September 27, 2013

Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins

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Summertime in Strasbourg means discovering gardens. As a Long Islander, born and raised, the only two times anything grew in my backyard was when 1) a pool appeared and 2) my Italian great uncle Cono managed to make a cucumber grow out of the sandy soil.

As you can see my experience with fresh produce, literally in my own backyard, was fairly limited up until this year.

The Beard’s mom has a garden. And she has zucchini plants. Flowers? What do we call those anyway? Alls I know is that we received zucchini deliveries by the crateful. The weekly task is therefore to find ways to use them all up before they go bad.  There was therefore a lot of cake made in our household…

..but it is zucchini, so it is healthy, right?

Or so I told myself…

This recipe was unbelievable, my only qualm was that it didn’t make yield nearly enough muffins!

 

Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ½ cup Nutella (or the German knockoff NUSS-something or other)

Now what?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large enough bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Whisk to mix well.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Beat the egg in.
  3. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until just combined.
  4. Stir in the zucchini and lemon zest.
  5. Use a ¼ cup scoop to evenly distribute the batter between the muffin liners. They should be 2/3 full.
  6. Dollop 1 teaspoon of Nutella on top of each scoop of batter and swirl with a toothpick.
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Check the centers with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean before removing the muffins from the oven.(I am sure this would make a wonderful zucchini loaf, to be baked for about 35-50 minutes, depending on the loaf size.)

Bon app!

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(look at that swirl!)

August 10, 2013

wontons with apricot-mustard sauce

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I took a chance. I decided to venture out of my comfort-zone in order to test the waters of a cuisine that is not Italian-American focused. I took a trip to the Asian store (which ironically is called Paris Store?). I asked the people working there to identify certain vegetables that I couldn’t pick out of a vegetable line-up. I perused the sauce aisle for approximately 42 minutes without lifting my head once. And I made homemade green curry paste. And consequently a Thai green curry. That was delicious.

But this post isn’t about the green curry. This post is about the sides we made. Now, I know I am probably mixing up my non-Italian-American fare by serving wontons with a curry, but I am just a beginner, okay?

These wontons were…off…the…chain. Unbelievable. I was astonished by how successful they turned out. The texture. The filling. Tasted like something I would order in a restaurant (and this isn’t something I say very often about the food I turn out.) What I especially liked about this recipe is the minimalism of the ingredient list, and the fact that most of these things can be found in any old supermarket. Having a food processor is a bonus because it really gets the mixture to be homogenous, but I am sure loosely chopped versions of the ingredients would be excellent as well.

This post is for you Tilgerchen.

Wontons with Apricot-Mustard Sauce

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(adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen, makes 14 dumplings)

What you’ll need:

Apricot-Mustard Sauce

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Wontons

  • 4 tbsps canola oil, divided
  • 5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • gyoza or wonton wrappers (used egg-free if making this vegan!)

What now?

Apricot-Mustard Sauce:

  1. Combine jam and mustard in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t stick. Transfer to a serving bowl and let it cool to room temp.

Wontons:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbps canola oil over medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add the cashews, scallions, carrots, garlic, ginger and soy sauce and cook them babies all together for another 5 minutes.
  2. Once cooled slightly, transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times until the cashews are finely ground and mixture is somewhat smooth. I left mine slightly chunky because I thought it would pack more of a punch.
  3. At your origami station, place 2 teaspoons of wonton mixture in the center of each wonton wrapper.  Keep a small bowl of water nearby. You will want to wet the edges of the wonton mixture just enough to seal the wrapper. As you are folding over the wonton, squeeze as much air out as possible to avoid air pockets. As you can see, I was not fancy, I will have to upgrade my folding techniques for next time.  Just make sure it’s sealed.
  4. Heat remaining oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the wontons in the skillet. Do not smush them, leave some space between them.
  5. Cook a few minutes until the bottoms are lightly browned. Once browned, fill the skillet with 1/2 inch hot water.
  6. Cover the skillet immediately and let those puppies simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Flip the wontons to brown the other side lightly.
  8. Serve with apricot-mustard sauce et voilà!

Bon app!

(I am sure the option of steaming could work equally as well, just haven’t tried it yet!)

August 8, 2013

chocolate caramel bark aka lovexcore cookies

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These treacherously delicious cookies have several names. My father calls them “heart-attack” cookies. My friends and I used to call them “lovexcore” cookies. Traditional society would probably call them “bark.” Whatever their actual title, these cookies were a big favorite growing up on the Long Island peninsula. Whenever Kelly came over with a tin or a Tupperware, you knew what she had up her sleeve. These puppies.

With such simple, everyday ingredients (but perhaps some shocking quantities?) these are easy to whip up. Just be sure to have the patience to let them cool down in the refrigerator before plunging head-first into the baking tray.

The saltiness of the saltine crackers coupled with the butter and the chocolate make for an addictive and compulsive treat. I suggest that you test these bad boys out when you are going somewhere and you are going to share them. In fact, this was probably Kelly’s technique all along…

The French are normally not a big fan of a salty-sweet combination (WHAT? I live for this happy marriage of flavor) but those who did get a taste gave this treat a healthy, happy, albeit metaphorical two thumbs-up.

Fun fact: In just thinking of a French person giving two thumbs up, I had to ask myself — do the French even do this sort of gesture? According to wordreference, this is not translatable.

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Kelly’s lovexcore cookies aka Chocolate Caramel Bark

What you’ll need:

  • 40 Saltine crackers or something similar (I’ve heard tell of doing this with Matzo)
  • 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
  • 1 cup (220g) packed light brown sugar
  • A big pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  • Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional but who doesn’t love extra sea salt!)

What now?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. While the oven is heating, line a large baking sheet (11 x 17) with aluminum foil and THEN parchment paper. You want to fit these two perfectly on the baking sheet. I’ve learned that the parchment paper really helps the lovexcore cookies to NOT stick.
  2. Line the now covered baking sheet with saltine crackers. You may have to break them apart in order to completely cover the baking sheet. Don’t worry about it looking perfect, just get that baking sheet covered.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Once it’s come to a boil, let it continue to boil, stirring it often so that it thickens (or becomes a caramel!)
  4. Remove from the heat and add salt and vanilla extract.
  5. Quickly pour caramel over the saltine crackers and spread if you can to cover every part of the crackers.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the outer edges of the crackers start to brown. Pay attention! You don’t want it to burn or get too dark.
  7. Once removed from the oven, immediately cover the saltine crackers with the chopped chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, until the chocolate has become melty and spreadable. Using a spatula, spread the wealth chocolate deliciousness to fully cover everything. If using, sprinkle the chocolate with sprinkles (hehe)/ almonds / nuts / whatever you’d like.
  8. Wait an eternity (or put it in the fridge) to cool. Once cool, break the saltines up into bite sized pieces of your choosing. Try not to taste the entire baking sheet while you are breaking them apart. Been there, done that.

Bon app!

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August 8, 2013

Broiled Blackened Tofu

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Why hello old friends. Over the past 3 months, I spent the largest majority of my time finishing up a French masters diploma. The title and the topic are irrelevant (because they are completely food unrelated, let’s be honest.) but the most important thing to know is that I finished it, quite successfully.

But up until the defense, I admit that my blogging habits were incredibly sub par. I cooked, and I cooked and I cooked. I had to take breaks from cooking in order to write the thesis. But the process of uploading and writing seemed too ambitious at that point in time.

Me voilà (here I am again) back at my computer, sorting through the photos I managed to snap regardless of my non-blogging ways. I shall now go through with you the 10 outstanding (as in “not settled or resolved”) recipes in a sort of Back to the Future type way. Only after these 10 recipes will I come back to speed and let you know what is going on now.

Sound complicated? Hang on tight, I promise it will all be alright!

Broiled Blackened Tofu

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(adapted from Appetite for Reduction, serves 4)

What you’ll need:

Spice Blend:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • black pepper – to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced

The rest:

  • 1 block tofu or about 14 ounces, pressed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Now what?

  1. Mix together spices on a dinner plate
  2. After pressing the tofu, cut it into slices of your liking !
  3. Adjust broiler so the baking sheet is about 6 inches from the top of the oven.
  4. Pre-heat oven to broil.
  5. Spray or lightly grease baking sheet. Poke holes in your tofu with a fork to allow the flavors to enter!
  6. Put the olive oil & soy sauce on a separate plate.
  7. Dip tofu in the oil and cover both sides then dredge/dip each piece into the “spice blend plate” pressing down & covering both sides.
  8. Place the tofu on a baking pan and broil for about 12 minutes, flipping halfway through. You will know it is ready when the tofu is blackened in certain spots.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Bon app !

June 19, 2013

It’s still too damn hot

too damn 1

I shall take cover in your socks…

 

Meanwhile, the humans munch on this to stay cool…

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