Archive for January, 2009

Salted Ginger Crisps

January 04, 2009

I’ve been busy baking our holiday favorites the last few days. Every year I make family classics but always add a few new recipes to the mix. This year I’ve added a couple that I developed using Wisconsin butter: Salted Ginger Crisps and Espresso Chocolate Squares. I hope you enjoy them.

Salted Ginger Crisps

I developed these ginger cookies for the Wisconsin Butter Board and they’ve now become one of my favorites. The sea salt brings out the spicy ginger flavor. Check out this recipe and other great recipes on their website http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/recipes/article.aspx?rid=2659.

Cookies
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
1¼ cups dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup mild molasses
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 egg
2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon light corn syrup
1 to 1½ tablespoons milk

Cooking Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, allspice and cloves; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together ¾ cup butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add molasses and ginger; mix. Add egg; beat until blended. On low speed, slowly add flour and spice mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough in half; shape each half into a flat round. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll 1 dough round to 1/4-inch thickness dusting with additional flour, as necessary, so dough does not stick. Cut dough into desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle cutouts with salt; press lightly to adhere salt.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly darker in color. Remove to a cooling rack; cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Icing

In a medium bowl, whisk powdered sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth. Slowly add additional milk, if necessary, for desired consistency. Drizzle over cookies; let stand until icing is set.

Espresso Chocolate Squares

January 04, 2009

A chocolate base and coffee filling combine the best of both worlds in this riff on a great cup of mocha java. I developed this recipe for the Wisconsin Butter Board. Check out this recipe and other great recipes on their website http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/recipes/article.aspx?rid=2659.

Espresso Chocolate Squares

Crust
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, chilled and cut into pieces
½ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Filling
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
2 (8 ounces) packages cream cheese, softened
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
2 eggs

Glaze
6 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon heavy cream
½ tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder

Cooking Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil; butter bottom of foil.

Whisk together 1¼ cups flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together in medium bowl; add 3/4 cup butter. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until butter is the size of small peas. Stir in ½ cup chocolate chips; press into bottom of pan. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean; cool slightly.

Meanwhile, stir ¼ cup cream and 1 tablespoon instant espresso together until coffee is dissolved. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and ¼ cup butter together. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and allspice; beat until blended. Slowly beat in cream and coffee mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Pour batter over crust.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are slightly puffed and center is set; set pan on a cooling rack.

Glaze

Melt 6 tablespoons chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon cream, ½ tablespoon butter and ¼ teaspoon instant espresso in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Drizzle over bars and refrigerate until set. Cover and store bars in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

January 04, 2009

This rich creamy soup is made without cream! Rice is the secret ingredient that creates the smooth richness in this soup as it’s blended into a silky consistency. It’s delicately flavored with the Indian spices of garam masala and saffron. Garam masala is a spice blend fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, cumin and black pepper. It can be purchased in the spice aisle or the ethnic section of well-stocked supermarkets, Indian markets or you can create your own. The tastiest pumpkin to use is a sugar pumpkin, also called a pie pumpkin. They’re smaller than the large jack-o-lanterns. Butternut squash and other squash are tasty alternatives for the pumpkin.

1½ large onions, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1-inch)
1 (32 oz.) container lower-sodium chicken broth
1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garam masala or ground cinnamon combined with pinches of ground cloves and cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of saffron threads, crushed
¼ cup basmati rice or white long grain rice
¼ cup plain yogurt (nonfat is fine)

Stir the onions and oil together in a large pot over medium heat until the onions are coated. Cover and cook 5 minutes to sweat the onions (the onions will glisten and be slightly softened). Uncover and cook 5 to 8 minutes or until the onions are golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring continually. Stir in the pumpkin.

Pour the chicken broth over the pumpkin and stir in the thyme, garam masala, salt, pepper and saffron. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rice and reduce the heat to medium-low or to the point where it maintains a gentle boil. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin and the rice are tender, stirring now and then.

If you have a hand blender (also called an immersion blender), use the hand blender to blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Otherwise, cool the soup to lukewarm and blend it in batches. Fill the blender container half to three-quarters full and pulse until the soup is smooth.

Whisk together ¼ cup of the blended soup with the yogurt. Stir half of the yogurt mixture back into the soup and reserve the remaining mixture for the garnish.

Serve the soup warm with a dollop of the yogurt mixture swirled in the center.

Serves 4 (1½ cup servings)

Israeli Vegetable Tart

January 04, 2009

I now have two chicks swingin’ their hips with feathers flying in the wind. Lulu has joined Roxanne and started molting. Casting off a coat of feathers and growing new ones takes a tremendous amount of energy leaving nothing additional for egg laying. With Roxanne still littering the yard with her own feathers, it means Cleo is the only one laying. She’s been trying to do her part but the weather is cool and she’s also slowing down.

We’re eating fewer eggs as a result. While longing for an egg dish, albeit one that needs only a few eggs, I came upon this wonderful recipe which uses only two eggs. It’s filled with Mediterranean vegetables and crowned with feta cheese and nuts.

Israeli Vegetable Tart

I adapted this recipe from a beautiful new book on Israeli cooking The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0805212248. The tart is called a pashtida, which is Hebrew for any dish (with or without a crust) baked with eggs and cheese and filled with vegetables, meat or fish.

Dough for 1 (9-inch) single pie crust

Filling:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small eggplant, chopped ½-inch (about 3 cups)
1 medium onion, halved, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small zucchini, chopped (1 cup)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 eggs
½ cup half and half
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Topping:
¾ cup halved cherry tomatoes
¾ cup coarsely chopped feta cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped walnuts

Place an oven rack on the bottom setting. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with the pie dough, extending the sides slightly above the top of the tart pan. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the eggplant and toss in a medium bowl. Spread the eggplant in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the eggplant is lightly browned. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned. Add the zucchini to the onion and continue sautéing 2 to 3 minutes or until the zucchini is lightly browned. Stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Cool completely.

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt and pepper. Scatter the eggplant over the bottom of the tart and top with the onion and zucchini mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables then float the tomatoes, cut side up, in the cream. Arrange the cheese and nuts over the vegetables. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the tart pan in the center.

Bake the tart with the baking sheet on the bottom oven rack 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned and a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean.

Serves 6

Autumn Salad with Crisp Bacon, Apples and Softly Cooked Eggs

January 04, 2009

I love the taste of softly cooked eggs in salads. In this salad the tender white of the eggs combined with the soft yolks create the perfect contrast to the crisp tangy apple and the smoky bacon. Use the famous applewood-smoked Neuske’s Bacon www.neuskesbacon.com for the best flavor.

I’ve recently been introduced to Northern Lights Blue cheese and its creamy sweet peppery flavor is the perfect match for this salad. It’s made at the University of Minnesota and can be found in many Twin Cities cheese shops. For those of you out of state, try Maytag Blue from Iowa. It’s readily available across the country or check out their website at www.maytagdairyfarms.com.

Oregano Dressing:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or a generous ¼ teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Greek oregano)
Pinch salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:
4 eggs
3 cups mixed greens
1 apple, unpeeled, sliced (use a crisp sweet-tart apple such as Honeycrisp)
4 strips bacon, cooked, coarsely crumbled
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese

Blend the all of the dressing ingredients together in a small blender, hand blender or mini food processor until combined and slightly thickened. Or make the dressing by hand. Whisk all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil until combined.

Cover the eggs with about 1-inch of water in a small saucepan. Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium heat and boil 4 minutes, adjusting the heat when needed to keep the water at a gentle boil. Run the eggs under cold running water about 30 seconds or until they are warm, but not hot. Carefully peel the eggs, the whites will be firm but the yolks will still be slightly soft.

Meanwhile, place the greens in the center of two plates. Arrange the apples over the greens and scatter the bacon over the apples. Sprinkle the olives around the salads and top each salad with the blue cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salads.

Place 2 eggs around each salad and cut each in half. (Because the yolks are soft you need to cut the eggs while on the salad plate so the yolks can gently ooze into the salad.) Lightly sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 (this recipe can be easily doubled)

Tomato-Basil Pasta with Goat Cheese

January 04, 2009

This is the perfect pasta to make in September when the farmer’s markets are overflowing with ripe red tomatoes. Look for a sunny warm day to serve this dish, the sauce requires no cooking and it will feel like summer is still here.

3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
½ cup slightly packed chopped fresh basil
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
8 oz. linguine, fettuccine or your choice of pasta

Toss together the tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. If you have the time, do this about an hour before you want to eat and let it sit at room temperature. The tomatoes will infuse with the flavor of the basil and the garlic.

Gently stir in the goat cheese. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package directions. Drain and immediately toss the hot pasta with the tomatoes. The heat of the pasta will warm the sauce and melt the cheese to a creamy consistency. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

The Best Fresh Raspberry Pancakes

January 04, 2009

In walking out to the coop these past couple of mornings my thoughts turned to pancakes. I don’t make pancakes often, but on the first weekend of fall they’re exactly what I crave. Fall raspberries are in abundance at the farmer’s market so I decided to make my favorite cornmeal pancakes sweetened with berries.

What makes these cornmeal cakes special, beyond adding a couple of freshly laid eggs to the batter, is the extra step of slightly cooking the cornmeal first. I’ve never been a fan of baked goods where the cornmeal adds particles of grit, like something the chickens would like. Instead, these cakes are thin, delicate and light, almost a cross between crepes and pancakes. For even smoother pancakes you can let the batter rest overnight, making them easier to make in the morning.

These cakes are perfect with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar and extra berries or better yet a light drizzle of superb real maple syrup like the Pure New York Maple Syrup made by the family of my friend Kathy.

FRESH RASPBERRY CORNMEAL PANCAKES

½ cup cornmeal, finely stone-ground if available
2 cups milk, low fat or skim milk is fine
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut up
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
2 eggs
canola oil for frying
2 cups fresh raspberries

Dump the cornmeal into a large glass measuring cup and slowly whisk in 1½ cups of the milk. Add the butter and heat in the microwave on high until the milk comes to a boil. This will take 1 to 2 minutes or more depending on your microwave; but watch carefully so it doesn’t boil over. Once the milk is hot, the cornmeal will begin to cook and thicken so immediately whisk until the butter is melted. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup milk and pour into a large bowl. Let the mixture cool slightly, stirring often.

Quickly whisk in the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until the batter is smooth. The pancakes can be made immediately or the batter can be covered and refrigerated overnight for smoother pancakes. Either way is fine.

Heat a griddle to 350°F. or a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush generously with oil. (No nonstick spray please, while perfect for many things, with pancakes it will bake onto your griddle or nonstick pan and you’ll never be able to get them clean.) Pour a scant ¼ cup of batter on the griddle and scatter a few raspberries over each pancake. Cook until the bubbles have formed and popped and the underside is golden brown. Carefully turn; the pancakes are delicate so use a large spatula to get underneath the entire cake. Cook until the underside is golden. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied by maple syrup.

Makes about 20 pancakes

Copyright Janice Cole 2008

Happy New Year!

January 03, 2009

Happy New Year from the Three Swingin’ Chicks.
I’m normally not very good at making New Year’s resolutions, let alone following through on them. But after watching the chicks this past year, I’m inspired to take some of the lessons I’ve learned and apply them to my own life.

Resolutions from the Chicks:

1. Stay busy from sun up to sun down.
2. Take some time to run your toes through the grass every day.
3. Lounge in the sun at least once every afternoon.
4. Disregard occasional squabbles and enjoy your flock of friends.
5. Keep laughing; chicks provide nonstop entertainment.
6. Pause and give thanks to the birds that provide eggs and meat for the table. They’re curious, loving and intelligent animals that deserve our respect and love.

I’m interested in hearing your resolutions, chicken inspired or otherwise. All the best to you and yours in the new year.