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!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asparagus Mushroom Salad

This light, delectable salad tastes so fresh and just like springtime! It's perfect at this time of year when asparagus is at its peak and involves no cooking at all--just chopping! It keeps well, too, and makes great leftovers! 
Serves 4

1 bunch asparagus
~7 mushrooms
1 lemon
3 T olive oil
1 t. dijon mustard, optional
salt and pepper

1. Rinse the asparagus, leaving it in the bunch. Remove one spear, break it with one hand at each end. Where it breaks is where you should trim the rest of them. Line it back up with the other spears and trim the ends where the previous end broke off. Discard these ends.

2. Use a damp paper towel to clean the mushrooms. Cut the stems mostly off.

3.Cut the asparagus on a very big angle as thinly as you can, as shown below. Put in serving bowl.
4.Thinly slice the mushrooms and add to sliced asparagus. 

5. Juice the lemon into a small bowl, remove any seeds and add olive oil, salt, pepper and mustard (if using). Mix well. Pour dressing over asparagus and mushrooms and toss and enjoy!

Notes: This is, as always, very versatile, and you can add/substitute pretty much any raw vegetable. Any type of greens, radish, leek, fennel, or artichoke would all be interesting. Mix it up and experiment and enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dandelion Salad

Don't be turned off by the name! This salad is crazy healthy and truly tastes quite wonderful. Inspired by a salad my host mother in France made (salade de pissenlit in French), this is a fabulous change from typical salads and has great, unique flavors. It features a very neat, interesting way of taming dandelion's often bitter flavor. Dandelion greens are available at many farmers markets and at larger, "greener" and "healthier" groceries. 
Serves 4

1 T olive oil
1 onion
2 eggs
1 big bunch or bag dandelion greens
1/4 c. cream or olive oil
1 T vinegar (balsamic, red wine, white wine, etc.)
salt and pepper

1. Heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Slice onion into rings or half moons and add to oil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning, for about 30 minutes. (The longer the better though!)

2. Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs: put eggs in a small sauce pan, cover with cold water, and put over medium-high heat. When water boils, remove pot from heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Then immediately submerse eggs in cold water to stop the cooking. Peel off shell.

3. Wash the dandelion very well. (It tends to be quite dirty since it's not usually produced industrially or in large-scale.) Trim off the ends and put in a salad bowl.

4. Cut hard boiled egg into small cubes. Add egg and caramelized onions to dandelion.
Dandelion and onions patiently awaiting the egg and their dressing

5. Heat cream or olive oil over med-high heat until very hot and nearly boiling or smoking. Pour over the dandelion. This flash-cooks the dandelion and softens its bitter flavor. Add vinegar and salt and pepper and toss well. Bon App Y'all!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Date Milkshake

This drink was created to use some of the plethora of fresh dates I received from a friend from California. Very delicious, healthy and filling, it can be significantly altered to suit any all tastes and preferences! 
Serves 4

1-2 c. dates, pitted and roughly chopped
2 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
1/8 - 1/2 c. peanut butter
1 banana (optional)
1/2 c. milk
if using plain yogurt, add 2 T something sweet (sugar, vanilla sugar, or honey would all be good)
1-2 c. ice, depending on how icy you like it

1. Combine all ingredients except ice in a blender and blend.

2. Add ice and blend more to desired consistency.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Roasted Winter Veggies

For those of us who haven't yet seen the plenitude of springtime produce, these roasted winter veggies are a comforting and tasty way to seek some solace while our friends in warmer climates enjoy spring's asparagus and artichokes. Simple, nutritious and delicious, these vegetables are a piece of cake to make and taste great! You can use whatever vegetables you like in whatever proportions you desire! Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut or any other winter squash would all be wonderful here.
Serves 4

1/2 head cauliflower
1-2 turnips
2-4 carrots
1-3 beets
any other veggies you have/like!
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
any combination of herbs and/or spices (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut and trim vegetables into bite sized pieces. 1/2-in. to an inch sized chunks for carrots, turnips and beets. Bite-sized florets of cauliflower. The smaller you chop it, the less time it takes to cook.
2. Pour olive oil onto a large baking pan with sides (I used a 9x13x2, though bigger wouldn't have hurt). Put veggies in pan and salt and pepper them. 
3. Bake in oven and stir every 15 or so minutes. Total cooking time will be 45 min - 1 hr, depending on how small you chopped the veggies and your oven. Add chopped herbs and/or spices about halfway through the cooking time so they don't burn. I used herbes de provence and it tasted great!
4. Veggies are done when tender i.e. a fork or knife stuck in them goes in pretty easily. 
Note: Chop the beet last! It will turn everything, including your hands, bright purple. So chop it last and wash your hands, knife and cutting board immediately after so it doesn't stain for weeks!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Health Improvement

Two recent articles of interest concerning food:
The first is great news for promoting healthy (or healthier) eating in America. As part of the health care bill passed Monday and signed by Obama on Tuesday, restaurants chains, notably fast food eateries, will be required to post nutrition facts about foods they're selling us. Hopefully this will cause consumers to realize just how bad certain foods are, and perhaps surprise them at the unhealthiness of certain supposedly good-for-you items, like some salads at fast food chains that have more calories than some of their burgers!

Secondly, this blog post about food subsidies in America shows how backward the US's current agricultural policy is. Rather than subsidizing items with marginal nutritional content, America should subsidize and encourage growing fruits and vegetables. This could go a long way to changing the eating habits of Americans by making healthy foods more affordable and unhealthy foods more costly.

Leave a comment and let me know your opinions and ideas on these issues!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spinach-Cheese Soufflé

Yes, it's has the word "soufflé" in the title, but it really isn't that difficult! The end result is incredibly delicious and the texture light and perfectly, characteristically fluffy. It's very impressive and if the steps are followed, it will be a huge success and a real showstopper! Serve with a simple light green salad.

Soufflé pan
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 c. milk
5 eggs
1 c. grated cheese (cheddar or Swiss work well - something with a sharp, strong flavor)
1 10-oz. box frozen spinach, defrosted (leave out overnight or microwave until not frozen)
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray, grease, or butter the bottom and sides of the soufflé dish so it's ready.
2. Defrost spinach in microwave and squeeze out as much water as possible over the sink.
3. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. (This is to prevent a raw flour taste.)
4. Add milk and increase heat until milk boils. Cook about 5 minutes until thickened (you want slightly thicker than a syrup-like consistency). Once thickened, remove from heat. (This is called a béchamel sauce, or roux.) 
Add grated cheese, the squeezed out spinach, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir until uniformly mixed.
5. Separate eggs, placing the whites into a large bowl, and the yolks into a small bowl. Be careful to not get any yolk at all into the whites, or they will not beat up later! If some falls in, use a spoon to gently scoop it out.
6. Beat the yolks and add to the béchamel, stirring well and quickly while adding them.
7. With an electric mixer, beat up the egg whites for several minutes until they form stiff peaks, as seen below. (They should stand up straight when you turn them upside down.)
8. With a rubber spatula, add about 1/4 of the whites to the béchamel/cheese/spinach mixture. Stir this together to lighten up the béchamel. Then, add the remaining egg whites to the béchamel sauce and gently fold them in. (See note below re: folding.)
9. Immediately place mixture into the prepared soufflé pan and put in preheated oven. 
10. Bake about 30 minutes depending on the oven. The center should not be very jiggly - if it is, keep cooking longer. You can also stick a toothpick or knife into the center of the soufflé. If it comes out clean, it's done. Serve immediately. (Really! It'll deflate within a minute.)

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 béchamel. Do NOT over-mix - this will deflate the egg whites, preventing the soufflé from rising. The whole folding process should take no more than 90 seconds. It's okay if the mixture is not 100% uniformly mixed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

French Onion Quiche

This delicious tart has such a luscious texture and rich flavor despite so few ingredients! It takes more time than most of my recipes, yet it's not difficult and very versatile. It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature, and thus can be made in advance! Also, leftovers are just as delicious! You can also throw in other pre-cooked, bite-sized veggies into the quiche. Best served with a simple salad.
Serves 6-8

1 pie crust (homemade or bought--I buy it in the refrigerator section near the cream cheese. It comes rolled up, 2 to a package.)
2 T olive oil
4-6 onions (depending on size)
1 1/2 c. milk or cream
4 eggs
salt and pepper
herbs, fresh or dried (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Unroll or roll out pie crust into a pie pan. Prick it all over with a fork. Bake about 12 minutes or until barely golden. Turn oven down to 325°F once you remove the crust from the oven.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Thinly slice onions into rings or half rings and add to pan. Caramelize them--cook them for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Their natural sugars will be brought out and they will melt down and become quite tender, aromatic, golden and sweet. Add salt and pepper and any herbs, if desired.

3. In a bowl mix together milk and/or cream, eggs, salt and pepper, and beat well with a fork.

4. Place onions into pre-cooked pie crust and pour egg mixture over the top. Put in 325°F oven for 45 min - 1 hour until solidified throughout and just set in the center. The more cream you use, the faster the cooking time will be. Using all 2% milk, for instance, will take a decent amount of time longer to cook.
before cooking

cooked and ready to eat!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mango, Avocado and Black Bean Quesadilla

I basically lived off of quesadillas for a while in high school. They're quick, easy and healthy, and very versatile too! I made this one using mango and avocado that were going bad in the fridge.
Serves: 2

4 tortillas (any size/type you like)
1 15-oz. can black beans
1 mango
1 avocado
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar works well, but whatever you like)
Salsa or sour cream, for serving (optional)

1. Drain and rinse well the black beans.
2. Peel mango. Cut flesh away from pit and cut into long slices.
3. Preheat a non-stick pan with a little butter or olive oil over medium heat.
4. Cut avocado in half. Take out pit. Score avocado in long thin slices and use a large spoon to pull it out of the peel.
5. Layer mango, avocado, black beans, and cheese on two tortillas. (Remember, you'll have to flip this soon, so don't use too much filling!) Top with another tortilla and cook in pan until golden brown. Flip and cook 2nd side until golden brown. Cut into wedges with a pizza slicer or knife and enjoy!
Before cooking

Notes: This is very flexible and you can use whatever veggies (or various fruits) you like or have in the quesadilla! It's also good with cumin (or other spices) sprinkled inside while assembling the quesadilla, as my brother Ethan did! Experiment and enjoy! Bon app y'all!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mediterranean Fried Rice

This is a great way to use leftovers. It's super healthy, incredibly quick, and basically any veggie or ingredient could be put in it! Let me know what you put in yours and how it turns out! 
Serves 2
2 T olive oil
1 onion
Couple cloves garlic, minced
2 c. leftover rice
2 eggs
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
Any amount and combination of veggies or meat (leftovers are easiest!)

1. Heat oil over med-high heat in a pan. Add onion and cook for 5 min. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
2. Add veggies and/or meat and cook until cooked through or until heated (if leftover and already cooked).
3. Add rice and cook 5 minutes. Add eggs and scramble them in the pan and mix well until cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in a little red wine or balsamic vinegar, too, if desired.
4. Top with feta cheese.
My version below has beet greens, carrot, onion, feta and garlic.