Saturday, February 27, 2010

Magic in the Kitchen

Here is one of those glorious recipes with the simplest of ingredients, flour, milk, eggs, and butter mixed together just right to create a little miracle in the oven.  Popovers are so simple to make and are quite spectacular when done correctly.  The trick is to do them correctly.  Like Yorkshire pudding, popovers can be tricky and when not done correctly can be flat and doughy.

This recipe creates a light, high and beautifully browned product that is a perfect accompaniment with breakfast, lunch or dinner.  You do have to plan ahead with this recipe though, as the batter needs to sit for an hour prior to putting them in the oven.  It is also helpful to have a specific popover pan.  I have made these in muffin tins but they are nowhere near as dramatic.

(Makes 6)

2 cups of flour
3 large eggs
2 cups milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Grease the popover pan with vegetable spray and then lightly dust with some extra flour and set pan aside.

Heat the milk to 110 degrees.  Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until light and foamy.  Slowly whisk in the milk and melted butter until thoroughly mixed.

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Whisk 3/4 of the milk/egg mixture and mix until there are no lumps.  Whisk in the remaining milk/egg mixutre.  Transfer the batter into a large measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Whisk the batter lightly then pour into the popover pan until each cup is 3/4 full.  (I overfilled mine and had blobs of burned popover batter all over the bottom of my oven.) 
Bake until just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.  Decrease the oven temperature to 300 degrees but do not open the oven door.  Bake for another 35 minutes.  Poke a small hole into the top of each popover with toothpick and continue to bake until they are a deep golden brown.  Transfer the popover pan to a wire rack, poke the popovers again and let cool for 2 minutes.  These can be reheated at 400 degrees until crisp and heated through, approximately 5-8 minutes.  Serve with jam or honey.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Sometimes when I'm cooking Sunday dinner and I am stumped for a dessert to serve, I go to my longstanding fallback which is the Jiffy cake mix.  With just two of us in the house, baking a big box cake is ridiculous.  These Jiffy mixes are just the ticket.  It reminds me of the childhood Easy Bake oven only now I don't have to cook with a 100 watt light bulb, I get to use the big girl oven.  You just throw in an egg and a 1/2 cup of water to the mix, beat for 3-4 minutes and viola, a lovely one layer cake.
What I do with that one layer of perfectly done yellow cake is just a matter of my creativity that day.  Sometimes I split it into two layers and put a coating of cherry or raspberry preserves in the middle and dust the top with powdered sugar.  Perhaps I'm in the mood for frosting so my creativity will lean toward a new frosting such as caramel or a deep fudge.

Today pineapple upside down cake struck my fancy.  With no particular recipe to go by,  Here is what I did:

I mixed the cake mix with a combination of the pineapple juice from the can and a bit of water to equal 1/2 cup, added an egg,  then followed the box recipe for mixing it together.  In a 5 inch cast iron pan I melted 1/4 stick of butter.  On top of that I layered approximately 1/3 cup brown sugar.  I then layered 4 pineapple slices over the sugar/butter mixture.  The cake batter was then spread over all of it and into the oven it went at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes until it was golden brown and sprang back when pushed gently.

Once out of the oven I quickly went all around the pan with a thin knife and then inverted the cast iron pan over a plate and left it alone for 1/2 hour or so.  When I lifted up the pan, what delight to have it all come out in one piece!  I'm not always that lucky.  I then decorated this little lovely with some marischino cherries for the perfect old fashioned pineapple upside down cake touch.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


This week I went to my trusty on-line bookstore,, and purchased two new cookbooks for my collection.  These particular books are special to me as I bought them to serve as inspiration.  Both cookbooks were written by women who, like me, starting a cooking blog on a whim.  What they have done though is take their blogs one giant step further and created beautiful cookbooks from their entries. Maybe someday for me???
The book I am cooking out of today is called The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  The picures are beautiful, the recipes look very easy to follow and Ms. Hair covers a wide variety of Asian cooking throughout the book.  I love Asian food...Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, all delicious.  Sometimes when I have wanted to try cooking one of my favorite Asian restaurant meals I have found it somewhat daunting with huge lists of ingredients, many of them hard to find in my town.

This cookbook has simple lists of ingredients and it appears that most of them can be found at  the local supermarket.  No need to search out an Asian market, though that is a good excuse to take a trip to the big city!  I look forward to trying many of the recipes in this lovely cookbook and it appears that all of them are as easy and straight forward to prepare as was this Shrimp Fried Rice recipe.  I added a few additional ingredients to mine such as bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and some diced barbecued pork but that's one of the beauties of fried rice, it's very adaptable to what you have on hand.
No recipe posted today, but what I am going to do is direct you to Jaden Hairs' Steamy Kitchen blog so you can not only get this recipe, but also puruse a great blog on your own.  Enjoy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Slow Baked Honeycrisp Apples

It was time to do inventory of the fridge over the weekend and I discovered four honeycrisp apples in the back of the hydrator.  Though they weren't as pretty as they once were when purchased many weeks ago, they still felt firm and needed to be used.  Coinicidently, on this same day I had been going through old cooking magazines pulling out recipes to be used in the future.  One of those recipes that struck my fancy was for slow baked honeycrisp apples. 

Honeycrisp apples have a really sweet flavor and they are quite juicy.  They make a great eating apple but this recipe stated that when baked long and slow, they ooze out their juices and caramelize.  It sounded like these would make a delicious topping for my breakfast yogurt and indeed they did.  Another positive thing about this recipe was that it made the whole house smell divine!  Nothing better than the smell of baked apples with their accompanying spices.
Slow Baked Honecrisp Apples

1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 medium honeycrisp apples (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 Tbsp finely grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Butter four 3/4 cup custard cups or ramekins. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up in case the apples bubble over.

Mix sugar, cinnamon and ginger together in a small bowl. When butter cools, stir in vanilla.  Peel apples, then core and quarter them.  Slice the apples into 1/8 inch thick slices.  Place a thin layer of apple slices in each prepared custard cup, overlapping slices;  brush lightly with butter mixture.  Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp sugar mixutre over each cup, then sprinkle very lightly with orange peel.  Repeat this process until all of the ingredients are used.  Cover tops of cups with parchment paper then foil.  Using a small knife, pierce 3-4 holes through the foil and paper to allow steam to escape.  Place cups on prepared baking sheet.
Bake apples until very soft and reduced in volume by about half, about 2 hours.  Let cool at least 20 minutes.  Serve over yogurt or serve alone with a dollop of whipped cream.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Orrechiette with Sausage, Garlic and Rapini

My quarterly  shopping trip to Portland took place recently so I could get my big city fix.  This usually consists of going to Whole Foods Market to shop amongst the aisles of wonderful produce and products not readily available in my town of Salem, Oregon.  On my trip I actually had this recipe in mind to prepare for the weekend.  The ingredient not easily available in my supermarket is the rapini, also called broccoli rabe.  I also found some wonderful bulk Italian sausage.

Broccoli rabe is a cousin of our familiar broccoli but it is has very thin stalks, many more leaves and small, less densly clumped flowerettes.  It also has a slightly bitter taste compared to broccoli.  To prepare, the thick ends are cut off (approximately two inches) and then it is cut into two inch sections, parpoiled for 2-3 minutes then drained and immediately placed in ice water to stop the cooking and retain its bright, vibrant green color.

The pasta used is the shape called  orrechiette which means " little ears" in Italian.  This is a great recipe as it is relatively quick to make and extremely flavorful.  You can increase the red pepper flakes to taste.  My "pinch" made a fairly spicy dish and really woke up the taste buds!

Orrechiette with Sausage, Garlic and Rapini

1 bunch of broccoli rabe, trimmed and washed
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage (mild or hot to your liking)
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 pound orrechiette pasta
1/2 cup dried, seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reiggiano or Romano cheese

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt and cook the broccoli rabe until just beginning to be tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain immediately then rinse under cold running water.  Chop into bite size pieces and put in ice water and hold aside.

Rinse out pot, fill with water and bring to a boil again.

Meanwhile, bron the sausage in a large skillet set on medium-high heat.  Pour off half the sausage fat and add the olive oil and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the broccoli rabe, turn the heat to low and barely simmer while you cook the pasta.

Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water and cook the orrechiette until tender.  Reserve 1-2 cups of pasta water.  Drain the pasta well and add to the simmering sausage mixture.  Add just enough reserved pasta water to make a sauce.  Raise the heat and cook until the sauce has thickened, adding more water if needed.  Toss in the breadcrumbs to help the sauce adhere to the pasta.  Taste for salt.  Toss in the Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese on the side. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Gloom of Winter

Here in the Northwest we don't have much sunshine for 3 to 5 months of the year.  Having being born, raised and lived in this part of the country for 50+ years now, let's just say I am used to it.  I also can happily say I have never been prone to the seasonal melancholia that strikes many folks during the winter months.  Every time the sun does peek out though I do feel a little lighter, just like the skies above.

On a positive note, the Winter season does bring us some beautiful citrus from warmer climes around the country and world. When it's gloomy outside, what better thing to eat than some refreshing vitamin C-filled fruit such as navel oranges, grapefruit and the amazing blood oranges that show up at the stores sometimes.
The first time I tried blood oranges was in Rome (oh, I hope that doesn't sound pretentious, but it's true!)  My friends and I sat down for breakfast in our hotel and the EXTREMELY handsome Roman waiter brought us a pitcher of thick, red juice and set it on our table.  Thinking it was tomato juice, I poured myself a glass, took a big swig and imagine my surprise when it tasted just like orange juice.  It was blood orange juice and it was remarkable.  I always try to pick up a few each citrus season so I can reminisce about my trip to Rome (and maybe that waiter just a little).
No recipe today, but just some suggestions.  Go buy a few pieces of nice looking citrus fruit, slice them any way you like, drizzle with a little honey and as I did, add a sprinkle or two of orange liqueur to brighten up your tastebuds and your life during these dark Winter days.