Friday, October 25, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Roll Muffins

I made these on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago when Tim was feeling under the weather.  I figured homemade cinnamon rolls would cheer anyone up, and I was right!  These rolls have a long rising time, so if you start them in the morning they will definitely be more of a brunch (or even lunch) treat, but don't let that stop you -- they're so good that they are worth the wait.  (Note: if you want yeasty sweet rolls that you can make for breakfast without getting up at the crack of dawn, try my Nutella Swirl Buns!)  Although I haven't tried it, I bet you could also prepare them the night before up through making the rolls and placing them in the pan, and then stash them in the fridge and finish the second rise the next morning -- I've tried this with my sweet potato cinnamon rolls with great success.

As for the finished rolls - they're divine!  The dough is super tender and the grated apple in the filling adds a fantastic 'apple pie' flavor to the rolls.  I also love the glaze, made with apple juice squeezed from the grated apples -- it amps up the apple flavor in the rolls even more.  These rolls are definitely best right out of the oven, but they keep pretty well for a few days if you have a.

Apple Cinnamon Roll Muffins (adapted from Cooking Classy, original recipe here)
Makes 12

1/2 cup milk, warm
1-3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 T oil
2 T melted butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 to 3-1/4 cups all purpose flour

For the filling:
2 cups lightly packed peeled and grated apples (about 3 medium)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, halfway melted

For the topping:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Reserved juice from the grated apples

1. Add the yeast to the warm milk and whisk to dissolve.  Let rest 5-10 minutes, until the yeast proofs.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, oil, butter, egg, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the yeast is ready, add it to the bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Then add 1-1/2 cups flour and beat until combined.  Switch to the dough hook, and add an additional 1-1/2 cups flour, a bit at a time.  Knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, adding more flour as needed to create a soft dough -- about 5 minutes of kneading time.
3. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise about 1-1/2 hours, until doubled.
4. While the dough is rising, make the filling.  Place the grated apple in a fine mesh strainer or a piece of cheesecloth.  Let sit for a few minutes, and then squeeze out the excess liquid into a clean bowl.  Save this apple juice for the topping.
5. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
6. Punch down the dough.  Spray your working surface and rolling pin with a light coating of oil, and then roll out the dough into an approximately 19x13 rectangle.  Brush the top with the butter, and sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the top.  Squeeze the grated apple again to remove any excess liquid (again, reserving the apple juice for the topping), and then sprinkle the apples over the dough in an even layer.
7.  Beginning on the long side, roll up the dough as tightly as possible.  Spray a muffin tin with oil.  Cut the dough into 12 rolls, and transfer each roll to the muffin tin.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 40 minutes.
8. In the last 10 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
9. Bake the rolls for 14-17 minutes, until they are golden and the centers are cooked through.  Let cool for just a minute or two, and then remove from the pan to prevent sticking.
10. Make the glaze.  Whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and about 3 T of the reserved apple juice.  Add more apple juice as needed to make a drizzling consistency.  Then drizzle the glaze over the warm rolls and eat while still warm.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Green Team Sustainable Feast

Check out this awesome plate from the sustainable potluck we had at my church today - everyone brought dishes made from ingredients grown or made within 100 miles!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Instagramming My Dinner: Pork Pot Roast with Pears, Apples, and Honey

I have to admit I've gotten a little lazy with photos lately -- it's always hard to take good photos in fall and winter once the evening light fades and I'm always cooking dinner after dark, and lately I've been resorting to the iPhone + Instagram.  So, here is one of those Instagram dinners -- nothing fancy, but delicious none the less!  And, the flavors had me happy that fall weather is here, even if I miss the evening sunlight.

This is a Nigel Slater recipe, and I'm a huge fan of his -- something about his recipes always just makes me happy!  The star of the show here is definitely the pork roast, and the recipe doesn't specify what type.  I told my butcher what I was making, and he recommended a rib cut pork chop roast -- basically it was five pork chops that hadn't been cut apart yet.  This cut turned out yummy, but not as tender as I might have liked, and it definitely took longer than the recommended cooking time.  But - the flavor was definitely there, so I'd absolutely give this another try and maybe ask my butcher about a different cut of bone-in pork roast next time.  Anyone have a recommendation?

As for that flavor, it comes from getting the meat nice and browned before you stew it, and then adding in onions, apples, pears, honey, and pear cider.  This makes for pretty much the perfect autumn meal - it's got that great 'stick-to-your-ribs' quality that you might be craving as the weather gets a little chilly.  I loved how the fruit softened up -- almost like apple or pear sauce but with the pieces still held together and a more savory element.  Add mashed potatoes on the side to complete this dish, and I promise you will not miss summer one bit!

Pork Pot Roast with Pears, Apples, and Honey (adapted from Ripe by Nigel Slater)
Serves 5-6

3-1/2 pounds pork roast on the bone (I used a rib cut pork chop roast, as recommended by my butcher)
Salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 smallish pears
2 smallish apples
2 cups pear cider
1/4 cup honey

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Set a big, oven proof pot or Dutch oven on the stove.  Add a good glug of oil and turn the flame to medium-high heat.
3. Season the roast with salt and pepper.  When the oil is hot, add it to the pot and brown on all sides.  Save a short side for last so that the roast is turned up on one end and there's some room in the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the onions to the empty space in the pan, and turn the heat down to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
5. While the onions are softening, quarter the pears and apples and cut out the cores.  No need to peel - the peels will help the fruit stay together as it cooks.
6. Push the onions to the edges of the pan and turn the pork so a larger part of it makes contact with the bottom of the pan.  Scatter the apples and pears around the pork roast.  Pour the cider over, and then drizzle the honey over the pork and fruit.
7. Once the cider comes to a boil, remove the pot from the heat.  Cover tightly, and bake in the oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes.  [After an hour or so, check the meat - I ended up cutting my chops apart to finish the cooking in the final fifteen minutes, but your mileage may vary depending on the specific cut of meat you end up with.]
8. Thinly slice the pork and serve with the fruit, onions, and pan sauce.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Pizza Bianca e Verde

I recently got an email asking if I'd like to review The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook.  You guys can probably guess from my posts on this blog that I'm a big fan of greens -- they show up a lot in my cooking.  So, I was excited to see what this new cookbook was all about!  I think it must cover every leafy green known to man.  There are your typical greens like spinach and chard, as well as unusual greens like taro leaves and purslane that you're only likely to find at special groceries or farmer's markets -- in these cases, the author also provides substitution information so you can still try out the recipes even if you don't have access to a particular ingredient.

What I liked about the book: there were photos of each type of green, as well as lots of information about each one.  It was a lot of fun to browse through and learn about some ingredients I've never tried.  I think this book will make me more adventurous about trying out a new type of green if I come across it!  The info on storage, measuring equivalents, etc. was also useful -- although one can look up this type of thing online, it's nice to have it all in one place for easy access.  I also loved the recipe I tried - see below!  In general, I was happy to see that the recipes included both side dishes and entrees, so you get a good amount of variety.  Everything is vegetarian or vegan, which may or may not float your boat.

What I wasn't so crazy about: there aren't photos of the finished dishes, which I like to see.  I also thought the vegetarian/vegan warnings were overdone -- this information could have been contained in a section at the beginning rather than having to list that Parmesan isn't technically vegetarian due to the rennet in every single recipe where the ingredient appears (and really - I have never met a vegetarian who cares about this, although I am sure they are out there!).  I would have rather seen info unique to each recipe rather than the same information being repeated over and over again.  But, that's a pretty minor quibble.

I decided to test out the Pizza Bianca and Verde, a four-cheese pizza topped with wilted baby greens.  I am in love with this pizza, and I've already made it twice!  It starts off with a divine garlic-herb olive oil that's brushed all over the crust.  (Seriously - I would eat this crust with just the olive oil!)  Then, pile on a ricotta-mozzarella-Asiago mixture and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Finally, add a bunch of baby arugula and spinach and a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano, and pop everything back in the oven just until the greens are wilted.  Don't be afraid to use lots of greens - they will wilt down dramatically, so you can use way more than it looks like you need.

Don't stress about the proportions of cheese and greens - I measured everything out very carefully the first time I made this pizza, and the second time I just used what I had left over.  Both pizzas were terrific!  You can also add other veggies as you like - I made it with red pepper added under the greens for my second attempt, and that was delicious as well.

Pizza Bianca e Verde (adapted from The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook: 67 Leafy Greens and 250 Recipes)
Makes 1 pizza, serving 2-3

1 T olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano or Italian spice blend
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Several grinds of black pepper
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
2 ounces grated Asiago cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
2 ounces baby arugula or baby arugula-baby spinach mix (a few big handfuls)
Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, to finish

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (or as hot as it will go).  Get your preferred pizza pan/pizza baking set-up ready.  I just use aluminium foil on a big sheet pan, but many people get fancier - this pizza will be delicious either way!
2. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the mozzarella, Asiago, and ricotta.  Stir to combine.
4. Stretch out your pizza dough to the desired thickness/shape and place on your pizza pan.  With my pan, I like to pre-bake the crust for about 3-5 minutes before putting on toppings, but your mileage may vary depending on your baking method.  If you're using a regular pan with foil or parchment, I'd go for the pre-bake as it will ensure a crispy crust.
5. Brush the garlic olive oil all over the crust, going right up to the edges.  Then add the cheese mixture in an even layer, using your fingers to break up any large clumps.  Leave a bit of a border, as the cheese will get melty and run off the edges otherwise!
6. Bake the pizza until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly - time will very depending on your oven, so keep an eye on the pizza (probably 10-15 minutes).
7. Remove the pizza from the oven, but leave the heat on.  Scatter the arugula all over the pizza, using more than it looks like you need because it will wilt down dramatically.  Grate the Parmesan all over the top of the greens.
8. Return the pizza to the oven for 30-60 seconds, just until the greens are wilted.
9. Let the pizza sit at room temperature for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Full disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary review copy of this cookbook.  All opinions and recipe-testing are my own.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pork Stew with Hominy and Collard Greens + Giveaway Winner

When I came across Adam's post on Amateur Gourmet about pork stew with hominy, I had to laugh.  Just like him, I had a bag of Rancho Gordo dried hominy in my cupboard that had been hanging out for a year or so, waiting for me to get my act together and cook something with it!  Although I'd come across various recipes for pozole, nothing quite inspired me to break open that bag and get cooking.  Since Adam was in my same predicament, when I saw his post I knew it was time!  And I'm glad I did finally use that hominy, because it made a great stew.  Cubes of tender, long-stewed pork are a great counterpoint for the chewy, slightly nutty hominy.  And, the addition of collard greens in the last 20 minutes of cooking adds an awesome veggie element and really makes this a one-dish meal.  Leftovers heated up well, but you can also make a half-recipe for a smaller group.

On another note - the winner of my giveaway for Nudo olive oil was Erin.  Erin - congrats, and look for an email from me in your inbox!

Pork Stew with Hominy and Collard Greens (adapted from Melissa Clark of the New York Times, via Amateur Gourmet)
Serves 8

1 pound dried hominy, such as Rancho Gordo brand
3 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 2-inch-square chunks
1 T kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp black pepper
3 T vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 T chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer
2 pounds collard greens (about 2 bunches), center rib removed, leaves chopped
Lime wedges, for serving
Cilantro leaves, for serving

1. Soak the hominy in lots of water overnight (at least 8 hours). Drain.
2. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Sear the meat in batches until it's well browned - this will take longer than you want it to, but keep at it! Transfer the meat to a plate.
3. Pour out some of the fat, leaving enough to cook the onions. Add the onions and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Cook for one minute, and then return the pork to the pot.
4. Stir in the chipotles, hominy, and beer, along with 6 cups of water and 2 tsp salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 1-1/2 hours. Stir in the collards after 1 hour and 10 minutes, so they get about 20 minutes of cooking time. The meat and hominy should be tender -- cook a little longer if not. Add more water if the stew is too thick for your liking.
5. Fish out the bay leaf and cinnamon stick, and discard. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
6. Serve with lime wedges and cilantro.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

SRC: Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Aly of Cooking in Stilettos.  I was tempted by lots of the delicious recipes on her blog, like her black and tan brownies, short rib chili, and ancho-tequila chicken.  Yum!  But, as you guys know well, I am a sucker for good brunch food!  Taking time to make something special on a Saturday or Sunday morning is one of my favorite weekend treats.  These blueberry ricotta pancakes are a perfect weekend pancake in my mind (and stomach) -- they're sweet and delicious, and they won't take all morning to make.

I've had plenty of lemon ricotta pancakes at restaurants, but never any with blueberries inside.  It's a great pairing - the ricotta makes the pancakes more moist and almost custard-y, while the blueberries provide bright, juicy flavor.  Of course, you could easily substitute chocolate chips or another fruit if you prefer -- I also love small-diced apples in pancakes.  I loved that this recipe used lots of ricotta cheese, because I always end up with some left over in the fridge from lasagna, calzones, or pizza.  You can use part-skim if that's what you have on hand, but I think whole milk ricotta makes these even yummier.  Fair warning: these are a bit trickier to flip than normal pancakes, because the ricotta makes them a little more fragile, but the extra effort will be well worth it once you sit down to a plate of hot, delicious blueberry pancakes.  Enjoy!

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, via Cooking in Stilettos)
Serves 2-3

1-2/3 cups water
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups instant pancake or waffle mix
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
Cooking spray
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

1. In a large bowl, combine the water and vanilla extract.  Add the pancake mix and whisk until just combined - some lumps are okay.  Add the ricotta, and again whisk until just combined.
2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, and set the oven to warm.  Spray the skillet with cooking spray.
3. Ladle the batter into the skillet, about 1/4 cup per pancake, working in batches.  As soon as you put the batter in the skillet, drop several blueberries onto each pancake.  When the top is bubbling and starting to set, flip.  When the pancakes are cooked through, transfer to a plate, cover with foil, and stash in the warm oven until all the pancakes are cooked.  Repeat with the remaining batter and blueberries.
4. Serve hot with toppings of your choice - butter and syrup are delicious!

Plus, here are my past Secret Recipe Club creations: baked egg over veggies, cranberry-lemon quick bread with pecans, eggplant parmesan pasta bake, fifteen-minute dinner rolls, green chile cornbread, creamy chicken lasagna, salt-marinated steak, chocolate apple cake, summer salad, crispy smashed potatoes, m. jacques' brandy chicken, roasted carrots with spiced pistachios, buttermilk waffles, herbed bulghur wheat salad, oatmeal jam bars, rhubarb-ginger spice bread, zesty lemon and almond sticks, portuguese corn bread, chocolate brownie cookies, flat iron steak with blue cheese sauce, creamy scramble with fresh veggies, turkey chili, crisp and spicy roasted chickpeas with lamb

And, here are the recipes from my blog that my SRC partners have tested: spiced oatmeal cranberry apricot cookies, pear spice bread, pork belly soup with collard greens, asparagus pesto pasta, lemon sponge pie, baked eggplant parmesan, almond crunch coffee cake, strawberry crisp, world peace cookies, thai green beans with tofu, blueberry peach crisp, salty caramel ice cream, orange-chocolate macaroonschewy chocolate brownie cakes, dark chocolate and sea salt cookies, steak au poivre, pear-pecan spice breadvalencia orange curdnutella chocolate chip cookies, nutella chocolate chip cookies (2.0)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Spicy Harissa Ratatouille

Before the summer weather completely fades away, I highly recommend making this spicy summer stew.  I think it's especially pretty with yellow summer squash and orange tomatoes -- the colors just scream  "Summer!" to me. This stew is full of lots of fresh veggies, and spiced up with harissa, a North African spice paste.  You might find the prepared spice paste at your market, or you can use a dry spice mix, which is what I had on hand.  You can also make your own harissa - check out a couple of recipes here and here. I kept the amount of spice on the low side, but you can always add more to taste.  Heat up some crusty bread on the side to soak up all the yummy juices.

Check out my other ratatouille recipes: roasted ratatouille pasta sauce, ratatouille lasagna.
And, don't forget to enter my giveaway for cacao nib olive oil!

Spicy Harissa Ratatouille (adapted from Home Made Summer)
Serves at least 4

Olive oil
1-1/2 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium zucchini or summer squash, diced
1 medium eggplant, diced
4 large-ish tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large sprigs fresh thyme
1 to 3 tsp dry harissa spice mix or harissa paste, depending on how spicy you like your food

1. Heat a big glug of oil over medium heat in the largest skillet you have (or a large soup pot). Add the onions, and cook them, stirring often, while you chop all the rest of the veggies (10 minutes or so).
2. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.  Then add the pepper, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, thyme sprigs, harissa, and a generous pinch of salt.  Stir very carefully - it may look like you have far too much for your skillet, but it will cook down eventually!
3. Let the ratatouille bubble over medium-low heat for about half an hour, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are nice and tender.  Remove the thyme sprigs.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Serve with crusty fresh bread or creamy polenta.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Classic Mac from Homeroom in Oakland

First off - don't forget to enter my giveaway for cacao nib olive oil! Now, on to today's post...

My boyfriend and I are both big fans of Homeroom in Oakland -- it's a restaurant focused on mac and cheese, and you really can't go wrong with that!  I was super excited to see that they just put out a cookbook, and was able to pick up a copy at the library.  Honestly, I was glad to take a look at it from the library, because this is one of those cookbooks that's one basic recipe with lots of variations -- every mac and cheese recipe pretty much uses the same base, with different cheeses and other add-ins stirred in.  That totally makes sense since that's how they do things at the restaurant, in their extremely tiny kitchen.  But, cookbook-wise, you're not getting a huge amount of variety here.  (I should add -- there are also recipes for sides and desserts, but let's be honest -- I was really in it for the mac and cheese!)

My other pet peeve with this cookbook was offering a base recipe that makes the wrong amount!  Every recipe starts off with two cups of bechamel sauce -- but the base recipe given is for three cups of bechamel. If this were made of cheap ingredients, fine -- but I'm not throwing away a third of a sauce made from whole milk and butter.  Supposedly (i.e., the reason given), this is because it is "difficult" to whisk together two cups worth of sauce, but I'm not really sure why that would be.  I made my bechamel in a non-stick skillet and had no problems getting it to work with the correct amounts that will be used in the final mac and cheese, which I've listed below.

Griping aside, I will give this book points for providing recipes that really do seem to replicate what's made in the restaurant.  Sometimes I've made recipes out of restaurant cookbooks, and felt like I wasn't really getting the same dish, either because the recipe didn't scale down well to a home kitchen, or because the techniques were simply too time-consuming or complicated to really make at home.  Since mac and cheese is a pretty simple dish, this really did taste like what you get at the restaurant -- a fairly mild, ultra creamy mac and cheese that's pretty much total comfort food.  Next time, I'll probably take the option of baking the mac and cheese with crispy panko on top, because I think that would make it even better.  Sadly I can't re-create the atmosphere at Homeroom in my living room (think big wooden tables, drinks in Mason jars, and uber-hipster waiters), so I'll probably be going back for the real thing sometime soon!

Classic Mac from Homeroom in Oakland (adapted from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant)
Serves 3-4

12 ounces dried pasta
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/3 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 cups grated 2-year–aged, extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1-2 ounces)

1. Put on a big pot of water to boil.  When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is almost tender -- a minute or so less than the package recommends.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done.  (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time!)
2. In a medium pot, heat the milk over medium heat until it just starts to bubble - not a full boil. Remove from the heat.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
4. Slowly whisk in the hot milk - it's okay if the mixture seems thick and lumpy at will all smooth out as you go.  Make sure to use a silicone-coated whisk to protect your pan!
5. Put the skillet back over medium high heat, continuing to whisk constantly.  The sauce is ready when it's silky, thick, and coats a spoon -- mine was ready almost immediately, but it might take up to 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in the salt.
6. Add both the Cheddar and the Pecorino Romano cheese to the sauce, whisking to combine.  Cook until the cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes, whisking often.
7. Add the cooked pasta, stir to combine, and continue to cook, stirring with a rubber spatula.  The pasta is ready when it's hot and steaming - about 3-5 minutes.
8. Eat right away - this pasta is best steaming hot.  Leftovers don't do well in the microwave - instead, try heating them up on the stove over medium-low heat with some extra milk, stirring the whole time.

Here I am enjoying the 'real deal' at Homeroom last year.  Yum!