Monday, September 13, 2010

Spicy Tarragon Butter Cookies

So, recently I decided to make a nice summer vegetable dish with some tarragon. Unfortunately with tarragon (as with perhaps all herbs except basil), I had to buy a far greater quantity than I actually needed. After adding it to just about everything I cooked for several days, I was still left with quite a bit of tarragon. What to do with all the rest of this very expensive herb? Make cookies, of course. And what other flavor already in my cupboard might go well with tarragon? pepper?

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used raw sugar, since I had about half a cup that needed to be used up)
1 1/4- 1 1/2 cup flour
1 egg
salt in a quantity reasonable for cookies
finely chopped tarragon (1-2 tablespoons)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cream the butter and sugar.
2. Add egg.
3. Add flour and salt.
4. Add tarragon and pepper.
5. Taste and adjust seasoning (or, if you are worried about raw eggs, just trust that it will turn out well).
6. Roll into a log, wrap and place in freezer for 30 minutes.
7. Cut into circles, place on cookie sheet, bake at 350 until golden.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chai Tea

I drink a lot of tea in the winter. Chai is one of my favorites. I like to make a few cups worth of this mix and keep it in a small jar-- but drink it within a few days, because the spices lose flavor fast. If you have a coffee grinder, that's a good appliance to use for spice grinding. Clean it thoroughly before (and after) by grinding about a tablespoon of rice in it and wiping it out very well with a paper towel. If it's a very filthy device, do two rounds of rice grinding. A mortar and pestle will work very well too!

Use about equal parts spices and tea.

For 2 cups:
1 heaping teaspoon black tea leaves (or a teabag. PG Tips is my favorite kind of bagged tea)
1 heaping teaspoon ground spices:
~3 cardamom pods
1/4 stick cinnamon (or a big pinch of the ground stuff)
Big pinch whole cloves (don't use the pre-ground ones, they taste like nothing)
Small pinch peppercorns
Big pinch grated fresh ginger (if making to consume immediately) or the dry stuff (if making to save for a bit)

To brew, heat water to just below boiling and brew in teapot or cup for 4-5 minutes. The tea will sink to the bottom of the cup or pot into a mucilaginous goo that is very strong-tasting... You can attempt to strain the teapot before decanting into a cup, but it's fairly futile. Just let the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup.

Add a good quantity of warmed milk (cow and soy are the best-- rice milk is too watery for my tastes), and sugar/honey to taste!

Sriracha-Maple Sauce

I love sriracha ! This is my go-to tofu marinade/sauce, and it is more protocol than recipe. Thin it down with water and it makes an excellent marinade for tofu or your meat of choice. Skip the water and cook down, and the result is an excellent barbecue-type sauce.

1 part sriracha (cock sauce)
2 parts apple cider vinegar
2 parts maple syrup
Ground cloves (lots)
Ground pepper (less)
Ginger (if you like)
Salt (to taste, but only if using as a marinade. Sriracha does have a bunch of salt in it already)

For a marinade: Mix up a quantity to cover your protein. Pull tofu or meat out and cook up in skillet or on the grill. If and *only* if used for tofu, may cook down marinade into sauce. (So many germs in meat...)
For sauce: Simmer on stove in saucepan over medium-low heat until thick and syrupy. Should be pretty quick.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Red Velvet Brownies

Here's the logic: Brownies = kind of chocolate cake. Red velvet cake = kind of chocolate cake. By the law of transitivity, red velvet brownies should be real tasty. These have a small amount of beet in them for added complexity of flavor and to make the red color without food coloring. Sounds weird, but trust me, it's good, and has a very interesting flavor and keeps moistness without too much oil.

Despite making 3 batches of this one, there are also no pictures in existence....

Red Velvet Brownies, Cream Cheese Frosting


1/2 c beet puree*
2 c sugar
1/2 c oil
2/3 c buttermilk (or 1/3 c lowfat milk + 1/3 c yogurt)
1 egg
6 T cocoa powder (1/4 cup + 2 T)
2 c white flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 c chocolate chips
Red food coloring (optional)

Mix beets, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and egg. I like to do this in the food processor because I've already used it to puree the beets.
Add cocoa, flour, and salt.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Add a few drops of red food coloring if it's not pink enough for you.
Put in greased and floured 11x7 pan.
Cook at 350 F for about 40 minutes, or until just set in center-- Underdone brownies are better than overdone ones...
Cool, then frost!


2 T cream cheese, room temperature
2 T butter, room temperature
2/3 c powdered sugar
Splash of milk
Splash of rum**
Dash of vanilla

Blend cream cheese, butter, and sugar together. Add liquids to thin and make a spreadable consistency.

*Quarter beets, steam them for ~30 minutes (or until fairly soft), then peel, and puree in food processor. Steaming preserves more color than boiling does. Or, use beets from a can. Or baby food, I guess.
** Can use extra vanilla and extra milk instead.

Apple Cake

No pictures exist of this because it was eaten too fast. This is my adaptation of a recipe we've had hanging around for ages, and I'm not sure where it originally came from. It's a rustic sort of cake, suitable either for dessert or breakfast. This apple cake purposefully has no cinnamon because I think it drowns out the fruity taste of apples. But you can add it in if you so desire, it would be tasty but different. Be sure to use the wheat flour though, it provides needed body and a really nice flavor.

Apple Cake

3 T butter
3 medium to large apples
1 1/2 T calvados, apple jack, or rum

2/3 c milk
1 1/4 c sugar
1/3 c oil
3 eggs

1 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c chocolate chips

Chop apples into approximately 1/4 inch chunks.
Cook in frying pan over medium heat with butter until brown.
Add calvados or apple jack, cook for a couple of minutes to burn off alcohol.
Set aside.

Mix milk, sugar, oil and eggs in a bowl until smooth.
Mix flours, baking powder, and chocolate chips in another bowl.
Combine bowls, mix lightly.
Add apple and pan juices, mix lightly.

Put in greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick in center comes out with just a couple of crumbs on it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stuffed Peppers à la Left-Overs

Peppers can be stuffed with pretty much anything, but traditionally, it's usually rice and ground beef. Kind of boring. This version contains corn rather than rice (which I mark as a great improvement), and is topped with smoked pork, to make two distinct layers inside the pepper. The amount of meat/ savory topping here is quite minimal so I recommend using whatever you have lurking in the fridge rather than buying something-- leftover grilled chicken! Some fried tofu! A few strips of bacon! A quantity of mushrooms too small to use for anything else! Some deliciously-spiced beans! (and so on and so forth) Aim for something strong-flavored and crispy for textural and flavor balance with the rest of the pepper-- I do recommend frying whatever it is you're going to use.

Stuffed Peppers -- Makes 6 peppers, serves ~2 dinners and 2 lunches.

6 peppers of suitable size (Bell, or Ancho for more kick)
2 cups corn, cut off cob (Or 2 cups of rice, I suppose)
4 ribs celery
1 small onion or a couple of shallots
Salt, pepper, dash of oregano
~6 ounces savory protein goodness (I used some smoked pork, see note at beginning)
~1 cup cheese, grated (cheap cheddar used here)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Fry up your meat/ soy / tasty savory thing. Set aside to cool briefly.
Cut off top of peppers and remove seeds. Put into lightly greased baking pan.
Chop celery and onion into small pieces. Mix with corn, and add salt, spices and herbs to taste. I used pepper and oregano.
Fill peppers with this mixture, leaving about an inch on top.
Chop up your protein into bite-sized pieces (if it's not already) and top peppers with it.
Top with cheese if you so desire.
Bake until the peppers are soft and the cheese is starting to brown, ~30 minutes? (I have a hard time keeping tabs on these things, but it's done when it's done, and it does take a while)
Serve with rice. Or corn I guess if you stuffed your peppers with rice.

Photo by Bodger.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Corn fritters V1.0

Like Bodger, I too have had corn on the brain, as it's the major landscape feature around here.  Indeed, the commercial variety "Super Sweet" was developed at our major Midwestern research university.  (There's even a plot of this corn planted just off the quad.)   This recipe is a simple pancake batter that's made up to be just a shade lighter, with copious sweet corn added to it, and spiced to taste.   I think it's tasty but not perfect yet-- version 2.0 will appear next season.  Don't attempt this out of season, sweet corn out of season is just a sad state of affairs.  Instead, consider this a work in progress, and something to try next year.   (Picture by Bodger)

Corn Fritters 1.0

Ingredients:  (Serves 2-3)

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
Dash of cayenne
Dash of black pepper

1 1/2 c water
2 eggs
2 ears of sweet corn, cut off cob
1.5 T butter, melted*

Butter for pan*

Mix dry ingredients well.  Mix wet ingredients well.  Mix together, but gently-- Alton Brown says quick bread batters should be stirred no more than 10 stirs, and he's pretty much the best.

Let your batter rest a couple of minutes while you heat a heavy pan-- a griddle or cast-iron skillet would be best here, heated over medium-high heat.  Add a bit more water to your batter if it is too thick.

Cook like pancakes-- butter the pan between batches, and flip when the top has just set and the bubbles cease to fill in.  The fritters will be fairly thick and hearty due to the corn, but don't worry, they WILL cook all the way through.

Alternatively, I bet these would be awesome deep-fried.  If you try it, let me know how it turns out?

*Substitute out if it's your need, but it will be better with the butter left in.