Sunday, May 30, 2010

brown-butter chocolate chip cookies

So why am I showing you cookies in a paper bowl that are overexposed?

Because my camera is a point-and-shoot, and because I didn't have paper plates. Also, my husband and I are moving, and all of the dishes are packed. But I wanted to give my landlady some cookies! So there.

Anyways, they may look like innocuous chocolate chip cookies, but they have a secret. (also, I almost always manage to burn cookies, so they are a victory!)

The secret is brown butter. It makes these cookies nutty and taste slightly caramelized, and more interesting.

So... here is my recipe for them. It is inspired by the recipe on the back of the Nestle's Tollhouse chips bag, but I made plenty of changes.

Brown-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter (note: it has to be butter for this recipe, as margarine cannot be browned)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
12 oz dark chocolate chips (I actually used 6 oz, but 12 would have been ideal)

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter in a small saucepan. (If you have never done this, here is a tutorial)

Meanwhile, mix sugars and vanilla in a larger bowl. Once the butter has cooled slightly, whisk it into the sugars. Add the egg after the sugar/butter mixture has cooled even more, or you could poach your egg!

Gradually incorporate flour by whisking until smooth. Add chocolate chips, and then chill the dough for a half hour in the fridge.

Meanwhile, chill your baking sheet in the freezer, this helps keep the edges of the cookies from getting crisped.

preheat oven to 375 F

scoop walnut-sized balls onto the sheet. (if you are paranoid about burning like I am, you can chill the dough on the sheet for another 15 minutes)

Bake for 8-10 minutes.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More things to do with marzipan

Have extra marzipan from making cake with it? Make candy!

There is nothing like coming home after a long day of using sterile cell culture techniques and making a huge mess in your own kitchen.

Though it does strike me as funny that I cook in a lab coat (seriously, they are better than aprons) but don't use them in the lab.

So today I made about 3 dozen rolls, a pot of ice tea, truffles, and am about to make spaghetti.

I'll show you the dinner rolls in another post, but because they are really easy, I'll show you the marzipan truffle-things that I made.

Start by slicing the marzipan about a quarter to a third of an inch thick.

Meanwhile, melt some chocolate (didn't measure. Sorry). You can do that over a double boiler, or you can put it in the microwave for bursts of 25 seconds to avoid scorching it.

I recommend the microwave.

Please don't do what I did and try to add cream, it just made the whole thing seize up :( What a mess! But it's friggin' chocolate, so of course I didn't let it go to waste.

Okay. So they easy thing to do would have been to dip the marzipan slices into the melted chocolate using a fork, then let them cool on a cookie sheet.

I managed to get a couple of them dipped, as I had a few extra chocolate chips that i melted. They are the rectangular pieces in the photo below.

Also, dusting them with cocoa powder looks nice, but is optional.

The truffle-shaped ones were made by rolling the marzipan into a ball, then squishing the seized chocolate around the marzipan and rolling. It was very messy, and also very delicious. But I didn't take pictures because it takes two hands and does not look pretty.

So, if you don't try to add cold liquid to the melted chocolate, this is actually very easy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Almond cake and fruit compote

I know I promised you a tagine in my last post, but the busted water heater kitchen-leak also soaked the notes I took which had measured amounts of everything I did for that recipe *sigh*. I will try to figure out my amounts in the next couple weeks.

So as soon as we got the water-heater replaced, out car broke :( It was fixed pretty easily, but because of complications this week (read: soaked kitchen and walking due to a broken car) there has been a lot of eating-out this week.

But I did do one thing: I baked this almond cake. I think you should too, it was actually pretty easy and didn't take very long. And I feel justified in the fact that we ate this cake for dinner, because I walked to work (twice!) and to the store and mechanics on Friday. It evens out, really!

I followed the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog almost exactly, so go here for the recipe. The only difference besides my lack of the pretty almond decorations was that I added some vanilla extract.

It turned out beautifully!

The compote, which I made while the cake was baking, was totally made up on the spot. But I liked it.

So pretty much, cut up 3-4 strawberries, add a 1/3 cup of blueberries (mine were frozen) 1/3 cup of peaches (frozen as well) and heat over medium while stirring!

I also added a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of sugar, as well as a sprinkle of ginger.

After about 10 minutes of cooking, I mashed everything together. This is not the first time I have wished for an immersion blender.

But then I decided that I liked the compote better when a little chunky!

Make this cake, you will not be disappointed if you like almonds... or cake.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Couscous tutorial

I wanted to make something new to show you today. But aside from the fact that the kitchen was a mess anyway, we had a bit of excitement with a pipe that is leaking through the ceiling in the kitchen, which soaked a pile of my homework on the table, and won't be fixed until tomorrow. Yeah.

I'm just grateful that the only casualties to the water damage besides the ceiling was the homework.

So! Because of the aforementioned excitement, I'll post something I meant to put up a week ago anyway.

I am going to show y'all how to steam couscous, without a couscousierre (which is a fancy pot used to steam couscous simultaneously with vegetables or meat). If you do have one, use this tutorial. It is lovely and has pictures.

My husband informed me a long time ago that most Americans make this tasty pasta completely wrong. His family lived in Morocco for a couple years where couscous is a common meal, and traditionally it is steamed and buttered three times. I was always like "dude!" (I call a lot of people dude) "Boiling it is so much easier!" and he was like *sadface* And then I ate couscous in Morocco and am convinced that steaming is the way to go. Boiling yields an almost polenta-like mush, but steaming makes fluffy pasta.

So I won't claim that this is necessarily authentic, but I did base my instructions on directions that my mother-in-law told me, and the Man thought it tasted good. So there you go.

I used 1 cup of couscous, and it yielded enough to serve 2 by itself, or 3 or 4 when served with tagine.

Dry couscous.

This step is optional, but it seemed to help prevent clumping later. Add 1 tsp of olive oil/ cup of dry couscous.

Stir! Traditionally you use your hands, but I used a rice paddle. It worked just fine.

Add a 1/4 cup of water/ cup of dry couscous...

And stir! It has already fluffed up quite a bit, and this will help the steam penetrate in the next step.

In the meantime, boil a few inches of water in a saucepan that you can fit a steamer or a sieve over.

Like this! A sieve this big wouldn't work with any more than a cup of couscous, and I don't own a real steamer. for small amounts, though, this worked fantastically.

steam for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dump it out into a bowl and add 1-2 tablespoons of butter. It worked better when I melted the butter, but this was fine too.

Stir until everything is distributed. Add another 1/4 cup of water, and keep stirring.

Return the couscous to the sieve over the pot and steam for another 10-15 minutes.

Add another 1-2 tablespoons of butter to the couscous, and stir. (see? Melted. This was easier then solid butter)


I had some daylight, so here is a slightly dramatic-looking picture of the finished product.

My lovely mother-in-law says that steaming and buttering twice is usually plenty, but you can steam and butter a third time to make it extra-delicious, and to be traditional.

Here's what i put on top of it, but that will be a different post.

mmm, beef and prune tagine.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lime curd

I have been doing a lot of cooking around here lately! The Man has recently become gainfully employed, and I won't start my job for a few more days, so after my class, I have the apartment to myself for a few hours.

So I made this lime curd after discovering that we had an abundance of limes in the fridge.

Adapted from here

Lime Curd

yields 1 cup

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes worth)
2 tablespoons lime zest (see above)
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter (cut into pieces)

Whisk juice, zest, eggs, and sugar together in a bowl, then set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the butter, and whisk continually while cooking, until the curd is thick enough to hold marks from the whisk, about 10-15 minutes.

Strain the curd through a sieve into a bowl, and cool. Will keep for several days.

In pictures!

Whisking ingredients together.

Melting the chunks of butter.

After about 5 minutes of whisking.

This is after 10 minutes, it has thickened considerably and is lighter colored.
Aaaaand strain! This gets rid of the chunks of zest.

Deicious on pancakes, toast, or stirred into yogurt. I ended up putting it in a mediocre strawberry-lime tart, and I sort of wish I had left it plain so I could enjoy it in this form!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chicken Alfredo Sauce

It looks like a fancy romantic dinner. But really those wine glasses are full of white grape juice.
College students totally know how to live :D

I love pasta. Love it a lot. But my repertoire of recipes for homemade pasta sauces was pretty much limited to spaghetti until a couple years ago when I was living "on my own" and started experimenting (the quotes are because I was still technically in student housing and only lived a few miles from my parents).

Because I only ever ordered Alfredo pastas in restaurants, I assumed they would be really complicated to make. As it turns out, it's not hard at all if you are good as whisking.

Recently I tried some sort of 3-cheese Alfredo sauce from a jar and eww. It was not pleasant. I believe that there is such a thing as a tasty Alfredo sauce in a jar, but why try sorting through dozens of brands when making your own is way better?

So here is my recipe/method.

Please note that this is not remotely low-calorie.

Alfredo Sauce:
Makes 2 generous servings

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cream
2/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 red bell pepper (They cost 2 bucks each.. so I am a little stingy with how I use them)
2-3 mushrooms (I used something that looked like a button mushroom... I am no mycologist)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cooked chicken (or 1 chicken breast)
fresh basil to taste

First melt the butter over medium heat. This is more like 3 tablespoons. Two would have been better.

Add the flour and whisk immediately or the flour will clump. (if I had used less butter or more flour, this would look more paste-like, which is good)

Add the milk and cream and keep whisking. The flour has a tendency to want to stick to the bottom of the pan, but don't let it or the sauce will never thicken. Anyways, keep stirring until the sauce gets a good bit thicker. That could be 5-10 minutes.

When the sauce has thickened, add the cheese and salt and keep whisking! No need to be too vigorous, but just to keep it from burning.

And this is what it will look like when done. Set aside on warm heat, stirring occasionally, until you are ready to add the "fixings"

In another pan, heat the oil on medium. When pan is heated, add the garlic, sautéing for a minute or two. Also, mince your garlic finer than mine if you don't like chunks or garlic in your pasta.

Add mushrooms, minced Parsley (if you have fresh oregano or basil, use that too!) and stir. I should have added the bell pepper at this point, but I had forgotten and chucked it right into the Alfredo. It tastes a little better when cooked, but it didn't ruin it for me either.
After toasting the ingredients for a minute or two, add them to the Alfredo sauce along with the pre-cooked chicken and stir.

Serve over linguine noodles, and enjoy!

So much better then anything out of a can.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pseudo-Cantonese spicy chicken soup

So even though this is a recipe that I invented by throwing things together, and indeed, change the ingredients of every time, I did the unthinkable: I measured (almost) everything. Just for you.

Almost a decade ago, now, I spent some time in China, mostly in Hong Kong. It is a beautiful city, and I enjoyed my time there. Unfortunately, due to circumstances that would take a lot of time to explain, the team I went with ate local cuisine (that is, not McDonalds or bread and fruit bought at a grocery store) maybe once or twice in almost a month. I consider this a great tragedy, as Cantonese food is delicious.

The one time I distinctly remember eating out was a little hole-in-the-wall eatery in one of the many malls. Because the menus were written in Chinese, I just ordered the first thing that didn't sound too spicy or too strange for my 12-year-old palate (pig intestines was one of the options I remember).

I ended up ordering a giant delicious bowl of soup with some kind of sausage, vegetables, and tons of thin noodles that were either mung bean threads or rice noodles. It was also way spicier then anything I eat in America (I am a total hot sauce wimp) but it was so delicious I didn't care.

This recipe was evolved out of multiple attempts to try and recreate the tasty spicy soup with noodles.

Please note that I say "pseudo-Cantonese" because lets face it, I don't know much about Chinese cuisine except that it is delicious.

Here is everything you will need. (The coffee is not a part of this cast of characters. i just have a tiny kitchen is all)

1 Qt chicken broth
1 chicken breast
1/3 package of bean threads or rice noodles (this is the one thing I did not measure. Sorry)
1/2 red bell pepper
1 carrot
3-4 mushrooms
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1-2 tsp sirracha or other hot chili sauce (be careful, this stuff burns!)
1 tsp soy sauce

Begin by soaking the bean threads or rice noodles in a bowl of cold water. Set aside.

Heat a quart of chicken (or whatever-flavored) broth in a saucepan over high. In the mean time, cut all the veggies into strips like these:

Normally I use about a quarter of a cabbage instead of the 1/2 bell pepper, but I didn't want to make another grocery trip. Celery is also good.

Put the veggies into the boiling broth, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the sweet chili sauce, sirracha, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce.

Meanwhile, slice the chicken into thin strips like this. Beef is also good, and I bet tofu would be too.
Put the meat into the pot and stir. The liquid should be hot enough that the chicken will be cooked in a minute or two.

The purpose of cutting the meat and the veggies so thin is twofold: they will cok very quickly, and it's easier to eat with chopsticks this way.

When the vegetables are soft and the meat is cooked (6-8 minutes of total cooking time if you are more coordinated then me) add the drained noodles, and allow to heat for 1-2 minutes.

Then serve and eat with chopsticks, it somehow tastes better that way!

Serves three.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hot chocolate

Remember last week when I had too much leftover ganache? Well, I found a good use for it :D Strongly inspired by this post, I am currently enjoying very tasty hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, I didn't cover my leftover ganache too well and it tastes very slightly of fridge. But it is still delicious.

Ganache is made by melting 8 oz of dark chocolate with 8 oz of cream. You can do this by heating in a double boiler, or by scalding the cream and then pouring it over chunks of chocolate.

To make hot chocolate, heat about 8 oz milk. I used a microwave in 45 second bursts. Then scoop 4-5 tablespoons of ganache into the milk and stir. I also added 1 tsp of cocoa powder and a pinch of sea salt.

It may be necessary to heat for another 30 seconds to help melt the chocolate.

Stir until smooth.
That's it! It tastes suspiciously like the Starbucks fancy hot chocolate that I was addicted to before the discontinued it. I now have a just-as-good-or-maybe-better substitute.