Monday, November 11, 2013

Mille crepes

Sometimes, when I feel like my husband needs an edible reminder that he has the best wife in the world, or when it's a chilly day out and I need a kitchen project to keep me occupied, or sometimes just when I have been thinking about this cake for weeks and can't get it out of my head.... I make a mille crepe cake.

It's no easy task - it takes the better part of a dozen eggs, half the dairy case and a good sixty crepe-flipping minutes at the stove. But when you cut that first slice, pull out your kitchen torch to make that crunchy caramel top and sink your fork through plush layers of cream and crepe.... Well, it's all worth it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberry muffins!

Ed and I got back from our anniversary trip to Philadelphia late last night... too late to go to the grocery store. We woke up this morning and tried to order breakfast from our usual bagel delivery spot only to discover that they were closed for Memorial Day. Nooooo!

Since we'd cleaned out the fridge in anticipation of our trip, there wasn't much to scrounge up for breakfast. No milk, half a cup of Greek yogurt, a single solitary egg.... not exactly promising. But hey, we did pack some local strawberries away in the freezer before we left. And then, with just a little Googling, the answer became clear: strawberry muffins!

I thawed two eight-ounce jars of chopped strawberries to use in the muffins - one that we'd just popped in last week and one that had been frozen in light syrup since last June. I was a little worried that the berries that had hibernated in the freezer for close to a year would be kinda funky, but they were actually just as delicious as the day we'd packed them.

I had to make a couple of quick substitutions - yogurt instead of milk, almond extract instead of vanilla - but the muffins were delicious anyway; light and fluffy and bursting with strawberry flavor. Breakfast is saved!

Strawberry Muffins
barely adapted from A Recipe A Day 

1/2 c. softened butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. flour
2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1 1/2 c. chopped strawberries

3 T sugar
1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a mixer or by hand, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and almond extract and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Add half of flour mixture to butter mixture and incorporate well. Add yogurt and mix, then add remaining flour and mix until just incorporated. Stir in strawberries and divide batter into greased and floured muffin tins. Combine remaining cinnamon with remaining sugar and sprinkle over the muffin batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring is back, and so am I!

 It's easy to love the farmer's market in the spring time. The weather is warm enough that you don't mind the walk, the vendors are plentiful, the sunshine makes everyone happy and sociable, and the first few tender green vegetables are just so tempting.  I can't help picking up one of almost everything - from ramps to spinach to bok choy, if it was green, it was in my basket!

I used a lot of today's bounty in dinner tonight: garlic and ginger flounder with sauteed baby bok choy. It was delicious, light and easy and flavorful. I think we'll be making this one again!

It's so easy to make - you make a foil packet and fill it with chunks of scallion, garlic, ginger and ramps, if you've got 'em. Then make your sauce - I combined roughly equal amounts of soy sauce, honey and rice wine vinegar - and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Then place your fish filets on top of the veggies and spoon a little bit of your sauce on top. We used flounder filet from Blue Moon Fish for this dinner - about a quarter pound for each of us.

Fifteen minutes later, you've got a gorgeous piece of tender fish, perfectly cooked and aromatic. I cooked up some baby bok choy for the side - a quick saute with garlic, ginger and olive oil then a brief simmer with a few tablespoons of chicken broth until tender. We didn't eat any starches with dinner tonight, as we'd both had a few treats during our afternoon walkabout and were not super hungry when suppertime rolled around, but in the future I'd serve this with some rice or quinoa. Delish!

I also want to share with you guys the amazing strawberry rhubarb marshmallows that I made this week! Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures of them... so just picture a marshmallow.

(Pretend this is a marshmallow picture!)
Nice and square,
just barely pink,
soft and fluffy
and covered in powdered sugar.

 I used this recipe from Food 52, which was posted by my amazing supper club partner in crime, Emily. (Side note: if you want awesome marshmallows but don't feel like getting yourself - and your kitchen - all sticky, Emily sells her very creative 'mallows at Emily's recipe starts with six ounces of Meyer lemon marmalade, but I substituted a jar of runny strawberry rhubarb jam from last summer. The resulting 'mallows were SO good that I'm considering making a huge batch next June to give out as wedding favors. (Oh yes! In case you haven't heard, Mr. Cooking Inside the Box has decided that he liked it, and subsequently put a ring on it. Guess he likes the cooking!)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What's cookin'

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for my recent blog-neglecting. I didn't update because I didn't have a whole lot to write about, at least not a whole lot of local, seasonal, farmer's market-y food. It seemed like every time I stepped into my kitchen in December, I came out with one of these things:

Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting,
via Sprinkle Bakes
Frosted Sugar Cookies

Almond Biscotti
via Smitten Kitchen

Cherry Winks
via my mom's "secret" recipe

All were very delicious, but none were really in keeping with the general theme of this blog, hence the radio silence. Until now.

Tonight, I defrosted the farmer's market rhubarb I'd tucked away in the freezer seven months ago and made this pie that is at once hideously ugly and incredibly delicious. It's got the lovely, bright flavor of rhubarb softened by creamy layers of vanilla-scented custard, all poured into a yummy butter-laden crust. This pie is exactly the little bit of springtime in the winter I'd been anticipating since freezing the rhubarb last June... and I'm so glad that I did!

Rhubarb Custard Pie!

After dinner tonight, when I proudly presented this pie (sans one slice) to Ed, he was all, "I don't really like rhubarb, you know. Too stringy."

And I was like, "Oh man, what a bummer!" (But of course, what I really meant was, "Whoo hoo! More for me!")

Rhubarb Custard Pieadapted from
one unbaked pie crust (I used a homemade all-butter crust from Southern Pies, but you could use your favorite recipe or a store-bought frozen crust.)

3 c. chopped rhubarb
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 1/2 T all-purpose flour
1 T butter, melted
1 1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Distribute the chopped rhubarb evenly inside of the pie crust.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Stir in sugar and whisk until well-combined, then whisk in remaining ingredients. Pour egg mixture over rhubarb in pie crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for ten minutes, then turn your oven down to 375 degrees and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes. If you can muster the willpower to refrain from gobbling it all down as soon as it comes out of the oven, you really should wait until pie is cool to slice into it. (But I won't blame you if you can't.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Whiskey & Salt #1: Southern Comfort!

Okay. It's been almost a week, and I think I've finally recovered from Saturday's supper club marathon of cooking, cleaning and general insanity. It was pretty dicey for a few moments there - everything from malfunctioning ice cream makers to melted stove knobs to forgotten Kitchenaid mixer attachments - but I think we pulled it off pretty well! (Even if we did forget to take pictures of one of our courses. Whoops! You're just going to have to imagine that one.)

Emily and I welcomed our sixteen guests into our temporary home for the evening - the Ted and Amy Supper Club's gorgeous Fort Greene digs - and kicked things off with a cocktail hour featuring thyme-spiked gin lemonade and three little bites:

Crostini of chicken liver pate, bacon jam and diced green apple

Vinegar-spiked deviled eggs

Triscuits with cream cheese and Emily's homemade hot pepper jelly

Cocktail hour passed in a blur for us - we were cooking up the first course, greeting our guests and making sure everyone had a full glass and a bite to eat, all at the same time. It was awesome, though - I think Emily and I both had a moment when we were looking at all the folks gathered around, drinking and eating and chatting and laughing, and we thought - we're really doing this!

Soon enough, it was time for everyone to take their seats so we could serve the first course.

Photo credit: Kathy Blake, The Experimental Gourmand

When we'd designed the menu, we knew we wanted to do a shrimp and grits course, but we weren't sure exactly what kind of shrimp to serve. Something spicy? Creamy? Bacon and garlic-y? We were a little bit stumped. Then, as if by kismet, we both hit on the winning idea - New Orleans style BBQ shrimp! A little bit spicy and a whole lot of buttery, this shrimp was seriously amazing, especially together with creamy, cheesy grits cakes and spicy Cajun pickled okra.

Our second course was a last minute addition, on the advice of cupcake mogul Allison Robicelli. She suggested that we add a course that could be prepared in advance and be served to our hungry guests while they waited for our endless chicken-frying marathon to draw to a close. It was a brilliant idea - Emily and I came up with a brussel sprout slaw, tossed with pecans and a sharp, lemony vinaigrette and topped with shaved ricotta salata, and it wound up being the perfect middle course. A little bit of raw veggie, a little bit refreshing - and it bought us just enough time to finish up frying the chicken thighs!

Mmmm.... chicken thighs! After extensive testing, we settled on a regular ol' brine for the thighs with the Ad Hoc at Home recipe for the buttermilk dip and seasoned flour. Then we fried them up in some lard at 350 degrees, held them in a 200 degree oven and topped them with a generous squeeze of Mike's Hot Honey. A little sweet, a little heat and a whole lot of crunchy, meaty awesomeness. On the side? A fluffy buttermilk biscuit made from a Southern grandma's secret recipe and a mess of collard greens cooked down with lemon juice and my current obsession, Harrington's bacon.

We also served a second round of cocktails - an autumnal mixture of rye whiskey, apple cider and Emily's homemade ginger syrup. We'd originally intended to serve the cocktail in glasses rimmed with smoked sea salt, but somehow that idea got lost in the rush to get drinks into thirsty hands. Next time!

The piece de resistance? Banana pudding baked Alaska.

Oh, HELL YES. This stuff was so good, I could have eaten all of these. In one sitting. All by myself. We started with a cake made out of Nilla wafers, topped with more crushed Nilla wafers, then added a scoop of this crazy good banana ice cream from Bravetart and a big dollop of meringue. And then we added bananas. And then we torched it.

Photo credit: Kathy Blake, The Experimental Gourmand

Ohhhh, crispy creamy crunchy sweet and smooth and marshmallow-y meringue and everything good in the world contained in a little bowl of heaven. At the end of the night, I collapsed into an empty seat at the table, next to a good friend I hadn't seen in ages, and dug my spoon into this crazy banana-filled treat, and there we were, surrounded by folks with full bellies, flickering candles, empty bottles of gin and towering stacks of dishes. But we'd done it. We'd made it! This crazy idea we'd hatched one wine-soaked night in lower Manhattan had become a reality. And Emily and I couldn't be more proud.

Of course, we didn't do it alone. So many people deserve special thanks here, especially Kara of Ted and Amy, who rented us her kitchen and living room for the day and could not have been more patient, helpful or awesome. (And FYI, if you're looking for a space to hold a party, a cooking class or another similar sort of event, contact Kara through Ted and Amy Supper Club for more information on renting her gorgeous, well-stocked space for the day!)

We also couldn't have done it without our "sous chef" for the day, Eryn of Ugly Food Tastes Better, or my amazing boyfriend Ed, who not only helped me carry about 500 pounds of stuff over to Kara's but also ran back to our apartment at the very last minute to grab the extremely important Kitchenaid mixer bowl I'd left there. Allison Robicelli gave us an absolute ton of great ideas for making things extra professional, from the parsley garnish on the shrimp to keeping the collards warm without sacrificing a burner by using a slow cooker.

And finally, super duper extra special thanks to all of the folks who came to dinner with us! We loved having the opportunity to share our cooking with you. If you didn't make it this time, stay tuned for the next edition of the Whiskey & Salt Supper Club... coming (relatively) soon!

All photographs by Emily Hanhan unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vegan PB &J cupcakes!

One of my colleagues did me a major favor at work last week. Like, major major. Totally above and beyond. There were no words to express my gratitude to her... but where words fail, baked goods speak.

Since this particular colleague is vegan, I couldn't just use any of my butter and cream-loaded standard recipes. I panicked for a few moments - without French buttercream, I'm nothing! - then sucked it up and got Googling.

These lovely little strawberry cupcakes with peanut butter frosting are what I finally came up with, and let me tell you, you really won't miss the eggs or dairy at all. The cupcakes are tender and moist, leavened with baking soda and vinegar and flavored with a cup of strawberry puree I'd tucked away in the freezer back in June. And the peanut butter frosting? Crazy good! It's made with Earth Balance shortening, gobs of peanut butter, a splash of vanilla and a few cups of powdered sugar. The recipe called for soy milk, but I'm not a big fan of the stuff and was not about to buy a whole carton of soy milk for a few tablespoons of liquid, so I just substituted water. I'd be surprised if using soy milk would actually make a major difference, flavor-wise.

The little heart decorations are just all natural strawberry fruit leather. I totally thought I had a teeny heart-shaped cookie cutter, but as it turns out, I only have a giant one, so these are freehand. And misshapen. But still kinda cute, right?

All in all, I think my first vegan baking experience was a total success. I hope my awesome colleague likes them! We'll find out tomorrow...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup

I was starting to feel a little under the weather last weekend, so I decided to spend Saturday afternoon simmering up a restorative chicken broth. It turned out so rich and delicious that now I want to spend every Saturday making soup!

I started out by heating some olive oil in a large stockpot and searing a pound and a half of chicken backs. Once they were nice and golden brown, I added in two onions, cut in half, and half a head of celery and a large handful of carrots, roughly chopped, and let them brown up a little bit. Then I added enough water to cover everything, a couple of bay leaves and a small sprinkle of dried thyme, brought it to a boil and then turned it down to low and let it start simmering.

While the soup simmered, I roasted a whole 4 1/2 lb chicken in the oven for dinner. The other half of the celery and two more halved onions were tucked underneath the chicken. Once it was done, I removed the breasts for that night's dinner, picked the remaining meat off the carcass and set it aside, then added the chicken bones and roasted vegetables into the stock pot, adding more water to cover.

All in all, the chicken stock simmered for about six hours, until it was deeply brown and flavorful. I added a little bit of kosher salt to taste then strained the whole mess into a glass bowl, which went straight into the fridge. In the morning, I scraped the gloppy layer of fat from the top of the bowl and was left with about a gallon of lovely, rich chicken stock.

Some of it went right into this chicken and stars - and escarole! - soup. Oh man. If there's anything better than homemade chicken soup, I don't know what it is.

Once you have your homemade stock, this soup comes together super fast. Just heat up your broth and some of the reserved chicken, boil up a cup of tiny star-shaped pasta and then mix the cooked pasta into the broth. This week, we received a mystery green from the CSA - I originally thought it was lettuce and tried to make a salad out of it, then realized that it was way too thick and strongly flavored to be lettuce. Next guess? Escarole! Just the thing to shred into ribbons and mix into a boiling pot of soup for some extra flavor and nutrition. Yum!

After the soup was made, I took the rest of the chicken stock and froze it in ice cube trays, knowing how delicious it would make everything it touched. And I was right! It made this celeraic soup absolutely delightful.

This isn't just celeraic soup, actually. It's celeraic-apple-leek-potato soup, a delicious way to use up about half of this week's CSA share in one yummy, warming pureed soup. It's crazy easy, too - just peel and chop one large knob of celeraic, two apples, one potato, one clove of garlic and a bunch of leeks, saute them in a bit of oil to get some browning action going on, then cover them in chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Once everything is tender, puree the soup with an immersion blender - or in batches in a traditional blender - and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. You can also stir in a few pats of butter or a splash of cream if you're feeling indulgent, but it's really not required. I served this soup with a bit of paprika and black pepper on top, but croutons would be absolutely wonderful, if you have some around.