Archive for April, 2011

April 16, 2011

no fast food friday: sandwiches

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I’m not sure how this happened, but here we are and it’s Friday again.

Of course, I know my days of the week, but the last few have been moving at lightening speed, so allow me a little sigh. An exhale to release the insanity and brace for the week ahead.

Actually, it’s more like the next 10 days. When the school bell rings today, it signals the start of spring break for New York City kids.

I’ll be happy to take a break packing lunches. The alarm will still be set, though, since my early morning hours are precious work and workout time.

And since it’s Friday, that means we’ll be making pizza tonight. Last night, we made panini and quesadillas. They’re really just sandwich cousins, don’t you think? In fact, I love getting creative with two slices of bread, be it tortillas, piadina or even crepes. So if you’re still plotting dinner for No Fast Food Friday, how about making it sandwich night? Here’s a round-up of some great recipes to get you started.

April 13, 2011

devil’s food cake revisited

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I had a craving for this cake last weekend.  I originally created it for the Mr.’s birthday last year, and the recipe is pretty hefty in size, making either a 3 layer cake or 36 cupcakes. That makes sense when you’re hosting 40 people, but not so much for a random day in April.

Much as I’d like to believe everyday I wake is cause for celebration, I came to my senses, and have Allison Fishman to thank. I’m completely smitten with her new cookbook You Can Trust a Skinny Cook.

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Piles of cookbooks are commonplace around here. Every day a new one arrives, and while many have some interesting recipes, very few make it to my permanent bookshelf. I just don’t have the space in this 2-bedroom Brooklyn shack.

Allison’s is a keeper.

So much so, that I wish she could come tuck me in every night and read a chapter to lull me to sleep. I often fall into slumber thinking about recipes, so while a cookbook seems an odd bedtime story, for me it would be like a cup of steamed milk for the mind.

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What I love most about Allison’s book is her sense of humor and understanding of our relationships with food. Unlike healthy cookbooks that preach about why processed foods are bad, You Can Trust a Skinny Cook focuses on why cooking for yourself is a good thing. She doesn’t make you feel bad about what you shouldn’t eat, she gives you the necessary tools to eat what you should—quick, easy recipes made with real ingredients. Allison also has one of the friendliest, honest voices I’ve ever come across in a cookbook. Though we’re only twitter pals, I can see we’d be great kitchen buddies too.

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So, what does any of this have to do with that devilish cake pictured above? Well, Allison does have a flourless chocolate cake in her book, but I had this hankering for frosting. I might rewrite my will to have a bucket of chocolate ganache buried with me to help pass the time in my afterlife.

Fresh off reading a few chapters of Allison’s book, though, I realized I didn’t need to make a 9-inch three-layer chocolate cake to satisfy my urge. A few bites would mean I could have my cake, eat it too, and not kick myself with guilt. Instead, I scaled my own recipe back by two-thirds and made a petite 6-inch, two layer cake, and only frosted the top and filled the middle. This was a huge sacrifice because the frosting slicked up the sides is my favorite part. I systematically eat my cake, saving the sides for last. I also have a method for eating gummy bears, so maybe I just have issues.

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While I haven’t cooked anything from Allison’s book yet, I’ve been around enough recipes to know if they will work on read, and I have no doubt about her’s. More importantly, Allison inspired me, and that is what I, and I think most veteran cooks, look for in a cookbook.

Recipes I can create on my own, no problem.

The ability to see the way I eat and cook in a different light is what makes me giddy as a school girl these days.

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Jennie’s Master (mini) Recipe for Devil’s Food Cake

makes 12 cupcakes or two 6-inch cake layers

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder, plus extra for coating pans

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Scant 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons brewed coffee

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and well combined (take a look at the pic above again).

Meanwhile whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix the milk, coffee and vanilla in a small bowl or measuring cup; set aside.

Line cupcake tins with recycled paper muffin cups or grease two 6-inch cake pans. Place parchment circle in bottom of cake tins and dust sides of pan with additional cocoa powder.

Add the eggs to the creamed butter mixture, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour and milk mixtures to the butter-egg combo, and mix on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds (this may take longer is using a hand mixer). Scrape down the bowl well, and beat on medium-high speed for 15 seconds more, until batter is well-mixed.

Fill cupcakes 2/3 full or evenly divide batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake cupcakes for 15 to 18 minutes and cakes for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let rest on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tin or invert cakes, leaving parchment circle intact and let them finish cooling completely on the rack. This is also a good time to get started on the frosting.

Rich Chocolate Frosting

makes enough to frost one 2-layer 6-inch cake or 12 cupcakes

3 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon corn syrup

Place the chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl. Combine cream  and sugar in a small pot and heat until very hot, just before it reaches the boiling point. Pour over chocolate. Add corn syrup and let stand for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Let cool for another minute or two to use as a glaze —simply dip the cupcake tops in and decorate with sprinkles, or let cool completely, stirring occasionally to use as a thick frosting, which is better for filling and frosting layer cakes, but is divine on cupcakes too.

April 10, 2011

salted molasses butter

We don’t eat out very often, and that surprises many people I know. They figure since I’m a food editor and recipe developer, I dine out frequently. I often use Virginia’s terrible two’s as an excuse, but really my mind works overtime, calculating the cost of a restaurant meal compared to what I could make it for at home.

That’s not to say that we don’t go out to eat. It just means when we do, it’s with careful thought and intention. I don’t need a four-star restaurant to be wowed or inspired. I just need reliably good food and service.

It turns out sometimes the most simple items on a plate leave the most lasting impression too. Enough to make you want to run home and recreate it, as I did with this salted molasses butter I had recently when out with friends for a birthday celebration.

It’s essentially a compound butter, and made with just three ingredients—two of which I guarantee you have in the pantry. And if you don’t already keep molasses on hand, then consider yet another reason you need it (this French Onion Soup is the other).

I love compound butters for their ease in preparation and ability to add layers of flavors with little effort. Dara just so happened to post about them on her blog Cookin’ Canuck too, which lit the fire under my butt to share this recipe with you I created for Cuisinart. In all honestly, it’s so easy to make, I told my friend Maggy it seems silly to even call it a recipe.

I’ll send you on your way to my Cuisinart blog to get the details on the ingredients and ratios, but in case you don’t have a food processor, I wanted to assure you this butter can easily be made with a whisk and a bowl too. Just make sure the butter is ultra soft—enough so that you can use your finger to swipe off a chunk. Then add the ingredients to a deep bowl and whisk until well mixed, like below.

And in you really want to channel Martha Stewart, start off by making your own butter. It’s easier than you think, and my friend John even shows you how to do it without electricity.

Get the recipe for the salted molasses butter at my Cuisinart blog.

New at In Jennie’s Kitchen: homemade whole grain mustard.

April 7, 2011

breakfast for dinner

I’m going to make a confession, but you have to keep it between us, okay?

About a year ago, I went to brunch with a couple of friends, and Olga ordered a dutch baby with blueberry compote. I had no idea what it was, but feigned excitement when she and Maggie talked about it before we arrived. A bit later, a small cast-iron skillet arrived at the table. Underneath the blanket of warm blueberry sauce was a fluffy, light as air puff of egg and flour.

Little did I know the chance to make this at home was right under my nose. My eyes had always glanced over the recipe for oven puffed pancakes in my Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. You know, the one with the red check gingham cover.

For years I dismissed it, thinking why crank up the oven for something I’ve always made on the stovetop? Yes, stupid me. My punishment for lack of culinary curiosity all those years was missing out on one of my family’s favorite meals now—dutch baby.

A dutch baby is more than simply a baked pancake. In fact, its base is primarily eggs, and for that reason it’s become my go-to dinner on busy weeknights, of which I seem to be in a pattern of never-ending ones.

And it all started with an email from my friend Michelle. She sent a few recipes to try out from her new book The Whole Family Cookbook. In it was one for a baked apple puff. Having spent some time in a heated affair with making dutch babies after that brunch at Little Giant, I knew exactly where this recipe would lead me.

Or so I thought.

It turns out Michelle’s recipe re-ignited my lust for making this pretty easy dish, and the eggs lend a protein punch, making it a perfect breakfast-for-dinner meal. After getting all hot and heavy with Michelle’s apple version, I expanded my horizons into the savory realm.

The first time I branched out, it was with fingerling potatoes sliced into coins, thinly sliced shallots and shredded cheddar cheese. The next time I subbed crispy homefries for the fingerlings, earning bonus points for using up leftovers from the past weekend’s breakfast.

Since that fateful day I opened Michelle’s email, I’ve also swapped in almond extract for the vanilla and added lemon zest. I even made a lemon ricotta variation, but that one needs a bit of tweaking before I can wax poetic about it.

The moral of this story?

Eat your breakfast—every chance you get.

As for Michelle’s recipe for the baked apple puff, go order a copy of The Whole Family Cookbook today. You won’t be disappointed, and the color-coded age specific instructions make it easy to assign tasks so the kids can help out. I’ll be posting a recipe for my savory fingerling, shallot & rosemary dutch baby soon, either here or at In Jennie’s Kitchen.

And if you’re looking for some ideas for a quick No Fast Food Friday meal, why not make it a breakfast for dinner night. Here’s few recipes to get you started.

Savory Waffles — Eat, Play, Love

Oat Ricotta Pancakes — In Jennie’s Kitchen

Toad in the Hole — Three Many Cooks

Gluten-Free Whole Grain Crepes —Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef

Breakfast Casserole — Savory Sweet Life

Tomato Jam & Mozzarella Eggy — In Jennie’s Kitchen

Breakfast Polenta — 101 Cookbooks

Manchego Cheese Grits — The Merry Gourmet

Steel Cut Oats with Caramelized Onions & Ricotta — In Jennie’s Kitchen

For more ideas, go take a peek at what Gina, Melissa, Kristen and Michelle are up to for No Fast Food Friday. And Rob always offers food for thought, so follow him on twitter.

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