Woohoo! We are finally back to doing the Daring Bakers challenges. I have to admit, I’ve missed it. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut in the dessert arena. I have my go to recipes. The ones that I know will always turn out and that I can whip up in no time for any last minute dinners, birthdays or cookie/cupcake/sugar cravings. Delicious? Of course. But sometimes you just need to step out of your comfort zone and try something new (or sometimes something you’ve never even heard of). Enter Daring Bakers. Needless to say, I am excited to be back and game for some challenges. And as luck would have it, this month was perfect in that regard - The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.
I had never even heard of Nazook. But one look at the recipe and pictures and I knew it would probably be something I would enjoy. The recipe wasn’t too difficult, other than my unwarranted stress about the consistency of the dough (it turned out fine). One thing I will be adding when I make these again (and I will be), is a little bit of salt to the dough. I like a little salt in my baked goods and I would have added it had a noticed earlier that it was absent from the recipe. But all in all delicious, especially when eaten with some salted butter. Yes, I may have put more butter on a butter-based pastry filled with a butter/sugar mixture. I’m strange. And I like butter.
Thanks to Jason for the great challenge. It’s great to be back! As always, the recipe can be found at The Daring Kitchen
We are slowly working our way back into blogging regularly. It’s been about a month since our last post, which means it’s Daring Cooks time. This month’s challenge had a little twist. Rather than requiring us to prepare a set recipe, this month’s hosts gave us a little Chopped inspired challenge. Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!
First, the actual challenge. Like I said before, this month’s challenge is a bit like the show Chopped. On the show, contestants have to open a basket with a few ingredients that they must use in either an appetizer, entree or dessert, depending on the round. Our challenge wasn’t quite so restrictive, but more or less the same spirit. We were required to use three ingredients – one from each of three categories. The three lists were:
Ingredient 1: Eggplants, parsnips or cauliflower
Ingredient 2: Balsamic vinegar, goat cheese or Chipotle peppers
Ingredient 3: Maple syrup, instant coffee or bananas
The first dish that both of us thought of was a mole. The Chipotle peppers were obvious, coffee is often used in recipes with chocolate and we could easily incorporate one of the veggies from the first list into our version of a mole. For about a week or two we were all set to make a mole. Then, we came to the realization that we really didn’t have any of the numerous (20+) ingredients needed to make an authentic (or as close to authentic as possible) mole. It’s the same reason why we’ve never attempted to cook Indian food. Why spend a ton of money on dozens of spices when we can just run downstairs and get the real thing? Needless to say, we scrapped the whole mole idea and went back to square one.
After some debate, we figured out our back up plan. Our ingredients were: (1) parsnips; (2) balsamic vinegar; and (3) maple syrup. Our menu of choice was pan seared steak in a balsamic reduction with a maple roasted root vegetable medley, with parsnips being the star. Neither of these were all that adventurous, but since we never (maybe twice a year) cook steak, we thought this was the perfect excuse to buy a couple of nice rib eyes.
For the parsnips, we roasted them with sweet potatoes from our CSA and mini purple carrots from the mercato in a maple glaze. Pretty simple, but oh so sweet and tasty!
The steak preparation was fairly straight forward. Since we knew we were going to finish with the balsamic reduction, we opted to only season the meat with salt and pepper. After the steaks came out of the pan, we started on the sauce. There was a decent amount of leftover vegetable oil/butter/rendered fat so Dana was bit worried about the vinegar causing some extreme splatter. So, with arms, and hands, fully covered, she quickly tossed in the balsamic. Meanwhile I was just as far from the pan, wearing only a tee shirt. Whats a few minor grease burns? Well, despite being prepared for the worst, the balsamic didn’t do any more than cause a big plume of steam. (I should note that Dana’s fears aren’t completely unfounded… I did once accidentally give her a TINY grease burn on the cheek…) After a few minutes, dinner was served!
Thanks to David and Karen for the fun and unique challenge!
Maple Roasted Root Vegetables
Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Place peeled/cut parsnips, sweet potatoes and carrots in 9″x13″ roasting pan. Mix butter, juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl and pour over vegetables. Gently toss to make sure each side of each piece is covered in the maple glaze. Cover with foil and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes are up, uncover and re-toss vegetables. Roast, uncovered for additional 45 minutes, re-tossing every 15 minutes. After 1 hour total cooking time, vegetables should start to turn brown and be fork tender.
In the same pan (on medium heat) as was used for the steak, add garlic and toast until edges just start to brown. Add the balsamic vinegar and de-glaze the pan being sure to scrape up all the tasty brown bits. Reduce for a few minutes until it is reduced by half and starts to look thick. Stir in butter. Once fully incorporated, take off heat and serve.
The past 6 months or so we’ve taken a little hiatus from Daring Cooks/Bakers. We kept procrastinating and then ended up half assing our way through each challenge. Having to rush through the challenge, only to be dissatisfied with the results, we figured it was better to quit, or at least take a break from The Daring Kitchen. Since then, we’ve moved, joined a CSA and Dana has been baking new creations. What we haven’t been doing is venturing out to cook with new recipes/flavors and more important to this post, we haven’t been blogging. I think Dana posted her big birthday resolution that we would post more often. That was October. Our next post was only a few days ago. I don’t think every 5 months counts as “more often”. Well, this makes 2 posts in a week and our official return to Daring Kitchen. We still rushed through the challenge, but that was the result of making the decision to rejoin only a few days ago. From here on out we’ll be more committed (won’t wait until the day before to start planning) and we look forward to all of the upcoming challenges.
All that being said, now its time for the obligatory blog checking line. The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.
Let me start by saying Dana and I love braising meat, although we really don’t do it all that often. I’m not really sure why since it is such an easy way to ensure a well cooked piece of meat. We make pot roast from time to time and in the past year started making chicken cacciatore fairly regularly. Plus, it gives us the perfect excuse to pull out our le Creuset that we received as a wedding present last year. Since we were so short on time, we decided to stick fairly close to the provided recipe for short ribs.
Luckily for us, we had almost everything already on hand. We always have onions, had a few stalks of celery leftover from making spaghetti a while back and we had the most gorgeous purple carrots from the farmers market. When we saw them in the stand last week, I wasn’t quite sue what they were (they hadn’t put up a sign yet). They look like carrots, but are deep purple in color. They’re probably not all that rare, but it was the first time I had come across them at the farmers market.
“Purple” carrots that look more like sweet potatoes when peeled and cut
The braised short ribs recipe was actually really simple, which I guess is the point. Essentially, sear the meat and remove. Saute onion/carrot/celery, add tomato paste (though I had to sub tomato sauce), wine, a bulb of garlic and ribs. Cover and braise for 4 hours at 250 degrees F. I was a little quick with the sear because these were boneless ribs and I really didn’t want to overcook them from the onset.
The one twist in the recipe is that after braising for 4 hours, you’re supposed to strain liquid and add back freshly sauteed onions and carrots. At first I thought that this was pretty wasteful as tossing out the veggies, but it was needed because the garlic was unpeeled. The fresher carrots also gave our photos a bit more color than those that had cooked for hours. The final step is to garnish with gremolata: a parsley, garlic and lemon zest mixture. The gremolata added a nice freshness to the dish and added some much needed color for my photos!
I’d say that our return to Daring Cooks was a success. The meat came out fork tender and the stewing liquid was perfect to eat with rice or a nice crusty bread. I’m sure it would have been just as good on some pasta or quinoa, which we were going to make before we remembered we had a bit of bread leftover from the weekend.
Thanks again to Carol for the great challenge. As always you can find the recipe at The Daring Kitchen.
Growing up, there was one thing I could cook, fried rice. Growing up in a half Asian household, we always had my preferred ingredients. Cold, day (or two) old rice, oyster sauce, eggs, peas and the star of my meal, lop cheung, aka Chinese sausage. Every time I made fried rice I followed the same basic recipe. Cook the sausage and remove from the pan. Scramble an egg or two in the residual oil left by the sausage (it’s quite fatty, so there is plenty) and remove. Add a little oil and fry the rice for a few minutes before stirring in the oyster sauce. After a few minutes add the peas, egg and sausage to the pan and voila, you’ve got a banging fried rice. So fast, so easy, so tasty.
These days, I make this far less often. Not exactly sure why, but it makes my taste buds sad, although it probably makes my heart and waist band happy. The other day I was trying to figure out what to make for lunch. I was thinking of my usual mundane choices. A sandwich, cereal, eggs, leftovers (Indian for the 3rd day in a row). All of them sounded pretty meh. Thinking through my other options, I realized that I had a bunch of leftover rice in the fridge, which is rare since we normally just leave it in the rice cooker for a day or so after cooking. Time to make some fried rice.
I was digging the rice and eggs out of the fridge when I noticed the bok choy in the crisper. I had been meaning to cook some of it up as we’ve been in a bad rut with using all of our veggies from our CSA so this was a good excuse to use some up. At that point I decided to skip the lop cheung and make veggie fried rice (unbeknownst to me we were out, so I guess it was always going to be vegetarian). Figuring that without the flavor of the sausage, the rice was going to turn out a little bland I started to look for other goodies to toss in. Shallot, yes. Sesame oil, yes. Chili Crunch, oh god yes!
I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about our most recent food obsession, Chili Crunch. It’s dried garlic and onion in a chili de arbol oil. Not too hot, it gives just enough heat. The closest thing to it is the chili oil at Chinese restaurant, except this is waaaaay better. Since trying it in January, we’ve eaten it with nearly everything we’ve had at home. From spinach to chow fun to mac ‘n cheese, EVERYTHING is made better with it. It’s hand crafted and only available in a handful of stores. Luckily, she sells online at Chili Colonal or at Foodzie, which is where we first discovered it.
After chopping the bok choy and shallot I heated a little bit of oil in a pan. Following the same order as my childhood fried rice (substituting sausage with shallots and then bok choy and adding in the sesame oil in with the rice and oyster sauce). Finally I topped it with a nice spoonful of the chili crunch.
This meal is so quick and easy, I’m not sure why I don’t make it more often. There is no real recipe to follow, so the possible variations are limitless. Want the original version (original for me at least), chop up some lop cheung. Don’t like oyster sauce (looking at you Dana), substitute some soy. Have other meat on hand, chop up leftover steak. Want a healthier variant, replace the meat with a veggie, be it bok choy, napa cabbage, Chinese broccoli or anything else you have on hand.
So…. I admit it. We made this for the fourth of July. It’s now October – so not exactly prime peach or raspberry season. But I’m working through a back log of recipes so thought I’d share this beautiful and simple galette. And who am I kidding? It’s always a good time for raspberries in this house.
I suspect you could make this galette with a number of wonderful fruits – beautiful fall pears or plums perhaps? I might just have to try that this weekend… I promise I’ll post it before February.
Raspberry & Peach Galette (makes 2)
This is a dough that’s been on this blog before. Put flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor and processor briefly to mix. Next, add the cold butter and pulse until butter chunks until the chunks of butter are about the size of peas. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream and water together as well as you can. Then add this mixture into the food processor and pulse until it comes together. Gather the dough into two discs, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.
After chilling, preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out each dough disc on lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the rolled out dough to the baking sheets. Carefully fan out half of the peach slices on each dough round leaving a 2 to 3 inch border. Add the raspberries on top, again splitting between the two rounds. Next the butter. Then fold the edges of the dough up around the fruit, pleating as necessary. Brush the edges of the dough with water and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake each galette for 35-40 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool and let cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy.