29 October 2010

Dorie Greenspan's Mustard Batons

Along with the polenta triangles I posted about a few days ago, I served these as appetizers at our recent get-together.  They were a hit!

Hot mustard is one of my favourite secret ingredients.  It does good stuff to mashed potatoes.  Trust me on that.  I've really been loving mustard lately, and putting it in practically everything.  I've gone through 3 jars of mustard (in one form or another) in the last month.  That's a lot.

These batons are so perfect for a dinner party in many ways.  First, I actually made these about a week before the party, when I had some spare time, laid them all out on sheets of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and froze them.  Then the morning of the party, I thawed them (which took only about 20 minutes at room temperature) and baked them off.  They kept very nicely sitting out all day while I made other things.

And they are dead easy.  You just roll out some puff pastry, spread on some mustard, fold, slice, apply eggwash & toppings of choice (I used coarse sea salt, Dorie uses poppy or sesame seeds), and bake.

Mustard Batons
Original recipe by Dorie Greenspan and published in Around My French Table or online here

You will need:
All-purpose flour, for rolling
Frozen puff pastry (each about 8½ ounces), thawed
Dijon mustard
1 large egg
Sea salt or poppy seeds for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out pastry on a lightly-floured surface until very thin and measures approximately 12x16 inches (and as rectangular-shaped as you can get it).

Spread mustard over 1/2 of the pastry, leaving edges un-mustarded.

Fold pastry in half and slice into strips about 3/4 of an inch wide using a pizza cutter.  Transfer to baking sheets.

Lightly beat egg in bowl with a little cold water to create an egg wash.  Brush over tops of each strip and sprinkle on some large-flaked sea salt (Dorie uses poppy seeds or sesame seeds instead).

Bake for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through, or until pastry is puffed and nicely browned (think the colour of a soft pretzel).

25 October 2010

Polenta Triangles with Goat's Cheese, Chilli Jam & Rocket

My flatmate and I had a party.

I fed lots of omnivores a whole bunch of vegetarian food.  I overheard someone say, "this vegetarian food is so good that I don't care that it's vegetarian."  It put a huge, silly grin on my face.  They were talking about these appetizers.

I did, however, make them some roasted pork tenderloin.  I'm told it was tasty.  I did it to be hospitable, since I would expect someone to consider my vegetarian food needs if they invited me over for dinner.  Still... I don't want to talk about it.  I want to talk about this.

A little while back, I was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's version of this, which he blogged about over at the Guardian.  He uses gooseberry and chilli relish, and garnishes with basil.  I had chilli jam hanging around (recipe can be found here), and the rocket was my flatmate's idea.  The whole thing is a much simpler version of the original - so easy and it comes together in a snap.

Keep an eye out for more recipes from the party, which will be coming along soon!

Polenta Triangles with Goats Cheese, Chilli Jam & Rocket

you will need:
Polenta brick, sliced and cut into triangles
Goat's cheese, grated - I use a medium-hard version but you could easily use crumbled soft chèvre 
Rocket leaves
Olive oil

Heat a little olive oil a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add polenta and fry gently until most of the sputtering has stopped (the popping/sputtering is the water in the polenta having a not-friendly reaction with the hot oil), about 4-5 minutes.  Polenta will be slightly golden in colour, but will not brown.  Don't wait for a browning to happen - you'll be sorely disappointed since it will take about 100 years and your polenta will turn into hard little hockey pucks.  (How's that for hyperbole?)

Gently flip over the triangles, adding a little more olive oil if you need to.  While the second side is cooking, add some grated cheese to the top of each piece and allow it to melt.  Remove polenta from pan and arrange on plate.  Drop a little bit of chilli jam on top of each triangle and top each with a small rocket leaf.  Serve warm.

21 October 2010

Spinach & Lentil Curry, Revisited

The first time I told you about this curry was in February.  Probably, no one even saw the post - the pictures were crap and I was kinda brand new to blogging.

I made it a little bit differently this time (but not much) and paid closer attention to the amounts of ingredients I used.  Instead of using shallots as a garnish, I opted this time for a sprinkling of cinnamon over the yogurt.  The warm scent of the spices seemed to really want me to add cinnamon.  It was a good call.

So, here we go again with this recipe, with more accurate measurements and prettier pictures.  Yay.

Spinach & Lentil Curry, Take Two

  • ~1 cup french green lentils
  • ~1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 tea ground ginger
  • 2 tea harissa paste (or chilli of your choice)
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste or puree'd tomatoes
  • 100g baby spinach leaves, stems removed, roughly chopped.
  • 1/2 tea sea salt 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic (~2 tea garlic paste)
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • greek yogurt, ground cinnamon & toast points, for serving

Place the lentils, ginger, harissa and turmeric in a pan, and add enough water to cover the lentils 2x.  Bring to a boil, then simmer over a moderate heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a further 20-ish minutes.  Add bulgur and continue simmering until lentils are cooked through but not over-done - they should still give a little *pop* when you bite into them.  ((Add water as needed, both the lentils and the bulgur will absorb a LOT of it, keep adding it a bit at a time to avoid a soupy consistency in the end.))  Add salt and set aside.

Heat the butter in a small pan. Add the cumin and garlic and allow the mixture to become fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the coriander powder and garam masala, mix well, then pour the mixture into the pan of lentils.  Give the mixture a taste and add more salt if you need it.

Add spinach and stir to incorporate.  As you stir, the residual heat from the lentil mixture will wilt the spinach.  Use a little extra heat from the hob if the spinach doesn't wilt.

Serve hot with a big dollop of greek yogurt and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon.

Serve with toast points or warm naan bread.

19 October 2010

Homemade Oreo Cookies

Joy of joys.

You know how the best part of an oreo is the filling?  Did you ever unscrew two oreos and carefully re-sandwich together the two sides with the filling still attached?  I did.  Then Nabisco got smart and started making the double-stuffed version.  I always wished I could eat that stuff by the spoonful.

Once these were all put together, I totally piped leftover oreo filling directly into my mouth.  It was a childhood fantasy come true.  It was amazing.  Definitely not ladylike.

These aren't exactly healthy.  But if we're comparing them to the packaged kind... do you see where I'm going with this?  Plus, you get bonus "cool points" for making something previously only made possible by Nabisco.  Sweet.

Oreo Cookies
From Retro Desserts, adapted by Smitten Kitchen
*As an American living in Europe, I am all too flexible when it comes to measurements.  I've become accustomed to millilitres, grams and Celsius, but cups are still a large part of my vocabulary.  This is an American recipe, but I've added the European measurements where needed.  I generally leave cups alone, since I have a nice set of measuring cups and still haven't adjusted to using kitchen scales.

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 140g) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies.

08 October 2010

Cabbage, Barley & Red Lentil Soup

It's cold in Scotland today.  I made soup for lunch.  It warmed me right up.

I have a thing for soups, it seems.  This one's not the most attractive, but it's hearty and warm and perfect for  this dreary Scottish day, which I will be spending in the lab getting busy with science.  (Yes, I just finished my Master's, like, two weeks ago... and no, there is no rest for the weary.)* I don't know what else to say about this soup, really... it's just a really good soup that's simple and comforting. Give it a try.

Cabbage, Barley & Red Lentil Soup
I used chinese leaf (aka napa cabbage) but have also used sweetheart or pointed cabbage to great effect.
original recipe by me!

1/2 head white cabbage
1 carrot
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
50g (1/3 cup) barley, dry
50g (1/3 cup) red lentils, dry
juice of 1/2 lemon
veg. broth

Get the barley simmering in plenty of water while you work on chopping veg. Let go until cooked, about 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop up your cabbage and carrot. Sauté cabbage in olive oil until it begins to soften, about 5 mintutes.  Add enough vegetable stock to cover veg, then add red lentils - simmer until lentils are cooked.  Add lemon juice and barley.  Blend with stick blender to desired consistency (I like to leave some chunks for texture).  Season to taste with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Serves 4.

*See how I make you think that science has killed me; that I struggle under the weight of impending projects and publications?  The truth is... (NERD ALERT!)... I am bored and lost without it.  Rather than feeling weakened or over-burdened with stress... I am actually quite exstatic.  I am told this will change in time, but for now, I'm pretty excited about my PhD.

06 October 2010

Honey-Soy Soba Noodles with Chestnut Mushrooms and Caramelised Onions

One word: umami.  Umami is a deep, complex, savoury flavour.  It's good stuff.

This dish is full of umami.  You find it in the mushrooms.  It's there in the soba noodles with their nutty, buckwheat flour goodness.  It's in the carmelised onion.  It's in the soy.  It's everywhere.

This is a great autumn dish.  Warm.  Cozy.  Umami.


Honey-Soy Soba Noodles with Chestnut Mushrooms & Caramelised Onions
Original recipe by me!

2 bunches soba noodles
1 large onion
12-or-so chestnut mushrooms
1 clove minced garlic
two shakes white wine vinegar, or really any comparable subsitute will do
2 tea honey
soy sauce to taste, enough to cover noodles**

Prepare soba noodles to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  Slice onion and add to hot oil, stirring to cover in oil and allow to cook while you chop the mushrooms, about 4 minutes.

Destem and slice mushrooms and add to pan.  Add a bit more oil if needed, and add the garlic.  Allow to cook until both the onions and mushrooms are nicely browned.  Add honey and a couple swigs of vinegar (really just a touch to add an acidic note).  Stir to combine and add noodles to the saucepan.  Drizzle soy sauce over and stir to incorporate.  Fry until noodles are heated through and serve.

Serves 2 as a main (my appetite's been tiny of late, and I squeezed 3 mains out of this).

**I wish I had better measurements, it's something I try to get a feel for when I cook but usually I just throw things together if I'm not working off someone else's recipe.  Sorry.

04 October 2010

Balsamic Quinoa Salad & Mustard-Crusted Tofu Planks

So, I used to be busy.  One day, I will be busy again.... but not today.  I found my pictures of this salad and got really happy.  Good pictures -- and even better food.  So I thought I'd tell you about it. 

Balsamic syrup is one of my favourite specialty foodie ingredients. Back in the States it's called balsamic GLAZE, and I love to toss it in with some fresh tomatoes, basil and feta cheese for a nice salad, or drizzle over some roasted portabella mushrooms stuffed with red pepper and ricotta cheese. I'm glad I've found another use for it in this salad - so yummy!

I'd been considering this quinoa salad for a few days, and then I ran across this tofu recipe on Epicurious. Both the balsamic glaze and the whole-grain mustard have such strong flavours, but I wasn't overly worried about pairing them together. I was more, rather, intrigued. It turned out absolutely lovely, with the mustard and balsamic flavours playing nicely off each other in an earthy-sweet-savoury-spice kind of way. It was deep and complex without overpowering and somehow remained nice and clean on the pallette.

Balsamic Quinoa Salad with Mustard-Crusted Tofu Planks
Salad recipe is my own, Tofu recipe from Bon Appétit

For Quinoa Salad:
~ 2 cups cooked quinoa
1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed small
2 medium shallots, chopped
1/2 courgette, sliced
handful of mixed lettuce leaves (really any lettuce will do here, especially lamb's leaf, rocket, or chervil)
~ 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze (also called balsamic syrup)
olive oil - enough for sauteeing + 1 tblsp for dressing the salad
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Saute vegetables in some olive oil with a little salt. Add courgettes last since they cook the fastest and you don't want them mushy.

Mix together with all other ingredients in a bowl. Salad -- done.

For Tofu:
6 1.5-cm thick slices of extra-firm tofu* (3 per person)
wholegrain mustard

Spread each side of tofu plank with a generous slather of mustard. Pan-fry in some olive oil over medium to med-high heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side. It may take longer, depending on the heat... you don't want it too high, or the mustard will burn - you want a slow browning here instead of a flash-fry.

Plate-up and serve. Serves 2.

*You might want to freeze, and then thaw your tofu ahead of time for this. So much more of the water releases from the tofu, and you really want it as dry as possible so the mustard doesn't slip right off when you spread it on, or not adhere properly when frying.