Monday, January 30, 2012

dobbs ferry cowl

Back in October, I discovered this local yarn store down in the Commons, where I picked up a lovely Rowan wool yarn. You can't tell very well from the photos, but it's a very pretty deep evergreen color with blue-gray flecks embedded. I decided to use this yarn for the Dobbs Ferry Cowl from Lion Brand Yarn (if you have a Ravelry account, you can check out my project here), which I gave to my sister for Christmas.

The pattern is originally from Lion Brand Yarn but has also been made available on Martha Stewart's website.

My mom likes being mentioned on my blog, so this is a shout out to her for modeling for my pictures:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

sour cream coffee cake with pears and walnuts

The annoying thing about following recipes is that you always end up with a large container of some obscure, random ingredient that you purchased for the sake of two tablespoons, only to stick in the pantry or in the back of the fridge, never to be seen or used again.

(See: apple cider vinegar for Madam Rosmerta's Butterbeer, buttermilk for Irish Soda Bread, or sour cream for Jamie Oliver's Green Goddess Salad Dressing.)


I'm clearly not the only person who finds this irritating and highly wasteful because my mother also requested that I find a recipe to use up the 7.9oz of sour cream remaining in the 8oz container. After poking around on Epicurious, I found a seemingly promising recipe for a sour cream coffee cake with pears and pecans, which I adapted due to our lack of pecans.

The recipe is included below. This coffee cake has a great flavor, but I'm warning you, it is a pain in the PATOOTIE to make, unless you have a sous chef around to pour everything into a separate bowl and stir everything in a separate bowl and clean up your five bajillion dishes when you're done. Yeesh. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pears and Walnuts
Adapted from Bon Appetit | October 2003

Topping ingredients
1-1/2 cups walnuts
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cake ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
3-4 pears, peeled and chopped

For topping:

Blend walnuts, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in food processor until walnuts are coarsely chopped. Add butter and pulse on and off until coarse crumbs form.

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Using a mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add granulated and brown sugar and beat well. Beat in one egg at a time. Add lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl.

Mix sour cream and milk in a separate bowl.

Beat in sour cream mixture with butter, alternating with dry ingredients, in three additions each.

Spread half of cake batter in baking dish. Sprinkle over half of crumb topping; cover with pears. Spread remaining batter over. Sprinkle remaining crumb topping.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until top is brown and cake tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan on rack. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

walnut-crusted tilapia

This was the feast my mom and I conjointly prepared several nights ago. It was kind of fancy. We had wilted spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic; walnut-crusted tilapia brushed with a mixture of light mayonnaise, Grey Poupon, and fresh chopped basil; baked Japanese yams; roasted kabocha squash; and finally a small helping of quinoa.

For those who are not in the know, Grey Poupon is one of those famous flagship Dijon mustard brands, like French's for yellow mustard, except Grey Poupon has much nicer packaging. It's made with brown mustard seed and white wine, which (fun fact from Wikipedia) "is produced in upstate New York under the supervision of a rabbi, to ensure that the product maintains its kosher status." So there you have it. Grey Poupon is at least partly if not wholly (wholly, holy, ha!) rabbi-certified kosher.

My dad discovered Grey Poupon when I was in the sixth grade. Incidentally, I decided to take French as an elective that year, and from that class I can only recall two things.

The first is that le mur (pronounced something like "leh me-uh") is French for "the wall."

The second is that behind every enjoyable foreign language class, there is always a teacher campaigning for a cultural food event.

For our end-of-year soiree, my mom helped me make pain au chocolat, which according to the recipe is basically a bunch of glorified croissants with Nutella inside. Another student brought in a dish made with Grey Poupon, presumably because Dijon mustard originated in France (in Dijon, France, to be precise). In response to this weird foreign dish, one of my classmates asked, "What is it? Gray poopoo?!" And so, ever since, I've mentally referred to Grey Poupon as Grey Poopoo.

Classy. And kosher!

Walnut-Crusted Tilapia
Adapted from Epicurious

2 tbsp light mayonnaise
2 tbsp Grey Poupon
a small handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
a pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups walnuts
4 filets of tilapia

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, Grey Poupon, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir well.

Optional: Toast walnuts on a pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes or until they smell fragrant. Coarsely chop walnuts or, alternatively, fill a Ziploc bag with walnuts and pound away using a heavy rolling pin. Spread walnuts onto a shallow dish.

Pat dry filets and coat each side with mayonnaise-mustard mixture. Press into crushed walnuts, coating each side.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until flaky.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

light and well-rounded flavors

These are some pictures I snapped of a quick lunch - rosemary crackers topped with Boursin, smoked salmon, and fresh thyme, and on the side, a perfect hard-boiled egg with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. I love all the textures and flavors - the creamy tangy cheese, the flakiness of the salmon, the spark of salt on your tongue, rooted by the woodiness of pepper (it's there, I promise). And of course you have that weird thyme stuff... so flavorful and yet so elusive in that "I can't put my finger on what I'm tasting but I know it's there" kind of way. It really rounds all those tastes off quite nicely. This isn't exactly "cooking" - at least, not on my part - but it's certainly good eats.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

hearty healthy dinner


In the above photos, you shall see: pan-seared salmon with a crisp, browned crust and perfectly tender on the inside; quinoa (this one caused me quite some trouble; nota bene: don't Pinterest and cook); acorn squash, roasted until slightly dehydrated and with a hint of sweetness; and my chickpea stew, always a good standby.

Really a hearty and healthy meal, and one that is perfect for the 2012 dieters that don't read this blog. Don't look at me, I'll have another cookie, please...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

weird foods

In this edition of Weird Foods I Can Barely Spell But Love To Eat, we have quinoa with roasted kabocha squash, string beans, and grape tomatoes. Sprinkled with salted pistachios. This stuff is the bomb dot com.

Monday, January 9, 2012

ginger pine nut scones

My family has had a half gallon of buttermilk sitting in the fridge for a while now, and we have been looking for ways to use it all up. Earlier tonight, I found an interesting recipe for Ginger Pecan Scones on Epicurious, so my mom and I decided to give it a whirl. We ended up substituting toasted pine nuts for the pecans because (1) we don't have pecans and (2) we have pine nuts. It worked out rather nicely.

The recipe called for a tablespoon of baking powder, which is really quite a lot, but in my unscientific opinion, this is what makes the scones so puffy and nice and soft inside (while the outside gives you a perfectly crunchy bite). The three kinds of ginger - ground, candied, and fresh grated ginger - add an exotic tangy kick, but you get a creamy sort of depth from the toasted pine nuts. These scones are such a treat, and they are wonderful especially if you're looking for something a little bit different.


I am sitting in the kitchen as I write this post. My mother would like me to add that she played sous chef to my baker and washed the dishes after all was said and done. So woo hoo, props to my mom. Thanks for rolling up my sleeves and scratching my nose when my hands were covered in flour and dough.

Ginger Pine Nut Scones
Adapted from Bon Appetit | April 2011
Yields 12 scones

3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (or 1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425°.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add in butter and using fingertips, blend until a course meal forms. Mix in toasted pine nuts and crystallized ginger.

Form a well in the center of dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, grated ginger, and vanilla extract. Pour in buttermilk and combine until mixture becomes moist and sticky.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead until dough just comes together; divide in half. Form each half into a disk, roughly 3/4 inch thick. Cut disk into 6 slices and transfer wedges to baking sheet.

Brush each wedge using reserved 1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

irish soda bread


Besides all the biscotti and other baked goods* my family and I have been consuming over the winter holiday, we've also made several loaves of Irish soda bread, with varying degrees of success. There are a bunch of different recipes out there, all of which can yield totally different textures and tastes, but the one my dad uses has proven to be pretty tried and true...

For those who are unfamiliar, soda bread is a type of quick bread that uses buttermilk and baking soda as a leavening agent, rather than yeast (hence the "quickness" of this quick bread). Some form of soda bread can be found in many different cultures and countries... This particular loaf contains both raisins and caraway seeds, which is typical of traditional Irish soda bread.


P.S. Happy first post of 2012... May it be filled with health, happiness, and good eats!
*separate post forthcoming