Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen

It's a big weekend. It's the Wimbledon finals and the extra long 4th of July holiday weekend. And Will and Kate are nearly in SoCal. Could you just die? No? Well, fine. But it's a good enough reason to acknowledge the English/American mash-up. Too bad there weren't any Americans in the ladies' or men's (excuse me, gentlemen's) finals...

Is there a better way to enjoy breakfast at Wimbledon (not WimbleTON!) than with a plate of scones? I guess actually being there would be a start...But if you watch from your couch at home, you could make a batch for breakfast and then use the ones that you don't eat (assuming that you don't eat them all!) to make shortcakes for dessert on the 4th. Voila!

Breakfast at Wimbledon - 4th of July Strawberry Shortcakes
(Scone recipe adapted from The Best New Recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 pounds fresh strawberries
1/4 cup granulated white sugar, or to taste
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

1. Make the scones: Preheat the oven to 425˚F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

2. Use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, and quickly cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps.

3. Stir in 1 cup of the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to form.

4. Transfer the dough, and all dry flour bits, to a counter top and knead the dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball. Pat the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle (about 8-inches round). Cut the dough into 8 wedges (or rounds). Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 - 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

6. Make the filling: Wash, hull, and slice the strawberries. Place about one third of the strawberries in a large bowl and smash them with a potato masher, pastry blender, or fork. Add the remaining sliced strawberries and about 2 tablespoons sugar and stir to combine. (The amount of sugar used will depend on how sweet the berries are.) Set aside to macerate at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

7. Make the whipped cream: Chill a large bowl and a whisk in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Place the cold cream and 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. The whipped cream can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a few hours.

8. To serve: Cut the scones in half (like a sandwich roll) and place the bottom half of the scone (cut side up) on a dessert plate. Top with some of the strawberries and whipped cream. Place the top half of the scone on the strawberries (cut side down). Top with additional whipped cream and a few more strawberries. If there is any juice from the strawberries, drizzle a little over the top of the scone. Serve immediately. Makes 8 shortcakes.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cupcakes and Calzones

The wait is over! True Blood is back in full effect with the premiere of season four last night. Finally! They definitely set up the eps to come by introducing [SPOILER ALERT!] witches, faeries, and mohawks, oh my! Sunday nights are back!

I, of course, had no idea what I was going to make for my viewing "party" with True Blood super fan, WendyB, who arrived wearing her I ♥ Eric t-shirt. Check her out here! I guess she's more of an Eric super fan. (Who isn't?!?) Just minutes before her arrival I finished icing my red velvet mini-cupcakes, the only blood red "food" I could think of at the time. (BTW it took an hour of pounding the pavement to find red food color!)

For some reason I thought that a bunch of gooey-oozy calzones with tomato sauce would be another perfect recipe. Big mistake. My smoke detector kept going off (sorry, Wendy!) and they really didn't go with the True Blood theme. I'll revisit them for another post...maybe in the winter. Incidentally, since I can't get my recipes together before the episodes air, consider these day after recaps prep for the next episode. I'm really just planning ahead!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color, or 1 (1-ounce) bottle of liquid red food color
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners (or several mini-muffin pans). Whisk together the cake flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together the sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in the food color and vanilla.

3. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of the buttermilk, whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add the mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes (10 minutes for mini-cupcakes). Transfer the tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing the cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

5. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Makes 24 standard size cupcakes or a gazillion mini-cupcakes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunny Side Up

Yes, I have yet another egg recipe. Normally I prefer eggs scrambled or turned into an omelette or a frittata, but I can make an exception for this fried egg and asparagus variation. I first had this as an appetizer at The Red Cat years ago, and the runny yolk didn't totally gross me out. Perhaps it's not the most overwhelming endorsement, but that's a big deal for me. I really don't like wet eggs. Ordering an omelette in a French restaurant is always a risky proposition since they are almost always raw in the center. Ew.

Anyway, here the egg yolk becomes more like a dressing for the roasted asparagus, so not so gross. Oh, and since I don't normally make fried eggs, you might notice that I don't really know how to cook them. The edges of my egg are totally overcooked while the center is very undercooked. I think my pan was too hot when I added the egg, so that's what I ended up with. And the first egg slid right off my spatula and into my silverware drawer rather than onto my plate. Be warned. Fried eggs are slippery. If you have any tips for this non fried egg making girl, let me know.

Roasted Asparagus with Fried Eggs

1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large eggs
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Truffle oil, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Lay the asparagus on a rimmed sheet pan large enough to hold it in one layer. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Redistribute the asparagus so that it is in one layer. Roast for 10-15 minutes then remove from oven to cool slightly. Transfer the spears to two salad plates.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, carefully add the eggs to the pan and fry for 2 minutes undisturbed. Turn the heat to low, cover pan and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the egg whites are cooked through.

3. Carefully slide one fried egg on top of the asparagus on each plate. Sprinkle with the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with truffle oil if using. Serves 2.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Home Brew

Is it Iced Coffee Weather? Hell to the yes. But is that iced coffee worth $3? Probably not. The place I usually go for a morning iced joe suddenly decided to raise their price from $2 to $3. For the same sized serving! For the same crappy coffee! Astounding. I need to get back into making my own.

Fortunately The NY Times has convinced me that I need to buy yet another coffee making device so that I can perfect the ultimate glass of iced coffee. I've tried the cold brew method, and am really happy with adding coffee ice cubes to my iced bevies, but now I think I have to hit the MoMA to buy a Chemex just to make this version of iced coffee.

Classic Chemex

This new and hopefully improved method (once I get around to trying it I will share my experience) looks very interesting. All you do is whip up some classic pour over coffee, remembering to add ice to the vessel before brewing, and...ta-dah...instant iced coffee! I am totally down with this idea and thanks to the folks at Intelligensia, I can follow their already perfected instructions for making coffee with my soon to be purchased Chemex.

Intelligentsia Chemex Brewing Guide from Intelligentsia Coffee on Vimeo.

Iced Method Coffee
(The New York Times)

1 ounce fresh-ground coffee
7 ounces ice
8 ounces water heated to 200˚F, plus extra for rinsing the filter

1. Place a filter in a Chemex (or any filter brew system) and rinse the filter with at least four ounces of hot water. Remove the filter, discard water, place Chemex on a kitchen scale, and add 7 ounces of ice.

2. Replace the filter, add the ground coffee and slowly add 1 ounce of water heated to 200˚F, until the grounds are saturated. Let the grounds “bloom” then deflate, which might take up to 1 minute. Reset the scale to zero and add the remaining 7 ounces of water heated to 200˚F, in a slow, steady stream. Drink immediately.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Hotness

I'd like to make a suggestion. Stay away from me for the next 48 - 72 hours. Far far away. Really. Give me a WIDE girth. I am going to be cranky. Crazy. Cray-cray. Touched. Literally. I know it is super lame and uninteresting to talk about the weather (although I am obsessed), but the forecast for 97 degree highs in NYC for the next 2 days fills me with fear. And loathing. Unless you are offering me enough ice cream to bathe in or unlimited air conditioning, I'm not interested.

That also means that I won't be braising any meat, baking any cakes, or having anything to do with my oven or stove top. But I might open my fridge...just to stand in front of it. I have actually been trying to figure out what I could do with some leftover buttermilk that's been languishing in my fridge for...ever (without baking up some biscuits or coffeecake) so decided that salad dressing was the way to go, both from a calorie saving point of view and general heat avoidance.

The recipe that I stumbled upon was the best of many others that included mayo. Ummm...why would you use something low fat like buttermilk only to yuck it up with mayo? I even used low fat Greek yogurt in place of regular yogurt because it still has an amazing consistency. If you wanted to cut back on the cheese, I would either reduce the amount of buttermilk or increase the yogurt a bit until you have a nice creamy dressing. Dump it over a chopped salad filled with your fave ingredients and enjoy. Follow with a tub of ice cream. And a frozen margarita. Not necessarily together.

Buttermilk Dressing
Adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons plain low fat yogurt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Whisk together the buttermilk, cheese, yogurt, olive oil, zest, lemon juice, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl. Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

National Egg Day

Friday, June 3rd is National Egg Day. Par-tay! Every day is egg day as far as I'm concerned. I don't really need another reason to blow through a carton of eggs, but if you do, try my asparagus frittata. It's perf for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And get ready because World Egg Day follows in the fall, so consider this practice for the big day. For other random holidays that you don't really care about, check out this helpful guide.

Asparagus Frittata

1 pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces Fontina, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1. Cook the asparagus in a pot of boiling water for 1 - 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Drain. Add to a bowl of ice water to stop from cooking and to cool quickly. Drain completely and set aside.

2. Beat the eggs, salt, pepper, and thyme in a large bowl. Stir in the asparagus.

3. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Drop a bit of egg into the pan; if it sizzles and cooks at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture. Tilt the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. Shake the pan gently, tilting it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with the spatula in your other hand, to let the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking.

4. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every once in a while. From time to time, remove the lid, tilt the pan and loosen the bottom of the frittata with a spatula so that it doesn’t burn. The bottom should have a golden color. The eggs should be just about set. Cook a few minutes longer if they’re not.

5. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Uncover the pan, sprinkle the frittata with the cheese, and place under the broiler, not too close to the heat, for one to three minutes, watching very carefully to make sure the top doesn’t burn (at most, it should brown very slightly and puff under the broiler). Remove from the heat, and shake the pan to make sure the frittata isn’t sticking. Allow it to cool for at least five minutes and then loosen the edges with a spatula. Carefully slide the frittata from the pan onto a large round platter. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Makes four servings.