Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bonus Post: 2 Meals for 1 (Person)!

On Wednesdays, David has class-meetings-meetings-class-officehours-tutoring-moreclass from about 9:00 in the morning till about 9:00 at night. Which means Abby is feeding herself and only herself all day. I tried preparing foods and sending them with that boy for lunch and dinner, but God bless him, he just can't manage to keep up with it all day, much less remember to eat it at a reasonable time. If he didn't leave it in a library somewhere, he came home with it at 9pm and proceeded to eat it then. Missing the point.

Thus, I have given up on trying to feed him while he's out and instead am just focusing on ME. Sigh. It feels good.

Since many of you probably have occasions (perhaps most occasions) in which you are just cooking for one, I thought I'd throw some shots of my lunch and dinner on the Downslizzle to give you some ideas. Both are salads, though maybe not in the way you're thinking. No lettuce involved. They're grain salads, built around precooked whole grains that I had in my fridge. If you cook a big pot of grains at once, they'll feed you for days.
Lunch: Fiesta Chickpea Salad
(because anything with salsa is a fiesta)

1 cup cooked chickpeas (any bean will do, even canned)
1/2 cup cooked grain (pearled barley here, but also spelt, kamut, wheat berries, quinoa, wild rice blend, etc. etc.)
1 small carrot, sliced thin
2 radishes, sliced thin (halved, if they're big)
thin, thin slices of red onion
2ish Tbsp grated cheddar cheese
salsa to toss it all in -- maybe about 1/4 cup? i didn't measure....

So with precooked chickpeas and grains, this is a 5 minute meal. With canned chickpeas and uncooked grains, it will take about 30 minutes to boil and drain the grains (just do it like you would pasta, and taste to see if they're chewable). Toss it all together and you've got a fiesta lunch!
Dinner: Beet Bowl

1 large or 2 medium beets
1/2 cup cooked grains (same as above; I used wild rice)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1-2 Tbsp finely diced red onions or thin-sliced scallions
2-3 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled (beets loooove goat cheese)
apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper
  1. First, you must roast the beet(s). Preheat your oven to 375º, rinse your beet and wrap it in foil. Roast in the oven 25-40 minutes, depending on how large your vegetable is. Check for doneness by sticking a sharp knife into the foil-wrapped beet. You want very little resistance--if it's done, you can stick right through. Immediately remove and unwrap the beet so it can cool a bit and you can handle it.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your grains if need be. For grains like barley, spelt, rice, kamut, and wheat berries, I just cook like I would pasta--bring a pot with plenty of water to boil and let them roll around for at least 30 minutes. Then I taste and see if it's still too chewy or can be drained. Quinoa takes MUCH less time, like 10-15 minutes.
  3. Once your beet(s) is/are cool enough to handle, the outer skin should slip right off. If you have kitchen gloves, now is the time to wear them. Beets will stain like nobody's business. Skin the beet then grate it over the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 2-3 tsp apple cider vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper.
  4. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and toss. If your bowl is too savory for your taste, add a little vinegar. If it's too sweet, beef up the S+P.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls: 2 Ways

Cinnamon Rolls and I have a complicated relationship.

There was once a time when I believed their origins to be exclusively bound up with a puffy white spokes-thing emblazoned on a blue can, a blue can that you had to press (in great fear and anxiety) with the back of a spoon to get to pop open. Oh, the delicious Sunday mornings that can and I shared together.

Then I learned cinnamon rolls could be got in other ways, namely at restaurant drive-thrus before the clock struck a bitter 10:30 a.m. Equally sweet. Equally tooth-decaying. Equally delicious.

About 5 years ago, Southern Living told me you could buy a bag of frozen biscuits, thaw them out, pat them together, cover them in cinnamon sugar, and achieve a "homemade" result (long before Sandra Lee earned television time to teach me similar stultifying tricks). I felt empowered. I felt confused. Is this what cinnamon rolls are supposed to be?

Then somewhere along the line, I stumbled into scratch baking, which meant I had no one but a recipe writer to help me achieve can- or drive-thru-transcendence. It was then that I discovered the true essence of the cinnamon roll: the soft, bready roll, the gooey brown sugar center, the cream cheese blessing to be showered over top.
This was also about the time that I discovered 27-year-olds cannot get away with eating the things 17-year-olds do. And though I often crave (and I mean reeeally crave) the gooey goodness of a cinnamon roll first thing on a lazy weekend morning, I just can't bring myself to eat that for breakfast anymore. But dessert? That's another story.

So cinnamon rolls it is! Four of them, to be exact, adapted from ... well ... from an unidentified recipe that has been in my cookbook for several years now. Because the pumpkin train keeps rolling these days, I also did an alternate version of these rolls using the orangey goodness. Both are divine.

Part 1: Plain Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls
makes 4 rolls; can be ready in about 30 minutes

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
dash nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp melted butter

1 1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 425º. Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl and stir together until mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside.
  2. For dough, whisk together dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add buttermilk and butter, and stir until you get a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead a time or two. Pat into a 6 x 9 inch rectangle, then sprinkle all of filling evenly over top. Roll from one 6-inch side to the other, pinching dough shut when rolling is complete. Cut into 4 rolls.
  3. Transfer rolls, pinwheel side up, to a small, greased pan (a 5 x 5 size was perfect for me), and smush them down just a little, until they touch. (NOTE: If you have a choice between a pan that is too small and one that is too big, air on the large side. You want these rolls to spread out, not up.) Bake in preheated oven for 20-23 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, combine icing ingredients, whisking until smooth. Spoon over top and serve warm!

Part 2: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (alterations marked in bold)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
dash nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
dash nutmeg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Follow instructions for Buttermilk Cinnamon rolls, whisking spices into dry ingredients for dough and adding pumpkin with the buttermilk and butter (you could even decrease the butter if you wanted, since the pumpkin will provide plenty of moisture). Everything else is the same.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eggplant Caviar Pizza

I believe we have already talked about eggplant caviar on these pages, briefly, but I think it deserves a little more attention. I have no idea where this sassy condiment came from, but if you are friends with eggplant, then it can work its way into your menu in lots of ways: as a dip, as a spread for sandwiches, as a base for pizza, as a sauce for pasta (with a little added pasta water), or even as a flavor booster for everything from stuffed vegetables to soups to sauces. Just keep it in your fridge and dump a spoonful (or seven) into whatever you've got going.

What you're gonna do is roast some roughly chopped vegetables, then puree them all together. You'll end up with a smooth, paste-like substance that you can stash in the fridge for any future needs. Luckily, when we wanted last-minute pizza for lunch recently, I remembered this pizza-like crust we had made before and the caviar hanging out on my refrigerator shelf. Lunch in 15 minutes. Brilliant.

Eggplant Caviar Pizza
serves 1-2; takes 40 minutes, including roasting of vegetables--much less if your caviar is already made

For the caviar:
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil, salt, and pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp chopped parsley (opt.)
  • Preheat oven to 425º. Toss vegetables with garlic and plenty of S&P in 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil, enough to coat. Spread on a sheet pan and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the eggplant is soft.
  • Toss roasted veggies into a food processor. Add tomato paste and parsley; process until smooth. Thin with olive oil as needed if it seems too thick. It should be the consistency of a creamy dip.
For pizza:
1/3-1/2 cup eggplant caviar
1/2 cup mozzarella (grated or fresh, sliced)
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • Prepare stove and crust according to instructions here. Once you have cooked crust on first side and flipped, spread with eggplant caviar, sprinkle with cheese and toppings, and cover with a lid or foil to finish cooking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Brownies

It's PUMPKIN TIME! Finally! All these fresh vegetables, bountiful crops, and dizzying varieties during the summer--at last, we can settle down on one thing. And eat it all winter long.

Fall has several meanings for me: 1. Pumpkins, 2. Apples, 3. Cranberries, 4. Halloween Candy. And seasons changing and all that other crap too, of course, but mostly I really look forward to the foods that go with autumn. They're crisp and spicy-sweet and warm and mushy. (Think baked apples and soft roasted winter squashes and pie galore.) They also have come to mean infiltrating all otherwise normal dishes somehow with pumpkin. Enter Libby.
I saw her on the shelf and couldn't walk by. Look at that beast! Think of how many Downsliced creations she could make! Cookies, muffins, brownies, pie, pastas, soups, head almost exploded right there on the carpeted floor (not kidding) of my local Foodmaster. 100% Calabaza Pura. I made her mine and took her home.

As usual, I wanted chocolate, but I also wanted pumpkin. Most of the recipes Google gave me had dreadful terms like "healthy" and "low calorie" in the title. Worse, they were actually promoted using phrases like, "Can't even taste the pumpkin!" or "Your kids won't know its there!" What blasphemy is this? A pumpkin brownie with no traceable elements of pumpkininity? What has our world come to?

My pointer finger went spasmodic; I think I actually made it to page three of Google's search results before Food and Wine magazine saved me. A delicious chocolate brownie with an intentionally discernible pumpkin swirl marbled throughout. Phew. The living room ceased to spin around me. I calmly clicked 'Print.' The world was as it should be.

Pumpkin Brownies
adapted from Food & Wine,* serves 4ish; takes about 40 minutes

For the Pumpkin batter
2 tsp butter, room temp
2 Tbsp cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1 Tbsp flour

For the Brownie
1 1/2 oz chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1/3 cup flour
(1/4 cup walnuts, optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Whisk together cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until creamy and uniform. Add sugar and whisk to incorporate. Add yolk, pumpkin, vanilla and spices then whisk again until smooth. Stir in flour. Set aside
  2. Now, melt chocolate and butter together in microwave or gently over the stove. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, beat egg, sugar, vanilla and salt until your arm gives out, or until the egg is frothy and the sugar is almost dissolved, whichever comes first (feel free to use electric beaters for this). Gradually add melted chocolate mixture, whisking all the while so it doesn't cook your eggs. Once chocolate is in, fold in flour and nuts (if using).
  3. Take a well-greased 4-5 inch square pan and pour the brownie batter in. Slop heaping spoonfulls of pumpkin batter all over the top, then swirl with a knife (not too much! you still want separate entities). Bake 20-28 minutes, depending on your gooeyness preference. Tastes really good cold.
*Special note: I actually made two versions of this brownie; the first, I felt, did not have all the pumpkin-packed power I was craving. On the second round I actually doubled the amount of pumpkin swirl it called for and found it perfect.

Fishy Tacos

When I proposed fish tacos to David as a meal, he turned up his nose as if I had just suggested peanut butter and salami sandwiches or pasta with chocolate sauce. Why put fish on a taco when ground meat is just so good? Why break up a perfectly good duo with something that usually stinks up the house for a day or two afterward?

Because its fast. Because it's healthy. Because it's simple. Because people in coastal Mexico have been eating it forever. Because a taco topped with cabbage and a little sour cream doesn't weigh you down the way a meat-bean-and-cheese extravaganza does. And because its fast, did I mention that. Fish cooks in no time flat. A little chopping, a little grating, and you've got dinner in about ten.

Fish Tacos
serves two, takes less than 15 minutes

1 white fish fillet (we used haddock), cut into 5 or six strips
1 egg (or just the white), beaten
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp flour, plus a little extra
1 tsp each of salt and cumin
pinch of black pepper
lime zest (if you have it)
1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp cilantro
4-5 corn tortillas
sour cream
monterey jack cheese
  1. Set a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and throw in 1-2 tsp oil. Meanwhile, mix the cornmeal, 2 T flour, salt, cumin, pepper, and zest (if using) in a shallow bowl. Dust your fix pieces with extra flour, dip them in beaten egg, then roll them in the cornmeal breading mixture. Lay them in the skillet (they should all fit) and cook 4 minutes; then flip, and cook 3 minutes more, until flaky. You can sacrifice one by breaking it open in the middle and making sure its opaque. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. In a bowl, mix cider vinegar with honey, cilantro, and a pinch of S&P. Stir in cabbage.
  3. Warm the tortillas either in a bit of oil over the stove or in a wet paper towel in the microwave. Build tacos with a piece or two of fish, a sprinkle of cheese, a spoonfull of cabbage, a dollop of sour cream, and a squirt of lime. Serve with sliced radishes tossed in salt and more cilantro. We also had some corn relish, but you could go with rice and/or beans to round out the meal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Favorite Chocolate Cake

Everyone needs a good, solid, foolproof, go-to chocolate cake. This is mine. It is impossibly moist, good at room temperature or in the fridge, and stands up to many types of icing. Plus: one bowl, no mixer. TADOW!

The full recipe, from the charming Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, can be found at the equally charming blog Smitten Kitchen. It should be used indiscriminately for as many occasions as you find for a full-sized cake. [This is the famous 27th Birthday Cake, for those of you who partook.]

But maybe you don't need the temptation of a triple-layer cake on your kitchen counter. Maybe you just want a slice or two. Shouldn't you be able to have that?

I say yes.

So when I am in need of a classic chocolate-layer-cake-with-chocolate-icing fix, this is what I do. You can either bake it in two 5-inch cake pans and make layers that way (what I did), or do a single layer in a 8- or 9-inch cake pan and just chop it in half and layer those (what I have done before). That way, at least, you only end up with half a cake.

My Favorite Chocolate Cake
makes 1 5-in cake or 1/2 full-size cake; takes about an hour

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water
1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 beaten egg
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line your cake pan(s) with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle an add oil and sour cream. Mix to combine--it will be very thick. Gradually add the water, then the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk to incorporate. Lastly, whisk in the egg.
  2. Divide between two prepared pans or scrape into one. Bake 25-30 minutes, until sides pull away from edges and cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger (in the middle). Cool on a rack and then transfer to the fridge. Because this cake is so deliciously moist, it is easier to work with when cold.
Go-To Chocolate Icing
will ice small cake; low fat to boot!

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 oz semisweet chocolate
pinch salt
1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (skim is fine)
  1. Melt butter and chocolate in a small bowl in a microwave or small saucepan over low heat. In a large bowl whisk together salt, cocoa, and powdered sugar. Pour warm chocolate mixture into sugar mixture and mix with a spatula to moisten.
  2. Now, get out your beaters and mix on low speed to continue moistening. Add milk in several additions, beating well after every one. Feel free to tweak a little as needed: more p.sugar if your icing doesn't feel like it will hold its shape; more milk if its too thick.

Last Minute Potato Soup

Because, in true form, Boston has skipped fall and jumped headlong into winter. And because sometimes you forget to put on gloves when you go to run errands on your bike. And because occasionally when you get cold, the only way to get un-cold is from the inside out.

Despite the general truth that soup always tastes better on days 2, 3, 4, and on, a good soup really does not have to take that long. (Although the perk is, whatever leftovers you find yourself with will only improve over the next week or so--and this recipe will definitely have leftovers.) As soon as the blood started flowing in my fingers again, it only took about 30 minutes to have a delicious (organic!) bowl of warmth to slurp up. Pre-prepared, even store bought, broth makes this happen in no time flat.

About the potatoes: you need 1 1/2 - 2 lbs of potatoes, doesn't really matter what kind. You may notice that my soup is a lovely shade of brown--that would be because I left the potato skins on, lots of good fiber and vitamins in there. BUT, if your taters are conventionally grown, there's also potentially lots of good chemical residues in there, so peel first, please. And try not to drop your processor blade in the soup like I did. Oops.
Last Minute Potato Soup
makes plenty to keep as leftovers--which you should do; ready in about half an hour

1 leek, washed and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
4 cloves garlic (that is not a typo), minced
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. potato, (scrubbed if organic, peeled if not) cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup milk (or just 1 additional cup broth or water)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp white wine or white wine vinegar
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, saute leek and celery in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add 4 cups broth, potatoes, and thyme; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook about 20 minutes, until potatoes are super tender.
  2. Using an immersion blender, food processor or food mill, blend until only a few chunks remain (unless you like a super smooth soup, then process all the way. Don't drop your blade in the soup, like I did.). Return to the pot and add additional 1 cup of liquid. Season with lots and lots of salt and pepper and pour in wine or vinegar. I like my potato soup verrrry thick, so feel free to add more liquid if you like a thinner variety.
  3. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, freshly chopped parsley and sliced scallions.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apple Jacks

Apple flapjacks, of course. Back in the days (last week) when I was feeling all homestead-y, I had a show down at the farmer's market with a certain 10-lb. bag of apples. Apparently it prevailed because that bag has been plopped in one of the chairs at my kitchen table, just high enough to peek over the surface and taunt me with its perishability.

Thankfully apples are hearty and, I recently learned, in a plastic bag with a few slits cut in it, will last for weeks in the back of your refrigerator. Hopefully the pioneer spirit will return to me soon and I will engage in some apple saucing or butter-ing, but until then, don't be surprised if those little beauties start showing up with great frequency around these parts.

Here's a perfect apple pancake for a crisp fall morning. Maybe you know or maybe you don't, some secrets to making pancakes: (1) Do not over beat the batter. You want to mix the wet ingredients together as well as the dry, then combine the two just until the dry stuff is moistened. Small pockets of flour are a-ok. This is one of the secrets to fluffiness. (2) Let the batter rest 10 or so minutes. Ever wonder why the first batch of 'cakes is always a throw away and the last ones are perfect? Partly it's you figuring out how hot your pan is, but its also the batter itself. If you give it 10-15 minutes to rest, you'll get more of the perfect kind and less of the give-that-one-to-dad-he'll-eat-anything kind.

Apple Pancakes
serves 2; takes about 20 minutes, including rest

1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk (or just plain milk is ok)
2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (or just 1 c white)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 large apple, cored, quartered and grated (leave the skin on--more fiber!)
  1. Whisk egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flours, sugar, soda, and cinnamon. Pour dry into wet and using a spatula, mix the two until flours are distributed but NOT fully incorporated--lots of white streaks. Add the apple and continue to stir until evenly distributed. Don't overdo it! Let batter sit 10-15 minutes
  2. With 5 min to go in your wait time, set your preferred pancaking-pan over medium heat and allow to heat up gently.
  3. When your pan is ready, scoop out batter in about 1/4 cup amounts. Use a spatula to flatten into thin circles. Because of the apples, these won't cook as easily or quickly as regular pancakes, so you don't want them to be too thick. Wait for bubbles to appear on surface and flip. You've made pancakes before, you can take it from here.
  4. Serve with real maple syrup or, if you're me, peanut butter!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Puppy Chow!

Um, excuse me, are you there? Hello?

It's your childhood here, just checking in to remind you sometimes to eat the ridiculous and indulgent foodstuffs of your youth--foods that were just off limits, maybe only for special occasions, foods that you made in celebration, foods that take you back to a kitchen you remember with pangs of nostalgic fondness--when the only thing that mattered was not calories or ingredients or prices, but when these delicious things would be ready already.

For me, it's Puppy Chow (a.k.a. Chex Muddie Buddies). Where either of these names originated, I cannot say. But I can confirm with certainty that this recipe has been printed on the back of the Chex box since time eternal, and continues so today. And it is exactly the same, which is why we love it, right? Right.

Actually, why I love it are the accompanying memories of my friend Marlee and me disappearing into the pantry or rifling the fridge contents, intent on including an outrageous and undetectable "Secret Ingredient" to every batch we made, and we made quite a few. Never would we divulge our selections to our unsuspecting munchers, but oh how we giggled to ourselves at the thought of what they--ok we--were all eating. Apparently the litmus test was whether or not Mar and I would consume the batch we had produced. If we didn't eat it, no one else would. (We always ate it.)

Here's how to make just enough for one (though, lamentably, Chex cereal comes in only one box size: Y2K-ready -- just eat the rest for breakfast over the next few years):

Puppy Chow
1 cup rice Chex
2 Tbsp chocolate chips
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
copious amounts of powdered sugar (ok, like 1/2 cup)

Melt chocolate, peanut butter and butter in a microwave safe bowl, being careful not to burn (go in 20-second increments). Stir in vanilla, then Chex, making sure all is well coated. Turn out into a paper or plastic bag and add powdered sugar. Toss to coat.

For 2 people or for leftovers, use the following proportions: 2 cups chex, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 2 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 Tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and plenty of P.S.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blueberry Cheesecake

Oh. My. Heavens.

Did you ever see that Friends where Rachel and Chandler discover a mail-order cheesecake in their building and accidentally eat it all and then order another and drop it on the ground and end up forking it straight off the floor because it is just that good? Did you, like me, pass the rest of the episode in a haze because you were distractedly wondering how amazing that cheesecake tasted? I mean, how unbelievable must a cake be to achieve eat-off-a-NYC-floor (however fictional) deliciousness?

Well say hello to your answer. This mini cheesecake is worth throwing your friends and family to the ground should they stand between you and it. Toss a few elbows. Wield your fork. It's pillowy soft and disappears on your tongue, except for that impossible richness that makes it cream cheese's best effort to date.
It requires a mini springform pan, which is not really part of everyone's kitchen arsenal, so if presentation is not essential to your enjoyment, you could just make it in a cake pan (with very tall sides), and dig it out one piece at a time. The blueberry topping was my addition, and could be replaced with many other fruits (just follow the same proportions) or maybe even some chocolate. Because this cheesecake is almost as tall as Rachel and Chandler's apartment building, I have a hunch that this downsized recipe could be halved to make an equally satisfying cake at a reduced height (just be sure to shorten the baking time).

Mini Blueberry Cheesecake
c/o Epicurious; makes one 6-in cake; active time about 15 minutes, plus baking and cooling

For Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp sugar

For Filling:
16 oz cream cheese; room temp (do NOT try to go low fat here)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 eggs
8 oz sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla

For Topping:
2 cups blueberries
2-3 Tbsp sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Wrap outside of 6-in springform pan with foil. Mix crust ingredients together in a processor or by hand and press into bottom and 2-inches up sides of prepared pan. Bake about 8 minutes, then take out and set aside to cool. Maintain oven temp.
  2. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and sugar is dissolved. Add flour and blend, then egg and blend, then sour cream-milk-vanilla and blend. Pour into crust. Place springform into a larger pan and add water to said pan--enough to come 1 inch up sides. Bake until center is just set, edges begin to puff and turn a golden brown, about 50 minutes. Turn off oven and let cake sit undisturbed for another hour. Transfer springform to fridge and chill overnight. (I know it's hard, but believe me, it will be so much better if you wait it out.)
  3. For topping, add berries and sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Berries will warm and the sugar will cause berries to create juices. Stir periodically until thickened. Spread over top of cake and let dribble down the sides a little. People like that.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad

If the number of butternut squash(es? what's the plural on that one) sitting on my counter is any indication, the season of winter vegetables is upon us. At least, its upon us here in balmy Boston, where it hovers above freezing for the majority of the year. But I'm not even tired of blueberries yet! Or pears! Or zucchini (really)!

At any rate, those farmers keep shoving squash at me, so I have no choice but to eat it. Somehow, in the intervening months since I have last feasted on this particular squash, I forgot how naturally sweet it is. Which means it lends itself perfectly to that cuisine of my favor: Middle Eastern. The combination of sweet, hot, salty and tangy is a favorite of those Bedouins, and found its way into my kitchen tonight thanks to Orangette.

I loved my salad but it may have been a bit heavy on the dressing. Follow her lead and add the dressing to your tossed ingredients a little at time, to taste.
Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini
serves 2, or 1 with leftovers; takes about 40 minutes, with canned beans

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned, drained, will do OK)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

1 small clove garlic, grated
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp tahini, well stirred
up to 1 Tbsp olive oil
water, to thin, as desired
  1. Toss squash chunks with garlic, allspice, and a healthy douse of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 425º oven for about 20 minutes, or until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together garlic, lemon juice, and tahini. If it is too bitter or acerbic, add olive oil. If it is too thick for your liking, add water.
  3. When squash is done, toss in a bowl with chickpeas, onion and cilantro. Add 2 Tbsp or so of dressing, toss, and taste. Add more as desired.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beer Cheese Bread

This one comes from a recipe I have long loved from Cook's Country. Who doesn't love beer, and also cheese, and also bread? This yeasty, gooey, crunchy miracle muffin is perfect alongside any bowl of soup.

The recipe calls for gruyere--which I have done and loved--but I only had extra sharp cheddar--which turned out quite fine. A piece of bacon crumbled into the batter probably wouldn't have hurt either.

Be sure to choose a mild beer, like Bud, for this recipe. If you get much more assertive than that, your bread may turn out bitter.

Beer Cheese Muffins
makes 3-4 muffins, depending on size; start-to-finish about 30 minutes

2 oz. gruyere or extra sharp cheddar cheese; 4 oz grated (about 1/4 cup) and 4 oz cubed (about 1-inch cube, cut into 16 smaller pieces)
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp baking powder
healthy pinch each of salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup light-bodied beer
1 Tbsp melted butter
  • Preheat oven to 375º. Mix cheese, flours, honey, baking powder and spices in a bowl. Add beer and stir to combine. Divide between 3-4 well greased baking cups (don't use muffin papers like I did, big mistake) and drizzle melted butter over top of each. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.