Thursday, May 29, 2008

Choklay's Tibetan Lentil Soup

I'm submitting this soup to Food Blogga's Beautiful Bones event. Since May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, Susan is hosting this event to promote awareness about osteoporosis. Check out her post which mentions the risk factors and many examples of calcium rich foods. I had no idea that tomatoes and spices have calcium! Anyway, the calcium rich foods my soup has are lentils, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, and potatoes.

This soup is good, filling, healthy and I plan to make it again! The flavour combination of cumin, coriander and lentils was really good. For a while now, I've been really hooked on red split lentils (which cook really fast and are so delicious). I haven't ventured out and tried many other types of lentils though, which I should.

Other soups I've made:
Baked Bean Soup
Corn Chowder
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Choklay's Tibetan Lentil Soup
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

1 1/2 cups dried red split lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
1 tsp oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 fresh chile, seeded and finely minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 potato, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cups (28 oz can) undrained canned chopped tomatoes
3/4 tsp salt

In a nonreactive soup pot, bring the lentils and water to a boil; then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onions, garlic, and chile for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, coriander and cumin and saute for another minute, stirring to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When the lentils are tender, stir the canned tomatoes into the soup pot. Add the salt and sauteed vegetables. Cover and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until all of the vegetables are tender. If you like, take 2 cups of the soup out and puree them, then add back to the soup.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was pecan honey sticky buns, chosen by Madam Chow's Kitchen. This recipe didn't really call out to me before, probably due to the honey in the name (I'm trying to like honey) and all the nuts on top (though I don't know why sugary pecans wouldn't appeal to me considering my new love of pecans). And making brioche to make these? I was a bit scared. I had this idea in my head that brioche would be this horrible sticky mess and would be so hard to make. But with the use of a Kitchenaid and Dorie's recipe, the most difficult thing was remembering to go back and punch the dough down every 30 minutes after it was in the fridge.

With how easy the brioche was to make, and how absolutely perfectly soft it was on the inside with the most delicious browned outsides - I know I'll be making brioche many more times. The brioche made these honey pecan sticky buns the type of cinnamon/sticky roll that I love. And I for some reason never thought of making a caramel to put the sticky buns in as they baked - I'm sure Dorie's not the first person to do this but wow am I happy to be introduced to this idea. I used to think that a cinnamon roll MUST have cream cheese icing, and while I do still love cream cheese icing, I think I actually prefer them without. As long as they have lots of gooey sugary cinnamony caramel type stuff, which is exactly what this one has.

Since you have to make a whole recipe of brioche (and this recipe uses only half of it), I had planned to make one loaf of brioche, half a recipe of honey pecan sticky buns, and save and freeze the other piece for half a recipe of brioche raisin snails (another Dorie recipe). BUT silly me, I forgot to wrap up that extra 1/4 and didn't end up halving the dough for the recipe, though I halved everything else - including the size that I rolled the dough out to and the dish that I baked them in. That's why my sticky buns were so fat. There was definitely nothing wrong with them but I want to try this recipe the way it was intended, with the dough rolled out thinner.

Thanks Madam Chow for choosing this insanely tasty recipe! I've been looking for a really good cinnamon roll recipe and I think I've now found it. If you don't like pecans, these would definitely be good without. And if you're a little wary of things tasting like honey, don't worry about it for this recipe as you can't taste it.

Other TWD recipes I've made:
Matcha Coconut Madeleines
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours

Makes 16 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, spreading it as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle the pecans over top.

To make the filling: In a bowl, mix the sugars and cinnamon together.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months. Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a clean dry dish towel and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the dish towel and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven. The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

Golden Brioche Dough
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours

(This recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it.)

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 40 to 60 minutes.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter two 8x4 inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Preheat the oven to 400F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Portabello Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto, Roasted Peppers & Romano Cheese

My exams are finally over! I'm free for the summer to bake lots of yummy things and balance them out with many other healthy things. And to have the freedom to read food blogs again! Thank you everyone who wished me luck with my finals. :)

This recipe has a lot of parts to it and might seem a bit complicated, but it's not too bad and it's definitely worth it! To quote what I wrote on the page for this recipe in the cookbook, "sosososoSO good!! perfect. make all the time! yum etc!! truly spectacular". As you can see, I really fell in love with this pasta dish and I plan to make it many more times. Though it's not the healthiest, at least it involves a variety of vegetables! I tried to organize the recipe as best I could (because it comes from several pages in the cookbook) but if it's confusing, let me know.

Portabello Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto, Roasted Peppers & Romano Cheese
Adapted from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook

Serves 2-3

1/2 lb whole wheat fettuccine
2 portabello mushrooms, marinated and roasted (Recipe below)
2 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, julienned
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil*
1 recipe spinach pesto (Recipe below)
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400F. Put the marinated mushrooms in an oven safe dish. Slice the bell peppers in half and seed them. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast the mushrooms and peppers (separately) for about 15 minutes (long enough for the skin to blister on the peppers). Remove the mushrooms and peppers from the oven. Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with a plate or lid for 10 minutes - this makes it easier to peel off the skin (though you can leave the skin on if you want). Peel the skin off.

Heat a large pot of boiling water to cook the pasta. Slice portabello mushrooms and roasted peppers into long, thin strips and set aside.

Heat olive oil in skillet and saute the onion until translucent. Add the mushrooms, peppers, and cherry tomato halves, toss to heat through and keep warm over low heat. Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine.

Strain the pasta and toss with enough pesto to liberally coat the noodles. Add the vegetables and basil and toss to combine. Divide among 2 pasta bowls, sprinkle with Romano cheese and toasted pine nuts.

*I used the same amount of freeze dried, though fresh is best. If you want to use dried, maybe do a couple of tablespoons.

Marinated Portabello Mushrooms

2 portabello mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 cup white wine
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Clean mushrooms and lay gill-side up in a shallow pan. Whisk together the marinade ingredients, pour over the mushrooms, cover and marinated in the refrigerator up to 4 hours.

Spinach Pesto

1 cup spinach, packed (or use a frozen package of spinach, thawed with the water squeezed out as I did)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
4 cloves roasted garlic
1 clove fresh garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chile flakes
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Pulse all ingredients, except oil, to form a coarse paste. Add oil and pulse to blend. Keep refrigerated if not using right away.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Matcha Coconut Madeleines

There's something very special about madeleines, so I was really happy that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was traditional madeleines, chosen by Tara of Smells Like Home. I'm swamped with studying for finals right now but I couldn't resist making them. I adore madeleines and they're a really easy baked good. I chose to do a matcha coconut variation, and they were quite yummy. My favourite flavour is still Earl Grey, but I always want to try out new combinations. And I have to just say that madeleines are really best within a few hours of making them so you get to enjoy their slightly crispy edges and soft warm centers.

As for the signature "hump" that the madeleine is supposed to have - some of mine did and some didn't despite refrigeration of the batter for several hours. Doesn't bother me though because they were still addictively delicious. And I know that some people have problems with them sticking to the pans - I find that if I let mine cool for a few minutes in the pan, they come out much easier. And it seems impossible for me to make madeleines without those tunnels, though I don't feel like I'm overmixing. One thing about Dorie's recipe that's different from other madeleine recipes I've made was that she has you beat the eggs and sugar together for 3 minutes. I'm used to just stirring them together by hand until mixed.

Other things I've baked with tea:
Matcha Cupcakes
Earl Grey White Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Earl Grey Tea Shortbread
Honey Earl Grey Madeleines

Matcha Coconut Madeleines*
Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
1-2 tbsp matcha**
1/3 cup dried unsweetened coconut
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, matcha and coconut.

Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. (For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge; see below for instructions on prepping the pans.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan (or pans), give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one 3/4 full. Don't worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven's heat will take care of that. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch(es), making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan(s) before baking.

Makes 12 large or 36 mini cookies.***

Storing: Although the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, the madeleines should be eaten soon after they are made. You can keep them overnight in a sealed container, but they really are better on day 1. If you must store them, wrap them airtight and freeze them; they'll keep for up to 2 months.

*To make the traditional madeleines, add the zest of one lemon to the sugar (rubbing the lemon zest and sugar between your fingers until moist and fragrant.) Omit the coconut and matcha.
**I used 1 tbsp and it gave the madeleines a very light matcha flavour so next time I'll add 2 tbsp.
***With my modification of the recipe, it made 15 large madeleines.

My note: You can easily modify this recipe to make any flavour you like. I like adding 4 oz of melted chocolate to the batter.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies & Toblerone Cookies

These cookies may just take the chocolate chip cookie champion title from the Neiman Marcus cookies. I was really happy with how soft they were, and how they were a bit chewy with slightly crispy edges. The taste of the actual dough was good but I'll try adding a bit more vanilla next time to see if that can make the cookies even better.

I made the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies as a request from my mom, and decided to do half of the batch as Toblerone cookies. The Toblerone cookies were definitely more addictive than I could've expected. Unfortunately I didn't add enough Toblerone, and the Toblerone I used was a limited time one (milk chocolate with white chocolate caps). I also learned that raw macadamia nuts do not taste good! At least not the ones I had. And that they really must be toasted before being used in these cookies.

9 days and 5 exams until I'm free to go on a baking spree!

Other chocolate cookies I've made:
Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies
Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies & Toblerone Cookies*
Adapted from Tyler Florence (from Bon Appetit Dec 2006)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract**
1 1/2 cups white chocolate, chopped (about 8 1/2 ounces)
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted macadamia nuts (about 4 1/2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until blended. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat just until blended. Using spatula, stir in white chocolate chips, and nuts.

For large cookies, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing 21/2 inches apart. For small cookies, drop dough by level tablespoonfuls onto sheets, spacing 11/2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until just golden, about 18 minutes for large cookies and about 15 minutes for small cookies***. Cool on sheets.

*Note: To make Toblerone cookies, replace white chocolate and macadamia nuts with chopped Toblerone bars.

**I'm going to try 2 tbsp next time.
***I underbaked them a bit, baking large size cookies for 13 to 14 minutes.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pomegranate Smoothie

This is the first beverage I've ever posted about, and possibly the last. I like trying out different drinks but I don't really care that much about making them at home. Except for smoothies, which I make with yogurt, frozen fruit and fruit juice. Not that I've been making many recently due to the cold weather. (Where are you summer? And who ever thought I'd be wanting summer to come and not relishing the cold weather?)

Anyway, so I subscribe to Everyday Food magazine but haven't been looking through the issues recently. I came across this pomegranate smoothie recipe and was both sad that I had missed it in the issue, but also happy that I had stumbled across it on the internet. It's really quite a perfect, delicious and healthy smoothie. The silken tofu gives it this really nice mouthfeel (a term I've gleaned from my food technology program) - as though there's heavy cream in there or something and it doesn't taste like tofu at all. And it's full of antioxidants, especially if you use frozen berries.

Pomegranate Smoothie
Adapted from March 08 Everyday Food magazine (found on Husband Tested Recipes From Alice's Kitchen)

1/3 cup silken tofu (about 3 oz.)
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon honey (add more if you like it sweeter)
2 ice cubes (or just omit because the frozen berries make them kind of pointless)

In a blender, combine all ingredients. Puree until smooth. Serve immediately. (If the smoothie seems too thick, just add a bit more pomegranate juice.)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mini Pear Loaves

This recipe is originally for pear ginger "bread" (not sure why it's called bread though as it's really more muffin/loaf-y). Anyway I thought - pear and ginger? That sounds good. Well I was wrong! The recipe calls for 3 tbsp fresh ginger which is a lot of ginger, too much for me and I love ginger. But I think I prefer it in savoury things like beet and tofu salad. Or at least in the dried form for baked goods, though I've never tried crystallized ginger.

Anyway, the great thing about these little loaves is that they're so deliciously soft and the pear in them is just perfect and doesn't make them mushy, as I've found apples can in muffin recipes. I tried a pear, cardamom and pumpkin seed muffin version of this recipe and while I liked the sound of it, I didn't really like the cardamom in there. I plan to try out other variations on this recipe adding different spices, nuts and fruit (and of course I'd like to try out a version that involves chocolate!) I modified the recipe to be healthier, as with most other muffin recipes I make (unless I just want to go all out).

If this sounds good, you might like:
Pumpkin Pecan Raisin Muffins
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Almond Coconut Muffins
Chocolate Walnut Banana Bread

Mini Pear Loaves
adapted from The Garden of Vegan

Makes 8 mini loaves or 12 muffins.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup applesauce
1 banana, mashed
1 large pear, cored and cubed
1/2 cup nuts or seeds (pecans, pumpkin seeds, etc)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in sugar, apple juice, applesauce, banana, pear, and nuts/seeds. Stir together gently until "just mixed." Pour batter into a lightly oiled mini loaf pan or muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.