Archive | December, 2011

Artichoke Olive Spread (or Failproof-Party-Food)

24 Dec

good with baguettes

If you think about it, Artichokes are pretty funky. They are harvested as weeds, and each thistly floret must be plucked off so you can really get cooking with them.

good ingredients!

For whatever reason, my mother raised me to esteem these thistles a rare treat. I remember leaning back in the kitchen chair like a “big girl” with my mom, dipping prickly artichoke leaves in sweet melted butter. We’d laugh and make ridiculous faces as we sucked the juices off each piece. When we’d finally eaten our way to the heart (the best part: soft and chewy with no thorny resistance), we would close our eyes and savor each piece in loud Mmhmm’s.

blend it all up

Well, I’m a little too impatient to suck on artichoke leaves now, but any dish related to artichoke reminds me of my mom. Here’s a delicious recipe that combines two other tasty foods that remind me of this Italian lady: green olives and garlic. I’ve heard the Mediterranean diet is key for living long…Cheers to eating this the rest of my life.

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled ‘n’ sliced)
  • 1 cup garlic-stuffed green pitted olives
  • 1 14-ounce can of artichoke hearts (drained)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process for a few minutes, until the consistency is thick but with a few morsels intact.

Serve over fresh bread! Can also be made up to two days in advance. (Amazing.)

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maple gingerbread pots de crème

16 Dec

Mm delish!

Packing up my bags (all two of them) and sprinting hundreds of miles to the big city was an adventure. In the past year I’ve met and seen more than I could imagine, and I’m thankful.

But sometimes it got lonely; my heart ached a little bit for the comforting companionship of my family.

sprinkle sugar

But here in the Big Apple, hundreds of miles away from true home, I find just as warm and welcoming a family – my friends. I honestly can’t think of any better people. This is the real “Cheers” where “everybody knows your name.” I can’t help grinning when any one of these people is around; when we’re all bunched together, the conversation is golden and melts away hours. I’ve never laughed so hard at such stupid, small things in my life.

So this warm recipe that’s meant to be shared seems to fit the mood just fine.

friends digging in

(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

The ingredients:

  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 C half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • dash of salt
  • drop of vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons of white sugar

*Next time I’ll try a tbsp of dark rum, too. High spirit via spirits. (Just when you thought it was over! I snuck this pun into the company Christmas card. Oh baby.)

Preheat your lovely oven to 300° F.

Combine first three ingredients in a *large* bowl, stirring evenly with a whisk. (I say large, because the more excited you are about this recipe the more you WILL spill all over the counter.)

Throughout the rest of the cooking, constantly stir with the whisk. Mix the half-and-half and the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. While whisking, cook just until bubbles appear on the edges; don’t boil it. (Constant stirring! Mad-Eye Moody style.) Pour the milk mix into the egg mix.

Bring the mix back to the saucepan, and lower the temperature to medium-high. Cook until it thickens slightly (mine took about 4 minutes), still stirring. (The trick is not to scramble the mix, just slowly and evenly mix the entire time.) Remove from the heat!

Strain the mixture through a sieve; save the liquid, get rid of the solids.

Now comes the fun part: divide the mix into 8 ramekins. (I did 4, but honestly 8 would have been better. Mine were delicious but too thin.) Now move the ramekins to a 13in x 9in metal baking pan. Pour hot water into the pan ’til it reaches one inch. (Careful not to splash into the ramekins!)

Bake at 300° for one hour (or until the centers barely jiggle when you move the pan).

Cover and chill for about four hours. And try not to sneak a bite.

For added goodness, sprinkle 1 tsp of white sugar over the top of each, and broil the tops. (Makes a nice crunchy contrast.) Inconsistency makes this more beautiful, thank goodness. As does most things.

mangú (plantains with red onions)

8 Dec

lovely mangú

I realize something about myself. I love like crazy through food. I mean, I love people by making them food.

Last weekend my boyfriend took me to see his entire extended Dominican family (no pressure!). They are everything that epitomizes family to me: loud, loving, and caring. And, of course, food-centric. And while they stuffed me (literally: I could’ve hung myself above the fireplace and been identified as a new species of winter elk), I took notes. Now I’m slowly learning that I could dedicate the rest of my Dominican-cuisine education to just one solitary item: the plantain.

cut up and ready to boil!

I didn’t grow up eating it, or even having heard of it. To me, food that makes me buzz with happy homesickness are more along the lines of buttermilk biscuits, tacos, and sweet potato pie (Southern for life). What is this plantain business. Bananas but no sweetness? Eat them while green?! Mix them with meat?!! Uh huh.

sizzlin

But I am in deep with this guy. One sweet look from him and I could eat green plantain peels the rest of my life. I have to make him food that makes him happy…because bizarrely enough it makes me ecstatic. So I aim to get acquainted with these crazy fruits, one way or another. Please enjoy.

It seems like I’m bein’ a stickler here, but I’m just relaying the ingredients as close to the source (his mom) as possible.

  • 2 unripe plantains (green, preferably)
  • 1 large red onion (red! not white or yellow)
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (or pork drippings)
  • water
  • salt

Seriously simple recipe (thank goodness!).

First, dice the plantains into eighths. Place in pot, cover with water. Lightly salt. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the fruit is tender).

While your pot is simmering (a watched pot never boils, aha), dice your onion into slivers. Now take a skillet and warm up 1 Tbsp of oil. When olive oil becomes fragrant, add the onion and 1/8 cup of vinegar (not all). Sauté by stirring occasionally; as vinegar reduces, add the second 1/8 cup. Onions are done when soft and translucent. Sprinkle over 1/8 tsp salt and stir together.

Hopefully your plantains are done by now! Drain the fruit, and place in a big bowl. Take a regular fork and mash them until only medium-sized chunks are left. (Tip: gradually add a small stream of cold water to make the consistency smoother.)

Now bring the two beauties together! Mix the onions in with the plantains, salt to taste.

Voilá, mes amis.

pumpkin spicecakes (parting hug to fall)

7 Dec

so long, fall!

vibrant leaves

I swore summer was my favorite season: freedom, warmth, and sun combine; whereas fall usually signifies the start of class, for children and collegiates alike, and the end of vacation.

But this autumn in New York brought crispness, warm coats, and vibrant leaves that would make Van Gogh blush. Obviously, I’m won over. (And who can say no to your guy in a sweater?)

light 'n' fluffy!spices

each = two-thirds full!

Here is my fail-proof, spicy (not hot!) baked good secret. Better and even more reliable than chocolate chip cookies, I swear.

Adapted from Martha Stewart:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree

Before beginning, heat the oven to 350°. Grease your cupcake pan(s) with butter or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy on medium-high speed (about 5 minutes). Stir in eggs until just combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all other ingredients save for pumpkin puree. Stop and smell the spices. (Important.) Gradually add this dry mix to the wet mix; stir together until just combined. By now it should smell pretty heavenly.

Pour the batter into into each liner, two-thirds full. Bake for about 20 minutes, and do the fork test. (Fork prongs stuck in the middle should come back clean. If there’s batter clinging to the fork, put the cupcakes back in for a few minutes. Try to mutilate the top of only one poor cupcake, as I ditzily never do.)

So simple! Enjoy.

holiday jewels: cranberry, apple, beet, and pomegranate salad

5 Dec

holiday fruit jewels

Back when I lived in Austin, I was grateful to live in a house with a bunch of crazy, hilarious students. Of all the fun things we did, my favorite memories definitely glow in the kitchen. One evening my roommate and I were prepping dinner for everyone, thrilled to get our hands on some luscious beets. All I can remember is, jaw-dropped, picking up these plump roots and gasping, “What jewels of the earth!” My friend laughed so hard and doubled over, several of the beets on my cutting board made a break for the floor…which escalated into a food fight…But I stand by what I said! These darn roots are beautiful.

cuttin' beets and apples

frame it?!

I wanted to hang this beet-stained cutting board in my room.

Anyway, the dash of salt heightens the sweetness, and ginger pulls up the spice! A fresh take on the traditional Thanksgiving dish of canned cranberry gel (which, to this day, my dear dad insists on bringing to the entirely-homedid feast). The beautifully bright color from the cranberries, beets, and pomegranate seeds pack a punch to the table setting, too.

The rest:

  • 2 heapin’ cups of cranberries
  • 2 crisp, red apples (any kind will do, but I stumbled upon sweet sixteen at the farmer’s market, so nice!)
  • 5 beets
  • 1 pomegranate’s seeds
  • 3 T honey
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • dash of salt (1/8 tsp)
  • ground cinnamon

Put on an apron. (Or anything you don’t mind getting accidentally stained – beets rank right up there with ketchup and mustard). Place the beets in a small-to-medium sized pot, and pour in water until the beets are covered. Boil the beets for about 15 minutes, or until tender (easily pierced with a fork).

While the beets are boiling, prep the other foods. Rinse and chop up apples into 1/2 inch pieces; mince the ginger; dissect the pomegranate; and cut the cranberries in half. This is when half the food goes into my mouth.

Drain the beet water (or save it! apparently it makes for good dye), and let sit and cool for a few minutes. Dice into half-inch pieces (think the size of your thumbnail).

While the beets cool, pour the cranberries, the first tablespoon of honey, and the 1/4 C brown sugar into a saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for about seven minutes. (Or until the cranberries soften…and tartness is greatly reduced!)

Pour cranberries and glaze, apples, beets, and pomegranate seeds into bowl, then mix in the remaining honey, until evenly coated. Recommendation: slowly add chopped ginger, to taste. I tend to like things a whole lot spicier than most…And may have been slightly congested when making this.

After you’ve nibbled for a while and have the taste about right, add the dash of salt and lightly sprinkle cinnamon over the dish. I think it smells pretty darn heavenly.

Cheers!