Entries from September 17th, 2012

Mushroom Quiche

1

17.9.12

This week is going to be a busy one.

I mean, September has just been leaning towards the crazy side. I’ll fill you in on bowling at the White House, Florence + the Machine, and the 200 mile relay race that I have not trained for when I get back next week.

In the meantime, this mushroom quiche should hold y’all over. Thanks for reading!

 

Mushroom Quiche, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Pastry Shell
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sicks or 225 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into a small dice
1/4 cup (60 ml) water, ice cold

Filling
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive or vegetable oil
About 1 pound mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter
2 onions, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced (use 1 teaspoon only if dried/jarred)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cups (475 ml) milk
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions

In a stand mixer, combine the 2 cups flour with the salt. With the machine on low speed, add in the cubes of butter, just a few cubes at a time, until the butter is completely worked in. Slowly ad the water in. Once a solid dough is formed, wrap the ball of dough in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. If you’re in a rush, pop it in the freezer for a bit.

Have a pie pan prepared — rub it with some unsalted butter, and sprinkle some flour along the edges. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out your crust to about a 16-inch circle. Don’t worry about holes or wrinkles, because you can just patch those up with bits and pieces of crust. Transfer your crust to the pan, and make sure you fold the edges over the lip of the pie dish to keep the dough from slipping off the edges. Poke the bottom with a fork like crazy, and bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, until the edges are a light golden brown.

In a large skillet, combine the olive oil, mushrooms, and finely sliced onions. Season with salt, pepper and thyme, and saute until the onions are translucent.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, and whisk in the parmesan, milk, and mushroom-onion mix. Pour into your baked quiche crust, and bake at 35o degrees for one hour.

 

 

Poached Pears

1

12.9.12

This past weekend, something changed in the weather. I woke up refreshed on Saturday (it may have been around noon), and the light in my bedroom was strikingly different. And there was a breeze.

It had the air of fall, but, like I know very well, the weather in this city continuously toys with my heart.

But lo and behold, it was a beautifully tempered day, with a bit of a breeze and a few moments that warned I should have been wearing a sweater.

Those days are my favorites, after all. I love the California style of being comfortable wearing shorts and a fluffy sweater. We can do that for about 3 days, tops, here in DC.

When the weather is too cold to sit outside, though, fluffy sweaters are fair game.

Just to prep myself and my roommates for the fabulous, chilly weather ahead, I jumped ahead of the weatherman and poached these pears, filling our kitchen with the chai-like scents that we all associate with cooler temperatures and deciduous leaves. For an easy yet impressive dessert, please do try this at home.

Poached Pears

Ingredients

4 Barlett pears
1 bottle of red wine (half for poaching, half for drinking)
4 clementines or tangerines, freshly juiced (or a couple of oranges)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves

Instructions

In a saucepan, combine half of the bottle of wine, citrus juice (and throw on of the juiced peels in there, too), and spices.  Bring to a light boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer.

Peel your pears entirely (I chose pears with stems to make maneuvering easier), and place in the saucepan with the spice-wine mixture. Cover, and let simmer on low for 35 minutes. Every now and then, check the color of your pears, and turn when needed. Your pears will be a beautiful deep red.

When finished, grate some lemon zest over each pear. Drizzle with the remaining red wine sauce.

 

 

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

3

10.9.12

There are few things I love more than I love salt. There are few things that I love without salt — or any sort of seasoning.

Tomatoes. Avocado. Watermelon. Toast. Pasta.

Chocolate.

Salt enhances the basics. Like my friend Angela says, salt is the one thing that makes everything else taste more like itself.

In my earlier days as a semi-serious runner, I quickly discovered the consequences of electrolyte imbalances in your system. The three main ones you need are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Deficiencies or imbalances between the three, combined with dehydration, caused excruciating side stitches for me — and my uncle taught me to keep bananas and magnesium supplements close by.

Sodium, well, we generally get a little too much of that in our diets as Americans.

Too much, yes, I guess there is such thing as too much sodium. But that doesn’t really stop me.

The combination of saltiness and sweetness when you salt chocolate is a flavor unlike any other I know — the chunks of salt accentuates the sugar in the chocolate. It’s crack-like. Not that I know what crack is like.

Knowing I am easily addicted to activities and substances, I should walk with caution. But for everyone else’s benefit, apply salt generously.

 

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from the New York Times recipe

Ingredients
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 and 2/3 cups bread flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
t teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 pounds milk chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Coarse sea salt (pictured: Parisian gray salt) for garnish

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars with the whipping attachment, until light and fluffy. Add each egg one by one, and then combine the vanilla extract.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients: both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until evenly mixed.

Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar mixture — I broke the batch into thirds, making sure each third of the dry ingredients was fully incorporated before adding the next third.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, mix in the chocolate chunks and the pecans by hand.

Roll the dough into 1.5 inch pieces, and give a few inches between each piece on your baking sheet for spreading. Sprinkle a few chunks of your salt on each cookie.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are a golden brown.

Roasted Teriyaki Brussels Sprouts

4

06.9.12

As you can probably tell, I’m trying to blog more regularly.

Now that I have a job doing exactly what I love to do, it’s really really difficult to manage any more than one or two freelance projects (and honestly, I’d rather just keep it down to my one favorite client). It’s not that I don’t enjoy freelance, but a creative by day can only be so creative by night.

This recipe, albeit my own, was not entirely created on my own. It was inspired by a dish at a great restaurant in Baltimore, whose name I do not remember. But it does remind me of one of the many fun weekends I’ve spent there.

Most people would probably use this dish as a side to a nice main, like miso roasted salmon or a grilled tofu salad.

I just put this on a plate (or a tart dish) and eat it as a meal. Simplicity is a virtue.

 

Roasted Teriyaki Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
4 cloves garlic, coarsley chopped

3 tablespoons ginger simple syrup (recipe here)
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
black pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the bottom root-ends off your sprouts, and then slice them in half. Coarsely chop your garlic, and combine in a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan and medium heat, bring to a light boil the ginger syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar. Reduce the heat to low, and whisk in the brown sugar, and lemon juice until dissolved. Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Stirring, reduce to the consistency desired, and remove from heat. I prefer my teriyaki on the more watery side than the syrupy side to make it easier to distribute flavor, but that’s just my preference.

Toss the Brussels sprouts in as much sauce as you think necessary – I actually dumped the entire thing in the mixing bowl, and spooned the sprouts directly onto a baking sheet. Store the remaining teriyaki in a jar, and refrigerate.

Roast your sprouts on an upper rack in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes.

Braised White Beans and Leeks

6

04.9.12

Oh hey, fall. I’m so happy you’re here.

This might be jumping the gun, but I’m so excited for fall to get here – so much so that I am sitting in a bathrobe with spiced candles lit, after having just made this bean stew.

It was the perfect fall and winter dish, and I can guarantee that it’s going to happen at least a few times in my house this fall and winter.

Those of you who have known me for the past few years probably already know my feelings about summer in Washington — I pretty much just let myself waste away between June and September. Even though this summer was pretty mild, the two weeks in July of 105-degree-plus weather still make me feel a little heat struck.

But since it’s September (yayyyy!) we can start talking about the many reasons why fall is wonderful. Seasonal flavors easily make my top three — deeper palettes, heartier dishes, and earthier produce, combined with slower cooking, make for a perfect night in with a big glass of red wine and someone you enjoy spending time with — be it the love of your life, or Alexander Skarsgard (if you’re me, they’re one in the same thing).

A staple in my kitchen for winter cooking is my cast iron dutch oven.

I was first introduced to it by my dad, who purchased a cast iron dutch oven for camping trips — he was really excited about it, which was beyond my perception as a twelve-year old, but he did fashion some exquisite flavors with the dutch oven. His version sat on top of a bed of coals, and the lid itself was built so you could rest more coals on top of it, completely surrounding your meal in heat.

A bit different from the bright enameled versions that I’m obsessed with today. However, the same concept of slow cooking in cast iron exists.

The most popular luxury versions are Staub and Le Creuset, and with brands like these, it’s just too easy to spend a few hundred dollars on a gorgeous slab of iron. I’ve had my oven for about a year now, and I had every intention of splurging on a Le Creuset, but right next to the Le Creuset was a French-made cast iron oven by the name of Fontignac, in a bright blue enamel, for almost $200 less. So I bought the $99 dollar oven, and spent what I would have purchased a Le Creuset with these.

Here are two of my favorite items — someday, when I’m rich and famous, I’ll probably want to buy the entire set of this cream-colored Le Creuset oven. But if you’re a humble government worker or hill staffer, chances are, Le Creuset is a bit out of your price range. The Lodge option sans enamel is just as effective, and it’s actually more like the rustic version of dutch oven cooking.

Like anything that you pull out of the oven, you’ll need some cute oven mitts. Here are some of my picks:

Prime Cut kitchen towel / Prime Cut potholder / basic oven mitt / turkey oven mitt

Do any of you use a Dutch oven or cast iron in cooking? What are your favorites?

 

Braised White Beans and Leeks, adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients
2 cans cannellini beans
3 large leeks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks of celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons herves de Provence (or your own mixture of herbs)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.

Trim your leeks, removing the green tops and the rooted ends. Slice them in half vertically, then chop them as thin as you like — I prefer larger chunks, so I kept the pieces about a half-inch to an inch in width. Rinse your leeks by putting the chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl and then filling the bowl with water. I like to dive my hands in and clean the slices myself, making sure to rub any dirt away. Strain and let drip dry.

Slice the celery, and mince your garlic.  Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, and cook the leeks, celery, and garlic until softened — about five minutes.

Add the beans, herbs, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to an easy boil. With the lid on, put the entire Dutch oven in your regular oven, and let slow cook for three hours.

At that point, remove the Dutch oven from heat, and turn your oven up to 500 degrees. Evenly spread the mozzarella and Parmesan over the top of the soup, and let cook uncovered in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese bubbles.

The soup reminded me of French onion soup, so I recommend slicing sourdough or French bread to float in the soup before you add the cheeses. Either way, the bubbling and slightly burnt cheese adds a nice touch to the dish.

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