Monday, September 27, 2010

Steak Chimichurri

This post originally started.... the weather has FINALLY cooled around here, but the little icon in the corner of my screen says it will be 90 AGAIN today! (Well it did it will be 60 today... Fall arrived sometime between when I wrote this post and today).  Will someone please hand mother nature her medication and can we move on?  Maybe it's the heat, or the hormones, or the sore back, but as I scrolled through my favorite food blogs today I found myself wanting to delete all the links with perfectly staged photos of gorgeous food, with intricate topped minature tarts, and perfectly lit baked goods against sickenly cute antique spoons and linens.  Normally I adore those shot and aspired to some day have the time, energy, and talent to do such things.  However, today, and at this stage in my life it is not happening... and I'm fairly certain it's not happening tomorrow, or next week, or anytime in the next few years to be honest. It is time to accept that the choices I have made to expand our family with little munchkins, to allow little furry children to roam around with the human children, to go back to school yet again while working, and to do all of this thousands of miles from all family means.... I will not be a sophisticated blogger anytime soon.  And I've come to the realization that I don't really care, it's who I am at the moment.  I blog for my friends to show them that they can cook simple easy stuff for their families without stressing, and that is not going to come through with perfect lines of macaroons, and other such things.  The times when I get the most feedback/texts/and emails saying... I am making your (insert food here) today.  Are the times when I make stuff that can be thrown together and is not scary or daunting in the slightest.  The times when people look at the recipe and think... I can do that.

So today I am in love with the new bloggers out there, that don't have fancy cameras, or tricks up their sleeves.  The ones that squeeze in a dish between walking their dog, having tea parties with their children, or working the two jobs required to pay off their over-inflated school loans.  My favorites today are the off-centered photos with the off-set colors because not only do they not know how to use photoshop, they don't own it!  Bloggers that don't have 3 days to make 100 bite-sized tartletts for a friend's baby shower, or their own cookbooks... people who just want to eat something that tastes good and doesn't come wrapped in a wax coated piece of paper.  People that want to feed their families, clean up after dinner, and still have time to read Where the Wild Things Are for the 50th night in a row because they love to hear their 2 year old jump out of bed, and tell the wild Wild Things... BE STILL... complete with minature stomp and stop in the name of love pose.  People like me really.  And so if you are in an exhausted funk, and it's the end of the season where you live and you want to clear out your herb garden, make a good dinner, and have time for family and friends..... I give you.... the fastest meal this side of the SUMMER CONSTRUCTION HELL.  Ta Daaaaaaa.

Throw it all in a food processor or blender...... and it doesn't even require the cooperation of one evil oven, if you should have an oven that a) never works properly under the best conditions and b) has given up the ghost once and for all as you refuse to spend another dollar fixing something you despise!

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Adapted from Gourmet


1 1/2 pounds trimmed flank steak
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large garlic clove
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne


Preheat broiler. (or grill if you're oven has died like mine)

Pat steak dry. Stir together 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper in a small bowl and rub mixture onto both sides of steak. Broil steak on a broiler pan about 4 inches from heat 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, with motor running, add garlic to a food processor and finely chop. Add cilantro, parsley, vinegar, oil, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, then pulse until herbs are finely chopped.

Holding a knife at a 45-degree angle, thinly slice steak. Serve with sauce.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fried Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers

Oh they aren't pretty but they are delicious!  I don't think qualifies as a health food of any sort with all the oil kicking around and the deep frying and all, but it is a way to eat a serious serving of brussel sprouts and want more.  I saw this dish on Foodnetwork's The Best Thing I Ever Ate and was excited to see it was actually posted.  Everyone seemed to love it so I figured why not, there are only so many steamed boring veggies you can eat without getting really bored.  These were amazing!  I made them ahead of time and left them in the bowl on top of the vinaigrette and tossed it before we were ready to eat.  I think next time I would keep them separate so I could whisk the dressing one last time before serving, it separated out a little but was still fantastic.  I will cut back on the oil in the vinaigrette next time, probably quite a bit.

And seriously, when's the last time you saw leftover bread and meat but a bowl of vegetables look like this?

Fried Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers
adapted from Michael Simon (Lolita)


*Canola oil, for deep-frying
1 clove garlic, minced
4 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed, filleted and minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
2 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Pour enough oil into a medium pot so that the oil comes 3 inches up the sides. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

While the oil is heating, whisk together the garlic, anchovies, serrano, red wine vinegar, honey, scallions, walnuts and extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl large enough to toss all of the Brussels sprouts. Keep the bowl near the stovetop.

Working in batches, deep-fry the Brussels sprouts until the edges begin to curl and brown, about 3 minutes. To the last batch, add the parsley and capers (stand back-the capers will pop and sputter!). Give the contents of the pot a stir. When the color of the parsley becomes a deeper, more saturated shade of green, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, remove the contents of the pot with a skimmer and place directly in the bowl of dressing. Toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*I saw on one of the reviews (after I made it) that Michael Simon actually uses peanut oil, but I used the canola and it was great

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Salted-Caramel Squares

There is just something about salty and sweet.  This is nothing new.  It is why there are so many salted dessert combos, it is why people dip their french fries into their milkshakes (eww), it is why I had to, had to, had to make these.  Now this is a first run, and it was not perfect.  In fact it was as far from perfect as it possibly could be and still have a final product that was edible.  However, they tasted fantastic and I have every confidence that next time they will have the golden caramel color they should rightfully be displaying... being a salted-caramel square and all.

So what could go wrong with a baked good you ask?  Ohhhh my friend, is this your first time here?  Baked goods and I are not friends.  We are even less friendly now that we have a mortal enemy... OUR OVEN.  However, this time I cannot blame the oven as much as I really want to.  It's always easier to blame someone or something else isn't it.  Unfortunately, the mistake is all mine.  I am always trying to squeeze my kitchen experiments in between other activities so I am usually distracted and or tired, and this time was no different.  I read the measurement wrong, I'm not even sure what my problem was as what I read isn't even in the recipe.  Maybe I am dsylexic as well... it's not the first time I've wondered. So instead of 2 1/4 cups of sugar for the caramel, I put in 3/4 of a cup.  I have no idea, don't ask.  Anyway.... it looked a little something like this.....

Having never attempted caramel from scratch I didn't know any better.  I happily let the sugar water mixture bubble away it ignorant bliss.

Around this time I started thinking... this is not what caramel looks like on TV.  No, no it's not... because what I was making was basically rock candy as the water started to evaporate, which gave me an idea for another thing to make.  I LURVED rock candy as a kid.  Anway... bubble away it did.  Seven minutes came and went and I kept looking into my pan thinking... this is no where near a dark amber color... in fact this is pure white/clear and is starting to crystalize... hmmmm.... oh well.  Then I added it to the cream, vanilla bean mixture....

Surprisingly adding white to white did not produce amber... hmmm funny how that works.  I then dutifully waited for the bubbles to subside waiting for the colormetric miracle to kick in and turn my caramel... well ...caramel.  While toying with a new name for the recipe... albino caramel?  Milk caramel... bah.

I added the butter and looked again... a little more yellowy but still not caramel.  This is right around the time I started visualizing all the caramels I see made on food network... let me tell you... they are caramel in color NOT WHITE.  What is going on in the kitchen nightmare?  That is when I started reviewing the recipe and saw my error.... take hand smack forehead.... insult the caramel's mother, and try not to cry (I told you I was tired).  Think, think.... can carmel be saved some how?  Should I start over... that's when I did a little tally of the price of vanilla bean and heavy cream already in mixture.... not really an option to start over.  What if I cook the dickens out of this sloppy creamy milk will it turn into something resembling caramel?  Certainly not without more sugar.  Do a small bit of math and figure out how much sugar is missing... throw that back into a pot... now we already added the entire amount of water, but then again we cooked it to death so let's try another 1/8 of cup.... heat, stir, stir, stir... remember you are not suppose to stir... watch as it turns into this....

This also does not look anything like caramel... keep stirring... okay it's just solidifying... add a little more water... AHA!

Not perfect but way better than figures 1 and 2 don't you think?  Cook, cook, bubble, and boil.... that's as dark as it's getting sister.  Dump the two pans of "caramel" together and pray for a kitchen miracle.

Now, the caramel never got any darker, and it supposedly never reached 240 either, but by some miracle it did solidfy, and it did taste really great!  Really, really great.  Make these.  And share them... it makes a large batch.  I couldn't find my large pan so I had two small ones, and one would have been enough, and I still brought in half to work and shared with everyone.... and now I still have a pan at home.  Oh how will I make it through with the abundance of salty-sweet goodness?  I will just have to manage.... and I will have to try to make caramel again this weekend, and next weekend, and the weekend after that need be until I get it right!

Salted-Caramel Squares

Adapted from Food and Wine


Pastry Shell
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg white, beaten

2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer at low speed, cream the butter. Beat in the confectioners' sugar. Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the flour and salt. Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, 1/4 inch thick. Freeze until firm, 10 minutes.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 35 minutes, until just set. Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment. Brush the shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through. Let cool.

In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Cover; keep warm.

In a large, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into 1/4 cup of water. Simmer over moderate heat, without stirring, until a deep amber caramel forms, 7 minutes.

Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream. When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter. Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240°, 10 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt. Pour the caramel over the shell. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight; bring to room temperature. Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang; cut into squares.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nigella's Damp Lemon-Almond Cake

Sometimes a recipe does not always turn out the first time you make it but you had such high hopes that you must try it again.  I made this for dessert for my husband's birthday LAST YEAR.  However, the copy of the recipe I had said.... 1 1/3 cup ground almonds, so I threw some almonds into a food processor and went to town.  What we ended up with was a) gritty from the almonds, and b) dry as all get out because we have the demon oven!  Seriously hate that thing, probably part of why I do not bake often.  I really want to try to make macaroons but I know it is truly hopeless in that miracle midget that we were told is an oven.

I was disappointed enough that it took me over a year to try it again, but it kept coming to mind.  I thought maybe if I swapped out almond flour for the ground almonds it might work.  I ordered the almond flour (I'm not kidding when I say you can't find anything in this town), and then had to google the recipe because I lost my copy.  The copy I found this time said 1 1/3 cup ground almonds or almond flour, yeah thanks for that.

I don't have any prep pictures because I didn't know if would come out and when it was done and I popped the springform pan it was so horribly flat I thought it would probably be dried out again.  Well it wasn't because I now know not to trust the oven.  And with the quick flick of my wrist and a measuring tape I realize that it was flat because my springform pan is 10-inches not 8.  Oops... I think this has been a dessert downfall more than once...must remedy that problem, but if you can see how moist this is from the picture I'm sure you'll understand that no one complained about it being a little flat, they just cut a second slice.

Nigella’s Damp Lemon and Almond Cake
adapted from Nigella Lawson


1 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup cake and pastry flour
1 1/3 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
Zest and juice of two lemons


Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom of one 8” (or four 4”) springform pans with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick baking spray

Cream together the butter and the sugar until almost white. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition. When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then the almond extract, lemon zest and juice. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes-you may have to cover the cake loosely with foil after 30 minutes so the tops won’t burn (4” springform pans 35 minutes)

The cake is ready when the top is firma dn skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. Don’t overbake thecake or it won’t be damp.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes in the pan; then turn out onto a wire rack and leave till cool.

Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

PS... I masked the disaster last year by throwing fresh strawberries, raspberries, and black berries into a sauce pan with some amaretto, balsamic vinegar, a splash of orange juice, and a tablespoon of sugar and just stirred it until it turned into a sauce.  Then loaded it over pieces of the cake and topped with fresh berries.... while there was no need to do that this time I think I may have to try that again next time because it was really, really great!