December 31, 2009

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Happy holidays! Just wanted to quickly squeeze this post in because, well...we're less than twelve hours away from 2010 (eekkkkk)! And I made this appetizer dish before Christmas. And I'm at work, you know, working this New Years Eve ;)

Anyway, what a whirlwind of a break (if you can call it that) we've had. My sister came home from NYC for the entire week, so we were literally commuting from SF to the East Bay almost every day: Monday was dinner with all the relatives at The Dead Fish; Wednesday was dinner at Moussy's, followed by a "Black Nativity" show with the parents (my mom's random idea!); Friday was Christmas in Berkeley; and Saturday was helping my dad build kitchen cabinets (AC) and post-Christmas shopping with mom/sis (SC) -- I think I got the better end of the deal!, followed by another family dinner at night. Oh, and AC and I were working the entire week as well. Not that you really care, but that was our holiday :D

And I'm totally NOT complaining -- Christmas wouldn't have been the same without all that family and food. It was soooo fun to have my sister back home for the holidays! There were lots of shared giggles and smiles that week.

Anyway, this warm, creamy, cheesy appetizer is my absolute favorite dish to both eat and make. It's essentially spinach dip with two key additions. Chunks of artichoke hearts, which transform the entire flavor of the dip. And shredded mozzarella, which when melted, makes the dish incredibly cheesy, stringy and gooey. The best part is how it's made. Just combine chopped spinach and artichoke with mozzarella, cream cheese, parmesan, and a little sour cream -- and dunzo! Heat and serve.

Have a great New Years, everyone. And here's to an amazing 2010! :)

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2007

2 C (8-oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 C lowfat sour cream
1/4 C grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t salt
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 (8-oz) blocks 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
dash of Tabasco sauce, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1/2 C mozzarella and 2 T parmesan with the rest of the ingredients (sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic, artichoke, cream cheese, spinach, tabasco) in a bowl, stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 8.5 inch pie pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 C mozzarella and remaining 2 T parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.
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December 23, 2009

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

No Christmas is a real Christmas without cookies. And now that it's practically here, I had to make this cookie recipe that I'd been eying for a while. Not that these are necessarily Christmas cookies, but they are equally special and decadent -- if not better.

I got this recipe from the lovely Dorie Greenspan, who says: "These cookies are chocolate sables, French shortbreads, but because they've got more brown sugar than white in them, they've got more chew than most shortbreads. They've also got a generous amount of dark chocolate chunks and enough fleur de sel (moist, coarse-grained French "finishing" salt) to make them noticeably salty and completely addictive, in the way so many good things with salt are."

She had me at French shortbreads -- I was looking for a rich, buttery cookie with a crisp yet crumbly texture. But when I read the words chocolate and fleur de sel? I got pretty excited; you can't get a better combination than that.

While the contrast between sweet and salty is definitely prevalent in this cookie, it's really the intensity of the chocolate that makes it so addictive. The fleur de sel is what does it -- with just a pinch of salt, the complexity and flavor of the dark chocolate really comes out without being overwhelmingly sweet. Bonus points for the little bits of bittersweet chocolate pieces that are mixed into the cookie as well.

Good thing I made this while our close friends were staying with us this past weekend. Otherwise, it would have been a very dangerous Christmas for our tummies...;)

World Peace Cookies
Baking: From My Home to Yours (Dorie Greenspan)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup high quality, unsweetened cocoa powder such as Valrhona or Scharffenberger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Mix in the flour until it disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

SERVING: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

STORING: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months.
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December 17, 2009

Pumpkin Bread w/ Raisins and Walnuts

T-minus eight days until Christmas....eeeekkkk!! Last I checked, it was just Thanksgiving and our waistlines were still recovering from the damage. Now it's already the season of Christmas cookies and office holiday treats?? When time flies this fast, it must mean you're really getting old!

Anyway, this pumpkin bread is one of our favorite holiday traditions during this time of the year. If you haven't noticed, tradition = food in our household. The recipe actually comes from another old family friend (who owns a vineyard in Napa, btw!), so this has been around in my family for years. AC likes it because it has a very smooth pumpkin taste -- not too sweet nor spicy. I love it because the texture is insanely moist and soft from the pumpkin puree. Plump, juicy raisins and little bits of walnuts tie the whole ensemble together perfectly.

I sometimes eat this with a nice, thick layer of cream cheese spread over each slice. I grew up doing this -- that, as well as eating avocado topped with mayonnaise as our "vegetables" for dinner -- and it makes each bite absolutely divine. It's similar to a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting, only a bit more calm/grounded and not as cracked-out-in-sugar (if you know what I mean). Besides, isn't everything better with cream cheese? ;)

Phyllis's Pumpkin Bread
Recipe adapted from Phyllis, an old family friend

2/3 C butter, room temperature
2 2/3 C sugar
4 eggs
1 lb canned pumpkin
2/3 C water

3 1/3 C flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground cloves
1 C raisins
2/3 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, pumpkin and water. Mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Add to butter bowl, and stir until just mixed in. Add raisins and chopped walnuts.

Divide batter between two 9x5 loaf tins. Bake about 50 minutes, until done.
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December 11, 2009

Tuna Noodle Casserole, Made-Over

Remember that time when AC and I thought it was freezing outside...and it only ended up being 61 degrees? Well, we're not playing around this time: it's cold outside.

For the past couple of days, the high out here has been in the 40's. While I realize that may sound absurdly comfortable to my Chicago friends who are experiencing single digit conditions right now, it's actually a record low for San Francisco. And when you're in a city that's not used to such cold temperatures -- heaters don't always work, hats/gloves are virtually nonexistent, etc. It's all relative, right? ;)

Anyway, for us, cold weather is just another excuse to bust out the much loved casserole dish! It's also my excuse to use the "I'm not going to the gym -- it's too cold outside" card. Or the "no YOU walk the dog, I'll get sick" face. Ahhhh yes, the miseries of cold weather :P

This hearty dish is a jazzed up version of the 1950's standard tuna noodle casserole -- the epitome of comfort food. However, unlike its predecessor, it has nothing to do with cans of cream of mushroom soup (my best friend at Campbell's is going to kill me). This creamy noodle casserole uses mushrooms, sherry, and reduced-fat milk for a delightfully rich "sherried mushrooom" base sauce instead. Fresh lemon juice is then layered in for a hint of brightness. And tender broccoli florets and flaky moist tuna add yet another dimension of flavor (and protein!). When this comes hot out of the oven, all bubbling and oozing over the sides, smelling'll begin to wish that it was this cold everyday.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Adapted from Gourmet, 2004

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
24 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 crown of broccoli, cut into small chunks OR 1 bag frozen peas (recommended)
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup Sherry

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups reduced-fat 2% milk
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 (6-oz) cans tuna, drained
1/2 cup coarsely grated Cheddar
dash of Tabasco sauce and red pepper flakes, to taste

16 oz dried curly egg noodles
2 cups panko or bread crumbs
2 cups coarsely grated Cheddar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Take out a 9x13 inch casserole dish.

Cook onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt in a 2-3 quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms and broccoli, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to sauté mushrooms, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove mixture from heat and pour into a large bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in the same saucepan. Whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice, and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and stir gently. Add 1/2 cup cheese. Season sauce with salt, pepper, tabasco sauce, and red pepper flakes.

Cook noodles in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles in a colander and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.

Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

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December 06, 2009

Potato-Crusted Quiche with Smoked Cheddar and Canadian Bacon

With family events, we always seem to be running late. Granted, if something starts at 5 p.m. -- to my family, that really means 4:45 p.m sharp...which is why tardiness just so happens to be a perpetual trend for us.

For Thanksgiving, this was no exception. As we were madly putting the final touches on the banana cream pie, we were just starting to even think about the appetizer dish that we needed to bring. Luckily for us, we had already decided on mini quiches-- which like most egg dishes, are incredibly easy and straightforward (coincidence, eh?). Yup...good thing we had nothing to do with the main course this year! :P

Anyway, this variation on a quiche is especially delicious because it uses a hash brown potato crust instead of the typical pastry pie crust. Not only does this provide a nice contrast to the eggs, but it's also a much healthier alternative, which becomes somewhat more important during any holiday season of gluttony. Like most egg frittatas or quiches, you can essentially add anything you want into the egg mixture. We used Canadian bacon for substance (meat is king in our household) and a bit of saltiness, smoked cheddar for gooey cheesiness, and spinach, zucchini, red bell pepper, and onions for more color and flavor.

One thing to note is that this dish should be baked and served in a normal pie pan. Because we wanted to make it a bit more "finger-food friendly", we used individual cupcake trays instead. While the idea was cute, it altered the hash brown crust -- and instead of a nice crispy potato crust, the egg mixture leaked through the hash browns so that there was less contrast between the crust and everything else. The below recipe reflects the original pie pan method for a crispier hash brown crust. There's nothing like a warm, cheesy potato and egg breakfast...or dinner :D

Potato-Crusted Quiche
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1998

1 lb shredded potatoes, soaked in ice water (or frozen hash browns, thawed)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced Canadian bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup zucchini
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

8 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 10-inch glass pie dish with vegetable oil spray. Mix potatoes, garlic, and eggs together in a bowl. Firmly press the potato mixture into pie pan until it fully covers the bottom of the dish, and is halfway up the sides. Spray lightly with Pam olive oil. Bake about 15 minutes, until crispy.

Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, red bell pepper, zucchini and thyme and sauté 5 minutes. Add Canadian bacon and spinach; sauté until heated through, about 1 minute. Spoon bacon mixture over potatoes in pie dish.

Whisk eggs, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend. Mix in cheese. Pour egg mixture over bacon mixture in dish. Bake quiche until set in center, about 35 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. Cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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November 30, 2009

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie

A belated happy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone got their fill of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, and of course apple/pumpkin pie this year :)

I know...this doesn't look like your typical pumpkin pie. But I can explain; my mom's side of the family is apparently averse to pumpkin pie -- if you can believe that. So given the lack of one of my favorite desserts during this Thanksgiving holiday (though we did have apple pie!), I knew it was absolutely imperative to have an insanely indulgent and delicious substitute on hand to distract me from any pumpkin pie envy. This seemed to do the trick.

After literally inhaling the biggest meal of the year, there's something really appealing/comforting about taking on a slightly lighter kind of dessert. Because even though you've deliberately worn your fat pants to dinner and feel like you're on the verge of upchucking everything you just ate, you can never say no to dessert...especially when it's Thanksgiving.

This stunning black-and-white dessert combines delicate banana cream filling with a dense chocolate bottom for a lighter but equally decadent treat. There are essentially 5 layers to it -- a rich chocolate wafer crust, an intense and velvety chocolate ganache, sweet banana slices, creamy vanilla custard, and fresh and airy vanilla whipped cream. Now what is this nonsense about pumpkin pie envy?! ;)

Anyway, my apologies for the lack of pictures. What's missing is the layer of vanilla custard and whipped cream on top of the bananas. Those steps were hastily done in about 2 minutes as we were madly rushing out the door (this unfortunately seems to be a trend for us)...

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 1998

For crust
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 7 ounces)

For chocolate ganache
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ripe bananas

For vanilla pastry cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For vanilla whipped cream
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make crust:
Butter 9-inch-diameter glass or ceramic pie dish. Stir butter and chocolate in heavy small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Mix in cookie crumbs. Press onto bottom and up sides of prepared dish. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Make chocolate ganache:
Heat cream and butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until mixture is hot (do not boil). Remove from heat. Add chocolate and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Reserve 2 tablespoons chocolate ganache in small bowl at room temperature; pour remainder over crust. Chill crust until chocolate ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.

Thinly slice 2 bananas. Arrange banana slices over chocolate.

Make vanilla pastry cream:
Bring half and half to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half. Transfer to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to boil, about 2-3 minutes. Pour into medium bowl. Stir in vanilla. Press plastic onto surface of pastry cream. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

Whisk Vanilla Pastry Cream until smooth. Spread pastry cream evenly over bananas. Drizzle reserved chocolate ganache over pastry cream. Draw toothpick through pastry cream and chocolate to marbleize. Refrigerate until pastry cream is set, about 3 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

Spoon Vanilla Whipped Cream around edges of pie, or spoon whipped cream into pastry bag that's fitted with large star tip and pipe cream around edges of pie. Slice remaining banana. Garnish pie with banana slices.
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November 24, 2009

Ginger Spice Cookies

Well, it's almost Thanksgiving...which to many of us, really just means that we can officially begin the countdown to Christmas! Funny how that happens -- how when you start thinking turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, the streets are instantaneously lined with Christmas lights and every store is suddenly playing Christmas carols.

Anyway, despite the pre-holiday festivities, AC and I weren't quite feeling the Christmas spirit yet. Is it because we're getting old? Perhaps. Is it because it's still mid-November and sunny, and way too early to even begin thinking about Christmas? Probably. But really, I like to think it's because we hadn't baked these cookies yet ;)

If these cookies don't get you in the holiday spirit, I don't know what will! Part of their glory is baking them, which produces this delicious aroma of spiced cloves and gingerbread that literally warms up your entire home. I seriously felt like running out to get our Christmas tree while they were in the oven. Soft, spicy, slightly chewy, and not too molassesy -- these are the perfect cookies for winter. And bonus points to the little bits of crystallized ginger in it, which yield a chewy consistency without overwhelming the rest of the flavor.

We made these for a dear friend and her family, who are facing a tougher Thanksgiving than usual. If only cookies could save the world, right?

Ginger Spice Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2000

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger (chop in food processor with dry ingredients). Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets. Spoon sugar in thick layer onto small plate. Using wet hands, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat completely. Place balls on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until cracked on top but still soft to touch, about 8-9 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Carefully transfer to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)
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November 22, 2009

Korean Banchan: Spinach Namul (Salad)

Here's another Korean side dish that we often make. This one is incredibly fast, easy and nutritious -- my kind of dish! It's basically blanched spinach mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sesame seeds and a little sugar. I like to think of it as Popeye's azn-fied (why do I keep using that ridiculous word??) power food.

We had this along with our Korean barbecue chicken, which led to a delightfully delicious and abnormally unspicy meal ;)

Spinach Namul
Recipe by AC/SC

2 lbs fresh spinach
3 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
1 T sherry
1 T toasted sesame seeds
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 T sugar

Throw spinach into a pot of boiling for 30 seconds. Immediately rinse under cold water; squeeze excess water out. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients together. Pour over spinach and mix.
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November 20, 2009

Korean Spicy Barbecue Chicken

If I had to guestimate, I would say that about 85% of all Korean food is the color red. What does that mean? Well, it makes for a very vibrant and flavorful cuisine that's just a tad bit spicy. Before AC, I could hardly tolerate the heat -- I even used to think kimchi (Korean pickles) was spicy! Now that I'm older and wiser, I know kimchi is just child's play...bring on the real heat ;)

This chicken dish used to be one of my favorite meals back in the day because it was one of the few Korean foods that I could actually eat! Don't be fooled by its fiery, red looks though. While the marinade does contain some red pepper paste, it also has equal parts of sugar in it -- which when cooked, caramelizes to make a wonderfully sweet and spicy glaze. Ginger and garlic add more depth and spiciness to the flavor; pureed onions add a different, more subtle type of sweetness. Best served slightly charred and on the cusp of burnt, this is a dish that even those who think kimchi is spicy will enjoy.

Korean Chili Paste Spicy Chicken
Adapted from Week of Menus

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup kochu'jang (red pepper paste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 cup onion, pureed
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Mix all ingredients together (except chicken) in a large bowl. Add chicken and marinade overnight. Barbecue or broil until slightly charred.
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November 15, 2009

Classic Lemon Bars

There's nothing like a sunny, yellow lemon bar to brighten up your winter. Especially if it's cloudy and brisk outside...and you're on a boat in the middle of some freezing lake, fishing.

Ok, so perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit (let's get real, how cold can California get?) -- but still, who goes fishing in November?!? Uhhhh...apparently, we do. And we managed to drag a couple of our friends with us this time as well :P

Though it's hard to believe, this actually wasn't our idea. Our friend initiated the trip after coming back from Alaska without catching a single fish. She wanted a second chance, and of course AC's name immediately came to mind (for those that don't know, AC = fishing). So on a beautiful but crisp Saturday morning, we left the shores in search of rainbow trout...with cheese, baguette, salami, pellegrino, chips, and lemon bars in hand. Because what is fishing without food, right?

These classic lemon bars are actually an old family friend's recipe. The shortbread crust is divinely tender and buttery. And the lemon filling on top is bold, fresh and intensely citrus-y. Together, they create a bright flavor that's not too tart nor too sweet. I say, it's the perfect escape to sunnier places.

Btw -- did I mention that we caught SIX fish, including an almost 5-pounder, that day? :D

Lemon Bars
Recipe adapted from Harriet, an old family friend

2 C flour
1/2 C confectioners sugar
1 C butter

4 eggs
2 C sugar
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1-2 T grated lemon peel
1/4 C flour
2 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour and confectioners sugar, and then cut in butter. Press into an 8x8 baking pan, and bake for 18 minutes.

Beat eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon peel together. In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Stir flour mixture into lemon mixture. Pour over hot crust, and bake again about 20 - 25 minutes. When cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
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November 11, 2009

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad w/ Walnuts and Pecorino

Oh, brussels sprouts -- like everyone else, I love to hate you ;). Only, sometimes you surprise me...and taste really, really good.

Like when you're roasted with bacon, balsamic vinaigrette, and walnuts -- you're pretty tasty. Or even with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary, I can do you. But not raw. Never.

I don't know what got into me -- but I saw this raw brussels spouts salad recipe, and thought it was totally ingenious. It promised an unbelievably delicate slaw from the thinly sliced brussels sprouts, and a bright and refreshing flavor from the citrus dressing. I've never had brussels sprouts this way, and was so excited to try it out.

Well, I really should have known better....because if brussels sprouts are only "doable" doctored up, how can they ever taste better raw?? While the simplicity of the salad's other ingredients worked well together (olive oil, fresh lemon juice, grated pecorino romano, toasted walnuts), the bitterness of the brussels sprouts still managed to permeate their way through each mouthful. We were a little disappointed. However, this may be the perfect salad for people who already looooove brussels sprouts. It just wasn't for us.

It does make for a pretty presentation though, doesn't it? :P

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Fresh Walnuts and Pecorino
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2005

1 lb Brussels sprouts, any discolored leaves discarded and stems left intact
1 cup walnuts (3 1/2 oz), lightly toasted
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Holding each Brussels sprout by stem end, cut into very thin slices using slicer. Toss in a bowl to separate layers.

Lightly crush walnuts with your hands and add to Brussels sprouts along with cheese, oil, and lemon juice, then toss to combine. Season with pepper.
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November 08, 2009

Butternut Squash Ravioli

I bought this butternut squash the other day only because it looked so pretty and picturesque, sitting with all the other fall pumpkins and seasonal vegetables. Turns out my superficiality got the best of me because I'd never cooked butternut squash before, and had no idea where to begin.

The only thing that I knew was that I didn't want it roasted. I mean, heaven forbid I cook something normal like a simple brown sugar or maple-roasted butternut squash. So after much hemming and hawing over millions of butternut squash recipes, I finally decided on this one. Because isn't that what most people do in their spare time? Make homemade butternut squash ravioli? ;)

While I love butternut squash, it's sometimes a little too sweet for my taste. This recipe offsets some of that sweetness with generous amounts of aged goat cheese -- which when mixed in with the roasted butternut squash, adds an unique saltiness and nuttiness to the creamy filling. The addition of sage and chopped onions also doesn't hurt.

I have just one small confession to make; I'm not that crazy. While I wanted to make my own ravioli filling for the first time, I wasn't planning on spending my entire afternoon in the kitchen. So I cheated...I substituted pre-made wonton wrappers for the ravioli dough instead. I know. While it was an efficient and quick fix, it really didn't do the rich, creamy butternut squash filling justice. So lesson learned -- if something craaaazy comes over you and you just happen to make this, do it the right way. Otherwise, you'll end up with this strangely sweet Azn-fied "potsticker" that just doesn't work :P

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Goat Cheese Ravioli
Adapted from Gourmet, January 1997 and Recipezaar

1 small butternut squash (about 2 lb), halved lengthwise and seeded
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
3 ounces aged goat cheese, grated/crumbled

3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 425°F. and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Make filling:
Put squash halves, flesh sides down, an baking sheet and roast in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until flesh is very tender. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a bowl and discard skin. Mash squash with a fork until smooth.

While squash is roasting, in a skillet cook onion and sage in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes, or until onion is golden brown. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Cool onion mixture slightly and add to squash. Add goat cheese and stir to combine well.

Make dough:
Sift flour and salt together. Place flour mixture on a board, making a well in the center of the flour. Drop eggs into the flour well, using your hand or a fork, break the yolks and beat eggs slightly. Combine the eggs and flour together, gradually adding enough warm water to make a stiff dough. Knead dough well, until smooth; cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Cut dough in half and roll each half of the dough out on a floured board, into a very thin sheet (about 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick).

Make ravioli:
Drop about 1 tablespoon of filling about 2 inches apart all along the dough. When the sheet of dough is fully dotted with dabs of filling mixture, cover filling with other sheet of dough. Using your fingers, gently press dough between each dab of filling to seal it (if using wonton wrappers, use egg yolk to seal dough). Cut ravioli into squares with a (zig-zag edged) pastry cutter, or very sharp knife.

Allow ravioli to dry for one hour before cooking. Drop ravioli in lightly boiling water, and cook until they float to the surface, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with olive oil and toasted hazelnuts.

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November 03, 2009

Turkey Tamale Casserole

Casserole time! When life gets a bit crazy, I say...make a casserole :)

As mentioned before, I loooove me a good casserole -- especially the cheesy, gooey, saucy ones. When busy, casseroles become even more appealing because of all the generous leftovers they make. Seriously, nothing like a warm and comforting casserole to sustain you through the entire (and I mean entire!) work week.

Not only is this one quick and easy, but it was actually one of my favorite dishes growing up! It's reminiscent of a tamale (hence the name)...only a bit messier and less sophisticated with all the cheese, extra fillings, and sauces in it. I think the secret is the creamed corn which, along with the corn tortillas, gives the dish a slightly sweet, corn tamalito/tamale taste. That and the spicy chili, turkey chunks, diced jalapenos, olives and cheddar cheese just make it absolutely divine.

Of course, my taste buds have *ahem* matured since my younger years, and I like my food a bit more refined these days. But there's nothing like reliving the good ole' days...especially when it's this good ;)

Turkey Tamale Casserole
Recipe by SC's mother

1 lb ground raw turkey (do NOT use lean turkey breast - dark 80/20 meat is best)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 17-oz can cream-style corn
1 10.5-oz can chili without beans (hot instead of mild)
2 t dried oregano, crushed
1/2 t ground cumin
12 corn tortillas
1 C water
1 2.25-oz can sliced black olives, drained
1 4-oz can diced green chilies
2.5 C shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)

In a large skillet, cook turkey and garlic over medium heat till turkey is no longer pink. Stir in corn, chili, oregano and cumin. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Stack tortillas; cut into 6 wedges. Place wedges in a medium mixing bowl; add water. Let stand for 1 minute. Drain, reserving 1/4 C liquid. Stir the reserved liquid and olives into the turkey mixture. In a 2-quart rectangular baking dish, layer slightly less than 2 C of the turkey mixture and half of the tortillas; repeat layers. Top with remaining turkey mixture, spreading to cover tortillas.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or till heated through. Top with cheese, bake for another 3-5 minutes more. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Can garnish with sour cream and chopped green onions.

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October 30, 2009

Japanese Onigiri (Rice Balls)

Is it just me, or do most people feel the need to detox after traveling?? All that eating out (and of course, drinking) made both of us crave really simple, clean food again when we got back home.

If you're looking for something healthy -- but don't want to live on celery sticks and carrots for the rest of your life, Japanese food is one of the cleanest and healthiest cuisines out there. With very little oil or fat in it, it basically consists of rice, vegetables, and fish. No wonder why the Japanese are so darn skinny! :P

While we didn't have any fish on hand, we definitely had rice (a staple in our home!) and pickled vegetables. I love anything pickled...especially Japanese pickles and Korean kimchee. Slightly salty and sour, their acidity pairs perfectly with a bowl of plain white rice.

Rice balls always remind me of Hawaii, where along with spam musubi (mmmmmm), they're sold at every grocery store, gas station, and Seven Eleven on the island. Maybe it was the cold Chicago weather that made me nostalgic for Hawaii, because I suddenly wanted -- no needed -- rice balls in order to get my diet back on track. Simple, clean, and full of vegetables (well...pickled seaweed and cucumber vegetables that is!), it was the perfect "welcome home" comfort food that we were so desperately craving.

Japanese Onigiri (Rice Balls)
Recipe by SC

Dried nori (seaweed)
Picked vegetables or fish

Add furikake to hot rice until thoroughly mixed. Using hands or rice mold, shape the rice mixture into a triangular or oval shaped ball. Stick your thumb in the middle to create a hole, and add desired filling into that space. Top with a little more rice, and wrap with nori.

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