Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blueberry Blues

The sun is shining and the birds are chirping (yes, even in midtown!) so why not pretend it's July and you've just gone blueberry picking? Frozen blueberries work perfectly well here (kind of like spring thus far) so just pretend for a little while longer. Soon enough we'll all be complaining about how hot it is...

Blueberry Bread with Lemon Glaze

Adapted from The New Best Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups frozen (or fresh) blueberries

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

1. Muffins: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three small bread tins (about 6" x 3" x 2") and set aside. 

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl until light in color. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and pale yellow, about 30 seconds. Add the butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking to combine. 

3. Add the blueberries to the dry ingredient and gently toss to combine. Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter just comes together. Be careful not to over mix. Divide the batter among the three tins and bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Invert on to a wire rack, stand upright, and cool.

4. Glaze: Bring the lemon juice and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium het. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer until the mixture is thick and syrupy and reduce to 1/4 cup. After the bread has cooled for 5 minutes, brush the tops with the glaze.

Note: Alternatively, make muffins by greasing a 12-cup muffin tin, dividing the batter evenly, and baking for 25 - 30 minutes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Countdown to Spring

The first day of spring is just three days away and I am ready! Don't get me wrong. I love snow and skiing and all that jazz, but when it's just cold and wet, spitting and not actually snowing, it's just a drag. On this St. Patrick's Day, I'm not guzzling green beer or eating green bagels, and I'm not dying my hair green. (I know. So lame.) Instead I am eating my greens in the form of artichokes. For some reason preparing artichokes has intimidated me in the past, but if you work with these little guys, you don't have to worry about getting stabbed by extra pointy leaves or forgetting to remove the fuzzy center choke since there isn't one. Just peal off the outer leaves until you get down to the pale interior, trim, slice in half, cook and eat. They are way better than anything from a can or jar and quite impressive at a dinner party. Especially at one somewhere outside.

Braised Baby Artichokes

1 lemon, halved
24 baby artichokes
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. Fill a large bowl with water, and squeeze the lemon juice into the water. Reserve the lemon halves. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes. Trim the pointy tops and stems and cut in half lengthwise, rubbing the artichokes with the lemon halves and then transferring them to the lemon water as you work, to prevent discoloration. (See above photo.)

2. Drain the artichokes, and transfer to a large skillet along with the wine and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set over medium-high heat, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender and the liquid has completely evaporated, about 15 minutes.

3. Uncover, lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the artichokes are tender and browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Serves 4.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I'll Have Another

Have you ever noticed that you can tell the style of a bar and price of the drinks just by the nuts that they serve? Peanuts in the shell that you crack yourself and throw on the floor?  Chain or dive bar. Salted mixed nuts in little silver bowls? Hotel lounge. The artisanal variety? Upscale restaurant or hotel bar that uses only organic fresh juices as mixers. These tasty snacks may be prepared with a variety of herbs and/or a sweet and salty spice mixture. All the better to to encourage multiple drink orders. If they get stingy on the free refills, make them yourself.

Rosemary Walnuts
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the rosemary and chipotle powder. Cook, stirring, 15 seconds. Add walnuts, salt, sugar, water, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, stirring, until glossy and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.