Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Very Peachy Cake
This cake is adapted from Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan, is very easy to make. The brown sugar coffee cake is flavored with grated lemon zest with a pinch of cardamom. In this recipe it calls for plums and orange zest, but I used peaches and lemon zest instead. The peach halves bake into the batter and has a jammy and dimple appearance on the top of the cake along with a beautiful honey brown color.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon (optional)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavoeless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums ( in the fall, use Italian prune plums), halved and pitted

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom, If you are using it, together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, lemon zest and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the peaches cut side up in the batter-jiggling the peaches a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes-during which time the peaches juice will return to the fruit-then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Braised Brussels Sprouts

I finally became brave once again and tried Brussels Sprouts. About ten years ago while on vacation in the Bahamas was the very first time I tried Brussels Sprouts and thought they were the tastiest things I ever had. When I came back home I went to the market to buy them and try them on my own, the outcome was very disapointing. They tasted nothing like what I tried while on vacation and never tried them again. After many years I came across them in the market and thought I would try them again. This time while searching many cookbooks getting ideas on how to cook them I finnaly realized that the first time I made them I probably over cooked them.
This recipe is very simple it does not have the different ingredients that could be added to Brussels Sprouts like cream, almonds, and nutmeg. I chose a more simple version just to see how they tasted without to much fuss. The outcome was very tasty!

1lb Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Cut of the base of the Brussels Sprout. Peel off any yellow or bruised leaves. Wash the Brussels Sprouts. Fill a large pot with water just enough to cover the sprouts, cover and bring to a boil add salt, add the Brussels Sprouts and boil for about 6 to 8 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a fork on the base of the head with gentle pressure. Drain, toss with butter, lemon, and fresh ground pepper.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings
I have to admit spinach was not one of my favorite foods when I was little, however my taste for it has changed and now it seems most recipes I look for have spinach in them. These dumplings are perfect if you like spinach, they are light and very cheesy.
2 bunches (10 to 12 ounces each ) spinach or two packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 container (8 ounces) ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 cups milk

If using fresh spinach, remove tough stems; wash spinach well. In 5 quart Dutch oven, cook spinach with water clinging to leaves over high heat, stirring, until wilted. Drain. Squeeze dry; coarsely chop. Prepare dumplings: In large bowl, mix spinach, ricotta, eggs, pepper, salt, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup flour. With floured hands, shape spinach mixture into 2" by 1" ovals.

Meanwhile, fill 5-quart sausepot half-full with water. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add dumplings, half at a time.

Prepare white sauces: In 2-quart saucepan, melt margarine over medium heat. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons flour; cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens slightly and boils. Remove saucepan from heat; stir 1/4 cup Parmesan. Place dumplings in single layer in shallow 2-quart casserole; spoon sauce over. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over top. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until sauce is hot and bubbly.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chocolate Madeleines

According to Wikipedia, a madeleine or petite madeleine is a customary sweet from Commercy, a town of the Meuse d├ępartement in northeastern France. Madeleines are known by their attractive shell-like shape, which is obtained from being baked in special pans with shell-shaped depressions. Madeleines are cake-like and quite small. The taste is comparable to, but a bit lighter than, pound cake, with distinct butter-and-lemon taste. The Madeleine’s can be made in different flavors including vanilla, lemon, orange, and chocolate. Madeleine pans can be found, even in many places in the United States. Specialty and gourmet cooking stores are all but certain to carry them. If not, there are many websites through which they can be purchased

For my very first time making madeleines, I have to admit they came out pretty good and very easy to make. This recipe was adapted from the cookbook The seven sins of chocolate.

Makes approximately 30 madeleines
1 cup+2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1/3 cup milk
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid

Prepare the madeleine batter 24 hours in advance
Heat butter in a pan until it turns a light nut-brown color.
Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Beat the eggs, sugar, honey, and milk with an electric mixer until well combined. Sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture and stir well. Mix in the warm butter and melted chocolate. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly butter and flour the madeleine molds (unless they are the nonstick variety). Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the batter into each mold. Bake until the madeleines have formed their distinctive hump and are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Unmold onto a wire cake rack and cool completely.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

I had no time yesterday to cook it looked like it was going to be a pizza night, but when I came home and opened my refrigerator I found all the things I needed for this recipe. It worked out well because I had to use the chicken, I didn't want it sitting in the refrigerator any longer. This meal was perfect over rice and it was done in no time.

2 tablespoon oil
1 pound of boneless chicken breast , cut into pieces
1/2 cup onion chopped
1/2 cup chopped green pepper or red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup water
1 (14 1/2 oz) can tomatoes, chopped with juice
8 ounces polish or italian sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon oregano
pepper to taste
dash cayenne pepper

Heat oil, saute chicken and sausage for 5 minutes, add onion, green pepper or red pepper and garlic. Saute for a few minutes longer, then add remaining ingredients. Cover, stir, and simmer about 30 minutes. Serve over cooked rice.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Macaroni and Cheese Au Gratin

This version of Macaroni and Cheese adapted from my mother in law is my favorite, its a little different from the regular mac and cheese in texture. I use a cheese called Kasher imported from Turkey which can be found in a Mediteranean market. If you can't find this cheese you can use provolone.

1lb of ziti
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb feta cheese crumbled
1/2 cup shredded provolone or Turkish kasher cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Boil the macaroni drain and set aside. Melt the butter in a sucepan. Add the flour stir until smooth. Reduce to simmer and stir in the milk. Add the eggs one at a time stirring without stopping until the eggs are all added to the mixture, remove from heat and set aside. In a bowl mix together ricotta cheese, crumbled feta cheese and half of the shredded kasher cheese. Stir in the cheese mixture to the cream mixture.
Butter a 9x12 pan and about 4 inches high.
Mix half of the cheese mixture with the pasta. Add the remaing half of the cheese mixture on top of the pasta. Add the parmesan cheese and than the remaining shredded kasher cheese.