Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls with Almonds and Maple Glaze

When I saw these cinnamon rolls in a recent issue of Vegetarian Times, I knew I had to make them.  They sounded absolutely perfect for fall, full of spices and sweet potato. Although you can make these all in one day if you like, I adapted the recipe to be spread out over two - make the dough and assemble the rolls the night before, and then bake in the morning.  At least for me, I would not want to get up early enough to have these ready in time for breakfast otherwise!  This approach worked out perfectly so that I could just get up a little bit before we wanted to eat.

The cinnamon rolls themselves were fantastic.  The sweet potato gave the dough a lovely orange color and an amazingly tender texture.  The dough itself isn't overly sweet, so it pairs well with the sweet cream cheese glaze.  You can really use any nut you like here (or none at all) - the original recipe called for pecans, but they were $14/pound at the store while almonds were $4/pound!  What gives - is there a pecan shortage or something? I don't recall them being so much more expensive, but maybe I'm just unobservant! In any case, almonds worked well as a pecan substitute to add a little crunch to the cinnamon rolls.  If you don't have a big enough crowd to finish this pan in one sitting, these rolls do actually keep really well - just cover and refrigerate, and reheat for about 30 seconds in the microwave.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls with Almonds and Maple Glaze (adapted from Vegetarian Times)
Makes 12 cinnamon rolls

For the dough:
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water, divided
Pinch granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 T brown sugar (packed)
1-1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
2 T vegetable oil

For the filling:
1/3 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
3 T softened butter, divided
1/2 cup slivered almonds

For the glaze:
3 T cream cheese (low-fat is ok)
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 cup slivered almonds

1. Make the dough.  Stir the yeast into 1/3 cup of the warm water, and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar.  Let stand 10 minutes, until the yeast blooms.
2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt.  Set aside.
3. Stir the remaining 1/3 cup warm water, the sweet potato, and the oil into the yeast mixture.
4. Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture.  Knead the dough until soft and elastic, adding more flour or water if needed.  Place the dough in an oil bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
5. Make the filling.  Stir together the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and 2 T of the butter.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish with the remaining 1 T butter.
6. Punch down the dough and roll it out into an approximately 14x12 rectangle.  Spread with the spiced butter mixture.  Sprinkle with the almonds.
7. Starting at the long edge, roll up the dough.  Slice a bit off each end and discard since these won't be the right size/have the full amount of filling.  Using a serrated knife, gently slice the rest of the log into twelve equal pieces (it's easiest to start cutting in the middle, then cut each piece in half again, and finally cut each quarter into thirds). 
8. Arrange the cinnamon rolls in the greased baking dish, slightly touching.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.
9. In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pull the cinnamon rolls out of the fridge and allow to sit until they come to room temperature and are slightly puffy.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
10. Make the glaze:  Stir together the cream cheese and the powdered sugar.  Stir in the salt and maple syrup.
11. Drizzle the glaze over the cinnamon rolls while they are still warm and spread to coat.  Sprinkle with the almonds, and serve warm.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Red Star Yeast.  I'm also sending this post off to These Chicks Cooked.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pineapple-Goat Cheese-Prosciutto Galette

I like this tart because it has many of the same flavors of one of my favorite kinds of pizza - pepperoni and pineapple.  Those flavors are classed up quite a bit here, with fresh pineapple, prosciutto, fresh tomatoes, and goat cheese.  The toppings cover a crunchy polenta crust that's a breeze to pull together by hand - no food processor needed.  I actually found the crust a little too crunchy for my taste, so I would probably use half polenta and half cornmeal next time I make it.  Either way, it's a fantastic base for the salty, creamy, tart, and sweet fillings on top!  If you end up with an extra slice, the tart does keep pretty well in the fridge and is good cold the next morning for breakfast - just like the pizza that inspired it!

Pineapple-Goat Cheese-Prosciutto Galette (adapted from Fuss Free Cooking, original recipe here)
Serves 1-2

For the crust:
2.5 ounces white flour
2.5 ounces polenta or cornmeal
Generous pinch of salt
2.5 ounces cold butter
Cold water

For the filling:
Olive oil

2 ounces goat cheese
1/3 cup thinly sliced pineapple
1 small tomato, seeded and sliced
A few thin slices of prosciutto, torn into small pieces
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the crust.  Whisk together the flour, polenta or cornmeal, and salt.  Cut in the butter until only small lumps remain.  Drizzle in about 2 T water and stir together with a fork.  Add more water as needed until the dough just holds together.  Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.
2. When ready to make the galette, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
3. Roll out the crust on a floured surface until it's as thin as you like (remember the edges will be folded over, so you want it fairly thin).  Transfer to the foil-lined baking sheet.
4. Brush the crust with olive oil.  Dot with the goat cheese, and then arrange the pineapple, tomato, and prosciutto over the cheese.  Fold the edges of the crust over to slightly cover the filling.  Grind black pepper over top.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Get Well Soon Chicken Soup

My boyfriend got struck by a stomach bug last weekend, so I decided to cook up some comforting chicken soup.  This recipe is uncomplicated and easy to put together - just chop up some veggies and add in a shredded rotisserie chicken and some chicken broth.  It's way more delicious than canned soup, plus you can turn the chicken carcass into homemade chicken broth along with some vegetable trimmings if you like (just break up the picked-over chicken, add some chopped up veggies/veggie trimmings, and cover with water; simmer for a few hours, and then strain through a double layer of cheesecloth).  You could add some fresh herbs or spices or some rice or pasta to this soup if you like, but I wanted to keep it as basic as possible to be easy on the stomach.  Either way, this soup is the perfect way to warm up and get you feeling better in a hurry. I think it's especially good with a gooey grilled cheese on the side!

Get Well Soon Chicken Soup
Makes about 6 servings 

Vegetable oil
1/4 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
32 ounces chicken broth
1 rotisserie chicken, meat picked off the bones and shredded or chopped
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a few glugs of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and stir for a few minutes with a heat-proof rubber spatula.  Add the garlic, fennel, and carrots, and continue to stir over medium heat until the vegetables are slightly softened and translucent but not browned.
2. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken meat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, adding more water or broth if needed to make the soup as broth-y as you like.
3. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, so that the veggies get soft and the flavors combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Keeps in the fridge for a few days, and also freezes well.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blogiversary, Eat Your Books Giveaway, and Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog, and what a great four years it has been! I've loved sharing my favorite recipes and tips with all of you and being part of a fun and supportive online community of food lovers.  To celebrate, Eat Your Books has offered up a fantastic prize for one of my readers: a lifetime membership to their website!  Eat Your Books is a site I discovered just recently, through a recommendation on Baking Bites, and I have been loving it.  Here's the idea: you enter in all your cookbooks, and then you can easily search them by keyword, ingredient, course, occasion, and more - basically a giant search engine for all the recipes in all the cookbooks you own!  This is great for me since I own a ton of cookbooks but often don't make as good use of them as I could because it's too time-consuming to find a particular sort of recipe.  Unless I'm in the mood to browse or know the specific recipe I want, I often abandon my cookbooks in favor of the much-easier-to-search online approach.  While I love finding and preparing recipes I find on blogs and other sites online, I'm also loving this option to more easily find cookbook recipes and give some attention to my often-neglected cookbook collection. 

These orange chocolate chip cookies are a great example of how useful Eat Your Books is.  The recipe comes from a vegetable-focused cookbook, so not somewhere I would usually turn to for dessert recipes.  But they were really delicious and I was so glad to find the recipe! 

A few weeks ago I was in charge of baking treats for a dessert reception at my church, and I wanted to make some version of chocolate chip cookies since that's always a popular choice. But I didn't want to make the same old recipe from the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chip bag - I wanted something a little different.  This recipe is subtly flavored with orange zest, which creates a lovely aroma and a fun twist on the usual chocolate chip cookie.  The cookies are soft and packed full of chocolate chips, making them a definite crowd-pleaser.

Now, on to the giveawayEat Your Books is giving away a lifetime membership to their site - that means you can enter as many cookbooks as you want, and you'll have access to all of their search functions.  (Even if you don't win, I definitely recommend checking out the site - the monthly fee is very reasonable, just $2.50 a month - totally worth it!)  Here's how you can enter:

For the main entry (you must do this), leave a comment telling me about a favorite recipe you've made from a cookbook recently.

For additional optional entries (please leave a separate comment for each entry), you can do any or all of the following:
1. Follow @EatYourBooks on twitter and tweet this giveaway.  Here's a sample tweet:  Win a lifetime membership to Eat Your Books at Cupcake Muffin!  @EatYourBooks
2. "Like" Eat Your Books on Facebook.
3. Subscribe to the RSS feed for this site (link at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar).
4. Make any recipe from this site and either post about it on your blog or tell me about it in the comments.
5. Post about this giveaway on your blog.
6. Post about this giveaway on Google+.

Anyone can enter, and you have until November 1 to do it.  Be sure to leave a way to contact you (either an email address or your blog/website address.)  I'll draw a random winner at the end of the day on November 1, and the winner will have two days to respond or a new winner will be chosen.  Best of luck, and now here's the cookie recipe!

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven)
Makes about 40 cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Finely grated zest from one medium orange
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Beat together the butter and both sugars until creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla and orange zest.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Cover tightly and chill overnight.
4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment or foil.
5. Drop the dough by tablespoon-fuls onto the baking sheets.  Bake about 12 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned, rotating pans halfway through.  Cool on a rack.

Full disclosure: Eat Your Books is providing the lifetime membership for this giveaway, and is also providing me with a lifetime membership for linking to their widget in my sidebar.  However, I discovered this site and signed up for it independently before either of these offers.  I contacted Eat Your Books about offering a prize for my readers and they were generous enough to offer one, but the recommendation of the site is 100% my own and is based on my experiences using it.

I'm sending this post off to the These Chicks Cooked Link Party. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Apricots

I made these cookies for a recent dessert reception at my church, and I totally fell in love with them.  In fact, they may have been my favorite of the three types of cookies I made, even though the other two varieties included chocolate!  These cookies are moist, chewy, and super spicy from cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Dried cherries and dried apricots add fantastic tart bursts of flavor throughout the cookies.  This is also a great recipe to make for a large gathering, since it makes about a zillion cookies.  You could also make larger cookies for a smaller yield, or make a half recipe if you're just cooking for a smaller group.

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Apricots (adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
Makes 5 to 6 dozen small cookies

1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 sticks softened butter
1-1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-3/4 cups quick oats (not instant oats)
6 ounces dried cherries
3 ounces dried apricots, diced

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom and set aside.
2. Beat together the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate.
3. Add the flour mixture and stir in with a rubber spatula until the flour is mixed in enough not to fly out of the mixer.  Then beat until just incorporated.  Add the oats and beat until just combined.  Stir in the cherries and apricots with a rubber spatula.
4. Cover the bowl and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.
5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with foil or parchment.
6.  Scoop out about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie, and gently roll into a ball with your palms.  Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cookies just begin to brown.
7. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chocolate Chunk-Walnut Blondies

Although brownies are a wonderful dessert, I'm also a huge fan of their paler cousin, blondies.  Blondies are sort of like a giant chocolate chip cookie, baked in a brownie pan.  This particular version is fantastic - the blondies are super moist and chewy and they get lots of great crunch from walnuts and chocolate chunks.  Unless you're making these for kids, do not skip the dark rum - it adds really yummy flavor to the bars.  Definitely cut these into small squares, as they're fairly, that way you can eat more than one!  These are moist enough that they keep well for a few days, and the rum flavor will get a bit stronger over time.

Chocolate Chunk-Walnut Blondies (adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich)
Makes one 13x9 pan

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1-3/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 T dark rum
2/3 cup plus 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (divided)
1 cup chocolate chunks or coarsely chopped chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with oil.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
3. Stir together the butter and sugar, and then scrape into a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until the mixture melts and just starts to bubble.  Let cool slightly, and then beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the vanilla and rum.
4. Stir in the flour, and then 2/3 cup of the walnuts.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
5. Sprinkle the batter with the remaining 2/3 cup walnuts and the chocolate chunks.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan.  Cool in pan.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Almond-Crusted French Toast with Poached Pineapple

Last Friday, I posted about a delicious recipe for poached pineapple flavored with white wine and rosemary.  This tasty pineapple dish is great for dessert, but since it's fruit based, it's also great for breakfast. I'll let you in on a secret - while I love maple flavor in baked goods, I'm not a huge fan of pouring maple syrup over my pancakes, waffles, and French toast - I'll almost always go for yogurt, applesauce, or some other sort of cooked fruit instead. Here, I paired poached pineapple and a generous amount of the pineapple syrup produced by the recipe with custard-y, crunchy French toast. I love the addition of almonds here,which add a great nutty flavor and some textural contrast. And while of course it's great to use a "nicer" loaf of bread if you've got some on hand, the French toast worked very well with a regular whole wheat sandwich loaf.  One thing to note about this recipe is that there's no sugar in the custard, which allows you to enjoy a sugar-y topping without going into sweetness overload.  If you prefer your French toast with just butter, you might want to add some sugar to the custard.

Almond-Crusted French Toast with Poached Pineapple (adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe)
Serves 2

3 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup skim milk
Pinch cinnamon
2/3 cup slivered almonds
4 slices bread
Spray oil for pan
Poached pineapple and pineapple syrup, heated until warmed

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and set up a wire rack on a cookie sheet.
2. Whisk together the eggs, salt, vanilla, milk, and cinnamon until well combined.  Pour the almonds onto a separate plate.
3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and spray with oil.
4. Soak the bread in the egg mixture until soaked through, flipping once (this will take more or less time depending on the bread you use - supermarket bread goes really quick, so be careful or it will fall apart!).  Then dip one side into the almonds and place the bread into the hot pan.  Cook until browned, then flip and cook the second side until browned.  Transfer the cooked French toast to the wire rack and place in the preheated oven until all the French toast is cooked.
5. Repeat with the other pieces of bread.
6. Top with warm poached pineapple and drizzle over some of the syrup.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sicilian Pork and Sausage Ragu

When I saw this recipe in Fine Cooking, I immediately knew I wanted to make it.  Just as I was hoping, the sauce is rich, thick, and super flavorful.   The pork shoulder is slow cooked until it's super tender, and the Italian sausage adds little bits of spicy meat throughout.  The sauce is deeply flavored with red wine and tomatoes.  Plus, although this recipe is not quick, it is definitely pretty easy - none of the steps are complicated, and most of the cooking time can be spent away from the stove.  If you're cooking for one or two like I often am, this ragu freezes very well - I ate about half of it over the course of a few days, and froze the rest to eat later.  I've had some iffy experiences with freezing leftovers, but in this case the defrosted sauce tastes just the same as the original, making it a great dinner option on nights when I'm not in the mood to cook.  It's great served over either pasta or soft polenta - either way makes for a hearty, delicious meal that will warm you up on a chilly day.

Sicilian Pork and Sausage Ragu (adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes lots - I'd say serves around 8 people

2 T canola oil
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or 2-3/4 pounds bone-in pork shoulder)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onion (from one medium onion)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry red wine
24 ounces strained tomatoes or tomato purée (such as Pomi tomatoes)
3 dried bay leaves
1/2 pound sweet Italian pork sausage 

1. Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Season the pork with salt and pepper on both sides, and then sear the meat on both sides until browned, 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer pork to a platter.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion.  Cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, and then add the garlic.  Cook, continuing to stir frequently, until soft and translucent, 7-8 minutes.  
3. Return pork to the pot, raise heat to medium high, and add the wine.  Let bubble for a couple of minutes, and then add the tomatoes and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  
4. Remove the sausage from casings if it is in links, and break the meat apart over the pot, letting it fall into the sauce. Cover and simmer gently, adjusting heat as necessary, for 30 minutes.
5. Uncover and turn the pork over, then recover and continue to simmer for about 1-1/2 hours until very tender, turning the meat once or twice more.  
6. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes. Use two forks to shred the meat and then return it to the sauce.  Cook over low heat until heated through, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  
Serve over pasta or polenta.
 Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Exchange sponsored by Le Creuset.
I'm also sending this post off to These Chicks Cooked.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Swedish Rhubarb-Ginger Spice Bread

Today is my birthday, and I couldn't be happier than to share this delicious quick bread with you guys!  I've had a great birthday weekend - roller skating, tactile dome, and lots of science with friends at After Dark at the Exploratorium on Thursday night, a surprise hike to Alamere Falls with my boyfriend on Saturday, and biscuits and gravy for breakfast Sunday morning!

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Ewa of the gorgeous blog, delishhh.  I ended up being totally torn between two of her recipes, a soft Swedish gingerbread and a scrumptious rhubarb chocolate chip banana bread.  Since I couldn't choose, I decided to combine the two recipes and make a ginger-y spice bread full of pucker-y rhubarb.  Magically, I managed to find rhubarb at the grocery even though I'm pretty sure it's incredibly out of season...usually I try to avoid out-of-season produce since the flavor tends to be not-so-great, but this rhubarb was actually super tasty.  Its sour flavor is tamed by being tossed with sugar, and it combines perfectly with lots of cardamom and freshly grated ginger.  This bread makes a perfect breakfast treat - moist, slightly sweet, and bursting with spices and fresh fruit flavor.

Swedish Rhubarb-Ginger Spice Bread (adapted from delishhh, original recipes here and here)
Makes 1 loaf cake

2 cups diced rhubarb
1-1/3 cups sugar, divided
5 T butter, softened
2 eggs
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup sour cream
Slivered almonds, for topping (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together the rhubarb and 1/3 cup of the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside while preparing the rest of the cake.
3. Cream together the butter and the remaining 1 cup sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, until completely incorporated.  Beat in the fresh ginger.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
5. Beat half the flour mixture into the butter mixture, and then beat in the sour cream.  Fold in the remaining flour mixture by hand, taking care not to overmix.  Scrape in the rhubarb, along with any juices, and gently fold into the batter.
6. Oil a loaf pan, and scrape the batter into the pan.  If desired, sprinkle with slivered almonds.
7. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet, and baking at 350 degrees for about 70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pineapple Poached in Wine with Rosemary and Black Pepper

Mark Bittman recently did a feature on fruit desserts that put the fruit front and center - no crust or cake in the way.  I was really attracted to this idea because while I do love a good pie, making the crust is sort of fussy and takes extra time (especially if you want to get something in the oven quickly and don't have time for chilling dough in the fridge).  I've also had more than one pie crust end up tough, soggy, or even totally melted!  Long story short, sometimes it's nice to just focus on delicious fresh fruit rather than messing around with a crust.

I will definitely be trying out more than one of Mark's recipes from this feature, but I started off with this recipe for poached pineapple.  It's super easy to pull together - simply simmer together wine, water, sugar, rosemary, and cracked black pepper, and then add in chunks of fresh pineapple until tender.  Since the recipe uses almost a whole bottle of wine, don't buy something expensive - it's combined with sugar and water, so you don't want to waste a nice bottle.  The poached pineapple has a lovely sweet, herbaceous flavor, with the wine cutting through the sweetness a bit.  I couldn't taste the black pepper very much, so you should add lots if you really want that flavor to come through.

The poached pineapple is fantastic over ice cream (just don't add too much syrup or it will melt really fast!), and would also be really tasty over pound cake.  It's also flexible enough to serve for breakfast - it was delicious with the pineapple chopped up a bit more and served over French toast.  A great bonus of this recipe is the extra syrup, which can be used to make a tasty cocktail with sparking water and vodka or gin.

Pineapple Poached in Wine with Rosemary and Black Pepper (adapted from Mark Bittman)

2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white wine (not too dry, like Riesling)
1 sprig rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pineapple, cut into chunks

1. Combine sugar, water, wine, rosemary and black pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Add the pineapple chunks to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until tender, 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Transfer pineapple to serving plates.
4. Simmer remaining liquid until thickened and reduced by half.  Strain, and then drizzle over the pineapple.
5. Extra pineapple can be stored in the remaining syrup in the fridge and reheated as needed.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Shenandoah Growers Organic Fresh Herbs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brown Butter Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

With the arrival of fall weather comes apple pie season, although I'll have to admit that I baked this pie in the middle of summer (though in the Bay Area, you might not be able to tell the difference!).  Since I love the combination of sweet and savory, I went with an apple pie with cheddar crust.  The cheese adds the perfect salty counterpart to the sweet apple filling.  I'm not crazy about cinnamon and cheese as a flavor pairing though, so I was really happy to find this recipe that flavors the apples with browned butter.  The browned butter gives the apples a rich autumn flavor without the addition of spices.

Brown Butter Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust (adapted from food52, original recipe here)

For the filling:
3 pounds apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1/3 cup white sugar
3 T brown sugar
4 T unsalted butter
2 T cornstarch
2 T water

For the crust:
2-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt 
14 T cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Heaping 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 T water, for egg wash

1. Toss together the apples, white sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Set aside until ready to use (at least one hour).
2. Whisk together the flours and salt.  Cut in the butter, and then whisk in the cheese. 
3. Sprinkle about 6 T ice water onto the flour mixture.  Gently combine with your hands, adding more water a bit at a time as needed, until the dough starts to form together.
4. Divide the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 30 minutes.
5. Roll out one disk between two sheets of wax paper.  Gently fit into pie dish, trimming the edges so they are flush with the dish.  Chill for 30 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
7. Poke the dough all over with a fork.  Line with foil and add pie weights.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil, and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the bottom starts to look dry.  Allow to cool, and turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
8. Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the 4 T butter in a saucepan, and swirl until the foam subsides and then butter turns a nut-brown color, being careful not to burn.  Toss with the apples.
9. Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 T water and toss with the apples.
10. Roll out the second disk of dough.
11. Fill the bottom pie crust with the apples.  Brush the edges with egg wash, and then top with the second pie crust.  Crimp with a fork to seal.  Cut slits in the top to vent.  Brush the top with egg wash.
12. Bake the pie at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is bubbly.

I'm sending this pie off to These Chicks Cooked.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pasta With Prosciutto and Whole Cloves of Garlic (Maccheroni alla San Giovanniello)

Tim requested pasta for dinner last night, and I found this gem hiding among my zillions of bookmarked recipes.  As usual, Mark Bittman comes through with a simple but absolutely satisfying meal.  The pasta tastes rich and decadent with salty prosciutto flavor and soft, fragrant garlic.  Believe me - your kitchen will smell insanely good while you're making this pasta!  The garlic isn't roasted, but the procedure of slowly cooking it in oil on the stovetop results in a similar effect in less time.  It's sweet and mushy (in the best way), and that strong garlic flavor is completely mellowed, making it possible to eat the whole cloves in the pasta without being overwhelmed by garlic flavor.  Crushed tomatoes (I used home-canned ones) make the pasta a little sauce-y without the dish being one that's primarily made of tomato sauce, and fresh basil adds some bright flavor.  Overall, this pasta was absolutely delicious and is definitely one I'll make again! 

Pasta With Prosciutto and Whole Cloves of Garlic (Maccheroni alla San Giovanniello) (adapted from Mark Bittman via recipes bite me)
Serves 2

2 T oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1/2 cup prosciutto, cut into strips
1 scant cup canned crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound pasta
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and prosciutto, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the garlic becomes soft and deep golden, 10-15 minutes.
3. Salt the boiling water and add the pasta.  While the pasta cooks, add the tomatoes to the prosciutto and garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally.
4. Once the pasta is almost al dente, drain and return to the pot, reserving some of the pasta water.  Add the sauce to the pasta along with the basil and cheese.  Toss over medium heat until everything is nicely combined and the cheese is mostly melted.  Add some pasta water if things seem dry.  Serve right away.

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