Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheddar Jalapeno Scones

I made these Jalapeno Cheddar Scones a while ago to accompany this black bean soup. The recipe, which I adapted from this one at smitten kitchen, made enough to accompany the leftover soup as well, so I was happily eating this delicious combo for a few days. I wish I had saved some scones, or at least saved some cheddar cheese (I still have plenty of jalapenos from my garden) so I could have tasted and/or made them again before writing this. It’s not that I forgot how good they are in the meantime. It’s just that the nostalgia is almost painful. I want some more.

As a basic scone recipe this one is very nice, with a good ratio of butterfat to flour that makes an almost flaky scone that goes a little past biscuit texture. To me, that’s how a scone should be (although I’d probably be content to eat them even if they miss this mark.) The diced jalapeno chiles and tiny cubes of cheddar cheese are fabulous additions that bump up the flavor and in the case of the cheese, bump up the richness and, well, the butterfat, too.

Some of that cheese couldn’t help but leak out of the scones and onto the pan as they baked. I decided to take this as a gift. A gift of crispy, toasty sharp cheddar bits reminiscent of Parmesan fricos. Plenty of cheese stayed right where I put it inside the scone to make little, slightly gooey sharp cheddar-y pockets. Even though I used two whole jalapeno chiles, their spiciness did not overwhelm the scones. The cheese is still kind of the main event with the chile pepper taste as a background flavor.

I didn’t really change this recipe much from the original, except to add a bit of stone-ground cornmeal. I liked the addition of that flavor along with the chiles and I liked the added grainy, slightly crunchy texture as well. These are really a winner, and I think I might be making these scones instead of cornbread to go alongside bowls of chili or stew. Of course, that would mean getting out to get some more cheddar cheese. While the rain and gloom of the very day that I’m writing this make it a perfect day for a warming stew with a savory scone accompaniment, those same characteristics make it a day unfit for going out to acquire cheddar. Some days, you just can’t win!

Cheddar Jalapeno Scones
Adapted from this recipe at smitten kitchen

I made these scones into 8 large triangles. You could cut them smaller or cut them with a biscuit cutter to make them round.

Since scones quickly lose their prime texture, I recommend freezing any leftover scones as soon as you can. Defrost in the microwave to enjoy the leftovers.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, divided
½ cup heavy cream
2 eggs
¼ pound sharp cheddar cheese, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the diced jalapenos and cook, stirring often until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Place the cheddar in a small bowl. Add the cooled chiles and about 1 tablespoon flour. Toss to coat. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the remaining flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add the remaining butter pieces and cut in with a pastry blender, or with a knife or fork, or rub it in with your fingers until the butter is all coated with flour in pea-size pieces. Stir in the cheese and chiles.

4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the cream until well-combined. Add to the flour mixture and gently mix together to form a rough, crumbly dough. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently knead until it all comes together.

5. Shape the dough into a disk about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 triangles. Arrange the triangles on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bake at 400 F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or just cooled.

Makes 8 fairly large scones.

Another recipe like this one: Spinach and Feta Scones withDill

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Simple Black Bean Soup

A pot of chili is pretty easy to whip together and goes a long way toward enhancing a fall sports tailgating experience or warming up a dreary fall evening. I hate to admit this, but lately, even a pot of chili seems like a lot of work. It’s really quite shameful.

And so I returned to this old soup recipe that I think I had clipped from a box of Saltine crackers many years ago. Like maybe 15 years ago. Seriously. I no longer seem to have the original clipping, but the soup still tastes as good as I remember it. And it’s really very simple to make for all its heartiness and good flavor. Once you chop and sautĂ© and onion and some garlic, the rest is pretty much just pouring beans, broth and salsa out of cans and jars, running a blender for a few seconds, and waiting around for the soup to cook.

I did cook dried black beans for this soup, but you could certainly use the more convenient canned beans, too. I’m sure that’s what I used to do when this was one of the few recipes I had been brave enough to tackle. I just happened to have the dried beans this time. I also still happen to have fresh chile peppers from my garden, but you could use crushed red pepper flakes to spice up your soup is that’s more convenient.

Of course, you can control the spiciness as much as you want by selecting the salsa to match your tastes. I used a simple tomato and pepper bottled salsa that was labeled "medium" in heat. You could make it super-spicy with "hot" salsa or mild or fruity or whatever. You could also make this a vegetarian, or even vegan soup by replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth or water.
This recipe is my go-to black bean soup, partly because it is so delicious, but also because it requires very little effort. There is no shortage of black bean soup recipes out there, however, and you can pick and choose from among the ingredients in as many of them as you want to make your own custom concoction. Just don’t neglect the recipes on all those ingredient packages. They, like this one, just might be pretty darn good.

Black Bean Soup with Salsa
Adapted from a recipe on a box of crackers (I think)

I used reduced-sodium chicken broth and home-cooked black beans to make this soup. If you are using other products that might contain more salt, you may wish to reduce the added salt in the recipe. Taste for salt at the end and add more if needed.

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 small to medium fresh chile pepper, minced
4 ½ cups, or about 3 (16 ounce) cans, black beans, drained
2 cups chicken broth (I used low sodium)
3 cups prepared salsa
2 Tbs lime juice 

1. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and chile pepper. Cook and stir about 1 minute more.

2. Meanwhile, place about half the beans and 1 cup chicken broth in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into the cooked onion mixture. Stir in remaining beans, salsa and remaining chicken broth.

3. Bring to a low boil and simmer about 30 minutes or until everything is very tender. Stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add salt if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings. This soup freezes well.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake

I’ve been making this cake for a couple of years. It’s really quite simple and very delicious, but I never got a photo of it, so I didn’t share it here. As it turns out, photos of this Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake do not do it justice. It mostly looks humble and, well, brown. The proof of this cake is definitely in the tasting. Well, the fact that it’s very easy to make does a lot to recommend it, too.

Since I like to have this for breakfast, I usually prepare as much of the recipe ahead of time as I can. I stir together the dry ingredients, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature. I melt the butter, whisk it well with the egg, add the vanilla and store the mixture in the refrigerator. I prepare the streusel topping and keep that in the refrigerator as well. Then, when morning comes and I get myself geared up for cake-baking, I just have to peel and chop the apple, combine the wet and dry ingredients, stir in the apple, pour the batter into a greased baking dish and top it with the streusel while the oven is preheating.

Once the cake is baked, we eat it warm. It’s deliciously spiced and studded with apple and has a slightly grainy added flavor from the addition of some whole wheat pastry flour. The streusel kind of melts into the top of the cake to form a layer that’s not quite a glaze but is heading in that direction rather than resembling a crumb topping.

This cake is flavorful and comforting right out of the oven on a cold fall weekend morning. And it’s probably best that I tend to eat it first thing in the morning, because then I can balance the inevitable second (or third) piece by taking it a little easier the rest of the day. This coffeecake is also very good for a few days after it is baked, as long as you remember to refrain from eating all of it right away. A quick blast in the microwave restores its warm-cake mind powers. And you know warm cake, especially when it features fresh fall apples and cinnamon, has mind powers. Consume at your own risk.


Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake
Adapted from CookingLight magazine.

for the streusel topping
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces
for the cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup diced peeled apple

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  To make the streusel topping, combine the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl.  Whisk together to combine.  Add the cold butter pieces and work into the flour mixture with a fork or your hands until the butter is evenly distributed in small, crumbly pieces.  Set aside.  (Cover and refrigerate if making ahead.)

2. Combine 1 cup flour, whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and salt in a medium-size bowl.  Whisk or sift to combine.  Set aside.  (Cover and store at room temperature if making ahead.)

3.  In another medium-size bowl beat the egg with a whisk.  Whisk in the melted butter.  Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract.  (Cover and refrigerate if making ahead.)

4. (Preheat oven to 350 F and peel and chop the apple before proceeding if the other ingredients have been prepared ahead.)  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until almost combined, but a few dry spots remain.  Stir in the apple.

5.  Grease an 8-inch square baking dish or spray it with cooking spray.   Pour the batter into the dish and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the top of the batter.

6.  Bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes or until a wooden pick (or other cake-tester) inserted in the center comes out free of wet batter.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Serve warm from the pan.  Cover leftovers, which will keep for a few days.  Rewarm in the microwave.

Makes 9 servings.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese with Poblano Chiles

I have no memory of ever eating baked, crumb-topped macaroni and cheese as a child. My experience seems to have been limited entirely to the stuff in the blue box. It was one of the first things I learned to make (along with condensed canned soup), but I never got past that. In fact, I can’t even directly trace how I ever learned to make mac and cheese from scratch at all.

I haven’t posted any straight-up mac and cheese recipes on The Messy Apron. (This recipe could be considered a variation with extra stuff in it.) Probably the biggest reason is that I usually don’t measure the ingredients. I typically just boil up about half a box of noodles, make a roux with roughly equal amounts of butter and flour, turn it into a bĂ©chamel sauce by adding, I don’t know, some milk, and turning that into cheese sauce by melting in a few big handfuls of cheese. Sometimes I stir the sauce into the noodles and eat it right away. Sometimes I spoon it into a casserole dish, top it with buttered breadcrumbs and bake it.

This time, I did the latter, but I also added roasted poblano chile peppers and a good dose of smoked paprika. Oh, and I also measured the ingredients so I could tell you about my macaroni and cheese in recipe form.

Not too long ago (in this post and this post), I was substituting for poblanos with a combination of bell pepper and hot chiles, largely to avoid somewhat inconvenient extra shopping trips. Well, while I was picking up my must-have apples and squash, I grabbed some poblanos that happened to be at the same market so I could put exactly that ingredient in my cheesy noodles. Poblano chiles kind of look like extra dark green, extra skinny bell peppers, but they’re actually pretty spicy (although less spicy than little chiles). These were a bit past their prime by the time I photographed them. If you’re picking out fresh ones to buy, you probably could do better than these wrinkly-skinned ones, though they were just fine to eat.

I loved the slightly spicy addition to my macaroni and cheese. Just as much, I loved the chile flavor beyond its spice and the smokiness added by roasting the peppers and by the smoked paprika. You wouldn’t have to add these extras to make good mac and cheese. (This is not a particularly creamy, gooey version, though it is quite cheesy. Add milk to the sauce to make it creamier.)  You could also simply add the roasted chiles and/or smoked paprika to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. Especially if you like the idea of those flavors and are an expert at your own style of the dish…and don’t want to be so formal as to measure anything.


Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Poblanos and Smoked Paprika
I used the broiler to roast my chiles, but you could also use a grill. There are more details on roasting peppers in this post. I highly recommend using rubber gloves to handle the chiles.

2 medium poblano chiles
8 ounces dry macaroni noodles
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
6 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese, about 2 firmly packed cups
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat)

1. Preheat broiler (or gas or charcoal grill). Place the chiles on a foil lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on a rack on the top position in the oven just under the broiler. (Or place the chiles directly on the grate of a grill.) Broil until the skin of the chiles is blackened and blistered all over. Turn the chiles to expose all sides to the heat. Remove from the oven and place in a medium-size bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand until cool enough to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Using rubber gloves to protect your hands from the peppers, peel the blackened skin from the chiles and discard. Remove the stem, core and seeds from the peppers and discard. Finely chop the remaining pepper flesh and set aside.

3. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until slightly firmer than you would eat it.  Drain and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Stir or whisk in the flour and cook, stirring frequently to keep the flour from forming lumps, for a minute or two.

5. Stir in the milk. Cook over medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently, scraping the bottom of the pan to keep the sauce from scorching, until the sauce boils. Boil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.

6. Stir in the cheese and smoked paprika. Place the cooked noodles in a large bowl (or, as I do, in the emptied pasta-cooking pot). Pour over the cheese sauce and stir to coat the noodles. Stir in the roasted chiles. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning if desired. (Actually, you could eat the macaroni and cheese at this point and you wouldn’t have to bake it with the breadcrumb topping if you don’t want to wait.)

7. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into a 2 quart baking dish. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and melted butter. Stir to coat the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese.

8. Bake at 375 F for about 20 minutes or until the topping is brown and crisp and the inside is bubbly throughout.

Makes about 6 servings. (4 if everyone’s hungry.)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cherry Tomato Clafouti

I’d really appreciate it if you’d allow me another summer vegetable recipe. Yes, it’s October and summer is over, but I really don’t want to be the one to break that news to my cherry tomato plants. The days are still long enough and warm enough for them to ripen, and they’re continuing to produce delicious, juicy, sweet jewels.

I’m pretty sure I cut and pasted this recipe from the blog Baking Bites two years ago. I try not to hold it against myself that I just got around to trying it now. Don’t be scared by its weird name. A clafouti is really just a cake-y custard, or perhaps a custardy cake. Traditionally, a clafouti is a dessert (like this one with cherries), but this is a savory version, and it’s just as delicious.

I used a 10-inch, well-seasoned cast iron skillet for this recipe, which worked marvelously, but you could use something else of similar size. The resulting savory clafouti turned out quite a bit like a frittata, but I must share this secret: this is even easier than frittata! And frittata is really pretty darn easy! The egg and flour mixture is not only simple to mix together, but seems to be quite forgiving in performance. It puffs up in the oven, then sinks a bit when it cools, but there’s enough flour and baking powder to keep it from flopping it into a mess of weeping eggs.

This savory custard-cake is well flavored with plenty of fresh basil and feta cheese and generously studded with pockets of slumped cherry tomatoes. Since I was using plenty of salty feta, I kept the additional salt quantity small. I think it could have used just a smidge more salt, but I left exactly what I did in the recipe below and recommend salting to your own taste. Of course, you could use a different kind of cheese as well, such as goat cheese or cottage cheese. Then you could adjust the salt accordingly, depending on how salty (or not) your cheese is.

I knew, more or less, what to expect from this kind of batter, but I was really pleasantly surprised by how good this dish tasted. I can’t believe I waited so long to try it. Who knows how many more ripe tomatoes I’ll have this season? But a few more handfuls will be a good excuse to make this again. The weather forecast indicates, however, that there may be too few days of good tomato-ripening weather left. I better start collecting green tomato recipes!


Savory Cherry Tomato Clafoutis
Adapted from the blog Baking Bites

The amount of added salt in this recipe is on the low side. You could add a pinch more if you find egg dishes to be bland.

about 30 small cherry tomatoes (I used Sungold variety)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 large eggs

1 cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
1/3 cup feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet. (You could probably use a cake or pie pan instead.) Arrange the cherry tomatoes evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk together to combine well. Whisk in the eggs and milk until smooth. (There should be no lumps of flour.) Stir in the basil and feta cheese.

3. Pour the flour and egg mixture over the cherry tomatoes in the pan. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 F. Continue baking 25-30 minutes more or until lightly browned. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 serving. Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated for a day or two.

Other recipes like this one: Cherry Clafouti (sweet), Zucchini Frittata with Tomatoes on Top, Potato and Bacon Frittata