Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Postcard from Carmel: Fried garbanzos with truffle salt at Mundaka

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Day one of my "girlfriend getaway" to California's central coast with fellow food bloggers Patti Londre (Worth the Whisk) and Dorothy Reinhold (Shockingly Delicious) and we're happy and well fed.

At last night's dinner at Mundaka in Carmel, these fried garbanzos with truffle salt were the surprise hit of the evening. Crisp on the outside, soft and melting on the inside, warm with just a hint of white truffle. Forget truffled popcorn - we ate the whole bowl of these truffled fried garbanzos and made embarrassing moaning noises the whole time. Not sure what the table next to us was thinking....

Chef Brandon Miller soaks dried garbanzo beans over night, simmers them until soft with a clove-studded onion and strips of lemon zest, then deep-fries them in hot peanut oil (375 degrees) and dusts with truffle salt. His favorite truffle salt is Fusion White Truffle Salt, which he buys across the street from the restaurant at Sur La Table. Miller keeps the garbanzos soaking in water until just before frying, which helps crisp the exterior of the beans without letting the oil penetrate too deeply. He hasn't tried canned garbanzo beans but thinks they would work fine (rinse thoroughly before frying).

Are you wondering whether these fried garbanzos might make an appearance at this year's Trufflepalooza? I'm already on it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Swiss chard and bacon pie

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Last year I was lucky to work with wellness coach Rachael Pontillo of Holistically Haute Wellness. In our sessions we talked about everything from nutrition to stress relief to feeding our families.

I wasn't a perfect student, but I realized yesterday that my work with Rachael had one lasting impact: When I open the refrigerator in the morning, my first thought is "How am I going to get my leafy greens in today?" Baby steps are better than no steps at all.

I'm pretty sure this swiss chard and bacon galette wouldn't be Rachael's first choice for a greens delivery system, but it sure was delicious. Greens with bacon are better than no greens at all.

I used a prepared refrigerated pie crust because I was short on time, but feel free to use your favorite homemade pie crust recipe.

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Swiss chard and bacon galette
This free-form pie is a great way to get your greens - it uses an entire bunch of chard, including the stems.
  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced
  • 1/2 large or 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard, any color, leaves and stems, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (substitute Monterey jack, gruyere or your favorite cheese)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dough for 9-inch pie crust
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain it on a plate lined with paper towel. Spill out all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon fat.Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped Swiss chard and cook until stems are tender and leaves are wilted, another 6-8 minutes. Pour the Swiss chard mixture into a large bowl and let cool 10 minutes. Add both cheeses, salt and pepper and mix well.Roll the pie crust dough out into a large circle - don't worry, it doesn't have to be pretty. Transfer the dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet by rolling it around the rolling pin, picking it up, and then unrolling it on the parchment. Mound the Swiss chard mixture in the middle of the dough, leaving a generous border of two to three inches. Lift up the edges gently and fold them onto the filling, leaving most of the filling showing in the middle, pleating the border as you go. The edge of the galette (pie) should look very rustic and imperfect.Brush the exposed pie crust with the beaten egg and slip the galette into the oven. Bake about 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden. Cool on the pan. Serve at room temperature.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8-10 servings

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Quick multi-grain banana chocolate chip muffins

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I love shortcuts that save me time but don't compromise the end result. Witness these multi-grain banana chocolate chip muffins.

I've been experimenting with making muffins out of pancake mix. I mean a good multi-grain pancake mix - I like Coach's Oats multi-grain pancake mix, which I buy in a huge bag at Costco.

I know that using pancake mix instead of flour and leavening only saves me the trouble of measuring and sifting (I always sift my baking powder and baking soda to guard against unpleasant lumps). It probably saves all of three minutes.

But somehow there's a psychological lift to not having to sift. Also, by using a multi-grain pancake mix, I'm getting more grain variety in my muffins than I'd likely do on my own.

My men, who love my regular banana chocolate chip muffins above all other baked goods, thought these muffins were pretty terrific. I'll be taking this shortcut again.

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Quick multi-grain banana chocolate chip muffins
Use a high-quality multi-grain pancake mix to make these muffins.
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups multi-grain pancake mix
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, or spray the pan thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher. Add the oil, sugar, egg, salt and vanilla and whisk to combine well. Add the pancake mix and stir gently just until wet and dry ingredients are combined; do not over-mix or the muffins will be tough. Stir in the chocolate chips.Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out without any wet batter clinging to it. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to a rack to cool completely.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 muffins

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cheesy hash brown muffins with bacon

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Have you ever woken up in the morning with a powerful urge to make one very specific thing for breakfast?

That's how I ended up making these hash brown muffins.

I woke up last weekend and all I could think about were crispy hash browns mixed with eggs, gooey melted cheese and crisp bits of smoky bacon.

Why? No idea.

Most of the recipes I found for hash brown muffins call for frozen hash browns, which, as my friend Don Odiorne at the Idaho Potato Commission informed me, are par-cooked and therefore drier than grated fresh potatoes. I only had fresh potatoes in the house. Don advised me to grate them and then squeeze the moisture out by wringing them in a clean towel.

Sound advice, I'm sure. Which I ignored. Because it was Sunday morning and I was just plain lazy. Guess what? Didn't matter. They turned out just right.

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Hash brown muffins with bacon
Crispy shredded potatoes, gooey melted cheese and crispy bits of bacon, all bound together with beaten eggs - that's my idea of a good breakfast.
  • 2 large large Russet potatoes, skin on, scrubbed and grated
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated, divided (substitute mozzarella, Monterey jack, or pepper jack)
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, bacon and green onions. Add salt and a healthy dose of ground pepper.Divide the potato mixture evenly among the 12 muffins cups. Bake 25 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and divide the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the tops of the muffins. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 10 minutes.Cool the hash brown muffins in the pan 5 minutes. To unmold, use an offset spatula or butter knife to loosen each muffin and gently lift it out of the pan.Serve hot or warm. Can be reheated in the oven or microwave (although the muffins will get a little soggy in the microwave - don't overdo it).
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 muffins

Monday, January 7, 2013

Erika's colcannon - mashed potatoes with kale, cabbage and carrots

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A steaming bowl of mashed potatoes with cream and butter is divine.

A steaming bowl of mashed potatoes with cream, butter, cabbage, kale and carrots is sublime.

This is my riff on colcannon, the national dish of Ireland, in which shredded sauteed cabbage is added to buttery mashed potatoes. I wanted a little more vegetable to balance out my potatoes, so I added thinly sliced kale and shredded carrots. (That's my New Year's resolution - to put in more vegetables whenever possible.)

Plus the bowl looks better with the kale and carrots. Cooked cabbage and mashed potatoes are roughly the same color - beige. The dark ribbons of kale and bright shredded carrots make for a much prettier dish, don't you think?

I ate this colcannon happily as a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but feel free to serve yours as a side with roast chicken or salmon.

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Erika's colcannon - mashed potatoes with cabbage, kale and carrots
This is my riff on colcannon, the traditional Irish mixture of mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage. Kale and carrots add flavor, color and extra nutrients.
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 bunch kale (Tuscan or curly), thinly shredded
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with cold water by a few inches and set the pot over high heat. When the water boils, turn the flame down, cover the pot, and simmer the potatoes until they are tender (a paring knife should go cleanly through to the center of the potatoes). The time will depend on how big the potatoes are, but start checking them after 30 minutes. Drain the cooked potatoes and let them cool until you can handle them. While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in another large pot over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, kale and carrots. Cook until the vegetables are tender but not mushy, 10-15 minutes. Heat the cream and milk in a measuring cup in the microwave until warm.Slip the skins off the potatoes and put the potato flesh back in the pot. (Discard the skins.) Add the cream mixture and mash the potatoes with a hand-held potato masher. When they are fairly smooth, add the cabbage mixture and continue mashing to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (you will need a good amount of salt). Serve immediately with an additional pat of butter on top.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chocolate chip cookies from Baking for Friends

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Despite the fact that I live with three men who love chocolate chip cookies, I don't bake a lot of them. That, however, is about to change, because yesterday I made Kathleen King's Chubby Tates.

King owns Tate's Bake Shop, the revered bakery in the tony New York town of Southampton. I've been there, and I've bought cookies there. Tate's thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies are famous, but not my family's style.

Which is why I was delighted to see the Chubby Tates recipe in King's new book, Tate's Bake Shop: Baking for Friends (disclosure: If you click on this link and buy the book, I get a few cents - so thanks!). I made up a batch of Chubby Tates, was careful not to overbake them, and was blown away. Soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Exactly the kind we like.

They didn't last long.

Baking for Friends is just my kind of dessert book. Nothing fancy or overdone. These are the kinds of sweets I bake for my friends. I can't wait to try the rhubarb swirl rolls, chocolate-pear tea bread, and chocolate blood orange marble cake. I've already shopped for the chestnut brownies, with luxurious creme de marrons mixed into the chocolate batter. And my husband has requested the chocolate pecan pie.

With the publisher's permission, I'm sharing the Chubby Tates recipe with you. I'll be as clear as I can: Bake some right now. King suggests freezing balls of unbaked dough - I took her advice and have a zip-top bag of Chubby Tates dough balls waiting for our next cookie craving.

Note: The recipe calls for one tablespoon of corn syrup, which I didn't have on hand. I used honey instead and thought no one would notice. My husband took one bite and said "Is there honey in this cookie? Because it's spectacular!" Do whatever feels right to you.

By the way, my husband thinks this picture looks "like a toadstool." Does it? Be honest.

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Chubby Tates chocolate chip cookies
Thick, chewy, soft chocolate chip cookies from the book BAKING FOR FRIENDS by Kathleen King.
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Position the oven racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter, granulated sugar, and corn syrup with an electric mixer set on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture, just until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.Using 2 Tablespoons per cookie, drop the dough about 3 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. (Or use a 1-ounce food portion scoop to scoop the dough onto the baking sheets.) The mounds of dough can be frozen on the baking sheets until hard, then transferred to a zip-tight plastic bag and frozen for up to 1 month. Bake without thawing.Bake, rotating the positions of the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, about 18 minutes. (If using frozen cookies, bake for about 20 minutes.) Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, on cool baking sheets.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 dozen cookies