Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Peach Crisp

It's been a while! My first recipe as a college graduate is a delicious peach crisp in celebration of the beginning of  peach season, one of my absolute favorite times of the year. This homey dessert is easy to make and can be made ahead. It goes perfectly with ice cream or some freshly whipped cream. Play around with spices and flavorings, of course, and see what creations you can come up with!
Serves 4-8

8 ripe peaches (or more or less depending on the size of your pan), washed
4 T butter
½ c. brown sugar
1 c. oats
⅓ c. whole wheat flour (or white, but whole wheat's healthier and you can't taste the difference at all!)
dash of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut peaches in half, remove pit, and cut into bite-sized chunks. Place in the bottom of your baking dish (square, oval, rectangle, individual ramekins, etc.).
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a hand or two forks until uniformly mixed and butter is in pea-sized bits.
3. Spread crumble evenly over peaches.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve hot or room temperature, with ice cream or something else, or on its own!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

This quintessential French dessert looks and tastes great and is a special treat requiring only 2 ingredients! It's a simple, classic mousse with only egg whites and chocolate--no cream like many mousse recipes call for. The only caveat is having to make this a couple hours before you want to eat it, so the mousse has time to chill and set in the fridge.

7 oz. (200 g) dark chocolate (I used 70%, but you could use something less intense if you want it sweeter.)
6 egg whites

1. Break chocolate into pieces and melt over a double boiler, or in the microwave on very low heat. Be sure not to over cook it--you only want just enough heat to melt it. Let the chocolate cool so its heat doesn't deflate the egg whites.
2. Meanwhile, separate eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl and saving the yolks for another use. Be sure to not get any yolk into the whites or they will not inflate and gain volume!
3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until the whites form stiff peaks. (They should stand up straight when you turn them upside down.)
4. With a rubber spatula, add about 1/4 of the whites to the chocolate. Stir this together to lighten up the chocolate. Then, add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them in. (See note below re: folding.) It may look a bit strange during this process but that's okay and normal! It will become uniform quickly!
lightening up:
5. Put mousse into a large serving dish or individual ones (ramekins, teacups or even martini glasses look wonderful and super elegant!), cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours or up to a couple days. Serve cold.

Note: Fold does NOT mean stir! Use the spatula to scoop the mixture from the bottom of the bowl and fold it over onto the top of the mixture. This will eventually incorporate the whites with the chocolate. Do NOT over-mix - this will deflate the egg whites, preventing the mousse from being light and airy. The whole folding process should take no more than 90 seconds. It's okay if the mixture is not 100% uniformly mixed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Huevos Rancheros

A delicious and filling breakfast, this satisfying meal is great for weekend brunches. It is, of course, super versatile and can be adjusted greatly.
Serves 2

3 eggs
1 t. olive oil
2 tortillas
½ cup refried or black beans (~½ a can)
1 c. baby spinach leaves, packed
several slices cheese, or ½ c. grated cheese (cheddar, Monterey or pepper jack, or whatever you like/have)
salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro (optional, for serving)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pan. Crack and scramble eggs in a bowl and add to pan, cooking until slightly less than fully cooked. (They'll finish cooking in the oven.)

2. Spread beans evenly on each tortilla and place on a baking sheet. Top with spinach and mostly-cooked scrambled eggs. Top evenly with cheese.
3. Place in oven until cheese is melted and starts bubbling. If you're impatient, you could alternatively broil this, but watch carefully so it doesn't burn! Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole and/or cilantro, if desired.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quinoa Kitchen Sink Salad

This salad is a great way to use up leftover veggies that might be going bad. It's incredibly healthy — quinoa, a small grain about the same size as couscous, is a complete protein and packed with fiber, and it contains essential amino acids. It is very fast to make, involving only chopping and 15 minutes inactive cooking time for the quinoa. And, obviously, being a kitchen sink salad, this recipe invites you to use whatever you may have on hand and like! 
Serves 4-8

1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
3 T olive oil
2 t. vinegar (white or red wine, or balsamic)
1 T orange juice (optional)
2 t. lemon or lime juice (optional)
salt and pepper

Whatever vegetables you have/like. I used:
½ bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
1 c. snow peas
½ red onion
½ bunch scallions
1 carrot
½ c. craisins

Any herbs you have/like. I used:
½ c. fennel tops
½ c. basil
½ c. mint

1. Combine quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, cover, turn heat down to low, and let cook for 15 minutes until water is absorbed.
2. Chop veggies. Since this is a salad, you want everything in small, bite-sized pieces. I thinly sliced the asparagus, carrots, and scallions. I chopped snow peas into ½-inch pieces and red onion a bit smaller.
3. Roughly chop herbs. 
4. Combine everything (veggies, craisins, herbs, quinoa, and olive oil, vinegar and citrus juice(s)) in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Tastes even better the next day!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Balsamic Strawberries with Mascarpone Cheese and Mint

This is seriously one of my favorite desserts ever. So simple to make, yet so delicious, the flavors in this dish unite wonderfully and taste fabulous together. It makes a terrific and elegant spring or summer dessert! Very highly recommended!
Serves 4

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 pints fresh strawberries (1 regular sized plastic container found in groceries)
1 T sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it)
½ c. mascarpone cheese (4 oz.)
2 T sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it)
1 T milk or cream
1/4 c. mint 

1. Put balsamic vinegar in your smallest saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium to make a balsamic reduction. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes until thickened. (Remember that it will thicken more once it cools off.) This will evaporate some of the water in the vinegar and "reduce" it, making it thick, concentrated and wonderfully sweet. 

2. Meanwhile, wash strawberries, remove stems and cut into quarters. In a small bowl, sprinkle strawberries with 1 T (vanilla) sugar and let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to macerate

3. Combine mascarpone, remaining sugar to taste, and milk or cream. The consistency should be like yogurt or sour cream. 

4. Chop mint. 
5. Divide strawberries between the bottom of 4 preferably clear glasses (drinking glass, martini glass, wine glass, etc.). Top with mascarpone cheese, a drizzle of the balsamic reduction, and mint. Enjoy! This would be delicious with a glass of port!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pear Crisp

This dessert is very fast to prepare and tastes great. Before today I'd made many apple crisps, but never a pear crisp. This experiment turned out great though! Baking pears really highlights their natural sweetness, and the topping complements them wonderfully. A wide variety of fruits could be used here, and the spices can be altered to suit personal tastes and/or desires for experimentation! I made mine in individual ramekins but any baking dish (cupcake molds, a big or small square or rectangle pan, circular dish, etc.) will work as long as quantities are adjusted to fit your pan.
Serves 2

1 pear
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. allspice
2 T butter
1/2 c. oats (can substitute flour for some, if desired)
1/4 c. brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut pear in quarters, remove core, and cut into a small ~½-inch dice. Mix pear in a bowl with 1 t. each cinnamon and allspice. Spread evenly into bottom of baking dish.
2. In the same bowl, mix together the butter, oats, brown sugar and remaining spices. Use a fork or your hands to make the mixture uniform and crumbly. Spread evenly over pears.
3. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until topping is golden. Ripe pears are naturally soft so you don't need to worry about cooking them through; you just want the topping to cook and turn golden brown.
fresh out of the oven
close up for texture's sake

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pineapple Cilantro Salsa

This fruit salsa is a great use for leftover cilantro; that's why I made it! Lightning fast to make, this salsa is a sure-to-please appetizer but would also make a good topping for meat or fish. If it's too sweet for you, add more onion and/or cilantro or some cayenne or hot sauce.
Serves 4-8

1 can crushed pineapple (20-oz, or smaller or larger)
~½ bunch fresh cilantro
½ red onion

1. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stem. Wash if dirty, and then chop.
2. Chop red onion into a small dice.
3. Combine pineapple (drained a bit so it's not too liquidy), cilantro and red onion in a bowl. Add salt and/or pepper if desired and serve with chips!

You can liberally adjust quantities of ingredients and make any changes according to your personal taste and what you have in stock!