Saturday, March 23, 2013

Parsnip & Apple Soup

This soup is part of my ongoing effort to enlarge my vegetable recipe repertoire (and my personal vegetable palate!)...I thought the inclusion of apples in this parsnip soup would add a little sweetness and a spring-like freshness. Happy Spring!

1 C apple cider 
½ C half-and-half
3 C chicken broth
1 lb parsnips (3-5 depending on size)
2 leeks
2 shallots
3 Fuji (or similar) apples 
½ tsp salt 
¼ tsp white pepper
optional garnish: crème fraîche and chopped chives

Peel and roughly chop parsnips and shallots. Roughly chop the white parts of the leeks. Peel, core and roughly chop apples.

Pour cider, half-and-half and broth into large saucepan; cover and bring to boil. Add vegetables and apples. Cook until tender (about 20-25 minutes--parsnips take the longest, so test a large chunk of parsnip for tenderness).

Purée soup with salt and pepper until very smooth. (Black pepper will flavor the soup fine, but it won't preserve the pure color of the parsnip-apple-shallot base.) Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and chopped chives.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Asian Pickled Cabbage

1 head green cabbage
1 large carrot
2 red chili peppers
1 C rice vinegar 
½ C sugar
1  1½" knob fresh ginger
1 Tbls kosher salt

Peel and thinly slice ginger. In medium saucepan, bring the rice wine vinegar, sugar, sliced ginger, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, turn off heat and set aside.

Slice or chop the cabbage, discarding the core. Peel carrot; using vegetable peeler, shave remaining carrot into long slivers, then cut slivers in 2" lengths. Seed and dice the chili peppers. Combine cabbage, carrots, and peppers in a large bowl. Using a mesh strainer, pour the warm vinegar mixture over cabbage salad, straining out ginger; toss until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, tossing occasionally, or overnight.

The cabbage will wilt and release liquid in the process of chilling. Use a slotted spoon when serving.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vanilla Cake

I realize it's not the best picture to show off the cake inside. I made this recently when my Shakespeare class had just finished reading The Tempest -- which is set on an island -- and we were celebrating. The recipe below is just a basic, vanilla cake recipe that lends itself to lots of flavor (and decorating!) options...

1 C butter, softened
3 C flour
1 Tbls baking powder 
½ tsp salt
1¼ C sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1½ tsp vanilla
1¼ C whole milk

Preheat oven to 350.Line two 9" round cake pans with parchment paper and/or grease and flour the pans.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Reduce mixer speed and add eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Beat in vanilla; don't worry if the mixture separates a bit. Beat in flour, a cup at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat just until well combined.

Bake cakes 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pans on to wire racks to cool completely.


I fell in love with arancini, a Sicilian-born croquette, while traveling in Italy. [arancini = Italian for 'little orange'; croquettes are often cylindrical or more oval shaped. I don't know about Italian, but in French, croquer = 'to crunch'.] There are lots of varieties -- different fillings including meat, shellfish, cheeses, veggies.

And these deep fried, cheesy rice balls somehow manage to crossover and be both a delicacy and an easy-to-grab-on-the-go fast food option. The recipe below includes pine nuts, which are delicious, but were nothing I ever had in Italian arancini. They make a nice side to meat and veggies, or a couple with marinara dipping sauce can serve as an appetizer. 

3 C chicken broth
1 C arborio rice
2 Tbls toasted pine nuts 
½ C shredded mozzarella cheese (2 oz) 
½ C shredded fontina cheese (2 oz)
2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs 
½ C grated parmesan cheese
1½ C breadcrumbs
vegetable oil (for frying)

Bring broth to a boil (with a dash of salt). Stir in rice. Reduce heat to low; simmer until tender (about 20 minutes). Spread on parchment lined baking sheet; allow to cool completely.

Combine pine nuts, mozzarella, fontina and parsley in a bowl; set aside.

Beat eggs in large bowl, then stir in cooled rice, parmesan, and 2/3C breadcrumbs. Shape mixture into 12 to 15  1½" balls. Press your finger (or thumb) into the center of each rice ball, forming a small cup. Scoop 2 tsp of mozzarella mixture into 'cup' and pinch the rice around filling to enclose it. (This is definitely a hands-on, somewhat messy process.) :) Roll balls in breadcrumbs; place on parchment lined baking sheet. (With the filling, the finished balls end up about 2½".) Refrigerate 1-3 hours.

Heat ½" vegetable oil in large saucepan until thermometer reads 350°. Work in batches to fry rice balls, turning until golden on all sides (4-5 minutes). The refrigerated arancini will cool the oil. When the oil temperature drops the oil soaks in rather than frying at the surface...and no one wants greasy arancini! Don't add too many at a time, and monitor the temperature. Remove with tongs or slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.

Season with salt. Serve alone or with marinara dipping sauce.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ginger Tea

1 C thinly sliced ginger root 
¼C honey (or more, to taste)

Bring 8 cups water and the sliced ginger root to a simmer in a large saucepan; simmer until reduced to 5 cups (about 30 minutes). If desired, strain out ginger slices. Sweeten with honey.

Serve hot or iced.

I like mine with a lemon. :)
I also water it down...reduced to 5 cups it's fairly strong.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicken Normandy

4 (5 oz) skinless chicken breast halves 
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ C flour
1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls butter
1 Granny Smith apple 
1/3 C finely chopped onion
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves 
2/3 C apple cider 
1/3 C heavy cream
1 Tbls grainy Dijon mustard 
¼ tsp kosher salt 
¼ tsp pepper

Peel, core, and thinly slice the apple; set aside.

 Season breasts with salt and pepper on both sides; dredge lightly in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in large skilled over medium-high heat; add butter and swirl to melt. Place breasts in skillet, top side down. Reduce heat slightly and sauté, turning once, until lightly golden on each side (about 3-4 minutes per side). Transfer chicken to a plate; keep warm.

Return skillet to medium-high heat; add apple, onion and thyme. Sauté until apple begins to soften. Pour in cider; bring to boil. Boil until cider is reduced by half (2-3 minutes). Add remaining ingredients, stirring until well blended; continue stirring and cook 2 to 3 minutes until sauce is thickened. Serve over chicken breasts.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Basil Salt

If you have extra basil you don't want to go to waste -- from your own garden, or leftover from a recipe -- try making basil salt; it'll keep much longer.

basil leaves
coarse, kosher salt

Pulse equal parts kosher salt and packed basil leaves in a food processor. Spread on a baking sheet; bake 30 minutes at 225°, tossing once halfway through. Cool; pulse again to make a fine powder.

Use it on fresh tomato, lightly sprinkled on bruschetta or pasta...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Grilled Monterey Jack with Prosciutto, Basil, and Fig Preserves

Last April, Food Network Magazine ran a feature on dressed up grilled cheese sandwiches. I just ran across a page I'd ripped out. I didn't have the dates called for in the original recipe, but it inspired my own twist...with a smear of chunky fig preserves (from Snow Goose Produce near Mount Vernon, WA), a gift from my good friend Gayleen who knows I love to cook. :) I love the sweet-salty combination from the prosciutto and the fig!

asiago cheese bread
monterey jack cheese
fresh basil leaves
fig preserves with ginger

Butter one side of each slice of bread (any crusty bread will do, but I had the asiago on hand). Place slices, buttered side down on a hot skillet. Top one side with a slice or two of prosciutto and a slice of monterey jack, the other with a tablespoon of the fig preserves, basil leaves, then another slice of monterey jack. I had my cheese sliced extra thin, so two slices wasn't overwhelming...and as it melted it helped hold everything together. :)

If you can't find fig preserves, I imagine
an apricot jam would compliment the
prosciutto well, too.  -- or go for the
original idea of thinly sliced dates.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Citrus Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz cream cheese, softened
2/3 C butter, softened
2 tsp lemon juice
4 C powdered sugar
optional: food coloring

Directions: Cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in lemon juice (and food coloring, if desired) and powdered sugar.

For a delicious non-citrus cream cheese icing, simply substitute vanilla instead of the lemon juice.

Lime Cupcakes

3 eggs at room temperature, separated 
¾ C flour 
¾ C sugar
1½ tsp baking powder 
¼ tsp salt 
¼ C tonic water 
¼ C canola or vegetable oil
2 Tbls fresh lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Directions: Preheat oven to 325°. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, water, oil, lime juice, zest and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; beat until well blended.Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.* Fold in batter. Gently fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake 18-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from muffin pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Delicious with Citrus Cream Cheese Icing.

* With the whipped egg whites, these cupcakes have a consistency similar to an angel food cake -- moist and slightly spongy. However, mine always seem to fall a bit after taking them out of the oven, and end up flat, rather than with rounded tops.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shitake Mushrooms

A while ago I went to a one evening, Japanese 'Izakaya' cooking class -- a local food-coop/community college sponsored event. A spontaneous (no recipe included) addition to the menu was marinated shitake mushrooms. The chef, Robert Fong, listed ingredients he used to marinate them...

sesame oil
salt and pepper

He started them marinating at the beginning of class, and cooked (simmered them for maybe 5 minutes in some broth) and served them about two hours later. My at home re-creation wasn't exactly like his (I have no sake so used a little sherry, and I had a couple scallions I threw in as well), but very good. This post is more of a reminder than an actual recipe. :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gingerbread Chocolate Cookies

As much as I love chocolate -- in almost anything! -- I've had other chocolate ginger combinations I've enjoyed more than these. Maybe it's the molasses. They're good; just not likely to become one of my very favorites.

½ C butter
½ C dark brown sugar
½ C  molasses
1¾ C flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon 
¼ tsp ground cloves 
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
2 Tbls cocoa powder
1 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter and sugar. Add molasses and beat until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, spices and cocoa stirring until well combined. Stir in chips. Scoop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto parchment lined (or lightly greased) baking sheets, spacing cookies 1½" apart. Bake 10-12 minutes until surface begins to crack. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes; then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 C butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
½ C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1½ C flour*
1 tsp baking soda 
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 C oats
1 C raisins

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cream butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; mix in all together. Add oats and raisins to dough, stirring until well combined.

Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet; bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool briefly on cookie sheet so cookies firm slightly before removing to wire rack to cool.

* For a healthier version, use whole wheat flour for all or part of the 1½  cups.