Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Citrusy Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Cucumber, and Almonds

This is Thanksgiving week. I’m getting ready to bake bagels and start on a buttery pie crust. I’m double-checking my shopping list for how many total cups of cream I need before I rush out to gather the rest of the ingredients for the big day. Our menus for breakfast and the main meal are planned, and they’re full of rich and decadent things suited to a holiday that’s all about food. And, now I’m showing you a not-so-Thanksgiving-y light and lovely quinoa salad. Maybe think of this as the perfect day after Thanksgiving dish. The combination of Ruby Red grapefruit and avocado is what got my attention. The salad is found in The Kitchn Cookbook , and I received a review copy. It’s actually more than a cookbook. It begins with tips for setting up or reorganizing your kitchen. There are specific ideas for how to arrange cookware and utensils, but more importantly, it gets you thinking about how you use your kitchen and what will work best for you. There are also photos and ideas from several very different but all beautiful kitchens. Then, the book has you covered with tips for stocking your pantry and some basic cooking techniques. This leads up the recipes section with dishes for every meal of the day plus sweet treats and party planning ideas. The recipes come with lots of suggestions for variations to make them your own. The Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Hash with Baked Eggs would be great as a vegetarian brunch dish, or roasted chicken or cooked sausage could be added. Homemade Potato Chips are offered either baked or fried. The Roasted Shrimp with Horseradish Ketchup is now on my to-try list because I realized I’ve never made homemade ketchup. And, I’ve somehow never tried the extremely popular Magic One-Ingredient Ice Cream that appeared TheKitchn.com. It’s made from frozen, very ripe bananas, and I can’t wait to make it. But, I had just received some Ruby Red grapefruits from my CSA, and this quinoa salad came first. 

I used a three-color mix of quinoa because I love the different colors, and I’ve heard the red and black varieties have more nutrients than white quinoa. It should be rinsed before being cooked, and the cooking process is a quick hands-off 20 minutes of simmering. After cooking, the quinoa was left to cool. Meanwhile, I made the vinaigrette with lemon juice, minced shallot, and sherry vinegar. Grapefruit sections were supremed and then chopped into big chunks. Almonds were toasted and chopped, and cucumber and celery were diced. The cooled quinoa was combined with the cucumber, celery, grapefruit, and some lemon zest. The vinaigrette was incorporated, and then the almonds were folded into the salad. I had a pretty head of butter lettuce from my CSA, so I served the quinoa salad in some lettuce leaves. It was topped with sliced avocado and crunchy, flaked sea salt. 

There are a lot of great flavors and textures here, and the sweet, citrusy grapefruit with the tender avocado was as delicious as always. I particularly love the mix of grapefruit, avocado, and shellfish, so I served roasted shrimp with the salad. Crisp celery and cucumber and crunchy nuts added nice variety. If you only add the avocado as a topping to each serving, the salad can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. I think it would also be perfect with some sliced, leftover turkey. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Citrusy Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Cucumber, and Almonds 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from The Kitchn Cookbook

Serves 4 to 6 
Once we nailed down how to cook quinoa perfectly every time (our post on making quinoa still brings thousands of readers to our site every day), a whole new world of seed salads opened up. Tossed with grapefruit segments, cucumber, and toasted almonds, and topped with creamy avocado, this quinoa salad makes a great lunch dish, or a side for dinner. 

1 cup quinoa 
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth 
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 teaspoon zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons juice) 
1 large shallot, minced 
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar 
1 Ruby Red grapefruit 
1/3 seedless English cucumber (about 1/4 pound), unpeeled and diced small 
2 celery stalks, diced small 
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds 
Kosher salt, to taste 
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced, for serving 
Flaked sea salt 

Rinse the quinoa for 2 to 3 minutes in a fine-mesh strainer, rubbing vigorously. Drain. Heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add a teaspoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the quinoa and cook, stirring to coat the quinoa with olive oil, for 1 minute. (The quinoa may pop, so be prepared to stir right away.) Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, with a folded dishtowel over the pot lid, for 5 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and spread out the cooked quinoa in an even layer. Let it cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients. 

Whisk together the lemon juice, shallot, and sherry vinegar. Slowly stream in the remaining oil while whisking, until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Set aside. To prep the grapefruit, peel away the top and bottom of the grapefruit rind until you can see the flesh. With a sharp knife, peel away all rind and pith along the curve of the grapefruit. Then cut between the white segments and cut out the flesh. Roughly chop the grapefruit segments and set aside. 

Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and add the cucumber, celery, grapefruit, and lemon zest. Add the vinaigrette and toss gently. Fold in the almonds. Taste and adjust the salad to taste with salt and pepper. At serving time, top the salad with the avocado, a sprinkle of flaked sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. This dish will keep in the refrigerator for 1 day in a sealed container. 

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Benne-Buttermilk Rolls

“I believe that both professional chefs and home cooks can move their cuisine forward by understanding the past and knowing where their food comes from. I hope that my experiences will move more people to research their heritage and find inspiration from the food and traditions they grew up with.” In a nutshell, that’s what Sean Brock’s new book Heritage is about, and I received a review copy. He finds inspiration in the foods from southwest Virginia where he was born as well as those from the South Carolina Lowcountry where he has lived and worked more recently. He writes: “Cook as if every day you were cooking for your grandmother. If your grandmother is still alive, cook with her as much as possible, and write everything down.” The book includes dishes from his restaurants, Husk and McCrady’s, as well as family favorites like some of his grandmother’s recipes. It offers an interesting spectrum from simple, comforting options like Chicken Simply Roasted in a Skillet to Grouper with Pan-Roasted and Pickled Butternut Squash, Nasturtium Jus, and Hazelnuts. But, regardless of the level of difficulty, each dish is part of a story about a local producer or a discovery in the garden or a traditional technique. I want to try the Grilled Chicken Wings with Burnt-Scallion Barbeque Sauce and the Husk BBQ Sauce that’s used to make it and the Cornmeal-Dusted Snapper with Bread-and-Butter Courgettes and Red Pepper Butter Sauce. There are also great-looking vegetable dishes like the Beet and Strawberry Salad with Sorrel and Rhubarb Vinaigrette as well as recipes for pickles, jams, and sauces. In the desserts chapter, the Buttermilk Pie with Cornmeal Crust keeps catching my eye. But, I couldn’t get through the chapter about grains without trying the Benne-Buttermilk Rolls. 

After reading Dan Barber’s The Third Plate, I was informed about what Glenn Roberts and his company Anson Mills are doing to preserve or rediscover heirloom grains. In Heritage, he’s mentioned regarding his work with the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation and his preservation of other antebellum crops. I previously knew that benne is another name for sesame seeds. What I didn’t know was that older varieties of West African benne have a slightly different flavor than our contemporary sesame seeds. I ordered some of these traditional benne seeds and two varieties of bread flour from Anson Mills for these rolls. The rolls are made with bread flour and all-purpose flour, and the Ble Marquis flour from Anson Mills is suggested for the all-purpose. That one is currently only available for wholesale purchases, so I ordered two different varieties of bread flour instead. I used a little of the red fife whole wheat bread flour in addition to white bread flour which is an “organic new crop 18th-century style heirloom wheat French Mediterranean, hand bolted” flour. To start, a paste was made with sugar, local honey, and salt. The bread flour and some all-purpose flour were added to the paste. Fresh yeast was called for in the recipe, but it isn’t easy to find here so I used active dried yeast instead. Two teaspoons of dried yeast was substituted for the quarter cup of fresh yeast. The yeast was mixed with buttermilk and added to the flour mixture. The dough was stirred together and then kneaded before being left to rise for an hour. It was punched down and folded and left to rise for an additional 45 minutes. Then, the rolls were formed and placed in a cast-iron skillet. I used a larger skillet than the nine-inch size suggest, so mine fit more than half the rolls. I baked the remaining rolls in a smaller baking dish. The rolls were left to rise for a couple of hours, and then were brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with fleur de sel and benne seeds before baking. 

These little rolls were tender and nutty tasting, and they’re fun to pull apart from the skillet. The benne seeds taste like amped up sesame seeds. The flavor is more pronounced with a little bitterness that makes them get noticed. The flours added more subtle flavor of toasty wheat, and I look forward to baking more things with them. This book has been an inspiration to preserve, to keep traditions alive, and to maybe make a few jars of pickles before the fall vegetables disappear for the winter.

Benne-Buttermilk Rolls 
Excerpted with publisher's permission from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. 
Makes 44 rolls 

I could eat my weight in these tasty little rolls. We serve them every day at Husk. They are the first things that hit the table when guests arrive, so they have to be special. Bread should make everyone feel comfortable before a meal starts, whether it’s in a restaurant or at home. I like the food at Husk to tell a story, so we make these using BlĂ© Marquis flour, which is a specialty wheat flour from Anson Mills. I want our guests to taste how older varieties of wheat pack so much more flavor. You can substitute all-purpose flour, if you must. A sprinkling of crunchy salt and benne seeds at the end makes the rolls irresistible. 

1/4 cup sugar 
1/4 cup local honey 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
3 cups all-purpose bread flour 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably Ble Marquis flour 
1/4 cup crumbled fresh yeast 
2 cups whole-milk buttermilk 
1 large egg 
1 tablespoon water 
2 tablespoons Anson Mills Antebellum Benne Seeds 
Fleur de sel 

1. Make a paste with the sugar, honey, and salt in a large bowl. Add both the flours and stir them in with a wooden spoon. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the buttermilk, then add this to the flour mixture all at once and stir in. 

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it until smooth, 5 to 6 minutes. 

3. Lightly spray a large bowl with a nonstick spray and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and put it in a warm place. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. 

4. Remove the towel and gently punch the dough down. Cover the bowl again with the kitchen towel and let the dough rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. 

5. Spray two round 9-inch cast-iron skillets with nonstick spray. Portion the dough into 1-ounce rolls: divide the dough in half and then in half again, and divide each portion into 11 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and carefully place 22 rolls in each pan; they should fit snugly. Cover the pans lightly with kitchen towels, put them in a warm place, and let the rolls rise until they have doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

6. About 20 minutes before the rolls have finished rising, preheat the oven to 400°F. 

7. Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the rolls with the wash. Sprinkle the rolls with the benne seeds and lightly with fleur de sel. Bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through. Test the rolls using a thermometer: the internal temperature should read 195°F. Cool the rolls in the pans on a rack. 

8. The rolls are best served as soon as they have cooled, but they can be kept covered in the pans for up to 1 day and reheated in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. 

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sour Cream Corn Bread

There are times when you need to know a dish is going to be terrific. When friends or family are visiting and I really want to put a delicious meal on the table with no uncertainty, I head for the Barefoot Contessa books. I’ve lost count of Ina’s recipes that have become my go-to’s because everyone always loves them. And, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve made each of them. The Turkey Lasagna from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, the Cranberry Orange Scones from Barefoot Contessa at Home, the Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, and Roasted Tomato Basil Soup from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook never fail to please. Needless to say, I’m a fan. I couldn’t wait for the latest book in the series, Make it Ahead, and I received a review copy. In this book, the recipes are true to Ina’s style as always, but for each, there are instructions for how to make and store things in advance. In some cases, part of a recipe can be started in advance, and in others the entire dish can be made ahead. I’ll be making the Make-Ahead Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving, and I really want to try the Tomato Mozzarella Pan Bagnat that can be assembled in advance and grilled when ready to serve. The Wild Mushroom and Farro Soup would be great to have in the refrigerator during a chilly week, and I don’t think I can wait one more day before trying the Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting. Last weekend, I made ahead our entire Sunday brunch. It was a delight to have everything ready and to serve the meal so easily. I made the Mini Italian Frittatas which are rich with Fontina, half-and-half, and parmesan. They were baked in a muffin tin to create individual servings, and they reheated perfectly. I served the little frittatas with toasted Sour Cream Corn Bread which has become my new favorite thing to pop out of the toaster. 

I don’t think I’d ever made corn bread in a loaf pan, and I don’t recall ever toasting it. The loaves can be baked, cooled, and stored wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to four days. Or, they can be frozen for three months. When ready to serve, just cut thick slices and toast them. The recipe makes two loaves, so I have one stashed in the freezer for a later date. To start, the dry ingredients were whisked together including flour, cornmeal, sugar, and I used half the sugar to make it less sweet, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, eggs, milk, and sour cream were whisked and melted butter was slowly added last. The wet ingredients were folded into the dry ingredients, and that was it. The loaves baked for about 40 minutes while puffing up and turning a pale golden color. I let the loaves cool, stored them away, and sliced pieces to toast just before brunch. 

The edges get toasty and crispy while the center of each thick piece remains tender. Salted, Irish butter was exactly right to spread on top. It’s nice to know I have another loaf ready and waiting whenever I need it. And, I like knowing I have this book for reliable, crowd-pleasing dishes that are perfect for entertaining. 

Sour Cream Corn Bread 
Reprinted from Make it Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Copyright © 2014 by Ina Garten. Photographs © 2014 by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House LLC. 

Makes 2 loaves 

This all-American quick bread is usually served with dinner. To make it ahead, I bake it in loaves, and then slice, toast, and slather it with butter and jam for breakfast. Bob’s Red Mill cornmeal is widely available and essential for this recipe. 

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pans 
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill medium-grind yellow cornmeal 
1/2 cup sugar 
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt 
1 1/4 cups whole milk 
3/4 cup sour cream 
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature 
Salted butter and strawberry jam, for serving 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of two 8½ × 4½ × 2-inch loaf pans with parchment paper. 

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, and eggs and then slowly whisk in the melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix them together with a rubber spatula, until combined. Don’t overmix! Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Place the pans on a rack and cool completely. 

When ready to serve, slice the corn bread, toast it, and serve with salted butter and strawberry jam.  

Make It Ahead: Bake the corn breads, cool completely, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost, if necessary, slice 1/2 inch thick, and toast. 

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Polonaise

It’s actually feeling like fall here this week. Cooler weather, drizzly rain, and earlier sunsets are making it clear that summer is gone. Just in time to help warm up the house with the oven, Ruhlman's How to Roast has appeared, and I received a review copy. This new book covers the basics of oven roasting everything from the Thanksgiving turkey to roasted fruit for dessert. He starts by explaining what roasting has come to mean. Originally, roasting involved a spit and fire, but these days, the process of roasting is really the same as that of baking. The different names are used depending on what is being cooked. With either name, it’s a “dry-heat cooking method.” And, it’s a pretty easy way to make things delicious when they take on a golden crispness in the oven. Starting with a classic roasted chicken, Ruhlman walks you through the simple steps of seasoning, bringing up to temperature, prepping, roasting, and carving. Beef, pork, lamb, fish, and shellfish are all covered including an actual spit-roasted leg of lamb, and then there are lovely, golden, roasted vegetables. I’ve roasted all sorts of vegetables over the years. Usually, I just toss the vegetables with some olive oil, maybe add some sliced garlic or smashed whole cloves of garlic, and pop them in the hot oven on a sheet pan. But, now that I’ve tasted the wonder of roasting cauliflower in a cast iron skillet with butter, I may never go back. The Roasted Cauliflower Polonaise recipe caught my eye because it was completely unfamiliar to me. I learned that Polonaise refers to any dish topped with buttered breadcrumbs and hard cooked eggs. Here, there’s also a splash of lemon and chopped fresh parsley. It’s one of two recipes that uses Basic Roasted Cauliflower in the book, and I highly recommend it. 

Now, I have to explain that I took option B in making this dish. Option A would have been to roast the whole head of cauliflower intact. Then, it would have been served in the cast iron skillet and portions would have been cut as wedges. It’s a lovely, old-school kind of preparation and presentation, but since I was just cooking for two, I went the simpler route. I cut the head of cauliflower into florets, and roasted them in the skillet with butter. Every ten minutes or so, I turned the cauliflower pieces and spooned melted, browned butter over the tops. The cauliflower pieces roasted for about 40 minutes total, and came out of the oven nicely golden. Meanwhile, I hard-cooked two eggs, chopped parsley, and toasted breadcrumbs in melted butter on top of the stove. To serve, I transferred cauliflower pieces to a platter, squeezed lemon juice over the top, added the toasted buttery breadcrumbs and chopped eggs, and garnished with parsley. 

For me, this was a vegetarian main course. The buttery goodness was undeniable, but the crispy breadcrumbs, bright lemon, and rich chopped egg combined delightfully. My next stop in the book will either be the Duck Fat-Roasted Potatoes or the Roasted Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. The oven is going to get plenty of use this fall. 

Roasted Cauliflower Polonaise 
Recipes reprinted with publisher’s permission from Ruhlman's How to Roast. Copyright ©2014 by Ruhlman Enterprises, Inc. Courtesy Little, Brown and Company. The book is available at Barnes and Noble and IndieBound.

Boiled cauliflower with hard-cooked eggs, bread crumbs, and parsley? When I first learned this old preparation, in a culinary basics class at the CIA, I thought it was too goofy for words. But when I asked my cooking partner, Adam Shepard, what he thought of it, he said, “I’d serve it at my restaurant. Though I’d figure out a way to make the egg and bread crumbs stick to the cauliflower.” That he took it seriously made me take it seriously. As my appreciation of classic dishes grew, so too did my affection for this dish. Prepare it with roasted cauliflower rather than boiled, and it becomes a great dish for any occasion. 

1 head cauliflower (whole or cut into florets), roasted 
1/4 cup/20 grams panko bread crumbs 
1 or 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped 
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 

• PLACE the hot roasted cauliflower on a serving platter. If there is no remaining butter in the skillet, add another tablespoon. Add the bread crumbs to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat till they’re toasted. 

• SQUEEZE the lemon over the cauliflower and then spoon the toasted bread crumbs over the cauliflower. Spoon the chopped egg over the cauliflower (don’t worry if it doesn’t stick). Sprinkle it with parsley and serve in wedges or slices, scooping up extra garnish as you do so. 

• If you’re using roasted florets, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a separate small skillet over medium-high heat and toast the bread crumbs. To serve, simply sprinkle the lemon juice, toasted bread crumbs, chopped egg, and parsley uniformly over the top of the florets and serve right from the skillet. 

Basic Roasted Cauliflower 
6 tablespoons/90 grams butter, at room temperature 
1 head cauliflower 
Kosher salt 

• PREHEAT the oven to 425˚F/220˚C (use convection if you have it). 

• Cut the stem and leaves off the cauliflower so that it will sit flat in a skillet; the more of the cauliflower that’s in contact with the skillet the better, as it gets very brown and tasty. 

• Set the cauliflower in an ovenproof skillet and smear the butter all over the surface. Give it a liberal sprinkling of salt. 

• Roast till tender (a long knife should slide easily down into the cauliflower all the way through to its stem), 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Several times while it’s roasting, baste it with the butter, which will have melted and started to brown. (If you’re roasting a cut-up cauliflower, simply put the florets and butter in the skillet and put it in the oven. After 5 or 10 minutes, stir and toss the cauliflower to coat the florets with the melted butter, and then continue roasting and basting till tender, 30 to 40 

• Serve immediately, in wedges or slices, or keep warm and reheat for a few minutes in a hot oven before serving. 

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