Friday, November 25, 2016

Caramel Banana Bars

I love baking cookies, and Kurt loves finding freshly baked cookies in the kitchen. So, it was a happy day when I received a review copy of the new Dorie's Cookies book. In the introduction, Dorie mentions that she’s wanted to write a cookie book since she started working on cookbooks 25 years ago. Of course, her other books have included some cookie recipes, but this is the first devoted to nothing but cookies. The options cover the full spectrum from classics to bars to sandwich cookies, and there are even some savory options to serve with cocktails. One chapter is just for the cookies baked and sold from Beurre and Sel which was a cookie boutique she operated with her son. And, the final chapter is for Cookie Go-Alongs and Basics, and it includes ice cream to serve with cookies, ganaches and spreads to fill sandwich cookies, glazes to top cookies, and more. I started baking as quickly as I could after opening the book. There are a few recipes that call for kasha and specifically Wolff’s medium granulation kasha. I’ve cooked buckwheat groats and baked with buckwheat flour, but I was not familiar with medium granulation kasha. As promised, it is easy to find, and it adds a bit of crunch to a cookie. With buckwheat flour, the medium granulation kasha, and flaked sea salt on top, Kerrin’s Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies had a nutty, more complex flavor than your standard chocolate chip. And, they were Kurt-approved. I also tried the Espresso Chocolate Sables. That’s a recipe from the Beurre and Sel collection, and almost all of those cookies are intended to be baked in rings. All of these recipe suggest rolling the dough, chilling it on sheets, cutting the dough into two-inch rounds, and either baking the cookies in metal rounds if you have them or baking them in muffin tins. I went a different route and used the dough for a slice and bake technique. After forming a log of dough, I chilled it, and then cut rounds that I baked on cookie sheets. They spread just a bit, but they were still delicious with espresso flavor running through the crumbly, buttery cookies. 

The third cookie recipe I tried was the Cabin-Fever Caramel Banana Bars as it’s called in the book. Dorie came up with the idea while going stir-crazy during a blizzard. But, they’re great treats for any weather. I had one little problem with this recipe, and I’ll explain how I got around it. You begin by making a quick caramel by melting butter in a saucepan with brown sugar. That mixture was transferred to the bowl of mixer and allowed to cool for about 10 minutes. Flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cardamom were combined. In a separate bowl, a ripe banana was mashed with yogurt. Next, granulated sugar was added to the bowl of the mixer and mixed followed by the addition of an egg and vanilla. The banana-yogurt mixture was added, and then the dry ingredients were stirred into the batter. Chopped salted peanuts were folded in before pouring the batter into a buttered and floured eight-inch square pan. The pan went into the oven for twenty-two minutes or so. For a chocolate topping, finely chopped chocolate was to be sprinkled over the baked bars as soon as the pan came out of the oven. Then, the pan was to go back into the warm but turned-off oven for a few minutes to melt. I must not have chopped the chocolate finely enough because mine didn’t melt well enough to spread even after several minutes. The chocolate seemed to seize up and not want to move. I ended up scraping off the unmelted chocolate and starting over. I melted chocolate by itself in a bowl in the microwave and then poured it over the bars. More chopped salted peanuts were sprinkled on top, and the bars were left to cool until the chocolate set. 

Despite the small issue with the chocolate topping, I still really liked these bars. Banana, peanuts, and chocolate make a great combination. Now, I have a decision to make. What should I try next, the Snowy-Topped Brownie Drops or the White Chocolate Poppy Seed cookies? 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sunday Tomato Eggs

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Marcus Samuelsson in person on two different occasions. I first met him at a cooking class at Central Market back in 2012, and the following year, he participated in a Brooklyn Brewery event benefiting Slow Food Austin that was held at Springdale Farm. Obviously, I’m a fan, and I couldn’t wait to have a look at his newest book, The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem, of which I received a review copy. Of course, the book is full of recipes for the great food that’s served at the restaurant, but it’s also full of stories about Harlem where the restaurant is located. The stories cover past and present and make evident Samuelsson’s respect and affection for this community. The recipes begin with cocktails and bar snacks. Right away, I started mixing up a Rum Rum Punch. It’s made with coconut water, pineapple juice, lime juice, white rum, and Goslings Black Seal rum, and it did not disappoint. I only wish I’d had some of the Cauliflower Frites with Green Mayonnaise or Fish Croquettes to go with it. The dishes in this book include American classics, a few from Ethiopian cuisine, some inspired by the cultures present in Harlem, and some more modern chef creations. So, you’ll find Fried Yardbird, Corn Bread, Beef Kitfo with Awase, Pescado Wrapped in Banana Leaves with Green Sauce, Curried Goat Stew, and Lacquered Halibut with Charred Eggplant and Spinach. Some are more complicated than others, but they all offer great flavor combinations and, in some cases, interesting hits of spice. I was ready to make the Peas and Rice that involves cooking the rice in coconut milk with tomatoes and then make the Red Rooster Hot Sauce to drizzle on top until I turned a few more pages and saw the Sunday Tomato Eggs dish. And, I did make it for Sunday brunch. 

Let me start by saying that this dish was to be made with Mexican pork chorizo, but I used soy chorizo instead. The first step was to cook the chorizo with onion, celery, and garlic. Next, canned tomatoes were added along with capers, chopped Kalamata olives, a minced chipotle in adobo, and some water. The mixture was left to simmer for a few minutes before freshly grated horseradish was added. Eggs were then cracked directly into the mixture and cooked until set. Meanwhile, some sourdough bread was toasted to serve on the side. Just before serving, basil was added on top.

This dish was a lot like shakshuka, but here there were spicy, bloody mary flavors along for the ride. For a brief moment, I wondered if it was all too much with the chorizo, celery, chipotle, and horseradish, but it definitely was not. The flavors meld nicely and make an exciting surround for the eggs. Here’s how I know the dish was fantastic: there was supposed to have been a piece of burrata with each serving. I love burrata. I bought the burrata just for this dish. Then, I completely forgot about it. I plated the dish, took photos, ate it happily, and only later realized I had forgotten the burrata. If it was good enough that I didn’t even realize it was missing the burrata, then it was very, very good. Read this book to learn about Harlem, the Red Rooster, and to cook some good food. 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pureed Plantain Soup with Crispy Shallots

Have you booked a trip to Cuba? Are you intrigued to visit now that it’s become just slightly easier to do so? I’d love to see everything before any major real estate development takes place, but I don’t have a trip planned at this point. In the meantime, I’ve been reading a review copy I received of the new book Cuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen. I’m fascinated with the fincas, or farms, where land that’s less than ideal for growing food is being slowly turned into productive areas with traditional, earth-friendly techniques. Soil is being revived with crops that return nutrients to the ground, and only natural fertilizers are used. The stories in the book are based on just a few visits to Cuba by the authors. The recipes cover Cuban basics, snacks, sandwiches, stews, meat dishes, seafood, sweets, and drinks. There are a few that I wasn’t sure are entirely authentic, classic, Cuban dishes like the Caribbean Black Bean Burger and the Mojito Cake. I did love seeing the Jibarito, though, and I can’t wait to make that again soon. I always seem to be drawn to recipes with plantains. This time, the Pureed Plantain Soup got my attention because it’s a texture I’d never tried with plantains. 

I love making pureed soups due to the ease of chopping the vegetables roughly since perfect size and shape doesn’t matter as much. The soup was started by sweating chopped onion and garlic. Green plantains were peeled and chopped into large chunks and added along with chicken stock. The soup simmered for about thirty minutes or so until the plantains were very tender. Then, it was ladled into the blender in batches to be pureed. After pureeing, it was returned to the stock pot to rewarm, and lime juice was added. While the soup was cooking, shallots were thinly sliced, dredged in cornstarch, and slowly fried in olive oil. The real trick to frying shallots is to take plenty of time and fry over low heat. You can watch the slices and decide how dark you want them to brown. When ready, the shallots were drained on a paper towel-lined sheet pan and seasoned with salt. The soup was served with a generous portion of crispy shallots on top. 

There was no warning in the book, but this soup thickens considerably once it cools. It occurred to me that it was actually a bit like polenta. I added water and whisked to combine to reheat it after refrigerating. But, I thought I might make this again and treat it intentionally more like polenta by letting it become thick. The mild flavor of pureed plantain with the onion, garlic, and lime would be great as a backdrop to a mix of spicy seafood. 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 
Blogging tips