Monday, November 7, 2011

love is patient cake

Was finally able to try out a cooking class with The Baking Education Center at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont. Gesine Bullock-Prado demonstrated how to construct a puzzle cake.

Gesine is demonstrating the trickiest part....cutting out a triangular wedge which will then be placed back into the cake. You need to invert the cake, reverse the crater you created and place the wedge back in the cake. Hard to describe. You need to see it.

The result is very impressive. A very fun class. Can't wait to try it at home!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happy National Ice Cream Day

ORANGE CUSTARD ICE CREAM

To celebrate National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, July 17th, I spent a very hot day in the kitchen making a delicious, creamy ice cream. Then served in frozen carved out orange cups. Well worth the effort!!!

Adapted from The Ice Cream Bible by Marilyn Linton & Tanya Linton
I found it a bit sweet, so have reduced sugar amount from 1 1/4 cups to only 1 cup. Original recipe calls for the zest of a whole orange...which is too much. Reduce to only a few tablespoons of zest.

5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons orange extract
orange zest

Whisk egg yolks with sugar until thickened. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring cream and buttermilk to a simmer. Gradually whisk into the egg mixture.

Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to let it boil. Strain into a clean large bowl. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir in orange zest, orange juice and orange extract. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold (about 3 hours) or overnight.

Stir cream mixture. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, May 9, 2011

When its just the two of us.......

Okay. I've found it. The dish that the two of us will eat, over and over again, once they have all left the house. This is the meal I can create without needing to consider their "special" dietary requirements. This recipe has greens! It has tomatoes! And, it has fish!
A doesn't eat fish, E doesn't eat tomatos and K just doesn't eat at home.

Recently, we had a lovely dinner meal of Cod with Swiss Chard and Potatoes. A one-pot recipe which can also be made with seafood such as scallops or chunks of lobster.


Recipe starts off simply enough.....

1 lb skinless cod fillets
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 can (28 Oz) diced tomatoes, drained
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly slices and set aside in a bowl of water
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped fresh basil

Rinse the cod, pat dry. Squeeze the lemon over the fillets and set aside.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the sliced onion, season with salt and pepper cooking until soft...about 5 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.
Remove the potato slices from the water, dry them on paper towels and arrange them on top of the tomato mixture. Season with more salt and pepper, add the chicken broth, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 - 15 minutes.
Lay the cod fillets on top of the potatoes and put the Swiss chard on top of the fish.
Cover again and cook until the chard is wilted and the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and layer on a plate, first the chard, then the fish and arrange potatoes around the fish. Put the pan back on the heat, add the butter to the sauce and stir to mix. Reduce for about 5 minutes, then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add basil to the sauce, stir to mix and spoon over the fish. Serve immediately with a chilled glass of white wine.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Up for a Challenge

Every now and then it is good to challenge yourself. I was in the mood to make something complicated but nothing too wild that no one would eat it. While browsing through a recent edition of Cook's Illustrated I found my challenge. What could be more intimidating than Boston Cream Pie? I had all the ingredients and most of the equipment. But did I have the stamina, skill and time to do it?

I gathered my ingredients, cleared my space and embarked on my adventure....
The recipe was broken down into three manageable parts. As with most complicated recipes it is not any one specific task which does you in...but rather when you have to pull them all together. I studied the recipe and first made the pastry cream.

Recipe advised refrigerating at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. Wow...did I have that much time? I opted for the 2 hours...mistake. Pastry cream needed much more time.
Next came the cake. A very straight forward recipe. Easy to make. Excellent result.

Things were going along well until it came time to assemble the cake. I definitely advise reviewing the video to be sure you know what consistency the cream filling should be. My filling was too runny. But, since I had started to assemble I needed to move along and start the Glaze, after first chopping up the chocolate.
By this time it is getting late in the day. My husband and son roamed in and out of the kitchen (it smelled wonderful) wanting to know when it would be ready to eat. I explained that the pie would still need another 3 hours to refrigerate, to which my husband mumbled something about just buy one at the store...obviously missing the whole point!



So, over 10 hours later we had a Boston Cream Pie which may not have looked as pretty as it could but most certainly tasted better than any store bought one!!! A very satisfying challenge.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Cleaning

If you live in the northeast you already know that spring is very slow to arrive this year. We have had some teaser days but the cold, wet weather just won't let go. Nothing like a dreary day to get one to start cleaning out the closets.

There has been a lot of coverage in the local News lately about food expiration dates.
Apparently the Boston public schools have been trying to pass off frozen meat and cheese that expired back in 2009. When bad things happen to good food discusses how far one can push the limit on expiration dates. Not being in the mood to rummage through a cold refrigerator or freezer...as it is already pretty cold in the house....I opted for taking a look at my extensive collection of spices and flavorings.


Although I seriously doubt expired spices will harm anyone they will certainly lose their effectiveness after a period of time. I agree with the quoted experts from the The Boston Globe article that "Best If Used By tells you the date recommended for best flavor or quality..." and I tend to use spices well beyond their expiration dates I also struggle with how long is how long. One has to wonder just how helpful a spice can be to taste and flavor if it has lost its potency. It almost is like...why bother.

So, I started to weed out the bottles, lining them up by just how long past expiration they were and using a magnifying glass to seek out a date. I discovered that I had a lot of VERY old containers. You know you are in trouble if you are wiping dust off the top. How did I end up with so many aged spice containers?

A change in cooking style.

Some of the spices were close to 10 year old. Used back when the kids were young and picky eaters. I was happy to just get a meal on the table that was hot and tempting. A number of the spices where also from holiday baking times. Back when Thanksgiving was a bigger adventure than it is now. And, back when I rarely opted for fresh herbs and spices.

Good news is that I no longer need to keep as many dried spices on hand. Our meals are simpler and our herbs and spices are fresh, not dried.

So, the ones in the bowl were tossed and the ones in the box were kept. Can't quite get rid of everything....but it was a good start.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Unda-Style Quesadilla



An easy and tasty quick lunch idea from 101 Cookbooks. Check out Heidi's Quesadilla Recipe.
I made this today and it was wonderful. Although I didn't have many fresh herbs on hand it still made a very delightful light lunch. I agree with Heidi that sometimes too much cheese in a quesadilla can be overwhelming.

I learned a new phrase today, too.... "unda-style" which simply means to add an egg.

Try it out....

Thank you, Heidi!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Morning Muffins

The calendar shows we are nearing the end of March but the temperature doesn't seem to want to leave winter. This morning it was well below freezing despite bright sunshine. I needed something to warm both the kitchen and my soul....Maple Corn Muffins (it is still March Maple Madness after all.)


Ah...Saturday morning...plenty of coffee, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and warm muffins. It will be hours before I venture outside.

From this month's favorite cookbook, Cooking with Shelburne Farms -

Streuseled Maple Corn Muffins

For topping:
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (which I omitted since I didn't have any today)

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal, white or yellow (I used yellow today)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, Grade B
1/2 cup sour cream, not nonfat *
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs

[*since I didn't have sour cream I used whole milk greek style plain yogurt instead]

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin pan or use liners, paper or reusable.

Make the streusel topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour, maple syrup, butter and pecans. Mix with a fork, set aside.

Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl melt the butter in microwave oven or in a medium pot set over medium heat. Off the heat, stir in the maple syrup, sour cream, milk and eggs, in that order until fully blended.

Gradually add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, stirring just until combined but not completely smooth. Do not overmix or muffins will be tough.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full with batter (using #16 food disher, if available)and top with a generous teaspoon of streusel, pressing in gently if necessary.

Bake the muffins for about 17-20 minutes until they are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Maple Madness

Continuing with with my March madness over Maple Syrup I have been working on perfecting a Snickerdoodles type cookie which uses maple syrup in lieu of granulated sugar. According to Rick Gencarelli, head chief at The Inn at Shelburne Farms, who says in Cooking with Shelburne Farms you can substitute "maple sugar for any type of sugar...trade them roughly cup for cup." His cookbook if filled with wonderful recipes using maple syrup but I wanted to experiment on my own.

Testing has already passed the "still at home" teenage son review, the husband review and the visiting relatives review. After three versions the recipe is now ready for the College Care Package test.

If anyone is paying attention...here is what is going in the mail shortly:


March Madness Maple Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup pure Vermont Maple Syrup, Grade B
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup, beat until blended. Add eggs. Mix until well blended.

On low speed, add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until just blended.

Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes to stiffen. This will make it easier to shape.

In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. (Use #40 food scooper - see below)* Roll balls in cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing each cookie 2 inches apart.

Bake 10 - 12 minutes.

Remove from oven. Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes then transfer to wire rack. Enjoy!

Yield: about 42 cookies.


This Month's New Gadget:

After lots of searching, I finally found a commercial grade scoop to use with cookies and muffins. I've tried regular ice scoops which always seem to break.
*found at King Arthur Flour cooking tools

Monday, March 14, 2011

The most wonderful time of the year. . . . . . . . maple sugaring season

Forget the groundhog. The sure sign of spring is when the sap from maple trees starts running and the maple sugaring season gets underway. After returning from a wonderful weekend in Burlington, Vermont - The Farmhouse Tap and Grill, Mirabelles, and Dobra Tea,
I'm in the mood to cook with my all time favorite ingredient....
Vermont Pure Maple Syrup - Grade B.
I'm partial to Vermont because I happen to be currently sending a lot of college tuition money to that state. Although I suppose New Hampshire, New York and parts of Canada have some pretty good maple syrup too.

Normally I reach for my favorite source of Vermont recipes, Cooking with Shelburne Farms, for things like Maple and Black Pepper Chicken, Maple Gingersnaps or Maple-Glazed Ribs (only served when the vegetarian daughter isn't home...due to the meat, of course, but also the use of Vermont's Long Trail amber ale).

This time I start the season with Maple-Glazed Sausages and Cabbage as found in the Sunday Boston Globe, Cooking section, March 6, 2011.
Forget boiling cabbage in plain water or with your St. Pat's Day Corned Beef. Cabbage braised with maple syrup and a touch of cider vinegar is very nice. Although it still did not appeal to the "selective" vegetable eater in the house. Yet, he did enjoy his carrots with a light maple flavoring.

For dessert, try the Simple Maple Cream Cake topped with maple whipped cream.


Monday, February 21, 2011

What's in the rotation

When my parents married, in the late 40's, my father asked my mother...or so the story goes....to not serve the same dish on the same night every week. His mother had her routine of a pasta day, a fish day, and so on. He found that boring. She also had nine kids and a neighborhood grocery store and deli to manage. Yet, my father yearned for more excitement in his life and didn't want to know what was for dinner until he sat down at the table. Fortunately, for my mother, my parents ate out a lot due to numerous business dinners. That was back in the day when spouses where expected to join their husbands for a mix of social and business gatherings. My memories of family meals revolve around the tried and true basics of roast chicken, meat loaf, baked ham and eggplant parmesan (my favorite.) My father went through a cooking phase and that is when meals got real interesting....a topic for another blog.

My rotation of recipes is very eclectic. So, I've decided to streamline my recipe collection and begin to pull out those that my kids will remember as my classics. One candidate is Braised Turkey Thighs with Prunes and Olives. When I can't find turkey thighs, I use chicken thighs which require a lot less cooking time.



Good for a weekend supper or a cold and snowy week night dinner when you're working from home. Needs to braise in the oven for a few hours. Serves four.

BRAISED TURKEY THIGHS WITH PRUNES AND OLIVES

4 bone-in, skin-on turkey thighs
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minnced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup pitted prunes, halved
1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved
1/4 cup capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper.
Using a large, ovenproof saute pan, heat oil over medium-high. Place turkey pieces, skin down, in the pan. Cook until skin is crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn turkey pieces and cook until other side is golden brown. Transfer to a plate. Remove and discard skin.


Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Return pan to burner, add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook over medium heat until soft and golden. Stir frequently. Add garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in brown sugar and bay leaves, add the wine, increase heat to high. Scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon until any browned bits dissolve into the liquid. Add the broth and turkey with accumulated juices. Return to boiling, cover and braise in oven for about 1 3/4 hours until turkey is tender. Turn turkey pieces over after about one hour.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer turkey to plate. Cover and set aside. Remove bay leaves from the liquid, allow liquid to cool for about 10 minutes. Spoon off the fat from the surface. Bring pan to boil, over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces and thickens, about 10 -15 minutes. Add prunes, olives, capers and vinegar and any accumulated juices from the turkey. Adjust seasoning. Add most of the parsley. Return turkey to the sauce, reduce heat to low, cover the pan and heat gently to rewarm the turkey, about 15 minutes. Transfer turkey to a serving platter, spoon sauce over turkey, sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It is the thought that counts

Happy Valentines Day!
I had all the best intentions last week to get my baking done in time to send off care packages which would arrive in time for Valentines Day. With an unexpected business trip scheduled midweek I had to scramble to get packages out by end of week.
The packages were sent but arrived in less than perfect condition.

Here was the plan....



Make Chocolate Almond Hearts drizzled in chocolate. Not enough time? Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

CHOCOLATE ALMOND HEARTS

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teasponns salt

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add almond extract.

On low speed, add cocoa, flour and salt. Mix just until well blended. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 -3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out dough about 1/4-inch thick onto a surface lightly dusted with cocoa. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Place cookies onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.



Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until firm

Remove cookie sheet from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rake. Cool completely.

Serve plain, dipped or drizzled with chocolate or dust with confectioners' sugar. Store in an air tight container.

These cookies look cute, but don't mail well. Pack very securely if sending.

As a back up, I also included a batch of Madeleines, which do pack very well. To make these requires a madeleine pan.

MADELEINES


1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other Orange Liqueur
2/3 cup cake flour
Pinch of Cream of Tarter

In a medium bowl, with a wire whisk, blend butter and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Add egg yolks and Grand Marnier. Mix until well blended. Gradually stir in flour. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff.

Fold egg whites into the butter and sugar mixture. Fold until well blended.

Spray madeleine pan with nonstick baking spray. Fill molds 3/4 full with batter.

Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown and center of cookie springs back to the touch.

Remove pan from the oven. Carefully unmold cookies and place on a wire cooling rack. Brush out mold. Cool mold completely before re-spraying and filling. Repeat until all batter is used.

Store cookies at room temperature in an airtight container.

Yield: 15 Madeleines







So that's what went off to the kids.....







what I made for ourselves....

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE-PISTACHIO CAKE



recipe available from Boston Globe

Monday, February 7, 2011

Send some love - Valentine Care Packages



Roses are a lovely gift for Valentine's Day but I suspect your student would prefer something edible.


Working on some creative care package ideas now.....Check back....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More on College Care packages

Some additional pointers...care package goodies are a wonderful way to make friends. Be sure to include the usual all time favorites. Chocolate chip cookies are a good thing to share and could even help your son or daughter discover new friends. Warning: There could be competition with what other parents are sending. Be sure your version is GREAT. The recipe on Hersey's Special Dark chocolate chips make deliciously moist cookies. Roommates, suite mates and down the hall mates have even requested I send these in the next box.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

College Care Packages

Welcome to my kitchen. Change continues from The Nord Kitchen and I've decided to begin the new year with a new blog, Kitchen InSight. My kitchen is the place where I both receive and give insight. I find insight, often while cooking but most often by listening. The conversations around the kitchen counter and at the kitchen table can be fascinating, funny and sometimes terrifying. The terrified ones were the reason for a break in blogging. Getting kids through high school, even really smart ones, is hard. But those are stories for another day.

Now, with two away at college, I've been perfecting my Care Package drill. Despite all the texting, twitting, emailing and phone calling everyone is still thrilled to get a package in the mail.

Refer to my previous blog In The Nord Kitchen for an easy and delicious cake to send off to college.