Monday, December 28, 2009

sweet potato biscuits

since she is a loyal follower, (if not my most loyal) visits to my mom result in her request for me to cook. which is exactly why i got so excited when i saw this recipe in bon appetit on the plane, on my way to visit. what's more, they even seemed like they would be the perfect accompaniment to solstice dinner. i admit that i was a little intimidated by the term biscuit. after all, i hear homemade biscuits and i think of someone's grandmother somewhere (preferably in a southern state) taking all day to roll out dough with lard. i decided to take a more rustic biscuit approach. i also skipped the ham component of this. but that goes without saying.

sweet potato biscuits (originally sweet potato biscuits with ham, mustard, and honey)
from bon appetit
  • 1 3/4-pound red-skinned sweet potato (yam), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (i used spelt)
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup chilled buttermilk *NOTE: begin my rustic approach...i didn't have buttermilk so i added some lemon juice to regular low fat milk and allowed to sit for a few minutes.
  • cook sweet potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. drain, cool, and mash.
  • position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 425°F. butter bottom and sides of 9-inch cake pan with 1 1/2-inch-high sides.
  • whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in large bowl. add cubed butter to flour mixture; toss to coat and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • whisk 3/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes and buttermilk in medium bowl. add to flour mixture; toss with fork.
  • gather mixture in bowl, kneading until dough comes together. turn dough out onto floured work surface and pat into 1-inch-thick round. Using 1 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits, flouring cutter after each cut. gather scraps; pat into 1-inch-thick round. cut out additional biscuits (do not reuse scraps more than once). *NOTE: continue rustic approach...i didn't roll out or cut my biscuits, i just grabbed pieces of dough and gently shaped them and patted them down.
  • arrange biscuits side by side in prepared cake pan. brush with melted butter. bake until puffed and golden on top and tester inserted into center biscuit comes out clean, about 22 minutes. cool 10 minutes in pan. turn biscuits out and gently pull them apart.
  • makes about 24 biscuits

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

winter solstice celebration

to make a long story short, a number of years ago, my family gave up all winter holidays associated with any religion. granted, as jews by definition, the winter spirit of things has just never held as much meaning as for those who might celebrate a certain baby any case, we had it. too much commercialization, commodification, all that jazz.

we decided it would be much more appropriate to actually celebrate the significance of the winter season with solstice. the goal was to not really have any rules. over the years, i've embraced it as my own and created a separate celebration with friends. this has come to mean a small gathering, well
stocked with food and alcohol. i usually can't resist the urge to make latkes; this year was no exception. this year's signature drink (no rules; it changes year to year) was a sunshine spritzer. i switched from the usual yellow cake with yellow frosting to an upside-down pear cake. the result is always happy and full tummies. the perfect way to celebrate any holiday, if you ask me.

sunshine spritzer
1 shot whiskey
1/2 shot lemon juice
1/2 shot ginger simple syrup
pour over ice and finish with club soda.

ginger simple syrup: boil 1 part water and 1 part sugar until mixture slightly reduces. remove
from heat, add large piece of peeled ginger and cover. allow to steep for at least 20 minutes.

my favorite latke recipe

from the ny times

if you've experienced a latke making session before, you know it's no small feat. unless you have a food processor. but for some reason, i find the need to grate everything by ends up being hours long in process for fried goodness that gets gobbled in a fraction of the time but is totally worth it.

a couple of notes about making the latkes in advance when you're pressed for time or don't want to be in the kitchen
the entire time you have people over: i usually start several hours in advance, grate the potatoes and store them in cold water to avoid oxidation. before you make the latkes, rinse the potatoes with more cold water and drain, then squeeze out additional water. then as i start frying batches, i put them in the oven, layered with paper towels to keep them warm.
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups grated drained all-purpose potatoes
  • ¼ cup grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons matzo meal, or as needed (i use spelt flour)
  • canola oil, for frying
  • applesauce and sour cream for serving (optional).
  • in a large mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly. add potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, and mix well. stir in 2 tablespoons matzo meal/flour and let sit about 30 seconds to absorb moisture. if necessary, add more to make a thick, wet batter that is neither watery nor dry.
  • place a large skillet over medium heat, and add 2 tablespoons of oil. when oil is hot drop in heaping 1/8 cups (about 2 tablespoons) of batter, flattening them gently to make thick pancakes. when bottoms have browned, after 2-3 minutes, flip and brown on the other side. add oil as needed. drain on paper towels and sprinkle with additional salt to taste.
  • serve hot with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.
  • yield: 4 servings (about 24 small pancakes)

maple pear upside-down cake
from mark bittman

this cake is superbly delicious. the outside gets all browned and crispy while the inside is rich without being too sweet. almost coffee-cake-esque. and it looks so impressive!
  • 11 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 to 4 pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

  • heat oven to 350 degrees. melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat. add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. when mixture has cooled a bit, pour into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top.
  • with a handheld or standing mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. add vanilla and eggs, continuing to mix until smooth. add dry ingredients (i never do this separately but suppose you might want to consider it): flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not over mix. (NOTE: although i did not over mix, i also did not alternate butter/flour/milk mixtures. too finicky. however, do not let the batter know you are afraid.)
  • carefully spread batter over pears, using a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45-50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. let cake cool for 5 minutes.
  • run a knife around edge of pan, put a plate on top of the cake and carefully flip it so that the plate is on bottom and the pan is on top. serve warm or at room temperature.
  • yield: 8-10 servings
Sound scary? Watch the video to ease the nerves.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

quinoa breakfast cupcakes

becky crocker originally sent me this recipe and i'm pretty sure we both had the same initial reaction: quinoa cupcakes--how healthy! when we actually got together to make the things, we realized that they were in fact just cupcakes with some added quinoa. next time, we're going to up the quinoa, decrease the flour, and substitute some of the fat with applesauce. but for now, these cupcakes are delicious, juicy and flavorful and perfect for breakfast. serve with some cream cheese frosting or vanilla ice cream and they're even more decadent.

the recipe below is gluten-free but i used spelt flour when i baked them instead of the rice flour because it's what i had on hand.

gluten-free quinoa cupcakes
  • 2 medium sized diced apples
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 4 large eggs
  • 9 tablespoons butter (1 stick + 1 tblspn)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cup rice flour (or any other flour)
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • simmer the apple cubes with the water, sugar, cinnamon, and rum until the apple is cooked and almost all the liquid is evaporated.
  • whisk the egg and sugar and add the melted butter. stir well.
  • add the quinoa, mix well, and then add the flour and baking powder. stir well.
  • mix in the apple mixture.
  • bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the tops bounce back when you touch them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip cookies and the milk bar

if you've never been to momofuku milk bar, you should probably check it out. that being said, if you plan to go to the milk bar and can't eat wheat or gluten, prepare to be tortured. of course, i go anyways...

yes, we're talking momofuku, part of the
david chang empire. i'm always a fan of women dominating in particularly male fields, so when a ny mag interview came out with this quirky "pastry chef," they had me at female. (call me biased, i just don't care.) the menu can border on absurd: with crack pie, cereal milk, and gummy flavored soft serve, it's just my style. not to mention the cookies, oooooohhhhh the cookies. perhaps ever so more appealing because i can't just waltz in and order one?

my most recent visit (a few bites of crack pie filling and *cornflake* cereal milk soft serve with banana caramel) yielded my discovery of CORNFLAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP MARSHMALLOW COOKIES. take a moment, this is big, i know. i immediately decided, damn those momofuku wheat-lovers, i am going to figure out how to make this cookie! at first i was just going to crush up some cornflakes and throw marshmallows into a normal chocolate chip cookie batter but then i thought better and did some internet research. what i found was
this. so someone beat me to the punch but lucky for me, i at least had a recipe to follow. a disclaimer: these things are dangerous. you may eat so many in the process of making them that not only will you feel sick and an oncoming toothache, you will fail to eat a real meal the rest of the day. but then somehow, god willing, you will find room to consume stale popcorn in a movie theater (?!) this is my life. i just blog about it.

cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies (thanks, christina)
recipe adapted from
  • 1 3/4 cups (spelt) flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lightly beaten egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups ground up corn flakes (measure after grinding)
  • 3/4 cups coarsely ground oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup marshmallows, frozen if you have time to freeze them
  • preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. set aside.
  • cream butter and both sugars in a mixing bowl
  • beat in egg and vanilla.
  • stir in oil.
  • add flour mixture and stir until it is almost fully incorporated, then stir in the ground corn flakes, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. continue stirring until flour disappears.
  • scoop up gobs of dough and wrap each gob around 4 (or so) frozen mini marshmallows. try to seal the marshmallows in dough. you should have balls that are larger than golf balls (about 2 inches diameter).
  • Space dough about 3 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for about 2 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool.
yields at least 2 dozen cookies

Monday, December 7, 2009

why france kicks our ass: one reason

i am going to attempt to keep this brief. i've written about the difficulties of food allergy travel before. throw in charles de gaulle airport and you've got one hell of a mess. even if you don't have food allergies, that airport will find some way to pick you up, twist you up, and spit you out.

so as you're racing through the airport, wondering why the hell it takes 20 minutes to get from terminal 2D to 2E and where that freaking tram everyone talks about actually boards, take faith in knowing that as soon as you get somewhere near the gate, there will be viable, edible, decently enjoyable food options waiting for you.

i'm not even talking about those giant snak club vat sized bags of trail mix. we've all been there. you've got a 5 hour travel day ahead of you and your lack of time/preparation/whatever has put you in a less than desirable food situation. yeah, that's right, they don't serve food on airplanes anymore. and even if they did, would you really want to eat it? so you indluge in the trail mix that surely has enough servings to feed a small family and costs $7. and you eat it all by yourself. in one sitting. not feeling so great, are you?

back to the armpit of all airports. the last time i was there, a quinoa and shrimp salad over greens with a red curry sauce surprised me before my flight. delightful. this time, more quinoa but this time with hazelnuts. yeah that's right, i said hazelnuts. beat that. 2 for 2? both involving quinoa? score.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

pumpkin pancakes

sometimes i just have food visions. the idea came to me after hearing the desire to be eating more pumpkin with the appropriate season. after a failed attempt to locate a pumpkin cocktail that sounded appetizing, my thoughts went to baked goods and the like. it wasn't until some time later, actually i think i was awake late at night, alone in a hotel room in germany, that pumpkin pancakes came to me. (seriously, try to think of something you could mix into a pancake that wouldn't taste good.) luckily, i found a simple enough recipe on epicurious.

since these were consumed the weekend after thanksgiving, the group decided to cut WAY back on the fat in the original recipe. we had been too gluttonous to consume mass quantities of butter so we substituted oil instead of part of the butter and added more pumpkin than the original recipe called for. that was as long as the self control lasted. we proceeded to make not one but two glorified versions of the golden griddlecakes.

version number one: pumpkin pancakes topped with apple compote.

version number two (because i just couldn't help myself): pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.

spiced pumpkin pancakes
  • 1 1/4 cups flour (i used spelt, of course)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (i just used some cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk (i used soy)
  • 3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin (we used more)
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted (here's where we went a little nuts--we used 2 tablespoons of butter and some oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend.
  • whisk milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla in medium bowl to blend well.
  • add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just until smooth (batter will be thick).
  • beat egg whites in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. fold whites into batter in 2 additions.
  • brush large nonstick skillet with oil; heat over medium heat. working in batches, pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls into skillet. cook until bubbles form on surface of pancakes and bottoms are brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with oil between batches. Serve with syrup.