Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lemon Brownie Bites

I'm on a lemon kick. I realize it is not exactly the right time of year, but that is the problem with the globalization of food trade - convenience kind of takes over and its hard to control eating seasonally because there's nothing to help me do it (except the nastiness of out of season peaches, the best ones are usually grown nearby.)

Lemon Brownie Bites
makes about 27 mini brownies

1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter cut into tablespoons, plus more to grease foil
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
zest of one lemon
about 5 tablespoons lemon curd, optional

Preheat oven to 350º. Put water in saucepan on stove to come to a simmer. Grease 27 mini-muffin cups (or two 12-cup pans and just have some extra batter leftover, or fill them more)

In a small bowl whisk cocoa powder and flour together.

Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir occasionally until just melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar and salt until smooth; whisk in eggs. Gently whisk in flour, cocoa powder, and lemon zest just until smooth. Do not overmix.

Using a small scoop fill mini-muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full with batter. If desired, top each with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs.

Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes and remove.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Semi-Homemade with...

Sometimes it is ridiculous the things that we make and the shortcuts we take. Though I suppose that this one makes a bit of sense. The cake is the most time consuming part. But its not the same without the lemon zest in it, and you can't add that back after its done.

Remember the lemon curd that I keep mentioning and using. It's going to stick around. (Don't worry, its a fresh batch. It only makes about a cup.) I've decided I like it, and it makes a wonderful filling or glaze. Tonight, it was a glaze. Or a quasi-glaze-icing topping. I don't know what you'd call it.

Whatever it is, it doesn't get any simpler than this. The lemon curd only takes about 4 dishes and 20 minutes to make, and it can be made ahead of time.

Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd
serves 8 (depending on size of slices)
active time: 1 hour or less!

15-oz store-bought angel food cake, or make your own
2/3 cup lemon curd
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 pint fresh berries
lemon zest, to garnish

Invert cake or cut it out of the pan or whatever is necessary to get it out. Cover top and sides with lemon curd.

In a small or medium bowl, whip whipping cream until peaks form. Fill center of cake with whipped cream.

Garnish with berries and lemon zest.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sorry Mom...

Mom and I were at the store a while back and while standing in line to check out, the May issue of Cooking Light started calling to Mom with its cover of a gorgeously grilled tuna steak and white bean salad.
Mom gave in, and since then has made a few things from in it. She wanted to make the tuna, but on Sunday I decided to make it Wednesday, even though I knew Mom would be out of town.Fortunately, its worth making again. The salad part at least (with maybe a bit more dressing); the tuna wasn't bad, I just didn't really like it, though maybe it was a bit overcooked. But I was too scared to cook the tuna, and they weren't cut very evenly. I also left them in the marinade a bit too long.

Grilled Tuna with White Bean and Charred Onion Salad
from Cooking Light May 2007
Serves 4

Tuna :
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks

1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups mixed salad greens

Prepare grill.

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add tuna to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once. Remove tuna from bag; discard marinade.

Place onion slices on grill rack and brush one side of each with olive oil; grill 5 minutes on each side or until tender. Cool and chop.

Place tuna on grill rack. Grill 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Combine vinegar and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add onion, cucumber, parsley, capers, and beans to vinegar mixture; toss to coat. Arrange 1 1/2 cups salad greens on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 1/2 cup onion mixture and 1 tuna steak.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

More Uses For Lemon Curd

The lemon curd, reminiscent of the lemon squares that I used to have when I was little (long gone, along with the brownies Granma loved so much I'd have to bring her a large box full every time I'd see her), was still remaining in the fridge. We'd been eating it, little by little, spreading it on the angel food cupcakes and topping off poppyseed cake with it for breakfast.

But the lemon itself was so wonderful and concentrated, what better way to show it off than to make it the main attraction. All it was missing was the skimpy vehicle to hold it. Maybe a nice, crisp, melt-in-your-mouth puff pastry shell.
Which I had every intention of making (out of prepared puff pastry dough of course), but that didn't happen. Whole Foods was sold out and I was not going to let shortening/hydrogenated oil laced puff pastry to suffice. So prebaked filo shells took their place (though I really would have rather made the puff pastry shells in a mini muffin pan ).

Despite that, they were a hit (among all 9 people who have tried it), and needless to say, simple (well, once the easy curd was made).

All you need is some little tart shells, a teaspoon of lemon curd, and a raspberry, and voila. There you have it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Salad Well Worth The Skillet

Updated May 24
I kind of had a theme going on this week - it lasted a whole two meals, but that's still a theme. Food with Spanish words in the title. Weak theme, but it opened up a broad variety of cuisine and easily could have lasted months. Except of course, it didn't. After the calabacines rellenos, I moved on to a Mexico-inspired salad from Rick Bayless' cookbook Mexican Everyday. The title made me think that maybe it would be something that could be made anyday.

Toasted pumpkin seeds-while I messed up the first time - still didn't prevent dinner from being on the table within an hour of my starting to cook (though I didn't spend any time for photos either, and it shows.) Mom helped speed things up by washing the lettuce and cutting the mango (though I decided not to cut my mangoes the way his pictures suggest and going back to cutting in in the skin and then inverting it and cutting it out.) My garlic cloves were large and mellow, so my dressing came out nice and creamy - and had to be liquified with another half of a lime, leaving the dressing more lime-y than anything else. But I still thought it was quite good. I was excited to have the leftovers for lunch the next day, even though putting mango, avocado, queso fresco, and toasted pumpkin seeds in the same compartment takes away the crunch.

I'm going to make it again this week for Dad and see what he thinks of it. And I'll try it with pan-fried onions instead of bacon on mine and hopefully the chile won't fall through the cart at Whole Foods again.


Making it a second time, it was definitely a keeper. It's relatively simple to make, and even though the dressing requires to use of a skillet, it is worth it.
Ensalada de Aguacate y Mango con Queso Fresco, Tocino, y Pepitas Tostadas
Avocado and Mango Salad with Queso Fresco, Bacon, and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday
Serves 2

1 to 2 slices bacon
1/4 cup hulled untoasted pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 Tablespoons walnut oil (or other oil, such as olive)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 serrano chile, seeded
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups Boston lettuce leaves (about 1/2 to 2/3 of a head of lettuce)
1 ripe avocado
1 ripe mango
1/3 cup coarsely crumbled queso fresco

Arrange bacon slices between double layer of paper towels on a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high 2 to 4 minutes, or until crisp (be careful not to burn)

Pour the pumpkin seeds intwo a small dry skillet set over low-medium heat. Stir occasionally until first one pops, and then stir constantly until they have all popped from flat to round, about 5 minutes. (This requires attention, or the seeds burn before they pop).
Scoop about 1/3 into a blender and add lime juice. Reserve remaining in a bowl (just not in the skillet).
Return the skillet to medium heat. Add oil, garlic, and chile. Cook, stirring regularly, until the garlic is soft and browned, about 5 minutes. If blender is plastic, let cool a bit and then scrape into blender. Otherwise, scrape into blender, add honey and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and process until smooth. Add more salt to taste.
Divide lettuce among the two plates. Put avocados, slice, and scoop flesh from skin and divide among the center of the two plates. Cut mangoes in slices similar to the avocado and place on salad. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with cheese, remaining pumpkin seeds, and crumble bacon over top.
Serve soon or bacon and seeds will loose their crunch.

Note: I've changed it a bit so the dressing comes out a bit thick and gloppy and more lime-y, but I like it this way. It also makes for a great a dip.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Go Fish (In The Zucchini)

So there are those cookbooks with the decent covers, thick binding, and loads of hype. I find those a bit harder to pick up. I need a pretty picture on the cover. Something that makes me go ooh! I want to make that! It's no wonder why I end up buying so many magazines. There's just something about the glossy covers that attracts me. So I usually end up cooking from magazines. I buy magazines and borrow books. That's how it works.

While I may frequently check out cookbooks from the library, it is rare that I, shocking as it may be, actually cook from them. So what's amazing is that not only have I checked this book out (okay, this is my second time checking it out) and flipped through it, I've also made a recipe from it. Or made a somewhat less decadent version of a recipe in it.

I didn't want to make allioli from scratch, and I didn't want to just mix mayonnaise with lemon juice and call it allioli because that's just as much worth without all the benefits. So I bought aïoli. Not my brightest idea. But other than some strong masking of other flavors by the mustard in the aïoli, it turned out well. I'll just actually make allioli next time.

Calabacines Rellenos de Atun (Zucchini "Boats" Stuffed with Tuna)
adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anyavon Bremzen page 392
Makes 6 "boats" (or 12 appetizers or dinner for 2 people for with a salad)

2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, quartered and seeded
extra-virgin olive oil, to brush the tomatoes with
3 medium-large zucchini, stemmed and cut in half lengthwise
kosher salt
6 ounces canned tuna
3 Tablespoons store-bought aïoli (or, even better, make allioli), plus more to serve
4 Tablespoons breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Arrange tomatoes on greased or lined baking sheet, brush them with olive oil, and bake until soft and beginning to blister, about 25 -30 minutes.

While baking, prepare a large steamer tray over boiling water. Using a melon baller (or he recommended a small knife or grapefruit spoon), scoop out pulp of zucchini and discard or save for later use, leaving sides and bottoms just a bit more than 1/8" thick. Steam the zucchini in the steamer until just softened, 3-4 minutes. (Don't overcook or they start to fall apart. If your zucchinis are smaller, check sooner.) When the zucchini is cool enough to handle, blot dry and sprinkle insides with a little salt.

To make the filling, slide off the skin and chop the tomatoes when they are cook enough to touch. Place tuna, chopped tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons of theaïoli in a mixing bowl and mix. Set zucchini on baking sheet. Fill the zucchini shells with the tuna mixture. Spread the top of each with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining allioli and sprinkle about 3/4 teaspoon breadcrumbs over each of them.
Bake for about 7 minutes, and then broil for 1-2 minutes or until tops are browned.
Serve hot or let cool; either way is tasty.

Note: It's really easy to overcook the zucchini. It makes them flimsy. I'm almost considering trying it with raw zucchini sometime because the second time I made them I didn't pay nearly enough attention and steamed the zucchini for too long.

Fresh chopped basil is a nice addition to the tuna mixture if you have some around.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gale Gand, Grocery Store Rushing, and a Mother's Day Dessert

Yesterday, Mom, Aunt A., and I went to see Gale Gand. Gale made Vita's Ricotta Doughnuts and a lemon cream to dip them in. In an effort to find the recipes online, it seems like that's what she makes for most cooking demonstrations. The doughnuts were good, but I kind of have a fear of hot oil and frying things, so the last (and only) time I've ever fried things was in a deep fryer in my cousin's apartment in Tehran. I figured that was relatively safe-and the only possible way to make what I was making. Mom really liked the lemon cream though, so I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate it into a mother's day dessert by pairing it with blueberries and something else. I finally decided that an angel food cake was probably the missing link. Mom thought that it sounded like a good dessert, so I set off to figure out how to make it.

I remembered a recipe for angel food cake cupcakes being in a Cooking Light from last summer. Even better, the recipe I was thinking of turned out to be Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes, which made it very easy to rationalize the time and cost when angel food cake is so readily available (and cheap) right now, and sold next to the berries and whipped cream, of course.

I made the cupcakes with no trouble, other than going to line the muffin tins and realizing I was out of liners, which I rarely use. I know that for angel food though, it's important. It was extra driving practice too. (And just $1.07 more). I was worried my egg whites were deflating, but they turned out looking fine.

The lemon cream did not go as smoothly. I had everything I needed, and managed to have a lemon with no seeds that yielded almost enough juice, making the usually time-consuming part easy. But then my absent-mindedness kicked in. I cooled down the lemon curd, turned around to get my drink, and realized I'd forgotten about the two tablespoons of butter that I'd measured out. I figured the whipped cream I'd mix in with it would made up for the creaminess missing.
And that was the second problem. Since the lemon curd was in the mixer bowl, I figured I might as well make the whipped cream with a whisk and join Mom and Tiff out on the patio. After minutes of whisking, I was getting nowhere. So I got out the hand beaters and by the time the table was set and dinner set out, I still hadn't gotten anywhere. I asked Mom to put the bowl in the fridge with the beaters and figured it would work after dinner once it was chilled.
It still didn't work. I was trying to make whipped cream with half-and-half. Mom just had a very nice latte with her cupcake instead.
I'm actually kind of glad for the mistake though, because the cupcakes turned out really nice anyway, and the lemon curd made a tasty glaze (which is what I considered doing before I forgot the butter and thought it might need the creaminess of the whipped cream, as well as the lightening, to make it more appealing to my anti-custard cousin.)

Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes with Lemon and Blueberry Topping
adapted from Cooking Light 's Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes and Gale Gand's Lemon Creme
Makes 8 cupcakes

1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) cake flour
3/8 cup (45 grams) powdered sugar
3 liquid ounces egg whites (2-3 large eggs)
a pinch salt
3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
8 muffin cup liners

Lemon curd topping:
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 large lemons, maybe more)
lemon zest from half of a lemon (well, don't cut the lemon first...)

a pint blueberries
lemon zest, optional (to garnish)

for the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Line 8 muffin cups with liners.

Sift together cake flour and powdered sugar 3 times.


In a mixer (I definitely recommend a stand mixer for this, and I usually find it more of a hassle to use one) beat egg whites and salt at high speed until frothy, about a minute. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar, a spoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour mixture oven egg white mixture; fold into egg whites and repeat with remaining flour mixture until all is folded in. Stir in vanilla and grated lemon zest.

Divide evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350º for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

for the lemon curd:
Bring a couple inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan that you can fit the mixer bowl over without touching the water.

In a mixer with whisk attachment, or with hand beaters, whip the eggs and sugar together into pale yellow and fluffy. Mix in lemon juice and zest.
Rest the bowl over the simmering water. Cook, whisking occasionally. until the mixture is thick and custard-like, about 10 minutes.

While the curd cooks, half-fill a bowl larger than bowl using to make curd with ice and water. When curd is thick, rest bowl in ice bath to cool, stirring occasionally.

to assemble cupcakes:

Spread a layer of the lemon curd over the cupcake and top with blueberries and lemon zest.

Some lemon curd with be left over, refrigerate and save for another use.
(This month's Everyday Food recommends using lemon curd in mousse, on scones, over fresh berries, or over pound cake and has its own lemon curd recipe on page 126, as well as one that uses it to make a lemon mouse. They only recommend keeping their curd for 3 days.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Black Bean Patties and Bright Sunny Lime Olive Oil

It's the day before the AP US History exam, and I don't want to study. I planned on making dinner (originally smothered tempeh sandwiches), but decided it would probably be a better idea to make something that I'd made before.

I made Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice from the March issue of Cooking Light, and liked them, but thought the patties could use a bit more flavor and color and had been meaning to try them again.

Stonehouse Olive Oil

Over the weekend, Michelle had given us some Stonehouse Persian Lime Olive Oil. I'd been wanting to try it, and thought instead of the pineapple rice, a simple salad of greens, pineapple, cucumber, and lime olive oil would be tasty. Mom loved it.

The patties also were tastier this time. The weather, nice enough to sit outside, made it all even better.


Black Bean Patties
adapted from Cooking Light March 2007
makes 4

15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Pepper Jack
1/4 cup chopped red onion
cornmeal, to dredge
1/4 cup greek yogurt

Place about 2/3 of the beans, garlic, cumin, and salt in a bowl. Partially mash the mixture together with a fork.
In a food processor, process remaining beans with egg white 30 seconds or until well mixed.
Add bean puree to mashed beans and stir until combined. Stir in onion and cheese. Divide into 4 equal portions (about 3 1/2 ounces each) and shape each into a 1/2-inch thick patty. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish and dredge both sides with cornmeal.

Heat nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add patties, cook 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
Top each patty with a dollop of yogurt and serve with a salad and tortilla chips.