Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snowy Day Baking: Homemade Rugelach

I love rugelach. With a pastry dough made with real, European-style butter, and lots of cinnamon, raisins, and chopped nuts. I made a batch for my dear friend Meghan for Christmas -- she'll vouch for me; they're insanely good. So, on this snowy day, why not turn on that oven and make some of these lightly-sweetened treats to go along with your afternoon tea? I could not resist not sharing this recipe with you!

This is a basic rugelach recipe that can be adapted to your liking. For sweet fillings, like cinnamon sugar, jam, or dried cranberry and pecan, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to the dough, if you wish. For savory fillings, leave the dough as is, or add a teaspoon of dried herbs for a bit more flavor. We love the plain dough with pesto and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, or an Herbes de Provence dough with goat cheese and caramelized onions. The below recipe uses cinnamon sugar, dried cranberries, and pecans for the filling.

The Daily Meal did a fabulous step-by-step how-to story on how rugelach are made -- see it here. 

Basic Rugelach
As published on The Daily Meal

1 cup flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar or dried herbs (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch cubes, very cold
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, very cold
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped (optional)

In a stand mixer, mix the flour and salt quickly. If you wish to make your dough sweeter, add the optional sugar. If you are making a savory herb dough, add your herbs. Mix to combine quickly. Add the cold butter and cream cheese, and combine until the mixture just forms a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured, pastry cloth-lined surface. Form a 2-inch thick disc and wrap well in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.
If the dough has rested overnight, remove it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before rolling. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar with the cinnamon and mix well. Combine the egg yolk and water to make an egg wash.

Lightly flour the dough on both sides. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough, moving or flipping it after each roll to ensure it doesn't stick, and to create a circle. Roll to about 3/8-inch thickness. 

Brush the dough with the melted butter, concentrating on the edges. Spread the cinnamon sugar all over the dough, covering the surface completely. Sprinkle on the dried cranberries and pecans, if using. With a rolling pin, gently roll the filling into the dough.

Cut into 1/16ths and roll each wedge from the outside in to create each rugelach. Place on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet, tip-end underneath. Repeat for the remaining wedges.

Brush each rugelach with egg wash, and garnish with cinnamon sugar, if you wish. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden, turning the tray after about 10 minutes.

Let the rugelach cool about 5-10 minutes before serving, or cool completely and place in an air-tight container to freeze for up to one month.

Makes about 16 rugelach
Prep time: 1 hour
Bake time: about 30 minutes

Sicilian-Style Turkey Meatballs

There is something wonderful about the classic Sicilian combination of sweet dried currants or raisins, creamy and nutty toasted pine nuts, and fresh greens, like kale or spinach, that always makes my mouth water. In the summer, when the garden is brimming with fresh Swiss chard, I am always sautéing it with raisins and pine nuts.

Taking inspiration from my favorite summer dish, I've taken these same flavors and combined them with lean ground turkey in these Sicilian-style meatballs for a different twist on a dinnertime favorite. They are perfect to serve alone, as an appetizer, or atop a bowl of pasta tossed in a creamy goat cheese sauce.

If you don't have Swiss chard, you can also substitute in baby spinach, kale, or even herbs like parsley or cilantro. 

As published on The Daily Meal

1 pound ground light-meat turkey
1/2 large yellow onion, finely minced
1/3 cup Swiss chard, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup raisins, chopped
1/3 cup breadcrumbs, preferably panko
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 egg
Olive oil, for cooking

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, onion, chard, nuts, raisins, breadcrumbs, and seasonings. Gently stir to combine. Add in the egg and, using your hands, mush together the meat, flavorings and eggs to create a somewhat homogenous mixture.

Using your hands, roll out 1-1 1/2-inch balls, placing them on a plate as you go.

Once all the meatballs have been formed, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add half of the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning them as they cook. The meatballs are done when they are slightly firm to the touch and golden on all sides. Remove them from the pan and let them rest. Meanwhile, add a little bit more oil and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Serve attop a bowl of whole wheat pasta tossed with brown butter, or a creamy goat cheese sauce.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Most Addictive Brownies... EVER (and, they're dairy-free)

Warning. These are addictive. I mean really addictive. If you can stop at just one, let me know how. I always seem to go back for a second. It's a terrible, terrible thing.

Last week, my yearning for something chocolate, and my urge to bake, came to a head. I had to have something rich and chocolatey, but not too cloyingly sweet. I've been playing around with non-dairy chocolate desserts, and decided to play around with brownies again. My ingredients of choice? Coconut oil (many who know me know I'm slightly obsessed -- yes, it's saturated, but it's really good for you, your dry skin, and it helps boost your metabolism) and cocoa powder.

Now, I've never made my family's recipe for brownies with cocoa powder. The recipe calls for baking chocolate. Sometimes, we'll adjust the sugar and add in bittersweet Valhrona. But never powder. When baking with cocoa powder, as opposed to chocolate, you've got to use a bit more butter/fat, as the cocoa powder lacks the cocoa butter that chocolate has.

I've been intrigued by Alice Medrich's recipe for cocoa brownies, so I decided to use that baking technique as the basis for my new recipe. Though I nearly had a heart-attack when the brownies emerged from the oven practically still liquid (full disclosure: coconut oil is liquid at higher temperatures, so the brownies don't set like normal ones. Put them in the freezer and let them solidify. If you're still not happy when they emerge, email me), an hour later they came out perfect. A bit crunchy and caramelized in places, thanks to the use of brown sugar; a hint of coconut from the oil; and no yucky or too-sweet aftertaste. When I bake with butter, I feel a bit groggy and stuffy the next day -- that never happened with coconut oil. Amazing.
Dairy-Free Cocoa Brownies

8 ounces coconut oil
3/4 cup cocoa powder, I used Ghiradelli
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a double boiler over gently simmering water, combine the coconut oil and cocoa powder. Mix until smooth then let sit.

In a bowl, combine the sugars and salt. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs and combine well. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and combine well. Pour into a foil-lined 8x8-inch pan and bake for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes (yes, it looks liquid), transfer the pan to the freezer and let it cool for about an hour, or until it's solid. Remove the brownies using the foil and cut into 16 pieces... and try not to eat more than 4 in one sitting.

Einkorn Pasta with a Vegetable and Sausage Ragout

Einkorn pasta is a new alternative to whole wheat and other gluten-free pastas on the market. I like its nuttiness, plus it adds has a walloping amount of protein to help keep your blood sugar steady. It's also gluten-free. Best part? It tastes good!

This is a recipe I developed last fall for The Daily Meal. I wish I had some to warm up tonight to serve with the fettuccine I made last weekend. Sadly, it was pureed into a rich and healthy tomato soup.

This healthy – and easy – pasta sauce pairs well with einkorn pasta. Feel free to vary the kinds of vegetables used in the sauce, depending on what is freshest or in season. 
4 links fresh sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (optional)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/3-inch pieces
1 head of broccoli and stem, cut in florets and chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper
10 cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
26 ounces packaged strained Italian tomatoes, preferably Pomi 
26 ounces packaged chopped Italian tomatoes, preferably Pomi 

If you are using the sausage, heat a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the links until they are lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a 6-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for one minute. Then add the garlic and sauté, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped zucchini and broccoli, if using, to the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook until they begin to give off some of their moisture. 

Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the flavor has deepened. Season to taste.

Serves 4

Pasta with Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce, Beets, and Beet Greens

As published on The Daily Meal

This is one of my new favorite go-to meals. Beets are readily available at your local farmers market year round, as the root vegetables can over-winter. I like to buy red and golden beets with fresh-looking greens, as I like to use the whole vegetable. Just this past Friday, I purchased some beets and immediately cooked up the roots for a salad (pop them in water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, cooking until tender, about 45 minutes, depending on their size. When a knife inserts them easily, they're done). Today, I chopped up the washed stems and sauteed them in a big of Argan oil. Then, I added the clean leaves, cut into a chiffonade, and a pinch of salt. A healthy winter green alternative to chard or kale!

This dish can be made using pantry staples. It's an easy and relatively healthy alternative to heavy cream sauces like Carbonara. Pairs well with whole-wheat pasta, too.

6 red beets, greens removed and set aside
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 package of pasta, cooked according to package instructions

Wash the beets and greens. Place the beets in a 6-quart saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. 
Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and gently cook until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the cooking liquid and let cool.

Meanwhile, cut the beet greens and the top 1/3 of the beet stalk into thin strips. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the beet greens, a pinch of salt and sauté until just wilted.
Then add the cream and goat cheese to the beet greens and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to bubble and the goat cheese begins to form a sauce with the cream. Add the pasta and continue to cook for about 3 minutes longer.

While the pasta warms, remove the skin of the beets and chop into 3/4-inch chunks.
Serve the warm pasta on plates and garnish with the beets.

Serves 4

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Perfect Bar Snack, Rhode-Island Style

I am addicted to these nuts. They're on the menu at one of my most favorite restaurants in Providence, Rhode Island -- La Laiterie. My family always orders them as a snack while we peruse the menu (along with Kate's Biscuits, fresh out of the oven. I wish I had one now...). 

While Chef Matt won't reveal his secret recipe (you can purchase the nuts on their website, though!), my family has tasted (and analyzed) the nuts enough and have attempted to re-create our addictive favorite at home.

Now, these aren't as magical as Matt's, but when I'm at home in Brooklyn craving these, Kate's biscuits, and Matt's burger with polenta fries, they'll do. And, the next time you're in Providence, run, don't walk, to La Laiterie!

Check back here Friday for the recipe! Okay, okay. I know you're all hungry as you sit there drinking your wine (it is National Drink Wine Day, afterall... ). So, whip these up now, if you've got the ingredients on hand!

Honey-Candied Nuts with Herbes de Provence

1/2 cup local honey (I like Andrew's)
1 1/2 cups salted mixed nuts (I love the Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/4 cup Herbes de Provence

In a saute pan over medium heat, heat honey until just bubbly. Add the salted nuts and the herbs and toss well to coat. Turn head down to medium-low and let the mixture cook for 2 minutes, tossing continuously. Turn the heat off and let cool, tossing every minute or so as the honey candies the nuts.

Serve with a glass of wine or bubbly.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Holy Muac-a-mole!

I love avocadoes. The creamy texture, slightly sweet, green taste. My mom got me hooked on serving avocado with mango over a green salad, and one of my favorite breakfasts consists of my favorite nutty German-style bread, toasted, served with a smear of avocadoes and topped with prosciutto. 

Lucky for me, when my stomach started grumbling today around 5 p.m., I was lucky enough to have an avocado and a jalapeno on hand. What to make? My favorite guacamole, of course.

I used to use lots of garlic and jalapenos in my guacamole -- until a time came when I tried making the recipe from Josefina Howard, one of the co-founder's of Rosa Mexicano here in New York City. The combination of white onion and jalapeno is incredible, especially when served with my favorite thick-cut corn chips from Native Kjalii. Oh wow...

The key to making this guacamole is to finely dice half of the onion and jalapeno, and then toncreate a paste with the two using the side of your chef's knife, and a sprinkle of salt (Rosa Mexicano uses a molcajete; I have yet to invest in one for my tiny apartment just yet). The juice of the onion and the jalapeno, combined with the first half of the avocado, helps create a smooth paste with lots of flavor. Then, add in the other half of the onion, jalapeno, chopped avocado, with a smattering of salt, to make a chunky guacamole. While one usually adds a chopped tomato to the avocado mixture, the so-called red tomatoes in the market right now just don't cut it. So, I added in a couple of finely chopped sun dried tomatoes -- consider it my wintertime kick.

Winter Guacamole
Inspired by Rosa Mexicano
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely diced
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion (about 1/4 of a large white onion)
1 avocado
4 sun dried tomatoes (not in oil), finely chopped
Finely chopped cilantro, to taste

Combine half of the onion and jalapeno together with a pinch of salt and, using the side of your knife, create a paste. Place in a small bowl. 
Add 1/2 of the avocado to the paste and stir well to create a smooth paste. Add in the rest of the jalapeno, onion, and avocado. Add the sun dried tomato, and optional cilantro (I usually use it but didn't have any this time... nor did I miss it) and season to taste.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Homemade Egg Fettuccine

Ever since I went to Italy in 2009 (it was the trip that spurred my greatest risk-taking yet: quitting my job, with no concrete future plans, to follow what makes me happy -- working in food media and cooking), I've been slightly obsessed with pasta.

Now, to clarify, my pasta obsession does not have me eating noodles at every meal, nor do I order pasta each time I dine out (that's possibly because I now have high pasta standards. Thank you, Tuscany!). Instead, the aroma of fresh egg noodles, the silky-smooth feeling of thin sheets of pasta rolling through the machine, and the meditative kneading of the dough has me smitted. Oh, and the aroma. Can we visit that again?

While I try to avoid overdoing it on carbs, I can't resist them when the mercury plunges (or maybe it's because I haven't had a warm-weather escape yet. Yes, the serotonin factor). This week was one of those weeks. So, what better time than now to test out the new pasta attachment on the KitchenAid mixer? The question remaining: to make egg pasta or classic Italian, from my La Chiusa cookbook (yes, an Italian souvenir that I love... ah, Dania). 

Egg it was. And it turned out delightfully. On the menu tonight? Fettuccine with pesto, sundried tomatoes, and arugula. Or maybe some leftover sweet fig-chorizo ragu. Haven't decided yet. Both sound good.

And, I can't wait to bring the attachments with me next weekend to Rhode Island. Spaghetti maybe, with a tomato-garlic sauce from the garden? Or pappardelle with a braised lamb ragu? Tell me what you think I should make!!!

Simple Egg Pasta

2 3/4 cups unbleached white flour, plus more for kneading and to prevent the pasta from sticking, if necessary
Large pinch of salt
3 eggs

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and mix well. Make a well with your fingers and crack the eggs into the well. With a fork, gently mix the eggs together, and keep mixing gradually adding a bit more flour from the sides with each whisk. 

Once most of flour has been combined with the egg, turn out the mixture on to a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 6-7 minutes, until all the flour has been incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Bring the dough to room temperature and divide it into 4 equal-sized balls. Process through a pasta machine as instructed, cutting the dough to how you wish.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Spanish Favorite, with a French Twist

So, what did you make for dinner last night? 

Tasked with developing a recipe using chorizo (smoked or sweet, fresh or cured -- I got to choose!), my mind immediately went to my most favorite dish at my favorite tapas bar -- one of a few restaurants in Connecticut that I actually lust for, even living in NYC. 

I'm sure some of you Connecticut residents can guess where I'm talking about. Yup. Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant.

Their Chorizo with Sweet and Sour Figs is to die for. While the last time I was there, I actually (gasp!) didn't order the chorizo, which they serve hot in a terra cotta cazuela with lots of chorizo/fig-infused goodness (figs are probably one of my favorite fruits, other than apples), it will always have a spot in my heart. I know, I know. Didn't order your favorite you say? But, it was a chance to explore and find new favorites -- namely the morcilla with preserved lemon (DO NOT pass on this one!), braised endive, crispy pork, and so much more.

So, when it came to my own chorizo recipe, I took inspiration from Barcelona's dish. Sweet and syrupy tender figs, with a splash of something acidic. For me, tender figs and slightly spicy chorizo begs for tender caramelized onions, and just-cooked French green lentils.

While I served this stew-salad over a bed of spinach last night, I could easily eat this alone (did tonight, with crisp carrots and a glass of my new favorite vin rouge from Marquis Philips. I mean, when 12 bottles arrive at your door, don't you have to taste-test?) or over hearty brown rice.

As published on The Daily Meal

When I think of chorizo, there is one dish that always comes to mind (and never fails to make me hungry): Chorizo with Sweet and Sour Figs, a warm tapas served at Barcelona Wine Bar restaurant in South Norwalk, Conn. The smoky flavor from the pork sausage combined with the rich caramelization of the braised figs is incredibly satisfying (and perfect to eat with the restaurant’s phenomenal bread).

Inspired by Barcelona’s chorizo tapas, I wanted to create a hearty salad-like dish that I could eat alone or atop a bed of greens. I added cooked French green lentils for added fiber and heft, and chose fresh chorizo rather than smoked, cured as served at the restaurant.
If you don’t have chorizo, you can use your favorite sausage as a substitute.

1 cup French green lentils (Lentilles du Puy)
1 1/2 cups dried Calimyrna figs, stems removed and quartered
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 links fresh chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons water
Paprika, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Baby spinach, for serving (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine the lentils with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. When ready, drain and keep warm.

Place quartered figs in a small cast-iron skillet and cover halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to a low simmer. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and gently cook until the figs are tender and the liquid is syrupy.

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add garlic and onion, season with salt, and cook until the onions are lightly golden and caramelized. Add the onions to the figs and set aside.

In the same saucepan, add the fresh chorizo sausage and sauté over high heat until just cooked through. Add the figs, onions, and lentils. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet the figs were cooked in and bring to a boil. Reduce by half, deglazing the pan to dissolve all syrupy bits. Add the liquid to the lentils, season with paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve over a bed of spinach, if desired.

Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes