Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strawberry Muffins

I posted a strawberry recipe earlier in the month, but hey, what the heck, it’s Strawberry season. Besides, they are so sweet and lovely right now...and inexpensive. Let’s go crazy.

Ever read Body & Soul Magazine? I love it, mainly for the gorgeous photography, recipes, uplifting articles, and all-around breath of fresh media air. I saw a recipe for strawberry muffins in a recent issue and decided to revise it further to suit the needs of Flapper Foodies (like me.)

Instead of refined sugar, you can use Turbinado or organic Stevia as a sweetener to the already sweet, in-season berries. I also replaced most of the white flour with flax meal and whole wheat flour. I topped each muffin with a sprinkling of golden flax seeds, which offer a nice crunch topping.

Ya know what? I just think things taste better when they are made with nice grain flours. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe all-purpose flour has its place in certain pastries, but I wholeheartedly believe a muffin, deep in its little ol' muffin heart, wants to be what it was born to be: a rustic, hearty and earthy snack.

So, my muffin-loving friends, if you desire some added sweetness, then pat a bit of butter and a drizzle of honey inside a split, warm muffin. I love to do that myself, but honestly, these don’t even need it. The baked beauties are living their fullest and truest muffin purpose: to burst forth with glorious grain and strawberry goodness. Crazy muffins.

STRAWBERRY MUFFINS
Adapted from Body & Soul Magazine
Makes 12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups sliced strawberries
6 packets of Stevia sweetener (or 2 Tbs. organic Turbinado Sugar)
1 cup organic whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup organic ground flax meal
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 Tbs. white vinegar or lemon juice)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons of golden flax seeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Slice strawberries and place them to a medium-sized bowl. Add the Stevia, and, using a potato masher, lightly mash berries; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, flax meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture and berry mixture. Fold until just combined. Using an ice cream scooper, fill the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with flax seeds.

Bake for about 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Braciole with Broccoli Rabe (Beef Flank Steak Rolls with Broccoli Rabe)

I'm getting my inner grandma on today just for you. xoHey…what’s all this frettin’ about? You watching the news again? Those scavengers of terror. Disease. Sadness. Crime. Terrible things happening to beautiful people. I know, I know, it gives me agita too. Things should be a little nicer for everyone out there in that big world. That's when I go into my kitchen and make the world a little smaller for a couple of hours (and it doesn’t get any smaller than this little kitchen, I'm telling you.)

So listen, fuggeddaboudit. OK? Good. Come on now, sit down at the table. You can keep your shoes on, it’s an old rug. Lemme chop this onion, I’m listenin’. I'm just gonna make a few braciole. Here, have a glass of this nice red. There are some nuts on the table. Now tell me what happened. You hungry? You’re not hungry. What do you mean, you’re not hungry? Okay, so you’ll eat it without bread. Lemme kiss your cheek.BRACIOLE WITH BROCCOLI RABE
(Beef Flank Steak Rolls with Broccoli Rabe)

Recipe by Mario Batali
Serves 4 main course servings

Ingredients
3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
1 cup green Italian olives
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
4 bunches Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 1 cup
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound beef flank steak, sliced into 8 thin scallops
Salt and pepper
1 bunch broccoli rabe, blanched in boiling water and refreshed
Flour for dusting
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

Directions
In a medium saucepan, combine the tomato sauce, green olives and 2 tablespoons oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking while assembling the rest of the dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine the Pecorino, chopped parsley and nutmeg and mix until well blended. Lay 8 pieces of steak out on board. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the Pecorino mixture evenly over the beef, spreading it to form a thin layer on top of each piece of steak. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe and divide it among the pieces of beef. Roll up each piece like a jelly roll and tie securely with a piece of butcher's twine. [FLAPPER NOTE: You can also secure with 2 or 3 toothpicks in each roll in lieu of the twine.] Dredge each roll in the flour.

In a 12- to 14-inch skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil until smoking. Place 4 rolled steak pieces at a time in the skillet and brown evenly, rolling with tongs or a wooden spoon. Remove first 4 pieces and repeat with remaining four. Remove second group and pour off the cooking oil to discard.

Put the skillet back on the heat and add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add the simmering tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Add all 8 beef rolls and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until all of the meat is cooked through.
[FLAPPER NOTE: At this point, you can also put everything into a crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours and fuggedabouddit.]
Remove the meat to heated platter, pour the sauce over the meat and garnish with the remaining oregano.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Recipe by Mario Batali

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4- inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28 ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt to taste

In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds one week in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer. Yield: 4 cups

Monday, June 29, 2009

Puffy Oven Pancake with Warm Peaches




Listen up you flower children, you hippies, you tree-hugging, peace-loving foodies. It’s time to go water your spider plants, turn up the Bob Dylan vinyl, throw your bras on the burner, and put on your tie-dyed apron.

As you can see, I was inspired this weekend: I pulled out my iconic 1970s cookbook “The Vegetarian Epicure,” a classic gem filled with meatless recipes written at a time when vegetarianism was a radical, bold, borderline taboo social statement. The totally dated preface reflects this – it’s a very entertaining read. Hey, who can deny the charm of the chapter on dinner party ideas, encouraging the host or hostess to “pass the grass” before the first course, to get the gastronomic juices flowing?

OK enough with the macramé potted plants and Carol King albums, the food in this book is really good; the breakfasts and desserts are especially top notch. I felt particularly inspired by the German Apple Pancake recipe, and adapted it to suit my seasonal fondness for peaches. I threw in a few blueberries for color but they aren’t necessary by any means.

This is essentially one huge pancake that gets baked in the oven. Its chewy, buttery texture and flavor reminds me of a humungous popover. It’s fun to have it all ready at the same time too, as opposed to regular pancakes that have to be cooked just a few at a time. The buttery pancake beneath the warm spiced fruit and maple syrup is sure to hit a homerun with hippies and non-hippies alike. Peace, love, and please pass the maple syrup.

PUFFY OVEN PANCAKE WITH WARM PEACHES

Ingredients:
Pancake:
3 large eggs
¾ cup milk
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup thinly sliced peaches (optional)

Filling:
1 pound fresh peaches
¼ cup melted butter
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar or maple syrup (optional)
Pinch ground nutmeg
2 pinches ground cinnamon

Topping:
Warm maple syrup

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Whisk or beat eggs, milk, flour, and salt until very smooth. Stir in optional sliced peaches (or a handful of berries) if desired.

3. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet on medium, and melt 1½ tablespoons of butter. When it’s hot & bubbly, pour in the pancake batter. Place the entire skillet in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake another 8-10 minutes, or until the pancake is golden brown.
NOTE: The pancake may puff up quite a bit after 10 minutes or so of baking. If this happens, prick it just once or twice with a fork to release a little air.

4. While the pancake is baking, prepare the filling:
Peel & slice fruit. Melt the butter on medium heat and stir in optional sugar or syrup if desired. Add fruit and sautee briefly, just about 5 minutes, until fruit is just tender (not too soft.)

5. Slide pancake onto a platter. Reserve a couple spoonfuls of fruit filling to the side, and pour the rest down the center of the cake. Fold each side over the other, creating a humongous crepe-type roll. Spoon the reserved fruit over the top and serve immediately. Slice pieces off crosswise and drizzle with warm maple syrup.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blackberry Crunch Muffins with Whipped Honey Butter

I have a little confession to make. I have coffee in bed every morning. I have been doing this faithfully for most of my adult life. I look forward to it each and every morning. I kiss my fiance goodbye and proceed to make the most exquisite coffee with roasted aromatic beans from an exotic and faraway land. There’s a market near me that grinds beans from all over the world, and I try a different Arabica bean every week. Thank you, Indonesia, for one of the most sublime weeks of coffee in bed I’ve ever had.

And thank you, cute little Small Batch Baking cookbook, for the delicious muffins. I whipped up a few of these after my little coffee ritual in mere minutes. This adorable recipe makes 4 muffins – just right for my breakfast and his after-work snack.

I had some Ezekiel 4:9 brand granola to use up, but it’s a wonderfully cheap ‘n’ cheerful notion to make your own granola – great to have on hand for enjoying with milk or yogurt, and especially for muffin snack attacks like these. The original recipe called for blueberries, but blackberries seemed like a succulent substitution. And oh my, was it ever.
BLACKBERRY CRUNCH MUFFINS
with WHIPPED HONEY BUTTER

Ingredients:
Butter for greasing tins, or 4 paper muffin liners
1 standard muffin pan, ½ cup capacity

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
(OR you can omit white flour and increase whole wheat flour to 2/3 cup)
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt (I use sea salt)
Pinch ground nutmeg
½ cup granola
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup packed light brown sugar OR a scant ¼ cup of honey
1 medium egg
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup fresh or thawed frozen blackberries

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with liners or grease the bottoms only of the 4 muffin tins. Fill the remaining empty muffin cups with water to prevent the pan from scorching.

2. In a medium sized bowl, sift then whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Stir in half of the granola (1/4 cup)

3. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, sugar or honey, egg, vegetable oil and vanilla.
Add the milk mix to the dry ingredients and stir lightly just until combined. Fold in the blackberries.

4. Fill the four muffin cups with the batter, distributing it evenly among each cup. Top the batter with the remaining granola, and press it down lightly so that it sticks a bit to the muffin batter.

5. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan with tongs and let cool on a plate for a few minutes. Schmear with the lovely honey butter, watch it melt and drip and eat it with plenty of joy.
Whipped Honey Butter

Ingredients:
4 Tbs. butter (I love Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread for spreading on breads and muffins!)
2 Tbs. honey
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon or ginger

Directions:
1. Beat in a small bowl with a hand mixer until it becomes very fluffy and lighter in color.

2. Spread thickly and with eagerness onto a split, warm blackberry muffin. Smile. Eat with plenty of joy. Have another.

Ground control to Major Tom...
And how about this little contraption? It's like a portable little space ship for your muffin or cupcake. I bought two from Williams-Sonoma and really get a lot of use out of them. Frosting and crumb toppings transport flawlessly to work, and everytime I pack one up I find myself beginning to hum "This is ground control to Major Tom...


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry Amaretti Crisp

Walking past the produce stand last night was like a trip back in time to the 1920s Ziegfeld Follies: all the strawberries were glamorously and gloriously lined up, on display, showing off, looking coquettish and sweet. Those little tarts.

While I prefer my strawberries unadorned and raw in all their luscious juiciness, I decided to bake with some of them since I had so many on hand. I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Small Batch Baking. I love that all the dessert recipes serve just one or two. Here, sliced berries fill a small baking dish, are topped with a crunchy, almond-cinnamon crumb topping and baked to a golden brown crisp. The warm, gooey fruit with the buttery crunchy topping is other-worldly. Trust me. I adapted a few ingredients to my taste (and hopefully yours too!). Since the peak-season strawberries are so sweet and succulent right now, they don’t need as much sugar as the original recipe calls for. So I cut the amount in half, resulting in a perfectly thick, amorously sweet filling that's just-juicy-right.

This dessert is so fun and flirty, I’m tempted to rename it after some fabulous flapper from the Follies. Maybe something along the lines of Strawberry Stella For Star!
or Luscious Lulu!
or Clara Bow Crisp!
On second thought, forget it. Like most Follies girls, this little number’s just too unique to name…

STRAWBERRY AMARETTI CRISP

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter for greasing the baking dish

FOR THE FRUIT:
1 ½ cups quartered strawberries
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
Pinch salt

FOR THE TOPPING:
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup crushed amaretti cookies, into coarse crumbs (but I used whole wheat almond biscotti, which I like better)

One 2 or 2 ½ cup gratin dish, oven proof soup bowl or other baking dish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease baking dish lightly with a bit of unsalted butter.

2. Arrange strawberries in the bottom of baking dish.

3. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the strawberries.

4. In the same bowl (now empty) place the flour, sugar, cinnamon and whisk to combine. Stir in the amaretti cookies. Add the butter and, with your fingers or a fork, combine until the whole topping looks like coarse crumbs.

5. Sprinkle this topping evenly all over the strawberries. Place in the heated oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the strawberries are thickened and bubbly.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. This will ensure the strawberries will set a little bit and offer a wonderful, luscious filling.

7. Serve as is, warm, room temperature, with ice cream, whipped cream, a drizzle of half & half…the possibilities are endless. The end result is divine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

North African Beef Stew

I’m still in honeymoon daydream land…thinking of Southern Italy…the Mediterranean… exotic ports of call… Ah yes, this is the fun part… picking out place settings and invitations is alright…but I’d rather hike up an active volcano in Sicily with my new husband or wander into some Tunisian family-owned restaurant to sample some freshly caught, local grilled fish.

All of this got me thinking of the interwoven history in music, art, architecture and of course cuisine. I love how Sicilian cuisine contains elements of African cooking, like couscous, savory meats paired with sweet raisins and cinnamon, and, and, and…then it hit me…I have that delicious (yet lonesome) little bottle of pomegranate molasses in my cupboard just waiting for a purpose in life!

And I found it. Here is a recipe I adapted from cooking hottie Nigella Lawson. The exotic combination of spices can be found in North Africa, Sicily, and along the Mediterranean. The beauty of this brazen combo of flavors is how they mellow into a deep, complex and comforting dark broth. Dip some chewy Whole Wheat Molasses Bread (which you can make way ahead of time, and even freeze) into this stew and you’ve got some luxurious comfort food on hand.

Crock pot cooking in the summer is perfect because the kitchen stays nice and cool. I’m also loving my trusty crock lately because it allows me to shamelessly daydream about my groom and I jet-skiing the Tyrrhenian Sea…and I don’t have to interrupt my blissful vision to get up and stir the pot.

NORTH AFRICAN BEEF STEW

Ingredients:
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound stew beef or lamb
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
2 Tbs. Soy sauce
1 Tbs. molasses or pomegranate molasses
1 Tbs. Honey
3 Tbs. Marsala
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Turmeric
1 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Ground white pepper, to taste
dash tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

Optional:
3 tbsp pine nuts or slivered almonds
Cooked couscous or whole wheat egg noodles
Whole wheat molasses bread

Directions:
1. Sprinkle the beef with salt & pepper. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on high heat and brown the beef on all sides. Remove beef to a platter.

2. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the Soy sauce, pomegranate molasses, marsala, honey, garlic, turmeric, ginger, red pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper.

3. Into the crock pot, layer from the bottom up: onions, carrots, potatoes, beef, thyme sprigs, bay leaf. Pour the sauce over the top. Cover and turn crock on low and fuggedaboudit for 6-8 hours.

4. To serve, first remove the thyme sprigs & bay leaf. Ladel the stew into big bowls and sprinkle the nuts over the top. I think a nice, thick slice of this whole wheat molasses bread serves as the perfect accompaniment for sopping up the delicious broth. You can also serve it over cous cous (in keeping with the North African vibe) or whole wheat egg noodles.







 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tahini Spice Cake with Intention

Have you noticed a glaring contradiction on this site yet? Have I told you yet that said “glaring contradiction” is a running theme in my life? I haven’t? Well let me tell you…

As you have probably read by now, Flapper Food is a clearly defined term: clean, pure, not processed, natural ingredients. I am one of those people that sincerely enjoys the taste of a raw carrot just for the taste of it – no salt, no dip, just a nice, sweet, crunchy carrot in all its humble glory. And I like to live my life that way: with intention, simplicity and truth, whether other people find it tasty or not. I want so badly to share my carrots and for everyone to like those hypothetical carrots as much as I do, and I feel so sad when they don’t. But still I crunch…

That said, I have a sweet tooth that borders on criminal. This is the glaring contradiction that warrants my Flapper Food caveat “for a special occasion.” It gives me a Get-Out-of-FlapperFood-Jail Free Card, so that I can bake to my heart’s content whenever the heck I feel the urge.

About the cake: Let’s just say that last night, I felt the urge. This urge involved a huge vat of tahini and a lot of, um, intention. I found a tahini cake recipe online that looked pretty good to me, so I modified it to my tastes as well as the contents of my pantry (like say, buttermilk instead of milk, and raspberry brown ale instead of cognac, a mix of whole and white flours, things like that.) The result is a tangy, savory-sweet, nutty, bold, and wholly unique cake.

So in the end, maybe my caveat is not as much of a contradiction as I thought. The bold and completely unique personality of this cake is a reminder to live life the same way: with cheeky, slightly nutty, but totally authentic intention.

TAHINI SPICE CAKE

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar plus more for dusting (I used turbinado sugar)
1 1/2 cups sesame tahini
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup dark brown beer (I used Otter Creek Raspberry Brown Ale)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
zest of one orange (1 small orange will supply the juice and the zest)
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hulled sesame seeds

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a 9″ cake pan and dust with a little flour

With a whisk or hand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar till fluffy. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and combine.

Mix the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients (except for the sesame seeds) in a separate bowl.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients, whisking to combine.

Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle sesame seeds and sugar all over the top of the cake. (I would say about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar.) Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

NOTE: The complex tang of this cake is on its knees imploring for blueberry ice cream…or vanilla ice cream with freshly smashed blueberries mixed throughout. Holla!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gran Gran Gibs’ Red Velvet Cake



For as long as I can remember (and for the life of me I don't know why), I have always loved the color red. I’ve always had at least one pair of red shoes in my wardrobe. And when I don’t have them, I feel a little less complete. Perhaps it’s some childhood regression of Dorothy and her magical shoes in Oz. I can’t imagine what a shrink would do with this nugget of information.

But it’s not just shoes. I love all shades of red on clothing, jewelry, flowers, lingerie, home décor, sneakers, cars, doggie collars, iPods. Heck, I even fantasized for a fleeting (repeat: fleeting) moment of wearing red on my wedding day. Red is sensual, deep, passionate, luxurious, cheeky. Red is such a good thing.

And of course there is the food. (It just occurred to me that there is a very large percentage of red food on this blog. Call that shrink again.)
So let’s talk about this luxurious, tempting lil' harlot of a cake. It’s color is the exact same shade of deep red roses…of blood…of a cloak made of silk velvet…of pinot noir in the sunlight. It’s antiquey red. This cake is beautiful, rich, creamy, and gorgeous – something to be savored and meditated upon.

The recipe itself is from the grandma of my friend Nicole. My dear Nicole and Gran Gran Gibs: THANK YOU! I can honestly say this is one of the best things to come out of my humble little kitchen. And I encourage you all to try this so you can say the same!

I offer you the exquisite aesthetic combination found in just about everything I really love: something old, something new, something borrowed, something…red.


GRAN GRAN GIBS’ RED VELVET CAKE

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 to 2 ounces red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two round 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.

Using a hand mixer or stand-up mixer, blend the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix each one in.

Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add it to sugar and butter mixture; mix well.

Sift together flour and salt; and then add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into 2 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool.

HUGE MEGA NOTE: Be sure cakes are cooled COMPLETELY before frosting them, otherwise you end up with frosting and red crumbs. ;)

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened (two 8-oz packages)
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (real, true five minutes and no less. Makes a huge difference, trust me! (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.)

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally). Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

NOTE: This is enough to frost a 3 layer (9-inch) cake, but I like a lot of FROSTING, so I frosted a two layer 9-inch cake with all of this creamy madness. Heaven.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Spicy Calamari Stew

Hi. I’ve been away for a few days. I hope you will forgive me. It isn’t that I haven’t been thinking about this blog every day; I have, I have! And I’ve missed you. But truth be told…I confess, the last couple rounds of pictures have been, well, lame.

I was so excited about the Cuban beef hash I made the other night. It was delicious! But the pictures, oh the pictures...Wrong lighting, bad exposure...they came out looking like the contents of a baby’s diaper. I know, I’m sorry! TMI! TMI! But I feel the need to explain.

That said…I am back, and all too stoked about this stew I made last night! I have never cooked with calamari, and to my surprise and delight, frozen calamari (like my old pal, frozen shrimp), cooks up to a soft and delicate texture. No rubber bands in this dish! Just soft, lovely rings of calamari in a spicy fra diablo tomato base. You can thaw the squid exactly as you thaw shrimp: Read all about it.

It is sublime served over whole wheat couscous or pasta, but just a nice big bowl on its own is truly a joyous thing.


SPICY CALAMARI STEW

Ingredients:


3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 stalk celery, chopped to small dice
1 small carrot, chopped to small dice
½ sweet onion, chopped to small dice
1 3/4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup white wine
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
½ tsp fresh chopped oregano (optional)
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds calamari (squid), bodies thinly sliced and tentacles whole
Fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

1. Warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, deep skillet or pot. Add the garlic, celery, onion, carrot and pepper, and let cook until fragrant and onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir often so it doesn’t brown.

2. Add the tomato sauce, white wine, thyme,optional oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

3. Add the calamari and stir to combine. Continue to cook until the mixture comes back up to a simmer, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle fresh parsley on top. Serve immediately and be oh-so-very glad about it all.

 
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