Sunday, January 30, 2011

Golden Granola Bars

I know that I've posted about making my own granola and granola bars before, but I swear I'm not slacking (well, today anyway) by just cobbling together old posts. The cool thing about making your own granola/bars is that you can customize the recipes according to your tastes. Don't like almonds? Use cashews. Want more coconut? Add it. It's not an exact science. I made these granola bars today for a healthy snack at work (don't ask) and I have to say that I got 100% positive feedback. Some people are even hoarding the extras for tomorrow's breakfast. But I guess it's not really considered hoarding if you're actually going to consume what you're hoarding, right? I mean, that's probably another show altogether...

Golden Granola Bars
(adapted from The Ski House Cookbook)

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Combine the sugar, honey, and oil in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat just until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Combine the oats, wheat germ, coconut, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and salt in large bowl. Pour the sugar mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Spread in a 9 x 13-inch pan and press evenly.

3. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into bars. Cool completely before removing the bars from the pan. Makes about 20 bars.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beyond Thundersnow

Weather seems to be all that anyone can talk about anywhere. We may have actually had some accumulation last night (and thundersnow!) but it's winter. That happens. Personally I don't mind because I don't have to shovel the end of my driveway where the incessant pass of snowplows makes the whole effort futile, like Sisyphus and his endless rock and rolling. Oh, and I don't have a driveway. But since it is cold outside, baby, you might as well make a cozy chili to keep you warm. Or wrap yourself up in a Snuggie. Whatever works for you.

Everyone seems to have a favorite chili recipe, but I'm not one of them. I mean, I enjoy the occasional crock for the most part, whether a beef, white chicken, or even vegetarian variation. Eh. But I
finally sampled one over Thanksgiving weekend that I thought was fantabulous and proceeded to comb the internet to find the recipe. And, guess what? The interwebs failed me.

I found what I assumed was the correct recipe based on the Thanksgiving chili maker's description, but there were some essential differences that were lacking in the final result. I am sharing this mistaken recipe with you anyway so that you will be able to see the difference when I get to make the perfected super delicious version...because I have just now managed to get my dirty mitts on the real recipe! In the meantime if you are snowed in, stop shoveling, make a snow fort, watch some bad daytime TV, and give this recipe a whirl.

BLT Chili
(Adapted from Laurent Tourondel)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds pork sausage, casings removed
2 medium onions, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregan
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (16-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
2 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped onion, pickled jalapeños and hot sauce, for serving

1. In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook over high heat, breaking it up, until browned, about 15 minutes.

2. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onion is translucent, 8 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 minute.

4. Add the tomatoes, beans, and water and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the chili with cheddar, sour cream, onion, jalapeños, and hot sauce as desired. Serves about 8.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hail Caesar!

I have a friend who almost always (at least 95% of the time) orders a Caesar salad to start any meal out. I've got to think that of those salads, at least 95% of them have to be terrible. When I order a Caesar salad from a place I've never been, I wind up with an overdressed salad that's been tossed with crappy bottled dressing. Great Caesar's ghost! Who could eat that garbage? The restaurants that actually make their own Caesar dressing seem to be few and far between, and making a Caesar salad table side seems to have gone out with Prohibition.

The origin of the Caesar salad is up for some debate, but supposedly was invented by restaurateur Caesar Cardini on the fourth of July in 1924 when due to a rush, his restaurant became low on supplies. In order to keep serving his customers he just started throwing things together on the fly, tossing the historic salad table side for dramatic effect. What an innovator!

Fortunately (for me!) the food geeks at Cook's Illustrated decided to break down a classic Caesar salad recipe in the latest issue. My only attempt has been to make a faux Caesar dressing out of tofu. (I know!) My favorite discovery in the Cook's recipe is that they make garlic "paste" by grating a clove on a rasp style grater. Amazing! The pieces just disappear. Why didn't I think of that before? Anyway, this recipe is for diehards since it includes raw egg yolks and anchovy fillets in the dressing. It's what makes a Caesar a Caesar...though supposedly Cardini didn't use anchovies, but then again, he isn't available for questioning.

Caesar Salad
(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated January/February 2011)

1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste (from 1 clove grated on a rasp)
1/2 - 3/4 loaf ciabatta cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing & Salad
3/4 teaspoon garlic paste (from 1 clove grated on a rasp)
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, minced fine and mashed to a paste with a fork
2 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
2 - 3 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces, rinsed and dried very well

1. For the Croutons: Combine 1 tablespoon oil and garlic paste in a small bowl
and set aside. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and sprinkle with water and salt. Toss, squeezing gently so that the bread absorbs the water. Place the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil and soaked bread cubes in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and crisp, 7 - 10 minutes.

2. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the croutons to the sides of the skillet to clear the center of the pan. Add the garlic/oil mixture and cook with the residual heat of the pan, 10 seconds. Sprinkle the croutons with Parmesan and toss until the garlic an cheese are evenly distributes. Set aside.

3. For the Salad: Whisk the garlic paste and 2 tablespoons lemon juice together in a large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.

4. Whisk the Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, and egg yolks into the garlic/lemon juice mixture. While whisking constantly, drizzle the canola oil and olive oil into the bowl in a slow steady stream until it fully emulsifies. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pepper to taste. Whisk until incorporated.

5. Add the romaine to the dressing and toss to coat. Add the croutons and mix gently until evenly distributed. Taste and season with up to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Serve immediately, with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Serves about 4.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mayo. Yo.

I've never been a fan of mayo. Or sour cream. Or yogurt. Blech. So why did I decide to make homemade aioli (that's garlic mayo, y'all)? It must be because all of the healthy veggies that I've been eating. That's so not meant to last. And...I did happen to come home with a couple of heads of smoked garlic. Totally random. I had never seen it before, but it just seemed like the perfect ingredient for a smoked garlic aioli with patatas bravas...aka Spanish fries. Oh. Yeah. And aioli just sounds so much better than mayo.

Apparently smoked garlic is popular in France where it is known as Ail Fumé. In all of the days (!) that I've been there, I never noticed it in markets or on menus. (Francophiles? Any insight?) Anyhoo, it evidently exists in New York grocery stores and I am it's happy recipient. It smells a lot more smokey than it tastes, but proves the perfect partner for my aioli. Well, after I made it a second time. The first one kind of broke. Whoops!



When you make your own mayo BY HAND, you have to be patient and initially only add a few drops of oil at a time so that it thickens gradually without breaking. I guess my arm was getting tired of whisking (it was about to fall off!) so I added the oil too quickly. Don't despair. There is a way to bring it back! Add a single
room temperature egg yolk to a medium bowl, then slowly whisk the separated aioli into it. The additional yolk re-emulsifies the sauce. Boom.

I didn't deep fry my potatoes because all of that hot oil kind of scares me, but I did recall that my mom used to saute sliced potatoes for a dinner side dish sometimes. They look super tasty, right? They were! Even though they weren't deep fried. Just add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan, heat, then add sliced potatoes in a single layer. Cook for 4 minutes then flip and cook about 4 minutes more until golden. Toss with salt. Eat.

As good as this crispy potato-smoked garlic aioli combo is, I'm still not down with mayo. Or sour cream. Or yogurt. Or pudding...

Smoked Garlic Aioli

2 smoked garlic cloves
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Mince the garlic and then mash to a paste with a pinch of salt using a large heavy knife. (Or, use my new technique and grate the garlic cloves on a microplane.) Whisk together the yolk and mashed garlic in a bowl. Combine the oils and initially add just a few drops at a time to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until the aioli begins to thicken. Then add the oil slowly in a very thin stream (whisking constantly!) until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture is emulsified. (If the mixture separates (see photo of my broken aioli!), stop adding the oil and continue whisking until the mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.)

2. Whisk in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. If aïoli is too thick, whisk in 1 or 2 drops of water. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution Revolution

I'm shockingly still on my veggie kick. It's been 3 whole days! Zucchini on Monday, French Fries on Tuesday (that counts, right?), and Cauliflower on Wednesday. (No, it's not a resolution. Maybe a revolution?) I've found some great veg recipes in The NY Times in the last couple of weeks and I'm totally psyched to have found this salad recipe since I can't ever think of anything to do with cauliflower. This salad is super delicious and filling, not necessarily your typical salad description. Just wait until tomorrow when I combine jicama, parsnips, and celeriac! Or not.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad
(Adapted from The New York Times)

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
2/3 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
5 ounces baby arugula, spinach, or watercress
1/4 pound Gruyere, Manchego or Sharp Cheddar, diced or grated (about 1 cup)

1. Heat the oven to 425˚F. In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and dark golden, 20 minutes. Add the walnuts to the cauliflower and roast together 5 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar with the remaining salt and pepper, and then whisk in the remaining oil.

3. In a salad bowl, toss the greens, cheese, nuts, and warm cauliflower. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss until well combined. Serves 4.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Buffalo Stance

I have no resolve, so there'll be no resolutions. Just because I'm trying to eat a few vegetables and it coincides with the new year, it doesn't mean anything...except that I'm trying to offset all of the buffalo and bison that I ate while in Aspen over the holidays. I'm just going to take a little time out from big game...and red meat in general. And maybe some carbs while I'm at it. That's my buffalo stance.

I ran across a roasted zucchini recipe in Food & Wine and it sounded like a pretty good place to start. Even though zucchini isn't a winter vegetable it is available year round, so I figured that I'd try treating it like a winter vegetable by roasting it. Even though zucchini can be cooked quickly in a saute pan without turning on the oven, I discovered that roasting helps it to dry out and brown more quickly...and you don't have to hover over it, moving it around the pan to help the liquid evaporate. Throw on a glob of ricotta and call it a day. Or, if that's too side-dishy for you, boil some pasta and toss it all together and serve with some Parm on top. Not everyone is calorie counting in the new year...I finished off my veg fest with a hunk of dark chocolate.

Roasted Zucchini with Ricotta
(Adapted from Food & Wine)

6 medium zucchini (2 pounds), diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 whole garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh ricotta, for serving
Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the diced zucchini with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss with the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Spread out evenly on the baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until the zucchini pieces are browned around the edges.

2. Transfer the cooked zucchini to a bowl. Toss with the lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Serve with the ricotta, a drizzle of olive oil, and garnish with the parsley. Serves 4.