Annie’s recipe for chocolate vanilla apple cupcakes

Fill a tub with water. Add some leaves, and grass. Some rocks to taste. “Pump it” with a wiffle bat.

Pour some more water for the big rock. You need a lot of rocks because you’re making a cupcake, okay? Get some water for those rocks, too.

Now you put it in the oven and you cook it, and cook it, and cook it, and cook it, and then it’s ready!

Makes 4 cupcakes, for Annie, Paul, mom, and Dad, and one dog cupcake, for Sous.

Video

chef

Annie developed her first recipe today: hand-smashed organic blackberries on whole grain toast. The trick is: you rub the blackberries on the bread, then wipe them off with a paper towel, and then rub them on again. Genius.

recipe: banana

Ingredients

1 banana

Instructions

  1. Have parent peel banana.
  2. Hold banana firmly. Really sink those fingers in.
  3. Put banana in mouth and squash off a nice mouthful.
  4. Chew thoughtfully, twice, and let banana drop out of mouth and onto chest, feet, or thigh rolls.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Have parent pick up fallen chunks. Take back into mouth and swallow every fourth piece.
  7. Slap hands into fallen banana mush and rub into available surfaces.

from the improvised recipe files

Been a while since I posted a recipe, right? (Uh, been a while since you’ve posted anything.) So here’s one from last weekend. Give it a try! Perfect for summer!

yogurt pop

Strawberry Honey Yogurt Pops, in 10 Steps

1. Flip through your recipe collection and—because you have some popsicle sticks laying around from that weird fundraising-arrow construction project—have attention snagged by a Bon Appetit recipe that’s been languishing in the “try me” section for a few years, for Blackberry Honey and Yogurt Pops. Plan to try it.

2. Instead of the called-for 18oz of fresh blackberries, recall that you have half a two-week-old pint of strawberries that have sort of dehydrated themselves in the fridge, but they were so tasty, back then, that you haven’t managed to throw them out.

3. While checking the strawberries for mold, notice the half-quart of honey-flavored greek yogurt lurking behind them. Sure, it has a best-by date in January, but it still looks, smells, and tastes fine, so, it’s totally fine!

4. Also find a lemon.

5. Realize you have basically all the ingredients for a modified version of the recipe, right now. Stop making your grocery list and brew up some simple syrup, let’s say half of what the recipe calls for since your yogurt is sweet already, and you’re probably not making the whole volume anyway. Or maybe you are, who can say? But this feels right. 1/3 cup each sugar and water, boil till the sugar dissolves.

6. While that’s cooking, wash, stem, screen for mold, and chop the hell out of those half-dried strawberries. Damn, they look pretty good actually.

7. Pour the syrup into a measuring cup and drop a couple ice cubes in to cool it down (in fact, stick the whole thing in the freezer for a couple of minutes for good measure). Forget about the honey because, again, your yogurt is fortuitously already honey-flavored. Scoop that yogurt into a bowl and lick the spoon to make sure this is really something you’re going to be happy to eat.

8. Stir together the yogurt, syrup, chopped strawberries, and juice from your lemon. Tiny sprinkle of salt, too, why not? Taste it again.

9. Pull out the four plastic cups you own, and split the mixture evenly between them. Cover the top with foil and poke a popsicle stick through the middle (the foil will hold it upright enough). Special, single-purpose equipment you never need: popsicle molds.

10. Pop it in the freezer and get back to that grocery list.

IMG_20140518_130330697_HDR

(They seriously were delicious.)

White Chicken Chili

Thanks again, Cooks, for a baller recipe.

chicken chili

INGREDIENTS
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves , trimmed of excess fat and skin (or one whole chicken, cut into pieces)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions , cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans , drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl; you’ll use it later to puree cooked vegetables).

3. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary and leaving all the nice browned chicken-y bits) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

summer spanish soups

It’s warmed up again, sort of, so I blended up my second chilled, Spanish, tomato-based soup this week. I’m so thrilled tomatoes have arrived that I’m consuming them in every way I can think of.

I never much liked gazpacho, so I’d flagged an Orangette post in which she captured my gazpacho sentiment perfectly (“It often tastes flat and tinny, like canned tomato juice, and on a particularly unfortunate day, it can resemble a regrettable attempt at salsa.”) and provided a recipe she actually did enjoy. I made it today, and it’s wonderful. I also suspect that my previous attempts with gazpacho were executed with subpar tomatoes and olive oil. There’s nowhere to hide in five-ingredient Spanish food, though, so everything has really got to be top notch.

gazpacho ingredients

Damn Good Gazpacho

3 – 5 medium to large tomatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic cloves
½ of a green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
½ of a medium to large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ to ¾ of a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
Salt to taste

Put the olive oil in a blender, and blend on high speed until frothy. Add the garlic, and process briefly. Add the bell peppers, cucumber, a couple pinches of salt, and as many tomatoes as will fit comfortably into your blender. Process on high speed for a while, stopping the blender from time to time to scrape down the sides of the jar and mush around the ingredients as needed to allow the blender to run smoothly. (The mixture will be fairly thick until the tomatoes are pureed.) Let the blender go as long as you can stand the noise; the longer it goes, the better it will taste and the creamier it will be. Add 2 tablespoons of the sherry vinegar, and process to incorporate. Taste, and add vinegar and salt as needed.

Chill thoroughly before serving.

gazpacho
(the finished product)

My first chilled Spanish tomato soup of the week, however, was a salmorejo based on this recipe I ripped out of Bon Appetit a few months ago. I’d never heard of this soup until our trip to Spain last fall, when we ordered it at a restaurant attached to an olive oil shop in Seville. We were eating there with Jeff and sharing everything, and we liked this soup so much we ordered a second bowl. Someone probably licked it clean. This recipe lived up to my memory and was a great contribution to a backyard dinner party.

salmorejo

Salmorejo

3 pounds ripe tomatoes
3 toasted, chopped slices white sandwich bread
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
4 smashed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Serrano ham or prosciutto, thinly sliced
Chopped hard-boiled egg

Squeeze seeds and pulp from halved tomatoes into a strainer set over a large bowl. Press solids to release as much liquid as possible; discard solids. [I didn’t do this either, just cut up the tomatoes and put all of it in.] Core and chop tomatoes; add to bowl.

Combine bread, almonds, and garlic cloves in a blender. Pulse until chopped. Add tomatoes with liquid to blender in batches, puréeing until very smooth. Add 1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar. With blender running, gradually add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Purée until emulsified and frothy, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and more vinegar, if desired. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Season to taste again with salt and vinegar.

Divide soup among small bowls or glasses. Garnish with thinly sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto and chopped hard-boiled egg. Drizzle with more oil.

backyard dinner

Summer is the best.

recipe: arctic char and hush puppies

I did not select this recipe because it included hush puppies, but it is an awfully appropriate menu item for us these days. I pulled it out of my “try this” file for our first California dinner after a long weekend of house shopping in Austin (more on that later). Honestly, I never understood why anyone liked hush puppies, those dense lumps that manage to be at once dry and greasy. Turns out they are something quite different right out of the fry oil, just cool enough to eat, and stuffed with tasty additions. I’d recommend getting everything prepared so you can sear the fish and fry the hush puppies at the very last minute and eat immediately.

Arctic Char with Cucumber-Feta Relish and Jalapeño-Goat-Cheese Hush Puppies
from Bon Appetit’s September 2010 feature on restaurants, originally from Caseus Fromagerie Bistro, New Haven, Connecticut

char and puppies

INGREDIENTS
Relish
1 12-ounce cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup coarsely crumbled sheep’s-milk feta cheese (about 3 ounces) [Lacking feta, I substituted crumbled blue cheese for both the relish and the hush puppies. No complaints.]
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley [I chopped a little extra and threw it into the puppies batter.]
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil [I think 2 is all that’s necessary.]
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
Fish
4 5- to 6-ounce arctic char fillets with skin
3 tablespoons canola oil

INSTRUCTIONS
Toss relish ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Relish can be made 2 hours ahead.

Sprinkle fish on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Place fish, skin side down, in skillet. Cook until skin is brown, occasionally flattening with spatula to prevent curling, about 4 minutes. Turn fish over. Cook until just opaque in center, about 1 minute. [I found this timing to be exactly right. The skin was beautifully crisp and the flesh perfectly done.]

Using slotted spoon, mound relish on plates. Top with fish, skin side up. Arrange hush puppies alongside and serve.

Hush Puppies

INGREDIENTS
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk [Lacking buttermilk, I used plain yogurt.]
2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeño chile
4 ounces coarsely crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about 1 cup)
Canola oil or vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

INSTRUCTIONS
Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and chile in small bowl to blend. Stir buttermilk mixture and cheese into dry ingredients.

Add enough oil to deep medium saucepan to reach 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to pan; heat oil to 320°F to 330°F over medium heat. Working in batches of 4 or 5, drop batter by tablespoonfuls into oil. Cook until golden, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. [Mine cooked faster than this. Perhaps my oil was too hot, but they sure turned out fine.] Using slotted spoon, transfer hush puppies to paper towels.

fried chicken

I took a short break from the frantic cooking last week as we exploited some frozen leftovers and actually ate out TWICE. Perhaps I was just saving my energy for exploring a new cooking frontier: fried chicken. That’s right, it turns out you can make something that’s almost as good as KFC for only loads of effort. Tempted?

chicken frying

SKILLET-FRIED CHICKEN
from Bon Appetit’s February issue, lots of other material here

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Peanut oil (for frying) [I used a combination of canola and safflower, no problems.]
special equipment:
A deep-fry thermometer [I don’t know if this differs from a candy thermometer, which is what I had and worked fine.]

PREPARATION
Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.

Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish.

Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet or other heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.

Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.

Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

chicken, plated
(more photos here; scroll down)

[source]

Also last week, we ate some gumbo from the freezer, first documented here. (Matt and Amanda, remember when you lived in California?!)

a week of meals

Another week, another menu.

Monday: pumpkin and shrimp bisque
Tuesday: the rest of the bisque, with some vegetables
Wednesday: murgh makhanwala
Thursday: various leftovers
Friday: galician tuna empanada and caesar salad
Saturday: red beans and rice with asparagus

Monday’s meal was a triumph on several levels. I chose the recipe specifically to use up a giant can of pumpkin, which, in a fit of fall madness, I’d bought in a 3-pack from Costco (what person who does not like pumpkin pie really needs 6 pounds on hand?) and cracked open to make pumpkin bread for our recent ski trip. It just so happened that I had every other ingredient already in our pantry or freezer, which thrills me. It’s not quite as good as finding the perfect recipe to use up the last bits of ingredients purchased for sundry other meals, but it’s close. And if all that weren’t enough, the soup was extremely tasty. It caused me to make a squash-specific resolution to never again dull knives and risk fingers breaking down a whole butternut or acorn into half-inch cubes to puree in a soup when I could simply open up a can of pumpkin for equally delicious results.

Wednesday’s murgh makhanwala, an Indian recipe clipped from Saveur maybe a year ago, was complicated and fun and turned out well—if virtually indistinguishable from the chicken tikka masala you could get at basically any Indian restaurant in the western world. I enjoyed cooking in a different cuisine and learning how the dish comes together, but I’ll probably leave this one to the restaurants in the future.

The dish I want to share with you this time is Friday’s tuna empanada. Granted, you must have screwed up pretty royally to not love a dish you wrapped in puff pastry,* but whatever. This was flat delicious, quick to make, and I’m positive it helped Bryan’s performance as a driver in the Lemons race the next day. The pastry is crispy and rich, and the filling sort of merges together into hot, savory fabulousness.

*calories in one sheet: 1700

GALICIAN TUNA EMPANADA

[Note: I halved the recipe; it worked great.]

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium plum tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound high-quality canned Spanish tuna packed in olive oil, drained, coarsely flaked
2 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled, sliced
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
2 ounces thinly sliced Serrano ham or prosciutto [Our Whole Foods recently started carrying a brand called La Quercia, which is better than any other prosciutto I can recall.]
1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)

INSTRUCTIONS
Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, pepper, onion, and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are soft, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add tuna and sliced eggs; toss gently to distribute evenly. Season filling with salt and pepper; set aside to cool completely.

Spray rimless baking sheet with nonstick spray. [I just plopped the empanada on some parchment paper.] Roll out 1 pastry sheet on floured surface to 12×16-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet. Arrange ham over pastry, leaving 1-inch border. Spread filling atop ham, leaving 1-inch border. Brush pastry edges with beaten egg. Roll out second pastry sheet to 12×15-inch rectangle. Place atop filling, pressing on edges to seal. Fold 1/2 inch of bottom pastry edge up over top pastry; crimp edges to seal. Brush top with beaten egg. Cut eight 2-inch slashes in top pastry. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)

Preheat oven to 450°F. Bake empanada uncovered until crust is browned and crisp, about 25 minutes. Slide onto platter.

empanada
I’m not sure this photo does it justice, but my mouth started watering just looking at it and remembering, so I’ll leave it up. Photos of most of the other meals are posted in my funemployment album.

[Recipe source: Bon Appetit]

a week of meals

I’m proud of how often I’ve been cooking. Thanks to my exhaustive shopping lists and frequent photojournalism, I know exactly what we ate each night. And now you do, too! This was last week’s line-up. Can you tell I visited the fish market on Monday? It’s all about efficiency.

Monday: salmon tartare; mussels steamed in white wine; broiled asparagus
Tuesday: roasted salmon; cabbage gratin; green beans with butter
Wednesday: thai hot and sour soup; salmon salad with soba, asparagus, and spinach
Thursday: french onion soup
Friday: french onion soup (again) with root vegetable gratin
Saturday: lasagna with artichokes, mushrooms, and bechamel

The two gratins were prompted by the wintery weather we’ve been having, and both were hits. (The cabbage version is a little deadly, loaded with heavy cream.) The lasagna was a recipe we cooked with friends in college and our part of our anniversary nostalgia festival, probably not worthy of regular rotation.

I declare the french onion soup to be the week’s winner, based on tastiness, non-deadliness, and my level of sadness when the last serving was gone. Perfect for cooking on a cold and drizzly weekend day (I say weekend due to the cooking time), and even better as leftovers to see you into the following week.

FRENCH ONION SOUP

INGREDIENTS
Soup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Salt
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
6 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons
1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices [a nice seedy wheat bread is good, too]
8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. For the soup: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray inside of heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray. [This is the only instruction I didn’t follow, no problems.] Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.

(onions after the oven time)
onions out of oven

2. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until liquid evaporates and onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing heat to medium if onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.) Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.

(onions after the first deglaze: not brown enough!)
onions first deglaze

(onions after the third deglaze: could be darker still, but I only have so much patience)
onions third deglaze

3. Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

4. For the croutons: While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in 400-degree oven until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

5. To serve: Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

(lacking oven-proof bowls, I toasted the croutons separately)
croutons

[Source: Cooks Illustrated, behind the subscription wall]