Archive for ‘Snacks’

September 27, 2013

Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins

1

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

2

 

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!

3

(look at that swirl!)

August 10, 2013

wontons with apricot-mustard sauce

1

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

2

(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

1

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.

2

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!

2

June 15, 2013

Mechouîa | A guest post by the Beard

1

Since we’ve been waiting for Spring for at least nine months now, and since this wonderful lady has been playing hard to get, I decided I’d bring Spring in our home on this St Barnaby. The best way to do so is to go back to the atmosphere of my lovely youth and taste what my all my Tunisian friends were so lucky to find on their table at dinner time: mechouîa, or literally “grilled pepper salad.” (pronounced may-shoe-uh)

Before I get on to ”mechouîng,” there is a little something you should know while reading these lines. In fact, the Guide and I recently relocated to a bigger and better-looking 150 year-old French building in which we’ve settled in a very bourgeois apartment. We’d post pictures, but I’m sure our roommate Aristide (our black cat, in fact) would sue us for copyright infringement 🙂 In any case, the good news is that the Guide and I noticed we spend most of our time together in our brand new kitchen! I just noticed how living has been made easier by just adapting to wiser eating habits. Not that I had bad eating habits before, but I am French… and I still can’t find a single article online that would prove me right in saying that one can take care of their figure by just shoving down 1.5 kilograms of cheese every day. So my cheese intake depends now on my bribing skills… et c’est pas plus mal!

2

Our friend Christophe (the market gardener) is depressed, because the weather is so ugly that he can’t grow anything and business has therefore been horrible, to say the least. So to cheer him up, we bought 3 times the amount of food we usually get on a Saturday morning. And I ended up with 4 lbs. of banana peppers… and so what? I just thought about how the smell of roasted peppers freshly taken out of the oven could put a smile of the Guide’s face when she gets home. The smell of Summer, with a refreshing taste of happiness on the table. And a possibility for me to bribe the Guide into allowing me to go get a fresh mozzarella di Bufala Campana

Mechouîa salad

(adapted from omafaim)

Serves 4-6

What you’ll need:

  • 4.5 pounds of fresh banana peppers
  • 6 red tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

4

Now what?

  • Turn on the radio, and start singing along the tunes from back in the 1970s.
  • Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil them in the oven. They must turn almost black, so that you can peel the skin off more easily. Half way through the broiling process, place the three (unpeeled) garlic cloves amidst the peppers, so that the smell of garlic spreads to the broiling veggies. Once they’re well cooked, let them cool down in a large bowl, and make sure you cover it with a lid.
  • While the peppers cook, bring water to a boil. Slash the top of each of the 6 tomatoes and place them in the boiling water. Remove after 15 minutes and let them cool down.
  • Bring another pan to a boil, and pour yourself a nice cup of jasmine tea. It helps with your singing. Change the radio and turn to the hits from the eighties.
  • Once everything has cooled down, start peeling the peppers and tomatoes and take the seeds out. Quick tip: don’t use a knife to peel the peppers, just open its lengthways with your hands and use your fingers to remove the pepper flesh on a cutting board. The peppers need to be long and ropy (just like the tomatoes, which you will cut with a knife, obviously).
  • Drain the peppers and tomatoes in a colander in the sink for at least two or three hours. Too much juice would turn the mechouîa into a mushy soup.
  • Once it has drained, mix the preparation with the garlic paste (after you press it out of the skin) and the juice of one lemon, as well as 2 teaspoons of cumin and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I tend to add a bit of black pepper (Malabar, preferably) and a pinch of coarse sawlt.
  • Place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • Finish your cup of jasmine tea and imaging what the Guide’s smile will be like, craving your mozza-ball.

Bon app!

5

6

9

June 9, 2013

Banana Bread Crepe Cake | gâteau aux crêpes

crepecake

Here is a cake that trumps all cakes.A crepe that trumps all crepes.

The kind of cake that makes the French tremble in their booties.  What a sacrilegious idea to combine crepes to make something other than a traditional crepe, egg and ham dish? Though they all shudder at the thought of a crepe cake, they always come back, eye-ing the photos, interested, wondering if they could put their culinary preferences aside for the moment in order to engage in such an American spin on the crepe.

This is the kind of cake that says “I am sorry but I don’t have a birthday present for you.” This is the kind of cake that says “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. This is the kind of cake that says “squish” when you cut into it. This cake is divine. The recipe seems long and daunting but once you have mastered the crepe technique (which is essentially the pancake technique but easier) this cake is a breeze. No oven needed. Can be stuck in the freezer for faster consolidating results. Even the most anti-banana beards on the planet have approved the subtle hint of banana that infiltrates the palate. It marries perfectly with the cream and the butterscotch. There really is no other way to eat 10 crepes in one bite than this way.

crepecake2

Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

(serves a many, but was eaten by 2.)

What you’ll need:

Crepe batter

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 large ripe banana (should yield about 1/2 cup peeled and squished)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) milk
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Cream cheese yogurt filling

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, well-softened
  • 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Walnut butterscotch topping

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (about 50 grams) chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or to taste

Now what?

  1. Crepe batter: Mix together banana and butter in a food processor or with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing until obtaining a smooth liquid. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 1 hour minimum. This part is essential since it helps your crepe batter thicken up significantly. If possible, overnight will yield the best results.
  2. To make the crepes: Heat a non-stick skillet or a crepe pan on medium heat. The best part about France is that a crepe pan will cost you 2 euros whereas in America where it will be deemed a specialty item. Melt a nub of butter in the pan. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the crepe batter in the pan as you swirl the pan around so that the batter spreads out evenly and thinly across the whole pan. Emergency fill in any open holes carefully with fresh batter if need be. The French will argue that an ideal crepe is a thin one. Let the crepe cook, untouched for 2-3 minutes. Once it is ready to be flipped, the crepe will be golden brown and it will peel right off and flip easily. Cook for 30 seconds on the second side, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, you should get 10-11 crepes. Cool crepes completely before assembling the cake.
  3. Cream cheese filling: Beat cream cheese until fluffy, then add the greek yogurt, sugar and vanilla and beat for another minute, until fluff-city.
  4. Cake assembly: Lay the very first cake on your cake platter or plate of choice. Spread with 1/4 cup of the cream cheese filling and then place another crepe on top. Repeat until the crepes or the cream cheese filling runs out, but be sure to end with a crepe hat on top.
  5. Butterscotch topping: Combine the cream, brown sugar and butter in the bottom of a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Be sure to stir occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as it reduces and thickens. After 10 minutes, once it smells toasty and feels thick to the touch, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, then walnuts. Immediately pour over stack of filled crepes. Spread the butterscotch over all of the “hat” so that everyone gets their share of butterscotch topping.

Bon app!

%d bloggers like this: