Friday, April 24, 2009

I made some corn muffins...

Wow, I made these a long time ago. The occasion was a lovely brunch at Laura's house and I decided to make some muffins. They seem like a distant memory by now. BUT, it is never too late to revisit a good corn muffin recipe. These came to me via Smitten Kitchen (what else is new) but the original recipe is by Dorie Greenspan. Until recently, I did not know who Dorie Greenspan was, but now that I have been reading a fair share of food blogs, apparently Dorie is a pretty big deal.

I was drawn to these muffins because they were described on smitten kitchen as being not too sweet or heavy. I love muffins, but I don't love how dry and dense they can be sometimes. As I recall, a year or two ago I attempted to make banana muffins with wheat germ or flax seed meal or something healthy, and they came out really dry and heavy. They may have been healthy but they were totally disappointing. I was sad.

Luckily, these muffins are really fluffy and light. And although they are not too sweet, they still taste like MUFFINS and not CORNBREAD (even though you could still totally serve them with come chili if you wanted to.) I actually had fantasies of making chipotle lime butter to serve alongside these muffins, but did not have time. Instead, I attempted a blueberry butter, which was tasty. But these muffins don't need flavored butters or fancy spreadys to taste good. They are delicious served plain too.

Here's the recipe, which I followed basically as is. Go for it, make some muffins one Sunday morning. Bring them to a brunch or eat them while you watch a crappy movie on channel 11. Eat the leftovers Monday night with some of Sarah's sweet potato chili. It will be great.

Dorie Greenspan’s Corniest Corn Muffins
from "Baking from My Home to Yours"

Yield: 12 regular-sized muffins or 48 miniature ones

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons corn oil (I used olive oil)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup corn kernels (add up to 1/3 cup more if you’d like) - fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry) - I used frozen, thawed and patted dry.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, if you’re using it. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough - the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (12 minutes for minis), or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Made Yellow Curry With Mixed Vegetables!

I made yellow curry with mixed vegetables! This is a fantastic, simple, vegan (yet hearty) dish. I got the recipe from Veg Cooking (a PETA website; click on link for concise instructions -- the following is rather elaborate because I have some personal suggestions). You will need:

    1 cup vegetable stock
    1 cup coconut milk
    1/2 cup 1-inch potato cubes, boiled (around one medium potato)
    1/2 cup 1-inch carrot cubes, boiled (one large carrot)
    1/2 cup small broccoli florets
    1/2 cup small cauliflower florets
    1 Tbsp. minced ginger
    1 tsp. sugar
    1 tsp. crushed garlic
    1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
    2 tsp. curry powder
    3 Tbsp. chili sauce
    Salt, to taste

First, boil some water in a medium pot. Also, prepare some basmati rice according to instructions on the package if you want to eat this curry over rice. Peel the carrots and potatoes. By the time you're done with that, the water will probably be boiling, so put in the potatoes. Remove when the cubes are nearly done (not all the way cooked, because you will be putting this into the pot later with all the curry goodness and you don't wan't to overcook). Do the same for the carrots (I do this separately because I feel like potatoes and carrots have different cooking times). Cut up the broccoli and cauliflower. If you don't want to waste the stem of the broccoli, cut it up like you would carrots, and cook it with the carrots. Mince the ginger and garlic. Optional: some coarsely chopped onions.

The mess...

In a medium pot, combine the vegetable stock and the coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes.

Colors not so appealing right now, but wait til you get to the spices.

As per the recipe: "Add the potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. Return to a boil and cook for an additional 2 minutes." I would personally add in the potatoes and carrots first, bring that to a boil, and then add the broccoli and cauliflower because those two cook a lot faster. But I think everything will overcook a bit anyway (especially because I let it simmer longer so it thickens a bit), so it probably doesn't matter too much in the end.

Add the remaining ingredients (SPICES!!!) and stir well. I never have chili sauce so I use 1/3 tsp Nigerian cayenne pepper instead (because that's what I have at dorm).

Cook for an additional 5 minutes, as per the recipe. I would simmer a bit longer though, so it would thicken a bit.

Serve hot with steamed rice.

My attempt at plating and food porn photography.

Makes 4 servings! A bit spicy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I make pesto all the time and it is so easy and delicious!

I made pesto pasta last night and just had leftovers for lunch and it was SO delicious I feel like I should tell the world. EVERYBODY MAKE SOME PESTO! It is so easy and gratifying!!! You probably think that only your Italian friend's grandma can make perfect pesto, that it takes some secret magic touch. But it's not true! It's actually so simple and easy to make and pretty hard to screw up.

I am going to tell you my method. First let me tell something about me that you may already know from reading this blog:
I hate hate hate food processors. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I can never get them to work right, and it is so frustrating I can't take it. (Alena, I could really relate to your feeling of wanting to cry when your Cuisinart wouldn't work at first. In fact, I almost cried reading that post, I empathized so much.) BUT I LOVE my trusty hand blender, and have yet to find something you are supposed to make with a food processor that you can't make with a hand blender.

SO. Here's how I do it:

Put the following ingredients in a big sturdy bowl:
2-3 bunches fresh basil leaves. (Last night I also threw in a handful of arugula, which added some nice bitterness to the flavor. Sometime I would like to try making pesto with just arugula.)
About 1/2 cup pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, smashed (Feel free to increase or decrease depending on how much you like garlic. Although I think 4 cloves is on the garlicky-er end of the spectrum, so maybe you shouldn't put in too much more than that.)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I am not sure if this is exactly how much I put in. You want to put enough in to get everything wet enough so it will blend, but you don't want it too liquidy.)
about 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
The juice of one lemon (Not everybody does this, but I think it is essential to the flavor--adds a little sweetness to counter all the saltiness.)
Salt/Pepper to taste

Stick that hand blender in and blend away. Hand blenders are also called "immersion" blenders for a reason--you really have to bury it in your ingredients--if you hold it at the surface it will make a mess and not blend as well. You may have to stop a couple of times and scoop the stuff off the blades with your hands to make it blend better.

I like a thicker pesto. Some people like it to be really smooth and thin. Up to you.

Now look. You are done, and you only got one bowl dirty. And you can clean your hand blender by just taking the detachment off.

What are you gonna use your pesto for? Well, you could put in a pizza. You could make some pesto lasagna. You even put in on a sandwich. Make that sandwich a PANINI!!!

Or, you could just make the traditional pasta.

I like thin spaghetti with pesto. Here's something easy you can add to it that will make it EVEN MORE DELICIOUS:

Roasted grape tomatoes.

Here's how you do it:

Preheat the oven to about 425. Put a whole bunch of grape tomatoes on a baking sheet. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pop those babies in and let them roast for about 15 minutes. They will burst and get wrinkled and slightly browned. Don't let them get too burnt--you want them to still be soft and juicy and tomato-y. (tomatoey?)

Throw them into the pasta.

Put tons of red pepper and more cheese on top.

This is a good summer dish because it has a lot of fresh ingredients and doesn't require much cooking. It's also just as good cold.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Well, SURELY this isn't gonna be disgusting." (The BEST baklava EVER) by Alena and Faryl

The day started on an UP note, Alena and Faryl (us), got Chipotle on our way to pick up Alena's FREE Cuisinart food processor!!!! And POST processor pick-up; guess what?! We were gonna make BAKLAVA!
We chose between two very competent recipes and decided on the one from Epicurious.

We wrote it on a piece of pape so we didn't have to move the computer.
(It looks like E.T. is helping to hold it for us.)

Middle Eastern Nut-Filled Multilayered Pastry (Baklava)


(We cut the amounts in this recipe in half.)


* 3 cups sugar, or 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional) - We left it out!
* 2 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon (optional) - We put it in!
* 4 to 6 whole cloves, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)- We left it out!


* 1 pound blanched almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or any combination, finely chopped or coarsely ground (about 4 cups)
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cardamom (optional)

* 1 pound (about 24 sheets) phyllo dough
* About 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
or vegetable oil - (go with butter, seriously.)

SO. With the newly acquired CUISINART we thought to ourselves, let's fire this baby up and grind up some pistachios, walnuts and almonds! We lifted the heavy thing out of the box. (Did I mention we carried it from 111th street to 92nd?) To our dismay, the Cuisinart in the box did not resemble the shiny, stainless steel model pictured above. In size and shape, yes, the similarities were there, but this guy was probably circa 1978 - complete with some very stylish (for the time) tan and brown plastic attachments. AESTHETICS ASIDE -- It looked sturdy and functional. Everything a Cuisinart should be. We assembled it, plugged it in and....

nothing happened. The shiny metal blade remained inert. The machine was still.

Hell no, we thought. We carried this thing in our little arms all the way from 111th street! It HAS to work!

We moved some pieces around, unplugged, plugged back in, tried again. Nada.

I (alena) wanted to cry a little. BUT - didn't. We found that Nick's coffee grinder served as an excellent nut grinder too. We moved on:

1. To make the syrup: Stir the sugar, water, lemon juice, and if using, the corn syrup, cinnamon sticks, and/or cloves over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes (it will register 225 degrees on a candy thermometer). Discard the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Let cool.

2. To make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-by-9-inch or 13-by-9-inch baking pan or 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan.

4. Place a sheet of phyllo in the prepared pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with 8 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Use any torn sheets in the middle layer. Spread with the remaining nut mixture and end with a top layer of 8 sheets, continuing to brush each with butter. Trim any overhanging edges.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips (about 1 3/4 inches wide) through the top layer of pastry. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.

6. Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.

7. Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the cooled syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. If the baklava dries out while being stored, drizzle with a little additional hot syrup.

Ground nuts!


Faryl's Aunt Rae is a famous Bakalva maker and she has an instructional DVD that shows how to cut it special... but she (I) forgot.

The recipe says to chill the Baklava for 4 hours. I would like to say "F THAT". We waited about 10 minutes before diving into that pastry and it was DELICIOUS. Faryl's attitude changed from one of apprehension and skeptical hope ("Well, surely this isn't gonna be disgusting,") to proclaiming it "the best baklava EVER". I (Alena) would have to agree! Make it! You will eat it all out of the pan without even waiting for it to cool.

And as for the Cuisinart?

Nick arrived home, switched around one part, and BOOM.


(Thanks Nick.)

Yo, we made that shit.