Sunday, May 25, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas, and Harissa

I think I've told you before about how sometimes I go grocery shopping and I'll come home with lettuce, milk, half-and-half, anchovy paste, a coconut, and some Kerrygold cheese, or some other random combination of practical foods and bizarre ingredients that don't fit into our usual meals. I have no idea why. I get excited when I see a jar of tapenade on sale and simply must purchase it. You never know.

So the other night I was making myself some dinner and was thrilled to discover I had all the ingredients to make this meal - including the harissa. Hooray! We have so many different types of hot sauce/spicy condiments (Frank's, sriracha, sambal oelek, garlic chile paste, and now harissa). Harissa is a Moroccan condiment that is similar to the chunkier spicy sauces, but it has almost a pickly type of flavor to it. I like it a lot. So it was fun to get to use it. Hah!

This was super simple and super delicious. I loved it. I used fresh parsley and cilantro that I grew in our garden (!!!!) and it was just simple and lovely. I would make this again.

cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Harissa
Familystyle Food via Pinterest

1 head cauliflower, separated into bite-sized florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 small sweet onion, like Maui or red onion; finely sliced
2-3 tablespoons harissa
1/2 bunch each Italian parsley and cilantro
1/2 lemon
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the cauliflower out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt and the cumin seeds. Roast 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and golden. Add the chickpeas and roast an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon oil in an 8 Р10-inch saut̩ pan. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are very soft. Stir in the harissa along with 1 tablespoon water.

Pick the leaves off the parsely and cilantro and tear into rough pieces; throw them over the chickpeas. Squeeze the lemon over and toss together with the onion mixture.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the feta.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Homemade Tomato Soup

Things have been dark and rainy, so last night I felt inspired to make homemade tomato soup. This was indeed very easy, and it was very good, but it was much more watery than I had hoped. I added a little bit of cream to thicken it up and bind it together once it was blended, but that didn't really help. I also added some rice, because tomato soup with rice is one of my gentleman's comfort foods. That did help thicken it a little bit, but I definitely wouldn't say this was the greatest soup ever.

I understand this photo blows, but there was no other way to take a picture of it. I told you - it was watery.

soup

Homemade Tomato Soup
Vegetarian Times, January/February 2014

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 vegetable bouillon cube, optional
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and sugar, and cook 1 minute, or until tomato paste darkens. Stir in diced tomatoes, bouillon cube (if using), balsamic vinegar, thyme, and 4 cups water. Cover pan, bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, and blend soup with immersion blender or in blender or food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: 3-4 main course servings, or 8 appetizers

Monday, May 19, 2014

Texas Sheet Cake Cookies

These were probably one of the most popular Monday cookies I've made. Word spread of them quickly, even without Facebook, and people were showing up for them - I was nearly out of them by 11:00 AM. I also had a bunch of people asking for the recipe, which usually doesn't happen. I take all of this to mean that this is an excellent, wonderful recipe that must be added to the repertoire.

It's a take on a Texas Sheet Cake, which is basically a really big chocolate sheet cake with a chocolate-powdered-sugar icing on top. These cookies are soft, brownie-like cookies covered in the same icing as the cake, just poured on top. Some heathens add nuts to their texas sheet cake. I am not one of them. These were pretty easy to make. My oven has a tendency to overcook things, so I had to extra-under-bake the cookies to make sure they turned out right. I cooked them for 6 1/2 minutes and they turned out perfectly. You just have to guess. And I easily doubled it for about 5 dozen cookies and life was happy.

cookies

Texas Sheet Cake Cookies
Cookies & Cups

Cookies:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Icing:
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat, set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer beat butter and sugar together until light, scraping sides frequently. Add in egg and vanilla and continue mixing until incorporated. Mix in baking powder and salt. Turn mixer to low and slowly add in flour. Dough will be thick.

In a microwave safe bowl heat chocolate chips on high in 30 second increments until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds.

Mix melted chocolate directly into cookie dough until evenly mixed.

Drop dough by a measured tablespoon sized mounds onto baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes until cookies just appear set. They will still be very soft on the inside. DO NOT overbake!!

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the icing: In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder and milk over medium heat, whisking until melted together. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. Pour icing over cookies and allow icing to set before serving.

Yield: 2 dozen

Tips: Make sure not to overbake these cookies. The insides will remain soft and dense if baked correctly.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bruschetta

It's Farmer's Market season! This means lots more fresh produce and delicious opportunities to experiment with foods. This week I got a lovely baguette and decided to make a simple bruschetta recipe in order to take full advantage of the bread.

Time out. Have I talked about our container garden yet? No. So this year I decided to try my hand at Growing Things In The Backyard. But I don't trust myself to plant things in the ground, so instead I made a container garden on the porch. This is what we are growing: tomatoes, strawberries, butter lettuce, spinach, anaheim chiles, cilantro, basil, dill, parsley, and sage. And the lemon tree is finally maturing to a point where he's going to start making lemons, though it'll still be awhile before they're edible. Oh! And we just discovered a huge tangle of raspberry vines in the backyard, around a mangled tree. So this is very exciting.

The tomatoes have not yet grown, though the plant is enormous, but the basil is tall so I used some of that in this recipe. I can't wait until we can use our own tomatoes! I followed the recipe pretty closely but only added a tiny bit of balsamic to the tomatoes and then sprinkled the tops with a nice balsamic glaze (it's balsamic that's been reduced to a thick, syrupy sauce). I also added some toasted pine nuts. It was so beautiful and delicious. I will make this all summer.

bruschetta

Bruschetta
The Pioneer Woman

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pint red grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 pint yellow grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
16 whole basil leaves, chiffonaded
Salt And Pepper, to taste (don't oversalt!)
1 whole baguette
8 tablespoons Butter (I just used more olive oil)

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir, lightly frying for about a minute, removing before the garlic gets too brown (it can be golden.) Pour into a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Add tomatoes, balsamic, basil, and salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss to combine, then taste and add more basil if needed, and more salt if needed (don't oversalt, though!) Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two if you have the time. (Lauren's Note: I mixed it up and served it warm on the bread - my preference)

Cut the baguette into diagonal slices to allow for the most surface area possible. Melt half the butter in a large skillet and grill half the bread on both sides, making sure they're nice and buttery. Cook till golden brown on both sides. Repeat with the other half of the butter and the other half of the bread.

To serve, give the tomato mixture a final stir, the spoon generously over the slices of bread. Serve on a big platter as a first course or appetizer.

Servings: 12

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies

I've had a lot of mediocre cookies and candies lately that didn't meet my expectations, and while my amazing coworkers will eat pretty much anything I bring, I really wanted to make sure I found something that went above and beyond, and was super extra delicious. My friend Kelly sent me this recipe on Pinterest, though I'd already had it saved for awhile, and she was adamant that I make them for a Monday. She doesn't even live in Pennsylvania, let alone work with me. But I decided she was right, so I made these.

Well. There's nothing wrong with them. They're pretty perfect. I underbaked them by about 30 seconds and that left the texture nice and soft. I was nervous putting them into the oven because the dough is VERY dry (I really don't know why) but it turned out to be fine. Everyone really liked these. I ate three of them in the middle of the day yesterday, and normally I don't eat my own stuff at work because the point is to give them to other people. Sorry, people. I liked them too much!

cookies

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies
Kevin & Amanda

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup caramel bits
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter starts to foam, begin whisking constantly. When the butter turns brown, fragrant, and you see little brown bits at the bottom of the pan, immediately remove from heat and and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, coffee, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until well combined, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until combined. Add the caramels and chocolate chunks and stir until just combined.

4. Use a medium (1.5 tbsp) cookie scoop to place dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes until edges just start to turn golden brown. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: I got about 60 cookies

Homemade Honeycomb Candy with Dark Chocolate

Crap, I wrote this and left it as a draft, and never remembered to post it.

So basically, I decided to try making candy for Cookie Monday. I recently joined Graze.Com, a subscription service - kind of like a BarkBox or a BirchBox, but with snacks. And I love it so much. I'm not even going to give you my referral code because I don't want you to think I'm pandering. I really do love it.

Anyway one of my first snacks was a chocolatey honeycomb mix. Honeycomb Candy, also known as seafoam candy, crack candy, or violet crumble, is like a weird hard caramel that is crispy. They sell violet crumble at the grocery store as an import (I think from Australia?) and it's lovely. I really like it. I saw a recipe for it on Pinterest and it seemed easy enough, so I tried it out.

I've made caramels in all the stages except the one this requires - the hard crack stage. So that was pretty exciting. Although I watched my thermometer with bated breath and timed everything perfectly, it probably needed another 30 seconds to get to exactly the right texture. It was still very good, but it was a little bit chewier than I wanted it to be. I don't have tips for you. You just have to try it out and see what happens.

honeycomb

Homemade Honeycomb Candy with Dark Chocolate
Joy the Baker

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces dark chocolate, melted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, for topping


1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and lightly grease the foil. Set aside.

2. Fill an empty sink with about 2-inches of cold water Set up a whisk and the baking soda near the sink. Timing is everything.

3. In a medium, heavy bottom saucepan whisk together sugar, corn syrup, water, cream of tartar, and vinegar. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat. There’s no real need to stir the pan as it begins to boil. Swirl the pan if you’d like. Heat boiling sugar mixture to 300 degrees F.

4. When the mixture comes to 300 degrees F, quickly remove from heat and gently set the pan in the cool water in the sink. Immediately add baking soda and quickly whisk to combine. The mixture will become foamy and frothy and look pale. It will turn slightly golden as you whisk. Before the candy cools too much, quickly spread it into the prepared pan. It doesn’t have to fill the pan completely… just get it in there. It cools and hardens quickly.

5. Candy will set within 20 minutes. Crack into big pieces. Dip and/or sprinkle with melted dark chocolate. Allow to rest in the refrigerator until chocolate hardens. Place in an airtight container. I store my honeycomb in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 2 cups of candy