11/28/10

Cranberry, Walnut, Orange & Chocolate Tart

How was your Thanksgiving? Hope you had a great company and delicious food. I was flying to Seattle from DC area on the day of Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, Alaska Airline had free WiFi, and so I was checking out a few blogs while high up in the air. One of them, The Hungry Housewife, gave me an idea for what to make for dessert for my family's Thanksgiving: Cranberry Walnut Tart. Leslie wrote about a tart recipe she made several times from Epicurious, making it sound approachable and delicious.

Of course you know I had to make a few changes. First, I bought pie crust instead of making my own. Making pie crust is rather simple, but I did not want to bother with it this one time. I also decided to add orange zest and chocolate chips to the cranberry walnut tart. The more the merrier!

Cranberry, Walnut, Orange & Chocolate Tart adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

1 pie crust
3 large eggs
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
1/2 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups defrosted cranberries (or use fresh ones)
1 cup walnuts (I decided not to toast mine. Looking back, it would have been good to try and remove most of the walnuts' skins)
zest of one orange
2/3 cups mini chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F (with an oven rack in the lower third part of the oven). Roll out your pie dough and fit it into a pie pan (I used a 9 inch spring form). Using a fork make wholes all over the pie dough surface.


2. Fit aluminum foil snugly over the pie dough and weigh it down with pie weights or just dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the aluminum foil and the beans and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.


3. Make the tart filling: combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.


4. Pour the tart filling into the prebaked pie tart.


5. Turn the oven down to 350 and move the oven rack to the middle position. Bake the tart for about 40 to 45 minutes and let cool completely.


Here's a slice of the final product! We served it with freshly made slightly sweetened whipped cream, which is not pictured.


One of my favorite parts about this tart was how easy it was to made. It also was not overwhelmingly sweet like so many other holiday desserts, and I loved the freshness that orange zest added. You can make variations of the tart by altering nuts, fruit and leaving out chocolate chips.

And now for a bit of blogging dorkiness: it's really dark and gloomy in Seattle, making it nearly impossible to take photos of the food in my parents' kitchen: so I had to take the food outside, while bundling up myself to stay relatively warm.


I still wasn't completely happy with the photo quality and decided to play a bit with PhotoShop ;)


What dessert did you make for Thanksgiving meal?

11/22/10

What to do with leftover baked potatoes: potato patties

Sometimes I overestimate how much of leftovers I can actually handle. Case in point a large pot of vegetarian chili and 3 large baked potatoes. I had to eat some of the chili for breakfast, just to be done with it! Does that ever happen to you? But I still had one large baked potato left.

Since you might be in the same predicament from time to time, I thought I'd share my idea for potato patties with you. Obviously this is not a recipe I invented: people have made potato croquettes with mashed potatoes before, but it's still worth sharing. The recipe can be made with leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or baked potatoes.

I also used Hickory Farms Beef Summer Sausage that I received as part of Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, but you can use leftover ham, salami, or turkey. This is a great versatile recipe that can be served any time of the day!

Potato Patties

Ingredients for 4 patties
1 large baked potato, skin removed, mashed
1 egg
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar (or use any cheese you have/like)
1/4 cup diced sausage
salt & pepper
olive oil for sauteing


Directions
1. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl.


2. Form 4 patties. If you have time, refrigerate the patties for about 10 minutes to let them set up. (I did not do this because I'm a rather impatient person, and it still worked!)



3. Heat a bit of oil in a pan and cook potato patties for about 4 minutes on each side. The cheese will help the patties get crispy and will be ooozy (did I just make up a word?) in the middle. Serve with sour cream and a some freshly chopped scallions.



You can also serve these with heated tomato sauce or some cold salsa. For a party, make these into bite sized appetizers!


If I dont' get a chance to post before Thanksgiving, have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!

What's your favorite way to use leftover baked or mashed potatoes?

11/19/10

Boston: Lunch at Stephanie's on Newbury

The last few weeks have been hectic, and I can't wait to finalize a few things and head out to Seattle for Thanksgiving, my dad's big birthday and Hanukkah latkes! In the mean time, not having a recipe to post today, I wanted to share a fun lunch I had in Boston during my Columbus Day weekend mini vacation.

Elyssa from State Dinner recommended I check out Stephanie's on Newbury for some great people watching and good food. She did not steer me wrong!

One of the benefits of traveling solo is that you are on your own schedule. It's also much easier to snag a table for one instead of a table for four. Of course it's sometimes lonely to dine by yourself, but that's where Stephanie's on Newbury was a great place: I sat outside, enjoyed the sunshine, and checked out many different fashion trends Bostonians and tourists wore as they passed the restaurant.



I ordered a short rib sandwich with sweet potato fries. Look at the meat! Let's just say I ate the sandwich with a fork. The meat was tender and juicy and filled with flavor. The sweet potato fries were thin and crispy and benefited from a sprinkle of salt. The coleslaw, however, had zero flavor. That was fine with me: there was plenty of good food on the plate.



If you are ever in Boston and need a break from shopping on Newbruy street, head out to Stephanie's for lunch.

11/17/10

Salted caramel ice cream

I've talked several times on this blog about not wanting to throw away food. However, sometimes it can be too much effort to deal with certain ingredients. Case in point, what on Earth would you do with 12 egg yolks? Yes, of course there are many desserts that require a large amount of egg yolks, or you can make mayonnaise. But that just did not sound like something I wanted to deal with a few weekends ago.

And so I turned to Twitter for suggestions. The most popular reply was "make ice cream." Yes, a valid suggestion, but I don't have an ice cream maker. One time I did attempt to make ice cream sans the ice cream maker, and although the flavor was great, the texture was rather mediocre.

When Stacey Viera suggested I make ice cream, I told her she can just come over and pick up the egg yolks and make her own ice cream! Well, Stacey agreed and sent her husband to pick up the egg yolks with a promise to share some of the ice cream with me. Perfect.

At first, Stacey planned on making chocolate ice cream: I was thrilled. I love chocolate, but only the dark variety, and was looking forward to the results of Stacey's work. But then she changed her mind! She decided to make salted caramel ice cream. You can read about her thoughts here. And for a full recipe, check out this link.


So what did I think about this salted caramel ice cream? I was actually pleasantly surprised. The flavors reminded me of caramel corn. Stacey also gave me a little bag with shaved salt to sprinkle on top of the ice cream, which provided a great contrast. My friend Jenn was over at my place, and I was happy to share the ice cream with her.


At the end, would I order this at an ice cream parlor? Unlikely, but I was thrilled to try a new flavor and can't wait to sprinkle some of the salt on savory dishes.


Thank you Stacey for rescuing the egg yolks and sharing the sweet results with me!

What are some of the unusual flavors of ice cream you've tried lately?

11/15/10

Roasted sweet potato & carrot soup with pumpkin seeds

Fall season makes me think of soups, stews, pots of chili and maybe even tuna noodle casseroles. I'm craving simple foods that don't take too much time to put together and are a great resource for leftovers.

I had a few sweet potatoes in my refrigerator, some carrots, and a can of coconut milk. Why not make soup, I thought? And so I roasted the vegetables with a few spices, added some coconut milk and chicken broth and pureed the mixture till it was perfectly smooth. For a bit of texture I added roasted and salted pumpkin seeds. What's not to like? You can serve this simple soup at your Thanksgiving table as first course or sip it while you are basting the turkey.

Roasted sweet potato & carrot soup with pumpkin seeds

Ingredients
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed
4 carrots, peeled, chopped into the same size as sweet potato cubes
salt & pepper
olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 can coconut milk {Note: I used lite coconut milk because that's what I had: do not make the same mistake. It leaves a slightly sweet and artificial flavor in your mouth.}
1 cup chicken broth
garnish: roasted and salted pumpkin seeds

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Combine sweet potatoes and carrots with oil and spices. Roast in single layer on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet for about 40 minutes.

  



2. In a blender combine roasted vegetables, coconut milk and chicken broth. Puree till smooth. Reheat the soup slowly in a heavy bottomed pot. Serve soup in bowls garnished with pumpkin seeds.



You can make similar soup with butternut squash, pumpkin or just use carrots or sweet potatoes by themselves.




Have you made a pureed soup lately? If so, which ingredients did you use? Please share!

11/13/10

Ray's Hell Burger Too

I doubt I'd ever become a vegetarian. I love steaks, burgers, beef fajitas and pulled pork. When I once dated (very shortly) a vegetarian, poor confused waitresses set a plate of salad in front of me and a juicy burger in front of him: fail.

I've heard of Ray's Hell Burger Too for a while and finally got to try it out with Nicole this past Thursday.

For some reason I could not find a website, but here's the address: 1725 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209. (703) 841-0001.

Let me just say that this is not a place to go if you want atmosphere. The walls were pretty empty, there were not tablecloths, and the lighting was rather harsh. But we were there for the food! The menu listed about a dozen burgers, a few sides and milkshakes. Thanks to some help from my Twitter friends, Nicole and I decided to split a burger, a small side of sweet potato fries and a milkshake. Talk about a cheap date :)



We settled on a Big Punisher burger: Dialo Burger with Pepper Jack cheese, charred jalapenos, grilled onions and Piranha sauce. The hard part came when we had to decide how to cook the burger: I like mine medium rare, but Nicole likes her medium well. We settled on medium. While we waited, we sipped on our chocolate milk shake (we had two straws: just in case you were wondering). The milkshake was thick, sweet, and chocolaty. It's been ages since I've had one, and I was a happy girl.


And then our burger platter came! How good does that look? (Keep in mind I took the photos on an auto setting with a flash. Sigh.)



The burger was quite pink in the middle. It was juicy, the bun was well toasted, and I liked the sesame seeds on top. If you don't like the heat, definitely choose another burger. Both Nicole and I had to take the jalapenos off!

The sweet potato fries were great: crispy, cooked through and not greasy. I just wish they would have had a few different dipping sauces for them instead of just ketchup (although I mixed my ketchup with mayonnaise).



Final verdict: a great place for a casual dinner or lunch. Definitely split a burger: we had plenty of food and no one went home hungry.

Have you been to Ray's Hell Burger Too? If so, what did you order?

11/11/10

English muffin breakfast sandwich

Remember the pepper jelly I wrote about a few weeks ago that Mary gave me? I still had a few teaspoons left and asked you, my readers, to give me suggestions for how to use it. Julia left this comment:

I like pepper jelly as part of a breakfast sandwich. If you have homemade biscuits on hand slice biscuits in half, spread pepper jelly on each side, top with a fried egg, slice of ham, and cheese. It sounds crazy but is so yummy.
This did not sound crazy to me at all! In fact, last weekend I decided to make something similar for breakfast. Alas, I did not have homemade biscuits or ham, so I had to improvise a bit.

English muffin breakfast sandwich



Ingredients
1 English muffin, toasted
1 egg, fried
thin slices of red onion
salami
pepper jelly
(oops! I forgot the cheese!!!)

Directions
1. Arrange ingredients on an English muffin in any way you like. Yes, it's really that easy.


{Note: I fried the egg in a mini cast iron pan I had: it worked really well, other than the fact that I overcooked it slightly.}


Since I slightly overcooked the fried egg, you don't see the egg yolk oozing out. Le sigh. Otherwise this was a delicious breakfast!

11/9/10

What to do with Brussels Sprouts?

What to do with Brussels Sprouts? Well, there are so many options! Of course, most people fall either in the "I love Brussels sprouts" camp or "I hate Brussels sprouts" camp. I really think, however, that those who hate Brussels sprouts just haven't had them when the vegetables were properly cooked.

One of my favorite ways to cook Brussels sprouts is to roast them. In this recipe I roasted the Brussels sprouts with cherry balsamic vinegar and then added Gorgonzola cheese on top, which melted immediately as it hit the hot vegetables.

Over the weekend I made another version of the dish: I used Brussels sprouts and Gorgonzola, but opted to cook the sprouts in a pan, add some tomatoes and shallots, and shred the sprouts instead of cooking them whole.

Shredded Brussels sprouts with Shallots, Tomatoes and Gorgonzola


Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups Brussels sprouts, shredded
1 shallot, shredded
salt & pepper
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup Gorgonzola


Directions
1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add Brussels sprouts and shallots, season with salt & pepper and saute for about 8 minutes.
2. Transfer Brussels sprouts and shallots to a bowl, add tomatoes, parsley and Gorgonzola. Mix. Adjust for salt and pepper.


You can serve the dish hot or at room temperature. You can also let the Brussels sprouts cool down and then add tomatoes/parsley/Gorgonzola and serve as a cold side dish.

What are your favorite ways to cook Brussels sprouts? Do you have any horror stories of eating these vegetables when you were little?

11/6/10

Cooking for Robyn

This has been a busy week, and things are really not going to slow down until Thanksgiving, so I'm looking forward to visiting my family in Seattle, cooking Thanksgiving dinner with Anna, celebrating my dad's big birthday and making latkes for Hannukah.

I wanted to share with you a quick and delicious recipe I made for Robyn's blog that is not only perfect right now, but would be great for your Thanksgiving day. This fall salad uses a special apple mustard, fresh apples, baby greens, Gorgonzola and pecans. What's not to like?


Of course you can mix the salad in a bowl, but for the sake of presentation I decided to layer the ingredients and to fan out the different kinds of apples and red onions. What do you think?


Another recipe I was making for Robyn last weekend was a Vanilla Angel Food cake. This was the fist time I've made an angel cake. The process was rather easy: the most time consuming part was separating 12 eggs and whipping the egg whites.

I had 12 egg yolks at my disposal and did not feel like making creme brulee, custards, mayonnaise or lemon curd. I tweeted about my dilemma and got a few suggestions to make ice cream. Alas, my kitchen doesn't have an ice cream maker. And so I decided to offer the egg yolks to Stacey Viera. She was one of my twitter friends to suggest I make ice cream and she lives nearby. Last Sunday night Stacey's husband (whom I've never met!) drove by my apartment and I handed over a bowl with the egg yolks. I can't even imagine what my neighbors thought. But at least nothing went to waste!


Above is the cake with yogurt and berries. And I can't wait to taste the ice cream Stacey makes with the egg yolks: she promised to share. Oh the magic of Twitter.

11/4/10

Save the vegetables: Lazy stuffed cabbage

Do you ever buy vegetables with the best intentions of cooking and then end up having them sit in the refrigerator wilting for a few weeks? This happens to me all the time! I'm then left with two choices: throw the vegetables into the trash can or try to save it. Last weekend I decided to save the vegetables!! (It sounds like a political slogan.)
I also had some ground beef leftover from recipe testing and decided to make a lazy version of stuffed cabbage.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon oil
1/4 red onion, diced
4 garlic clove, sliced
1/2 pound ground beef
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
salt & pepper
4 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
10 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, peeled, thinly sliced {yes, I peel my celery. I learned it from my twin, and it's great!}
1 small Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
Garnish: toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce


Directions

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add onions and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.Add ground beef and oregano sprigs. Season with salt & pepper and cook till the beef has browned. Remove the beef mixture from the pan and toss out oregano.

2. Add a bit of oil to the pan. Once it's heated, add carrots and saute for 3 minutes.

3. Add mushrooms and celery and saute an additional 2 minutes.

4. Add Napa cabbage and ground beef and cook just long enough for the cabbage to wilt.


Serve this dish hot sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and a splash of soy sauce. You can eat it as is or on top of rice, noodles or even mashed potatoes.


There are also a million variations to this dish depending on what you have: zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, ground chicken or even tofu. I'm so glad I did not let these vegetables go to waste!


Please share your tales of saving your vegetables (or fruit). And please remember you can still vote for me (once/day) to win a gorgeous purple Le Creuset.