Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Smoked Trout Pâté

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A simple pulse in the food processor turns four simple ingredients into a delicious pâté. Perfect for serving with crusty bread as an appetizer or as part of my favorite Sunday supper - a platter layered with cheese, bread and European butter. The zing of the horseradish butter helps balance out the richness of the pâté.

Smoked Trout Pâté with Horseradish Butter
Adapted from Good Food

Pâté
1 oz unsalted butter
Zest 1/2 lemon
160g pack smoked trout
1 spring onion, roughly chopped

Horseradish Butter
1/2 oz unsalted butter
1 t horseradish
1 t chopped parsley + a few whole leaves

Combine melted butter, zest, trout and spring onion in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place the pate in a ramekin and smooth the top.

For the horseradish butter, melt the butter with the horseradish and stir in the chopped parsley. Pour over the pâté and lay the parsley leaves on top with a few grinds of cracked pepper. Chill thoroughly to set the butter. Serve with a baguette and extra butter.


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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lemon Curd

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I have a new, favorite lemon curd recipe.

This may not be groundbreaking news, but it is exciting when I find something that improves upon a steadfast recipe in my repertoire.

Lemon curd is extraordinary. Though nothing more than a combination of eggs, butter, lemon juice and sugar, patient stirring and gentle heat transforms the combination into something ethereal and quintessentially spring.

The recipe included below comes to you by way of NotWithout Salt, a wonderful blog with beautiful photography. I think it improves greatly upon my old recipe which was always a touch too tart for my taste. If you would like to see that recipe, along with instructions for a great pavlova, just click on the image of the bowl of lemon curd below.

When served with berries (or berries and whipped cream as Not Without Salt suggests) lemon curd sings. However, I find a spoon, for dipping into the jar of curd, to be a perfectly sufficient eating companion.

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Lemon Curd
Adapted from Not Without Salt
 
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
¼ t kosher salt
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Whisk the sugar, lemon juice, eggs and egg yolks in a medium metal bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the simmering water – in other words use a bain-marie.

Stir constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes, removing the bowl from the pan as needed to bring down the temperature and prevent the eggs from overcooking.

Remove the bowl from the heat and add the butter, salt and vanilla. Stir until combined. If desired, strain the curd to remove any bits of cooked eggs. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and chill.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weights and Measures Banana Bread

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A few years back, there was suddenly a lot of talk about weighing out ingredients when baking. A cup of flour can vary considerably in weight depending on how densely the flour is packed in the cup. Too much extra flour and the recipe can be altered significantly from what the recipe developer originally intended.
 
So, a culinary school-trained chef and staunch rule-follower such as myself must have immediately switched to weighing all of her ingredients when baking, no? No. Days I turn to baking usually fall on a weekend when I am relaxed and much more interested in enjoying my time in the kitchen than in flawless measuring in pursuit of perfect results.

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the event that got me to finally put my kitchen scale to use was spurred by laziness a relaxed day in the kitchen when I found myself with a mountain of past-their-prime bananas and no desire to scoop everything into measuring cup after measuring cup to determine how much overripe banana pulp was in my possession. Plop it all on the kitchen scale and call it a day.
 
Since I now had my banana pulp available in pounds and ounces, I went on the hunt for a banana bread recipe that provided ingredient quantities in weights for ease of scaling.
 
The Culinary Institute of America’s banana bread recipe is one I have used before and one that handily, comes with ingredients listed in weights. Am I a convert to the kitchen scale after this recipe? Probably not, as I love the ease of scooping flour into a measuring cup without pulling out the scale, but for recipes that call for large quantities, it certainly makes sense. And nothing really beats the confidence that comes with placing a baked good in the oven, knowing it will come out as close as possible to what the recipe developer intended.


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Banana Nut Bread
Adapted (recipe cut in half) from the Culinary Institute of America

2 lb 2 oz overripe bananas
1/4 oz lemon juice
1 lb 6.5 oz ap flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 oz baking soda
1 t salt
1 lb 6.5 oz sugar
3 eggs
7 fl oz oil
4 oz chopped pecans
Butter or cooking spray to coat the loaf pans

Preheat oven to 350
Coat three loaf pans with butter or cooking spray. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Place the banana puree in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the sugar, eggs and oil. Mix on medium until well-combined.

Add the flour mixture to the banana puree in three additions, mixing just until combined after each addition. Stir in the pecans.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes until the bread springs back when touched. Cool in pans on wire racks for five minutes, remove the bread from the pans and cool completely on wire racks. Serve with your best preserves.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Eat Your Greens Salad

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The inspiration for this latest salad obsession arrived courtesy of a catering delivery to our office that included this dish in all of its green goodness. Crisp tender vegetables (sugar snap peas, broccoli and edmame), vibrant color and lots of flavor - my only complaint was the heavy dose of vinaigrette. The oily slick on the restaurant version makes you feel like you are undoing all the good done by eating your greens. I absolutely think this salad needs some sort of dressing and a bit of fat, but for me, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and a sprinkling of salt is sufficient to bring out an earthy, delicious flavor.

Whatever you do, do not skip the blanching step. It makes all the difference to get the vegetables just the slightest bit tender and it certainly doesn’t hurt in preserving the vibrant green color. Blanching traditionally includes a quick dunk in a bowl of ice water to arrest the cooking, but here I opt for stirring in the frozen edamame after the vegetables are drained. They help to quickly cool down the other vegetables, while the residual heat from cooking thaws the edamame. If you prefer an ice bath, by all means use the traditional method, but if you, like me, find yourself without an ice maker and vast quantities of ice on hand, stirring in the edamame works well here.

Eat Your Greens
Makes 2 Quarts

1 pound sugar snap peas
12 oz package broccoli florets
6 oz frozen, shelled edamame
2 – 3 T toasted sesame oil
Salt for cooking and to taste (Kosher – I use Diamond Crystal)

Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, prepare the vegetables.

Remove the stem-end of the sugar snap peas and if desired, the string that runs the length of the pea. Cut the peas on the diagonal into 1/4“ to 1/2“ segments. Roughly chop the broccoli florets.

Once the water comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt (at least 1 tablespoon). Add the sugar snap peas and broccoli to the water and cook for two minutes. Drain the vegetables in a colander and stir for one to two minutes to speed cooling. Add the frozen edamame and stir until the edamame is thawed – an additional one to two minutes.

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and stir in two tablespoons of the sesame oil and salt generously. Taste the mixture and if the sesame flavor is mild, add more to taste.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

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I stumbled upon these delicious cupcakes while looking for something to bring into the office for my co-workers. No special occasion, just a desire to bake and not increase my waist size at the same time. My secret weapon of weight loss centers around pawning off leftovers on unsuspecting colleagues. They have yet to complain about my mode of moderation.
 
Make these for your co-workers or your family or yourself. Just make them. But beware their addictive nature if you don't have anyone on which to lovingly bestow (aka pawn off) the leftovers.

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 20 Cupcakes
Adapted from the Fine Cooking Blog Roll

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups + 1 T flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla
Zest of 3 lemons
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 T flour

Preheat oven to 350
Place 20 cupcake liners in two 12-cup muffin pans. Beat the butter, lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy – about five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Toss the blueberries with 1 T flour.

Sift the remaining flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add a quarter of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine. Then add vanilla and a third of the buttermilk and combine. Repeat until the flour mixture and buttermilk are incorporated. Fold in the blueberries.

Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool pans on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn cakes out and cool completely.

Frost the cupcakes (recipe follows) and top each cupcake with a blueberry and a mint leaf (if desired).

Frosting

8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 stick softened butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup honey
Zest of 1 lemon
1 t vanilla
2 t fresh lemon juice
Large pinch of salt

Beat the ingredients in a stand mixer until completely smooth. If the mixture is too runny, add more confectioner’s sugar until desired consistency is reached.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Carrot Apple Soup

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I will never tire of carrot soup. This is far from the first carrot soup recipe posted on this blog and it likely won’t be the last. Pureed vegetable soups are one of my staple foods during the fall season. They are warm and comforting yet healthy and nourishing at the same time – not something I can say about all of my comfort food choices.

This time around I added an apple for an extra hint of sweetness and to take advantage of one of fall’s hallmark flavors. Leave it out if it seems odd or if you want pure carrot flavor.

Carrot Apple Soup
Serves Four

1 T canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 apple, diced
6 cups stock (I use chicken stock), up to 1 cup additional stock as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds carrots
Greek yogurt for garnish

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil, followed by the onion and the apple and sauté until beginning to soften, around eight to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a separate pot, heat the stock over high heat until almost boiling.

While the onion and apple are cooking, peel and dice the carrots. Add the carrots to the pot with the onion and apple and cook for an additional five minutes. Add the stock to the pot with the carrots and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 30 to 45 minutes until the carrots are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. The cooking time will depend on how large or small you cut your carrots. A smaller dice on the carrots will yield a shorter cooking time.

Transfer the carrot and stock mixture to a blender, working in batches if necessary, and puree. Return the pureed soup to the pan and thin with additional stock as needed to reach your desired consistency. Taste and check for seasoning, adding more salt and a little pepper if needed.

Ladle soup into four serving bowls and garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Multi-Purpose Dressing

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Well hello there. So. It’s been more than a little while since I last posted. 10 months to be exact. Things got busy, I planned a wedding, got married, went on a honeymoon and now, almost two months after The Big Day, I have recovered from the whole wonderful, exhausting experience just enough to get back in my kitchen and start documenting it again for you here, that is, if there are any of you left after my prolonged absence!

The meaning of this blog’s name (balancing the healthy – apples - with the delicious, but not-so-healthy – butter) could not be any more pertinent in my kitchen than it is right now. Since getting married I feel I am fighting the constant battle of trying to find dishes fabulous and flavorful enough to keep my husband (my ever-so-slightly picky husband) coming back to the dinner table, while trying desperately not to regain those 10 culinary school pounds I managed to lose for the wedding. Fun times in the Stanbrook kitchen.

Battle number one. Teach husband that chicken does not have to be flavorless diet food. Far from it! When cooked just until done (not to a dried out, parched mess of protein) I think chicken is absolutely delicious. However, properly cooked chicken does not, on its own, a fabulous and flavorful meal make.

Enter the one-two-punch of a marinade and grill. The flavor of chicken cooked on a grill will always remind me of the Cornish game hens my father grilled for our family at least once a week when I was a child. Perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of char, it is quintessential outdoor living, Southern California food to me. Use the following dressing that pulls on some of the season’s best flavors (pesto anyone?) as a marinade and I think you’ve got the perfect summertime dinner.

This dressing lives somewhere between vinaigrette and pesto. If you have extra basil, make as much of this dressing as you can and use it as a condiment for cooked meats or a salad dressing; toss it with freshly cooked vegetables or throw it over pasta. I have included directions below for using it as a marinade for grilled chicken breasts.

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Summer Pesto Dressing

1-1/2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts or walnut pieces
1 T white balsamic vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t honey
1/2 t salt + more to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil + more as needed

Combine first six ingredients in a mini-food processor (or a regular food processor if you only have the full size) and pulse until combined. Add the olive oil and let the processor run until the oil has blended and somewhat emulsified with the other ingredients. I like to leave this dressing chunky, but if you prefer a smoother dressing, continue blending and add more olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To use this dressing as a marinade for chicken breasts:

Using a sharp knife, make three slashes in each breast, only cutting about 1/8” to 1/4”-inch into the breast. Reserve 1/2 of the dressing to serve as a condiment for the cooked chicken or to use later as a salad dressing. Rub 1/2 of the remaining dressing over the breasts and let them marinate in the fridge for as much time as you can – 30 minutes to three+ hours.

Fire up your grill. Let your chicken breasts start to come to room temperature while your grill heats up. Place the chicken on the grill and adjust the flames/charcoal to prevent flare ups. Close the grill cover and only lift it occasionally to baste the chicken with the remaining dressing. I wish I could tell you how long to cook the chicken, but every grill and every chicken breast is different. My chicken breasts were not gigantic and it took about six minutes on the first side and an additional four to five once I flipped them over. If your chicken is getting too black before finishing cooking, move it to a cooler area of the grill or a raised shelf and let it finish cooking with the grill cover closed. Serve the chicken with the remaining dressing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Essential and Not So Essential Tools

Last night, while prepping out a cheese souffle for dinner with my fiancé, I realized how much pleasure I get out of whisking egg whites by hand. It, like whipping cream, is a task that has been made much more simple by the invention of electric hand mixers and stand mixers. I myself used to make mayonnaise and whip cream and egg whites in my stand mixer. It's so simple - place the ingredients in the mixer bowl, flip a switch and let the machine do the work for you.

Since completing studies at The French Culinary Institute, I no longer use my stand mixer for any of these tasks. It's either a result of being forced to do it by hand while I was in school, or the discovery that it is just not that difficult. I am not claiming that it is the easiest thing you will do in the kitchen this week - it certainly takes some elbow grease and a bit of patience - but the satisfaction I get from the finished product is increased ten fold when I use that elbow grease and make it happen myself.

To make the task a bit easier, make sure you have a balloon whisk - an essential tool for whipping ingredients by hand. The large spherical center of the balloon whisk helps to incorporate air into mixtures more quickly than a standard whisk. You also need to put the cream or egg whites in a large bowl so that you are working with a large surface area. If you use a small bowl with a large amount of liquid, you are going to be whipping forever. Good for your arm muscles, not so good for enjoying the process.

Any large bowl will do, but if you're interested in something truly beautiful and a bit of a splurge, check out this beating bowl from Mauviel:
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It is definitely a non-essential tool, but isn't it beautiful? If you feel like splurging, you can buy this bowl here from Williams-Sonoma. I recently added it to my wedding registry in hopes that someone will splurge on me!

Balloon whisks are available from many retail outlets, but again, Williams-Sonoma carries a great selection. This whisk is an affordable, well-made option.

The Apples and Butter team is working on some short 'how to' videos, so hopefully soon we'll have one on whipping up egg whites. Perhaps you'll see this copper bowl make a cameo...