Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spicy Cabbage and Noodle Stir Fry

Yes, it’s time for cookies. But until I can carve out some time (and get some decent photographs), I’ll have to talk about other things I’m eating. There have been some more really good muffins that I’ll post later, and I hope to dive into the butter-and-sugar food group for some more treats before January brings austerity calorie legislation, but a particular stir fry supper is worth spending some time on right now.

Of course, stir fry is just about right for busy nights, and there have been a few of those around here lately, but the real reason I like to make one this time of year is to star in a dinner-and-a movie night with A Christmas Story. You can eat anything you want – candy, cookies, turkey or ham or prime rib dinners – with any other Christmas movie, but you’ve got to have Chinese food with A Christmas Story!

This satisfying vegetable-based dish is quick and easy, especially if you have a food processor to shred the vegetables. I like to use the slicing blade on my Cuisinart to shred cabbage and the shredding blade for the carrots. I kept this pretty simple and used what I happened to have on hand. You could use or add other vegetables, such as bok choi or daikon radishes or scallions, but I really recommend starting with a good quantity of cabbage.

The sauce for this stir fry is spicy, and I love it that way. I used Sriracha for the bulk of the zing, with some Thai sweet chile sauce (which I adore). All those need to carry them in sauce form is some soy sauce (I used tamari) and an acid (I loved lime juice here). The combination of this spicy sauce with cabbage cooked over high heat and noodles is almost addictive, leading you to munch more and more and more, leaving no room for cookies, cocoa, or eggnog. Proceed with caution.

I added some beaten eggs to this dish for some protein. You could add some cooked chicken, beef, shrimp, pork or if you want it vegan, use tofu, seitan or finely chopped peanuts or cashews. I suppose you could even serve the cooked vegetables over rice instead of tossed with noodles. I really loved the way this whole dish came together, though. I liked this so much, in fact, that I may be watching A Christmas Story several times this year, just to have more excuses to make it!

Spicy Cabbage and Noodle Stir Fry
I cooked the scrambled eggs in the same wok as everything else here, but you could cook the eggs in another pan and add them to the pan just before the sauce.

¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Sriracha or other hot chile sauce
2 tablespoon Thai sweet chile sauce
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ medium green cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
2 celery stalk, thinly sliced
3 large eggs, beaten
8 ounces cooked fettuccine noodles or wide rice noodles

1. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, Sriracha, and sweet chile sauce. Stir to combine. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet. When very hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring constantly until softened and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir 30 seconds.

3. Add the cabbage, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the cabbage is wilted and tender-crisp.

4. Push the vegetables to one side of the wok, leaving a space to cook the eggs directly on the pan surface. Add the eggs. Cook eggs, stirring frequently, until soft curds form (like scrambled eggs). Mix the cooked eggs in with the vegetables.

5. Add the noodles and mix in with the vegetables (a pair of tongs works well for this). Pour in the soy sauce mixture and stir to coat. Remove from the heat and serve.

Makes about 4 servings.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yeasted Belgian Waffles

Pardon my phrasing, but what the hell happened to November?!? I mean, I’m planning pumpkin and root vegetable recipes, and I turn around and it’s gone! Now it’s time for December’s holiday treats and there’s nary a cookie in the house! What’s to be done?

Well, I could go on about the epic-ness of recent culinary shortfalls, but that’s not what these pages are for. Right now, these pages are for waffles. Fluffy yeasted Belgian waffles made from batter you can mix up the night before so breakfast can be produced without delay!

I got a Belgian waffle maker long enough ago that I don’t remember when it was, but then I had to sift through my hefty collection of mostly unorganized recipes to find the particular magazine clippings I had saved for years. These held a recipe for yeasted Belgian waffles, which sounded so interesting that I actually remembered them for, yes, literally years.

And these are good waffles. Just a basic flavored with a reasonably fluffy texture and a bit of yeasty aroma. The head notes printed with the original recipe insisted that the waffles would be sweet and therefore would not need to be served with maple syrup. Um, no. Not gonna happen. I simply reduced the sugar to make room in the sweetness palette for that oh-so-necessary syrup.

As tasty as these waffles are, however, I think their most appealing quality is their ability to be made ahead. The batter is mixed up the night before and the yeast allowed to work its magic in the refrigerator. If you have lots of time before breakfast or brunch, or if you want to serve Belgian waffles for supper, you can let the batter sit at room temperature for a couple of hours instead. For myself, I like to have things ready to go for a lazy weekend breakfast, perhaps as fuel for a day of holiday baking. Let’s just hope that has a chance of happening!

Overnight Yeasted Belgian Waffles
Adapted from Cooking Pleasures magazine

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup warm water (about 110 F), divided
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 ¼-ounce package)
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup warm milk (about 110 F)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, mix the warm water and yeast. Let stand 5-10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

4. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Add to the water-yeast mixture. Whisk in the melted butter. Whisk in the remaining water, and milk. Whisk in the sugar and beat until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

5. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until the mixture is smooth. Cover with a towel and refrigerate overnight (or let stand at room temperature until the batter doubles in size).

6. When ready to make waffles, preheat oven to 250 F to hold finished waffles and keep them warm. Preheat a Belgian-style waffle iron. Spray the heated iron with cooking spray. Pour about ½ cup batter onto the iron. Bake according to manufacturer’s instructions. Repeat with the remaining batter, keeping the finished waffles in the oven to keep them warm. Serve with butter and maple syrup (of course).

Makes 5-6 Belgian waffles.

Other recipes like this one: Orange Millet Waffles, Pumpkin Waffles

One year ago: Sweet Pumpkin Dip

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte Muffins

I know. Enough with the Pumpkin Spice Latte already. It’s sooooo mainstream.

Maybe the PSL is too trendy to be cool, but I no longer care! Just hear me out. There will be good muffins in the end.

Because, you see, I’m quite certain that pumpkin and the lovely blend of spices that compliments it so well made it into muffins together long before they made it into coffee together. If a hefty dose of espresso powder comes along for the ride, since, oh, I don’t know, people like coffee with their muffins and muffins with their coffee, I can’t be called a hack because I let it happen.

I suppose that’s open to debate, but these muffins are really delicious nonetheless. I won’t say they taste like a commercially available pumpkin spice latte beverage, because they aren’t quite as sweet. What they are, however, is a good blend of pumpkin, the dusty, nutty bitterness of espresso, and plenty of potent spice. I like this homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice blend, but use whatever you like or have time for. In fact, having only cinnamon in cupboard will get you satisfactory muffins.

It’s really not too late in the season to still enjoy the flavors of pumpkin and spices and coffee together. In fact, these muffins might be a great transitional treat as we head into winter (there’s snow on the ground as I’m typing this, so denial is out of the question), since their dark spiciness and slightly dense texture reminded me a bit of gingerbread. I plan on using whatever maneuvers I can to keep making and eating these. Even if it makes me look like I’m trying to be trendy.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Muffins

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup milk
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree, canned is good
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray the cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line them with paper liners.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat, or in the microwave if you prefer. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat just until the milk begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from the heat and whisk in the instant espresso. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Whisk together to combine well.

5. In another medium-size bowl, whisk the egg and the cooled melted butter together. Whisk in the milk mixture. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla, stirring until very smooth. Pour into the flour mixture and stir just until there are no dry spots in the batter.

6. Portion the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 F for about 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into a muffin comes out free of wet batter. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely (or until cool enough to eat, anyway.)

Makes 12 muffins

One year ago: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Archive Recipe: Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon

When my husband talks about the meals I’ve made for him, he usually emphasizes the bitter-sweet realization that even if something is really good, it could be months before he gets to enjoy it again, because I’m always moving on to something new. Since he’s such a satisfying person to cook for, I decided I was being unfair. Recently, I started trying to find ways to cook dishes he particularly likes more often. For example, last month, I cooked Peanutty Noodles once a week. Since I enjoy this dish as much as he does, this was really a win-win scenario.

Another thing I’m trying to do is go back over recipes that we tried and liked, but that I never seem to get around to making more often. Or, as in the case of this Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon, ever again. That’s right. I don’t think I ever made this tart again after posting the recipe here. Why? WHY!?! Only a full investigation would answer that question.

Well, I never really got an answer because after finally making this again, I still don’t know why! Okay, so making a pie crust takes some extra preparation time, and I’ve been cooking on the simpler side lately, but I’m not too proud to use store-bought pie crust. There is no excuse for not making this dish regularly. Sure it’s a little better with fresh corn, which has a fleeting season, but I freeze fresh corn in the summer, and the result is almost as good. No excuses! No excuses!

Yes, after all these years I still love this dish and really, really want to make it more often. The sweet corn contrasts nicely with the salty, smoky bacon and nutty Swiss cheese. There’s just the right proportion of egg, milk and cheese to for this to hold together in a nice wedge. I serve this as a main dish for supper, but, since we don’t wait longer than the next morning’s breakfast to devour the leftovers, I’m sure it’s equally suited to a morning meal.

If you wanted to make this vegetarian (or just don’t like bacon), you could leave it out and perhaps play with some other flavors. I think some roasted chile peppers would be nice, or even roasted red bell peppers, especially with some smoked paprika added. You could also use different cheeses. I’m thinking of trying cheddar, or a smoked cheese, say, cheddar, Gouda or mozzarella, if I make it without the bacon.

Of course, those ideas for variations imply the hope that I’ll be making this more often. Wish me luck!

Single Crust Pastry Dough
This recipe can be doubled to make two crusts. You will need just one for this tart.

You can replace the whole wheat flour with more all-purpose flour if you prefer.

This method uses a food processor to make pastry. You can make it by hand by cutting in the butter with a pastry blender or a fork.

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

1. Place the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and the salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.

2. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse several times or until the butter is cut up into small, flour-coated pieces.

3. Slowly add the cold water through the feed chute of the processor and process just until the dough begins to come together. Add more water if needed to make this happen.

4. Remove the dough from the processor and press together into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or until ready to use. Dough can also be frozen for even later use.

Makes pastry for a single-crust pie.

Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon
If you do not wish to make a homemade pastry, you can use a store-bought one to make this tart.

For more on blind-baking pie crusts, see this post.

You can begin preparing the tart filling while the crust is blind baking.

Prepared pastry for a single-crust pie, such as the recipe above
3 slices bacon
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
½ cup chopped green onions (scallions)
½ cup milk
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Swiss cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out the pastry dough into a circle about 12-inches in diameter. Carefully drape the pastry into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Gently press the crust to the sides of the pan.  Avoid stretching the crust, as that will cause it to shrink when it bakes. Trim the crust to the edges of the pan.

2. Prick the crust all over with a fork (don’t poke all the way through the crust to the pan).  Cover the crust with aluminum foil.  Place pie weights (or pebbles, dry beans, etc., anything that will hold the crust down) on top of the foil.  Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights.  Bake another 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

3. While the crust is blind baking, begin preparing the remaining ingredients. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan and drain.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat in the pan and discard the rest.

4.  Add the corn and green onions to the pan and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes.

5.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper until well-blended.  Add the corn mixture. Crumble the bacon and add to the corn and egg mixture.  Add the cheese and stir until well-blended.

6.  Pour the filling mixture into the baked tart shell.  Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until set.  Remove the outer ring from the pan. (Use something like an inverted bowl as a platform to hold the pan bottom while slipping off the ring.)  Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 side dish or 4 main dish servings.  Leftovers can be reheated, and while the crust isn’t as crisp, it’s still good!

One year ago: Pumpkin Waffles

Monday, November 3, 2014

Savory Pumpkin Focaccia

I blame the apples. They’re supposed to keep the doctor away, but this year, the apple recipes I got excited about also kept the pumpkin recipes away. I must admit, I have no regrets. And I also must admit that I could happily continue on with apple recipes for another month or so. I do miss my friends the pumpkins (and other winter squash), however, and so it’s time to visit them again.

I also missed this savory pumpkin bread that I used to make every year, but have somehow neglected for quite some time. I did base a Sweet Pumpkin Focaccia on the savory version that I got from Cooking Light magazine, and told you about that, but where, oh where, has my savory bread gone? Since the days have become good ones for enjoying hot soup, and this bread helps make a meal out of those soups, it’s time to bring it out again.

This recipe makes two flat, round loaves of soft, fluffy bread flavored with pumpkin that has been spiced with just a pinch of nutmeg and kept savory with some Swiss cheese (you could use something fancier like Gruyere if you like) and chopped walnuts. Some of that cheese and those nuts are also sprinkled on the top of each loaf to give it a slight pizza-like appearance. It’s all quite delicious. Okay, really delicious. I love this stuff.

I made this bread in a stand mixer using the dough hook to knead, which I recommend since the pumpkin in the dough makes it very wet and sticky. This doesn’t mean you can’t knead it by hand, but be warned about that stickiness. I like this made into two round loaves, since I usually wrap and freeze one immediately, but I think you could stretch and press the dough into a large baking sheet like I did with the Sweet Pumpkin Focaccia (so many years ago!)

Of course, you could leave out the walnuts or try a different cheese or add some herbs or spices, and I suppose I’ll get around to trying such things someday. Until then, I’m still enjoying this bread as I’ve presented it here, which is pretty close to the original (I added more cheese and walnuts). And this, along with recipes for some delicious-looking pumpkin-laced sweets, should keep me in a pumpkin state of mind for a couple months to come.

Pumpkin Focaccia with Walnuts and Swiss
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, October 2005

I use a heavy-duty stand mixer to mix and knead bread dough, but you could mix and knead by hand. If kneading by hand, be sure to flour your kneading surface well, since this dough is quite sticky.

¾ cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast (1 envelope)
3 ½ cups bread flour, divided
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is good)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Swiss (or even Gruyere) cheese, divided
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, divided

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (or another large bowl) combine the water, brown sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

2. Add 1 cup of the flour and the butter to the yeast mixture. Stir with the paddle attachment (or with a spoon if working by hand) to make a wet batter. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand 15-30 minutes. (30 minutes is great, but 15 will do.)

3. Add the pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg. Stir on low speed with the paddle attachment until well combined. Add 2 ¼ cups of the flour and ½ cup grated Swiss cheese. Stir on low speed until a soft dough forms.

4. Switch to the dough hook attachment for the mixer (or turn the dough out on a well-floured surface if kneading by hand). Knead about 10 minutes, gradually adding the remaining flour. Knead in ½ cup walnuts. The dough will still be quite sticky, but you should still be able to handle and shape it.

5. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or grease it as desired. Shape the dough as well as you can into a rough ball. Place the dough in the greased bowl. Spray or grease the top of the dough. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let stand about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

6. Preheat oven to 400 F. Gently deflate the risen dough and shape into 2 equal balls. Let stand about 5 minutes. Spray or grease a large baking sheet (you may need 2 baking sheets if yours isn’t large enough for 2 loaves) or line it with a silicone baking mat. Stretch each dough ball to shape into a circle about 8-10 inches in diameter. Place the dough circles on the prepared baking sheet.

7. Sprinkle half the remaining cheese and remaining walnuts on top of each dough circle. Press gently into the dough. Cover with a towel and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).

8. Uncover and bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until the loaves are brown on the bottom. Shield the loaves with foil about halfway through baking to prevent over-browning on top if necessary. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Cut into wedges to serve.

Makes 2 round, flat loaves; 8 servings each

Other recipes like this one: Sweet Pumpkin Focaccia, Walnut Buttermilk Bread