Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Strawberry and Blueberry Muffins with a Streusel Topping

Our CSA continues to delight us with more berries than we can keep up with!  While I love the thought of frozen berries to enjoy later this year once the summer bounty diminishes, it seems such a shame to not use up as many as possible while at their peek of freshness.  With a double batch of berries in hand, I could think of no better idea than to play around with a few muffin mixtures.

The end result is a hodge podge of three recipes I tinkered with.  The batter is thick, almost the consistency of co

okie dough.  At first I found this a bit frustrating, particularly when I attempted to fill the muffin tin.  But in the end the thick batter resulted in muffins evenly studded with fruit, instead of a mess of berries submerged at the bottom.

A sprinkle of sugar spiked with lemon zest makes a bright wonderful topping, but I am a sucker for a good streusel.  Nothing really beats the Better Homes and Gardens version...

Inspired by Alton Brown, Confessions of a Baking Queen the BHG cookbook and Smitten Kitchen

The Ingredients:
for the muffins
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sliced or quartered strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries

for the topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp butter

The Process:
preheat the oven to 380

Line a 12 ct muffin tin with paper liners or generously mist each cup with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy.  Beat in the egg until well combined.  Mix in the yogurt, milk, vanilla and zest.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix in half of the dry into the wet until well combined.  Sift in the remaining dry ingredients in to batter, until just mixed.  Fold in the berries.

For the topping, in a small bowl combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.

Using an ice cream scoop or two spoons, fill the cups of the muffin tin approximately 3/4 full.  Sprinkle with topping.
  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pan once while baking.

Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sour Braised Beef with Polenta Fries

Some mornings I spend the entire bus ride to work day dreaming about what to concoct for dinner.  I have taken to carrying a notebook about with me (finally) lest I be hit with an idea unprepared. The inspiration for this dish first came about after an amazing beer dinner at Stout's Pub in Roseville, featuring the skills of chef Daniel Parker and the wonderful ales of Ommegang.  Five courses and several drinks in, we were served an amazingly fork tender mound of meat accompanied by bacon fried potatoes and sweet and sour onions.  The beef had been braised in Curvee Brut to compliment the sour cherry hints in the Three Philosopher's that was paired with the course.  Daniel lamented the lack of tartness to come through in the braising process.  Thus the sweet and sour onions served alongside.  Daniel truly had little to lament.  The dish was the highlight of the dinner for me.

Vamping off that...and out a desire to have a bit of leftover beef for a recipe down the road...I turned to a classic beef carbonnade, but with a much, much more sour beer.  The cooking time can be reduced slightly by cutting the beef down into smaller chunks, but I opted to stick with a full roast.  Look for a cut of meat with a lot of fat marbled throughout.

For the beer, Flanders red and oud bruins are a good place to start. I found myself looking towards the Rodenbach Grand Cru.
 This is a sour I can never seem to get enough of. The result was amazing.  Because of the acidity of the beer, there was no need to add vinegar as many recipe variants recommend.  The sour dissipates to an earthly, slightly tart flavor that perfectly compliments the sweet caramelized onions and rich fat of the bacon.

The cooking process generated far, far more jus than I was anticipating.  But you know what?  After dinner is done, skim the fat off of the remaining juices and transfer it--onions, bacon bits, and all--to the fridge.  The next day, heat it up, ladle it into a ramekin and top with a bit of crusty bread and some Gruyère.  After a quick trip under the broiler, you'll be treated to an amazing twist on French onion soup...

beef carbonnade adapted from chef Charlie Palmer and Saveur
polenta fries adapted from Epicurious

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
for the beef
3 lb beef chuck roast
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
4 Tbsp butter
4 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped
3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cup sour beer such as a Flanders red ale
1 cup beef stock
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf

for the polenta fries
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 Parmesan (optional)
additional salt for sprinkling

The Process:
 Generously season the beef with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.

 In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and brown, 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer beef to a plate, cover and keep warm.

Add the bacon to the same pot and cook until most of the fat renders, 6-8 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add the remaining butter, along with the onions and garlic.  Cook until the onions have caramelized, about 30 minutes (long, low and slow is key).

Add half of the ale to deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until reduced slightly.    Whisk together remaining beer, broth and sugar.  Return the beef to the pot.  Add the herbs and pour the beer mixture over top.  Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until the beef is tender, about 2 hours.

Slice or shred to serve.

for the polenta fries:
Combine the milk and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once the mixture comes to a simmer, whisk in cornmeal and salt.  Cook the mixture until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the butter and Parmesan.

Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with a coat of non-stick cooking spray.  Once the polenta has thicken, pour in to prepared dish.  Spread into an even thickness, smoothing the surface out as much as possible.  Cover and chill 30-45 minutes, or until the polenta has set.

Preheat the broiler and place the oven rack 4-6 inches from the heat.

Carefully turn out the polenta onto a large cutting surface.  Cut crosswise into four even rectangles.   Cut each rectangle into 10- 12 even strips.  Line cut polenta onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bring the fries with oil and generously sprinkle with salt.

Broil, flipping once, about 10 minutes per side or until evenly browned.

Serve immediately with beef and juices.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Plum Semifreddo

Dear lord, the heat!  After the torrential rains of late June, the sunny skies are a blessing, but how I wouldn't love to be on a lake most days right now!  A vacation to slightly cooler, Northwesternly climates is just around the bend.  So in the meantime we make due with some chilly desserts to beat the heat.  A batch of beer ice (recipe coming soon, I swear...) left me with several egg whites to use up.  And this semifreddo recipe had just happened to catch my eye a few days earlier.

I have a soft spot in my heart for plums and plum jams.  For years, Gramma made the most amazing jam out of fruit from her backyard.  The nostalgia was worth the brief time standing over that simmering fruit in a scalding hot kitchen.

Everything comes together wonderfully quick; the rest is all self control as the dessert freezes.  With its healthy dose of heavy cream and sugar, this dessert is by no means light, but the texture will deceive you.  This semifreddo is a cloud spike with ribbons of tart plum. 

adapted from bon appetit

serves 8

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds red plums, pitted and cut into chunks
1 black cardamom pod, crushed
1 cup sugar, divided
Kosher salt
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chilled heavy

The Process:
Mist a 9x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang on all sides. Chill until ready to use.

Combine plums, cardamom, 1/3 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until plums release their juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until plums soften and start to fall apart, 6–8 minutes longer. Let cool slightly. 

Purée the plum mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender until very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much pulp as possible. Chill. Set aside 1 cup purée for serving.  The rest will be folded into the semifreddo.

Whisk egg whites, a pinch of salt, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a double boiler or a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Heat, whisking constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan. Add vanilla and, using an electric mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment set on high speed, whisk until mixture is tripled in volume, glossy, and completely cool, about 10 minutes.

In  another medium bowl whip the chilled cream until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of whipped cream into the  egg whites mixture until just combined. Fold in remaining whipped cream until just combined. Fold in plum purée, leaving large streaks throughout mixture.  The mixture will continue to mix and marble when poured in to the loaf pan. 

Transfer mixture to prepared pan and smooth top. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.

Unwrap semifreddo and using plastic overhang, gently lift from pan. Invert and slice into 1" portions.

Spoon reserved plum puree over top and serve

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Osso Buco Style Sea Bass with Herb Whipped Potatoes and Orange Gremolata

The seafood adventure continues!  What started out as an attempt to enjoy more seafood at home has since tranformed into an all out culinary challenge.  Each week, Ross picks a day to stop at the fish monger on his way home from work.  Whatever strikes his fancy that day while perusing the tanks and ice trays is destined to become dinner.  He'll text me what he picked up.  And I have the thirty minute or so bus ride home to decide what to do with it...using only what we have at home at the time, cause ain't nobody got time for last minute grocery trips.

All week I was thinking fish and chips.  In all the baked and breaded glory.  Served with lemon garlic aioli.  I couldn't shake that meal from my head.  So what does Ross pick out?  White Sea Bass.  One of the firmest meatiest fillets out there.  Such sacrilige to bread it up and bake it.  This was a fillet that demanded a meaty treatment.  No poaching or en papillote.  No... it wanted to be seared, grilled, broiled, or...braised.

The cooking method eluded me at first after pondering the fish for a while.  But the idea of a gremolata jumped into my head immediately.  Several types of citrus awaited to be used up at home.  But poaching was out of the question.  And the charcoal grill would take to long to get going.  After poking around for gremolata inspiration, I came across a halibut served osso buco style.  The rich, salty tomato and veggie broth sounded like it would stand up to the meaty fillet.  Spike with the bright gremolata?  Sold.  And I still was able to use up a portion of our CSA potatoes in the process.

adapted from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious.

serves 3

The Ingredeints:
for the "Osso Buco"
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes w/ juices
juice of 1 orange
zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp crushed thyme
1 bay leaf

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb white sea bass, skin removed and cut into 3 portions
salt, pepper and cayenne

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp butter

for the whipped potatoes
3/4 lb russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 cloves of garlic, halved
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 Tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

for the gremolata
2 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
zest of 1 orange
2 cloves of garlic, minced

The Process:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic.  Saute, stirring frequently, until the veggies are tender and beginning to brown, about 7-10 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and heat through, about 30 seconds.  Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by about half, an additional 5-7 minutes.

Add the broth, crushed tomatoes, orange juice, salt, zest, fish sauce, thyme and bay leaf.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by 1/3...about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the potatoes and garlic.  Cook until tender, about 25 minutes.

For the gremolata, combine the zest, garlic and parsley.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350

In another pan, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat.  Generously season the fillets with salt pepper, and cayenne.  Sear the fillets until browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove to a warm plate.  Add the balsamic vinegar to the same pan and simmer for about 1  minute, reducing slightly.  Add the vinegar to the vegetable sauce.  Melt the butter into the sauce.  Remove the bay leaf and transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Set the fish on top.  Bake, uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily. Set aside to finish the potatoes.

Drain the tender potatoes, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Return to the potatoes to the pot along with butter and whip with an electric beater set to low, or mash by hand.  Add reserved liquid by the Tbsp until the desired consistency is achieved.  Stir in the herbs.

to serve:
Spoon 1/3 of the potatoes onto a dinner plate and spread out slightly.  Top with one of the fillets and spoon the vegetable sauce over top.  Garnish with a generous sprinkle of gremolata.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Apple and Kohlrabi Salad with Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Vegetables are coming out of our ears!  I absolutely adore taking on the challenge of a full CSA share for two people, but even when most lunches consist of huge leafy salads, a full share can be a bit much to swallow.

This week we were treated to a wonderful treat though...4 pints of the juiciest, brightest red strawberries.  Last season had been so miserably dry that the farm's berries didn't stand a chance.  This year, with the ridiculous amounts of rain pouring through, the berries are bursting.  A good portion have already been frozen for later use.  What berries haven't already been devoured made it into this salad.  The mixed greens and kohlrabi were also courtesy of our CSA.

The inspiration for the vinaigrette came from a visit to a local oil shop where I sampled the most amazing 25 year aged balsamic vinegar.  It was so wonderfully sour, rich, earthly and sweet I could have eaten it with a spoon.  Alongside stood several other tuns full of rich balsamic and fruit blends.  I couldn't decide.  Start simple and with the basics.  High quality balsamic vinegar has ruined me...

And the combination of apple and kohlrabi has been bouncing around in my head for a while.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The recipe is my own

serves 4

The Ingredients:
8-10 ripe strawberries
1 Tbsp diced shallot
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 small Granny Smith apple
1 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 medium kohlrabi
4 cups mixed greens

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 400

Pick out the 4 smallest, ripest strawberries, and set aside.  Hull the remaining berries.  Place cut side down on a lightly greased pan.

 Roast to 10-12 minutes or until the berries are soft and juice is beginning to seep.

In a large glass, combine the shallot, oil, vinegar, salt and roasted strawberries.  Puree with an immersion blender until completely smooth.  Strain through a sieve to remove any pulp and seeds.  Set aside.

Combine the water and lemon juice and set aside.

Halve and core the apple.  Thinly slice into wedges and place in the lemon water.  Peel the kohlrabi and similarly slice into thin wedges.

Toss the mixed greens with half of the vinaigrette.
 Divide greens among four salad plates.  Arrange 1/4 of the apple and kohlrabi in a fan shape on each plate.  Using the reserved strawberries, cut four or five thin slices with a paring knife lengthwise through the berry, leaving slices attached just below the hull.  Gently fan out the slices.  Place the berry garnish on each plate.  Drizzle with remaining dressing

Monday, July 1, 2013

Coconut Brown Sugar Ale Cookies

Desserts have been few and far between as of late, haven't they?  I've had many an ice cream recipe bouncing around in my head, but not the time to concoct them.  Cookies, though... I always have everything I need on hand for cookies.

I encountered this recipe last Thursday during a Craft Beer and Bites event at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  Little soft sugar cookies were served to be paired with many of the brown ales and stouts provided.  They had all the best flavors of an oagtmeal raisin cookie, only without the oatmeal and raisins.  They were wonderfully soft, lightly spiced and so buttery.

Eager I whisked the recipe home, but discovered the only brown ale I had was coconut brown.  We used a bottle of our home brewed beer, though Kona Brewing Company makes a wonderful coconut brown ale: Koko Brown

cookie base recipe courtesy of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

yields 3 dozen

The Ingredients:
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut brown ale
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 flaked unsweetened coconut, coarsely chopped

The Process:
In a large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and mix until well combined.  Add the yolk and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy.  Add the beer and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together both flours along with the baking soda, baking powder, salt, cornstarch and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.

Pour the coconut into shallow bowl.  Using a heaping tablespoon of dough, form a ball and roll into the coconut, coating completely.  Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart.  Place cookies in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and golden around the edges.  They will deflate slightly as they cool.  Allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.