Archive | January 2015

Blue Cheese-Asparagus Souffle

It finally happened – this week, with a massive storm on the East Coast and actual snow and sleet in DC, I could not longer pretend it wasn’t winter. Unfortunately, most warming winter meals are very heavy, and I was not in the mood for anything along those lines. So what is light but winter-y? Souffle! Despite my slight mishaps with the sweet potato souffle over Thanksgiving, it seemed like a good time to try again. And ok, so asparagus is a more spring vegetable, but oh well.

Bechamel Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup and a bit of milk
1 egg yolk

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once its melted add the flour and mix it in. Pour in the milk and whisk continuously – making sure the butter-flour mixture melts completely into the milk. Its important to stir constantly, to prevent any sticking on the bottom, or lumps. Once the sauce has thickened, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg – a pinch or two of each, according to your taste. Set it aside to cool for a while. Once cool, add the egg yolk

1/2 lb of asparagus, cut into chunks
4 egg whites
3-4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

While the sauce is cooling, steam the asparagus until tender. Make sure not to overcook it, because it will still go into the oven, but you should be able to pierce it with a fork. Put the egg whites in a large bowl and beat on high with an electric beater for several minutes, until soft peaks form. Put about 1/2 the asparagus and cheese into the sauce and mix them in. Then add about 1/2 the egg whites and fold them in, gently. Add the remaining Asparagus, cheese, and egg whites and fold them all in, gently. Don’t stir. Fold. Carefully. Pour into buttered ramekins (3 or 4 depending on the size) and fill about 3/4 full. Put in the oven and bake at 375 for 2 minutes, or until puffy and getting golden brown on top.

Just out of the oven

Just out of the oven

It rose!! It actually rose this time – I was so excited. I’m not quite sure what made it different this time, but there you go – souffles are mysterious like that. It was also light, fluffy, and tasty, exactly how I wanted it to be. I do wish I had put more asparagus in there though. Maybe next time. The blue cheese was perfect. Baking mellows cheese a lot, so the blue worked really well – not overpowering at all. Serve with a red wine. Nothing too complex, maybe a good Shiraz or Malbec. Song of the week: Happier by Guster. This song always hits a chord within me for some reason – it’s hard to describe why, so just listen to it.

Lemon Cake with Raspberry Glaze – Or Living in Serious Denial That Winter is a Thing

Apparently I am in serious seasonal denial and can’t stop cooking summery foods. Oh well. I have had raspberries sitting frozen in my freezer for ages. Every time I buy raspberries and they get smushed coming home from the grocery store, I just shove them into the freezer. I always assumed I would stick it in frosting, but never actually got around to it til this weekend when my birthday hit. Birthdays require cake so clearly I had to make raspberry frosting for that cake. I don’t actually like raspberry/chocolate combos though, but lemon-raspberry is an awesome combination. So I took my favorite yellow cake recipe, Dinette cake from my parents ancient Betty Crocker cookbook, and adapted it into a lemon cake. And sort of adapted a standard buttercream frosting recipe into the glaze.

Lemon Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
zest from 2 lemons
juice from 1 1/2 – 2 lemons

Add all the ingredients, except the lemon juice, into a large bowl and mix on high for a minute or so until it is well blended. Add the lemon juice, 1/2 a lemon at a time and keep beating the batter until it gets light and fluffy, really fluffy. Pour the batter into an 8×8 square pan, or a 9inch round pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Raspberry Glaze
3/4 cup raspberries (preferably fresh)
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
2ish cups of powdered sugar

Add the softened butter and the raspberries and vanilla and mush together. If you are using frozen raspberries, wait til they have completely thawed out – I didn’t and my butter re-hardened into little pieces so I had to wait until it warmed and melted again. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time until you have a nice thick glaze of the desired sweetness. Pour onto the cake.

Such a pretty color for the glaze!

Such a pretty color for the glaze!

The result – pretty great. Light and flavorful, and you can taste both the raspberries and the lemon in the cake. Well, the glaze was supposed to be fluffy frosting but that did not work out correctly. Whoops. Glaze is a perfectly acceptable alternative though, in my opinion, even though it wasn’t the goal. It makes a perfect small serving of something sweet that hits the spot without making you feel guilty. Oh come on, we all know that’s a thing. Song of the week: Bohemian Like You, by The Dandy Warhols. A rock song that’s not so much about being love with someone, but that awesome phase early on when you are into someone but before feelings and life make shit complicated.

Citrus and North African Food in the Cold

The adventures with bell peppers continue… Actually, this week I wanted to make carrot-ginger soup. It’s cold and gross out and soup seemed appealing. Unfortunately, I don’t have a blender, or food processor so, I had to go for plan B, more bell peppers. Actually, last week I found this amazing looking recipe called Mechwiya, which is a North African roasted bell pepper salad/relish thing. I seemed like a good idea, but not a meal in it of itself so, clearly, the only logical thing to do was stick it in a filo turnover. Because everything is awesome baked in filo dough.

1 1/2 – 2 red bell peppers, roasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tsp cumin
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 sheets filo dough

Roast the bell peppers at 400 until soft. Mix the cumin, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix together. Once the bell pepper is cool, chop into small pieces and add it to the other ingredients with the olive oil. Mix and let it sit and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

The salad/filling

The salad/filling

Once the filling has marinated, take one sheet of filo dough and fold it into thirds lengthwise. Brush that sheet with melted butter or more olive oil (I always use butter because, well, butter is awesome), Place some of the filling in the bottom of the filo, and fold it up like a flag. Brush the top and any ends of dough sticking out with butter. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 until the filo is lightly brown. Also you should probably poke holes in the filo to let steam out before you bake it, but the world won’t end it you forget.

mechwiya turnover

Oh my god it was so good. I had some of the remnants of the salad by itself, but in the filo, it was insane. Most things I make are really good, but this was a 10. No futzing, nothing added necessary, it was just freaking amazing. I had it with a side of Carrottes d’Afrique du Nord and served it with a Belgian tripel. Mostly because I like tripels, but I think white wine would work too. The recipe is very citrus-y and that goes better with whites than reds. Song of the week: Don’t think twice, it’s Alright by Bob Dylan. One of my all time favorite Dylan songs. There are a million covers of this song, and I listen to different versions based on my mood, but its good to start with Dylan’s original version. It’s melancholy and beautiful and everyone can relate to it.

A Taste of Summer in Winter: Polenta-Stuffed Bell Peppers

Have you ever accidentally bought an ingredient, forgot that you did, and then got more of it? I did that this past week with red bell peppers. Which I love, but there is only one of me, and there were 3 of them. So naturally this week, I needed to make a bell pepper-based recipe, and I was thinking stuffed, but i wasn’t sure with what. While I was at my neighborhood bar, reading and having a glass of wine, I realized that clearly it should be polenta. Everything just kinda fell into place after that. This is a fairly summer-y recipe but since the high was 25 degrees outside, I needed a little summer.

polenta bell pepper

2 large red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup polenta
3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 onion, chopped
3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
grated strong cheese
olive oil

Cut the bell peppers in half, rub with olive oil, and roast at 400 for 20 minutes, or until they are soft, but still hold their shape. In the meantime, saute the onions and garlic and set aside. Boil the vegetable broth and add the polenta, stirring continuously and breaking up any lumps until it is thick and smooth. Add the onions, garlic, parsley, and tomatoes to the polenta and mix thoroughly. Fill the bell pepper halves with the polenta mixture, and top with a strong cheese – I used parrano. Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and ideally beginning to brown.

The result. Good stuff, man. Good stuff. A slightly more time-consuming recipe than a weekday night would prefer, but balanced, filling, and ripe for plenty of variations. I had this with a nice malbec, but it would go equally well with white wine I think. Don’t bother with beer for this one though, its better to go with wine. Song of the week: Pina Colada in a Pint Glass by Gaelic Storm. Meshes perfectly with my mood this week – even though I don’t like pina coladas. I really wish I was on a tropical island somewhere rather than in the icy/cold/snow right now too.

Caramelized Onion Tart

I have never caramelized onions. Ever. Even when a recipe called for them, I’d just brown them and say “screw this, its good enough.” Well, no longer. This time I will caramelize onions for real. And, since the onions need to be a part of something, I decided to stick them in a tart. A sort of hybrid between this recipe and this recipe. A word of warning before you start – pour yourself a generous glass of wine, this is gonna take a while.

caramelized onion tart

Pastry Dough
1 cup flour
1/3 cup salted butter
some cold water

Put flour in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (or a fork if you don’t have one) until it is all incorporated, and the dough can almost clump together. Add the water, a little at a time, stirring it in with a knife and your hands until a nice dough has formed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the topping is done.

1 large-ish onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches dried thyme
2 tbsp wine (preferably white)
1 up chopped spinach
2-3 oz shredded intense French cheese, I used Comte

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onions and coat evenly, then cover and cook them at medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until they are soft. Uncover and add the salt, pepper, thyme and wine. Lower the heat to medium low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions are sweet and brown aka caramelized. Roll out the dough, and line a tart pan or a pie dish with low sides. Place the spinach on the bottom. Layer the onion mixture on top of it, and the shredded cheese on the top. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

Whoa – this recipe is ridiculously good. Seriously, seriously good. I give it a 9 out of 10. The only issues were that there was maybe too much spinach and not quite enough onions, and that it is really rich. Which is great, because you can’t eat a lot of it, but the combination of that and the solid Pinot Noir I was drinking with it put me in a borderline food coma. So not a good dish if you are trying to impress a date and hope to jump their bones shortly thereafter. Song of the week: Dream a Little Dream of Me. What can I say, my romantic side came out this week (frustrated though it may be), and this is one of my all time favorite love songs. There are a million versions of this song, and Ella’s version is a close second, but this is my favorite.