds a lot of heat to the broth, the chicken does not get to spicy but if you want a more mild sauce reduce the amount of cayenne added.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Michael Pollan Live in Seattle 2011

Michael Pollan came to Seattle this week and I couldn't miss it. I have read and own all of his books on food and have never quite forgiven myself for not making it to see him live the last time he was in the area. However, I was a bit reserved about spending my Saturday night at a very school-like lecture, with an ambiguous topic. Seeing as how Pollan wasn't promoting a new book, we weren't really sure what the topic would be. While I am still very glad I went, the material was, as suspected, a summary of Pollan's previous work related to food. He graced the stage with a bag full of grocery store items, which he referred to as "immortal food like substances" and an apple. These items were the basis of the lecture where he discussed in some depth his basic philosophy on food: Eat Food. Not to Much. Mostly Plants.

This lecture also gave me a chance to really think about and discuss why I enjoy Micheal Pollan's books so much. I think that he combines research from many different fields and combines it with cultural history in a coherent and easy to read way. While he explains his theory I can recognize where a lot of the information comes from. Marion Nestle's research on the food industry and food advertising, Adam Drewnowski's studies on nutrition and food affordability as well as Gary Paul Nabhan's work on native and cultural foods, make appearances in Pollan's theory. They all have phenomenal books themselves, but Pollan intertwines all of their arguments to come to many well-rounded conclusions using extensive amounts of information . So if you are looking for a crash course in the problems with our food system today, pick up The Omnivores Dilemma or In Defense of Food tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Margarita Cookies

The latest Seattle storm provided a perfect, fluffy and utterly fairyland like layer of snow that blanketed the city. But it was all gone by 9am the next morning as the next wave of gray, blustery, rainy weather settled in. No matter how accustom one might get to this particularly dreary weather, it still brings you down once and a while. These margarita inspired cookies are the perfect treat to counter the winter weather. They are light and buttery, bursting with citrus flavor and rimmed with sugar. They absolutely embody the summertime spirit of the margarita as well as its classic flavors. If you close your eyes while snacking on one of these tiny cookies, you might just forget about the blustering weather outside and be momentarily transported to a warm, sandy beach in a far away place.

Margarita Cookies adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Dorie Greenspan's Sables au Citron

Note: this is a more time consuming cookie recipe than most, so be sure to plan ahead.

Makes about 50 cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, separated, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons tequila
Grated zest of 2 large limes
Grated zest of half an orange
2 cups of all-purpose flour

Approximately 1/2 cup clear sanding or any other coarse sugar such a turbinado
2 teaspoons flaky Maldon sea salt

1. Beat the butter with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the sifted confectioners' sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in one of the egg yolks, followed by the salt, tequila, grated lime and orange zest. Slowly beat in the flour until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat; if the flour isn't fully incorporated, that's okay, just blend in whatever remaining flour with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it into quarters. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to three days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°.
4. While the oven is preheating, coat the logs with the sugar coating: Whisk the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl. Mix the coarse sugar and flaky salt well and spread the mixture out onto a piece of wax paper. Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap them, and brush them lightly with a little egg yolk. Roll the logs in the sugar, pressing the sugar/salt mixture gently to get it to stick if necessary. Use a sharp slender knife to slice each log into cookies about 1/4 inch thick. Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch space between them.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. (It's fine if the edges brown a smidgen. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperatures.

Keeping: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature. Because the sugar coating will melt, these cookies are not suitable for freezing.

*Updated to add that if you should choose to use regular table salt and not Maldon, use less! Much less. Probably half or less. Because Maldon has such volume, the equivalent amount of a finer salt would be much more pungent. Better on the safe side than sorry, right?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Nutella Tartine

Nutella Tartine... or Fancy PB & J? One in the same my friends. This is the classed-up adult version of the lunch box classic. As we welcome the new year, why not enjoy some new versions of our favorite comfort foods? I love the combination of chocolate, orange and hazelnut. It is fancy and yet very comforting. I love this as a quick breakfast sandwich, but it might also become a late-night-studying-staple-snack. This may just become the new classic in my new year.
Nutella Tartine adapted from Dorie Greenspan's, Around my French Table

1/4 cup Nutella
4 slices Brioche or challah would be best but any bread you have on hand would work
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup orange marmalade
Flaky salt
Hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Butter and toast bread
2. Heat the Nutella slowly in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, just until it is softened and warm.
3. Spread the marmalade over the hot bread, generously drizzle with warm Nutella.
4. Top with a sprinkle of salt and some chopped hazelnuts.